SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 1:18-20: Wage The Good Warfare

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 19:7–14

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:7–14, ESV)

Sermon Text: 1 Timothy 1:18-20

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18–20, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


In the introductory sermon to this series I raised the question, why should Christians who are not Pastors be concerned about what Paul says to Timothy, his co-worker in gospel ministry? This is a valid question, I think. Paul wrote this letter, not only to a Christian brother, but to a minister. As a result, much of what Paul says to Timothy has direct application to ministers of the gospel serving with the local church today. But from the start, I wished to convince you that this letter does apply to all Christians, either directly or indirectly.  

Indeed, many things are said in this letter that apply, not only to pastors but to all Christians. And even in those portions that apply most directly to pastors, we do find indirect application for the people of God. For example, what Paul says to Timothy his co-worker does help every believer to understand God’s will for the church. What is the nature of the church? What is she to be like? Paul’s instructions to Timothy are very revealing. Also, we might ask what is God’s will for pastors?  What should we expect from them? What is their work? 

Now obviously pastors should be concerned with the question, what is God’s will for pastors? It would be foolish, and even dangerous, to enter into ministry without a basic understanding of the answer to that question. But I hope you would agree that every member of every Christian congregation should also be concerned to know God’s will for pastors. Every member ought to know what they should expect from their pastors and elders. And this knowledge becomes particularly important when it comes time to appoint men to the office of pastor. What are the qualifications? What does the job demand? Do you know?

By asking these questions I am implying that the scriptures have something to say about this. And they most certainly do! The scriptures have not left the nature of the church nor the job of ministers undefined. On the contrary, when we pay close attention to what the New Testament says, and particularly to Paul’s letters to his co-workers, we  an see clearly what the work of the ministry entails.   

So far in this letter, we have learned that the work of the ministry entails promoting sound doctrine within Christ’s church. This is accomplished both positively and negatively. Positively, sound doctrine must be taught. And negatively, false doctrine must be opposed. Sound doctrine brings life and peace. False doctrine leads only to lifeless speculation and division. True doctrine must be promoted within Christ’s church if she is to flourish. The whole church is to see to it that this happens, but it is the particular responsibility of the minister.  

In the passage that is before us today, we learn more about the work of the ministry. Here we learn that to enter the ministry one must be called, that those called must be prepared to engage in warfare, and that this spiritual warfare must be conducted in faith and with a good conscience.  


 To Enter The Ministry One Must Be Called

First, please recognize that to enter the ministry one must be called. The word “called” is not found in this passage, but this is what Paul describes. He reminds Timothy of his calling when he says, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you…” (1 Timothy 1:18, ESV)


The words “this charge” refer back to the charge that began in verse 3. A “charge” is an order or command. Paul began to order or command Timothy to do certain things as a minister of the gospel in verse 3. He then inserted his testimony (to make a point, if you remember). And now Paul resumes his charge to Timothy, saying, “This charge I entrust to you…” 


Christ himself entrusted the work of the ministry to Paul the apostle, then Paul entrusted the work of the ministry to Timothy, and Timothy was to do the same with others. In 2 Timothy 2:2 we read, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” And so we see a pattern. The work of the ministry is to be entrusted to faithful men from generation to generation. Elders have a particular responsibility to be sure this happens, but it is to be the concern of the whole congregation, generally speaking. The work of the ministry is to be passed along from minister to minister.

My Child

You will notice that Paul again refers to Timothy as “my child”. Not only is this a term of endearment. And not only does it indicate that Paul was older than Timothy. More than this, it reveals that Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father. It may be that Paul led Timothy to the faith personally, or that those who lead Timothy to the faith were first led to the faith by Paul. Certainly, it means that Paul mentored Timothy in the faith. Timothy was Paul’s child, spiritually speaking. And here we see that ministers of the gospel should aim to pass along a spiritual heritage to others. 

“In accordance with the prophecies previously made about you…” 

And then we find this phrase: “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you…” The meaning is this: Paul’s charge to Timothy aligns with or corresponds to, the prophecies previously made about him.

