Waging a Good Warfare
Various Passages in 1 Timothy

By Paul Robison

Working as an evangelist in the great city of Ephesus, Timothy found himself in a very tough situation.  One writer puts it this way: “The second major section (2:1–6:10) cannot be divorced from the purpose of Timothy’s stay in Ephesus, which was, to stop false teachers.  These false teachers had wreaked havoc on the church in many areas. ... The church was in disarray and needed correction; it also needed new leadership, as seen in chapter 3” (Wallace).  Another writer explains the situation with these words: “There are good reasons to assume that these [false] teachers were [some] local elders who had embraced some ideas that are quite incompatible with the Gospel of grace (1:11-17): First, unlike the other letters of Paul that deal with false teachers ..., 1 Timothy gives no hint that these teachers might be outsiders.  Second, Paul has already excommunicated two of them, clearly insiders (1:19-20).  ... All in all, Paul has left Timothy with a very difficult assignment” (Fee & Stuart).  How would you like to have been in Timothy's place as a church leader facing such opposition?

We'll return to that question in just a moment, but let's get a little historical setting for this letter.
 Paul's three missionary journeys took place from about 48-56 A.D.  From 56-60, Paul was slowly making his way through the Roman courts, arriving ultimately at Rome.  For two years, 61-62, Paul was held under house arrest in Rome [as Acts 28 attests]” (Keathley III).  When Paul writes his letters to Ephesus, Philippi, and Colosse, we find Timothy's greetings too, so he must have linked back up with Paul in Rome (Nelson Study Bible).  At the end of Paul's time in Rome, it can be surmised that Paul was released.  From 62-67, Paul traveled more or less freely” (Keathley III).  Timothy traveled with him to Ephesus, where Paul left him while he himself traveled on to Macedonia.  Paul then writes this letter around 63 A. D. to encourage Timothy.  A good two word summary of the book is: “Be exemplary!” based on Paul's admonition to be an example of the believer (4:12).

Yes, how would you like to have been that soldier on the front lines facing those false teachers who have already done some damage and are out to tear up the congregation even further?
 At the beginning of this letter, after reminding Timothy why he was left in Ephesus, Paul then states in verse 18: “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy...”  The word for “charge” refers to a military command.  It is an order to be carried out; Timothy is under a military obligation (McAuthur).  Paul is calling Timothy to the awareness that he is engaged in a war.  And in so calling Timothy to that [challenge], he calls the rest of us as well.  We are to understand that our calling is to fight a noble war against the forces of Satan.  [Towards the close of this letter in 6:12], Paul also says, 'Fight the good fight of faith!'  So at the beginning and at the end of the letter, he reminds Timothy that he is indeed in a war against the forces of Satan” (McAuthur).  We may not be facing the false teachers that Timothy faced, but we also are very much involved in a spiritual battle against Satan and his forces!  Right now, everyone in this audience is either in Jesus' army or Satan's army.  Jesus Himself left no middle ground by saying on one occasion in Matthew 12:30: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  If you have never been immersed in Jesus' name for the remission of your sins, you are living in Satan's camp and you are against Jesus.  Now you may be living a good moral life, you may attend our Bible classes, and you may be here in our assembly every Sunday, but you are still in Satan's camp.  How can I presume to make such a statement?  The answer is found in Colossians 1:13 where the apostle Paul affirms that God “has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”  Did you catch the two actions in that verse?  When you become a Christian, your sins are forgiven by Jesus' blood, and God transfers you out of the camp of Satan and puts you into the camp of Christ!  You see, if you want to make that transfer, you must find where forgiveness of sins can be found.  That is seen clearly in Acts 22:16: “And now, why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord!”  When you are baptized, your sins are forgiven, and you became a disciple in the Lord's army because the Lord also adds you to His church (Acts 2:47)!  If you're not in the Lord's army today, don't delay!  Like Paul did, arise and be baptized, so your sins can be washed away and you can become a solider in the Lord's army!  Now for those of you who are members, what kind of a soldier are you?  Now think about this?  When you join the military, how much freedom do you have to do as you please?  Except for furloughs, you are expected to be what?  You are expected to be “on duty” aren't you?  Uh oh, now there is that hard four letter word—duty.  That's not a word we like to talk about.  We don't know [much] about that today.  In Christianity, we know about freedom, about spiritual success, about joy and peace, about fulfillment. ... But we talk very little about duty.   And that's part of what's been built into our culture, and it's found its way into the church.  We are an undisciplined culture and an utterly self-indulgent culture.  And so what we have gained in the church is a lot of people whose personal preoccupation is self-indulgence.  And whatever makes them feel good and whatever they particularly want to do or don't want to do governs their life.  We know ... very little of duty.  We are not a duty bound people in our thinking” (McAuthur).  Let's just image that in 2010, our elders came up with a contract that each of us would have to sign in January.  In that contract, it would state that we are obligated to attend all worship services here three times a week, to attend one service at both our Gospel meetings, to read at least 50% of the chapters designated for a given week on our Bible reading schedule, to pray at least 5 minutes a day, and to give at least $10 a week in the collection.  How many of you would feel duty bound to fulfill what they are asking you to do for the strengthening of your own spiritual welfare?  How many members would be instantly disqualified in one month, or even in one week?  You see, are you really being a dutiful soldier?  Now before you answer, there's something else that needs to be pointed out here: that contract didn't say anything about teaching, serving, forgiving, and blessing others, which Jesus would also say are our obligations if we really want to make it to heaven!  You see, are you really being a dutiful soldier?  Well, what advice did Paul give to Timothy to help him to be a dutiful soldier?  Let's look quickly at eight ideas in this letter that Paul gives about this good warfare!

