Have you ever wondered why when Timothy was already converted to Jesus, Paul tells him to “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses?” (1 Tim 6:12). Was there doubt about Timothy’s commitment? Did Timothy lack assurance of salvation or did Paul and the other Church Elders in the region see some indication that made them question the genuineness of Timothy’s salvation? None of the above! Let’s contextualize what Paul is saying:
1Ti 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
The first thing to observe is that Timothy is already a believer. “But you, man of God” (v11). He had given his conversion testimony before many other believers’ years ago … “when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (v12). He was a Christian and he was a pastor, young, but suitably qualified. So why then does Paul say “Take hold of the eternal life”? To answer this question we need to consider a few other things first.
The Temptation and Attraction of Money
Timothy is a young man, most likely single and living in a world as secular as ours is today. Materialism is today and was then a huge magnet pulling people’s attention away from the core business of the gospel. So rightly, Paul the apostle and mentor uses the opportunity of the letter to address money matters in the context of idolatry.
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Paul is not saying “money is the root of all evil” … he is saying “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. This is where the idolatry comes in and the horrendous result is “wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”.
The Attraction of a Holy Life
Rather than being spiritually shipwrecked by the love of money (secularism and materialism), run away from that evil to holiness.
1Ti 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.
Replace the temptation to desert the faith by pursuing Christlikeness.
The Strenuous Effort of the Faith
1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith.
The context of “the faith” is always one that exerts physical, emotional and spiritual energy. The concept of this phrase comes from being an athlete or a soldier. Strenuous effort is required to maintain discipline, fitness and focus. In the Christian faith, it is not just people whom we might “fight” against spiritually, it is the unseen forces of moral and spiritual darkness Paul speaks about in Ephesians 6.
The Violent Grip on Eternal Life
1Ti 6:12 Take hold of the eternal life
“Take hold” or “seize upon” gives and understanding that a struggle is required. Do you remember when the disciples were out fishing and Jesus was walking on the water? Peter walked out to Jesus … and then he started to sink. Jesus reach out and took hold of him to prevent him from drowning. In a good sense, that was a violent grab to get a grip on Peter to save his life. This is what “take hold” means. In a spiritual manner you are to violently take hold on eternal life. Strenuous effort is required. You cannot be complacent. You can’t be a pew warmer. You need to seize, take hold of, struggle to make certain you have a solid grip on eternal life.
So we return to Timothy. Was he saved? Yes he was … but then why did he need to and why do we Christians need to “Take hold of the eternal life”? As Paul is inspired by God to write, he never lets the pressure decrease when it comes to absolute assurance and absolute faithfulness to Jesus. Far too many people confess Christ and even serve Him in church ministry and contribute huge tithes … yet they are spiritually complacent … often falling prey to the pull of secularism and materialism. Money, image and status seems more important. Paul’s intention here is Intentional Christianity! To lay hold … means to prove yourself genuine. It’s easy to live Christianity in public, but what about in private? Paul wants Timothy and us to demonstrate our faith real wherever we are. This includes the good time and the bad time, the times of suffering and joy as well as the times of pain and hardship. The antidote to 1 Timothy 6:10 is to “take hold” of! Be intentional. Prove it to yourself but more important … prove it to God!
I would suggest to each of us that some serious in-depth spiritual investigation is required to make very sure that we are living the way we profess and that we have “violently” taken hold of eternal life.
Dear God, thank You for Your Word and the provocative teaching that flows so swiftly. May Your Word constantly stab me where it is most needed to remind me to take hold of eternal life daily. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.