1 Timothy 6:12
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
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(12) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.—Then, again, with the old stirring metaphor of the Olympic contests for a prize (1Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:13-14)—the metaphor St. Paul loved so well, and which Timothy must have heard so often from his old master’s lips as he preached and taught—he bids the “man of God,” rising above the pitiful struggles for things perishable and useless, fight the noble fight of faith; bids him strive to lay hold of the real prize—life eternal. The emphasis rests here mainly on the words “the good fight” and “eternal life.” These things are placed in strong contrast with “the struggle of the covetous” and its “miserable, perishable crown.” “The good fight,” more closely considered, is the contest and struggle which the Christian has to maintain against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is styled the “good fight of faith,” partly because the contest is waged on behalf of, for the sake of, the faith, but still more because from faith it derives its strength and draws its courage. “Eternal life” is the prize the “man of God” must ever have before his eyes. It is the crown of life which the Judge of quick and dead will give to the “faithful unto death.” (See James 1:12; Revelation 2:10.)

Whereunto thou art also called.—The “calling” here refers both to the inner and outward call to the Master’s work. The inner call is the persuasion in the heart that the one vocation to which the life must be dedicated was the ministry of the word; and the outward call is the summons by St. Paul, ratified by the church in the persons of the presbyters of Lystra.

And hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.—More accurately translated, and thou confessedst the good confession . . . These words simply add to the foregoing clause another ground of exhortation: “Thou wast called to eternal life, and thou madest the good confession.” When—has been asked—was this good confession made? Several epochs in the life of Timothy have been suggested. Were it not for the difficulty of fixing a date for so terrible an experience in Timothy’s, comparatively speaking, short life, it would appear most probable that the confession was made on the occasion of some persecution or bitter trial to which he had been exposed. On the whole, however, it appears safer to refer “the good confession” to the time of his ordination. In this case the many witnesses would refer to the presbyters and others who were present at the solemn rite.

1 Timothy


1 Timothy 6:12-14.

You will observe that ‘a good confession,’ or rather ‘the good confession,’ is said here to have been made both by Timothy and by Christ. But you will observe also that whilst the subject-matter is the same, the action of Timothy and Jesus respectively is different. The former professes, or rather confesses, the good confession; the latter witnesses. There must be some reason for the significant variation of terms to indicate that the relation of Timothy and Jesus to the good confession which they both made was, in some way, a different one, and that though what they said was identical, their actions in saying it were different.

Then there is another point of parallelism to be noticed. Timothy made his profession ‘before many witnesses,’ but the Apostle calls to his remembrance, and summons up before the eye of his imagination, a more august tribunal than that before which he had confessed his faith, and says that he gives him charge ‘before God’ {for the same word is used in the original in both verses}, ‘who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus.’ So the earthly witnesses of the man’s confession dwindle into insignificance when compared with the heavenly ones. And upon these thoughts is based the practical exhortation, ‘Keep the commandment without spot.’ So, then, we have three things: the great Witness and His confession, the subordinate confessors who echo His witness, and the practical issue that comes out of both thoughts.

I. We have the great Witness and His confession.

Now, you will remember, perhaps, that if we turn to the Gospels, we find that all of them give the subject-matter of Christ’s confession before Pilate, as being that He was the King of the Jews. But the Evangelist John expands that conversation, and gives us details which present a remarkable verbal correspondence with the words of the Apostle here, and must suggest to us that, though John’s Gospel was not written at the date of this Epistle, the fact that is enshrined for us in it was independently known by the Apostle Paul.

For, if I may for a moment recall the incident to you, you will remember that when Pilate put to the Saviour the question, ‘Art Thou a King?’ our Lord, before He would answer, took pains to make quite clear the sense in which the judge asked Him of His royal state. For He said, ‘Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? If it is your Roman idea of a king, the answer must be, "No." If it is the Jewish Messianic idea, the answer must be, "Yes." I must know first what the question means, in the mind of the questioner, before I answer it.’ And when Pilate brushes aside Christ’s question, with a sort of impatient contempt, and returns to the charge, ‘What hast Thou done?’ our Lord, whilst He makes the claim of sovereignty, takes care to make it in such a way as to show that Rome need fear nothing from Him, and that His dominion rested not upon force. ‘My Kingdom is not of this world.’ And then, when Pilate, like a practical Roman, bewildered with all these fine-spun distinctions, sweeps them impatiently out of the field, and comes back to ‘Yes, or No; are you a King?’ our Lord gives a distinct affirmative answer, but at once soars up into the region where Pilate had declined to follow Him: ‘To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth.’ ‘Before Pontius Pilate he witnessed the good confession.’ And His confession was His royalty, His relation to the truth, and His pre-existence. ‘To this end was I born,’ and the next clause is no mere tautology, nor a non-significant parallelism, ‘and for this cause came I into the world.’ Then He was before He came, and birth to Him was not the beginning of being, but the beginning of a new relation.

