“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:11-12)

Continued from last month.

In this series, we have examined two traits which characterize the “man of God”: what he flees and what he follows after. This month, we will consider the third trait which distinguishes the man of God: what he fights for.


The “man of God” is a fighter. We don’t often associate fighting with living the Christian life. While Jesus once described Himself as “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29), many people assume He was passive, even weak. We sometimes see Him portrayed this way in movie versions of His life. The truth is that Jesus was a “fighter.” Certainly Jesus was not a brawler; He didn’t physically fight anyone, nor did He argue with people, but He always took a firm stand for the truth of God. For instance, Jesus was not afraid of offending the scribes and Pharisees when He confronted them regarding their religious traditions and how these traditions caused them to transgress the commandment of God (Matt. 15:1-14). When He found moneylenders and merchants conducting their sordid business in the temple, Jesus boldly kicked over their tables and seats and drove them out, quoting the Scripture which declared: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matt 21:12-13). Jesus openly and repeatedly warned the Jewish people about the hypocrisy of their religious leaders, declaring these self-righteous men to be the “sons of those who murdered the prophets” (Matt. 23:1-36).

Paul directed Timothy, as a man of God, to “fight the good fight of faith.” What did he mean by this? Both the verb and noun forms of “fight” are used in this verse. The Greek words they are translated from are the words agonizomai (verb) and agon (noun), from which we get our English words agonize and agony. Agony speaks of great mental or physical pain. Years ago, a television program called ABC’s Wide World of Sports, opened by claiming they covered every aspect of the sporting world, from “the thrill of victory” to “the agony of defeat.” The video clip they used to illustrate the “agony of defeat” was a ski jumper falling and crashing through a fence. While this may be an appropriate picture of the agony of a sports defeat, it does not accurately reflect what the Greek agonizomai and agon mean.

The Greek word agon (fight) was used to refer to an athletic contest or game (like the Olympic games which originated in Greece). The writer to the Hebrews spoke of believers running “the race (agon) that is set before us.” Paul often compared the Christian life to an athletic endeavor (1 Cor. 9:24-25, Phil. 3:14, Eph. 6:12). The word agon is also used to refer to a conflict (Phil 1:30, Col. 2:1) or a fight against one’s adversaries (1 Tim. 6:12, 2 Tim. 4:7).

The basic idea of “agonizing,” whether in a contest or a conflict, is struggling through tremendous difficulties or dangers. Kenneth Weust, in his Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, points out the gravity of this struggle as he comments on Greek boxing matches:

“… the gloves of the Greek boxer were fur-lined on the inside, but made on the outside of ox-hide with lead and iron sewed into it, and the loser in a wrestling match had his eyes gouged out.”

Clearly the stakes of the Greek contest (agon) were often life and death. This is why those engaged in such a struggle prepared for it with great zeal and labored with all their might when actually engaged in the fight.

The man of God is engaged in just such a life and death struggle: one which has powerful adversaries, one which is fraught with great difficulties and dangers, and one which requires the most earnest and diligent labor on our part. We must remember that, as believers, we are not only to be “servants of the Lord,” we are also to be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).

Of Faith

What is the nature of this fight? What is this fight all about? Paul referred to it as “the good fight of faith,” hence it is a spiritual fight. Paul spoke to the Corinthians about the nature of this spiritual warfare:

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

Our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual enemies in heavenly places, spiritual hosts of “the wicked one” (Eph. 6:12), which is Satan himself. Thus, if we are to succeed in this fight, the strength, the armor, and the weapons we utilize must be those provided by the Lord.

The Faith

In the Greek, the word for faith in the expression “the good fight of faith” is preceded by the definite article, so it literally reads “the faith.” We have seen in this series that when this is the case, then “the faith” speaks of the body of truth we place our faith in. Paul makes reference to “the faith” this way numerous times, especially in the pastoral epistles (letters to pastors).

On one level, “the faith” refers to the entire Word of God, an issue which has become one of the great spiritual battlegrounds in these last days of the dispensation of grace. Over the years, we have seen many churches and denominations, which once stood firmly for the truth of God’s Word and the inspiration of the Scriptures, turn away from this fundamental doctrine. Paul warned Timothy of those who have “a form of godliness” but “deny its power,” and he instructed Timothy: “for such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5).

In Paul’s final charge to Timothy, he once again stressed this problem, saying:

“… the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

This is exactly what we see in our society today. As more and more people turn away from the Word of God, they are easily turned aside to fables or myths. Who is at the source of this apostasy? The answer is found in 1 Timothy 4:1-2:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…”

How does the man of God respond to such a discouraging trend? Paul’s charge to Timothy was: “Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (doctrine)” (2 Tim. 4:2). Having warned Timothy of the apostasy, he said: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister (servant) of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of [the] faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6).

As we can see from this last verse, Paul also used the expression “the faith” to refer, specifically, to the truth of the mystery, the message God revealed to and through him for this present dispensation of grace. Satan hates the message of God’s grace; it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe it (Eph. 2:8-9), and it puts to rest any reliance upon man’s religion, as it plainly declares we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:9-17). From the time Paul began to fully unveil this glorious mystery, Satan has opposed it and sought to turn men away from it. When Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, he informed him, “all those in Asia have turned away from me” (2 Tim. 1:15). This departure from Paul was not just because he was in prison; Paul had been in prison numerous times before. The real problem was the message he was proclaiming: the gospel of the grace of God and the revelation that God was forming a new body of believers, the church the body of Christ, in which all distinction between Jew and Gentile was done away. It is sad to say that this situation still exists today. How few there are who hold fast to and faithfully proclaim the truth of the mystery revealed by God through the Apostle Paul. The man of God stands firm for this truth (2 Tim. 1:13-14) and faithfully proclaims it to others (2 Tim. 2:1-2).

Good Fight

As we undertake this fight “of faith,” we need to take note that Paul referred to it as “the good fight.” The word good is from the Greek word kalos which means beautiful, excellent, useful, admirable, praiseworthy, and honorable. This word referred to the way the Greek athlete conducted himself in the contest. We, too, must be careful to engage in the fight of faith in a useful, honorable, commendable, and praiseworthy manner.

In 2 Timothy 2:16-26, believers are specifically told to “shun profane and idle babblings” and to “avoid foolish and ignorant disputes.” The servant of the Lord must not strive (quarrel) with others. Such foolish questions and heated arguments have no spiritual benefit to anyone, but only generate more strife, envy, and ungodliness (1 Tim. 6:3-5, 2 Tim. 2:16-18, 23-24).

How can the man of God “fight the good fight of [the] faith” honorably, commendably, and in a manner worthy of God’s praise? If we are to effectively fight this fight, we must:

  • Rest in God’s Power — 2 Tim. 2:1, Col. 1:29.
  • Continue in Prayer — Col. 4:2, Eph. 6:18.
  • Diligently Prepare — 1 Cor. 9:27, 1 Pet. 3:15.
  • Expect Persecution — 1 Cor. 16:9, 2 Tim. 3:12.
  • Endure Patiently — 2 Tim. 2:3, Heb. 12:1.
  • Focus on the Prize — Phil. 3:14, Heb. 12:2.

The man of God is commanded to be continually fleeing, following after, and fighting certain things, but the key to realizing this in our lives on a daily basis is found in the latter part of 1 Timothy 6:12: “lay hold on eternal life.”

Next month we will look at this expression, considering what it means and how it can tremendously impact our lives, our relationships with the Lord, and our service for Him.

(Continued Next Month)