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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Man of God, hold fast to the good confession!
Text:1 Timothy 6:11,12 (View)
Occasion:Public Profession of faith
Topic:Keeping Vows
 
Preached:2015-11-01
Added:2016-06-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Profession of Faith

2010 Book of Praise

Bible translation:  NKJV

Votum & Salutation

Psalm 108:1,2

Ten Commandments

Psalm 119:4

Prayer

Collection

Psalm 101:1,2,3

Read:  John 18:28-38; 1 Timothy 6:3-16

Text:  1 Timothy 6:11,12

Psalm 25:2

Public Profession of faith

Psalm   134:3

Prayer

Hymn 85:1

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To profess your faith is something that is very personal.  For those of you who were baptized as babies or small children, it was your parents who requested that you be baptized, brought you to the front of the church and made certain vows before God and the congregation.  But when you profess your faith, you are the one who stands up to say your “I do” before God and the congregation.  And with that simple word “I do” you are saying that you believe with all your heart everything that is written in the Word of God.  You look back to your baptism, to the covenant God made with you, when He declared that He is your God and you are His child, and you embrace these promises, believing them to be true.  When you profess your faith you are saying that you are a sinner, that you can not save yourself, but that Jesus Christ is your complete Saviour.  And belonging to your only Saviour, you are committed to live for Him, serving Him, forsaking the world and fighting against the sin that remains in your life.  And you are also committing your whole life to the Lord’s service as a living member of His church, submitting yourself to Christ and those whom He has placed over you.

It is a big thing to profess your faith.  It is the most solemn vow you will ever make.  And when you stand up in front of the church, you are the one who is making this vow.

But while profession of faith is personal it is not private.  We speak of a public profession of faith since you make your profession before God and His holy church.  Your confession is made in the presence of many witnesses and in this way you express your unity with Christ’s church.  We are of one faith and we are all members of the one body.  And that unity that we have in Christ and with one another is celebrated around the table of the Lord’s Supper.

Your profession of faith, therefore, is something that is very special and is to be remembered.  In fact it is good for all of us who have professed our faith to recall the good confession we made so that we might stand firm in it.  This is what the apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to do in 1 Timothy 6:12,

“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.”

In this verse Paul reminded Timothy of the time of his baptism, the time that he publicly confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul reminded Timothy of his confession to encourage him to press on in the faith as he looked forward to Christ’s return.  And the exhortation Paul gave to Timothy is an exhortation for the six people who plan to profess their faith today and for everyone of us as well.  And so I preach to you God’s Word under the following theme:

Man of God, hold fast to the good confession!

  1. Fight the good fight.
  2. Follow the good Example.

 

1. Fight the good fight.

The words “man of God” in my theme come from 1 Timothy 6:11 where it says,

“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”

The apostle Paul wrote these words to Timothy and so you might wonder why they are included in the theme for this sermon, particularly since we don’t only have three young men but also three young women intending to profess their faith.  I have included these words as part of my theme, however, because in the context of the rest of the Bible they have an important meaning and when Paul addressed Timothy as a “man of God” Timothy would have sat up and taken notice.  In 1 Timothy 6:3-10 Paul had described a different kind of man: one who was proud, knowing nothing, being obsessed with disputes  and arguments over words leading to envy, strife, reviling and evil suspicions.  These men, false teachers who were damaging the church at Ephesus, loved gold more than God.  Indeed some loved money so much that they strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  It was in contrast to these men that Paul wrote to Timothy in verse 11,

“But you, O man of God . . .”

In contrast to the false teachers and those who desired to be rich, Timothy was to flee these things because he was a man of God.  Now Timothy knew the Scriptures well and so he would have understood the significance of being called a man of God.  This was a title used for certain men in the Old Testament who had been entrusted with a high office.  Moses was called a man of God in Deuteronomy 33:1 where it says,

“Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.” 

Samuel was called the man of God in 1 Samuel 9, Elijah was called this in 2 Kings 1 and Elisha in 2 Kings 4 and in other places.  The title “man of God”
was given to the prophets more generally, and this is also reflected in the New Testament in 2 Peter 1:21, where the Old Testament prophets were called “holy men of God”.  But now Paul calls Timothy a man of God.  Timothy, who at other times was described as young, perhaps naturally a little timid (2 Timothy 1:7) and who had to be put at ease (1 Corinthians 16:10), Timothy who was known for his stomach problems and frequent ailments (1 Timothy 5:23), this Timothy was now addressed as “O man of God”!  He was the man of God, called to God’s service, called to do His purpose.  Paul is saying here, “Timothy, you are surrounded by men who have strayed from the faith, who have not held on to the good confession.  But Timothy, you are not one of them: you are a man of God!” By calling him a man of God, the apostle Paul distinguished Timothy from false teachers and instead placed him in the company of the holy men of the Old Testament, linking him to Moses, to David and to the prophets.  And so Paul is saying, “Timothy, as a man of God, filled with the same Holy Spirit as the holy men of old, stand firm and fight the good fight of faith.”

