“Wage the Good warfare” – 1 Tim. 1:18
Read 1 Timothy 1:18-20. As soon as you do you will notice words like “prophecies,” “laying on of hands,” “warfare,” and “handed them over Satan!” We must pause and ask, “what is going on here?” Clearly something very serious and bigger than just these three verses. The larger context of the New Testament teaches a very important truth to help us understand just what is happening here.
The Church is the visual picture of the gospel
The Church is all those who have experienced salvation by trusting in the death of Christ, which results in a new heart to love God and each other, leave their sin, and hold one another accountable to follow the teachings of Jesus
Because of this, the church is ground zero for the war that is taking place. If you just read these words a few times over, you pause for a second and maybe think “warfare.” Are we really in a war here? Just who are we fighting and what exactly are we fighting for? The answer is that we are fighting Satan and those opposed to the truth. And what is at stake is the reputation of the Church which reflects the reputation of God. In essence, the church is the visual picture of the gospel.
But while this truth is undoubtedly taught in the New Testament, the reputation of the church has fallen on hard times. The argument that the Church reflects God really doesn’t work well with an atheist does it? The conversation goes something like this.
Atheist: “Prove God is real”
Me: “The Church”
It’s a hard sell, isn’t it? The reason it’s a hard sell is because, unfortunately, the church looks much like the world. But if it’s true that God does exist and that he calls people unto himself and changes them to love God and each other, then the existence of the people of God, being the people of God, is powerful evidence of the God of the Bible.
So, if churches are correctly reflecting God, then why is there warlike language in this passage? Why all the fighting? Isn’t God a God of love and aren’t churches supposed to reflect that love? The answer is yes, of course, but love is not the only thing the church should reflect.
Paul describes the Church as the “Pillar and Buttress of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).” Since the church is responsible for guarding the truth, then the church is the vehicle which teaches that truth to those who do not know it. The gospel is the message and the church is the visual picture to the world of that message. Christians gather as the church to testify to the world that we have experienced a changed heart and that we desire to be a part of this visual picture as a testimony for the world to see.
The Church is called to protect that testimony because the testimony reflects God. When the Church acts like the world, God’s reputation is tarnished. But when the Church acts like the Church, God’s reputation is honored, and the world takes notice! Do you see how holiness strengthens missions?
So how does the world take notice? The world takes notice when the Church loves each other by upholding the truth. Truth and love are harmonious. The world wants to separate love from truth. It sees them as different concepts which are in opposition to one another. The Bible teaches just the opposite. The Bible teaches that being a loving church and being a truthful church work together to accomplish the goal of accurately displaying the visual picture of the church. These verses in Timothy help shape our definition of Church. Let’s pray that we would wage the good warfare well.