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4. How to Fight Our Battle Well (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

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I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight. To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

1 Timothy 1:18-20 (NET)

How can we fight our spiritual battle well?

Often Scripture talks about the Christian life as a battle. There is a battle with our flesh to be holy (cf. Gal 5:17). There is war of views with the world that often leads to Christians being persecuted (cf. Rom 12:2). There are wars within the church, as wolves teach false doctrine—trying to destroy the flock. Ultimately, all this is perpetrated by Satan and his demons (cf. Eph 6:10-13). The Christian life is a continual war and many don’t make it. In this passage, Paul mentions two former leaders in the church, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who shipwrecked their faith.

In 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul encourages Timothy to “fight the good fight” or it can be translated “fight our battle well” (NIV). False teachers had infiltrated the church, and Paul called Timothy to command them to stop teaching false doctrine (v. 3). There was a war going on in the church over the souls of the Ephesians. Paul’s command may possibly reflect Timothy’s desire to quit or give up (v.3, 18). He seemed to have a timid disposition that didn’t fare well in warfare (2 Tim 1:7). He needed encouragement, just as we often need it as well.

When Paul encourages Timothy to “fight the good fight.” The word “good is from kalos, meaning intrinsically good—noble, excellent, or virtuous.”1 This battle is good and virtuous. John MacArthur said this about the Christians’ good fight:

There is the duty to God and the church of Jesus Christ to motivate the embattled preacher—and the knowledge that it is the noblest warfare in all the universe. What better thing to live and die for than the great war between God and Satan—a war for the souls of men and women and the glory of God and our Savior the Lord Jesus Christ?2

There is no greater labor that we can give ourselves to than fighting this battle for the souls of people and the glory of God. It is truly a “good fight.”

The fact that Paul encourages Timothy to fight the battle well, implies that it is possible to not fight well or not even fight at all. Sadly, this is the reality for many Christians. Some get caught in sin and stop advancing. Some fall in love with the world and things of this world and become spiritually lethargic. Some, by encountering some difficulty, get discouraged. Some get trapped in false doctrines. Many, because of one or more of these factors, turn away from the faith, never to return. This is truly a war, a war over the faith. Here, Paul encourages Timothy to fight well, and we must also drink deeply from his words.

As we consider 1 Timothy 1:18-20, we learn principles about fighting our battle well.

Big Question: What principles can we learn from 1 Timothy 1:18-20 about fighting our battle well?

To Fight Well, We Must Have Godly Accountability

Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well

1 Timothy 1:18

Interpretation Question: In verse 18, Paul calls Timothy by name and with the title son; he also “commands” him. What does this say about their relationship?

In verse 18, Paul affectionately uses Timothy’s name and calls him his son. When the Christians in Lystra spoke well of Timothy in Acts 16, Paul took him as a companion on his missionary journeys. Timothy had watched Paul suffer and suffered with him. Now Timothy is strong enough to serve apart from Paul, and Paul encourages Timothy as his son to be faithful in Ephesus.

Paul not only speaks to him as a son, but also as a soldier. The word “command” is used of a superior speaking to someone under him. He speaks to Timothy as a general would to a captain. This relationship with Paul was a tremendous encouragement for Timothy to fight well.

This reality is true for us as well, and one of our greatest motivations to fight the good fight. God has put other soldiers around us who are also fighting. He has given us brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, generals, captains, sergeants, and corporals who also bear our same struggles. And in order to fight well, we must develop and rely on these relationships. Consider these verses:

But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart

2 Timothy 2:22

And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness

James 5:16

Because of our need for spiritual accountability, one of Satan’s common strategies is to separate people from the flock. He does this through discord, gossip, apathy, and other sins. When living in sin, we won’t desire to be in fellowship with those walking with God.

Many people can’t fight because they have no one to fight along-side. They isolate themselves from the church. They won’t reach out to get to know people or allow themselves to be invested in and, therefore, are vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

If we are going to fight our battle well, we must have fellowship and accountability with other godly soldiers.

