Saturday, April 05, 2014

A difficult task - 1st Timothy 1:18-20

"This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme." (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
Timothy had a daunting task. The peaceful order of the church at Ephesus had been disturbed by some who were teaching wild and strange doctrines; doctrines born out of idle speculation rather than from the word of truth. Men like Hymenaeus, whom we will later learn taught that "the resurrection has already taken place" (2 Timothy 2:18), and Alexander whom Paul says "vigorously opposed our teaching." (2 Timothy 4:15) Paul had already removed such men from the church, handing them over to Satan to be "disciplined" until they should return to their senses. However, it still remained for Timothy to restrengthen the faith of those who remained and to reestablish sound order and truth within the church; to rebuild the apostolic foundations of the church both in the minds and lives of those who were believers.

As difficult as this challenge was, Timothy had the additional challenge of being young in comparison to many of the bishops, elders, and teachers of the people. Paul understood this and, while giving Timothy the command, or charge, to remain and work with the church at Ephesus, he also encouraged Timothy in his work by reminding him of who he was and what God had called him to do. Timothy was not just another "rising star" in the church, he was a man gifted and called by God, equipped for the work he was being called to. We will read later where the the gifts that Timothy had were "bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery." (1 Timothy 4:14) In reminding Timothy of who he was and what he had received from the Holy Spirit, Paul exhorted him to use this revelation to press on and to fight through the difficulties and oppositions, knowing he was called and equipped for the challenge.

However, the fight that Timothy was fighting was not a war against the church or even against Hymenaeus and Alexander, but was a war within himself; a war against quitting, giving in, and surrendering his new life to the old life he once lived. The faith that Paul is referring to is not just a belief but is a way of life; a life lived in love and obedience to the word or truth. It is a life that is lived in such a way as to preserve our conscience clean from any guilt or shame. Paul is encouraging Timothy to fight the good fight to maintain the good life. It was through preserving himself that Timothy would find the courage and strength to finish the task Paul had left him.

We all face difficulties and challenges in our lives and, like the ancient Hebrews, we all face the decision of pressing on or returning to Egypt, but if we will stop to remember that we are not alone, that God is with us and has called us and equipped us for the life we are pressing towards, then we too will find the courage and strength for the tasks God has given us as well. We must remind ourselves of who we are and whose we are and press on to "keep the faith."

David Robison

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