1 TIMOTHY-SERIES NR 2
1 Timothy 1: 12 – 20
Theme: Wage the good warfare
The Apostle Paul is not busy expounding his opinion/viewpoints to Timothy. As authentic APOSTLE the truth of the Gospel was entrusted to him by God himself. It is the Gospel message that proclaims the splendor and glory of the Triune God and it heals those who embrace it. It is the healing doctrine. Meaning: it is sound. A message which tries to entertain MAN or impress or flatter or place MAN in the forefront does not heal, because the TRUE Gospel message preaches and places the glory and honor of God in the forefront!
The greatest example of the healing power of the pure truth of the Gospel is Paul himself! Therefore he could not resist to give a brief testimony and to give the LORD all the glory for what has happened in his own miserable life – yes HE who previously blasphemed and insulted Him. In his darkness, he imagined that he was doing God a favor by persecuting Christ-believers to be tortured. What he never realized, is that Jesus rose from the dead and that his (Paul’s) persecution of the Christians was the persecution of Christ HIMSELF. Touch the saved believer and you touch the Lord himself. Paul came to that realization very thoroughly on the road to Damascus.
Never for the rest of his life could this man recover from the knowledge that He had persecuted the Lord’s church.
But moreover: Never could he stop being overcome with wonder at God’s unparalleled mercy and free grace that came to meet him in His sin-death, and liberated and delivered and saved him.
Look how he puts it here: Christ Jesus is EVERYTHING from A-Z! The inexplicable mercy of God – that He could abundantly pour out the grace and faith and love in Christ Jesus, the Son of the Most High God – upon somebody who truly deserved only the eternal death. And that while Paul (Saul) was caught up in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief. But NOTHING can stop the Lord God when He plans to save someone. It is the quickening power of the resurrection of Christ that transforms a sinner’s heart and drives out the darkness to allow the eternal light to shine!
That in a nutshell is the teaching of verses 12-14.
And then verse 15 – one of the jewels in the New Testament. That which took place in the Apostle Paul’s own life, confirms the great truth that the Lord Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
And to put serious emphasis on that truth, the Apostle uses the solemn words: “It is a trustworthy saying that deserves 100% acceptance“. Yes, the Word MUST actively be accepted.
Think of the Lord Jesus’s words to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost”.
And that is exactly what happened to Paul himself when the Lord Jesus arrested him from out of heaven. Yes, he was gloriously saved – although he deserved the eternal condemnation. And that while he was by far the worst of all sinners.
The person who truly walks with God never regards himself as spiritually mature.
Take note what tense he uses: AM and not WAS. Remember Paul is already at the end of his life’s journey. At this stage, he had already walked with God for decades. How can he then say that he STILL IS the worst of the sinners? Should he not have used past tense? No. In Ephesians 3:8 he says that he is less than the least of all God’s people. Once more the present tense. And in 1 Cor 15:9, he calls himself the least of the apostles.
THAT is a significant attribute of spiritual progress. The more a Christian progresses, the smaller you become. The deeper your growth, the greater your consciousness of sin. And the greater your consciousness of sin, the more you cling to the perfect merit of the Lord Jesus Christ as a substitute in your place.
I now move down to verse 16.
What a dynamic verse this is! Here where the Apostle Paul testifies about how by grace the Lord God opened his eyes and overwhelmed him with His favor – HIM – Paul – the worst of the sinners.
BUT there was an important purpose with it all. And we must not overlook it. Paul regards himself as the worst sinner, and to exactly the WORST sinner the living God comes and reveals ALL His mercy. Why? So that he (the forgiven Paul) could be an example to the millions after him.
Just think about it for a moment: What Paul – who was still Saul – fully deserved, was that the holy God should destroy him. In addition, indeed he persecuted the CHURCH of Christ. He persecuted people who belonged to Christ and consequently persecuted the Lord himself. He approved of the murder of Stephen. He was an accessory to it. He was smug and arrogant in the perfection of his keeping of the law to try to impress God. God owed him nothing less than eternal condemnation.
But now: Exactly to HIM, God demonstrates all His unlimited patience to make an example of him for literally EVERYONE who in the most distant future would come to believe upon Christ for eternal life.
Grace is truly greater than sin.
It certainly does not mean that a forgiven person would want to continue in sin, never, but for the person IN WHOM the Holy Spirit dwells, yes, SUCH a person knows that God’s grace conquers the most tenacious sin.
That brings us to verse 17.
It is typical of the Apostle Paul – when he said something particularly significant – to break out in praise and worship. Under the lead and inspiration of the Holy Spirit of course. As here in verse 17. After he had briefly told of HOW indescribably merciful the Lord was to HIM who was/is the worst sinner, he utters praise and worship. Because in the Gospel message everything is from A-Z about the Lord God, and NOT about man. Man is not a shareholder with God.
Paul’s soul was SO full of grateful joy about the grace, compassion and patience of the living God. HE is the King of all time – from the passage of time since creation up to the second coming – there is absolutely nothing that can escape His power and dominion and nothing that can happen without His command. He is just DIFFERENT to all created things. He is eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.
