“Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” From the letter to St. Timothy,
As we continue our look at the first letter of St. Paul to St. Timothy, we notice language that is rich with theology, and full of encouragement to the bishop as he ministers among the people. Aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness, says St. Paul.
Then he says this: “Fight the good fight of the faith.” St. Paul well knows that the faith involves the fight. And what are we fighting? Temptation, laziness, distractions of all kinds to be sure, but it is more that that. St. Paul in his address to the leaders of the Ephesian church, as recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, tells them, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30)
Our Lord Jesus also warned us of the wolves:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:15-20).
What fruit is this? The sad divisions in the Church of God, mainly. Wolves in sheep’s clothing have led many Christians away from the faith once delivered to the saints, and the fruit is the emptying out of the church buildings. Like sheep without a shepherd, many have strayed from the truth of God’s Word. The Church is no longer central to the lives of many people. Where there is no Church, there is no peace. Where there is no peace, there is strife and suffering. Where there is strife and suffering, there is anger. Anger leads to violence, which leads to death.
The wolves St. Paul warns about twist the truth to fit their own ends. They want people to turn from self-denial, to self-indulgence, from self-sacrifice to self-service. The selfie culture has twisted the minds of many to the need for self-affirmation. How many likes and shares do my selfie’s get? How many of my “friends” believe just like I do?
The wolves teach that everyone and every behavior must be accepted as good and right, and if we don’t follow this, we are labeled haters. The culture has completely upended all moral teaching that we have lived by for many generations. The admonitions of St. Paul have fallen on deaf ears. Fight the good fight, for many has become lie down and roll over.
So many of the shepherds over the years have done just that. They have let the wolves in and given them a high place at the table. The sheep have been served up in the name of inclusivity and tolerance.
How do we avoid these wolves? First, we must have a good shepherd, and Jesus, The Good Shepherd himself is our protection. Being rejected by your so-called friends because you follow Jesus is rather a good thing. Following those who reject Jesus will lead you down a very dark path.
Secondly, we must have good pastors and overseers. I thank God for the leadership of our diocesan bishop, whose strength of character has helped keep this diocese from rolling over. These letters to St. Timothy are dedicated to teaching overseers, or bishops, how to care for the Lord’s sheep. In this passage is said to be an ordination, which has inspired others to follow its lead:
Paul says, “I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ;”
The commandment is everything that the Lord Jesus taught his disciples and everyone else who heard him. The commandment is Love God First and Best, and love other people, too. We belong to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who has ransomed us from the grave by his Blood, shed on the cross, freely flowing for the atonement of the world. When we drink the cup of the Blood of Christ, his blood mingles with ours, and unifies us, making us one with him.
The Body of Christ is in every fiber of our being, the Blood of Christ courses through our veins, and the Spirit of Christ is in the air we breathe. We have made the confession of faith in the presence of many witnesses, including that great cloud of witnesses that have gone before. The only affirmation that we need is that He loves us dearly!
We do not fight the good fight of the faith alone, but with the might of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and we will conquer in his Name! We cannot sit back and say, I was saved on such and such a date, then shrink from the commandment. We must continue to fight the good fight, to run the good race, and press on, says St. Paul, toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call in Jesus Christ.