Dealing with the Timid and the Deserters in the Good Fight
March 17, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos
1 Timothy 1:18-20Someone said, “The Christian life is not a playground, but a battlefield of spiritual warfare. The closer we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the more we advance to the frontline of the conflict.” The Evangelical Christians who lived during the very violent period of 16th century in Catholic dominated Western Europe would have heartily agreed with those statements. Hugh Latimer is regarded by many as one of the most zealous gospel preachers in England in the 16th century. Before his conversion, Hugh Latimer was a priest and a fierce Catholic faith defender who used his great intellectual abilities and powerful oratorical gifts to do all he could to combat anything that even slightly resembled the principles of the Reformation such as the Bible is the final authority for believe and behavior and that salvation is by grace alone, faith alone and in Christ alone. But in 1523, God brought Latimer to salvation in a rather humorous way. It happened when he accepted the request of one Bible study leader that he was going to “confess” his sins to him as his priest. Latimer thought that he was going to hear the confession of one who admitted that he was wrong in his beliefs about the gospel and return to the Catholic faith. But instead the man shared his testimony of how he was freed from his comfortless life in trying to be saved by his own merit and partaking of the sacraments and received liberty and joy by trusting only in Christ through the gospel. God used his words to open the heart of this priest and he got saved. After his conversion Latimer set out gaining converts within Cambridge and the surrounding countryside, proclaiming that justification is by faith alone. Hugh Latimer and others freely preached the gospel for several years until Mary Tudor became queen of England. Mary was ambitious and ruthless, determined to reestablish Catholicism as the state religion of England. She annulled many religious freedoms granted by previous monarchs and she was given the nickname “Bloody Mary” because during her short five-year reign hundreds of Protestants were burned at the stake. On October 16, 1555, Hugh Latimer and another preacher named Nicholas Ridley, faced execution. Just before their death in the flames, Latimer may have noticed the fear on the face of the younger Ridley and he encouraged him with these famous words: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out!” Rather than burning out the Reformation, as their opponents had hoped, the deaths of Latimer and Ridley indeed lit a candle that spread the light of the Gospel that has never been put out. There is no doubt that Hugh Latimer and many other 16th century ministers of the gospel embodied what we would regard as faithful soldiers who fought the good fight of faith. Some of them were bold like Hugh Latimer ready to face death, but others may have been timid like Nicholas Ridley. The courage and continued faithfulness to Christ that these martyrs displayed is what the Lord desires for his people, whether they are face to face with strong opposition or even death. Today, I want us to see Paul’s counsel to his young associate minister, who was a gifted and faithful preacher of the gospel, and yet who had the tendency to be timid when face to face with opposition. Many of us preachers may identify with Timothy. Like him, you may have a tendency to be shy or fearful as for instance when you are seated in a bus or an airplane beside you is someone with whom you want to share the gospel. You may be especially intimidated when confronting a sinning brother especially if he is a church leader who is teaching falsehood. In our text, Paul gives us an example of how to deal with these timid solders who are in the middle of the fight for the gospel. But Paul does not only show us how to deal with the shy and the fearful, he also tells us how to deal with deserters. In common parlance, deserters are soldiers who deliberately and permanently leave military service before their term of service has expired. I use the term to refer to the those who have departed from the faith and are preaching a false gospel just like what some of the leaders of the church in Ephesus did. They were once soldiers fighting the good warfare, contending for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, but now, they are deserters, rejecting the gospel, teaching false doctrine and causing others to stumble. In this passage, we see two ways that Paul deals with these two types of people in the good fight for the gospel:
- He encouraged the timid.
- He disciplined the deserter.
- 1Ti 4:12 “Let no one despise you for your youth,”
- 2Ti 1:7-8 “for God gave us a spirit, not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner.”
- 1Co 16:10-11 “When Timothy comes, don’t intimidate him. He is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am. Don't let anyone treat him with contempt”
I. Encourage the Timid, 1:18-19a18 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, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. What is this charge that Paul entrusted to Timothy? Because the word “charge” here in v. 18 appears also in verse 3, (“charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine”) many commentators limit the meaning of that charge to the instruction that Timothy was to give to the false teachers. Timothy was to confront the false teachers and tell them to stop teaching false doctrine and myths and genealogies that only produce speculations and controversies. That, they say, is the charge that Paul entrusts to Timothy. I have different take on this. I don’t think that this “charge” is limited to the instruction that Timothy is to deliver to the false teachers. I have several reasons for disagreeing with that view:
- First, Paul does not repeat the command he mentioned in verse 3 here in v. 18.
- Second, verse 3 refers to an accomplished past event while here in verse 18, the word “entrust” is the present tense. Paul is saying, "I am entrusting" this charge. So he seems to be referring to a different charge.
- Finally, the Greek word for “entrust” carries the idea of entrusting something to someone for safekeeping (BDAG) and also the idea of subsequent transmission to yet another person (Knight).
- And so I think that the “charge” here in verse 18 refers to the “stewardship from God that is by faith” in 1:4.
