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Summary: Paul instructs the elder in broad strokes to exert himself to excel. In these instructions is a pattern for all who pursue the Master if they will honour Him.

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” [1]

Six commands are issued in the final statements of this vital missive to a young theologue. “Flee” the actions of the false teachers. “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” In a future study, we will witness the Apostle commanding the pastor to “charge” the rich in this present age to turn from haughtiness and to avoid setting their hopes on their wealth. In the final portion of the Letter, Paul will charge Timothy, “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” Six commands—together, they summarise what is necessary to ensure a powerful ministry within the congregation where the Master has settled the man of God. Now, in our study today, we will consider two other imperatives that are essential to a ministry that will honour the Lord Christ—“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.”

The imperatives are essential to a healthy church. Assuredly, the pastor must take these commands to heart and apply them in his life. However, the people must know the task with which the elder is charged so that they may encourage him and assist him in fulfilling the necessary tasks. Also, the people of God need to understand the necessities placed upon the overseer so that they will not rebel against his labours on their behalf. This understanding will ensure that the command issued by the writer of the Letter to Hebrew Christians is fulfilled. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” [HEBREWS 13:17].

THE GOOD FIGHT — “Fight the good fight of the faith.” As Paul issues multiple commands to Timothy, he urges him to “Fight the good fight of the Faith.” Many people seeing this imagine that Paul is speaking of warfare. To be certain, the Apostle uses militaristic imagery on multiple occasions. However, the concept conveyed in these closing words is that of an athletic contest. Paul is urging Timothy to excel at personal mastery.

The command is admittedly akin to that which Paul issued as he began this particular letter. “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” [1 TIMOTHY 1:18-20].

Clearly, Paul is viewing the work in which Timothy engages as a war and the man of God as a warrior. Unlike the concept that is popularised among cults, our warfare is not conducted with weapons common to the warriors of this fallen world. We do not coerce people to become followers of the Christ. We do not advance the Kingdom of Heaven by sword or gun. This becomes quite clear in another place where the Apostle has written about the type of struggle we conduct. Listen as he addresses the matter when writing the Corinthian Christians.

“Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-6].

The statement concerning our warfare and the weapons at our disposal is emphasised as the Apostle discusses the Christian struggle in the Letter to Ephesian Christians. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” [EPHESIANS 6:10-20].

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