A Great Fight (1, 2 Timothy)

1 Timothy 1:18; 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; 4:7.

Dear Mr Editor — Will you allow me to present to your readers a resumé of the Epistles to Timothy, borrowing from the above four verses the illustration of warfare, and a great fight, and of a last stand to be made by faithful men? The Lord left His people here with complete instructions, and furnished with a divine competency to guard His interests and to stand their ground against terrible foes. But, as ever, what was entrusted to man has been marked by failure; the fine gold has become dim and the enemy has outflanked and surrounded the Christian host.

The watchword in the first phase of the campaign is: 1 Timothy 1:5; that of the second phase is: 2 Timothy 1:7. Each of these is an inspiriting study for a devoted heart.

The first position is in the First Epistle, where the Christian entrenchments are being approached on every side by hordes of alert and relentless foes. Satan’s tactics at first leave the main body intact, but by artful stratagems he succeeds in isolating no less than seven detachments and cutting them off from faithful Christian testimony. The following prove what I say, and show the means he uses to isolate, surround, and cut them to pieces:

    Some … other doctrine, etc. - 1 Timothy 1:3
    Some … have turned aside - 1 Timothy 6.
    Some … have made shipwreck - 1 Timothy 1:19.
    Some … will depart from the faith - 1 Timothy 4:1.
    Some … turned aside after Satan - 1 Timothy 5:15.
    Some … have erred from the faith - 1 Timothy 6:10.
    Some … have erred concerning the faith - 1 Timothy 6:21.

I said “cut to pieces.” I should except 1 Timothy 4:15, where the idlers, tattlers, and busybodies — the persons who misuse private correspondence and who abuse all confidence — are compared to deserters, who not only fail as regards Christian duty and fidelity, but are busily and ardently serving in the ranks of the devil.

The second phase of the campaign is in the Second Epistle. In the interval the enemy had wrought with awful success, perverting, corrupting, ensnaring, and discouraging — till everything but the last position had gone. The mass is viewed as having been overthrown — “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” In chapter 1 the gospel is suffering evil and Paul a prisoner as to his circumstances, though still able to address his subaltern, Timothy. Not a prisoner as to the testimony, not captured by the enemy as failing to maintain the honour of Christ’s name or the truth of Christianity, but encouraging others to stand as standing himself, though circumscribed in his movements. In the second chapter we must take nothing for granted. Everything and everybody has to be tested; no one may be consorted with but him who is true to Christ. In the third chapter no hope is entertained of general recovery. “Evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived”; and the call is for “faithful men.” For men! Nothing can equal the fine way in which the grand old leader and veteran calls upon his junior to rally to the flag, to put spirit into his fighting, to stir up the gift that is in him, and not to be ashamed. God has not given us the spirit of cowardice, but of power amidst the fearful weakness, of love amidst the general decline thereof, and of a sound mind — healthy calculated to throw out the unspiritual bacteria of unsound doctrine. But in spite of the fact that nothing is going to get better but rather worse, this old warrior knows no defeat. The fourth chapter is to me like the last rally. Everything is to be stood for — all the truth of the Church in its every aspect, all the gospel, all the character of God — and this right on to the end. But what is the end? Not capture, not defeat, not a collapse of the testimony, not the hoisting of the white flag, but will be not annihilation, but triumph through the sudden appearing of their Messiah — dashing in pieces the enemy, shattering to atoms every vestige of his power, and completely reversing the whole state of things in an instant — so the end for us who stand by the flag, who remain true to Christ and to His interest, shall not be annihilation and loss, but His glory-shout, His coming, His absolute and eternal triumph over the whole of Satan’s power. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

I think in chapter 4 he shows us who are spectators of the fight as it grows more deadly, when he says, “I charge thee before God and Christ Jesus”; or, as Alford puts it, “In the sight of God and Christ Jesus.” And the alteration from “at His appearing” to “and by His appearing and His kingdom” will be familiar to you. Down to the last we are to preach the word, to be urgent, and vigilant, and true. And, moreover, the “faithful” man is to do the work of an evangelist, by which I understand he is never to cease to present the character of God world-wide as a Saviour God. This is the light in which Jude at the very end, with the apostasy full in view and all the faithfulness it demands, still presents Him.

We are after all on the winning side if absolutely true to Christ. May God, our Saviour God, keep us there!

W. H. Westcott.

Simple Testimony 1906, p. 291