1 Tim 1:18-20 – Holding faith & Good concience for the sake of the Gospel

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How many of us would like to be more effective in ministry? How many of us would like to be competent soldiers in spiritual battle? You might think that this is probably something only meant for pastors and other people in ministry but as we’ll see in today’s passage this is something that’s so significant for all of us.

Just coming to the context of this passage…right before this very passage we see Paul sharing his testimony and the gospel. Why does he do that?

You remember earlier in the chapter he talks about some people preaching a false doctrine and some others using the law unlawfully. And in v10-11 he says “sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” In other words, sounds doctrine flows out of the gospel. And in v12-17 he goes on to define the gospel. The gospel is so critical to teaching the right doctrine. So what’s the gospel?

V15: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

If there has to be a concise way of sharing the gospel then v15 is the way you do it. Christ Jesus came into the world: he came to us when we couldn’t reach him, to save sinners (not righteous men) of whom I am the foremost…we need to first understand the weight and punishment we deserve for our sins in order to receive the great and amazing sacrifice of Jesus.

We need to understand how we are the worst of sinners not the best of righteous. Understanding that we are the worst makes us to helplessly seek Christ and hold on to His way of salvation which is the only way we can be saved.

He then reminds Timothy about the impact of the gospel. In v12 and 13 how a blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent of the gospel was transformed into a faithful servant of Christ. In v16 he continues to say how through the mercy shown to Paul a persecutor of the faith, Christ wanted to display His patience to those who would believe and receive eternal life.

Unbelievers are drawn to Christ when they see the foremost and worst of sinners being saved and used by God. What unfailing love and unending mercy of God!

By doing this Paul is re-affirming the importance of guarding the purity of the gospel! It’s this gospel that saves people! It’s the pure gospel of God that can transform the worst and hardened of hearts and make them righteous, pure and holy! How is God loved and worshipped as He is? When we taste and respond to the pure gospel!

That’s how the previous passages relate to this. The gospel is crucial and critical to everything. Let’s come to today’s passage then:

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, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

V18: This charge I entrust to you

What charge is he referring to? V3-4 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship[a] from God that is by faith.

The charge was to correct and refute the wrong teaching that was in the Ephesian church. This wrong teaching was causing a lot of harm. People were getting confused and it wasn’t helping anyone’s faith. Paul charges Timothy for specific action against these false teachers.

The reason is because God is magnified and made much of by the pure preaching of the gospel. And the false gospel simply doesn’t do that.

For example: If you consider the prosperity gospel that says “Come to Christ and He’ll make you healthy and wealthy”. And they take twist different verses to fit their understanding. How is God viewed as a result of the prosperity gospel? By this false teaching it appears like God exists for us and our fulfilment. So God isn’t ultimate, we are. God is reduced to merely a genie who does things for us. Firstly, it belittles God glory and then secondly it’s not ultimately leading you to love, trust and obey God more…it’s leading you to love, trust and obey yourself and your desires more.

That’s why it was so important for Timothy to step in there and command the false teachers to stop teaching. A real desire to see the true God being worshipped and loved is what prompted this.

Timothy, my child

Again we see that language of family being used here. We’ll see more of this in the coming chapters. It does seem that Timothy was led to the Lord by Paul during his first missionary journey in Lystra. So in that sense, he has spiritually fathered Timothy. By the second missionary journey, Timothy joins Paul as his co-worker. He’s done the job of raising him, now it’s time for Timothy to lead.

in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you

Let’s tackle two questions here. What were the prophecies made about Timothy?

Not a lot is known about the prophesy except one reference in 1 Timothy 4:14:

Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

Two observations from this verse are that

  • This prophesy had to do with Timothy’s gifting and call to ministry. The call to ministry is symbolized by the laying of hands. A pattern which means “setting apart for the work of the Lord”.
  • It was confirmed by a group of elders. It wasn’t a random prophesy in isolation. It was confirmed by the council of elders.


Paul says “in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you”, recalling these prophesies made by the council of elders concerning Timothy’s gifting and call to ministry would strengthen him for ministry.

How do we know that?

Because the next phrase says “that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience.”

By recalling and reminding of those prophecies, Timothy could wage the good warfare, hold faith and a good conscience.

Wage the good warfare

This is totally military language. It’s the way soldiers communicate with each other. Why would Paul use this language?

  • He realizes that we are in wartime. We are in the midst of spiritual battle. Eph 6 speaks about it at length but another verse that says it is also 2 Cor 10:4: For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. This is a spiritual battle that is taking place and the weapons to fight are also spiritual. We need to arm ourselves with prayer, the Word, faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not be deceived into thinking that we are in “safe zone”. If you’re feeling too safe or comfortable, you need to ask yourself if you’re hanging around in the Enemy’s zone. We are always in wartime.


