“Holding faith, and a good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:19).
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 part.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
“It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles.”
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you’ll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.