Fight the Good Fight of Faith
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Primary Truth Taught- Christians must aggressively pursue holiness in this life.
We now enter the closing section of 1 Timothy. Here the Apostle is giving his Son in the faith final instructions. It’s as it were a summary of what Paul sees as most important to Timothy. Paul desires that he take care of the Church in Ephesus by dealing with all the false teaching and the inappropriate leadership but more important than that is that Timothy continues to grow as a believer. I think most godly parents would give these instructions to their believing children. These charges or commands are coming from an aged Apostle to his young believing brother in the faith. His exhortations are Paul’s way of insuring that Timothy’s sanctification continues. What good would it be to have Timothy work so hard in caring for the matters in the church only to neglect his own soul?
We should see that growing in godliness is how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV)
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Now is when the Apostle says, let’s not look to the church anymore but to you, Timothy. Here’s how you will continue to grow as a Christian.
Isn’t God so good to us to preserve this section so we too can benefit from the Apostle’s advice?
Beloved, we too must continue to mature in the faith making advances in our sanctification. We must always be making advances in our walk with Christ.
In God’s mercy He inspired Paul to give this vital information to Timothy, then, He kept it for us here today.
How important is sanctification? Is it just for the elite Christians or some special group? Is it just for Elders and preachers?
Well, we’ve already learned from our current series in 1 Timothy that it is very important.
1 Timothy 4:8 (ESV)
8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Timothy 6:6 (ESV)
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain,
The Apostle, then, ascribes great value and great gain to godliness or as we could call it, sanctification but while it is very valuable and worthy of great-gain status, I believe if we let the entire Bible speak we would, no doubt, need to look to Hebrews 12.
Hebrews 12:14 (ESV)
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Words used to describe sanctification are godliness, holiness and even righteousness. The writer of Hebrews tells us that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. These Christian character traits are what we must be gaining ground in our walk with Christ. If all we have is a one time religious experience and are not striving for and advancing in holiness then we are not a genuine believer and we will not see the Lord.
I want to also say by way of introduction that sanctification is an active process. When God saves us, He does all the work to justify us. We have no part to play in that because we are dead spiritually. We cannot do anything God does it all. Once God justifies (declares us righteous in Christ), then we work with Him in sanctification. Gaining ground in holiness is a partnership between the believer and God.
Paul also knows that holiness is an active process. It is something Timothy must be hard at work to achieve. We too must work very hard to be one the path of holiness.
Here God’s Word today…
1 Timothy 6:11-16 (ESV)
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Because godliness etc. is an active part of salvation, Paul very appropriately uses verbs to describe how sanctification is achieved.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things
Paul tells Timothy that the first step in growing in holiness is to run away from or escaping, here fleeing from sinful things. He says these things and has in mind all the sin the false teachers were engaged in but he also has a broader perspective. If we are to grow as Christians into the holiness without which no one will see the Lord, then we too must run away from sin.
1 Timothy 6:9–10 (ESV)
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Notice some biblical examples of fleeing…
Jesus compares Himself as the Good Shepherd to a hired shepherd…
John 10:12–15 (ESV)
12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
The hireling flees when the wolf shows up. That’s a negative example but you get the idea. So, when sin shows up we must flee it. We must actively do whatever it takes to get away from it. The only thing sin should see is our backside as we are running away.
It’s like the deer I often see around the house. As soon as they smell, see, or hear something that shouldn’t be there they bolt as fast as they can. They’re a great example of fleeing from sin. Verb #1 is flee…
1 Timothy 6:11B (ESV)
Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
The Christian life is not just running away from sin but we also must be running toward something else. So, he gives us a few things to run after or pursue. Again we must actively pursue these things…
Righteousness- Obedience to God’s Moral Law. We use God’s moral Law as a plumb line and so measure ourselves by it. Or as James writes that it is like a mirror that we must look into and conform to its commands.
James 1:22–25 (ESV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Godliness- literally, being conformed to God’s image and character
Faith- we pursue absolute trust in all God’s promises.
Love- Here we must use the biblical definition of love and not our world’s meaning. Love is also an action word whereby we seek the good of others. We work hard to care for others.
