"Waging Our Good Warfare"
1 Tim. 1:18-20
By Paul Robison

There was a man who was involved in political warfare.  He asked these two questions: "How can you stand your ground when you are weak and sensitive to pain, when people you love are still alive, when you are unprepared?  What do you need to make you stronger than your interrogator, yes, and even stronger than the whole trap [designed to make you give in]?  He asked those questions as he was being carried to prison where he was to be punished by an oppressive government for his political crimes against the State. And here was he bone-chilling reply to his own questions: "From the moment you go to prison, you must put your cozy past firmly behind you.  At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: 'My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there's nothing to be done about it.  I shall never return to freedom.  I am condemned to die—now or a little later.  But later on, in truth, it will be harder, and so the sooner the better.  I no longer have any property whatsoever.  For me, those I love have died, and for them, I have died.  From today on, my body is useless and alien to me.  Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.'  To the man with this mentality, the interrogator will tremble.  Only the man who has renounced everything can win the victory over the trap."  The man who spoke those words was the Russian Nobel prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had survived such a prison.  What a mentality it took to wage his political warfare with the Soviet State! The Christian's enemy is Satan.  Didn't Jesus say something about renouncing everything to be His disciple?  What mentality and actions must we have to wage our spiritual warfare?  The answer to that question is seen in our text this morning.  It's a short text, but it is packed-tightly with much good advice.  Remember that Timothy was working in a chaotic situation at the church in Ephesus that Satan and his demons were behind (1 Tim. 4:1).  Several ways are given here as to how we might wage our spiritual warfare.  Let's read the entire text, and then we'll consider it little by little. "This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."
 
The first way to wage our spiritual warfare is to be a responsible Christian.  Paul tells Timothy: "This charge”.  The word "charge" is the same word found in verses 3 and 5.  The word "charge" is a military term and is close to the idea of “order”; there is an urgent obligation which needs to be carried out.  Now in verse 3 Timothy was charged or ordered to tell some members not to preach another doctrine that the heretics were promoting and not to give heed to their arguments based on the Old Testament.  Paul is urging Timothy to be responsible in carrying out this charge concerning other members.  That's a good action for us too.  Be responsible as a Christian!  As soldiers in the Lord's army, we should take our spiritual warfare very seriously.  Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:4: "No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier." As good soldiers, we must constantly keep our focus on the battle and not let ourselves become entangled in worldly and fleshly matters.  We should also do our Christian duties with a great sense of responsibility.  How seriously are you about your discipleship?  Are you reading the Spirit's Training Manual daily?  Are you praying for God to help you overcome temptations and to take advantages of all the opportunities that He gives you to advance His kingdom? Are you keeping God's kingdom and His righteousness your priority? Are you standing up and confessing Jesus daily?  Are you helping fellow soldiers in their battles?  Are you trying to help some members who have gone AWOL?  Our Great Commander-in-chief knows if we taking our Christian orders and duties seriously or not. Be a responsible Christian!
 
The next way to wage a good spiritual warfare is to live up to your service.  "I commit to you, son Timothy."  Look now at 2 Timothy 2:2: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."  Entrust my teachings to those faithful men who can teach others.  The word "commit" or "entrust" is the same word found in verse 18 of our text: "This charge [or order] I commit [or entrust] to you, Timothy, my son in the faith!"  Timothy was serving as the evangelist in Ephesus in Paul's absence.  He was to live up to this role by warning members not to be led astray by the heretics! Live up to your service!  "But I'm just an ordinary member!" somebody objects.  That doesn't matter.  Listen, every soldier in the army is expected to give what he or she can to help all the other soldiers, whether their rank is a general or a private!  Each private in the Lord's army is important too.  Now notice what Paul admonishes in Romans 12:6-8: "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophecy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."  These gifts can belong to privates as well as to generals.  They are all to be used by the individual member to help all of the church!  If you are not sure about what is your talent and your service is, then pray to God to help you to discover it.  You can also ask other members what they see as your talent and your service.  You can experiment in several areas of service to discover which one you really excel in or really like to do the best.  Timothy was to live up to the role of an evangelist.  Wherever you find yourself in the Lord's army, live up to your service!  Use your talent or skill to be a blessing to others! Don't be just a pew-warmer.  Get involved in others' lives, especially those of church members!  Be active in advancing God's kingdom!  "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).  Fellow soldier, live up to your service!
 
