Chapter 45: “I Have Fought a Good Fight, I Have Finished My Course, I Have Kept the Faith”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 372–79

Map Chp. 45

A Letter from Paul to Titus

Written from Macedonia to Crete, ca. A.D. 67–68 (Titus)



Paul Foreordained to Gain Eternal Life


Appointment of Bishops


Opposing False Teachers


Instruction in Moral Living


How to Live After Baptism


Personal Advice to Titus


The Second Letter of Paul to Timothy in Ephesus

Written from Roman Imprisonment, ca. A.D. 68 (2 Timothy)


2 Timothy

Timothy’s Gifts of the Spirit


How Timothy Should Face Hardships


Christ Gives Eternal Glory to the Elect


Shun Contention, Seek Godliness


Dangers of the Last Days


Scriptures Guide Man to Salvation


Timothy Exhorted to “Preach the Word”


Paul and All Saints Assured of Exaltation


Interpretive Commentary


(45-1) The Letter to Titus

“Titus is the epistle of obedience. Writing in his old age, Paul seems increasingly impressed by the Spirit to counsel his beloved Titus, and through him all the saints, of the overpowering need to walk in paths of truth and righteousness. …

“Titus is written to and for the saints. It is a sermon of practical exhortation to those in the fold, a common sense approach to the problem of living in the world without being of the world.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:119.)

(45-2) Place and Date of Writing

Paul probably wrote this letter not long after his return to Ephesus, about A.D. 67 or 68, sometime between his first and second imprisonments. There are no clues as to the letter’s point of origin.

(45-3) Background Information

Sometime prior to writing, Paul and Titus had visited the island of Crete. When it became apparent that Paul would be unable to remain on the island, he left Titus behind to set in order the church (Titus 1:5). Paul’s letter, written to strengthen and encourage Titus, provides definite instructions about the duties of those who minister in the church. Specifically, the apostle warns Titus to beware of false ministers and doctrines. He also speaks regarding the character and conduct befitting one who is called to assume priesthood leadership.

(45-4) Titus 1:9. Who Were “the Gainsayers”?

This word is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word gegn, which means “contrary to” or “in opposition of.” We see this same root in our word against, which is close to a perfect synonym for gain as it is used in verse 9. When used in the word gainsayers, this root means “those who speak against something in order to enrich oneself at the expense of others.”

(45-5) Titus 1:12. The Nature and Character of the Cretans

Paul’s reference to Cretans as “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” may have been borrowed from Epimenides, a Greek poet who lived in the sixth century B.C. Using this admittedly strong language, Paul condemns the false teachers on Crete for perverting the gospel in order to make money (vs. 11). This corresponds with the reputation of the Cretans for greed and avariciousness, as reported by such ancient writers as Cicero, Livy, Plutarch, and Polybius. Historically, the name Cretan came to be synonymous with dishonesty. Their reputation for lying became so commonly known that the name became both a verb (kretidzein, meaning “to speak like a Cretan” or “to lie”) and a noun (kretismos, literally, “Cretan behavior,” which equaled “lying”). Slow bellies is better translated idle bellies and carries the idea of lazy gluttony that leads to extreme obesity. Some argue that Paul, an apostle, would not slur a whole group of people in making his point. But as you read it carefully, Paul is applying it to those who would bring false teachings into the church. In all of his letters, he does not hesitate to speak sharply and strongly about such wickedness.

(45-6) Titus 1:15. Who Are “the Pure”?

That purity spoken of is purity of mind and body. It includes sexual purity. It is of the greatest importance, and it cannot be neglected as we strive to develop perfect lives. Elder McConkie has written:

“The pure in heart are those who are free from moral defilement or guilt; who have bridled their passions, put off the natural man and become saints through the atonement (Mosiah 3:19); who have been born again, becoming the sons and daughters of Christ (Mosiah 5:7); who are walking in paths of uprightness and virtue and seeking to do all things that further the interests of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. …

“One of the chief identifying characteristics of a saint is that he has a pure mind. (2 Pet. 3:1)” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 612–13.)