Who are you pursuing righteousness with? Who holds you accountable when you stumble? Who do you confess your sins to in order to receive prayer? Who are your spiritual fathers and mothers who challenge and encourage you with loving affection? Who do you speak to as a son or daughter?

Application Question: Why is accountability so important to fighting the good fight? Who are your close accountability partners?

To Fight Well, We Must Remember Our Calling

I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight.

1 Timothy 1:18

Interpretation Question: When Paul mentions the prophecies over Timothy, what is he referring to?

In addition, Paul encourages Timothy to remain faithful by reminding him of his calling. He says, “in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight” (v. 18). Most likely, in Lystra, when Timothy became Paul’s missionary partner, a group of elders prophesied his call to missions and pastoral ministry. Something similar happened to Paul when he was called to leave Antioch with Barnabas for missions. Acts 13:1-3 says,

Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen (a close friend of Herod the tetrarch from childhood) and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.

Probably, something similar happened to Timothy, and it was these prophetic words from God that was supposed to encourage and sustain Timothy when he felt like giving up. This is true for us as well. We must have a strong sense of God’s calling to fight our battle well. We also need continual confirmations, as we are prone to doubt our callings.

We see the importance of continual confirmations in Abraham’s life. In Genesis 12, God calls him and reconfirms the call after he gets to the land. In Genesis 13, God reconfirms that call after Lot leaves for Sodom. In Genesis 15, God reaffirms the call as Abraham struggles with fear and doubt after conquering an army which may seek revenge. In Genesis 17, after Abraham sinned by taking another wife and having a son, God shows up and reconfirms his covenant and institutes the Jewish rite of circumcision. In Genesis 22, God reconfirms the covenant after Abraham offers his son, Isaac, in obedience to God’s command.

Why did God reconfirm his covenant so many times? It’s because Abraham was prone to doubt, prone to fail God, as he ran to Egypt and later took a second wife. We need God’s reconfirmation often over our calling—lest we become like the waves of the sea, unstable as we’re tossed to and fro. When we know our calling, we can fight like a soldier and stand firm when tempted or discouraged.

Application Question: How can we confirm our calling in order to fight the good fight of faith?

1. We confirm our calling through God’s Word.

It is through God’s Word that he confirms and reconfirms our general call. Has he called us to share the gospel? Yes. Has he called us to read and meditate on his Word? Yes. We need to hear that again and again because we often stop. Has God called us to pray? Yes. This too must be repeated. Has God called us to be involved with and serve the church? Yes.

David said the Word was a light to his path and a lamp to his feet (Ps 119:105); it gave him direction and confirmed his steps. If we are not in the Word, we will not fight well.

2. We confirm our calling through being intimate with God.

Psalm 25:14 says, “The Lord’s loyal followers receive his guidance, and he reveals his covenantal demands to them.” As we are intimate with God through his Word, prayer, and worship, God makes his covenant known to us. He confirms the specific ways he has called us to serve him. If we are not intimate with God, we will often lack a clear sense of calling.

3. We confirm our calling through the confirmation of others.

When God calls a person to a ministry, he often confirms it through others. God confirmed Timothy’s pastoral calling through prophets and reconfirmed it through Paul. David’s calling to be the king of Israel was confirmed through Samuel. Mark’s call to ministry was confirmed through Barnabas.

If we are the body of Christ and therefore are dependent upon one another, it just makes sense that God will confirm his call through others. However, if we are independent from the church, we often will miss God’s call. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul will talk about both the inner call and the outer call to pastoral ministry, as others confirm one’s calling to be an overseer.

Personally, I know the importance of having a strong sense of call. Pastoral ministry is hard, and it is easy to have days or seasons when I want to quit. It is then that I meditate on my call. God reconfirms my call through his Word and in my heart, as I abide in him. He also reconfirms it through many witnesses.

