Fight The Good Fight – Part 2
Last week, we began contrasting Timothy with the other men mentioned in the context. We saw first that Timothy was different because of what he fled from. This week, we will notice two additional contrasts.
What He Followed After
In addition to fleeing covetousness, Timothy was to follow after other things - righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. These traits are grouped into three pairs of like virtues: righteousness and godliness, faith and love, patience and gentleness. Righteousness and godliness refer to doing what is right in God’s sight. All of God’s commands are righteousness (Psa. 119:172). When we obey God’s commands, we are righteous. John declared, “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7). When we disobey God’s commands, we are unrighteous. Again, John declared, “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (1 John 5:17). Godliness is also tied to God’s word. In the context, we read, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). The men of gain were not consenting to these words. Timothy was to do so. Consent means to come to something or to draw near to something. The next pair of traits that Timothy was to follow after were faith and love. Earlier in the context, Paul described the brethren as faithful and beloved. We read, “And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort” (1 Tim. 6:2). The faith and love mentioned in these verses is of the highest form. Both are willing to die (Rev. 2:10; John 15:12-13). Timothy was maintain his faith or love no matter the cost. The final pair of traits that Timothy was to follow were patience and gentleness. Patience has to do with bearing up under burdens (Heb. 6:12; 12:1-2; Lk. 21:19) and gentleness has to do with bringing strength under control as in the case of taming a horse (Gal. 5:23; 6:1). Timothy was to bear up under whatever burdens came his way.
What He Fought For
Finally, Timothy was different in what he was fighting for. Timothy was fighting the good fight of faith. He was trying to lay hold on eternal life. Of course, Timothy had a great model in this. Shortly, before his death, Paul declared, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). The other men in the context were fighting over words. They were trying to lay hold on earthly gain. We read, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
Fight The Good Fight – Part 1
Paul often used military references in his writings. In Second Corinthians, he spoke of the mighty weapons of our warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-4). In Ephesians, he described the armor and the weapon of the Christian soldier (Eph. 6:10-17). In Second Timothy, he spoke of waging war (1 Tim. 1:18), of enduring hardship (2 Tim. 2:3), and of pleasing the One who has chosen us to be a soldier (2 Tim. 2:4). In our text, taken from First Timothy, Paul talked about fighting the good fight of faith. We read, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also 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 our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:11-16). As we examine these verses, we will see four things - the contrast, the commission, the charge, and the commander.
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). Please note the first word - but. But is a word of contrast. Timothy, a man of God, is being contrasted with others in the context. We will call the others men of gain. Gain, rather than God, was their master and motivation. Describing Timothy as a “man of God” was high praise. It placed Timothy into the elite company of men like Moses (Deut. 33:1; Josh. 14:6), David (Neh. 12:36), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18), and Elisha (2 Kings 5:8). The difference between Timothy, a man of God, and the other men in the context, men of gain, was displayed in three things - what he fled from, what he followed after, and what he fought for. Let’s notice each of them in more detail.
Timothy was to flee from the things mentioned in the immediate context; primarily, the love of money. “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The other men in the context were not fleeing covetousness. They were pursuing it. Paul wrote,
“Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. 6:5). They remind the Bible student of Balaam who said that he wouldn’t help God’s enemies for a house filled with silver and gold, but he did. Peter said that he did so because he loved the wages of unrighteousness. We read, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet” (2 Pet. 2:14-16). Paul didn’t want Timothy to follow Balaam or his New Testament counterparts. He wanted him to flee from covetousness. He wanted Timothy to understand that a man’s life doesn’t consist of the things that he possesses (Lk. 12:15). He wanted him to understand that covetousness is idolatry. We read, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). Timothy was to flee from covetousness or idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14). After all, no man can serve God and money. Jesus declared, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat. 6:24).
But His Father Was A Greek
Timothy was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.” It is believed, based upon Acts 16:1-3 and 2 Timothy 1:5 and 3:14-15, that Timothy’s father did not become a Christian and may likely have even been dead by the time Paul came to Lystra. Please consider these verses with me:
“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek” (Acts 16:1-3).
