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Bible Commentaries

Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible

1 Timothy 1

Verse 18

1Ti 1:18

"This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on you, that you by them might war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." 1Ti 1:18-19

This "good warfare" is carried on against three principal enemies—the flesh, the world, and the devil; and each of these enemies so closely allied to ourselves, and each so powerful and so hostile, that they must surely overcome us, unless we are "strengthened with might in the inner man."

There is the FLESH, with all its baits, charms, and subtle attractions, continually laying its snares and traps for our feet, perpetually ensnaring us in some evil word or some evil work, and we in ourselves utterly defenseless against it. Said I defenseless? Yes, eager to run into it, like the silly bird that sees the grains of grain spread in the trap, but thinks not, when it flutters around it, that the trap will fall and confine it a prisoner. So we, allured by a few grains of grain spread before our eyes, often see not the snare, until we are fast entangled therein.

Faith then is that eye of the soul which sees the concealed hook; by faith we call upon the Lord to deliver us from snatching at the bait; and by faith, as a spiritual weapon, we cut at times the snare asunder. Oh, how defenseless are we, when the temptations and allurements of the flesh plead for indulgence, unless faith is in exercise, unless faith realizes the hatred of God against sin, and brings into our consciences a sense of God’s heart-searching eye, and his wrath against all transgression! But where the Lord has put this weapon of faith into the hand of his soldier, he will often strengthen his arm to wield it in these seasons of extremity, even though that weapon should cut and wound self.

How Joseph was enabled to resist the snares spread for his feet, by calling to mind the presence of the Lord! How he was strengthened to break asunder that bond which was fast twining round his heart, when faith sprang up in his soul, and he said, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" How the three children who were about to be cast into the burning, fiery furnace, unless they would worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, overcame that dreadful temptation to renounce their God and prove apostates, by living faith! Oh, what a weapon faith is, when the Lord does but give us power to wield it! How, as Hart says, it—"Cuts the way through hosts of devils, while they fall before the word."

But when sin, temptation, and unbelief beat this weapon out of our hands, when it lies seemingly shattered at our feet, and we cannot get another such sword from God’s armory, how we stand naked and defenseless before our enemies! Therefore what need we have not merely of this heavenly grace in our souls, but to hold it fast and not let it go, lest the enchantress should catch our feet in her wiles and snares.

So, again, when SATAN comes in with his fierce temptations and fiery darts, what but faith can enable the soul to stand up against them, as the Apostle says, "Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." Nothing but faith in God, in his power and presence; nothing but faith in Jesus, in his blood and his righteousness; nothing but faith in the holy Spirit, as lifting up a standard in the heart by means of his divine operations; nothing but faith in a triune God can enable the soul to battle against Satan’s assaults. Therefore see how indispensable faith is to fight a good fight, yes, so indispensable that a good fight is called emphatically "the fight of faith," "fight the good fight of faith," implying that true faith will enable a man to come off more than conqueror through every battle and to survive every conflict.

Verse 19

1Ti 1:19

"Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck." 1Ti 1:19

We find that, in the Apostle’s time, there were people who held faith, or rather what they called faith, and put away "good conscience." He mentions by name, "Hymeneus and Alexander, whom he had delivered unto Satan," that is, excommunicated them out of the Church, as heretics and blasphemers. But if to have put good conscience away, stamps a man as unfit for the visible Church of God, it behooves us to search whether we have this weapon at our side, and in our hand.

What does the Apostle, then, mean by "a good conscience?" I believe he means a conscience alive in God’s fear, a spiritual conscience, a tender conscience, what he calls, in another part, "a pure conscience;" "holding faith in a pure conscience," that is, purified from ignorance, from guilt, from the power of sin, "a conscience void of offence toward God and men." Wherever, then, there is living faith in the soul, there will be united with it "a good conscience." The Lord never sends forth a soldier to fight his battles with the weapon of faith only; he puts faith in one hand and "a good conscience" in the other. And he that goes forth with what he thinks to be faith, and casts aside "a good conscience," will manifest himself to be one of those characters, who, "concerning faith make shipwreck."

But why is it called "a good conscience?" Because it comes down from God, who is the Author of all good, the Giver of "every good gift, and every perfect gift." There is none good but he, and there is nothing good but what he himself implants and communicates. This weapon of a good conscience, that the Lord arms his soldiers with, works with faith, as well as proves the sincerity of faith, and tests its genuineness and reality. Faith, without a good conscience, is dead. It bears upon it the mark of nature, and however high it may rise in confidence, or however it may seem to abound in good works, it is not the faith of God’s elect, of which the end is the salvation of the soul.

But it may be asked, How does a good conscience work with faith? What is the connection between these two weapons, and how do they mutually support and strengthen each other? In this way. What faith believes, good conscience feels; what faith receives, good conscience holds; what faith embraces, good conscience rivets fast; when faith is weak, good conscience is feeble; and when faith is strong, good conscience is active. They grow and they wane together, and like two stems from one root together do they flourish and fade.

He then alone wars the good warfare, who goes forth with faith in the one hand, and "good conscience" in the other; faith strengthening conscience, and conscience strengthening faith; each doing their separate office, but still tending to one end; each accomplishing the work which the Lord has appointed, and yet each fighting the Lord’s battles, and bringing the soldier safe and victorious over his enemy.

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Bibliographical Information
Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jcp/1-timothy-1.html.