Another way you can wage our spiritual warfare is to let past victories and saints motivate you!  Notice was Paul says: "according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare."  In Acts 13:1-3, we see how the Holy Spirit appoints Paul and Barnabas to go on the first missionary journey.  Hands were laid on them to show the seriousness of their task, and they were sent away.  Something similar must have happened to Timothy.  Note what Paul says over in 1 Timothy 4:14: "Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership."  It looks like Timothy had been appointed to be an evangelist, and some elders laid their hands on him to show the seriousness of this task. You see, Paul wants Timothy to look back for a moment so that he can remember how he was blessed and appointed.  Now the text states "that by them [by the prophecies made in the past] you may wage a good ware."  Braced or strengthened by the remarks and actions made in the past about him, Timothy can take courage and get back to his spiritual battle as a good evangelist!  There is a good principle here for us: sometimes we need to draw strength and motivation by looking back.  We can remember our past spiritual victories and we can also think of those faithful saints who made a significant impact on our Christian lives!  Let past victories and saints motivate you!  Sister Naomi Scott, Sister Granny Kemplin, Brother Winfred Carter, Brother Ken Davis, Brother Charles Moore, Brother Joe Combs, Brother Don Shackelford; now those names may mean nothing to you, but they are some of my spiritual heroes!  And you could certainly provide a similar listing of those who have been your spiritual heroes.  Thinking about them spurs you on to be a better solider!  Past spiritual victories often help us to take courage because we know that Christ was with us then, and He will be with us now, no matter what spiritual battle we might face.  Let past victories and saints motivate you!
 
Another way we can wage our spiritual warfare is to keep fighting the Christian battle!  Paul did not want Timothy to quit and give up in the chaotic situation in which he found himself.  Yes, heretics had and were wrecking havoc in the congregation at Ephesus, just as Paul had predicted they would (Acts 20:29-31).  It was indeed a difficult situation, but Paul never tells Timothy to retreat.  No, indeed, he is fulfill his role as and evangelistic and strive to keep as many faithful members as possible dedicated to "the faith" and to the healthy teaching of the true gospel!  Jesus challenged us with these words in Luke 9:62: "No one having put his hand to plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  You see, we must keep on plowing, we can't seek the world, the flesh, and the bigger barns (all those things we left when we became Christians) because when we start seeking those things, we often abandon our plowing! We must keep our hands on the plow, keep our eyes looking ahead, and keep our minds on working our field until the very end.  Listen to these passages and see if you can find the common theme. "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).  "Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3). "Keep yourself pure" (1 Timothy 5:22).  "To keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).  "Keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21).  "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21). You see, “Keep on keeping on!” may sound cliché’, but it is really scriptural.  We must keep fighting the Christian battle so that we too can say with the apostle Paul: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).  Our spiritual warfare is very real, and we must continue to battle all our lives.  Don't give in and don't give up!  Keep fighting your Christian battle!
 
The next way to wage our spiritual warfare is to be armed with faith and a good conscience.  Paul encourages Timothy: "having faith and a good conscience".  This armor has already been mentioned by Paul earlier in the chapter.  Remember how he said in verse 5 that the goal or purpose of his charge to Timothy was to produce love among the members that came from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.  The heretics had lost their faith in Jesus to save them.  They were preaching the lie that people could save themselves by through the denial of food and of marriage (4:1-5).  Jesus told the Jews in John 8:23-24: "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." Jesus was saying in essence: "You must believe that I am from God, I am about God, and I am God!"  Remember how God had told Moses that He was the great "I am"!  Jesus was the "I am" made flesh; the Word that was God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1 & 14).  If we do not put our trust in Jesus and obey His gospel, then what is the consequence: "You shall die in your sins!"  It is the shield of faith that help us to avoid Satan's fiery arrows (Ephesians 6:16)! Jesus' blood has cleansed our evil conscience (Hebrews 9:14; 10:22). Therefore, we strive to keep them pure (1 Timothy 3:16).  If our consciences become defiled, Titus 1:15 states that we can soon lose our bearings: "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works, they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work."  Be armed with faith in Christ and a good conscience!
 
