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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 19, 2013

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life”
(I Timothy 6:12).

I have been reading an interesting article that attacked modern Reformed theology. The author said people are not naturally Reformed, but must be “educated into” it. I think he is exactly right, but that does not disprove the teaching of the Reformers. It actually strengthens their position. There are many things that we do not understand when we are first saved. There are many things we must be “educated into,” such as the importance of the local church and prevailing prayer. No one understands all the doctrines of the Bible on the day of their conversion. The author went on to say that “some” Reformed men “are motivated by laziness.” Again, I think he is exactly right. I have seen some Reformed men kill their churches by refusing to promote every-member evangelism. Again, the author said that those who believe the Reformers refuse “to clean the Christian’s life.” This is certainly true among many moderns who embrace Reformation theology. But then the author correctly says that this looseness and apathy toward evangelism was not true of Reformed men “in previous generations.” After reading what this author said, I realized that all of his arguments could apply to modern Arminians as well! Don’t we know some modern Arminians that are lazy in the matter of evangelism? Don’t we know some modern Arminians who “refuse to clean the Christian’s life”? For instance, think about what happened at Hammond. Please understand that I am not endorsing modern Calvinism. Not at all! But I do stand with the old-timers like John Knox, George Whitefield, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Dr. David Livingstone, and C. H. Spurgeon among them.

C. H. Spurgeon was a Reformed man who strongly stressed holiness and evangelism. And he certainly was not motivated by laziness, nor did he promote laziness and laxness in his church. Dr. John R. Rice called Spurgeon’s Tabernacle “a soul trap.” Listen to what Spurgeon said about our text,

“Lay hold on eternal life.” Observe that this precept is preceded by another – “Fight the good fight of faith.” Those who lay hold on eternal life will have to fight for it. The way of spiritual life is no easy one: we shall have to [fight] every step of the is [a fight] against the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we live unto God we shall need to war a daily warfare, and tread down the powers of death and hell (C. H. Spurgeon, “Eternal Life Within Present Grasp,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Number 1,946; February 6, 1887).

What Spurgeon said emphasizes the lesson of our text,

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life”
       (I Timothy 6:12).

I will apply this verse in two ways – first to the saved, and then to those who are lost.

I. First, the text speaks to the saved.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life”
       (I Timothy 6:12).

The word “fight” is translated from the Greek word “agonizomai.” Our English word “agonize” comes from it. The Christian life is a fight from start to finish. The present imperative tense of the Greek word shows that it is a continuous fight, a never-ending battle in this life. This is not just any battle. It is called “the good fight of faith.” The Apostle Paul was telling young Timothy (and us) this great truth. It is a truth that many Christians do not understand. In II Timothy 2:3 the Apostle said,

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3).

This is not merely speaking to pastors, although it includes faithful pastors. Paul said,

“No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4).

“No man” – includes all true Christians. Every real Christian has to “fight the good fight of faith” as long as he lives in this wicked, fallen world. As Spurgeon said, “We shall have to [fight] every step of the way...we shall need to war a daily warfare.”

My former pastor Dr. Timothy Lin emphasized the fact that the Christian life is a battle. It is a continual battle with the world, the flesh and the Devil. I wish every pastor would make it clear to new converts that they are entering into a life of conflict. Over and over, Christ told the seven churches in Revelation, chapters two and three, that they must be overcomers (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26-29; 3:5-6; 3:12-13; 3:21-22). For instance, Revelation 2:10-11 says,

“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Revelation 2:10-11).

These verses were taken so literally and so seriously by the early Christians that they were literally “faithful unto death” by wild animals in the pagan Roman arenas. In modern times, in China and in Muslim lands, Christians are as serious about overcoming as were those ancient Christians like Perpetua (181-203). She was torn to shreds by wild animals for her faith. Mr. Griffith, please sing Reginald Heber’s great song, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War.”

The martyr first, whose eagle eye
   Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky,
   And called on Him to save:
Like Him, with pardon on his tongue
   In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong:
   Who follows in his train?

A glorious band, the chosen few
   On whom the Spirit came,
Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew,
   And mocked the cross and flame:
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel,
   The lion’s gory mane,
They bowed their necks the death to feel:
   Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys,
   The matron and the maid,
Around the Saviour’s throne rejoice,
   In robes of light arrayed:
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven
   Through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given
   To follow in their train.
(“The Son of God Goes Forth to War” by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).

And Frederick W. Faber said,

Faith of our fathers! living still
   In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
   Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
   We will be true to thee till death!

Our fathers chained in prisons dark,
   Were still in heart and conscience free:
How sweet would be their children’s fate,
   If they, like them, could die for thee!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
   We will be true to thee till death!
(“Faith of Our Fathers” by Frederick W. Faber, 1814-1863).

And then there is that soul-stirring song by Henry F. Lyte, which Dr. John R. Rice loved above all other hymns,

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
   Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shalt be:
Perish every fond ambition, All I’ve sought and hoped and known.
   Yet how rich is my condition, God and Heaven are still my own!

Let the world despise and leave me, They have left my Saviour, too;
   Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue;
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
   Foes may hate, and friends may shun me; Show Thy face, and all is bright.
(“Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847).

That is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said,

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12).

