This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
The Believer is in a battle. It is not a battle “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Satan has always raged against God’s people (cf. Rev. 12:17) and he is very strategic in the way he goes about it. One of those ways is by means of false teachers (cf. 2 Cor. 11:13-14). Despite such warfare, in Christ the believer is to stand firm. In his hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God” Martin Luther declared,
“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us: The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.”
In this passage before us (1 Tim. 1:18-20), Paul calls for Timothy to fight the good fight. In doing so, he speaks of the combat (1:18-19a) and the casualties (1:19b-20).
The Combat (1 Tim. 1:18-19a)
Paul begins by making reference to the “charge” he entrusted to Timothy. This is the charge mentioned back in 1:3-4 (guarding against a departure of doctrine). He reiterates his need to fulfill this so that he “may wage the good warfare“. The means that will enable him is a reminder of his giftedness and calling (“the prophecies previously made about you“). These prophesies occurred when the elders laid their hands on Timothy (1 Tim. 4:14) – an event that likely took place at Lystra during Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-3). The warfare that he is to engage in is to be done in accordance with “holding faith and a good conscience” (1:19).
The Casualties (1 Tim. 1:19b-20)
When the people of God engage in such a combat, there will from time to time be casualties. Such causalities come as a result of their rejection of the truth. This rejection results in them making a “shipwreck of their faith” (1:19b). Paul mentioned two individuals by name who were the likely ringleaders of the false teaching in Ephesus (“Hymenaeus and Alexander“). This disciplinary action reveals the seriousness of their error and troublemaking. Paul enforced church discipline on them by handing them “over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1:20). This action indicates a removal from the blessing of Christian fellowship with a view of correction and even conversion.
Despite the difficulty of the believer’s battle against the schemes of Satan, the believer is to “wage the good warfare” (1:18) by the mandate and power of God. This ends the first section of the letter – Defending the Church’s Message (1:1-20). The church has a message and by God’s enabling it needs to be defended.
- Look up the following passages and discuss what the Scriptures teach about the believer’s warfare: Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Rev. 12:17
- Paul tells Timothy that he can “wage the good warfare” by means of his giftedness (1:18). How does the reminder of God-given giftedness encourage us to “wage the good warfare“?
- What is the conscience and how does one obtain a “good conscience“? See Acts 24:16; Rom. 2:15; 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 3:16
- The Following passages address the topic of church discipline (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; Titus 3:10-11). Provide a biblical understanding concerning the purpose, principles and protocols of church discipline.