Another way to wage our spiritual warfare is this: "Don't reject "the faith" or healthy teaching!  Paul wrote: "which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck".  The heretics had rejected faith and a good conscience.  In fact, the next part of the verse also shows that they have allowed "the faith" to become destroyed.  "The faith" refers to all the healthy teaching that Jesus wants us to put into practice.  "Teaching them to observe [or put into practice] all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20).  All that Jesus commanded is now found in the New Testament.  One commentator noted that the verb “reject” shows "shows a positive spurning of conscience, and not a mere carelessness" (Kelly).  This means that the heretics had violated their consciences over and over again.  Jude admonishes us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).  Fight earnestly to defend all that Jesus taught, which has been preached to the brethren.  Don't let false teachers turn you away from the truth with their diseased and cancerous teachings!  Remember the healthy teachings and hold fast to them!  Don't reject the faith or healthy teaching!
 
The next way to wage our spiritual warfare is this: Avoid shipwreck and heretics!  The text again says: "which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck". We see with this metaphor that Paul not only wants us to be good soldiers but good sailors as well (Gutherie)!  Shipwrecking the faith means a person has become so enamored with falsehood that they have caused their true faith to be destroyed.  Doesn't what Paul is saying here put the final nail in coffin of the false teaching "once saved, always saved"?  You see, when a Christian, even one who may be an elder, begins to reject sincere faith in Jesus, a good conscience, and all that the Jesus teaches over and over and over again, his ship gets so far out of the harbor of safety that it eventually crashes on the rocks of rebellion!  One commentator makes this good observation: "If [one] refuses to be taught better and persists in his misunderstanding, he is an opinionated heretic (Titus 3:10).  If he reaches a point where he is no longer sensitive to the truth, his conscience is seared (1 Tim. 4:2)" (Spain).  The apostle Peter put it this way in 2 Peter 2:20-21: "For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them."  Listen, if some good brother, or sister, or elders come to you and try to show you scripturally why they think you are doing something wrong, don't take that as an insult!  You should realize that these members in the Lord's body are concerned enough about your Christian life that they don't want you to get further and further out of the harbor and eventually shipwreck your faith!  Listen to heretics can really lead you astray!  And there’s one preaching on almost any channel these days.  In fact, the first challenge to Timothy in this letter is to tell faithful members not to heed the mistaken teachings of those leaders who had become heretics (1:4)!  Avoid shipwreck and heretics!
 
The next way that you can wage our spiritual warfare is to exalt God's will.  Our text concludes: "of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme."  Hymenaeus and Alexander were probably leaders in the church at Ephesus, and they had shipwrecked their faith!  What else do we know about these men? Look at 2 Timothy 2:17-18: "And their message will spread like cancer.  Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some."  We learn here not only learn more about Hymenaeus but also about the heresy that he was teaching.  He was saying that the resurrection had already taken place, so Christians were mistaken if they thought that there would be a bodily resurrection when Christ returned.  You see how this heresy would kill any Christian's hope to gain victory over death?  Hymanaeus not only had shipwrecked his own faith but also he was shipwrecking the faith of other members as well.  Now look at 2 Timothy 4:14: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must be aware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words."  We not only learn more about Alexander but also we see that he had hurt Paul in some way, and he was openly opposed to Paul's teaching.  Since these two men were greatly upsetting the church in Ephesus, Paul delivers them over to Satan or excommunicates them (a similar expression if found in 1 Corinthians 5:5, and it definitely is linked to cutting off a member from the body of Christ).  One commentator rightly noted: "Because of the serious state of these men and threat they presented to the health of the church, Paul pronounced upon them his 'anathema' [or condemnation]" (Spain).  What did Paul do here?  He was doing God's will.  Any discipline is not an easy action to put into practice, but this especially true of church discipline.  For the health of body of Christ, Paul had to cut out the cancerous elements.  By contrast, Timothy must continue to exalt God's will.  Jesus told us very clearly in Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven."  To wage our spiritual warfare, even when it's very difficult, exalts God's will!
 
"Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war.  With the cross of Jesus, going on before.  Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see His banner go!  Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, but the church of Jesus constant will remain.  Gates of hell can never against the church prevail; we have Christ's own promise, and that cannot fail" (Baring-Gould)!  If you’re not a soldier in the Lord's army, you need to enlist today by getting out of the sinning business and getting to Christ through immersion in His name!  Abandon Satan's camp and be loyal to Christ and His church!  If you've become a weary soldier or are drifting from the safe harbor, get back in the battle and return to the safe shore!  Let us pray for Jesus to help you.