First of all, let's remember our gracious Commander.  Read this beautiful passage with me that Paul writes in 1:12-16: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent [or violent] man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.  However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”  Paul says that He thanks Jesus.  Are you grateful to Jesus for what He has done for you?  Why was Paul thankful?  Paul deserved Christ's wrath, but he was given Christ's mercy!  Then Paul describes the Lord's grace to him literally as “superoverflowing”!  Paul gets excited when he talks about Christ’s grace.  Similarly, are we excited too when we think about how Christ's grace has touched and transformed our lives?  Could the next phrase mean that Christ put His faith in Paul and shared His love with Him?  Think about that—Christ has faith in you and wants to share His love with you as well!  Here is a truth that will never change: Christ became a human so that sinners could be saved!  Everyone here this morning can be saved, can be made righteous in God's eyes!  Now if you don't believe that statement, Paul would say to you: “Look, friend, I am ‘Exhibit A’ that Christ not only can forgive a terrible past but also can give everyone the future hope of eternal life!”  What a gracious Commander Jesus is!  He gave His all for you!  Won't you give your all for Him, and let Him transform you today?

Next, Timothy
, recall your enlistment.  Paul says that in this way in verse 18 again: “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them, you may wage a good warfare.”
 Here's a paraphrase of Paul's words: “Timothy, some prophecies were made about you in the past as to how effective a minister you would be!  Remember those prophecies, Timothy, and live up to them!”  What was your enlistment like?  Certainly, there were no prophets there to say how your life would turn out.  But, there was someone who taught you the Gospel, there may have been a preacher or an elder who also believed in you, and there were certainly other members who were so thankful to see that you finally decided to get into the battle!  Don't forget that enlistment day!  Cherish it and renew the original commitment that you made to the Commander to do His will and to fight wherever He would lead you!  The word “warfare” refers to all the campaigns and strategies that must be used throughout the war.  When you enlisted, you did so for long hall!  Wage a good warfare throughout the rest of your days!  Recall your enlistment!

Next, Paul tells Timothy to strengthen his faith.  Notice what is said in verse 19: “having faith and good conscience, which some have rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”  Timothy is to keep his faith in THE faith.  He is to stay with the sound, wholesome, and healthy teachings of Christ and the apostles.  In the Christian armor, the Sword of the Spirit, or God's Word, is the only offensive weapon!  Timothy must use it well against the false teachers!  Is your faith in God's Word strong?  Are you looking to It for guidance in your life?  Strengthen your faith by staying with Christ's teachings!

Next, Paul admonishes Timothy to uphold a good conscience.  It is interesting that Paul puts faith and conscience together 3 times in this letter (check out 1:5 and 3:9 too).  This shows clearly that right teaching and right living must go together.  Correct beliefs are half the battle, but the other half is living them out in godliness (and this word is found 8 times in this letter)!  Sound teaching and pure living go together.  There is an inseparable link between truth and morality, between right belief and right behavior” (McAuthur).  When these two are exercised together on the battlefield, they produce a Christ-like character that will win spiritual victories!  Holding to truth and practicing purity will keep your spiritual ship from becoming shipwrecked!  Be a good sailor as well as a good solider by upholding a good conscience!