(45-7) Titus 2:10. What Is Meant by the Word Purloining?

This word carried a meaning of “to put far away from another,” and thus it came to mean “to appropriate something of another’s for one’s own use.” It is secret rather than open theft. Servants are exhorted by Paul not to take for their own use the things which belong to their masters. Rather, they are to show fidelity; they are to be trustworthy in all things.

(45-8) Titus 3:5. Are Men Saved by the “Works of Righteousness”?

“There is no salvation in good works as such. That is: There are no good works which men may do which—standing alone—will cause them to be resurrected or to gain eternal life. Immortality and eternal life come through the atonement of Christ, the one being a free gift, the other being offered freely to all who will be baptized and who then keep the commandments.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:126–27.)

(45-9) Titus 3:5. What Is the “Washing of Regeneration”?

“Baptism in water, so named to signify that baptized converts are regenerated; that is, they become new again spiritually; they become like little children, alive in Christ and without sin.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:127.)

(45-10) Titus 3:9. Why “Avoid Foolish Questions, and Genealogies, and Contentions, and Strivings about the Law”?

“There is no converting power in debate and contention. Christ’s ministers are to teach, not to argue. Missionaries go forth, for instance, to “declare glad tidings,” with this restriction: ‘Of tenets thou shalt not talk’ (D. & C. 19:20–31), meaning they are to teach and explain the basic doctrines of salvation and not engage in contentions and strivings about the doctrines of sectarianism.

“Linked here with contentions and strivings about the Law of Moses, these refer to the false Jewish tradition that salvation was for the chosen seed as such was known by genealogical recitations. In this dispensation, the Lord has commanded genealogical research as an essential requisite in making salvation available to those who do not have opportunity to receive the gospel in this life.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:127.)

(45-11) Titus 3:10, 11. What Is the Sin of Heresy?

One is considered to be a heretic when he belongs to the church yet adheres to any religious opinion which is contrary to the official doctrine of the church. Heresy is the belief and espousal of false doctrine. The true doctrines of the kingdom are to be found in the scriptures, the conference reports, and the words of the living prophets, as these were and are inspired by the Holy Ghost.

(45-12) Titus 3:10. Is Any Man to Be Rejected?

“There comes a time when it is wise to shun and avoid those who rebel against the light and whose hearts are set on promulgating false and damning doctrines. A modern illustration of such is those cultists who leave the Church to advocate and practice plural marriage in a day when the President of the Church has withdrawn from all men the power to perform these marriages.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:128.)

2 Timothy

(45-13) The Second Letter to Timothy

Second Timothy is a letter of encouragement to Timothy and to all priesthood leaders. It is a warning against spiritual apostasy and a clear manifestation of Paul’s triumphant faith.

This letter probably was written from Rome near the end of Paul’s second imprisonment and just prior to his martyrdom, about A.D. 68. It is very likely the last of Paul’s letters.

(45-14) Background Information

Paul’s second imprisonment was different from the first in that the Roman authorities did not treat Paul with the same deference which they had shown to him before. The attitude of the Roman government toward the early church had undergone a radical shift. Nero placed the blame for the great fire of Rome upon the saints and launched a series of intense but limited persecutions against the Christians in Rome. Both Paul and Peter were caught up in this new hostility and were martyred, along with many other members of the church. During the period of his second imprisonment, friends still visited Paul, but evidence indicates that his freedom to preach the gospel was greatly restricted. At his trial no one came forth to plead his cause. Apparently only Luke remained with him.

In spite of the negative and adverse circumstances in which he found himself, he remained optimistic and buoyed up by his faith in Christ. Second Timothy stands as one of the great monuments to faith and hope in the face of loneliness and adversity.

(45-15) Significant Contributions

Timothy is a priesthood leader in the kingdom. Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a challenge for him to magnify the calling to which he has been ordained and to endure to the end. Paul counsels his young friend in the ministry to be strong in the faith, to keep the commandments, to shun contention, to strive for complete victory over the temptations of the world, to study the holy scriptures, and to preach the word with power.