What were these prophecies? Well, we do not have a record of the details, but clearly they were prophecies pertaining to Timothy’s call to the ministry in general, or his call to be a co-worker of Paul’s in particular. Though we do not have a record of these prophecies concerning Timothy, we do have record of similar prophetic activity within the early church. 

In the days of the early church, there were prophets who ministered alongside the apostles who spoke God’s word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There are neither apostles or prophets in the church today. Their ministry was foundational and not perpetual (Ephesians 2:20). But there were certainly prophets ministering at the start of the New Covenant era, just as there were prophets who ministered under the Old Covenant.   

You might remember how in Acts 21:11 Agabus the prophet came from Judea to Caesarea and “he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’’” (Acts 21:11, ESV). Agabus was a true prophet, for that is indeed what transpired.

But this prophecy that was made concerning Timothy was probably more like another prophecy recorded in Acts concerning the ministry of Paul (also called Saul) and Barnabus. In Acts 13:1 we read, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas… Saul [and others]. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:1–4, ESV). Though we do not have a record of the details, we are to understand that similar prophecies were made concerning Timothy. Like Paul, Timothy was called to the ministry by God and through the church.

I will say a little bit more about how God calls ministers today in a moment. But for now, consider the effect that this reminder from Paul concerning the “prophecies previously made” would have had on Timothy? Perhaps Timothy was discouraged at this moment. Perhaps he was fearful. What a tremendous encouragement this would have been to be reminded of his calling. It as if Paul said, don’t forget your calling, Timothy. It was God who called you to this work, and he did so through the church. Take courage, therefore, and persevere. 

Though it is true that apostles and prophets do not dwell amongst us, God does still set men apart for the work of the ministry in much the same way as Paul, Barnabus, and Timothy were set apart. He calls ministers of the word inwardly and outwardly. That is, he calls them to his service subjectively and objectively

When I say that ministers are called subjectively, I mean that a minister must be called inwardly and in the heart, if you will. He must sense God’s call upon his life and desire the work so that he may, to quote Peter, “shepherd the flock of God… exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have [him]; not for shameful gain, but eagerly” (1 Peter 5:2, ESV). Concerning the desire for ministry, Paul begins his list of qualifications for the office of overseer, or elder, by saying, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1, ESV). It is not wrong to desire to serve as an elder within Christ’s church. On the contrary, it is good for someone to desire to hold this office. In fact, one should not enter the ministry if he does not desire it, for then he would be doing what Peter forbids — he would serve, not willingly, but only because he feels obligated, or for selfish gain.

The inward and subjective call is essential, but so too is the outward and objective call. And here I am referring to the call of God that comes to a man through the church. The inward call is applied to the man’s heart by the Spirit. It is called subjective because it is perceived by the man through feelings. But the outward call is applied to the man by the Spirit through the church. It is called objective because this call is not based upon the feelings of the man, but upon the undeniable fact that the church has determined that the man is fit to hold the office of overseer, and they have agreed that the Spirit has indeed called him to the work. 

Here in our passage for today ,Paul reminds Timothy, not of the internal and subjective call, but the external and objective call. Prophecies were uttered concerning him. And presumably the church did with Timothy what they did with Paul and Barnabus before him — they fasted and prayed and laid their hands on him to set him apart for this work. And why do you think Paul reminded Timothy of this external and objective call, as opposed to the internal and subjective call. I hope the answer is clear to you. Our emotions and desires often change with the circumstances of life. I would imagine that Timothy often felt like persevering in the ministry. But sometimes he probably felt like quitting. And in those moments when he felt like quitting, he would benefit most from bringing to mind the external call, and not the internal —  the objective rather than the subjective. He would be most encouraged by remembering the feeling of the hands of those who ordained him on his shoulders and to remember the words that they spoke. We are to see here that the Spirit of God works powerfully to set men apart for Christian ministry. And this he does by calling the man inwardly and externally, subjectively and objectively. Both are crucial. No man should be ordained to the gospel ministry if he is lacking either of these. 

