Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the September 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
“How to Have a Good Fight,” by David Faust (Lesson Application)
Discovery Questions for Sept. 13, 2020
Lesson Aim: Join Christ in the good fight of faith.
By Mark Scott
It is difficult to misunderstand such one-word commands as “quiet,” “stop,” “go,” or “run.” The next several lessons have titles that are one-word imperatives. When we obey them in a scriptural context, we help “build God’s church.” These lessons come from what are known as the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).
The Christian life is likened to a race, a journey, an athletic contest, and a battle (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1; Ephesians 6:10-20). Believers are to be battle-ready and battle-tested. In a word, we are to fight. Paul told Timothy to fight the battle well (1 Timothy 1:18). The word for fight means to be a soldier or lead an army. Paul also told Timothy to fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12). The word for fight there means to struggle or to agonize. Paul used it of his own life’s struggle in 2 Timothy 4:7. While we fight differently than the world does (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), we still fight.
Saved to Fight
1 Timothy 1:12-17
This is one of the most self-disclosing passages of the apostle Paul. In the literary context, his life is set over against those of the false teachers that Timothy is to wage war against (1 Timothy 1:3-11). Paul’s previous life in sin is contrasted with God’s merciful redemption of him. If we learn anything from this powerful paragraph, it is that there is some value in remembering past sins. We can realize that we have been saved to fight.
Paul thanked (gave grace to) Christ Jesus for giving him strength (literally, “clothed with strength”). Knowing what he used to be, Paul was ever grateful that God would consider him trustworthy by placing him into service. On the debit side of his ledger were his sins: blasphemer (liar or slanderer), persecutor (one who hunted down Christians—Acts 22:4-5; 26:9-11), and violent man (insolent). On the credit side of his ledger were God’s wonderful attributes: mercy (tender kindness when we feel helpless), grace (love for us that is undeserved but which is poured out in superabundant ways when we feel worthless), and faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Paul was keenly aware he had been saved for a purpose. At the heart of his personal testimony, he gave the first of five “faithful sayings” of the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). The formula he used to underline God’s saving purpose means something on the order of, “take this to the bank.” Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul proclaimed that he was the worst sinner (he calls himself the “least” in 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8). That made God’s patience and Paul’s example all the more powerful. No wonder Paul ended this testimony with a profound doxology (v. 17).
Inspiring Others to Fight
1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:11-16
Paul was saved to fight. But he wanted to equip others to fight as well. So, he encouraged his son in the faith, Timothy—who perhaps was timid (2 Timothy 1:7)—to stay in the battle. Keeping this command (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3) would be easier if Timothy would remember the prophecies once made about him (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). Paul does not say what those prophecies were. It would also be easier if Timothy would hold on to faith and a good conscience in contrast to what others had done. Paul went on to mention two men (Hymenaeus and Alexander—1 Timothy 1:20) who “shipwrecked” their faith. This expression is used in a literal sense about Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:25, but here it is used figuratively of what can happen when someone gives up the battle.
The final charge to Timothy in this Epistle comes in the context of comparing Timothy as God’s man with the subject of money. This passage relates how false teachers misuse money (1 Timothy 6:3-10) and how rich Christians need to use their wealth wisely (6:17-19). To fight the good fight, Timothy will have to flee any love of money, take hold of six different Christian virtues, and remember his good confession. This good confession of Timothy (which perhaps occurred in Acts 14:21) was rooted in Christ’s original good confession before Pontius Pilate (John 18:36-37). Timothy was to keep his confession of faith without spot or blame until the appearing (manifestation) of Jesus, which would happen on God’s timetable. Similar to the earlier paragraph, Paul ended this section with a doxology (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Even God’s greatest enemies can become his finest servants ready to fight (John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.