Lesson 12: "Fight the Good Fight of Faith" (I Timothy 6:12)
I Timothy 6:11-21
Paul’s Letters To Preachers. Welcome to lesson #12. With this lesson, we hope to complete the book of I-Timothy. Our lesson begins in I-Tim. 6:11 and we have eleven verses to go. If you have that before you, let's read it. Beginning in v.11, i.e. I-Tim. 6:11, are you ready?
"But thou, 0 man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, unto the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his time he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. 0 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen."
O.K. that takes us to the end of I-Timothy, six chapters, with 113 verses. Paul's letter to Timothy: young man do it like this. These books to Timothy and Titus are perhaps the closest thing we have in the N.T. to a preacher school. If you want to preach, learn what to preach, and learn how to preach it; study Timothy and Titus. Of course, you must know the O.T. and you must know the N.T.; but in the books to Timothy and Titus, Paul gets down to the nitty-gritty of DO IT LIKE THIS. Every Christian is a preacher in one sense, i.e. in the sense you are being observed by everyone around you. No man is an island. Someone has said, what YOU ARE rings so loudly in my ears, I can't hear the words you are preaching. We tend to think of preaching as associated with words. But, notice what Paul said to Timothy in these closing words. "0 man of God..." (v.11), what is a man of God? Paul thought of Timothy as a man of God. That's perhaps the greatest compliment Paul could have given Timothy. Do your friends and your associates think of you as a man or woman of God? "0 man of God, flee these things..." i.e. hasten to withdraw from covetousness, the love of money, the temptation of riches and the snare of the devil as the apostle wove that picture into those closing verses of our last lesson. Flee these things! Then, here comes the contrast: "follow after..." and there are six things listed here (v.11) that Timothy is to follow after. Do you get the urgency and the swiftness that Paul injects and generates in these passages? Timothy, flee these things, run for your life in the other direction. Then, as you run, try to catch up with these six things. First, (#1) "follow after righteousness." Someone has said the most important part of that word "righteousness" is the part spelled R-I-G-H-T. I believe the word is much broader than that in the N.T., it describes the character of a Christian who lives by faith in Jesus; but, that is definitely the most important part. Be sure you are doing it right. Then, (#2), Paul said, Timothy "follow after...godliness." Do you remember (v.6), "godliness with contentment is great gain?" Go after it Timothy! Godliness! What does it mean? A devoted person with an attitude characterized BY and well-pleasing TO God, the Heavenly Father. Point (#3), "follow after... faith," i.e. trusting, believing and recognizing Jesus Christ is the Son of God and keeping that belief and that trust channeled into every action and every decision that you make. (#4), Timothy "follow after...love." Be filled with good will and overflowing with that great quest of how you might seek the highest interest of others. (#5), "Follow after...patience." Patience is that determination to remain faithful and face difficulties with steadfastness and a loyalty to God. Finally, (#6) Timothy "follow after.. .meekness." That quality that made Moses such a great leader and such a great servant. Numbers 12:3 says Moses was the meekest man upon the earth. Meekness is that quality of a gentile spirit, able to ignore those injuries you sustain from others and remain loyal to God even under difficult circumstances.
Put every ounce of energy into it Timothy! (v.12), "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." Do you think of faith as a fight in your life? Paul said of himself, back in I-Cor. 9:27, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." It's so easy to get into that: do as I say and not as I do. Many of these things are easy to say; but, it is a real fight to keep your actions in accordance with your faith. Paul called it the fight of faith. "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life." Keep that hope of glory right in front of you. It's the way you seize the prize. As you flee from covetousness, keep running toward the prize. Both fleeing from evil and pursuing the prize keeps us moving in the right direction. When one is baptized into Christ, i.e. born again, the new life begins. From that moment forward, i.e. eternal life has begun, is the though in some passages. Other passages indicate eternal life begins at death, that's the way it's used in this verse, "lay hold on eternal life." It's right in front of you every hour. We know not when our life will be snuffed out and we shall pass into eternity. Death takes us across the great divide, from this struggling fight of faith, we enter into eternity. Jesus said, "the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." That's hard to misunderstand.
Now, look at the phrase: "whereunto thou art also called..." Everyone has been called. You are invited! Your invitation came from Jesus. Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28). All are invited! Jesus told Nicodemus: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." God is concerned about our salvation. Thus, everyone is called, everyone is invited. It is not a matter of invitation, the invitation has been given, it is a matter of response. Paul is admonishing Timothy to respond, keep responding as you have always done. Paul said Timothy had "professed a good profession before many witnesses." The way this is said (and especially the comparison that is made to Jesus and the confession that Jesus made before Pilate in the next verse, i.e. v.13) rather implies that Timothy had been formally questioned about his faith before some court, before some king, or perhaps some other Roman civil authority and that Timothy in the face of death had boldly asserted that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of God. We have no other record of this, from which to draw the details. In the last two or three verses of the book of Hebrews, there is a reference to Timothy being imprisoned and that passage says he had been set at liberty, i.e. released. Whether these two occasions were the same or not we cannot be sure. However, I think it's worth our time to inject the thought here, that if Paul felt it necessary to remind a man like Timothy (a man of God as Paul had called him in v.11 and a man who had, under the pressure of the state, confessed Jesus publicly in an honorable way); then, it seems of great importance for you and me to ask the question of ourselves: what would Paul say of our feeble state? And, for those who advocate once saved-always saved; this is a verse worth of serious consideration. If it could happen to Timothy, obviously it's a real possibility for us.