So, then, out of this great word of our text, which falls into line with a great many other words of the New Testament, we may gather important and significant truths with regard to two things, the matter and the manner of Christ’s witnessing. You remember how the same Apostle John--for whom that word ‘witness’ has a fascination in all its manifold applications--in that great vision of the Apocalypse, when to his blessed sight the vision of the Master was once given, extols Him as ‘the faithful witness, and the First-begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth.’ And you may remember how our Lord Himself, after His conversation with Nicodemus, says, ‘We speak that we do know, and bear witness to that we have seen,’ and how again, in answer to the taunts of the Jews, He takes the taunt as the most intimate designation of the peculiarity of His person and of His work, when He says, ‘I am one that bear witness of Myself.’ So, then, we have to interpret his declaration before Pilate in the light of all these other sayings, and to remember that He who said that He came to bear witness to the truth, said also, ‘I am the truth,’ and therefore that his great declaration that He was the witness-bearer to the truth is absolutely synonymous with His other declaration that He bears witness of Himself.

Now, here we come upon one of the great peculiarities of Christ as a religious teacher. The new thing, the distinctive peculiarity, the differentia between Him and all other teachers, lies just here, that His theme is not so much moral or religious principles, as His own nature and person. He was the most egotistical man that ever lived on the face of the earth, with an egotism only to be accounted for, if we believe, as He Himself said, that in His person was the truth that He proclaimed, and that when He witnessed to Himself He revealed God. And thus He stands, separate from all other teachers, by this, that He is His own theme and His own witness.

So much for the matter of the good confession to which we need only add here its pendant in the confession before the High Priest. To the representative of the civil government He said, ‘I am a king,’ and then, as I remarked, He soared up into regions where no Roman official could rise to follow Him, and to the representative of the Theocratic government He said, ‘Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven.’ These two truths, that He is the Son of God, who by His witness to the truth, that is, Himself, lays the foundations of a Monarchy which shall stretch far further than the pinions of the Roman eagles could ever fly, and that he is the Son of Man who, exalted to the right hand of God, is to be the Judge of mankind--these are the good confessions to which the Lord witnessed.

Then with regard to the manner of His witness. That brings us to another of the peculiarities of Christ’s teaching. I have said that He was the most egotistical of men. I would say, too, that there never was another who clashed down in the front of humanity such tremendous assertions, with not the faintest scintilla of an attempt to prove them to our understandings, or commend them by any other plea than this, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you!’

A witness does not need to argue. A witness is a man who reports what he has seen and heard. The whole question is as to his veracity and competency. Jesus Christ states it for the characteristic of His work, ‘We speak that we do know, and bear witness to that we have seen.’ His relation to the truth which He brings to us is not that of a man who has thought it out, who has been brought to it by experience, or by feeling, or by a long course of investigation; still less is it the relation which a man would bear to a truth that he had learnt from others originally, however much he had made it his own thereafter: but it is that of one who is not a thinker, or a learner, or a reasoner, but who is simply an attester, a witness. And so He stands before us, and says, ‘The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, they are life. Believe Me, and believe the words, for no other reason, primarily, than because I speak them.’ In these two respects, then, the matter and the manner of His witness, He stands alone, and we have to bow before Him and say, ‘Speak, Lord! for thy servant heareth.’ ‘Before Pontius Pilate He witnessed a good confession.’

II. We have here suggested to us the subordinate confessors who echo the Lord’s witness.

It is a matter of no consequence when, and before whom, this Timothy professed his good profession. It may have been at his baptism. It may have been when he was installed in his office. It may have been before some tribunal of which we know nothing. That does not matter. The point is that a Christian man is to be an echo of the Lord’s good confession, and is to keep within the lines of it, and to be sure that all of it is echoed in his life. Christ has told us what to say, and we are here to say it over again. Christ has witnessed; we are to confess. Our relation to that truth is different from His. We hear it; He speaks it. We accept it; He reveals it. We are influenced by it; He is it. He brings it to the world on His own authority; we are to carry it to the world on His.