As I was considering all of this I started to think, I wonder who the Lord will call from amongst us to serve as a minister of the gospel either here at Emmaus or to take a call elsewhere? It may be that the Lord would rise up one of our young men to enter the ministry. I know that I began to sense a call to the ministry when I was 16 or 17 years old. That internal and subjective call was confirmed by the church externally and objectively when I was in my early 20’s. I would say that it was confirmed even more powerfully when we planted Emmaus when I was 30. It was good for me to reflect a bit on all of that this past week and to also think, I wonder if the Lord is doing a similar work with a young man who has been brought up in this church? We should pray that he would, brothers and sisters. 

Or perhaps the Lord would call someone to serve as pastor who is more advanced in years? This also would be a great blessing! But how will we know? Well, to put it simply, the man will feel called and the congregation will recognize that he is called — the current officers and members will come to see that the man possesses the gifts and meets the scriptural qualifications to hold this office within Christ’s church.     

And that brings me back to something I said in the introduction. Every member of every church should be very much concerned to know what God expects from pastors. What qualifications does the man have to meet? What gifts must he possess? What does the job entail?  It should not be difficult to imagine what a blessing a good minister of the gospel will be to the church, and what a curse a bad minister would be. Though current pastors play a significant role in identifying and appointing future pastors, ultimately it is the decision of the whole church. The whole church must agree that the man is fitted and called to the ministry. And only then may the elders lay their hands on the man and appoint him to the office of overseer. You are not passive spectators in the ordination process, but active participants. The Spirit of God will work through you to call men to his service. Are you ready? Do you know what God’s word says concerning the qualifications of ministers? 

 To enter the ministry one must be called.


 Those Called Must Be Prepared To Engage In Warfare

Secondly, those called must be prepared to engage in warfare. This is what Paul says at the end of verse 18: “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18, ESV). The words, “that by them” indicate that this is what fulfilling his ministry will entail. Timothy will have to engage in warfare. 

This might sound strange to someone unfamiliar with the demands of ministry. In fact, I would imagine that the vast majority of those who go into the ministry, go in underestimating the warfare they will face. 

The reasons for this are many. Two come to mind. 

One, some are raised in church traditions where ministers of the gospel do not engage in warfare, but pursue a life of ease. My wife was raised in a different church tradition, and she remembers visiting the pastor with her father and would find him with his feet up on his desk reading the newspaper. That image is burned in her memory. Now, perhaps the man was hard working. Maybe the timing was just bad. But that was her impression of Christian ministry. I can tell you, that is no longer her view. 

Two, it really is difficult for those not in ministry to gain a clear view of what ministry actually entails. I suppose the exception would be if the church offers a robust internship program. But even then, it would be difficult to expose a man to the demands of ministry prior to him actually going into the ministry (I suppose the same is true of most professions). When do most people see their pastors? On Sundays. And what do most people see pastors do? Preach and pray. I can tell you, brothers and sisters, writing sermons and delivering them is light and enjoyable work. I don’t lose sleep at night over sermons. Preaching may be the most important thing I do, but it is not the most burdensome. The Christian ministry involves far more than preaching on the Lord’s Day. Many years ago a young man asked me the question, so what do you do all week? He was so sincere. He really wanted to know. I suppose he thought that I played lots of golf. 

Brothers and sisters, ministry is warfare. If you feel called to the ministry, you need to reckon with this fact before you go in. And as a member of Christ’s church, you need to pray for your ministers that they would “wage the good warfare”, and that the Lord would sustain them as they fight the good fight. You ought to pray for those of us who are devoted to full-time ministry, but also for those men who serve as elders while working in the secular realm. Not only are they bearing the burdens of work and home life, but of the church as well! And the burdens are often heavy. 

I am reminded of that passage in 2 Corinthains 11 where Paul recounts his sufferings as a minister of the gospel. He listed his imprisonments, the beatings he endured, along with shipwrecks, hunger and thirst, among other things. But at the end he added this: “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28, ESV). A long time ago I remember thinking, how strange that Paul would list this among imprisonments, beatings, shipwrecks and the like. But I understand him now. Ministers of the gospel will, if they are indeed waging the good warfare and not skating by, will be burdened with a deep concern for the church. 

