” Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called…”
( 1 Timothy 6:12)
When the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, he wasn’t just preaching, but he was practising what he preached. At the end of his second letter, he was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim. 4:7) Without question, Paul’s life and ministry epitomized true Christian service, in which he “endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and did not entangle himself with the “affairs of this life: that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim.2:3-4).
What is the Christian’s warfare?
Paul’s letters contain military vocabulary in his description of the Christian life. In his letter to the Ephesians, he used some of that vocabulary when he warned, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph.6:12). So, the Christian life is not a physical battle but a spiritual one — against the three great enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Against these spiritual enemies, we will continue to wage war throughout our lifetime. That’s why Paul also laid out the Christian’s armour so clearly for us, directly after his description of the enemy.
There is an unscriptural notion that, when people accept Christ, they no longer have to grapple with sin and temptation, but can sit back and just allow the Christian life to happen. But that’s not the teaching of the Word of God. When we are saved, we are certainly secured eternally in Christ, but at that moment we are enlisted — as the children’s chorus puts it — in the “Lord’s army.”
We can get a more specific understanding of what it means to fight the good fight of faith when we look at the original language here. The word “fight” in Greek is agonizomai from which we get the English word to “agonize.” This word means to “struggle” or “contend earnestly.”
This same word is also found in “Strive to enter in at the straight gate…” (Luke 13:24). All of these words, as well as “war a good warfare” (I Tim.1:18) suggest that there is a significant challenge involved in the good fight of faith.
Regarding the fight of faith, CH Spurgeon said, “From this it is evident that if he lays hold on eternal life, he will have to fight for it and that if he has to fight, he can only fight by laying hold upon eternal life with a tenacious grip. Every Christian man is a soldier and no man will war a good warfare unless he lays hold upon eternal life with all his heart and soul.”
John Calvin said, “For the purpose of encouraging him