Be sure that you Christian men are echoes of your Master. Be sure that you reverberate the note that He struck. Be sure that all its music is repeated by you And take care that you neither fall short of it, nor go beyond it, in your faith and in your profession. Echoes of Christ--that is the highest conception of a Christian life.

But though there is all the difference between the Witness and the confessors, do not let us forget that, if we are truly Christian, there is a very deep and blessed sense in which we, too, may witness what we have seen and heard. A Christian preacher of any sort--and by that I mean, not merely a man who stands in a pulpit, as I do, but all Christian people, in their measure and degree--will do nothing by professing the best profession, unless that profession sounds like the utterance of a man who speaks that he knows, and who can say, ‘that which our eyes have beheld, that which we have handled, of the Word of life, we make known unto you.’ And so, by the power of personal experience speaking out in our lives, and by the power of it alone, as I believe, will victories be won, and the witness of Jesus Christ be repeated in the world. Christian men and women, the old saying which was addressed by a prophet to Israel is more true, more solemnly true of us, and presses on us with a heavier weight of obligation, as well as lifts us up into a position of greater blessedness: ‘Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.’ That is what you and I are here for--to bear witness, different and yet like to, the witness borne by the Lord. We have all to do that, by words, though not only by them. That is the obligation that a great many Christian people take very lightly. That yoke of Jesus Christ many of us slip our necks out of. If He has witnessed, you have to confess. But some of you carry your Christianity in secret, and button your coats over the cockade that should tell whose soldiers you are, and are ashamed, or too shy, or too nervous, or too afraid of ridicule, or not sufficiently sure of your own grip of the Master, to confess Him before men. I beseech you remember that a Christian man is no Christian unless ‘with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,’ as well as ‘with the heart’ belief is exercised unto righteousness.

III. Lastly, we have here the practical issue of all this.

‘I charge thee before God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, that thou keep the commandment without spot.’ The ‘commandment,’ of course, may be used in a specific sense, referring to what has just been enjoined, but more probably we are to regard the same thing which, considered in its relation to Jesus Christ, is His testimony, as being, in its relation to us, His commandment. For all Christ’s gospel of revelation that He has made of Himself to the world, is meant to influence, not only belief and feeling, but conduct and character as well. All the New Testament, in so far as it is a record of what Christ is, and thereby a declaration of what God is, is also for us an injunction as to what we ought to be. The whole Gospel is law, and the testimony is commandment, and we have to keep it, as well as to confess it. Let me put the few things that I have to say, under this last division of my subject, the practical issue, into the shape of three exhortations, not for the sake of seeming to arrogate any kind of superiority, but for the sake of point and emphasis.

Let the life bear witness to the confession. What is the use of Timothy’s standing there, and professing himself a Christian before many witnesses if, when he goes out into the world, his conduct gives the lie to his creed, and he lives like the men that are not Christians? Back up your confession by your conduct, and when you say ‘I believe in Jesus Christ,’ let your life be as true an echo of His life as your confession is of His testimony. Else we shall come under the condemnation, ‘Nothing but leaves,’ and shall fall under the punishment of the continuance of unfruitfulness, which is our crime as well as our punishment. There is a great deal more done by consistent living for, and by inconsistent living against, the truth of the Gospel, than by all the words of all the preachers in the world. Your faults go further, and tell more, than my sermons, and your Christian characters will go further than all the eloquence of the most devoted preachers. ‘There is no voice nor language, where their sound is not heard. Their line is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.’

Again, let the thought of the Great Witness stimulate us. He, too, took His place by our sides, though with the differences that I have pointed out, yet with resemblances which bring Him very near us. He, too; knew what it was to stand amongst those who shrugged their shoulders, and knit their brows at His utterances, and turned away from Him, calling Him sometimes ‘dreamer,’ sometimes ‘revolutionary,’ sometimes ‘blasphemer,’ and now and then a messenger of good tidings and a preacher of the gospel of peace. He knows all our hesitations, all our weaknesses, all our temptations. He was the first of the martyrs, in the narrower sense of the word. He is the leader of the great band of witnesses for God. Let us stand by His side, and be like Him in our bearing witness in this world.