  • To highlight the importance of having a single minded focus of pleasing God.

2 Tim 2:4: No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

Unlike civilians, a soldier has different goals. Therefore, his desires and decisions are not the same like a civilian. Comfort, safety, pleasure are not in a soldier’s dictionary because he’s concerned about pleasing his commander in charge or the country. The best illustration to use for a Christian. God desires single minded focus from His people and our aim is to please Him. Therefore, it demands a different kind of motivation and attitude toward life. Your passion and goal in life is not to make money, to get a big house, comfortable family life, enjoy and fulfil the pleasures of your heart…it’s to make God known through everything that you do. People should see Christ in the way you look and manage money, see Christ in the way you live in holiness, see Christ in the way you give generously, see Christ in the way you delight in Him and not in your pleasures.

  • Persevering in the faith

12 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 Tim 6:12)

Family, this is critical to our understanding of God. We need to fight it out. Something that probably seemed so basic and essential when we first believed. We knew that our relationship with God involved an active participation. Somehow overtime we get lazy and passive in our faith. We cover it up with “Oh, everything is God’s Sovereign will…I don’t want to do it out of self effort”. Yes, don’t do it out of self-effort but depending on His strength to fight the good fight.

It’s like a boxer going through a very rigorous training schedule and diet for his main fight in the ring. He’s fully prepared but once he gets into the ring he just gives up and says “God’s will”. He needs to fight it out after all that preparation and training, right? Otherwise all of that was useless.

Here’s the point…I think Saju described it well last time. As you fight, you’ll realize how helpless and weak you are to do it on your own strength. You’ll run to Christ needing His help to fight through all the struggles of sin and hard circumstances in your life. But you won’t recognize how much you need Christ until you’re in the ring and fighting the fight! I love the way Paul puts it. He’s not just urging Timothy to fight but fight the good fight of faith!

holding faith and a good conscience.

Holding faith means holding on to the gospel as it was taught and not swerving from it. Good conscience comes from understanding the gospel and having a lifestyle consistent with it.

So essentially what Paul is saying is that recalling the prophecies made about Timothy should help him to wage the good war, hold faith and a good conscience. God had called Timothy to ministry and that was affirmed by the council of elders. Every time he recalled the prophecies he would’ve been strengthened to know that God has chosen him to minister. He serves God and ministers as a representative of God. He doesn’t do this all alone…God is there empowering and strengthening him.

Your question might be: “Okay, I don’t have anyone who has prophesied over me. So how can I be strengthened to minister?” Or you may say “I’m not even called to minister. How does this apply to me”?

You might not have had anyone prophesy over you or you may not feel called to ministry but Scripture already has some direct instructions for you and I.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers,[d] 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,[e] to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (Eph 4:11-13)

Prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers have been given to the church for what? To equip the saints for the work of ministry. Wow! We all have been called to ministry.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25)

This is a clear instruction given to members of the church…consider how to stir up one another to love and good works….encouraging one another, and all the more

Let’s draw encouragement and strength from the fact that God has called us to ministry. It might look different for different people according to their gifts but nonetheless we all are called. Just imagine what your day will look like if you woke up reminding yourself of how you’ve been called by God and you have an important role to play in the building up of the church. And this role continues until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.

We are all “professional forgetters” and often the thing we forget is our identity. Our identity as people who have been called on a specific mission. The Enemy is definitely happy if he sees us coming together every week, every Sunday singing songs, listening to messages but forgetting and ignoring the call upon our lives. It’s a great call! If we forget our call, we forget that we’re in wartime, forget the gospel and in turn forget how our lives can be consistent to it.


By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

By rejecting this (holding faith & a good conscience) – by rejecting the gospel and having a life inconsistent with the gospel these false teachers have “shipwrecked” their faith.

I think this should be a warning reminder for us. These were people who weren’t repentant and continued in their sin. The issue here wasn’t just their doctrine. It was fuelled by a sinful lifestyle causing them to shipwreck their faith. Just to clarify what happened to Hymenaeus and Alexander. “handed over to Satan” is a phrase that Paul uses to talk about being excommunicated because of persistent sin. When we look at Matt 18:15-17, we see that excommunication is the last thing that is done when the person still continues to persist in sin in spite of being confronted by the whole church. But let’s also look at the last phrase which says “that they may learn not to blaspheme”. The purpose of keeping them out is not out of animosity or any other reason but so that they might repent. There is still hope for them.

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