Advent Devotional: New Year’s Day

Blessed Son of God Woodcarving Nativity Scene

Fight the Good Fight

January 1, 2019

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. —1 Timothy 6:11-12

In this passage about avoiding sin, Paul advises Timothy to flee from ungodliness. But he also tells his protégé to do more than beat a hasty retreat. He also gives him guidance on what to pursue: “Righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).

As Christians, we need to know what to run after as well as when to run. Righteousness has to do with exhibiting upright conduct before other human beings. Godliness means to show piety before God and is one of Paul’s favorite words in this epistle, showing up eight times, more than anywhere else in the Bible.

Faith and love are included wherever Paul lists the cardinal virtues of the Christian life. Steadfastness is the ability to persevere in difficult times—to persist. And gentleness allows one to stand up to false teaching without being harsh.

So far Paul has given Timothy two rules of engagement: one for flight and one for pursuit. Next, he gives him one for actual combat: “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). What the Christian fights for is “the faith,” meaning orthodox Christianity, which Paul previously has described as “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:3).

Here the Bible brings together two things that never can be separated. Life and doctrine— they are like bread and butter. You cannot have one without the other. Doctrine without life is dead orthodoxy; life without doctrine is reckless faith. But put life together with doctrine—add the ethical to the theological—and you get the light and the heat of authentic Christianity.

Sound doctrine does not preserve itself, however. It must be defended. There are times when Christians must fight for the infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Holy Scripture. We must fight for the deity of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Son of God. We must fight for the doctrine of the Virgin Birth, the fact of the Incarnation, and the mysterious reality that Jesus is fully God as well as fully human.

From beginning to end, we must fight for the sovereignty of God’s grace, maintaining that salvation is the choice and the gift of God, to the praise of his glory.

When pursuing these virtues— righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness—what stands out as the most challenging?

Let Us Pray

O Holy One, teach us to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness of heart. Give us courage to fight the good fight in upholding the inerrancy of Scripture and the Incarnation of God’s Blessed Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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