Faithlife Sermons

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“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.
By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”
[1]
Reading various translations, one could conclude that Paul is concerned that one’s personal faith may be wrecked.
[2] While it is possible that one can distort their trust in God, it is doubtful that that is the Apostle’s intent when he wrote Timothy.
What is not evident in our English tongue is that the Apostle used the definite article when he wrote of the disaster resulting from rejecting the character traits of which he spoke.
I am cautious to state that just because the definite article is used does not of itself mean that Paul has in view the entire body of doctrine that defines the Faith.
By using this literary device, Paul may mean us to understand the definite article as having a possessive sense.
Either of these two understandings would indicate that these two men suffered personal shipwreck of their faith or the application of the Faith.
Nevertheless, it seems apparent to me that Paul is using these two men as a warning that some individuals may so distort the Faith that it causes them, and those who look to them, to be shipwrecked.
That, also, is evident from even a casual consideration of history.
A growing number of translations indicate that the translators understand this to be the Apostle’s intent.
[3]
I am prepared to argue that Paul has in view the body of essential Christian doctrine.
It is not so much that Hymenaeus and Alexander caused the Faith to be shipwrecked, but rather that they suffered shipwreck when they attempted to distort that Faith.
To be certain, it is possible to mislead the unwary, causing them to stumble through distorting the truths of God.
However, an individual who would distort truth will himself (or herself) be shipwrecked on the very truth he (or she) is twisting and perverting.
The message today examines Paul’s warning concerning two individuals who were even then experiencing shipwreck on the Faith of the True and Living God.
Together, we will examine how they arrived at that position and what the consequences were for these two men.
Understanding what they did and what resulted from their actions will serve as a warning to us to hold fast to the truth once for all delivered to the saints.
*SOME THINGS SHOULD NEVER BE REJECTED* — “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.
By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith.”
I am intrigued that Hymenaeus and Alexander are charged as being heretical both through rejection of “faith and a good conscience!”
The reference likely points Timothy (and us) back to something Paul wrote early in this letter.
In 1 TIMOTHY 1:5, Paul has written, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
Rejecting “faith and a good conscience” had injured these two men, and it harmed the church.
Refresh your memories by considering what it means to have “faith and a good conscience.”
Studying that earlier verse, we discovered that the combination of a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith resulted in love.
The Apostle stated that love was the goal of his command to foster these attributes.
[4] He indicated that heresy and concomitant personal evil marked the lives of false teachers; he contrasted their lives to the presentation of sound doctrine and the godly life that indelibly marks the man of God.
“Faith and a good conscience” will be a continuing theme in this particular letter.
For instance, later in this letter, the Apostle will insist that deacons “must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” [1 TIMOTHY 3:9].
Therefore, we are assured that rejecting these aspects of Christian life leads to disaster.
What is important for Christians to note is that faith and a good conscience, to say nothing of a pure heart, will ensure that believers will be forced to fight.
Paul speaks of waging the good warfare; and that concept requires us to think about Christian warfare.
We live in a day in which many professing Christians argue that the believer in Jesus should never have conflict.
It is perhaps the prevailing view of many churches that Christians should be docile, compliant, hail-fellow-well-met.
In this view, Christians should never speak against any practise; they should be genial and non-judgmental about any action, however reprehensible it may be.
In short, the message from many pulpits is that the Christian is to be “nice.”
“Nice” is one of those innocuous terms that means pretty much whatever the speaker wants it to mean, though generally it means that they refuse to take a stand on much of anything.
We need to understand that we who are Christians must not be deliberately offensive.
Writing the Corinthian Christians, Paul cautioned, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:31-33].
In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry” [2 CORINTHIANS 6:3, NET BIBLE].
You may recall an occasion when those who collected the Temple Tax confronted Peter, asking whether Jesus paid the tax.
Jesus, knowing what had happened, used the occasion to provide instruction.
“‘What do you think, Simon?
From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax?
From their sons or from others?’
And when he said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free.
However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.
Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself’” [MATTHEW 17:25-27].
Did you catch Jesus’ justification for paying the tax?
He was not speaking of avoiding giving deliberate offence to fellow believers; He spoke of doing all that was possible to avoid giving offence even to those who extracted an unjust tax!
To be certain, believers have received the command to “Be at peace among yourselves” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:13].
However, beyond that command lies an even more comprehensive command that weighs upon all who are believers.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” [ROMANS 12:18].
This verse is not crafted in weasel terms; it acknowledges that it is not always possible to live peaceably with others; there are individuals who are obstreperous, cantankerous, quarrelsome, unruly or just plain mean.
Such people make living in peace extremely difficult; some individuals that fall into this particular category will need to be confronted and held accountable for their actions.
Having established that we who follow the Master are responsible to seek peace with all people, it is equally vital to note that we must be prepared to engage in warfare on occasion.
I do not want to leave an impression that we are to be warlike—we are specifically enjoined against engaging in war as this world fights.
Listen once more to what must surely be familiar passages.
“Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” [2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5].
Here is another well-known portion of the Word that addresses the manner in which Christians are to fight.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
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.
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.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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” [EPHESIANS 6:10-18].
Here are some other passages that speak of the Christian obligation to resist evil.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” [JAMES 4:7].
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” [1 PETER 5:6-10].
Other passages specifically address the need for elders to resist wickedness, and imply a general duty imposed on all congregations.
The opening salvo of Jude’s brief missive begins, “Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common.
I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish” [JUDE 3, THE MESSAGE].
Did you get that?
Christians are to “fight with everything [they] have for this Faith!”
Paul will encourage Timothy, “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” [1 TIMOTHY 6:12].
As he neared the end of his own life, Paul would testify, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” [2 TIMOTHY 4:7].
I have previously stated, and I must state once again, this Christian life is not a battle—it is a campaign!
We are not running a sprint; we are running a marathon!
When you enter into this Christian life, you will be challenged for the duration.
If you want no trouble, don’t say anything, don’t do anything, don’t be anything.
However, you have received the apostolic warning, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” [2 TIMOTHY 3:12].
It may assist to clarify the issue of when fighting is necessary through reminding you of several Scripture passages.
We must not fight fellow believers over issues of no eternal consequence.
Paul cautioned Titus, “Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, quarrels and fights about the law, because they are useless and empty” [TITUS 3:9, NET BIBLE].
Some matters are vital to the Faith.
Those teachings that impinge on Christ as Master over life, on the salvation He offers to all who believe, on the authority of His Word, on the conduct of the faithful are each sufficiently important that we cannot cede ground on them.
Matters of preference in music styles, worship styles, hair styles and teachings that are so outlandish as to strain credulity are not worthy of wasting energy.
Of course, this requires the believer to balance the Christian life, distinguishing between what is essential and what is merely preferential.
Earlier in this same dispatch to Titus, Paul had enjoined the younger missionary, “Remind [the believers] to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.
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