And yet He is truly present with us by His unique Kingly reign. That is what the Apostle means by ONLY. It means UNIQUE. He is the absolute other.
That reminds strongly of the Jewish daily prayer and confession in Deuteronomy 6:4: “HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE”.
It is too wonderful for a person in whom the Holy Spirit came to dwell to know you are the property of Someone eternal. His existence shall never end. His glory lasts forever. And the saved person may SHARE in it. We can just join Paul in saying AMEN to that. That means: It is true and SO IT IS. Because the Gospel IS the truth.
Therefore – in the preceding verses the Apostle deviates just for a moment to quickly give his testimony and that ends in praises. But from verse 18 he again gets back to his instruction to Timothy in verse 3, to remain in Ephesus to stop the false teachers.
Full of compassion he calls Timothy “my son” – in a spiritual sense of course. Paul is aware that his death is imminent and therefore he desires to leave the ministry in the hands of younger men and particularly Timothy – who has to preach the Apostle’s exact message.
His instruction to Timothy was not sucked out of his thumb but is in keeping with prophecies concerning Timothy which were spoken earlier, and which indicated that Timothy was destined by the Lord to be Paul’s successor. Not successor as APOSTLE – because that was not possible – but to preach his message.
We should however not HEAR the prophecy that was spoken about Timothy as if it has the same appearance as what is practiced today in some churches as some new revelation from God that people can hear in their minds and pronounce over others.
After the NT was completed, such a thing cannot happen. In Paul’s time preachers were set apart for ministry by laying on of hands and words from the Lord based on the OT (their Bible) and the apostles’ preaching given by the Holy Spirit. By this, the Holy Spirit made it clear what God had called Timothy for. Now that the NT is complete and God’s revelation is complete and concluded, we receive prophecy only from the Scriptures – as the Spirit reveals the Scriptures to us within certain situations.
That is why Timothy could powerfully and boldly continue to fight the good fight of the Word. That is the most important matter of all – that the preaching of the Word continues uninterrupted.
When Paul talks about the continuation of the gospel in the world, he often uses military language and he portrays the Christian witness as a soldier of Christ’s – look for example at 1 Cor 9:7; 2 Cor 10: 3-6; Phil 2:25; Eph 6: 11-16 etc. But, the same Christian witness who goes out into the world as a soldier for Christ, also has a personal hidden inner vulnerability. That is what verses 19-20 are focussing on.
There is a certain WAY in which the Christian – and in particular also a minister of the Word as Timothy was – fight the good fight in the world as a soldier, AND THAT IS: to keep a close watch over the inner man. The outer struggle is fought by way of the inner man who has to hold onto two important things at the same time: to faith and a good conscience.
With THE FAITH (definite article) is not meant the subjective inner faith upon God’s promises, but the objective truth (that stands firm outside of us) as found in the OT and the preaching of the Apostles. THE FAITH is that UPON WHICH the personal faith trusts and builds. The eternal truth of the Gospel message.
If one knows it but deviates from it, your conscience will convict you if the Holy Spirit dwells in you. Your conscience shall become polluted and you will BE AWARE of it!
If a Christian (and particularly a Preacher of the Word) ignore those two voices: The Truth and the conscience, then trouble is at hand. Then such a person’s faith (without the definite article) will be shipwrecked. Here FAITH means subjective personal faith. It is cast overboard when the voices of the truth and the conscience are ignored.
And WHERE does this conflict take place? There where no one can see it: The inner soul. The most vulnerable place.
It is in the inner soul where a Christian must cling to the Truth, must know it, must cherish and embrace it, be subjected to it. Nobody can help here – in the Christian’s inner soul – only the Holy Spirit.
Add to that the conscience that is anointed with the Holy Spirit. A clear conscience is one of the Christian’s most precious possessions. More precious than gold. No believer can live should the conscience become polluted. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse it.
These truths make us realize how we should pray for our ministers – particularly those who are serious to diligently follow the path of the Truth. Because misleading and error easily enter and it always starts in the inner soul where nobody else can see it.
In Ephesus, there were two of those: Hymenaeus and Alexander. They have renounced the truth. The Apostle has handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme, and to wake up and return to the Word of God.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul explains in more detail what “handed over to Satan” means. It is to practice discipline and punishment and to ban those from the church so that they can be back in the world, THERE where satan’s domain is (1 John 5:19). Someone who is truly reborn and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells and who is disciplined in that way, hopefully, their eyes will mercifully open and there will be remorse and a return to the Word.
How necessary is church discipline not also in our day? It is a true Biblical instruction. Sidestep it and churches can become a heap of ruins. Indeed it is one of the reasons why the DR Church has almost undergone a negative transformation. Why? Because punishment, discipline and, dismissal of faithless theologians over the years was kept back and freethinking and perversity of the Word have taken over. Allow weeds to grow unhindered and it will very quickly take over.
May the Lord truly be merciful and help us to fight the good fight. Not only on a personal level but also in our church and within the religious denomination as well as witnesses in the world.
Translated by Marthie Wilson