Today, the same advice applies to priesthood leaders throughout the world. In this world gone mad with wickedness, this letter serves as a concise, powerful description of the great apostasy. It is a graphic and prophetic picture of that fearful spiritual pollution which covers this latter-day world. This, Paul’s final letter, is a timeless letter for all mankind.

(45-16) 2 Timothy 2:1–7. What Kind of Devotion to the Work Did Paul Require of Timothy?

Paul admonished Timothy to be strong in the faith. In doing so, he used three metaphors.

The military metaphor referred to the fact that a soldier was to be a soldier and nothing else. He was not to entangle himself in other business. He was to be valiant, for only valiant soldiers receive the favor of their captain. Like a stalwart warrior, Timothy was to be whole-souled in his devotion to Jesus if the great battle between light and darkness was to be won (vss. 3, 4).

The second metaphor dealt with athletics. It indicated that a man wins the prize only by conforming his life to the rigorous training and contest rules of the game. Timothy was challenged to keep all of the commandments if he was to win the great prize of eternal life (vs. 5).

A third metaphor, taken from agriculture, implied that if Timothy diligently labored in the Lord’s vineyard, he would reap salvation to his own soul (vs. 6; and see D&C 4 and John 4:36).

(45-17) 2 Timothy 2:14, 16, 23–25. Why Is It of No Profit to Strive about Words?

“Contention and division are of the devil. Agreement and unity are of God. Since true religion comes by revelation, man’s sole purpose in trying to understand and interpret gospel principles should be to find out what the Lord means in any given revelation. This knowledge can be gained only by the power of the Spirit. Hence, there is no occasion to debate, to argue, to contend, to champion one cause as against another. ‘Those who have the Spirit do not hang doggedly to a point of doctrine or philosophy for no other reason than to come off victorious in a disagreement. Their purpose, rather, is to seek truth by investigation, research, and inspiration. Cease to contend one with another,” the Lord has commanded. (D. & C. 136:23; Tit. 3:9.)’ (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 161.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:105; see also 3 Nephi 11:28–30.)

(45-18) 2 Timothy 2:15. How Should Men Rightly Divide the Word of Truth?

“Not all truth is of equal value. Some scientific truths may benefit men in this life only; the truths of revealed religion will pour out blessings upon them now and forever. But even revealed truth is not all of the same worth. Some things apply only to past dispensations, as the performances of the Mosaic system; others are binding in all ages, as the laws pertaining to baptism and celestial marriage.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:105–6.)

(45-19) 2 Timothy 2:17. What Was the Meaning of the Word Canker?

Paul admonishes the saints against contention and foolish arguments. He uses the example of a canker to teach the principle. Today a canker is a spreading, painful sore. In the Greek, though, the word is gangreina, from which we take our word gangrene. Gangrene is not just a painful sore but is associated with the death of living cells and tissues from lack of blood. Contention and arguments choke off the life-giving spiritual sustenance of the Holy Ghost and bring death to spirituality. If tolerated, such contention can destroy the faith of the saints.

(45-20) 2 Timothy 2:18. Why Did Some Argue That the Resurrection Was Past?

“Satan’s ministers delight in spiritualizing away the prophecies and doctrines of the gospel. Probably what was here involved was the allegorical teaching that the resurrection consisted in imparting new life to the soul through acceptance of the gospel. Such a view is on a par with the sectarian heresy that the Second Coming is past, meaning that the Lord already has returned to dwell in the hearts of the faithful.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:106.)

(45-21) 2 Timothy 3:1–4. To What Extent Has Paul’s Prophecy about Perilous Times Been Fulfilled in Our Day?

“We see our world sinking into depths of corruption. Every sin mentioned by Paul is now rampant in our society.

“Men and women are ‘lovers of their own selves.’ They boast in their accomplishment. They curse. They blaspheme. Another sin is disobedience of children to parents and parents’ disobedience to law. Many are without the natural affection, which seems to be eroding family life as they seek to satisfy their own selfish wants.