Now, we are not all called to be a pastor, as Timothy was, but we are all called to ministry and ministry is a battleground. If we are going to fight this battle well, we must know and continually reconfirm God’s call.

Before, moving on, let’s consider the spiritual gift of prophecy. What is it? How do we test it?

Interpretation Question: What is prophecy? How do we test it?

1. What is prophecy?

First Corinthians 14:3 says, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement, and consolation.” The main function of prophecy is not telling the future; it is strengthening, encouraging, and comforting the body of Christ. For Timothy, the words he heard as a youth about his calling to ministry would strengthen him years into the future when he wanted to quit.

This is also true today. God at times may speak prophetically through somebody in the church. Not everybody who prophesies necessarily has the gift of prophecy. Saul was filled with the Spirit on different occasions and prophesied (1 Sam 10:11, 19:24), but it wasn’t his gift. Sometimes God may speak to you through another brother or sister in a powerful way, and you will know it’s of God. I often encourage people to write these types of messages down in order to test them but also because God may use them to help fight their battle well.

2. How do we test it (cf. 1 John 4:1)?

Prophecy is tested in several different ways.

  • We test prophecy through Scripture. Scripture equips the man of God for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). We must test every supposed “word” someone gives us against the Word of God. If it tells us to sin or to do something that contradicts the Bible, it must be discarded.
  • We test prophecy by the witness of our heart. God knows our hearts and will often confirm the message through revealing our heart. First Corinthians 14:24-25 says, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or uninformed person enters, he will be convicted by all, he will be called to account by all. The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and in this way he will fall down with his face to the ground and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really among you.’”
  • We test prophecy through the discernment of others. First Corinthians 14:29 says, “Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said.” The witness of others is very important in discerning a prophecy. We should bring any “word” we receive before other godly brothers and sisters so they can pray over it and test it with us.
  • We test prophecy through waiting to see if it comes true. Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “whenever a prophet speaks in my name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” Some prophecies will have an element of foretelling. Many times, the only sure way to test them is to wait and see if they come true. Therefore, again it is wise to write the prophecy down and wait to see if it’s of God. There are many presumptuous prophets and some who are simply false prophets.

Passing one test alone isn’t enough. Each of these must be used to discern the validity of a prophecy.

With that said, prophecy is a gift God gave to the church (cf. 1 Cor 14). Because of its abuses, many reject it (cf. 1 Thess 5:20). However, the greatest abused gift in the church is not prophecy; it is the gift of teaching. Abuse is no reason to get rid of something God gave to enrich the church. When properly used, as with Timothy, it can be tremendously encouraging. It can help people fight the good fight of faith. Paul said to Timothy, “by the prophecies made about you, fight the good fight” (paraphrase).

If we are going to be faithful ministers, faithful soldiers, we must constantly remember our calling. It will give us strength to stand and fight well.

Application Question: What has God specifically called you to, as discerned through intimacy with him and the confirmation of others? Why is remembering one’s call so important to fighting well? What is your experience with prophecy? How have you seen it properly used or abused?

To Fight Well, We Must Hold on to Sound Doctrine

To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:19

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by faith?

When Paul calls Timothy to hold on to “faith,” he is not primarily referring to his trust in God. When he mentions faith at the end of 1 Timothy 1:19, it has an article—”the faith.” Faith refers to the objective truths of God’s Word. Some shipwrecked their faith because they did not hold onto God’s Word. They started to abuse the Old Testament law and accepted other false doctrines (v. 7).

Here is an example of this: If a person is taught that it is never God’s will for Christians to suffer sickness or poverty (cf. 1 Cor 11:29-34), as taught through the prosperity gospel, the person who believes this often becomes angry at God when these things happen. Many, in fact, not only become angry at God but fall away from him all together. Bad doctrine often leads to shipwreck—that is one of Satan’s purposes in false doctrine. Therefore, it’s important to hold on to sound doctrine.

Application Question: How can we hold on to the faith—right doctrine?

