Fight the Good Fight

In 1st Timothy 6:11–16 As he has done previously, Paul follows his comments about false teachers with personal exhortations to Timothy, concluding with a marvelous doxology.

1 Timothy 6:11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 

The apostle addresses Timothy as a man of God in striking contrast to the previous description of false teachers. The things Timothy must flee from extend to all the vices mentioned from verse 8 onwards. The antithesis in the words flee and pursue is repeated exactly in 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” The objects of pursuit include two general religious dispositions; righteousness meaning “conformity to what is right towards God and man,” and godliness meaning “piety.”

This double pursuit is also found in Titus 2:11–12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”

 The words “faith” and “love” reflect trust in God and benevolence and goodwill toward others.Timothy needs “steadfastness” to not waver in his pursuit of these things. Timothy needs “gentleness” in order to deal effectively with cantankerous heretics and wavering believers.

What this amounts to is found in three parts, beginning in 2 Timothy 6:12a “Fight the good fight of the faith.”

The command to Fight means literally ‘to contend for a prize.’ The verb implies a disciplined struggle that’s already begun. To fight for “the faith” includes a struggle for the truth of the gospel, but also refers to the whole Christian life, as a great contest requiring discipline and purpose. The use of the present tense for “fight” suggests a continuous struggle. In His second epistle to Timothy Paul says, “He who hath become a soldier doth not entangle himself with matters inconsistent with his calling.” (2 Tim. 2:4.) Carelessness and self-indulgence arise from worldly concerns, and a great number of Christians wish to serve Christ at their ease, in easy-safe-selfishness – as if it were a hobby. But Christ calls his servants to warfare. Continual warfare. And if earthly soldiers do not hesitate to fight when the result is doubtful, and at the risk of being killed, how much more bravely ought we to do battle under the guidance and banner of Christ, when we the victory is certain? 

We fight well-fed at a table of victory set amid our enemies. John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

And we are to do it all with Joy. Philippians 2:17–18 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

“Fight. Laugh. Feast.” This is a worthy motto for God’s children. And what are we doing as we fight? As we pursue the right things? 

1 Timothy 6:12b “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” 

Divine sovereignty does not preclude human responsibility. The fact that God had “called” Timothy to eternal life suggests again that the outcome is secured in God’s hands. For what would God call us to if it were not ultimately for his glory and our good? Calvin commented on this passage: “there is nothing that ought to animate us with greater courage than to learn that we have been “called” by God; for we conclude from this, that our labour, which God directs, and in which he stretches out his hand to us, will not be fruitless.” Paul says in Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Because God has called you to eternal life; beware of being drawn aside to anything else. Hebrews 11:9–10 “By faith Abraham went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”

Timothy had an obligation to work out his salvation as if he could see it, like Abraham stood on a hill looking out over a desert and could see the city of the Living God, Christ’s day – his victory, by eyes of faith – and so Abraham worked and built and strove for it. 

1 Timothy 6:12c “About which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The event referred to is Timothy’s baptism. Everyone who follows Christ makes the “good confession of faith” when he joins Christ’s body. The Christians’ baptismal vows to the Lord must not be taken lightly. We must recall our commitments to God and God’s commitments to us. 1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to remember the confession he made before other witnesses exhibits the importance of Christians encouraging one another in the faith. We all have an important part to play in cheering on the discouraged Christians around us, and God will use our encouragement to help others grow to maturity in Christ. Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 

Stuck and stagnant, not fleeing what needs fleeing and pursuing what needs pursuing? You probably don’t need mores experts or coaches in your life or even more podcasts, books, or courses. What you need is simple, small, and consistent obedience. There are at least one or two things you know are displeasing to the Lord and bad for you in your life right now. Start there. Flee it and pursue something good in its place. On a related note, accumulating more experts and more info is often just a way to feel like you are acting without actually acting.

Paul concludes this passage the way all theological reflections should, with doxology. With worship. With gazing on Christ and worshiping him. It is the corrective to our ailing and wandering hearts. 

1 Timothy 6:13–16 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, [14] to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, [16] who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

Author: Michael Kloss

There is a Sunday conscience, as well as a Sunday coat; and those who make religion a secondary concern put the coat and conscience carefully by to put on only once a week. - Charles Dickens

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