Thursday, December 17, 2009

1 Timothy 1:18-20

V18-20 – 18Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. 20Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

In this passage, Paul returns to the theme from v3-7, not that Timothy should strive to succeed in succeeding Paul in his ministry, but that Timothy would continue faithful to Christ in his own ministry. He uses military language to get Timothy’s attention; in fact, one author defined a Christian as one who is engaged as a soldier in spiritual battle. That’s what Paul wants Timothy to recognize. He commands (“give you this instruction”) him to fight. He also speaks of prophecies given about Timothy, and commentators conclude that the elders who laid their hands on him (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6) as an ordination rite must have also prophesied about him and his ministry at that time. Paul is charging him not to forget the importance of that ceremony, which set him apart in a tangible way.

Regarding the importance for Timothy to cling to faith and a good conscience, notice that both are also mentioned in v5. Faith here may mean both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, while a good conscience results from those. David, after cutting the corner off Saul’s robe in the cave, was stricken by a guilty conscience; he knew, from his faith in God, he shouldn’t have done that, and he immediately repented (1 Samuel 24:4-6). The refusal to recognize and repent leads rightly to excommunication (v20). It appears that Paul has excommunicated (handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme) Hymenaeus (see 2 Timothy 2:16-17) and Alexander for the sake of discipline unto recognition of their sin and timely repentance. And here we hold out hope that they may yet return to godliness, but when Paul uses a similar metaphor in 1 Timothy 4:2 of the false teachers, there appears to be no hope for their restoration. Timothy is to note the shipwreck some have made of their lives by abandoning faith.

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