1. We hold on to the faith by studying it.

Second Timothy 2:15 (NIV) says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” It can also be translated “Study to show yourself approved.” We hold onto the faith by doing our best to study and rightly handle it. God approves of those who do this.

Sadly, those who neglect God’s Word—by not reading, studying, and memorizing it—often shipwreck their faith. They are led astray by a love for the world, a love for sin, or false doctrine. If we are going to fight well, we must hold onto the Word by studying it.

Are you studying God’s Word?

2. We hold on to the faith by guarding it.

First Timothy 6:20-21 says,

O Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and absurdities of so-called “knowledge.” By professing it, some have strayed from the faith. Grace be with you all.

Timothy was called to “protect,” or “guard” as translated by the NIV, the deposit entrusted to him by Paul by rejecting godless teaching and opposing philosophies. Often Christians get turned away from the truth because they are fascinated with the false. Some Christians get caught up in conspiracy theories like the illuminati, the false doctrines of cults, or even secular world views. And this fascination essentially turns into a worship. They are consumed with symbols, signs, and arguments which ultimately distract them from God and his Word.

We must guard the truth by staying away from the false. God pronounced a blessing on the man who does not sit in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1:1). He stays away from the false in order to guard the true. Also, when the truth is attacked, he willingly defends it through Scripture.

Are you willing to guard God’s Word?

3. We hold on to the faith by teaching it to others.

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul said to Timothy, “And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.” We are always only a generation away from losing what has been entrusted to us. As we have received, we must teach it to others. This is one of the ways we hold on to the faith. We all stand here in the faith because someone before us was a good steward.

Are you willing to guard the faith by passing it on to a new generation? Who are you sharing God’s Word with?

Sadly, we live in a day and age of biblically illiterate Christianity. People don’t know the Word because the Word is not taught in their churches. Instead of Scripture, pastors share stories, testimonies, and encouraging thoughts. However, this develops a spiritually weak army—one that cannot stand the doctrinal onslaught of the enemy nor persecution from the world. We are developing a navy that will shipwreck their faith. Paul said this to Timothy:

Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

This is the season we are in. Will you fight the good fight by holding onto faith—the apostolic doctrines passed down to us?

Application Question: Do you agree with the statement that the church today is largely biblically illiterate? Why or why not? In what ways have you seen or experienced the itching of ears in churches instead of sound teaching? How is God calling you to better hold on to the faith?

To Fight Well, We Must Hold on to a Holy Life

To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith.

1 Timothy 1:19

Interpretation Question: What is the conscience and how does it function?

Not only does Paul teach one’s need to hold on to the faith but also the need to hold on to a good conscience. What is a good conscience? John MacArthur adds,

A good conscience is the result of a pure life. Like Paul (cf.. Acts 24:16), Timothy was to maintain a blameless conscience. Conscience is a God-given device in every human mind that reacts to that person’s behavior. It either accuses or excuses (Rom. 2:14–15). It produces feelings of well-being, peace, contentment, and calm when behavior is good. When behavior is evil, it activates guilt, shame, remorse, fear, doubt, insecurity, and despair. Its purpose is to warn the person of the fact that he is sinning. What a blessing to have such a warning device. It is to the soul what pain is to the body. Pain warns that something threatens the body’s well-being. Guilt warns that something threatens the well-being of the soul. Paul was always anxious to have a clean, clear, pure, good conscience (cf. 2 Cor. 1:12) and desired the same for Timothy. He calls for holiness in this charge to Timothy.3

Paul urges Timothy to hold onto a good conscience essentially by living a holy life. He then makes an interesting connection between a good conscience and one’s faith or doctrine. This is more clearly revealed through the ESV. It says, “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith” (v. 19). “This” is singular, referring to the conscience. Consider how the NLT translates it: “Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”

By not living a holy life and violating their consciences, many lose their faith—their doctrine. Our doctrine is always vitally connected to our life—the way we live. Romans 1:18 describes the pagan world this way: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. The world suppresses the knowledge of God and his Word because of sin. Sin affects our recognition and acceptance of truth. Consider what Paul said about false teachers in 1 Timothy 4:1-2:

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the later times some will desert the faith and occupy themselves with deceiving spirits and demonic teachings, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared.