“When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
Why are we told about Timothy’s father? Perhaps this detail is included to impress the
reader with Timothy’s faithfulness in spite of his father’s unbelief. Perhaps it is mentioned to reassure other young people who may have a parent who is not a Christian. Perhaps it is included to encourage Christians not to be dissuaded by a parent’s rejection of the gospel but to remain true to what they “have learned and been assured of” in “the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim. 3:14-15). Perhaps it is here as God’s plea to place your faith in Jesus and not in a parent’s past choices.
Timothy’s faith is praised (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-15), and he is set forth as an example of faith for us (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul wrote, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). In whom have you placed your faith? In a family member? Or in Jesus?
Where Was God?
Tragedy strikes and the question often asked is, “Where was God?” Atheists challenge Christians in a time of tragedy and say something like, “How could a loving God allow something like this to happen?” So, in the wake of a mass shooting of innocent children, let’s consider this question.
The first thing to consider is that God has given free will to each person—i.e., God has given each person on this earth the freedom of choice in how he will live and the actions he will take. If you think about it, isn’t that a sign of God’s love? Rather than programming us against our will, He gives us freedom. Of course, we don’t always like the choices that others make, because choices always have consequences. But, there again, we see the nature of God in that He is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), for He doesn’t decide who can have the freedom to choose and who cannot. He gives free will to everyone. Thus, the consequences of the actions of others often lead to our own pain and suffering. That does not prove “there is no God” or “God isn’t a loving God.” It proves that God has given freedom of choice to all.
The second thing to consider is that the existence of evil actually proves the existence of God. In a moment of tragedy, some want to use that to prove that God really doesn’t exist. But, if that were true, then how can we explain our evaluation of something being “evil”? The only way to conclude that a mass shooting is evil is to have a standard of righteousness with which to compare it. Where does that come from? The answer is God! If there is no God, then there is no sense of right or wrong, good or evil. That embedded sense of right and wrong is evidence for the existence of God, and more than that—evidence for the existence of a loving God.
The third thing to consider is that death of an innocent child is not the worst thing that could happen to that child. We think it is, because we have decided that death is the worst possible tragedy. But, is it? We are, as humans, dual-natured creators. We are a spiritual being living inside a physical body. When the physical body dies, the spirit leaves the body (Jas. 2:26) and returns “to God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). Our immortal soul is infinitely more valuable than our physical body or physical life (Matt. 16:26). When Paul considered death, he saw it as “gain,” for “to depart and be with Christ…is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). Have we considered that those precious little souls have been “taken away from evil” and have now entered “into peace” (Isa. 57:1-2)?
We grieve deeply for these families. We long for their comfort. But, let us not blame God! Tragedy and death is not His fault! Long ago, man chose to sin against God, and now evil exists in this world and brings horrible tragedy with it. Let us pray. Let us lean on God. Let us help others to turn to Him.
According To His Mercy He Saved Us (Tit. 3:1-8) – Part 4
In the first three installments of this study, we noticed the reminder, the revelation, the restriction, the remission/regeneration/renewal, the riches and the road of mercy. This week we are considering the reward and the requirement of mercy.
The Reward of Mercy
“That having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:7). God’s mercy doesn’t just save us, it makes us heirs of God. It gives us the hope of eternal life. Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). In Ephesians, Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:7, 11-14; cf. Acts 20:32).
The Requirement of Mercy
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Tit. 3:8). Although we do nothing to merit God’s mercy or grace, there are things required of those who enjoy them. In the second chapter of Titus, in discussing grace, Paul wrote, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Tit. 2:11-14). Please note that grace teaches us to live a certain way - soberly, righteously, and godly. We have been redeemed by grace that we might be zealous of good wonks. In the third chapter, in discussing mercy, the emphasis is on being ready to every good work (Tit. 3:1) and on maintaining good works (Tit. 3:8, 14). Sadly, some act as if grace and mercy and love require nothing of the believer. This is not the case. We must do what is required by these things (Jude 21).
In the verses that make up our assigned text, Paul discusses eight wonderful attributes of mercy. May we prayerfully consider them and praise God for them.