Laying Hold

In 1 Timothy 6 Paul wrote something to Timothy that I think we may miss unless we reflect on what Paul means by his exhortation to ‘lay hold on eternal life.’ We see it in this passage.

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. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:12–16 (NKJV)

The term ‘lay hold’ or ‘take hold’ in the ESV, is a single word in Greek. ἀγωνίζομαι agōnizomai; from 73; to contend for a prize, struggle:—competes in the games(1), fight(1), fighting(1), fought(1), laboring earnestly(1), strive(2), striving(1).[1] If you look closely, you will see the source of our English word ‘agony.’ The Greek word agōnia, translated ‘agony’ in Luke 22:44 has the same root as agōnizomai, agōn, which refers to a contest or struggle. Obviously to ‘lay hold’ requires more than a casual effort on our part.

Inherent in the idea of ‘laying hold’ that Paul presents is that he is talking about something beyond repentance and salvation. Timothy had already received and entered into that state. Here Paul is strongly urging him to not merely ‘receive’ eternal life but to let this life affect every aspect of his daily life, to ‘lay hold.’ Contextually, he tells Timothy to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ and that part of this is living a life that is ‘spotless’ and ‘blameless.’ Doing this requires a focused effort on our part. Not a legalistic rule keeping approach but rather one of daily pursuing His heart and purpose.

We can engage in this ‘laying hold’ process because when we reflect on it, our life is anchored somewhere. Hebrews presents it this way.

17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17–20 (NKJV)

The idea of ‘fleeing for refuge’ comes from the Old Testament where someone who accidently killed another could flee to a ‘city of refuge’ (Deuteronomy 19:1-11) and be safe. In contrast, even though we are all guilty we can all find refuge by laying hold of Jesus and His sacrifice on our behalf.

Let’s do that, let’s focus our efforts to grasp and live in and out of this life He has provided for us. After all, He who promised is faithful.

[1] Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries : Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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