But the New Testament goes one step further.  In the New Testament every Christian believer receives the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and therefore every Christian is a “man of God.”  2 Timothy 3:16,17 says,

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

That applies to us all!  It is true that we are not all ordained to be ministers or elders, office bearers in the church, but we do all share in Christ’s anointing and the Holy Spirit is given to each one of us so that we might be prophets, priests and kings.  Brothers and also sisters, in this way it is not only Timothy but each one of us who has received the same Holy Spirit given to Moses, to Samuel, to David and to the prophets.  We have the Holy Spirit in His fullness, yes we are His temple, and therefore we too are to see ourselves as a man of God with all the Old Testament significance this term holds.  And it is as a man of God that you are to hold fast to the good confession, fighting the good fight of faith.

And as you fight the good fight you are to “lay hold on eternal life”.  Grasp it, take hold of it and never let go.  It is important to understand what Paul is saying here.  The Bible is not saying that in the fight of faith you somehow have to work hard to gain eternal life.  Far from it!  The good confession that Timothy confessed and the good confession that you profess is that you are saved in Jesus Christ alone.  And our form for the public profession of faith rightly begins with praise to God for adopting us to be His children and receiving us into His covenant.  In the form for profession of faith we acknowledge God’s love and power, by which He instills in His children the desire publicly to profess their faith in Him.  Your confession is nothing to boast about: it is all God’s work from beginning to end.  But when the Bible calls you to lay hold of eternal life you are reminded that as a Christian, a man of God, you are fighting a battle that involves your eternal destiny.  Young people and indeed all of you who are here today, keep that in mind!  Keep the promise of eternal life in your perspective.  The false leaders that Paul wrote about in 1 Timothy 6 did not have this eternal perspective.  Rather, they had been seduced by money, by prestige and by power.  Due to their love of money they had strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  And how easy it is for us to do the same!  When you stand up in church before all these witnesses and make the good confession of your faith I am sure you mean it, that you say “Yes, this is it!  I believe the gospel with all my heart.  I belong with body and soul to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.”  But then tomorrow comes along, with all its challenges and all its temptations.  Then tomorrow comes and you just plod along, your life in a rut, your head down and your mind being filled with the things of this world.  And then your indoor soccer seems so much more appealing than sitting down with your brothers and sisters to study God’s Word or perhaps to spend some time with a brother or sister to encourage one another and to pray for one another.  Then, to use 1 Timothy 4:8, we get caught up with bodily exercise that profits a little but we fail to train for the godliness that is profitable for all things, the godliness that has the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.  And the problem with this is that when we take our eyes off the hope of eternal life, when we no longer think in terms of eternity, when the confession that we make before many witnesses is no longer fresh in our minds then we too are in danger of falling away.  And that is why Timothy was commanded in 1 Timothy 6:11,

“But you, O man of God, flee these things . . .”

Flee them!  Run away from them!  Stay away from anything that might take your eyes from the prize of eternal life.

This is the fight that we must all be fighting.  Yes, we trust in the Christ alone for our salvation.  Yes, we know and believe that all our sins are forgiven in Him.  Yes, we are assured that the Lord will preserve His own, that they will not be eternally lost.  But that does not give you the license to sin, nor should that lead you to let down your guard in your fight against sin.  When Paul commanded Timothy to fight the good fight and to lay of eternal life he was confident that Timothy would do this, but he also knew of many who had not.  At the beginning of this letter, in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 he wrote,

“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymanaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Paul could name the names of those whose faith had suffered shipwreck and it must have given him pain to do so.  And now he is saying, “Timothy, watch out!  Be on your guard!  O man of God, flee these things!”  And if Timothy had to hear such an urgent warning, so do I and so do you. The form for public profession of faith asks,

“Do you truly detest and humble yourself before God because of your sins and seek your life outside of yourself in Jesus Christ?”

And,

“Do you declare that you love the Lord God and that it is your heartfelt desire to serve Him according to His Word, to forsake the world, and to crucify your old nature?”

But do you really?  Can you still say “I Do” to these questions and are you living out of the good confession you have made?  Sadly, along with the apostle Paul I could also name people, people who have stood up in church and confessed their faith but who did not fight the good fight of faith, who did not take hold of eternal life, whose love for their Saviour has grown cold, whose faith has suffered shipwreck, who have turned back to the world and who are lost in their sin.  And not only that but I admit with deep regret that I too have not truly lived out of the good confession I made, that I have not always humbled myself because of my sins, that in practice I have lived as though my love for the world is greater than my love for my God.  And I too must hear those words again and again,

“Flee these things and purse righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”

Flee from what is evil and pursue what is good.  Pursue righteousness, that is, right and holy living.  Run after godliness, that word that comes back again and again in Paul’s letter to Timothy.  Live for God, grow in piety, cultivating a deep heartfelt love for your God.  Pursue faith, a growing confidence and trust in God and in His promises.  Pursue love, love for God and love for your neighbor.  Seek patience and gentleness, that is endurance and kindness.  It is not enough to flee from sin.  In fact Satan does not mind if you were to give up a certain sin – only to take up another.  And so not only should you say No to whatever might lead you to sin but keep your focus on your Saviour and live your life in the light of eternity.  Man of God, hold fast to the good confession!

