Have you ever watched a commissioning ceremony for the armed forces? Imagine two soldiers in their dress uniforms, surrounded by a host of witnesses. The seasoned solider looks on the young officer he has mentored, trained, and grown to love. He entrusts the young officer with a new rank, a people to lead, and an assignment. In this ceremonial and serious moment, the young officer must accept his call, the dangers involved, and the weight of his new responsibility.
When you open your Bible to the letter of 1 Timothy, you’re entering somewhat of a commissioning ceremony between the Apostle Paul, and his young friend, Timothy. You will hear Paul saying to Timothy again and again, “I charge you” (1 Timothy 1:18; 5:21; 6:13), and hear Paul draw attention to the witnesses of this event—a council of church leaders, God himself, angels in heaven, and a host of other witnesses (1 Timothy 4:14; 5:21; 6:12). What a crowd!
Timothy isn’t becoming a soldier—necessarily. But Paul talks to Timothy as though he’s becoming a leader in a great war. Paul appoints Timothy to be an overseer of a church in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3). Paul entrusts Timothy to lead a community of people who believe in Jesus, and to act as their spiritual defender. His job is to “guard the good deposit entrusted” to him, to “wage the good warfare,” and “keep a close watch on himself and the teaching,” to “command and teach these things,” and be “trained in the words of faith” (1 Timothy 1:18; 4:6; 4:16; 4:11; 6:20). In sum, Paul tells Timothy: “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
What is this war that Paul calls young Timothy to enter? The fight of “the faith.” Faith is belief. Timothy now leads his church into a fight to believe the right things.
That might sound weird to us. What does he mean by a “fight of faith?”
In a world of myths, speculations, the double-tongued, blasphemy, deceitful spirits, and insincerity, Paul tells Timothy to fight for truth. Specifically, fight for the truth about Jesus in the lives of those who love Jesus. How will Timothy do this?
In a world of myths, speculations, the double-tongued, blasphemy, deceitful spirits, and insincerity, Paul tells Timothy to fight for truth.
Timothy fights for the truth by leading God’s people into prayer, asking God to reveal the truth to the hearts of all people (1 Timothy 2:1). Timothy also fights for the truth by preaching God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:13), by practicing discernment before letting people lead in his church community (1 Timothy 3:1-13), and by being vigilantly self-aware (2 Timothy 4:16).
God’s church, or his community of followers, are “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). The church’s most precious truth is the gospel, which Paul refers to as the “good deposit” entrusted to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:11; 1 Timothy 6:20). The gospel is the good news about Jesus—the wonderful, glorious message that he came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). This truth, more than any other that Timothy preaches, will come under the severest attack.
Every follower of Jesus is involved in this “good fight,” and the directions Paul gave to Timothy are the Holy Spirit’s enduring charge to every church leader. The instructions Paul gives are the Holy Spirit’s instructions to govern the behavior of every community of Christ-followers.
Commissioning ceremonies inspire everyone in the crowd, even when you’re not the one being enlisted into service. Open Timothy to overhear Paul’s charge, and ask yourself if you are part of the “good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12).