“There are said to be millions of perverts who have relinquished their natural affection and bypassed courtship and normal marriage relationships. This practice is spreading like a prairie fire and changing our world. They are without ‘natural affection’ for God, for spouses, and even for children.” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1971, p. 7.)

(45-22) 2 Timothy 3:4. What of Those Who Love Pleasure More than They Love God?

“Paul speaks of ‘lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.’ Does that not describe the wanton sex permissiveness of our day?

“Paul speaks of those who ‘creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts.’ (2 Tim. 3:6.)

“Immorality seems to now receive the wink of approval of the once honorable people. Debauchery never gave birth to good of any kind, and Paul said: ‘But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.’ (1 Tim. 5:6.) But now comes a heavenly voice. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.’ (D&C 42:24.)” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1971, p. 8.)

(45-23) 2 Timothy 3:5. What Is “a Form of Godliness” without “the Power Thereof”?

“A form of godliness without saving power! A hollow shell shattered into many fragments! An illusive image without substance! An imitation of what God had aforetime revealed through Peter and Paul! A system of so-called Christianity which worshipped a God without a power, a God who gave no revelations, unfolded no visions, worked no miracles, and had forgotten the unchangeable pattern of the past! All Christendom wallowing in the mire and filth of apostasy!” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:111.)

(45-24) 2 Timothy 3:7. “Ever Learning and Never Able to Come to the Knowledge of the Truth”

“Among the signs of the last days was an increase of learning. …

“… Is not knowledge increased? Was there ever a time in the history of the world when so much knowledge was poured out upon the people? But sad to say, the words of Paul are true—the people are ‘ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (2 Tim. 3:7.)” (Joseph Fielding Smith in CR, Apr. 1966, pp. 13–14.)

(45-25) 2 Timothy 3:8. Who Were Jannes and Jambres?

According to Jewish tradition, these were the two Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses. (See Exodus 7:9–13 and Smith, A Dictionary of the Bible, rev. ed., s.v. “Jannes and Jambres.”)

(45-26) 2 Timothy 3:16. Will the Scriptures Alone Save Us?

“‘But,’ says an objector, ‘have we not the Bible, and are not the Holy Scriptures able to make us wise unto salvation?’ Yes, provided we obey them. ‘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 may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’ The ‘good works’ are the great desideratum. The Bible itself is but the dead letter, it is the Spirit that giveth life. The way to obtain the Spirit is that which is here marked out so plainly in the Scriptures. There is no other. Obedience, therefore, to these principles is absolutely necessary, in order to obtain the salvation and exaltation brought to light through the gospel.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pp. 101–2.)

(45-27) 2 Timothy 4:2. How Did Joseph Smith Revise This Verse?

“Preach the word. Be instant in season. Those who are out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” (Inspired Version, taken from the original manuscript by Robert J. Matthews. Note the punctuation changes in addition to the word changes made by the Prophet.)

(45-28) 2 Timothy 4:4. What Did Paul Mean by the Use of the Word Fables?

“All false doctrines are fables. That is, they are stories which have been imagined, fabricated, and invented as opposed to the gospel which is real and true. (2 Pet. 1:16.) Apostasy consists in turning from true doctrine to fables.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 261.)

(45-29) 2 Timothy 4:6, 7. Was Paul to Be Martyred before His Time?

“It will be recalled that Peter was released from prison by an angel and protected in many ways ’till his work was finished. And Paul likewise. No violence could take his life until he had borne his testimony to Rome and Greece and other lands. But finally he made the prophetic statement to Timothy: ‘For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ (2 Tim. 4:6, 7.) There was no fear in his approach to eternity—only assurance and calm resignation to the inevitable martyrdom which he faced. He did not want to die but was willing thus to seal his testimony of the Redeemer.” (Spencer W. Kimball in CR, Apr. 1946, p. 46.)