 

2. Follow the good Example.

When the Bible calls you to lay hold of eternal life you are reminded that as a Christian, a man of God, you are fighting a battle that involves your eternal destiny.  It is little wonder, therefore, that there is a sense of urgency in Paul’s instruction to Timothy.  In 1 Timothy 6:11 he urges Timothy to “flee these things” that would cause him to fall away from the faith and instead to “pursue” righteousness, godliness and so forth.  In verse 12 Paul instructed him to “fight the good fight” and to lay hold on eternal life.  Then in verse 13 and 14 he urged Timothy to keep what he had commanded unstained and free from reproach until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Timothy must remain on high alert not just for a week or a month or even a year but until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And what applies to Timothy applies to us also.  The good confession that you make at your profession of faith is not just an event in your life but it determines how you are to live your life today and tomorrow and forever.  And in practice that means that you are to flee, to run away from anything and everything that might pull you away from your good confession and instead you are to pursue those things that will cause you to grow in your love for God and assist you in all things as you lay hold on eternal life. 

But that is a challenge because we know that the battle is long and the fight is hard.  For as long as we live this life our three sworn enemies, the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh never cease to attack us.  And when we do see some who make a shipwreck of their faith, who pierce themselves with many sorrows, we may be tempted to give up before we even start.  But brothers and sisters, you are not alone as you fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on to eternal life.  Remember that the good confession, your profession of faith, is a public profession.  We profess our faith before God and His holy church.  And that helps!  Because the many witnesses who are there – also today – to witness your profession are not there to mock and jeer when we stumble but they are there to help.  They are there to encourage you, to assist you, to remind you of the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.  They are here to witness you say “I do”, to hear you say that you believe God’s covenant promises, that you love the LORD, that you commit yourself to Him and His service.  And when the going gets tough, they are expected to remind you of what you said, of what you promised.  You see, the LORD does not let us struggle by ourselves, lonely and forsaken, but He gives us a place in His church.  And these many witnesses are here to remind you that we are in it together, that we are all on the road, pressing on towards the goal of eternal life.

That is an encouragement to us all, but verse 13 gives us an even greater encouragement, that of the good confession made by our Lord Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate.  Concerning this verse John Calvin wrote,

“whenever our hearts waver, let us remember immediately to look to the death of Christ for strength.”

We read together from John 18, when our Lord Jesus Christ was brought before Pontius Pilate.  He was brought there by the Jews that he might be sentenced to death for declaring that He was the Christ, the Son of God.  And when Pilate, the Roman governor, saw Jesus he said to Him,

“Are you the King of the Jews?”

To which Jesus responded with another question,

“Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

Jesus asked this, because it had to be made clear just who Jesus is and why He would die.  He was a King but His Kingdom was not of this world, He had not come to Jerusalem to overthrow Pontius Pilate and in time overthrow the emperor of Rome himself.  For His Kingdom is a spiritual and not a political dominion.  Hearing this Pilate then asked,

“Are You a king then?”

And then Jesus did not hold back but He said

“You say rightly that I am a king.  For this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”  1 John 18:37.

That was the good confession that Christ made before Pontius Pilate.  He did not shrink back from bearing witness to who He truly is.

But the Jews did not want this king: they wanted nothing to do with him.  In John 19:15 Pilate asked,

“Shall I crucify your King?”

To which the chief priests answered,

“We have no king but Caesar!”

And so our Lord was crucified.  He was the faithful witness, He made the good confession.  And because He made the good confession and because He then went on to be nailed on the cross of Calvary you may be sure of the eternal life that He has accomplished for you.

And not only that, but help is on the way.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will return.  He will come back on the clouds of heaven and with Him will come the victory.  When we fight the good fight of faith, when we hold on to eternal life, this is no act of desperation, a vain attempt to lay hold of that which is sipping from our grasp but God will give to us that which He has promised. 

And so 1 Timothy 6 goes on to give praise to our God and Saviour in verse 15,16.

“He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.  Amen.”

This is the One whom we believe in.  This is the One of whom we have made the good confession.  This is the One who is there to help. And this is the One who will return.

But that then brings us back to the confession that we must make.  In Matthew 27:22 Pontius Pilate asked the Jews,

“What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

Pilate may not have understood the significance of his own words, but that is the question not just for Pilate but every one of us.  What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?

One day our Lord Jesus will come back and then the tables will be turned.  On that day instead of Pilate judging Jesus, the Lord Jesus will be seated as judge over him.  And then what will the Lord Jesus do with Pilate, the one who took a bowl of water and washed his hands and then handed Jesus over to be crucified?

But don’t just think about Pilate: what about you?  There is no neutral ground in the good fight of faith.  In Matthew 10:32,33 our Lord Jesus said,

“Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

But what a blessed thing it is to profess your faith in your only Saviour Jesus Christ, to profess your faith in the One who was faithful, in the One who came from heaven to be born into this world and then to die for you and for me.  Man of God, hold fast to the good confession.  And you may be assured of the blessing living forever with Him.  Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2015, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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