Wage the Good Warfare

            On evening of November 13, 2015, Isobel Bowdery went to a concert with her friends for fun, but her evening quickly turned to a nightmare. Isobel harrowing tale of survival was recounted the day after the coordinated Isis in Paris. She writes,

You never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't…Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil.[1]

Isobel first words are stunning, “You never think it will happen to you.” Isobel went to a concert that Friday night as she had done many nights before and her peaceful life was forever changed. She became utterly aware that she was part of a war. Warfare is bloody and brutal. It is an awful reality.

            ISIS is at war with the west. We may not feel the effects of war, but that does not change the reality of war. We have an enemy. America must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. And like Americans, Christians must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. Christians are in a war. There are enemies of the cross of Christ. We may not always feel its effects, but there are moments like the ones on November 13th that remind us that we are at war. Paul charges Timothy to fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul charges Timothy to fight for the Gospel, I prayer that you will pick up your army and contend for the gospel.

The Reality of the War

            First, let us briefly establish the reality of the war. The Christian life is viewed as a battle. Listen to the Scriptures in reference to the warfare against sin,

1 Peter 2:24, “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Romans 6:62, “We have been united with him in a death like his. . . .Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. . . . How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Galatians 2:205:24, “I have been crucified with Christ. . . .Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Colossians 3:3, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 7:4, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what is earthly in you.” 1 Corinthians 9: 27, “I pommel my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” * 1 Corinthians 15:31, I die every day!”[2]

The believer battle with sin is clearly pictured as warfare. We are at war with the world, our flesh and the devil to root out and kill sin our life. John Owen writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

The Soldiers in the War

            Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to lead the army against sin. Timothy was charged to lead God’s people, 1 Tim 1:18-19a, “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, holding faith and a good conscience.” Timothy was set apart by the council of the elders to serve as the Elder of the church at Ephesus. He was charged to fight by holding onto faith and a good conscience. First, we wage the good warfare by fighting for sound doctrine. Timothy had to teach the people the true faith. The false teachers in Ephesus were leading people from purity of doctrine. We always will have to fight for true faith. The true faith that Jesus Christ alone saves. Jesus is the only name under heaven which man must be saved. There is no other way. There is one mediator between man and God, and that is the man Christ Jesus. There is no other. We must fight for the exclusivity of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome at the cross, but everyone must come through the cross to get to God. We come to Jesus by faith. We turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for salvation believing in his death and resurrection.

            Secondly, we fight with a good conscience. We fight to believe and we fight to live out our beliefs. The church had a saying, “Coram Deo.” It means before the face of God. We live our lives fighting for holy lives. We confess sin. We protect what we watch on T.V. We put internet filters on our computers. We invite people into our lives to ask us tough questions. We commit ourselves to a local church. As Peter encourages the church to make their calling and election sure. We fight to believe God’s Word and we also fight to live by God’s Word. We trust God’s Word to live God’s Way for God’s Glory.

            We are all soldiers in the Lord’s army. We have been set apart to wage the good warfare. Like in an Army, we have leaders. Elders and deacons who are on the front lines in the battle of sin, but we all are part of the royal priesthood. We are all called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We all have responsible to fight for the purity of our doctrine and our lives. Jonathan Leeman writes 7 responsibilities of church members in his new book, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: A Case for Congregationalism: Attend Regularly, Help Preserve the Gospel, Help Affirm Gospel Citizens, Attend Members Meetings, Disciple Other Church Members, Share the Gospel with Outsiders, and Follow Your Leaders. These responsibilities help the church wage war against sin and fight for God’s glory. He adds,

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

·         You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.

·         You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.

·         You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.

·         You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program.[3]

Joining a church is enlisting in the war for sound faith and sound living. Before people join the church people should understand the magnitude of their responsibility,

Friend, by joining this church, you will become jointly responsible for whether or not this congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the gospel. That means you will become jointly responsible both for what this church teaches, as well as whether or not its members’ lives remain faithful. And one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you used this authority. Will you sit back and stay anonymous, doing little more than passively showing up for 75 minutes on Sundays? Or will you jump in with the hard and rewarding work of studying the gospel, building relationships, and making disciples? We need more hands for the harvest, so we hope you’ll join us in that work.[4]

Or put it simply, “Are you ready to join the war for God’s glory? Are you ready to fight?”

The Causalities in the War

            And in every war there will always be causalities. We learn of two individuals who did not fight the good fight, but fell to the evil one. Paul continues, “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander.” These two men rejected the true faith and gave themselves after the world. Most scholars believe that Hymenaeus and Alexander were elders of the church. The reason that Timothy needed to come to Ephesus was that the leaders drifted from the truth both in their teaching and in their way of life. The leaders in the church. Let that settle in. I believe that Paul mentioned their name as a warning to the people that we all must continue to fight the good fight.

 No one is exempt from the dangers of the war. We all must fight. There have been many leaders in Christ’s church that have fallen in their teaching and in their way of life. Solomon was the wisest king of Israel and ended up bowing before foreign gods. Hymenaeus and Alexander once gave powerful sermons and led prayer revivals only to turn their back on Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Do not underestimate the power of the adversary. And even Timothy was warned. He was charged here to press on into the warfare and again in 1 Tim 4:16, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16). Do not be a causality of the war. There are serious consequences in this war.

The Goal of the War

            Remember the goal of the war is to win. We know that we have already won the war because Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil. He brought us the victory over the grave. He has risen. The goal of this life is enter safely into the next one. We must never presume on His grace, but avail ourselves to take hold of the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus. We forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead. We do not trust our ability to wage the good warfare, but we trust in the war who has already won the war. We trust in the finished work of Christ.

Beloved, there is always hope. Even these men who rejected the faith could still turn back and be forgiven. Paul ends this chapter by saying, “among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” He gave them over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. They needed to learn. They were removed from the fellowship so that their false faith and false living would be corrected. It was not a final sentence, but an act of grace so that they would repent. Paul wanted them to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.

            Church discipline is not a final judgment, but a warning to avoid the coming greater judgment. Paul gave up Hymenaeus and Alexander as an act of grace. It would have done them no good to continue in a path that only brought them death. Church discipline was for their good. If our goal is to find our happy rest in God on our last day, then we should thank God for the precious gift of discipline. Paul and Timothy’s ministry had the aim of love. They loved these men, but love does not always look the same. Paul loved Hymenaeus and Alexander enough to care more about their eternal happiness than earthly contentment. Thomas Watson writes, “What fools are they who for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath.” Paul warned these men in love.

            Beloved, we are at war. We must not think, “It could never happen to me.” Let us understand our frailty and learn on the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ. Jesus is mighty to save. No one is ever beyond hope for God has given us eternal hope in His Son. Our job is to hold fast to the hope of Christ as we contend for the faith once and for all delivered to saints. I charge you to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a clear conscience.



[1] https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893 accessed 2.10.16

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/make-war-the-pastor-and-his-people-in-the-battle-against-sin accessed 2.10.16

[3] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member

[4] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member