Theme: Spiritual Warfare
In this week’s lessons, we see that the Christian life is one of warfare, in which we are called to flee from unrighteousness, and pursue that which is pleasing to God.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:11, 12
As we come to 1 Timothy 6, the last theme we will look at is that of Christian warfare. When we think of Christian warfare, our minds quickly go to another book written by Paul, that of Ephesians. There in chapter 6, he talks about being strong and girding ourselves with the armor that God has provided in order that we might be able to stand against the devil’s schemes. Now he writes along the same lines here to Timothy. Perhaps Paul waits until the end of his first letter to this colleague and young pastor because he wants to emphasize the importance of what he has to say. Also, this theme of warfare, including such ideas as standing fast as a soldier, and holding to eternal life, is going to be picked up in 2 Timothy. In 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul says, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.” Then if you look over at 2 Timothy 1:14, you find virtually the same instruction: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you…” So this theme that ends 1 Timothy is going to be one that Paul is going to pick up and develop in a fuller way in the second letter to this young pastor who was working under him.
Now before we go on to look at these verses, let me put them in the context of the book. We’ve studied a number of important themes in 1 Timothy. We first looked at the matter of sound doctrine. Paul is writing to a preacher, after all, one who is responsible for such doctrine in his church. And if Timothy was not only responsible for his own preaching but also for the preaching of others, then this emphasis on sound doctrine extends beyond a local congregation. Thus, when Paul begins his letter by talking about sound doctrine and being on guard against false doctrine, he’s obviously dealing with something that was an important matter for Timothy and those under his care, which obviously includes not just the pastors, but the entire congregations where those pastors were ministering.
The second area Paul addresses is godliness, which is really the living out of sound doctrine. Paul knew perfectly well that it’s quite possible to be very orthodox in theology and yet live an ungodly life. James writes in chapter 2 of his letter that even the demons believe there is one God, yet it does not affect how they live. And so Paul would say that if sound doctrine is to have its proper effect, it has to sink down into the soul and produce godliness.
The third major theme moves quite logically from this general discussion of godliness to the area of Christian relationships. Doctrine isn’t something that’s just up there on a shelf somewhere that people merely look at and admire. If one truly possesses right doctrine in a saving way, it will produce godliness. Right thinking must translate into right living, affecting how we act as Christians not only among other Christians, but also among unbelievers. We are display our godliness before the world—how we speak, what we do and refuse to do, how we work, how we treat other people, and other things—and especially within the household of God.
Consequently, Paul has a long section that deals with our responsibilities to one another. So you can see this logical sequence starting with doctrine, which affects our personal godliness, which affects our relationships with others, with an emphasis on other Christians within the church, which is the family of God.
Now we can see the connection between these three major areas that Paul covers in this letter, but we might ask what the connection is with this last theme of warfare. And the answer, as it seems to me, is that none of these other things is easy. They take work, and, indeed, can be likened to a battle. It takes a battle to defend the truth of the doctrine. It takes a battle to establish godliness by a disciplined way of life. It takes a battle, if we can use the term in that way, in order to bring about, establish, and maintain the kind of relationships that are honoring to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the imagery of a fighting soldier is appropriate. Paul is telling Timothy that he is a spiritual soldier, one who is not a spectator in the arena, but who is an active participant in a serious battle against false doctrine and ungodliness. As Paul tells Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this commandment without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:12-14).
For Further Study:
What are some other passages that deal with Christian warfare, and what do we learn from them?
Review the major themes we have looked at in these studies from 1 Timothy. How does the last theme fit with the others?
Reflection: Do you view yourself as a spiritual soldier? What does that look like in your own life?
For Further Study: Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “The Encouragement of the Scriptures.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)