Again, let the thought of the great tribunal stimulate us. ‘I give thee charge before God, who quickeneth all things--and who therefore will quicken you--and before Jesus Christ, that thou keep this commandment.’ Jesus, who witnessed to the truth, witnesses, in the sense of beholding and watching, us, knowing our weakness and ready to help us. ‘The faithful witness, and the first begotten from the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth,’ is by us, as we witness for Him. And so, though we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, the saints in the past who have witnessed for God, and been witnessed to by Him, we have to turn away from them, and ‘look off’ from all others, ‘unto Jesus.’ And we may, like the first of the noble army of martyrs, see the heavens opened, and Jesus ‘standing’--started to His feet, to see and to help Stephen--’at the right hand of God.’

Brethren, let us listen to His witness, let us accept it, setting to our seals that God is true. Then let us try to echo it back by word, and to attest our confession by our conduct, and then we may comfort ourselves with the great word, ‘He that confesseth Me before men, Him will I also confess before My Father which is in Heaven.’

6:11-16 It ill becomes any men, but especially men of God, to set their hearts upon the things of this world; men of God should be taken up with the things of God. There must be a conflict with corruption, and temptations, and the powers of darkness. Eternal life is the crown proposed for our encouragement. We are called to lay hold thereon. To the rich must especially be pointed out their dangers and duties, as to the proper use of wealth. But who can give such a charge, that is not himself above the love of things that wealth can buy? The appearing of Christ is certain, but it is not for us to know the time. Mortal eyes cannot bear the brightness of the Divine glory. None can approach him except as he is made known unto sinners in and by Christ. The Godhead is here adored without distinction of Persons, as all these things are properly spoken, whether of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost. God is revealed to us, only in and through the human nature of Christ, as the only begotten Son of the Father.Fight the good fight of faith - The noble conflict in the cause of religion; see the notes on Ephesians 6:10-17; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. The allusion is to the contests at the Grecian games.

Lay hold on eternal life - As the crown of victory that is held out to you. Seize this as eagerly as the competitors at the Grecian games laid hold on the prize; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Whereunto thou art also called - That is, by the Spirit of God, and by the very nature of your profession. God does not "call" his people that they may become rich; he does not convert them in order that they may devote themselves to the business of gain. They are "called" to a higher and nobler work. Yet how many professing Christians there are who seem to live as if God had "called" them to the special business of making money, and who devote themselves to it with a zeal and assiduity that would do honor to such a calling, if this had been the grand object which God had in view in converting them!

And hast professed a good profession before many witnesses - That is, either when he embraced the Christian religion, and made a public profession of it in the presence of the church and of the world; or when he was solemnly set apart to the ministry; or as he in his Christian life had been enabled publicly to evince his attachment to the Saviour. I see no reason to doubt that the apostle may have referred to the former, and that in early times a profession of religion may have been openly made before the church and the world. Such a method of admitting members to the church would have been natural, and would have been fitted to make a deep impression on others. It is a good thing often to remind professors of religion of the feelings which they had when they made a profession of religion; of the fact that the transaction was witnessed by the world; and of the promises which they then made to lead holy lives. One of the best ways of stimulating ourselves or others to the faithful performance of duty, is the remembrance of the vows then made; and one of the most effectual methods of reclaiming a backslider is to bring to his remembrance that solemn hour when he publicly gave himself to God.

12. Fight the good fight—Birks thinks this Epistle was written from Corinth, where contests in the national games recurred at stated seasons, which will account for the allusion here as in 1Co 9:24-26. Contrast "strifes of words" (1Ti 6:4). Compare 1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 4:7. The "good profession" is connected with the good fight (Ps 60:4).

lay hold on eternal life—the crown, or garland, the prize of victory, laid hold of by the winner in the "good fight" (2Ti 4:7, 8; Php 3:12-14). "Fight (literally, 'strive') with such striving earnestness as to lay hold on the prize, eternal life."

also—not in the oldest manuscripts.

professed a good profession—Greek, "didst confess THE good confession," namely, the Christian confession (as the Greek word is the same in this verse as that for "confession" in 1Ti 6:13, probably the profession here is the confession that Christ's kingdom is the kingdom of the truth, Joh 18:36, 37), at thy being set apart to thy ministerial function (whether in general, or as overseer at Ephesus): the same occasion as is referred to in 1Ti 1:18; 4:14; 2Ti 1:4.

before many witnesses—who would testify against thee if thou shouldest fall away [Bengel].