These false teachers were deceived by demons because they lived hypocritical lives and their consciences didnt work. While claiming to be religious, they lived in sexual immorality, pride, and greed which opened the door for deception and false teaching.

Many people cant fight the good fight of faith because they are living compromised lives. Sin drastically affects their ability to see—leading them to shipwreck. John Calvin said, A bad conscience is the mother of all heresies. Kent Hughes said, When morals slip, doctrine ebbs, and the fight is soon lost.”4

On the reverse, it must be noted that a holy life and a desire to obey God leads to right doctrine. Jesus said in John 7:17, “If anyone wants to do God’s will, he will know about my teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from my own authority.” Properly understanding Scripture is not so much an intellectual issue but a moral issue. The more holy we are and the more we desire to obey God, the more we will have the capacity to rightly understand God’s Word. The more we compromise in little areas of our life, the more prone we are to accept false doctrine—leading to shipwreck.

If we are going to fight the good fight, it cannot be done apart from a good conscience and a holy life.

Application Question: How should we respond to the reality that a holy life affects our understanding of Scripture?

1. We must be aware of the danger of even little compromises.

Shipwreck doesn’t typically start with big compromises. The Christian sailor who eventually shipwrecks his faith always begins with little compromises. What type of compromises?

It could be things like illegal downloading, telling little white lies or sexual jokes, cursing, stealing supplies from work, cheating on tests or taxes. No matter how much these practices are accepted in our society (and sometimes even the church), we must rebel by keeping a clean conscience. We are in a war, and we can’t afford to lose our ability to clearly hear our Commander and Chief. Only those who keep a clean conscience can clearly discern the King’s voice and protect their lives and others.

2. We must be quick to confess and repent of any moral failures.

Have we sinned against God? Let us repent—turn away from our sin and restore our relationship with God. Have we sinned against others? Jesus said if we go to the temple to offer a gift to God and yet realize somebody is angry with us, we should go and make that relationship right and then offer our gift (Matt 5:23-24). We must be quick to confess and repent of sins before God or others.

Application Question: Why does our conscience affect our faith so much? How is God calling you to strive to maintain a good conscience?

To Fight Well, We Must Be Sober

some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

1 Timothy 1:19b-20

Interpretation Question: Who were Hymenaeus and Alexander?

In talking about those who shipwrecked their faith, he mentions Hymenaeus and Alexander. We don’t know for sure who these men were, but most likely, they are the two people mentioned in 2 Timothy. Hymenaeus taught that the resurrection had already passed (2 Tim 2:16-18), and Alexander was a metal worker who did Paul great harm (2 Tim 4:14).

Most likely, these men were leaders in the church since Paul disciplined them instead of the church members. The implication is that the church members could not discipline them because of their positions. Not only were they probably leaders in the church, but possibly elders. In Acts 20, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that men from their own number would arise and teach perverse doctrines (v. 28-31). Wolves would come from them and not spare the flock.

Paul and Timothy had probably served alongside these men—praying, preaching, and enjoying sweet fellowship with them, and yet they still fell away. This was a sober warning to Timothy and the Ephesians, and it should be to us as well.

Judas was an apostle that cast out demons, was entrusted as the treasurer, and sat at Jesus’ feet, and yet in the end, still denied him. Demas was one of Paul’s missionary companions and yet he fell away from God because he loved the world (2 Tim 4:10). Daily in the contemporary church, someone who was once faithful, admired, and exalted falls away. Personally, I have known several pastors who stole money from the church, committed adultery, or fell away from the faith.

Certainly, these are realities we should mourn, but they should also remind us of our susceptibility. First Corinthians 10:12 says, “So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall.”

