1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaeus and Alexander, whoa I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme' (1:18-20)

Paul now has strong words to say to Timothy, to make sure that he does not turn aside from the safe paths of Christ's service. As in verse 5, Paul speaks of his 'charge' to Timothy, the things to which Timothy must give attention. He says that three things are very important:

a. Remember your calling

Paul takes Timothy's thoughts back to the early days of his Christian life. On his first missionary journey Paul had been in Lystra, had preached the gospel there and had been stoned as a result (Acts 14:19). Probably Timothy became a Christian at that time. He grew in faith, and when Paul returned to Lystra, the elders were able to speak well of Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). So he was set apart by the church for missionary service with Paul and Silas. Just as when Paul himself became a Christian and Ananias spoke to him of God's great plans for him (Acts 9:15), so the elders laid hands on Timothy, and spoke these 'prophetic utterances' which indicated that Timothy was the right man for the work (see also 4:14). Now Paul is reminding Timothy of that time, and is saying to him, 'Live up to those words that were spoken then.' Perhaps our parents, teachers or Christian leaders have high hopes of us. Perhaps they have spoken of what we might do in the service of God and of men. It is good sometimes for us to remember such words, lest we sink into an easy, self-centred life.

b. Realize your warfare

Timothy is next reminded that the Christian life is warfare, and he must learn to wage the 'good warfare'. Paul also speaks in this way in Ephesians 6:10-20, where he warns Christian people that their battle is against the mighty forces of evil: therefore they need the armour of God, they need God's strength and they must be ready to fight and stand their ground. The Christian life is warfare, and it is good warfare because it is a battle in Christ's name against the powers of evil. no other struggle - and certainly not struggle among ourselves - is 'good warfare'. At the end of his life Paul could say, 'I have fought the good fight' (2 Timothy 4:7). Now he says to Timothy, 'Fight the good fight of the faith' (6:12). When Paul speaks of 'holding faith and a good conscience' he may be thinking of those qualities as parts of the Christian armour. In Ephesians 6, he speaks of 'faith' and 'righteousness' as the Christian's 'shield' and 'breastplate'. Both 'faith and a good conscience' are vitally necessary if we are not to be overpowered in the warfare. It is no matter if we feel our faith is weak - it is not the size of our faith that matters, but the greatness of the Almighty God in whom we trust. We can still hold 'faith' and also 'a good conscience'. We have often sinned against our conscience in the past, but we can trust in Christ's forgiveness and in His strength to keep us from evil, making us sensitive to Satan's attack.

c. Keep your course

The apostle changes now from the picture of battle to that of a ship at sea. In this picture he seems to liken 'faith and a good conscience' to the stars that sailors use for navigation. To keep direction - as when a ship at sea follows its charted course, and obeys its compass - is to keep safe. If we fail to steer our lives by 'faith and a good conscience', we run the risk of shipwreck in our Christian lives. The apostle had tragic examples in mind (as when he gave a similar warning in Philippians 3:18, 19). There was Hymenaeus, who turned aside from the faith of Christ and led others astray too (see 2 Timothy 2:17), There was Alexander who cared little about a 'good conscience', did 'great harm' to Paul and probably to others also (see 2 Timothy 4:14). They, like Timothy, started off well, but they became like ships off course, and ended in shipwreck - in other words, under the power of Satan. 'Be warned,' the message is still, 'go on in the knowledge of the faith, so that you are not led astray from it. Keep a good conscience, by faithfulness of word, purity in relationships with others, integrity in all things.'


O God, Thou least called us to Thy service, and the work is not easy. Thou hast summoned us to fight for Thee against evil, and the enemy is strong. We know that many have failed Thee. We have often failed Thee. Give us now and every day the pocuer of Thy Holy Spirit, that we my keep the faith and a good conscience, even to the end, for Jesus Christ's sake. AMEN.

Notes. 1. 'Prophecy' in New Testament times is sometimes telling the future (as in Acts 11:27, 28 and 21:10-12). More often it is delivering God's message to particular individuals in particular situations, so making His will known. We find mention of prophets in such passages as Acts 13:1; 15:32; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 14:1-40 and Ephesians 4:11.

2. It is possible to understand the phrase 'whom I have delivered to Satan' in two ways. (a) It may mean some kind of physical suffering, Satan being allowed to cause this (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:5) as he did with Job (2:3-6). (b) It may mean excommunication, or removal for a time from the fellowship of the church; to be excluded from the help and strengthening of its fellowship is like being handed over to Satan (see 1 Corinthians 5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:14). Whatever the form of discipline, its purpose was not simply punishment, but restoration of the sinner to true faith - 'that they may learn not to blaspheme'.

Further Study. Study as many as possible of the New Testament passages which speak of the Christian life as warfare - including 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4; Philippians 2:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; 2 Timothy 2:3, 4; 1 Peter 2:11.