Fight the Good Fight of Faith

by Mike Ratliff

12 ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς πίστεως,
ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς, εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης
καὶ ὡμολόγησας τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν
ἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων. 1 Timothy 6:12 (NA28)

12 Fight the good fight of faith,
Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called
and confessed the good confession
before many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12 (Translated from the NA28 Greek text)

There are times when this work becomes an agonizing battle just to combat the attacks of our accuser; just to pray and prepare to open God’s Word; let alone dig into the Greek then translate et cetera. I am a mere man upon whom God had mercy January 1986 when I was 34. I was 35 later that year. Here I am now just a couple of months from being 71 years old and when the accuser comes to battle me, to distract me, to belittle me, what do you think he uses for ammunition? Yes, I know that at the cross all my sins were atoned for and that by God’s grace through faith the father justified me. Yes, Amen! I have days when I can take any fiery dart the enemy shoots in my direction with hardly any problem because I am so totally full of the Spirit and, using the shield of faith, extinguish those fiery darts as if they are nothing. However, there are times, especially since my stroke in April, when I am convinced that God allows the enemy access so that his accusations seem to overwhelm me. I feel worthless. I look at my past sins and then at the task of doing this work and cannot see how God could or even want to use one such as I. 

This is why both the Reformer Martin Luther and the Puritan John Bunyan are precious to me. They both struggled like this as well. Satan was a very real enemy to both of them, as he is to me. The daily battle of this walk of faith was a real battle for them and their writings about that are very helpful for those of us who struggle in this as well. One thing I do know though, from each fiery trial, God uses me as he takes me from that fire as if I have somehow been changed or refined. I don’t know, but what I do know is that through each battle I see myself as smaller and smaller and Christ as my Treasure, if it were possible, to an even greater extent.

11 Σὺ δέ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ, ταῦτα φεῦγε·
δίωκε δὲ δικαιοσύνην εὐσέβειαν πίστιν,
ἀγάπην ὑπομονὴν πραϋπαθίαν.
12 ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς πίστεως,
ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς, εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης
καὶ ὡμολόγησας τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν
ἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων.
13 παραγγέλλω [σοι] ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῳογονοῦντος τὰ πάντα καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ μαρτυρήσαντος ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν, 14 τηρῆσαί σε τὴν ἐντολὴν ἄσπιλον ἀνεπίλημπτον μέχρι τῆς ἐπιφανείας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 15 ἣν καιροῖς ἰδίοις δείξει
ὁ μακάριος καὶ μόνος δυνάστης,
ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν βασιλευόντων
καὶ κύριος τῶν κυριευόντων,
16 ὁ μόνος ἔχων ἀθανασίαν,
φῶς οἰκῶν ἀπρόσιτον,
ὃν εἶδεν οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν δύναται·
ᾧ τιμὴ καὶ κράτος αἰώνιον, ἀμήν. 1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NA28)

11But you, O man of God, flee these things. But pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called and confessed the good confession before many witnesses.13 I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and Christ Jesus, who having testified before Pontius Pilate the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment spotless, irreproachable, 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 the only one having immortality dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no one among men has ever seen neither are they able to see. To him be honor and eternal dominion, Amen! 1 Timothy 6:11-16 (Translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The first statement is a contrast. Paul begins by saying, “Σὺ δέ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ…” or “But you O man of God…” The “but you” part is in reference to Paul’s description of false teachers in the previous verses (1 Timothy 6:3-10). Paul’s description of them would match very much of what we have going on the visible church in our time. Think of the non-gospel of the Health, Wealth and Prosperity gurus who seem to be everywhere and that is even now being promulgated by Rick Warren’s “Decade of Destiny.” My friend Ken Silva has written a summation of the most horrific things attacking the church in our time here. Please carefully read that post and watch the video at the end. What Ken was talking about there is what Paul is calling Timothy and all genuine Christian and their leaders to flee from.

What is a man of God or ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ? This is any man who officially speaks for God. The man of God is known by what he flees from (v11), follows after (v11), fights for (v12), and is faithful to (vv 13,14). The key to his success in all of these endeavors is the perfection produced in him by the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The word “flee” translates the verb φεῦγε, which is the present tense, imperative mood, active voice case of φεύγω or pheugō, “to run away (literally or figuratively); by implication to shun; by analogy to vanish: – escape, flee (away).This is an imperative, that is, a command. We are told to flee these things, to remove ourselves from them.  Go back and read 1 Timothy 6:3-10 after reading Ken’s post and then think of this command. Those men and women who are falling into deception under these false teachers are doing so because they are not fleeing such things. Why not?

As we turn from these false teaches we have six imperatives from Paul to pursue in v11. The first if to pursue righteousness. This means to do what is right, in relation to both God and man, and it emphasizes outward behavior. This means that if you have a theological issue with another Christian you do not go and take their website down. You do not hire an attorney to intimidate their ISP into taking down their websites. That is the exact opposite of what this talking about. Instead, you do what is right and that means you do not do things according to the ways of the flesh in order to “win your argument.”

The next one is to pursue godliness. This means to seek to live one’s life in light of a deep reverence for God, His Law, and His ways. The next one is to pursue faith. This is talking about walking and living according to the faith that we as Christians profess. We are to pursue compassionate love for others. We are to pursue endurance, that is, patient continuance. This is talking about being faithful no matter how dreadful our circumstances. The last one is to pursue meekness. This is talking about gentleness and humility. How are you doing? As I did a self-check as I studied this, I realized why God allows the enemy to attack me so much. His attacks have so much to do with revealing that I am not doing a very good job of this. Therefore, I must spend more time in prayer seeking repentance, and a more humble demeanor with all.

What is this fighting the good fight of faith? The word “fight” above translates ἀγῶνα, which is the accusative, singular, masculine of ἀγών or agōn, “properly a place of assembly (as if led), that is, (by implication) a contest (held there); figuratively an effort or anxiety: – conflict, contention, fight, race. We get our English word “agonize” from this word. It was used to describe the concentration, discipline, and extreme effort needed to win. This “good fight of faith” is the spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all me of God are necessarily involved.

How are we to fight this good fight of faith? We are to lay hold of the eternal life to which we were called and we confessed the good confession before many witnesses. We are to come to grips with as much understanding as we can of our common salvation. We must understand the Gospel and how a person is saved. We must learn to tell the difference between what is of the darkness and what is of the light. We must learn to be discerning and apply that to all parts of our walk and ministry. I am utterly flabbergasted at times when I encounter professing Christians who think it is divisive to be like this. They are the ones who are in darkness. If you dig into their profession and their understanding of the Gospel and Word of God and Doctrine, it is not surprising that those who have this issue are not very deep and are not fighting this good fight of faith at all. No, they are simply fighting the fight to maintain their traditions or to maintain a false sense of peace.

Paul orders all of us to continue in this before our Lord until His return. It seems that those willing to stand and fight this good fight are becoming fewer and fewer in number. There are some who still like the sensational, but who wants to study the Word and disciple God’s people so that they can learn to be discerning? How about you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Fight the Good Fight of Faith

  1. YHWH has yet more than 7,000 who have not bent the knee to Ball – we oft have not eyes to see them. This is why we must trust Him, based on what He put in the written Word. The One who called you if faithful – He will bring it to completion.

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