The fight of faith is our encountering that opposition which we meet with from the world, the flesh, or the devil, for a strenuous defending the doctrine of faith, or making it good by a life suitable to the rule of faith. This is called a

good fight, either in opposition to the bad fights of the men of the world in maintenance of their lusts, or the ludicrous fights usual in their public games, or of the intrinsic nobleness and exercise of it, or the good event or issue of it; and Timothy is bid to fight it, by a metaphor either drawn from soldiers, or such as excrcise themselves in their games.

Lay hold on eternal life; by eternal life is meant a right and title to it, which he calls to him to lay hold on, as is thought, by a metaphor from those that were exercised in their games, and did what they could first to lay hold of the prize proposed to conquerors.

Whereunto thou art also called; to which eternal life, or rather to which good fight, thou art called, both by the internal call of God’s Spirit, and by thy more external call to the ministry.

And hast professed a good profession before many witnesses; and to which thou hast obliged thyself by covenant or promise, made either in thy baptism, or when thou wert set apart to thy ministry, or of which thou hast given a pledge, by thy profession and practice, in the sight of the Christians in Ephesus.

Fight the good fight of faith,.... The apostle suggests to Timothy, that he had other business to do than to mind the things of this world; his life was a state of warfare; he was a soldier, and was not to entangle himself with the things of this life; he had many enemies to engage with, as Satan, and his principalities and powers; sin, and the lusts of the flesh; the world, and the men of it, and a great fight of afflictions to endure with them; as also false teachers, with, whom particularly he was to fight the good fight of faith, that so the truth of the Gospel, which they resisted, might continue with the saints. This fight is called "the fight of faith"; partly in opposition to the law, and to , "the fight", or "war of the law" the Jews (r) so much talk of; and in which the false teachers, in the apostle's time, were so much engaged, and against whom the apostles set themselves; and partly because the doctrine of faith, the faith of the Gospel, the faith once delivered to the saints, is what they earnestly contended, strove, and fought for; and because the grace of faith, as conversant with the Scriptures of truth, was the weapon they fought with: and this may be called a "good fight", because it is in a good cause, the cause of God and truth; and under a good Captain, Jesus Christ the Captain of our salvation; for which good weapons are provided, even the whole armour of God, and which are not carnal, but spiritual and mighty; to which may be added, that those who are engaged in this fight may be sure of victory, and the crown of glory, life, and righteousness: so that when they have done fighting they have nothing else to do but to

lay hold on eternal life; as Timothy for his encouragement is here bid to do. Eternal life is the prize of the high calling of God, which is held up, and held forth to those who are fighting the Lord's battles; and this they should look unto as the recompense of reward; and this they may lay hold upon, even now by faith, believing their interest in it, their right unto it, and that they shall enjoy it; of which they may be the more assured, because of their effectual calling:

whereunto thou art also called; not barely by the external ministration of the Gospel, in which sense many are called, but few chosen and saved; but internally, by the special grace and power of the Spirit of God; and such who are so called, are not only called to grace, but to eternal glory; and the God of all grace, who has called unto it, of his sovereign good will and pleasure, is faithful, and will bestow it. The word "also" is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin, and in all the Oriental versions; but it seems to be emphatic, and is used to strengthen Timothy's faith, as to the enjoyment of eternal life; since it was not only the reward of grace, following upon the good fight of faith, but was that also to which he was called by the grace of God:

and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses; both before the brethren at Lystra, at his baptism and admission into the church, before whom he gave an account of his faith, and made a profession of it; and who, upon this, and his agreeable life and conversation, gave a good report of him to the Apostle Paul, Acts 16:1 and before the apostle, and the rest of the elders, when they laid their hands on him, whereby an extraordinary gift was conveyed unto him, 1 Timothy 4:14 or it may be before the men of the world, some violent persecutors, before whom he bravely, and with great intrepidity, professed his faith in Christ Jesus; and which he continued constantly to do, in every place wherever he came; and which being done so often, and so publicly, is a reason why he should keep on till the battle was over.