May every Christian here this morning stay in that fight to the end of life! How we pray that you will not be like “thorny ground” people who, “go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (Luke 8:14). How we pray that you will not let marriage, nor children, nor career, nor money, nor the pleasures of this life keep you from obeying our text,

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12).

“Fight the good fight” when you are single. Keep fighting it when you are married. Keep fighting it when the children come. And don’t stop fighting the good fight when you are old and grey! The present, imperative tense of the Greek word for “fight” shows that it is a never ending battle in this world! John S. B. Monsell said,

Fight the good fight with all thy might:
   Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right;
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
   Thy joy and crown eternally.
(“Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might” by John S.B. Monsell, 1811-1875).

In his book, What it Costs to Be a Good Christian, Dr. John R. Rice said,

Our church rolls today are filled largely with people who only attend services occasionally, without any of the sweat and labor of getting people saved...Remember that the Saviour said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.” God demands your toil and your time. Your best thought, your most earnest labor, the hours are too little to give to the Lord Jesus who bought you and paid for you with His own blood (John R. Rice, D.D., What It Costs to Be a Good Christian, Sword of the Lord, 1952, pp. 23, 24).

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12).

Fight the good fight of faith! Do it! Do it! Do it! Amen!

II. Second, the text speaks to the lost.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (I Timothy 6:12).

As I said, the Christian life is a fight from start to finish. If you expect eternal life, you must get ahold of it now! Remember what great Spurgeon said, “Those who lay hold on eternal life will have to fight for it” (ibid.).

Since you are told to get ahold of it, this shows that “eternal life” is outside of you. The Greek term translated “eternal life” is “zoe aionia.” It refers to the life of Christ, not to the length of your own life. Whitefield was awakened by reading a book titled, The Life of God Within the Soul of Man. That is “zoe aionia” – the eternal life of Christ. Spurgeon said, “If there be infused into you the life divine, it is eternal, a living and incorruptible seed which abideth forever. It is the life of Christ in you...Without the quickening Spirit you will remain in spiritual death forever” (Spurgeon, ibid.).

The Bible says, “He that believeth on the Son hath [present tense] everlasting life” (John 3:36). The moment you trust Jesus His eternal life flows into you. Zoe aionia is “infused” into your dead spirit and you are born again! Note that Spurgeon uses “infused” in a different way from its use by Roman Catholics. They refer to “justification” being infused little by little, through acts of “penance.” Spurgeon is not speaking of justification, but of eternal life – which is infused into the dead spirit of a lost person, giving them the new birth. Spurgeon said, “The infusion of the new life is the new birth...we are quickened and raised from among the dead. Beloved hearers, do you know this change by personal experience?” (Spurgeon, ibid.).

When eternal life lives within you it creates new eyes that can see Him who is invisible. Eternal life within you creates new ears that let you hear the still small voice of God. This new life takes you into a new world. No change can be compared to that which occurs in those who are made to live by the infusion of the eternal life of Christ into their souls! When you receive this “zoe aionia,” this eternal life, into your lost soul, you will no longer be an enemy of God, but His friend! You will no longer be a child of wrath, but a child of God. Then you will delight in God. This delight will draw you nearer and nearer to Him in communion and fellowship. When you receive Christ’s eternal life within you, you will love being in church. You will love singing the hymns then. I will no longer have to tell you, “Sing it.” No! No! I may have to tell you not to sing so loud then!

The Apostle said, “Lay hold on eternal life.” You will want to preserve the life of Christ within you at any cost! It will be more important to you than all silver and all gold!

Now, I say to you who are still lost, take ahold of eternal life. “Lay hold on eternal life.” Grasp it and cling to it as a drowning man clings to a life jacket, and will not let go of it! The person who gets ahold of eternal life in Christ will say with the Shulamite girl,

“I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Song of Solomon 3:4).

You will have to fight the good fight of faith to get ahold of the eternal life of Christ! Yes, it is a fight. Humanly speaking, that is why so few are saved. They are not willing to fight the good fight to get ahold of Christ! Remember that the word “fight” is from a form of “agonizomai” in Greek, to suffer, and fight, and concentrate on winning. Note that this same word, agonizomai, was used by Christ, when He said, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). You must fight to find Christ, you must suffer to find Christ, you must put every effort into it. Christ is there for you. But you must fight to lay hold on Him! Saying a few words in prayer will not take you to Christ. You must agonize, and strive, and fight to enter in. And when you find Jesus in this struggle, it will be worth all the effort you put into it. I see a young man right there! I have seen him weep and groan for Christ. I have seen him shed real tears because he felt lost. Now, if you ask him, he would gladly say words to this effect,

“I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go” (Song of Solomon 3:4).

Are you ready to be serious about your salvation? Are you ready to weep real tears, and agonize, and strive to enter in? Are you ready to surrender to Christ?

If you would like to speak with us about these matters please leave your seat and walk to the back of the auditorium right now. If you want to speak with us about becoming a real Christian go now. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can talk. Dr. Chan, please come and pray for those who responded. Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Timothy 6:8-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Fight the Good Fight With All Thy Might” (by John S. B. Monsell, 1811-1875).




by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life”
(I Timothy 6:12).

I.   First, the text speaks to the saved, II Timothy 2:3, 4;
Revelation 2:10-11; Luke 8:14; 10:2.

II.  Second, the text speaks to the lost, John 3:36;
Song of Solomon 3:4; Luke 13:24.