- This “stewardship” refers to the stewardship of the gospel, the responsibility of overseeing and protecting of the gospel that has been entrusted to Paul. In 1:11 says, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.).
- It refers to the faithful proclamation, defense, and propagation of the trustworthy message that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And so this charge included correcting those who teach doctrines contrary to the gospel but it is not limited to that. It includes all kinds of service that we do for the gospel.
- 2Ti 2:2, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.
- 2Ti 1:14: By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
- 1Ti 6:20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.
- They singled out Timothy for special service in God’s kingdom. Perhaps it was similar to what happened at the church at Antioch in Acts 13:1-3 when, while the believers were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” I think that was uttered not as an audible voice from heaven but through the prophets that were part of the prayer meeting. And so maybe when prophecy was given to Timothy it went something like this: “Separate for me Timothy for the work whereunto I have called him.”
- The prophecy that Timothy received in the past may also have included a summary of his duties, predicted his suffering, and strengthened him with the promise of divine help in all his trials.
- At least, such were the prophetic utterances in connection with Paul’s own calling (Acts 9:15, 16; 22:14, 15, 21; 26:16–18). We may assume that in Timothy’s case words of somewhat similar character had been spoken.
- 2Co 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
- Eph 6:10-12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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.
- We have them here in 1:19.
- But we also saw them together in 1Ti 1:5, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Someone with a “good conscience” is one who acts according to what he know is right. He does not intentionally violate the standard that is right or that he knows to from God. Sincere faith refers to trust in God that is truly there, in contrast to pretense and hypocrisy. This faith is what Paul refers to as the shield of faith in Eph 6:16 with which we “can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”
- We also see a combination of “faith and conscience” in 1Ti 3:9. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Here, faith has a different meaning. Unlike 1:5 where faith is subjective, here in 3:9 faith is objective and refers to the deep truths of the faith that others consider mysterious. This may refer to the gospel or the essential doctrines of Christianity.
- In 2 Timothy 1:3 "I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience."
- In Acts 23:1 He courageously took his stand before the Sanhedrin and looked at them intently and declared, "Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.”
- In Acts 24:16, Then standing before Governor Felix he confidently declared, "So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.”
- In Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
II. Discipline the Deserter, 1:19b-20By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. The reason it is so important that Timothy hold on to the faith and good conscience is that Paul's opponents have already chosen to reject doing this and consequently have made shipwreck of their faith. WBC: "Rejecting” indicates a conscious, deliberate rejection, an "active spurning" and not a passive, careless slipping away from faith (cf. Acts 7:27, 39; Rom 11:1, 2). Paul's opponents made a deliberate decision to abandon this practice of holding on to the essential Christian doctrine and maintaining a clear conscience. “Paul's appeal in v. 19 reminds us that correct belief alone does not guarantee a useful Christian life. Each Christian must combine a right understanding of Christ with a proper response to that understanding. Our faith must produce good works.” BST: Thus belief and behaviour, conviction and conscience, the intellectual and the moral, are closely linked. So if we disregard the voice of conscience, allowing sin to remain unconfessed and unforsaken, our faith will not long survive. Anybody whose conscience has been so manipulated as to be rendered insensitive is in a very dangerous condition, wide open to the deceptions of the devil (4:1–2). Christian leaders who once were faithful teachers, but who, as a result of some stubborn disobedience in their lives, turned aside from the truth and so ruined their ministry. The expression some have made shipwreck of their faith may be translated “some have suffered shipwreck regarding the faith”). A similar phrase occurs in …
- 1Ti 6:21 (περὶ τὴν πίστιν ἠστόχησαν "have swerved concerning the faith")
- 2Ti 3:8 (ἀδόκιμοι περὶ τὴν πίστιν "disqualified regarding the faith")
- 2Ti 2:18 (περὶ τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἠστόχησαν "have swerved from the truth").
- How are we to regard the Christian ministry? Christian ministry is more than proclamation; it is combat. The names change, but people like Hymenaeus and Alexander have managed to infiltrate groups of professing Christians down through the ages. What then should Timothy do in such a situation? Paul does not tell him to just leave the church but neither may he remain silent in the face of heresy, let alone compromise with it. Instead, he was to stay at his post, and to fight the good fight of the faith, both demolishing error and contending earnestly for the truth.
- How are we to encourage the timid soldiers? we can’t expect God to talk to us as He did during the NT times. Many ministers of the gospel cannot go back to a time when Jesus appeared to them personally or spoke in an audible voice or a dream. But for one thing, what we see here is that the importance of the Christian community.
- But here is anohter thing we can do to encourage them. REmind them to know the essentials of the Christian faith and obey God’s Word. [Illustration: I heard of a testimony of a pastor who lost his ministry because he violated his conscience. He got involved in fornication.]
- What about the deserters? What do we do with them? WE are to discipline them. The discipline included Timothy charging them to stop their false teaching. But if they continue to disobey, they were to be removed from the church. Church discipline should be restored, but we must remember that the purpose was to restore and not merely to punish. If they the people who are disciplined repent, they should be restored. But I think the bigger problem of the modern church is that it does not discipline any more.