(r) Zohar in Numb. fol. 99. 4. T. Hieros. Taanith, fol. 69. 2. & Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 1. Megilia, fol. 15. 2. & Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 2. & 111. 2. Midrash Ruth, fol. 31. 4. Echa Rabbati, fol. 53. 2. Caphtor, fol. 93. 2. & Seder Olam Rabba, c. 25. & Jarchi in Cant. iii. 8.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12. Ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς πίστεως] Here, as in 1 Timothy 1:18 (τὴν καλὴν στρατείαν), we must not overlook the definite article. The struggle to which Timothy is summoned is the struggle (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:25) of the faith appointed to Christians; on this comp. 2 Timothy 4:7ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς] ἐπιλαμβάνειν (comp. 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Php 3:12, where the apostle uses the expressions λαμβάνειν and καταλαμβάνειν) denotes the actual grasping, αἰώνιος ζωή being regarded as the βραβεῖον; not, however, according to Winer’s remark (p. 293 [E. T. p. 392]), “as result of the struggle, but as object of the striving.” It is not improbable that Paul is here speaking figuratively. It is different, however, with the next words: εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης, by which eternal life is pointed out as the goal of Timothy’s vocation; comp. 1 Peter 5:10.

καὶ ὡμολόγησας τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν] Heinrichs incorrectly takes καί for καὶ γάρ: “for thou hast also.” Commonly this clause is made to depend still on εἰς ἥν (Leo: εἰς ἥν pertinet non solum ad ἐκλήθης, sed etiam ad ὡμολόγησας). De Wette, on the contrary (Wiesinger and van Oosterzee agree with him), rightly regards it as simply co-ordinate with εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης. So, too, Hofmann: “the relative clause, as is not seldom the case in Greek, passes into a clause independent of the relative.” Still the two clauses must be taken as standing in close connection; Timothy’s καλὴ ὁμολογία is the answer which he gave to the κλῆσις proclaimed to him (so, too, Hofmann).

τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν] In this phrase, too, expositors have not observed the definite article. Paul does not say that Timothy confessed a confession good “in its contents and in the enthusiasm of its utterance,” de Wette; but that he confessed the good confession, i.e. the definite confession of Christ to which the disciples of the Lord are appointed. Hence it is quite wrong to think of ὁμολογία as a vow or the like; that contradicts the constant usage of the N. T.; comp. 2 Corinthians 9:13; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 10:23.

Paul is clearly referring here to a definite fact in Timothy’s life, but what it was he does not say. Chrysostom says: ἀναμιμνήσκει τῆς κατηχήσεως αὐτόν, and thinks therefore of the confession of Timothy at his baptism. Others, on account of 1 Timothy 6:13, understand it of a confession which Timothy had confessed during a persecution. According to most, Paul is here thinking of the same act as that to which 1 Timothy 4:14 refers. Since in this whole section, 1 Timothy 6:11-16, there is nothing to direct the attention to Timothy’s official position, and since the ὁμολογία is closely joined with the ἐκλήθης, the view first given is to be considered the right one (Hofmann).

1 Timothy 6:12. ἀγωνίζουἀγῶνα: There is evidence that ἀγωνίζομαι ἀγῶνα had become a stereotyped expression, perhaps from the line of Euripides: καίτοι καλόν γʼ ἂν τόνδʼ ἀγῶνʼ ἠγωνίσω (Alcestis, 648 or 664). See an Athenian inscription quoted by Moulton and Milligan, Expositor, vii., vi. 370. Nevertheless the metaphor has its full force here, and in 2 Timothy 4:7 : Engage in the contest which profession of the faith entails; it is a noble one. Allusions to the public games are notoriously Pauline (1 Corinthians 9:24; Php 3:12). The present imperative indicates the continuous nature of the ἀγών, while the aor. ἐπιλαβοῦ expresses the single act of laying hold of the prize (so 1 Timothy 6:19). It does not seem an insuperable objection to this view that καταλαμβάνω is the word used in 1 Corinthians 9:24, Php 3:12. On the other hand, Winer-Moulton (Gram., p. 392) argues from the asyndeton (cf. Mark 4:39) that ἐπιλαβοῦ, κ.τ.λ. forms one notion with ἀγωνίζου; that “it is not the result of the contest, but itself the substance of the striving”. Yet in 1 Timothy 6:19 (ἵνα ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς) there is nothing in the context suggestive of struggle.

εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης: We are called to eternal life (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Peter 5:10); it is placed well within our reach; but it is not put into our hands; each man must grasp it for himself.