I say all of this to you not so that you might feel sorry for me or for us. We are happy to do what we are doing. We are truly blessed to serve the church in this way. I share this with you so that you might pray for your ministers, and when it comes time to appoint new ministers you might know what the job actually entails. It is warfare. Furthermore, if you sense a call to the ministry you need to have some idea of what you are getting yourself into. If you are called and fitted, you will happily take up the work. But if you are not called and fitted, I fear that you will languish under the burden.    

Before we move on to point three I should probably say a word about the nature of this warfare. 

What kind of warfare is it? Well, clearly it is spiritual warfare. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:4, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4, ESV).

And who is the enemy that misters fight against? Well, ultimately the enemy is Satan and his kingdom. You will notice that both he and his realm are mentioned in verse 20. But the fight is not with him only, or with him directly. Rather, this fight against the Evil One manifests itself in many ways.

To put the matter succinctly, the Christian minister must wage war against falsehood. He must preserve and promote the truth. And the minister must wage war against sin — both the sin of others within Christ’s church, and also his own. Stated differently, the minister must come alongside those entrusted to his care to help them in their fight against sin, all the while fighting against sin of his own. 


  This Warfare Must Be Conducted In Faith And With A Good Conscience

And this leads us quite naturally to the third point. To enter the ministry one must be called. Those called to the ministry must be prepared to engage in warfare.  And finally, this warfare must be conducted in faith and with a good conscience. “Wage the good warfare”, Paul says, “ holding faith and a good conscience.” In other words, this is what the minister is to bring to the fight — he is to come equipped with faith and a good conscience


Here “faith” refers to personal faith and trust in God, in Christ, and the truth of his gospel. How will a minister help others to grow in their faith if he himself is weak in faith? And how will he possibly persevere in warfare unless his faith is strong? 

Good Conscience

And when Paul commands Timothy to maintain a good conscience he means that his conscience is to be kept clear. This means that ministers are to be sure that they themselves are walking in a worthy manner, and not in sin. When a minster sins (which all do) he is to quickly repent before God and man. Some sins are of a disqualifying nature. Other sins are not. But a minister but be sure to keep his conscience clear. He must live a holy life. And when he fails, he must repent truly and sincerely. A minister who knows what it is to sin against God and others and to repent truly will be well equipped to compassionately help others to do the same. But a minister who lives in sin, or who sins and does not have the humility to repent, will only bring harm to those who are under his care.  

 So what does the work of the ministry entail? Well, there are many tasks. But one task that must not be neglected by the minister is the task of keeping one’s faith strong and conscience clear. The conscience is kept good and clear when we walk in obedience to the commands of God. Paul will return to this idea later in this letter, saying, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16, ESV). This is not a pure repetition of what Paul says here, but the idea is similar. Ministers must not only be concerned for others, but they must first keep watch on themselves to be sure that their conduct is pure. Also, they must devote themselves to teaching the faith that they themselves believe.  


Paul warns that those who fail to hold to the faith and keep their conscience clear will make a shipwreck of their faith. Verse 19: “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…”, he says. 

Paul knew all about shipwrecks. He knew what it felt like to be tossed uncontrollably to and fro by the wind and the waves. He knew what it was to be driven ashore and to watch the ship be broken apart by the relentless pounding of the surf. What a terrible experience, and what an awful sight that must be. And yet this is the term that Paul uses to describe the course of the false teacher who fails to hold to the faith and to keep his conscience pure — it leads to shipwreck, to the total destruction and  breaking apart of one’s faith and life. 

How sad it is to watch a professing Christian, and particularly a minister of the gospel, make a shipwreck of their faith. It is an awful sight. It takes your breath away when you see it. It leaves you with a pit in your stomach. And I have seen it. I have watched men with good and sound doctrine make shipwreck of their faith because they failed to keep a good conscience before God. Paul warns Timothy  to beware of the reefs of unbelief and immorality. Ministers must stay the course. They must keep the wind in the sails, and steer clear of temptation, lest they be driven ashore and broken to pieces.   

