Keeping It Unstained

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”  1 Timothy 6:12-14

Fight the good fight of the faith.”  We know that it is a daily battle that requires our prayer and study, our preparation and equipping, our abiding in Him, and our dependence on the power and wisdom from God.  It mandates we put on the armor of God in order to stand.  But there is a manner of fighting that good fight that Paul wants to share with Timothy and we need to pay close attention to his charge as we engage in this faith battle ourselves.

Paul says to “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses…”  Some translations render the words “take hold of” as “lay hold of”  He is not saying that we are to work to grasp or obtain our eternal life.  Rather, we are to fight and battle to keep intact our good testimony of the eternal life that we have been called to by God himself.  We are to take hold of it, to fight to defend it like the treasured, precious gift that it is.

Paul later says that we are to “…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach…”   What commandment is he referring to here?  It is the Gospel of love.  It is the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life that we have been given…that is the Gospel message.  That is the commandment.  It is the truth of our “good confession” that we share with “many witnesses“.  In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote to Timothy saying “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”  Our testimony day and in and day out as we fight the good fight of the faith needs to be grasped, taken hold of, and kept unstained and free from reproach.  We need to all that we can to keep our testimony pure.  We need to focus on the things that Paul wrote about in verse 11 just prior to his encouragement to Timothy when he said “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”  These are the things that help us in our fight to keep our testimony unstained.

Lastly, in the midst of these two exhortations, Paul gives us the burden of cause, the purpose and model behind striving for Gospel purity in our lives.  In verse 13 Paul told Timothy “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession…” God is the author of life and Christ is the perfect example of the Gospel lived out.  In the light of those truths, Paul charges Timothy to keep the commandment…to preserve intact the perfect, precious gift of salvation until the day of Christ’s return.

May we all be encouraged to preserve intact our own precious testimony and may we live a life spent pursuing and sharing the love of God that has been so richly shown to us.

In Christ

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χαρίζομαι – graciously given

When we think about the amazing, loving, and merciful gifts that God has graciously given to us as believers, we often think about our salvation, eternity with him, his love, and so on.  But there is another place in scripture that this word and idea of gracious giving is used and it may surprise you.

Philippians 1:29 says “For to you it has been granted (χαρίζομαι) on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…”  The Greek here indicates that on behalf of Christ, God graciously gives us our faith and belief in Jesus but he also gives us the blessing and privilege of suffering.  Have you ever looked at your suffering that way?  Have you ever considered that the trials and persecution, the sufferings that you and I go through, are a gracious gift from God?  Not an easy thing to wrap our minds around or accept perhaps.

The truth is we need to trust God and his unfathomable ways.  We need to believe and trust that he cares for us and loves us all the time.  A few short verses later in Philippians 2:13 Paul writes “ for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  God is at work in us, and working through us for His glory.  Just consider Christ’s suffering on the cross and how in complete obedience and humility he trusted his heavenly father completely.

As we humbly submit, in obedience, to the Lord as our savior and king, we too demonstrate a trust in God and we come to a deeper understanding of the truth about the gracious gift of suffering.  We will come to expect a life that is marked by joy and suffering, thanksgiving and pain, delight and distress .  I have known very good friends that have demonstrated perhaps the most brilliant light of testimony in and through the midst of some of the most extreme suffering imaginable.  How can that be possible?  Simple…they have come to understand the accept the truth of the gracious gift of suffering for Christ’s sake.

Be of good courage.  Pray to God in the midst of the suffering in your life.  Without a doubt our suffering can be incredibly hard and intensely painful at times.  May we be like Christ, obedient to God understanding that God will never leave us or forsake us…that he has plans to prosper us…that he has us in the palm of his hand…and that his grace is sufficient…both his grace in his gift of the suffering, and his grace in his never ending love and mercy as the power of Christ is poured out on us during those times of suffering.

I want to close with this verse from Paul.  It is a verse that has encouraged me immensely when I have felt those private burdens of suffering that sometimes fill my life…

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10