καὶ ὡμολόγησας, κ.τ.λ.: This clause has no syntactical connexion with what has preceded. It refers to ἀγῶνα, the contest on which Timothy entered at his baptism, when he was called, enrolled as a soldier in the army of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:4; 1 Corinthians 9:7), and professed fidelity to his new Leader (his response to the divine call) before many witnesses. ὁμολογία is perhaps best referred to a formal profession of faith, here as in the reff. Cyril Jer., when recalling the baptismal ceremonies to the newly baptised, says in reference to their profession of belief in the Trinity, ὡμολογήσατε τὴν σωτήριον ὁμολογίαν (Cat. xx. 4).

In the primitive Church the baptism of an individual was a matter in which the Church generally took an interest and part. The rule laid down in The Didache, 7, shows this: “Before the baptism let him that baptizeth and him that is baptized fast, and any others also who are able”. Also Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 61, ἡμῶν συνευχομένων καὶ συννηστευόντων αὐτοῖς. These passages explain “the many witnesses” of Timothy’s good confession. It is not so natural to refer the good confession to a crisis of persecution, or to his ordination. The epithet καλήν here and in the following verse does not characterise the particular act of confession made by Timothy or by Christ, but refers to the class of confession, its import, as Ell. says.

12. Fight the good fight of faith] St Paul has now mounted above the lower ground in which Timothy was to maintain the true pastor’s rôle against his rivals. ‘The faith,’ i.e. the Christian creed, the Christian life, is now a ‘fight,’ ‘a strife,’ a ‘race,’ against time and sense, earth and hell. The metaphor is the most inspiring perhaps to the Apostle himself of all his metaphors as it is also his last; see 2 Timothy 4:7, ‘I have fought the good fight,’ ‘run the fair race.’ Taken from the Greek games, the word ‘fight’ can be only mimic fight, if it be referred to the wrestling or the boxing contest; and if, as 2 Timothy 4:7, ‘I have finished the course’ suggests, the running contest is meant, ‘fight’ is misleading. Not much less so is Farrar’s and Alford’s ‘strive the good strife.’ But for the associations which have gathered round our familiar ‘fight,’ and which have prevailed perhaps with the Revisers, we should be surely nearest—for a reader coming fresh to it—with the rendering ‘contest.’ And the weighty verb, present in tense, placed at the commencement of the sentence, is better represented by Longfellow’s ‘Be a hero in the strife’ than by keeping too close to the identity of verb and noun. We may render then, Play thou the man in the good contest of the Faith.

lay hold on eternal life] More force is given to the intended point by R.V. the life eternal. The verb and noun recur 1 Timothy 6:19, but the epithet is changed to ‘the true,’ ‘the real.’ (see note.) And this at once suggests to us that ‘eternal life’ is not regarded by St Paul here only as ‘the prize,’ but as also the ‘straight course’ to be now vigorously laid hold of; that ‘the life eternal’ in fact is exactly the same as ‘the life which now is, and the life which is to come’ of 1 Timothy 4:8, where the metaphor is also of the games. See notes there. Christ is our ‘strength’ as well as our ‘right’; ‘the path’ as well as ‘the prize.’ The present imperative refers to the bearing of Timothy through the whole contest; the aorist is, as it were, the voice of the earnest friend standing at a critical corner of the course and rousing him to renewed energy, ‘now lay hold.’ What Cambridge athlete of the river or the path but knows the value of this? What Christian athlete of the heavenly course? In no way more beautifully could the view now given be expressed than in Dr Monsell’s hymn:

‘Fight the good fight with all thy might,

Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;

Lay hold on life, and it shall be

Thy joy and crown eternally.

Run the straight race through God’s good grace,

Lift up thine eyes and seek His Face;

Life with its way before us lies,

Christ is the path, and Christ the prize.’

whereunto thou art also called] Properly, omitting ‘also,’ thou wast called at thy baptism, and, more particularly still, at thy ordination, cf. 1 Timothy 1:18, 1 Timothy 4:14. Compare the present language of the Prayer-Book; Order for Private Baptism—‘Our Lord Jesus Christ doth not deny His grace and mercy unto such Infants, but most lovingly doth call them unto Him’; the Catechism—‘He hath called me to this state of salvation,’ ‘God the Holy Ghost who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God’; Ordering of Priests—‘Thou hast vouchsafed to call these thy servants here present to the same office and ministry.’ The direct metaphor is no longer probably continued.

hast professed a good profession] Lit., as R.V. didst confess the good confession; ‘the good confession’ like ‘the good contest’ with reference to its spiritual character, the faith and obedience of Christ. See next verse.

before many witnesses] in the sight of, the word being taken up in the appeal of the next verse to ‘a more tremendous Presence’ (Ellicott).

