Theme: Holding Fast
In this week’s lessons, we look at how Paul viewed himself apart from Christ, and the great change that took place because of God’s mercy.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 1:12-20
After this benediction, Paul then addresses Timothy by name in verses 18-20. I think that’s Paul’s way of telling Timothy that this is what he learned. This is the experience of Paul’s life. Paul knows that Timothy already knows this because the two of them have traveled and served together. But knowing what Timothy does, Paul wants him to, as he says, “…fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.” Paul tells him to hold onto both faith and a good conscience. You would think that if you hold onto faith you will at the same time hold your good conscience. Likewise, if you give up faith, at the same time you will also give up a good conscience. Why does he tell Timothy to hold onto both of them?
I think Paul might have something like this is mind. You can hold onto the faith in the sense that you believe it, but you can still compromise it. You can give it away inch by inch, and then inch by inch lose your good conscience before God in the process and become worthless. I think that’s the great danger of the evangelical church in America today—of giving up their ground inch by inch. It is not that they sell out their faith and then lose their good conscience all at once. It is more that they make subtle compromises in their commitment to certain ideas, and as a result lose their good conscience in small increments as time goes on.
When you were young, did you ever get into a fight with one of your schoolmates who was pushing you around? Eventually you told him to stop doing it, or else you were going to punch him. He then practically dared you to hit him by continuing to push you to see if you had enough courage to carry out what you threatened. In reply, rather than doing what you said you were going to do, instead you drew a line on the ground and told him, “If you come across that line, I’m going to punch you in the nose.” He then challenged you and stepped across the line. What did you do? You drew another line and said the same thing: “If you step across that line, you’re going to get punched.” Of course, he again steps across the second line. So you drew another line, and after crossing it the third time you finally hit him.
In a similar way, isn’t that what we as Christians do sometimes? The world takes a position on something that goes against our Christian conviction, but we’re afraid to speak out, whether because we are embarrassed or perhaps because we do not want to risk paying a price for not going along. So we instead give up an inch of what our conscience is telling us the Bible teaches. We tell ourselves that we will not say anything publically this time, but if something worse gets promoted or suggested, then we will stand up for what we know is right.
But then the same thing happens again. A worse position gets taken, and we again cower in silence because we are afraid of what might happen to us. We say nothing and figuratively draw another line in the sand. We say to ourselves again, “I’ll let this viewpoint or behavior slide this time, but if it reaches this further point, then I will do something about it.” But if we are not careful, the time for standing up for righteousness never comes, giving up our faith inch by inch, and seeing our good conscience decline little by little. I think that’s what Paul means. Fight the good fight of faith. Hold fast to the faith and a good conscience. Don’t give it up at all.
I think Paul would say the same thing to us today. This is the gospel that’s been preached to you. This is the doctrine you have received. You understand it and believe it. You’re growing in your faith. Hold fast to it, because the enemies of the gospel are strong and there is great temptation to compromise. Don’t do that, but hold onto it for Jesus’ sake.
Why does Paul tell Timothy to hold on both to faith and a good conscience?
Are there any areas today where the evangelical church may be compromising its faith and good conscience?
Application: Are there times when you fail to stand up for righteousness? Pray for grace to hold on and not give in to compromise.