I Timothy 1:18-20 Waging Spiritual Warfare-Staying The course.
In verses 3-7 Paul urged Timothy to stay on at Ephesus, in part to oppose those who aspired to be teachers but who were opposed to sound doctrine. He now adds to that urging a ‘charge’, one based on prophecies concerning Timothy’s future, that he “wage the good warfare” (v. 18). “Having faith and a good conscience” is warfare. The false teachers have rejected both. Earlier Paul had warned Timothy about those who had “strayed” from the faith. They had the faith or sound doctrine preached to them, but they strayed from it into idle talk and areas of dispute. Now Paul warns that there are some who go from straying from the faith to outright rejection and have suffered what he calls “shipwreck” (v. 19). We now have a clearer picture of the image Paul had in mind. These false teachers and those who follow with them, are like those who veer off course because they cease to be navigated by the word, and because they have they stray off course, and eventually they suffer shipwreck.
The word should have continued to guide them in the right direction moving forward to their ultimate destination, and it would have also warned them of shoals and other hidden dangers which they could have avoided. Two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, Paul had committed to the last stage of church discipline, having “delivered” them to Satan, “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (v. 17). To blaspheme is to show irreverent contempt for God and His word. To blaspheme involved cursing God and the name of the LORD (Lev. 24:10-16). Jesus was crucified in part, because He claimed to be God and thus was considered a blasphemer (Mt. 26:65). Paul just finished pointing out the right use of God’s law, knowing that “the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1:8). In Romans 2:17-24 he rebukes those who claimed to be Christians but rejected the law, in part because it caused unbelievers to blaspheme God as a result.
Later in this letter Paul will charge his readers to honour those whom they serve “so that the name of God and His doctrine would not be blasphemed” (6:1). The false teachers were guilty of blasphemy, which is a failure to honour God’s name, which represents His character and personage, and His doctrine or His word and law. To keep the faith is a spiritual war, it involves honouring God and His word. A good conscience is like an instrument used for navigation. The word of God is our map, and only a conscience sensitive, that is open and taught in the word, can keep one’s faith on course to the desired destination, and guard one against the dangers along the way. When we drift off course we are in danger of suffering loss in “the good warfare” of faith. In his second letter to Timothy we also learn that one of the core essentials of the apostolic witness which the false teachers were rejecting was their teaching that the resurrection was already past (2:17-18).