Next, Paul tells Timothy to instruct and exhort his fellow soldiers.
 In 4:6, Paul states, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ,” and in 5:1, Paul advises Timothy, “Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with all purity.”  If we all know the teachings of Christ, then we need to be recalling them and encouraging one another to obey them.  We need to be able to give positive and accurate answers to negative and false doctrines!  We should exhort one another with pure motives and pure thoughts as God's family.  We want to protect our church family from wickedness and laziness and make it spiritually stronger and more active.  Instruct and exhort your fellow soldiers!

Next, Paul encourages Timothy to focus on his ultimate reward.  Now turn over to 6:12: “Fight the good fight, lay hold of eternal life ...”  In Acts 20:31, Luke tells us that the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple.  When you seize something, you grab onto it, hold it tightly, and don't let go.  That's the word we have in 1 Tim. 6:12 when Paul tell Timothy to lay hold or seize eternal life.  In essence, Paul says for Timothy to grab hold of eternal life, hold it tightly, and never let go!  Eternal life is our ultimate reward too.  Now Timothy was a Christian, but he had to keep that ultimate reward ever before him as he fought the good fight daily.  Let's do the same!  Let's seize upon heaven and eternal life with all the redeemed!  When the battles get rough, let's hang on to that wonderful ultimate reward that Christ will give to all the faithful!

Next, Paul encourages Timothy to live up to his confession and his commandment.  Verses 12-14 say: “to which you were called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until the Lord Jesus Christ's appearing.”  In essence, Paul says, “Timothy, you confessed Christ as your Lord or Commander at your baptism before many other believers.  Now live up to that confession!  And when you must stand before Roman officials, just as Jesus did, continue to make that good confession!  Don't be traitor, Timothy!  Live up to your confession and your commandment or covenant!”  Don't be a traitor, fellow Christian, let's live up to our confession and commandment as well!  Once an atheist gave speech and then challenged anyone is the audience to refute him.  Two young ladies stood up and began signing, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!”  Soon the whole audience was standing and singing with them.  They were living up to their confession and commandment!

Next, Paul commands Timothy in 6:20: “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust!”  The word 'trust' is a word for a deposit you put in a bank, it's a valued deposit.  Paul gave to Timothy a valued deposit.  What was it?  It was a deposit of truth, it was a deposit of truth which is more valuable than anything. ... Paul got it from Jesus.   Paul then took that trust that he had from Jesus of sound doctrine, that gospel, that biblical truth and passed it on to Timothy.  And he says, 'Timothy, hang on to that and don't let it be adulterated and don't let it be varied and don't change it. ... Don't listen to all of those profane, vain babblings and false science; keep that deposit which was
committed to your trust'”(McAuthur)!
 John Wycliffe, of the 14th century, was driven into virtual exile for his translation of the Bible into English.  He knew that the church and state authorities would unite to destroy his translation, so he wrote these words in the flyleaf of his Bible: This Bible is translated and shall make possible a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”  Do you recall that 500 years later, President Lincoln immortalized those words (Swindoll)?  What a powerful deposit or trust this Good Book provides!  Let's guard it and live by it!

Someone has said, “[Paul called Timothy] as if he were a front line soldier called to a very hot part of the battle to do something very essential for the matter of victory for the whole army.  ... The false teachers are advocating an untrue doctrine and an ungodly lifestyle.  And so Timothy is called to deal with this.  And it's a difficult thing.  He's not dealing with someone down the line in terms of spiritual responsibility, but with [those who were] leaders” (McAuthur).  Timothy's warfare was unique, and so it will be for you as well.  As a dutiful soldier, you are called to do battle for the Lord as well!  If you haven't yet enlisted and entered into Christ's camp, won't you give your life to this gracious Commander today?  Won't you let God transfer you from Satan's camp into Christ's camp?  If you have enlisted, but have failed to live up to your duty, won't you ask Christ to forgive you and get back into waging a good warfare and fighting the good fight?  Join the battle or get back into the fight!