“Holding faith, and a good
conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I
Those who teach that salvation can
be lost use this verse to say that unless we maintain a tight grip on the faith
that saved us, we will make shipwreck of the faith and lose our eternal life.
But when we compare Paul’s use of the word hold here to how he told Titus to be
“holding fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9), we understand “the faith” here to
refer to the body of truth committed to the Apostle Paul. The context here is
not salvation, it is warring a good warfare (I Tim. 1:18) against men who teach
false doctrine (cf. v. 20). The way to war a good warfare in the dispensation
of grace is, as Paul later told Timothy, to “hold fast the form of sound words,
which thou hast heard of me” (II Tim. 1:13).
We must maintain this tight grip on
Pauline truth in “good conscience.” People say to “let your conscience be your
guide,” but Paul “lived in all good conscience” (Acts 23:1) from his
forefathers (II Tim. 1:3). That means that even while persecuting God’s people
“unto the death” as Saul of Tarsus, his conscience was clear! That’s because he
“did it ignorantly” (I Tim. 1:13). That is, he didn’t know he was persecuting
God’s people. He thought His people were heretics and that he was serving God
in killing them (John 16:2). Does that tell you how dangerous it is to let your
conscience be your guide? A conscience is only good if the light of God’s truth
is shining on it!
A conscience is like a sundial in
that respect. A sundial only gives the correct time when the right light is
shining on it. If you check a sundial under the light of the moon, you are
going to get a faulty reading. And if you go out at night with a flashlight,
you can make it any time you like. The terrorists who flew those planes into
the Twin Towers did so in all good conscience.
People are born with a conscience
that tells them that murder like that is wrong, but a conscience can “seared
with a hot iron” by “doctrines of devils” (I Tim. 4:1,2). When that happens,
people become “past feeling” (Eph. 4:19), and no longer feel the pricks of a
conscience enlightened by God’s Word.
Many people say that doctrine isn’t
important, but the people killed by Saul of Tarsus know better, as do the
victims of 9/11. The mistakes you make in life may be nowhere near as heinous,
but unless your conscience is enlightened by “the faith”
committed to the Apostle Paul, the
light from some other source will cause your conscience to give a faulty
reading, and you won’t be able to “war a good warfare” for the Lord in the
dispensation of grace.
Some in Paul’s day had “put away”
the faith, a Bible phrase for divorce (Mt. 5:31). But God has given us the body
of Pauline truth to have and to hold. Let’s hold it for better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us par