The Good Warfare
1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (NKJV)
The letter of 1 Timothy is part of what is known as the Pastoral Epistles. The other two Pastoral Epistles are 2 Timothy and Titus.
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter about AD 63 to Timothy who was ministering at the church in Ephesus. It is believed that this was Paul’s first, of four, letters using a new scribe (an amanuensis), Luke.
It is believed by this writer that Paul wrote this letter from Philippi. Other possible places of writing are Spain or Hierapolis.
This letter is a personal letter from one minister to another. Ministers typically relate differently to other ministers than they would to others. Therefore, this letter is different than Paul’s previous letters to churches.
It is also different in that Luke’s style of writing is more classical Greek than that of previous amanuensis’. Luke had more and more influence on Paul’s writings, especially his last two, 2 Timothy and Hebrews.
During the time of his last two letters Paul was living in squalid conditions at Mamertine Prison in Rome. We believe that he needed to rely more heavily on Luke because of Paul’s terrible living conditions at the time.
Paul begins this passage by writing “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy,” (v. 18a). Paul thought of Timothy as his son, even though there was no biological relationship. Here he is making a charge, entrusting a duty, to Timothy.
Paul continues “according to the prophecies previously made concerning you” (v. 18b). Paul states that he is entrusting this duty to Timothy in the same way the “prophecies” were entrusted to Timothy.
This does not mean that a prophet was involved. Prophets departed with the coming of the church age. The “prophecies” referred to Timothy’s recognition by the church, much as men are ordained today.
Timothy’s “prophecies” came from the elders, who ordained him. They recognized that the Holy Spirit had entrusted Timothy with the gift of teaching.
Paul writes “that by them you may wage the good warfare” (v.18c). Paul is encouraging Timothy in the fact that he has the elders behind him as he challenges the false teaching then prevalent in the church at Ephesus.
When Paul talks about the “good warfare”, he is referring to spiritual warfare. This is the war between God and the world, the dominion of Satan.
Paul continues “having faith and a good conscience” (v. 19a). This is a reference to Timothy’s faith in the true Gospel and his good heart.
Next, Paul writes “which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (v. 19b). Some in the church have “rejected” the true Gospel. Their faith has become “shipwrecked”.
Paul then gives two examples of men in the church whose faith has been “shipwrecked”. They are two of the false teachers.
He writes “of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander” (v. 20a). These two men have chosen to follow a different faith than that of the Bible and, by doing so, had purposely “rejected” (literal Greek “thrust away”) their faith and their good conscience from God.
Hymenaeus’ false teaching denied the true doctrine of the resurrection (2 Timothy 2:17-18). Alexander’s false teaching was “strongly opposing our message” (2 Timothy 4:14).
Paul continues “whom I delivered to Satan” (v. 20b). These two men were excommunicated from the church.
Paul writes that “I” delivered them to Satan. However, only the church could excommunicate.
So, Paul means it happened as a result of his counsel with the church, as he did in 1 Cor. 5 in the case of a sexually immoral member of the church at Corinth. When the church excommunicates someone they essentially kick him out of the domain of God, and into the world, the domain of Satan.
Excommunication was not meant as punishment, but as correction, “that they may learn”. It was an act of love, a last resort, hopefully to cause the sinners to realize the seriousness of their offenses so that they would repent.
In closing, Paul writes “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (v. 20c). The reason they were excommunicated is because they had blasphemed God by teaching false doctrine.
To blaspheme God means to reject God, His Person, His character, or His teachings. The only unforgiveable sin is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, God (Matthew 12, Mark 3).
When someone blasphemes God, and dies in this state, he sends himself to Satan, Hell. He has no one to blame but himself.
Still, it is up to us Christians to wage the good warfare. It is our duty to engage the lost and to inform them of the Gospel.
Online Bible Commentary