‘This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience.’
Such was the commission which St. Paul laid upon his son Timothy when he left him in charge of the Church at Ephesus, in his own stead. He was ‘to war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience.’
I. The image recurs more than once in these Epistles to Timothy.—The Apostle bids him, in the Second Epistle, ‘endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,’ reminding him that ‘no man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,’ and in his parting words he applies the same image to himself. ‘I,’ he says, ‘have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ His own office, and that of the disciple whom he appointed to the work of a bishop in his place, was one of warfare—warfare against spiritual, moral, and social evils, which he denounces in detail. ‘I charge thee,’ he says, ‘before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.’
II. Such, in some of the last words of the Apostle Paul, was the type he left for the Church of a true bishop, a true Father in God.—The difference between these Pastoral Epistles, as they are called, and the others of St. Paul is determined by this purpose. In other Epistles he is revealing, explaining, and enforcing the cardinal truths of the Christian faith, bringing them home to the conscience and the understanding of the individual Christian. In these Epistles, to Timothy and to Titus, he is urging on bishops of the Church the use they should make of these truths, the manner in which they should apply and enforce them. He passes in review, accordingly, the whole of society, both in the Church and in the world, with which these bishops would have to deal, and there is scarcely any class of which he does not notice the dangers and the duties. He commences, immediately after the text, by speaking of the duty of the bishop to the whole society of his time. ‘I exhort,’ he says, ‘that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ In this comprehensive spirit he proceeds to speak of the relative duties of men and women, of the various members of the Church, of masters and servants, rich and poor, teachers and taught.
III. This was Timothy’s charge, to be always on the watch against the evils by which life was menaced, to fight against them manfully with the weapons supplied by the Christian faith and the organisation of the Christian Church, and so, in faith and a good conscience ‘to war a good warfare.’