The Agora
Godliness with Contentment - 1 Timothy

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X. Godliness With Contentment (6:1-21)

This last chapter is all related, though the relationship may not be immediately apparent. It is about slavery, godliness, contentment, riches, the good fight of faith and (finally and above all) defending and preserving that glorious treasure entrusted to our care. The common theme throughout is that present conditions and circumstances, either of handicap or privilege, from the extremes of abject slavery on the one hand to abundant riches on the other, are utterly unimportant and not to be either rebelled against or sought. Life is too short. The important thing is godliness with contentment! Not just godliness, not just contentment, but godliness with contentment. A faithful life together with a joyful, peaceful and thankful mind.

A. 6:1-2b: Slaves

The Greek word douloi signifies bond-servants; that is, servants under bondage -- more precisely, slaves.

Slavery was perhaps the most perplexing of questions which early believers had to face. It entered into all grades and ranks and it was common to all people and nations. The very fabric of society seemed knit and bound together by this miserable institution. Commerce was chiefly responsible for slavery in the old Roman world. To preach against it openly would be to foment rebellion, so foreign was the thought of social injustice and equality to the "enlightened" mood of that age. (We also know from early Christadelphian writings that there were in America, in the last century, slave-owners whose presence in the ecclesias was the occasion of some dissent.)

It is probable, in the very nature of things, that slave-owners would be very few among the believers. The vast majority would be either slaves or poor free men. The Gospel was preached to the poor, and its principles have the greatest appeal to them.

In the Roman Empire in New Testament times slaves outnumbered the free. (On one occasion the Senate passed a decree that all slaves should wear a distinguishing mark. When this was put into effect, it was repealed almost immediately, because the number of slaves was so great that the authorities realized how numerically superior they would be if they should decide to join together in rebellion.) Very often the slaves were in chains continually day and night. The master had power of life and death. Slaves had little or no right or protection under law, no property, no true marriage, no choice of a mate -- their master gave or took mates at his will. The children belonged to the master as slaves for any use or purpose the master desired. Runaway slaves usually received torture, branding, and often a cruel death. (If our version were more consistently translated, this aspect of New Testament times would be more obvious: Three-fourths of all the appearances of the word "servant" in the AV should be translated as "slave", as in most modern versions).

The Scriptures do not condone slavery. But neither do they seek to destroy it, any more than they seek to directly destroy any other of the vast multitude of inequities that make up natural human society. Through much of history and almost to the present slavery has been a major aspect of human society. Actually it is a much wider and more inclusive thing than generally regarded. That is, all dictatorship is actually slavery. All industrial and economic oppression is actually slavery, especially where the victim's circumstances leave him no choice but to submit. A world-famous Russian author has recently called to the attention of Westerners the true "slave-and-master" foundation of Communist society. We should never forget in our prayers our brethren striving to uphold the Truth in Communist and other totalitarian societies today.

It has been a universal characteristic of man to seek to oppress and enslave his fellow man and to use him to increase his own wealth, power and leisure. Slavery in its various forms, fiefdom, serfs, peasantry and so on has been the common lot of the poor up until very recent times. Practical slavery still exists in much of the world today, wherever the few rich, who own all the land and control access to legal and political redress, can exploit and oppress the vast and hopeless masses of the poor. Slavery is just one part of the great human fabric of evil and wickedness. For the Bible to seek to abolish slavery would require it to write the laws for all nations, appoint all rulers and judges and enforce justice by divinely-led police forces. This is exactly what will happen, but not now. It will come about in God's own proper time and not before.

The greatest slavery of all, before which all else pales into insignificance, is man's slavery to his own selfishness and fleshly desires and to this all are in bondage. Most, indeed, are eager victims with no desire for freedom. This is the deep root of the weed to which we must lay the axe of Scripture. Chopping off the branches only makes the evil fruit grow bigger.

The purpose of God is concerned with preparing a people for eternity by adversity. And, in God's wisdom, slavery and poverty are sometimes part of the general, evil, human background that God is using to develop character and shape His determined ends. The Bible's purpose is not to reform the world -- not just yet! Its present purpose is to call out and prepare a people for God. The present evil constitution of man is the necessary furnace of affliction for the purifying of the saints. The Bible is concerned with the character of the individual, the release from the universal slavery of self and sin, and the preparation for God and eternity. It tells the slave to serve his master, whether he be good or bad, as service done to God and accepted by God. It tells the master to treat the slave as he himself would desire to be treated, with perfect justice and mercy, even as he hoped in mercy to be treated by his Master Christ.

Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

As stated before, this verse can apply to more than the literal slaves of Paul's time. The believers were in reality the slaves of their Roman lords, being subject to "the powers that be" (Rom 13:1). And all the poor and middle-class believers (which certainly comprised the majority) were in effect slaves as well: slaves to a cruel, heartless economic system. The natural course would be for a slave or a humble workman to hate his lord, and to "cut corners" and cheat him of his due, or to escape bondage if possible. Paul, speaking God's words, puts this on a much higher plane. We are not just serving ignorant, wicked men. We are at the same time serving GOD in heaven.

"Servants (Slaves), be obedient to them who are your masters according to the flesh... with good will, doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men" (Eph 6:5,7).
And to this agree also Paul's words in Tit 2:9, 10:

"Exhort slaves to be obedient to their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
If the believer were a servant to an unbeliever, his submissiveness would indicate how thoroughly the Truth had affected his life. If he were a servant to a believer, all the more reason to serve diligently in the bonds of love. Practising this on a natural plane will develop the same characteristic on the spiritual plane. We are all slaves of the Lord.

It would not matter if the master treated the slave justly or unjustly. The slave should consider this system as temporary and passing, remembering that Christ has purchased him with his life-blood, promising manifold payment for unquestioning duty (1Pe 2:18-24). The slave should be reminded that at one time he had served in the bondage of a master who was terribly exacting, and who had offered nothing in return. He had once served that fearful power Sin and the wages of the employer Sin was everlasting death (Rom 6:17-23).

Again, turning to the natural, a slave was to be faithful to his master unless his master demanded that he violate a law of God; a man must serve God first (Acts 4:19; 5:29; 1Co 7:21-23).

The yoke is a very significant Scriptural symbol; it is commonly used as the symbol of one's subjection to another whether we are speaking of nations or individuals. The humble sojourners of God's family are under the yoke to the alien world in which they must live. Their profession of faith has made them a reproach and a byword to the scoffers. In the same way their leader Christ was "of no reputation", a man despised and rejected (Isa 53:1,3). And yet our Saviour saw beyond his afflictions of the moment to the glory that would follow because of his enduring firm to the end. And with this in mind he could say:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mat 11:28-30).
This is quite a contrast with the heavy yoke of bondage to the flesh. Though we are slaves of Christ under the yoke, he helps us in our labors. And he promises us the reward:

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2Co 4:17).
The name of God and his doctrine would be blasphemed should the pagan masters of Christian slaves come to believe that their slaves' new faith inculcated discontent and rebellion. We may be slandered or mistreated as persons, but we must not act so as to bring any kind of discredit or infamy upon the Truth itself (Rom 2:24; 2Sa 12:14). We should keep this thought before our minds in all our dealings with the world.

2a, b And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit.

Despise is to 'think lightly of, disregard, or treat with disrespect'. Because a believer is in the employ of a brother of Christ, his responsibility to him is in no way slackened.

But rather do them service is better translated as "But serve them all the more." This is galling to the pride of the flesh; but as the command of God, faithfully obeyed, it is strengthening to the spirit. Anything that contributes to pride and self-satisfaction -- possessions, position, worldly knowledge, power, prestige -- hinders in the Way of Life. Anything that contributes to humility and self-abasement and recognition of weakness and need -- slavery, poverty, low position -- helps in the Way of Life, if accepted in the right spirit.

Faithful simply means "believers" (RSV; NIV), and is so translated above ("believing").

In some translations beloved is translated as the "loved ones" (loved by God, and by Christ). Or, "they are one with them in love"; that is, they share the same love, a love for the one true God and a close bond of love which exists between them. Believing slaves and their believing masters are really "one" -- for they are all the "slaves of God" -- fellow-servants in the same service, the service of men for the glory of God. For them there is "neither bond nor free" (Gal 3:28). This common hope, this united expectation, generates a love of the highest order and greatest purity.

The slaves of believing masters could more directly see the good of their labors, for they were helping those who believed in Christ, their fellow laborers, "those who benefit by your service". They had the words of Christ as an incentive:

"Even as you did this to my brethren, you did it to me" (Mat 25:40,45).

B. 6:2c-5: These Things Teach And Exhort

This sub-section has a strong emphasis upon the character, thoughts and ambitions of false teachers.

These things teach and exhort.

Teach is the command of God, and must be obeyed. Exhort means 'to plead with, urge'. Timothy (as a loving brother) was to ensure that this be done for their own good.

There is some difficulty is placing the stress of these words from the Apostle. Is he referring to all that has gone before? Is he referring only to the slave/master situation? Or could he perhaps be referring to v 6 of this chapter? 'These things teach and exhort, dear Timothy. For godliness with contentment is great gain.' One thing is certain, regardless of the primary inference, and that is to be content with Jesus Christ, whatever position we may find ourselves in. When we find ourselves in the "household" of God, let us accept this wonderful station, and surrender to our only master and obey Him. Let us keep His house free of disturbances and let us keep and guard the rules or ways of the household.