1 Timothy 6:12. Τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα, the good fight) In antithesis to strifes of words, 1 Timothy 6:4. ἐπιλαβοῦ, lay hold of) as something that is within reach and near at hand. Leave to others their own questions, ibid. A Metonymy of the consequent for the antecedent, with the argument drawn from what is easy [laying hold of eternal life is easy as contrasted with the questions and strifes in 1 Timothy 6:4]. The same expression is found at 1 Timothy 6:19. It is a simile taken from the race-course and the prizes; comp. 2 Timothy 4:7, etc.—ἐκλήθης καὶ ὡμολόγησας, thou hast been called and hast professed) The divine calling and profession of believers are correlatives. Both take place in baptism. [If at any time thou hast made a promise to GOD, He Himself deems that thou art bound to Him; and that is remarkable good-will on His part.—V. g.] τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν) that [not [50], as Engl. Vers.] good profession, [viz. that concerning the kingdom of Christ, 1 Timothy 6:13.—V. g.] So also in the following verse [“Christ Jesus, that witnessed—that good profession”]. But the words differ: Thou hast professed, accompanied with the assent of witnesses: He witnessed, though Pontius Pilate did not assent.—ἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων, before many witnesses) who would testify against thee, if thou wert to fall away.

[50] Vercellensis of the old ‘Itala,’ or Latin Version before Jerome’s, probably made in Africa, in the second century: the Gospels.

Verse 12. - The faith for faith, A.V.; the life eternal for eternal life, A.V.; wast for art also, A.V. and T.R.; didst confess the good confession for hast professed a good profession, A.V.; in the sight of for before, A.V. Fight the good fight. This is not quite a happy rendering. Ἀγών is the "contest" at the Olympic assembly for any of the prizes, in wrestling, chariot-racing, foot-racing, music, or what not. Ἀγωνίζεσθαι τὸν ἀγῶνα is to "carry on such a contest" (comp. 2 Timothy 4:7). The comparison is different from that in 1 Timothy 1:18, Ἵνα στρατεύῃ... τὴν καλὴν στρατείαν," That thou mayest war the good warfare." The faith. There is nothing to determine absolutely whether ἡ πίστις here means faith subjectively or "the faith" objectively, nor does it much matter. The result is the same; but the subjective sense seems the most appropriate. Lay hold, etc.; as the βραβεῖον or prize of the contest (see 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25). Whereunto thou wast called. So St. Paul continually (Romans 1:1, 6, 7; Romans 8:28, 30; 1 Corinthians 1:29; Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; and numerous other passages). He seems here to drop the metaphor, as in the following clause. Didst confess the good confession. The connection of this phrase with the call to eternal life, and the allusion to one special occasion on which Timothy "had confessed the good confession" of his faith in Jesus Christ, seems to point clearly to his baptism (see Matthew 10:32; John 9:22; John 12:42; Hebrews 10:23). The phrase, "the good confession," seems to have been technically applied to the baptismal confession of Christ (compare the other Church sayings, 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). In the sight of many witnesses. The whole congregation of the Church, who were witnesses of his baptism (see the rubric prefixed to the Order of "Ministration of Public Baptism" in the Book of Common Prayer). 1 Timothy 6:12Fight the good fight (ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα)

A phrase peculiar to the Pastorals. Comp. 2 Timothy 4:7. Not necessarily a metaphor from the gymnasium or arena, although ἀγών contest was applied originally to athletic struggles. But it is also used of any struggle, outward or inward. See Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:12.

Lay hold (ἐπιλαβοῦ)

oP. Frequent in Luke and Acts. Occasionally in this strong sense, as Luke 20:20; Luke 23:26; Acts 18:17, but not usually. See Mark 8:23; Luke 9:47; Acts 9:27.

Professed a good profession (ὡμολόγησας τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν)

Both the verb and the noun in Paul, but this combination only here. For the use of καλός good see 1 Timothy 1:18, and 1 Timothy 6:12. Rend. confessed the good confession, and see on your professed subjection, 2 Corinthians 9:13. It is important to preserve the force of the article, a point in which the A.V. is often at fault.

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