(45-30) 2 Timothy 4:6–8. “Henceforth Is Laid Up … a Crown of Righteousness”

“Paul’s calling and election had been made sure. He was sealed up unto eternal life. He had kept the commandments, been tried at all hazards, and the Lord had given him the promise: ‘Son, Thou shalt be exalted.’ And since no man is or can be exalted alone, this is one of the crowning reasons why we know Paul was married.” (McConkie, DNTC, 3:116.)

Points to Ponder

You Must Overcome the Obstacles to Spirituality

(45-31) Fear of Adverse Opinions of Others

“Not all acts of courage bring … spectacular rewards. But all of them do bring peace and contentment; just as cowardice, in the end, always brings regret and remorse. …

“I remember … when I was in Australia on a mission. I went up to visit the Jenolan Caves—very wonderful, spectacular caves. And as we walked through them, the guide said, ‘If some of you will get out and stand on that rock over there and sing a song, it will demonstrate the capacity of this cave.’

“Well, the Spirit said to me, ‘Go over there and sing “O, My Father.” I hesitated, and the crowd walked on. I lost the opportunity. I never felt good about that.” (Marion G. Romney, Ensign, May 1975, p. 74.)

(45-32) Unwillingness to Endure Affliction

“There are those who have lost faith because of personal tragedies or troubles. Faced with problems akin to Job’s, they have in effect accepted the invitation to curse God and die rather than to love God and gain the strength to endure their trials. There is, of course, in the promises of God no warrant that we will avoid the very experiences which we came here to undergo and through which we can learn reliance on the Lord. …

“Some years ago I became acquainted with the story of a young family whose little son was tragically ill with cancer. Every night the father sat with his boy, holding him in his arms. The pain seemed less when daddy held him close. The father slept on a mattress on the floor beside the son so that he could reach him whenever the boy cried out. The parents bore their sorrow with courage. They prayed, they loved, they served. Faith gave them strength to meet the test.” (Marion D. Hanks in CR, Apr. 1972, p. 128.)

(45-33) Entanglements with Things of the World

“Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first—and then find they ‘cannot afford’ to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth, for we serve whom we love and give first consideration to the object of our affection and desires. Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry. Their rationalization gives them degrees at the expense of children. Is it a justifiable exchange? Whom do they love and worship—themselves or God?” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 41.)

(45-34) Vain Babblings and Contentions

“A vicious tongue can ruin the reputation and even the future of the one attacked. Insidious attacks against one’s reputation, loathsome innuendoes, half-lies about an individual are as deadly as those insect parasites that kill the heart and life of a mighty oak. They are so stealthy and cowardly that one cannot guard against them. As someone has said, ‘It is easier to dodge an elephant than a microbe.’” (N. Eldon Tanner in CR, Apr. 1972, p. 57.)

(45-35) Lust and Indulgence

“When the unmarried yield to the lust which induces intimacies and indulgence, they have permitted the body to dominate and have placed the spirit in chains. …

“That the Church’s stand on morality may be understood, we declare firmly and unalterably it is not an outworn garment, faded, old-fashioned, and threadbare. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His covenants and doctrines are immutable; and when the sun grows cold and the stars no longer shine, the law of chastity will still be basic in God’s world and in the Lord’s Church. Old values are upheld by the Church not because they are old, but rather because through the ages they have proved right. It will always be the rule.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Love Vs. Lust,” Speeches of the Year, 1965, pp. 9, 11.)

You Can Follow the Pattern of Christ and Achieve Spirituality

Fear, suffering, worldliness, foolish speech, unbridled passion, idle speculation—each can destroy spirituality. But pursuing excellence requires more than just recognizing obstacles. You may realize you have a spiritual illness, but now you must find a cure. Positive values must replace negative influences. Confidence and endurance must replace fear and suffering; godliness must transform worldliness; self-control must conquer unrestraint. Paul understood this and provided you the key.

