Fight the Good Fight

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 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 command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time – God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

The Christian life is a fight. Now, a Christian may struggle with doubts, fears, lusts, doctrinal perplexities, and such things, and broadly speaking, this is part of the fight that each believer engages in. It has to do with one’s personal growth in knowledge and sanctification. But our passage is talking about the fight of “the faith,” as in the Christian religion as a system of thought and a way of life, and its progress and prominence in the world. It refers to the objective and public aspect of the fight.

The letter itself tells us what this fight entails. Paul tells Timothy to “command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer.” He instructs believers to make prayers and intercessions for all kinds of people, including those in authority, so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives. He sets forth principles for the selection of elders and deacons. He warns against the doctrines of demons. He urges Timothy to give himself wholly to his life and doctrine. His progress is to have a public effect. Paul gives instructions on charity, and here the fight is against the neglect of widows by relatives, and against ungodly widows claiming the church’s support. Elders who perform their work well are to be paid well, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching, but the elders who sin are to be publicly rebuked.

The fight, therefore, is fought on behalf of “the faith” – for promoting sound doctrine, for establishing church order, for maintaining an excellent reputation for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for counteracting the evil influences of this world. There is much opposition against the Christian faith. There is only one way to God and to salvation, but the world invents many alternatives to lure people away from the truth. Non-Christians, or wicked men, argue against us. They mistreat us and persecute us. They attempt to undermine our every effort at telling the truth and doing good works. They will do whatever they can to make us compromise or even recant our faith. Fighting for the faith means that, even in the face of all this, we will make “the good confession” and stand by it.

Our supreme model is the Lord Jesus Christ, who made “the good confession” as he testified before Pontius Pilate. Jesus said that he was a king, that he came into this world to bear witness to the truth, and that everyone on the side of truth would listen to him (John 18:37). As his disciples, we maintain this same confession before the church and the world: Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He came into the world and bore witness to the truth, and everyone on the side of truth listens to what he said. At the preaching of his word, anyone who is on the side of truth will agree and submit, and anyone who does not agree and submit is not on the side of truth. Any person who resists the king’s decree is a rebel and a traitor. The penalty is execution. And under the rule of Christ, this means hellfire and brimstone.