Take Hold of Eternal Life
The first verses I want to look at are Paul’s exhortations to Timothy to “Fight the good fight.” I have read these passages many times in the nearly forty years I have been a believer, but when I read them again last Monday, they shook me to the core! It was as if I was reading them for the first time. To just take in what is on the page, without filtering it through a preconceived theological framework, opened my eyes as never before to the absolutely stunning message these verses contain! Taking what the apostle actually says seriously just shatters superficial conceptions of attaining eternal life. To tell someone that salvation involves nothing more on their part than “accepting Christ” seems inadequate to express all that we find in Scripture on this subject.
What the great apostle sets forth in his letters to Timothy is worthy of the most careful scrutiny. We will begin with 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.” Paul pictures his journey to heaven in this life as a boxing match and a race, both very active and strenuous contests. The crown is achieved only by those who continue on to the end. Some have tried to evade the obvious meaning intended here by arguing that the “crown of righteousness” is not salvation itself, but rewards given only to Christians who excel in faithful service. What is said of this crown here and in other verses we will consider show that eternal life itself is the reward. But of course, that is the sticking point in many Christians’ minds—that eternal life is not only called a free gift, but in some sense a reward. The force and meaning of Paul’s teaching will be multiplied when we go on to 1 Timothy 6:12. The apostle exhorts Timothy here to “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.” The entire context from verse 9 to verse 21 is relevant to our discussion, but today I will focus only on verse 12. Just look at what Paul writes! There is no question here about rewards for service. Timothy is to take hold of eternal life. This involves vigorous struggle. Something more than passively accepting a gift is necessary to take hold of eternal life. This is similar to the apostle’s remark in Philippians 3 that he is pressing on in life to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of him. The Lord took hold of Paul’s life on the Damascus Road, just as He as He takes hold of all believers, when they are called by the gospel to eternal life. Tomorrow the entire chapter of 1 Timothy 6 must have our attention.