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and unto the doctrine which is according to godliness...

There were undoubtedly some in the ecclesia at Ephesus who were still interested in such temporal, ineffective pursuits as social change and advancement, rather than an acceptance of God's arrangements and a contented "growing in grace and knowledge". The rich and socially-conscious "Laodiceans" of today also serve a "gospel" of civic improvement and fashionable protest.

These men who taught otherwise and did not consent to wholesome words did so by their actions. A man's words do not always reveal his true, deep-down mind; but his actions always do.

The word wholesome is from a Greek word the basic meaning of which concerns the health of the body, and it forms the root of the English word 'hygiene'. It is possible that Paul added this word to his vocabulary because of his long association with Luke the beloved physician. The metaphor was peculiarly suited to the purpose at hand for Paul in writing this letter. In his early ministry Paul had been concerned with building up the body of Christ (Eph 4:12-16), nourishing it from the Word of God (Eph 4:6).

But when the Body matured it faced a new danger. False teachings, or disease germs, began to enter, encouraging wrong belief and wrong behavior -- endangering the spiritual health of the community at Ephesus. (This same thing had happened to the Old Testament "ecclesia", and the result may be seen in Isa 1:5,6). The only antidote to the creeping infection within the Body of Christ was (and is today) a return to sound, wholesome, healthful words.

These words were to be found in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who taught men humility and submission by word and deed: Mat 5:38-43, 26:67; Isa 53:7; and 1Pe 2:20,24.

The word doctrine [in the phrase the doctrine which is according to godliness] may be more appropriately translated as "teaching". This, then we may read as, "the teaching which harmonizes with godliness". Again and again in this letter, we come face to face with the extreme importance of good works. Paul shows us that our walk in the Truth is inseparable from knowledge and that the gospel truth is inseparable from the virtues of meekness, patience, and faith. Anytime we see a professing believer who by his actions, consents not to this advice from the meekest of men, we can rest assured that whatever he has to say (in his loud and pompous manner) is of little use. Whatever amount of true knowledge we have is mirrored in our faithful actions.

He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.

On the word proud or "puffed up" see note at 1Ti 3:6. For "proud, knowing nothing", the NEB has "a pompous ignorance", a translation which can scarcely be improved upon!

Knowing nothing is better translated as "Knowing nothing well". Proud in his own knowledge, but knowing nothing of the "doctrine which is according to godliness" (v 3). It is possible for one to know the tenets of the Truth in a theoretical way, but to be at the same time totally ignorant of its purposes and practices; not able to comprehend the real gospel of love because he is too involved in self. Compare this with 2Ti 3:5: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.

Knowing means 'fixing one's thoughts on'. This person is not only without knowledge, but cannot even think rationally.

Doting about questions continues the medical parallel. If any man rejects healthful words (v 3), he is "doting" (or ailing), and his speculations about unprofitable questions (1:4), rather than strengthening the Body of Christ, are consuming it as doth a cancer (2Ti 2:17).

Noseo ("doting") is here used as the opposite of hugiaino ("sound" or "wholesome", in 1:10; 6:3; 2Ti 1:7,13; 4:3). If a man does not accept the health-giving teachings of Scripture he will necessarily become sick in mind. In this context, he will become sick over questions (zetesis -- debates) and "word-wars"; he will become preoccupied with and, therefore unbalanced by vain academic and intellectual meanderings. For all his arguing and debating he will still be destitute of the Truth. Spiritual sickness often has the outward appearance of cleverness and precision; but such appearances mask the reality as described by Paul elsewhere:

"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth" (2Ti 3:7).
Strifes of words is translated from the Greek logomachia which means 'a word fight, or warring with words'. A variant of this word is found in 2Ti 2:14 where it is translated "to war with words". These are the only two places the word is found. It has well been said that "Words are merely the counters of wise men, but they are the money of fools". Words are only tools which the wise man uses to convey his thoughts. He conscientiously defines and uses his words so that they may mean but one thing. To the foolish and vain man, words are an end in themselves.

This man that Paul speaks of spends so much time in useless debate, he never has time for true reflective thinking. By stimulating strife he creates an atmosphere of mistrust, envy, doubt, and anger, not only in himself but in others as well. He says, "Let's not accept authority; let's question it" -- no matter how devastating the results. So there is constant undermining and an atmosphere of instability.