Hymenaeus And Alexander

You will notice that this text concludes with a reference to two well-known figures who made shipwreck of their faith, Hymenaeus and Alexander. These were teachers in the church who went off course and were wrecked as a result. 

Paul mentions Hymenaeus again in 2 Timothy 2:16ff, saying, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity’” (2 Timothy 2:16–19, ESV). So we know that Hymenaeus erred in his teaching, saying that the resurrection has already happened. And we know that this was accompanied by ungodliness. And it may be the same Alexander who is mentioned again in 2 Timothy 4:14, where Paul says, “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds” (2 Timothy 4:14, ESV).

Here in our text these two are set forth as an example of teachers in the church who failed to hold on to “faith and a good conscience” and made a shipwreck of their faith. Paul adds that he handed these “over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20, ESV). To be handed over Satan is to be put out of the church, which is the kingdom of Christ, and to be banished to the world, which is the domain of Satan. And the objective, you will notice, is that those who are put out would come to repentance. In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, these needed to learn not to blaspheme. 

In reminding Timothy of Hymenaeus and Alexander Paul was encouraging Timothy, one, not to go the way that they went, but to keep his faith and his way of life pure. And two, Paul was reminding Timothy of what must be done with those who persist in false teaching or in sin — they must be, to quote now from 1 Corinthians 5:5, handed over to “Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that [their] spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5, ESV). You will notice that in both 1 Timothy 1:20 and 1 Corinthains 5:5 the stated purpose of putting the person out of the church and thereby banishing them to the realm of the Evil One, is so they might turn from their sin for the salvation of their soul. And the same can be said regarding that famous church discipline passage in Matthew 18. The goal is to gain the brother who is sinning.

One very concerning thing about the modern church is that very few churches do the hard work of church discipline. In the early days of the Reformation the reformers wrestled with the question, how do we identify a true church? That was an important question because having broken away from Rome and the hierarchy of priests, bishops, and the Pope people were left wondering, where is the true church to be found if not in this organization? In general, the reformers — and particularly the later reformers —  taught that a true church is not true because they are under the hierarchy of Rome, but because the word is faithfully preached there, the sacraments are rightly administered, and — get this — the church is disciplined. I think it is right to identify “discipline” as the third mark of a true church. The New Testaments scripture speaks clearly about discipline. The church is to be kept pure. False teaching and sin is to be addressed within the church. Both members and ministers must do their part. There is formative church disciple wherein we naturally exhort and encourage one another to believe what is true and to walk in a manner that is worthy. And there is also formal discipline which may involve public admonition, suspension from the Lord’s Table, and even excommunication, which is what Paul describes here when he speaks of handing these two over to Satan. But pay very careful attention to this, brothers and sisters. The motive is love, and the goal is always repentance and restoration. The motive is love. Why should we trouble ourselves with church discipline? Because we love God and one another. And the goal is not to drive away, but to restore through repentance. And so we must be faithful to do what the scriptures call us to do, trusting that the Lord is able to use even excommunication to bring an erroring brother or sister to their senses. It is not difficult to understand how this might work. A brother or sister may be presuming upon the grace of God but only come to see their error of their way once they are put out of the church and barred from the ministry of the word, participation at the Lord’s Table, and from the sweet fellowship that is enjoyed within Christ’s church.



There are so many applications to be drawn from this text.  

If you are in the ministry now serving as an elder within Christ church, then you have much to think about. 

And the same is true for those who feel called to the ministry — you also have much to think about. How important it is for you to consider the scriptures carefully so that you might know what the qualifications and responsibilities of ministers are.

And church members must also know. They must know so that they can pray for their ministers and also know what to look for when it comes time to appoint others to this office. 

But even beyond this, much of what has been said today concerning ministers may be applied by you as you fulfill God’s call upon your life. No matter what the Lord has called you to, you also must be prepared to engage in warfare. And you also must be sure to hold faith and a good conscience lest you make a shipwreck of your faith.   

May it never be. May we all stay the course so that in the end we hear the words, “well done my good and faithful servant”.

Posted in Sermons, Joe Anady, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Morning Sermon: 1 Timothy 1:18-20: Wage The Good Warfare

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