by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 Lincolnton, NC April 9, 2006
12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1901 ASV Translation:
12 Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.
I. The Faith as a "Fight".
A. The "problem" of "the faith".
1. In respect to the words "fight the good fight".
a. There is no doubt that the larger context is one of enormously different "kingdom agendas". The "bottom line" in this larger context is the "war" over who is going to be "God". The "bottom line" in this war is the actual nature of the guiding principles that each person will embrace and the resultant character of the experience each person has under those dominating principles.
b. Given the larger context and the ultimate issue that is involved, there is no way for any person to exist in this present reality and not be involved in the "fight". As long as there are competing agendas, there will be a struggle for supremacy. As long as there is a struggle for supremacy, there is no person who can be unaffected by it.
c. Therefore, the real issue is the nature of the "fight". Invariably, a "fight" consists of conflict over what is done. This, then, boils down to the question of what is important, for what is "done" is always done for a reason -- to achieve some objective. It is impossible to "do" anything that does not have repercussions. Repercussions are invariably useful to promoting or blocking other repercussions. Thus, every action is a part of the "fight".
d. Thus, we can say that "fighting the good fight" boils down to "acting effectively in both the promotion of the good agenda and the blocking of the effectiveness of the evil agenda."
2. The "faith" is crucial in this context because it is the inescapable second layer of the "fight".
a. The first layer is the definition of what is valuable.
b. This second layer is the content of what is effective.
1) This layer is called "the faith".
2) This layer is the body of inter-related principles of operation that are declared to be effective in the accomplishment of the valuable objective. The "declaration" is the "words" which detail the methods of the pursuit of the objective.
3. Fighting the good fight of the faith, then, boils down to believing the words of the declaration so that each action is governed by those words. It is no accident that before any action is taken, there is a principle of operation that is embraced as "workable".
B. The nature of the "fight".
1. It always begins with the objective, but it, then, immediately turns into a question of "methods".
2. The "fight", then, is ultimately a matter of discovering the effective methods and putting them into operation.
a. This is where the "fight" rages.
b. The "raging" is typically a two-front war.
1) On one front is the actual conflict over what is true and how we know it.
2) On the other front is the actual conflict that comes from putting it into operation in the face of an already corrupt present reality.
c. The major problem in this "war" is the problem of incomplete understanding of the what and how questions in light of the fact that we are in this reality as actors.
1) If our knowledge was full, our understanding was complete, and our commitment was purely loving, we would be able to act effectively in every situation. But, none of these things is true.
2) Thus, we are hamstrung to some degree from the outset in terms of our abilities. However, we do have a firm commitment from God that He is not hamstrung and will bring every detail into play as a positive contributor for those who have the basic commitment, however flawed, that is required.
3) This "basic commitment" is, as Paul exhorts Timothy, a commitment to fight the fight.
II. Eternal Life as the Goal.
A. As stated above, the real issue is the ultimate objective. This is the "first layer".
B. In this exhortation, Paul describes the ultimate objective: Life is God's ultimate objective for us and it must also be our ultimate objective for us and others.
1. Paul tells Timothy that this is the "what" unto which he was called.
a. In every question regarding what is valuable or what is true, the bottomline is inescapably the experience of the questioner. If what is going to occur in experience from the answers to the questions is "beside the point", there is no "point". Why should Timothy yield to Paul's exhortation? If neither his, nor his hearers', experience is the point, there is no reason to yield.
b. The reason that the issues of Heaven and Hell loom so large on the experiential horizon is that they define the finalexperience. The reason Romans 8:28 looms so large in the theology of Christianity is that the verse addresses this final experience with a promise that it will be "good".
2. He also tells Timothy that this is the "what" to which he committed himself at the outset in the presence of many witnesses.
a. This was a commitment out of "summons" ("...you were called...").
b. This was a commitment out of "agreement" ("...you confessed the good confession...").