Steadfastness- We could also use perseverance here. We actively pursue steadfastness. We remain a Christian even if all others walk away from Christ. We seek to be like Job who remained faithful to God clear to the very end.
James 5:11 (ESV)
11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
Gentleness- It takes work to always respond with gentleness.
These are traits that we must actively be pursuing as we walk with Christ and as we flee sin. Let’s get the picture in our mind, see yourself fleeing sin and pursuing holiness.
12 Fight the good fight of the faith.
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, my friends; we wrestle against principalities and powers. This is a war. It is a war against the flesh and indwelling sin. It’s a war against the world and its hostility towards God. It’s a war against Satan and all of his hosts, and that means you and I, we are to put on the whole armor of God.
Ephesians 6:11–18 (ESV)
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Specifically we are called to fight for faith. I don’t now about you but I have counseled people who for whatever reason and usually it is while under severe trials had all but lost their faith. They were so shaken by the things of this world that their faith was so tried it was almost gone. Maybe you’ve been there before. Maybe you’re there now? We must wage war against unbelief and fight for faith.
Luke 22:31–32 (ESV)
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Have you been sifted? I pray you fight for faith.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Make every effort to clutch tightly and hold onto eternal life. Take hold means an aggressive acquiring and perseverance.
In 1740, a 25- year-old George Whitefield, the greatest evangelist/preacher of his day, preached in Middletown, Connecticut. And a farmer named Nathan Cole, heard him and recorded his experience in a diary. He’s a farmer. Let me read it to you.
“In the morning about 8 or 9 of the clock there came a messenger and said Mr. Whitefield preached at Hartford and Wethersfield yesterday and is so to preach at Middletown this morning at ten of the clock. I was in my field at work. I dropped my tool that I had in my hand and ran home to my wife, telling her to make ready quickly to go and hear Mr. Whitefield preach at Middletown, then ran to my pasture for my horse with all my might, fearing that I should be too late. Having my horse, I with my wife soon mounted the horse and went forward as fast as I thought the horse could bear; and when my horse got much out of breath, I would get down and put my wife in the saddle and bid her ride…and so I would run until I was much out of breath and then mount my horse again, and so I did several times to favor my horse….for we have twelve miles to ride double in little more than an hour….And when we came within about half a mile or a mile of the road that comes from Hartford…to Middletown, on high land I saw before me a cloud of fog arising. I first thought it came from the great river, but as I came neared the road I heard a noise of horses’ feet coming down the road, and this cloud was a cloud of dust made by the horses’ feet. It arose some rods into the air over the tops of hills and trees; and when I came within about 20 rods of the road, I could see men and horses clipping along in the cloud like shadows, and as I drew nearer it seemed like a steady stream of horses and their riders, scarcely a horse more than his length behind another, all of a lather and foam with sweat, their breath rolling out of their nostrils every jump. Every horse seemed to go with all his might to carry his rider to hear news from heaven for the saving of souls. When we got to Middletown old meeting house, there was a great multitude, it was said to be 3 or 4,000 people, assembled together. We dismounted and shook off our dust…When I saw Mr. Whitefield come upon the scaffold, he looked almost angelical; a young, slim, slender youth, before thousands of people with a bold undaunted countenance….He looked as if he was clothed with authority from the Great God, and a sweet solemn solemnity sat upon his brow, and my hearing him preach gave me a heart wound. By God’s blessing, my old foundation was broken up, and I saw that my righteousness would not save me.”
Isn’t that a beautiful description of thousands of people on horses going to hear the word of life? Lay hold of eternal life with that kind of picture before you, Paul is saying.
14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.
Keep the commandment is meant to be understood as keep all these things I’ve just told you about. Keep them pure and without ever dropping your guard.
How long do we pursue sanctification? How long do we flee from sin, pursue godliness, fight for faith, lay hold of eternal life?
until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
How has this picture of sanctification changed how you will now go about persuing it?
What changes will you need to make in order to better seek holiness in your life, your family’s life?
Are there areas where you need to seek God’s forgiveness at your lack of spiritual growth?
I pray we all would take a very active role in seeking personal holiness. May God give us the grace we need to become more and more like Jesus.
Declaration of Grace
 Sermon 1 Timothy 6:11-16 by Derek Thomas