Meditations on 1 Timothy
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” I Timothy 1:18-20, NIV
Memories are powerful. Whether they are happy, sad, or fearful, memories can immediately transport us back in time with vivid detail. In fact, many of us can talk for hours in the retelling of our tales. Before we know it, the past merges with the present and we are once more “reliving the moment.”
It is like this for Paul with Timothy. Paul is giving a charge to Timothy by reminding him of prophecies made about him. Why? “…so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” In other words, by keeping these memories fresh and forefront in Timothy’s mind, he will be encouraged and strengthened in in the work of the gospel.
How can past memories help us fight the good fight? Recalling meaningful events in our life helps us re-center back to what is important, remind us of our goals, and redirect us to our initial purpose. It can remind us of the fire and passion which first fueled us. After all, we are exhorted to remember our “first love” of the Lord.
Paul goes onto share how he hopes these recollections of past prophecies will spurn Timothy forward. His charge to Timothy is “that by recalling them, you may fight the battle well.” Notice, that Timothy is charged not just to fight the battle but to fight it well. Afterall, just because we are engaged in combat does not mean we are doing a good job of it. We may need additional reinforcements of weapons, resources, and strategies to help us stand strong in the fight.
What weapons are needed to help Timothy fight? Paul spells this out for us. In order to fight well, we need to hold on to faith and a good conscience. This may be surprising to you as it was me. Up to this point, I had never conceptualized faith or a good conscience as effective weapons of war.
How is holding on to faith and a good conscience effective in battle? To gain greater insight on this, we must first understand what “holding on to” means within the context of warfare. In battle, to hold on to refers to keeping, retaining, and occupying. It means to stand firm and not relinquish. It is actively holding fast to what does not waiver or deny. In these ways Paul charges Timothy to hold on to his faith and good conscience.
But how is a good conscience helpful in fighting the battle? It protects us. A good conscience leads us to live upright lives of good conduct. When we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our consciences, we make good decisions and conduct ourselves with righteousness which shields us from the wages of sin. For a conscience cleansed by the blood of Christ and purged of sin, results in holy and upright living.
In Ephesians 6, you may recall that faith is a part of God’s holy armor. It is referred to as the “shield of faith.” In war, shields are vital because they keep the Enemy’s weapons from hurting us. For this reason, faith is a critical part of our armor because it protects us against the fiery arrows of Satan. Simple as it sounds, we just need to hold steadfastly to our shield of faith to keep Satan’s flaming darts at bay.
Closing out this first chapter, Paul ends with a warning. He warns Timothy what will happen if he rejects his faith or a good conscience. “…holding onto faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith.” In other words, when we throw away our faith and continually violate our consciences, we are met with spiritual disaster and ruin. In fact, Paul specifically names 2 individuals for which this has happened. He describes them as those “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” Paul’s use of strong language to communicate the egregious nature and severity of their offense.
Finally, let us not miss the term of endearment which Paul used when referring to Timothy. “My son” connotes such fatherly love and affection. We know then that these penned words are written from a sincere heart which yearns for Timothy’s best.
It is with this same sincere heart of affection which I ask you to examine your conscience and faith. Are you making choices which guard you from sin or are you making decisions that compromise your conscience? Are you holding firm to your faith or are you relinquishing and wavering? Oh friends, may we stand strong and fight well in this earthly battle against spiritual principalities. Let us not be handed over to Satan but hold onto our faith and a good conscience. This day, may we remember our first love and joy of the Lord that our hearts may be rekindled once more.