“I know whom I have believed,” Paul wrote in beginning his epistle to Timothy. (2 Timothy 1:12. Emphasis added.) His contrast between knowledge and belief is significant. The Savior taught that knowing God, rather than merely believing, constituted eternal life; and he listed such knowledge as the first of his spiritual gifts (John 17:3; D&C 46:13). How can you come to know God? On this, the teaching of the former and modern prophets is plain and provides you with the key to spiritual greatness.

  • A.

    A Scriptural Overview of How You Attain Spiritual Greatness

    We Must Know the Father and the Son to Enjoy Eternal Life


    John 17:3

    D&C 132:24

    We Learn of the Father by Knowing Christ


    John 5:19, 30

    John 8:19, 28, 29

    John 14:6–9

    We Know Christ by Doing his Works and by Following his Example


    1 John 2:3–6

    D&C 93:1

    Such Knowledge Allows us to Endure to the End


    2 Nephi 31:16

  • B.

    The Goal: To Know Christ in a Real, Personal, and Close Association

    The first step in knowing Christ is to learn all that we can about him. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., has offered the following advice:

    “… I am quite a believer in studying the life of the Savior as an actual personality. That is not often done. Our students of the Bible and of the New Testament, seem to refrain from trying to build a biography of the Master. …

    “… try to go along with the Savior, live with him, let him be an actual man, half divine, of course, but nevertheless moving as a man moved in those days.” (Behold the Lamb of God, p. 8.)

    Once you have begun to understand Christ’s true attributes and personality, place these characteristics into your life. When confronted by a circumstance, ask yourself, What would Jesus do? “Many of my decisions have been motivated by [this question],” Elder Marion G. Romney has testified, “Doing what I have thought He would have done has always brought satisfaction and joy.” (“Jesus Christ, Man’s Great Exemplar,” Speeches of the Year, 1967, p. 2.)

  • C.

    Spiritual Exercise Brings the Power Necessary

    So that you might have the strength and sensitivity to follow Christ’s pattern, design a personal program of spiritual exercise. Notice that Paul recommended a similar course. Spirituality will never be attained merely by avoiding the negative pitfalls to its development, however important that may be. The full strength of the Spirit will come only as you make positive spiritual activity an integral part of your daily life. Such a program should at least include the following:

    1. 1.

      A Daily Resolve to Follow Christ’s Example. Commit yourself at the beginning of each day to emulate the Savior’s life.

      2 Timothy 1:8.

      What did Paul mean when he warned Timothy—and you—not to be “ashamed” of a testimony of Christ?

    2. 2.

      An Organized Study Program. Devote at least twenty to thirty minutes daily to gospel study, especially a study of the scriptures.

      2 Timothy 3:14–16.

      Paul counsels that the scriptures can make you “wise unto salvation through faith.” How can you include faith in your scriptural study?

    3. 3.

      Daily Prayer. No less than every morning and evening “enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father … in secret.” (Matthew 6:6.)

      2 Timothy 1:3.

      Paul’s counsel is by example. Why is it important that your prayers, like Paul’s, reveal a compassion toward others?

    4. 4.

      Daily Service. The Savior’s paradox remains the key to spiritual happiness: As you lose your life in service to others, you shall actually find it (Matthew 10:39).

      2 Timothy 3:17 and Titus 3:8, 14.

      Paul stresses the need for “good works” but urges that they be fruitful. In what circumstances could service be “unfruitful”? How can secrecy and selflessness enhance our works?

    5. 5.

      Fasting. On occasions of special importance and need, strengthen your “exercise” program with a meaningful fast.

  • D.

    Then Comes Confirmation by the Spirit

    Finally and ultimately, knowledge of Christ will come through revelation (Matthew 16:16, 17). The whispering of the Spirit will give your soul the assurance that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Savior, and as you increasingly take upon yourself his example and become more spiritually attuned, such knowledge will deepen and grow more real. This is part of what the scriptures define as the “power of Godliness” (D&C 84:21), for such knowledge will give you spiritual power. Truly this conviction became the rock of Paul’s testimony and the reason that he successfully endured mortality’s trials and faced death with calm assurance.