Monday, 28 May 2012 01:00

The Command to the Church

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In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul tells him,“…how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” Read here Part 4.

In 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul writes to Timothy, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy….” What charge or command is the apostle speaking of? He is referring to what he had already commanded Timothy to do: he should see that no strange doctrines were spread, that no strange influences found their way into the Church, and that the sound doctrine was preserved (verses 3-11).

Then Paul continues in verse 18, “…according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:12 and Jude 3). This verse is translated as follows in the NIV, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.” Timothy received the command to fight the good fight. He did not need to do this alone, however, or without spiritual weapons. Rather, he could undertake the great task, strengthened by the prophecies made about him.

Apparently, there were prophecies concerning Timothy which he could and should claim (1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6). We are no longer living today in apostolic times. The events concerning Timothy belong to the foundation of the early Church. Today, we have all the prophecies in the Scriptures, which were not completed at that time. This Word strengthens us and leads us to fight the good fight. We are simultaneously called upon to use the spiritual gifts that the Lord has given to strengthen us, and to enjoy using them. God always gives the spiritual gift needed for a task.

In verse 19, Paul continues, “Holding faith, and a good conscience.” To fight a good fight we need, besides the word of prophecy and the use of spiritual gifts, personal faith and a good conscience. Prophecy and spiritual gifts (1 Timothy 1:18 and 4:14) come from God; faith and a good conscience are our part. Only in this way can we fight the good fight and endure. 

We should employ the gifts in faith and with a good conscience, and claim the promises and do in accordance with what we know in theory. Those who do not abide in the doctrine and confirm it with their lives are in danger of being spiritually shipwrecked, “…which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (verse 19).

We should have a good conscience and not ignore it. We ignore our conscience when we leave the pure doctrine, no longer live in accordance with it, and are indifferent to it (verse 5). “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom 

I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (verse 20). Both these men had forsaken the doctrine and a good conscience. They set themselves above the pure doctrine, suffered shipwreck, and finally became blasphemers. These could well be the same persons that Paul mentions in his second letter to Timothy, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18; see also 1 Corinthians 15:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:2). “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words” (2 Timothy 4:14-15). 

It is to be assumed that these men, in spite of their exclusion from the Church, still had influence over it and a number of followers, which made things very difficult for Paul. This is always the case. There will always be people who let themselves be deceived and join the wrong side, and make it very hard for those who are on the right side. Many expositors assume that the men mentioned spiritualized the resurrection in a Greek-philosophical way, and did not believe in a physical resurrection. This reminds us of the present-day tendency to spiritualize Israel, the Rapture, the return of Jesus in great power and glory, and the millennium of peace. It happens that Christians first begin to doubt Biblical truths, then openly question them, and finally become cynical or make a mockery of everything. They have lost their good conscience and are no longer receptive for the truth and corresponding admonitions. Paul gave these two men over to Satan, in apostolic authority, which apparently meant exclusion from the Church. He committed them to the kingdom of Satan, which lies outside the Church (cf. 1 Timothy 5:15 and 1 Corinthians 5:3-6). The aim of their exclusion was not to condemn them, but to discipline them and make them turn around.                      (MR1010/421)

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Norbert Lieth

Norbert Lieth has amassed valuable experience at several missionary assignments in South America, after graduating from Bible college in Uruguay. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Midnight Call Ministries, which has its international headquarters in Switzerland. 

A central theme in his worldwide ministry is the biblical prophecy found in Scripture, from which the imminent return of Jesus shines forth. He has written numerous books, of which several have been translated into other languages.


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