If we are going to fight well, we must be sober. We must recognize our own vulnerability. Paul mentions these former leaders to sober Timothy and the Ephesians. It must do the same for us, if we are going to fight well.

Application Question: How have you seen or experienced those in spiritual leadership stumble or fall away from God?

To Fight Well, We Must Perform Unpleasant Tasks

Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

1 Timothy 1:20

Interpretation Question: What does Paul’s handing Hymenaeus and Alexander “over to Satan” refer to?

Mostly likely, Paul’s handing these men over to Satan refers to excommunication (cf. 1 Cor 5:5). These men were kicked out of the church because of their ungodly lives and false teaching. The implication of handing them over to Satan referring to excommunication is that the church provides a tremendous protection for believers. Warren Wiersbe’s comments are helpful:

Paul viewed the world as Satan’s domain. To be in the church, under the authority of the elders, provides a person with a certain amount of protection from the devil and his attacks through the world. What Paul probably means is that these two men were delivered over to Satan’s domain, the world, by being excommunicated from the protective covering of the church and from the fellowship of its members

When Paul shares this with Timothy, he essentially reminds Timothy of his need to confront the false teachers at Ephesus (1:3). If he was going to fight the good fight, he needed to perform some unpleasant tasks. And this is true for each of us as well. Christ instituted the practice of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-17. It says,

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

We should first approach a sinning brother one on one, and then with accountability. If the sinning brother still won’t repent, the church should lovingly call the brother to repent. If he still won’t repent, he should be removed from the congregation—treated as a pagan or tax collector. This is a difficult task that many don’t want to do. However, if we are going to fight the good fight of faith, it must be done.

Interpretation Question: What is the purpose of church discipline in general? Why did Paul kick these believers out of the Ephesian church?

1. Discipline is needed so that sin will not spread.

Paul said the following to the Corinthian church when calling them to hand the sinning man in their congregation over to Satan: “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough?” (1 Cor 5:6). He essentially teaches them that sin spreads like yeast in dough. When a church member continues in unrepentant sin without being challenged and potentially disciplined by the church, it creates a culture of sin. It creates a church where God and his Word are not welcome.

2. Discipline is needed to turn the erring brother or sister back to God.

Paul’s purpose in disciplining the two men in Ephesus was to teach them not to blaspheme God. Paul said this about the man disciplined in Corinth: “turn this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5). Discipline is not for condemnation but for restoration. Paul’s ultimate hope, and that of the church, was to turn the erring person back to God through discipline.

It’s no different than paternal discipline. When my daughter disobeys me, it creates a distance between her and me. When I discipline her, ultimately, it is meant to bring us back in a right relationship. It’s the same when God disciplines us, whether through trials or through the church. Discipline is restorative both for the erring brother or sister and the church.

If we are going to fight the good fight, we must at times perform difficult tasks. We must seek to restore those who are wounded in battle or captive to the enemy by lovingly speaking God’s Word to them and at times disciplining them in love. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 5:11:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.

By eating and drinking with brothers and sisters living in unrepentant sin, we encourage their rebellion. Our eating and drinking implies that it is OK with us and God. However, we are Christ’s body, and in love, we must seek to restore that body part to obedience to the head, which is Christ.

Are you willing to do the unpleasant tasks of restoring the rebellious back to Christ—even when it means disciplining them?

Application Question: Why is church discipline so uncommon in the contemporary church? How have you seen or experienced church discipline? How can this be done properly in love and not in an abusive manner?


How can we, as believers, fight our battle well? How can we persevere and not quit when things are difficult?

  1. To Fight Well, We Must Have Godly Accountability
  2. To Fight Well, We Must Remember Our Calling
  3. To Fight Well, We Must Hold on to Sound Doctrine
  4. To Fight Well, We Must Hold on to a Holy Life
  5. To Fight Well, We Must Be Sober
  6. To Fight Well, We Must Perform Unpleasant Tasks

1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 42–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (pp. 42–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy (p. 43). Chicago: Moody Press.

4 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 53). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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