In v.13, Paul said "I give thee charge" i.e. he is charging Timothy, or we might say: Paul was directing Timothy to...to what? To keep this commandment, this is said finally (at the beginning of v.14). Now, what was the commandment? This goes back up to v. 11-12, starting with "0 man of God, flee these things..." which included the list (faith, love, etc.) and even more (in v.12). Then, I detect here that as Paul evaluated and meditated upon his own words, he (himself) was emotionally (or at least mentally) distracted into a digression of thought. I'm talking about what Paul's said in v.14-15-16, which all goes back to that good confession that Jesus made before Pontius Pilate (in v.13), coupled with, of course, "until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.14). In the digression of thought, 'the apostle said: "Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen."
Paul and Timothy were very . close, super close friends. In II-Tim. 1:4, there is some indication that Timothy had shed tears when he and Paul had last parted. Thus, I conclude that both of these old preachers were softhearted individuals. As Paul closed out this letter to his friend, he must have realized how lonely Timothy was at Ephesus and that much, much depended upon this lonely preacher in correcting the problems of the Ephesian congregation and; therefore, the old apostle knew the very charges he was making on this young man, if any thing, simply t upped the pressure. And, in a similar way, the old apostle himself could feel the very weight of many souls teetering in the balances somewhere between faith and perdition.
Let's take a moment to re-examine those verse. Paul said: "keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ," i.e. until death. It will happen! The Lord will return. This is a reference to Christ's second coming. Paul said: "which in his times he shall show," i.e. show-up on that world stage and every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). Why is the word "times" plural? Well, will it be today, tomorrow, in my lifetime and your lifetime, or in our children's lifetime, or sometime beyond? You see, Paul didn't know the times (plural). There are many possibilities. Then the apostle added, "who is the blessed and only Potentate." A potentate is a powerful person, in charge of many subordinates and with many assistants, like a king or an emperor. However, the Lord Jesus is the "only Potentate," did you notice? we would say the ultimate Potentate. He is the "King of kings, the Lord of lords." This is an allusion back to Moses1 description of God (back in Deut. 10:17). "Who only hath immortality." Mortality means death. Immortality means where there is no death, or beyond death. The Lord Jesus ONLY has this characteristic and thus only He can grant it to others. Jesus dwells in the light! i.e. without sin...a state in "which no man can approach unto." It is a state that no man hath seen. It is a state in which no man can see. In other words it is beyond the human nature. Then Paul exclaims, "to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen." Paul praised the Lord that it is that way. "Amen" means so-be-it.
Then in v.17, Paul comes back to the point of his letter, Timothy, "charge them that be rich in this world, that they be not high-minded." In effect, the rich as Paul used the term here was one of the social classes with which Timothy must deal, just like the widows, the elders, the deacons and even the false teachers. I would infer this has reference to those who were wealthy church members. Paul didn't condemn them for having wealth. His concern was that these thing would control them, engulf them and ultimately destroy them. Timothy "charge them...that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches." What does it mean to be "high-minded?" It's not exactly a flattering term. It means to think you are smart...i.e. smarter than God, capable of outsmarting and controlling another. Those who are rich and always get their way, tend to think more in that direction. It's a dangerous attribute. In contrast, Timothy "charge them...[to trust] in the living God, who giveth us richly all thing to enjoy." Paul did not say MONEY was the root of all evil, (up in v.10), Paul said: "THE LOVE OF money is the root of all evil." Did I take you in on that one on our last test? I hope not! As I said, Paul does not condemn wealth, it's THE LOVE OF MONEY, the covetous facet that gets us in trouble. Thus, v.18, Paul continued, Timothy "charge them...that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." Do you get the thought? Do good work, even with your money. Jesus said, if you remember (Matt. 6:19) "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven...' It's the same message Paul was trying to convey to the Ephesians, those rich Ephesians. What Jesus said is exactly what Paul said here in v.19, just a little different wording, that's all. Then in conclusion (v.20-21): "0 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen." Much depended upon Timothy. Thus, Paul in his closing words reminded Timothy of his commitment, as a preacher and as an evangelist. That "profane and vain babbling" business is a reference to the false teachers, mentioned earlier in our study. Paul said to avoid them. These false teachers evidently claimed to have undisputable knowledge, i.e. scientific knowledge, if you will. They "have erred concerning the faith." It's a little like the attitude of the rich, isn't it! And may I emphasize again that word "attitude." The word "attitude" means a trend in behavior or a trend in thinking. Trends can be changed. Attitudes can change. It was the hope of the apostle Paul that these false teachers would change before it was too late.
In the our next lesson, we'll begin the book of Titus. I know there's a book called II-Timothy; but, we'll get back to II-Timothy after we have covered the book of Titus. I'll explain why in our next lesson. Thanks for coming! I hope you are enjoying this study and you are learning love and respect for Paul and Timothy. These letters have much relevance to us. If you have questions or I can help, please write or call. If you can pass it on, please enroll others. I'll be with you in lesson #13. Have a good day.