1 TIMOTHY 1:18-20 THE GOOD FIGHT BEGINS WITHIN
18 Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
St. Paul gives Timothy three exercises of Christian leadership: 1) fighting the good fight; 2) holding on to the faith; and 3) holding on to a good conscience. The good fight is confronting the false teachers with the truth, which throughout history has proven to be a dangerous calling. Obviously, in order to make such a stand one has to be strong in one’s own faith. Finally, the clean conscience that results from living a life of obedience to God will protect one from any challenges to his integrity which could breed doubt.
The key to a faithful life and ministry is obedience to God. Any abiding disobedience is bound to negatively impact our faith because in order to continue in disobedience we have to squelch the conscience by rationalizing that it is not really disobedience or that God “won’t mind” it. In that way we reimage God according to the way we choose to act. The reformer, John Calvin wrote that A bad conscience is the mother of all heresies (The Epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus, p.202). It has often been said that we believe what we do. Many of the problems of the Church today, as in Timothy’s day, find their root in self-justification by sinful human beings. It is natural that anyone who has a concept of the divine will seek to have the earthy institution representing God bless his behavior as a salve to his conscience. It is the role of the Christian leader, whether in the Church or the family, to humbly seek the truth through confession and repentance, study of God’s word and worship, and then defend the truth against all naysayers.
The battle for the truth will be a reality as along as there is sin in the world. Victory for the faithful leader is not assumed or for that matter even mentioned in this passage. The reason why is that the victory is not ours to win and in fact has already been won by Jesus. We are not to win the victory. We are to represent the victory through lives of obedience to the Victor.
Lord Jesus, you have won the victory over sin and death through your sacrifice on the cross and glorious resurrection from the grave. May my life this day be a witness to that victory. Cleanse my heart of all deceit and rationalization, especially when it comes to obeying you. Protect me from the temptation to rework your commands to better fit what I am doing or to avoid confrontation with my neighbor. Give me your Spirit so that I might not run but rather stand firm in the fight for your truth. Amen.