Much trouble has come to the Truth throughout the centuries due to strifes and debate, quibbling over this or that. Since the Truth's revival, problems have occurred because certain men were not careful with their words or were perhaps unwilling to clarify the meaning of their words or phrases: others building on uncertainty would compound the problem until error developed, and with error came one of three situations:

  1. Division and/or dissension;
  2. Further declension of the truth;
  3. A gentle but firm handling of the situation.
All too often numbers 1 and 2 were (and can be) the results.

We should exercise care that we neither create strife with our words; create strife by "morbidly" questioning other's words; nor judge others unnecessarily by their words. "Strifes of words" have caused some to be driven away by the intolerance of others who would not listen to explanation. How diligent we should be to strike the proper balance!

"Word wars" bring all these situations: envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. They have led brethren to lie, deceive, misrepresent matters -- the way has been left open for "evil surmisings", suspicions, and compromise. "Word wars" set battle lines; sides are chosen -- cliques formed; there are accusations and then counter-accusations, leading to grudges and mistrust.

Railings means 'revilings, slanders, abuse'. Sadly it reminds us of the world of political intrigue, with which no true believer should have any connection.

Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Perverse disputings is a single word in the Greek, used only here in the New Testament. It signifies a "continual friction". This rubbing against, this irritation, serves (by our medical parallel) to keep open the wound first inflicted by the unprofitable question -- so that the gentle salves and bandages of balanced Scriptural teachings may not do their job of healing the infection.

A favorite phrase of Paul in the Pastorals (2Ti 3:8; Titus 1:15) is men of corrupt minds. The medical parallel again: These men's minds are full of corruption. They are "atrophied". Like a withered arm or leg, they have lost the use for which God intended them. And thus corruption of mind will spread to endanger the whole Body of saints. What is the agent by which the corruption begins? The answer is in these verses: above all else, a pride in self which chokes the subservience to God's Word; then a sort of perverted social consciousness which serves to center our mind on the world; and finally the desire for material gain.

"Destitute of the truth" -- Or "deprived of the truth". By giving heed to vain speculations and questions that only promote strife, and by neglecting the simple teaching of "godliness with contentment", these men have deprived themselves of the Truth:

"Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men that turn from the Truth" (Tit 1:13,14).
The word destitute (or "deprived") may be used in a judicial sense. If men continue in the way of ignorance, God may eventually judge them for it, and "give them over to a strong delusion, that they might believe a lie, that they might be damned who believed not the Truth" (2Th 2:11,12). "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" (Rom 1:28).

Supposing that gain is godliness can be translated as "Supposing that godliness is a source of gain". This translation presents the right idea better than the KJV The Gospel is free to all:

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Isa 55:1).
It is to be freely given without thought of recompense. The Apocalyptic letter to Pergamos indicates there was there a class of people (called Balaamites (Rev 2:14; Num 22:17,37) who thought their profession should bring them wealth -- strikingly comparable to today's apostate clerics. Peter wrote concerning these people:

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth, shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgement now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not" (2Pe 2:1-3).
We are bought by God -- purchased with His Son's blood (1Pe 1:18,19). We are His slaves; we cannot sell what we ourselves do not really possess -- ie, salvation comes from God, through Christ. These men tried to sell the Gospel; they tried to misappropriate that liberty which is in Christ Jesus. Acts 8:13-21 tells of Simon, a man who supposed he could purchase the Holy Spirit. Let us note carefully what Peter tells him:

"Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."
Similarly, another class of men thought that righteousness would yield them great present benefits. Thus (in the case immediately at hand) they wanted to persuade the believing slaves (vv 1, 2) that the recovery of their liberty was to be considered a privilege of believers, which they ought to claim as their right. By this same principle, these men sought worldly wealth and present comfort by their religious profession, and as their leading object. Thus they failed to understand, or neglected, God's basic principle of operation: that men must develop their character through adversity and chastisement.

Men intent on personal gain (whether if be riches or position or prestige) will be inclined "to teach things which they ought not, for base gain's sake" (Tit 1:11). If ephemeral gain rather than God's service is their motivation, then attention to present advantage will replace faith and hope in the future.

These men "suppose that gain is godliness" -- or that prosperity is a sign of blessedness, and similarly, that affliction of God's people can only be as punishment. This was the error of Job's acquaintances: no more correct today than it was then. If we think that by our being pious, God will give us such wealth -- then perhaps we should re-examine our motives. God's great purpose is to develop a faithful people through trials and hardships (1Pe 1:7; Job 23:10):

"And ye have forgotten the exhortation that speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. But and if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons" (Heb 12:5,6,8).
And the examples of those sufferings of the faithful fill the eleventh chapter of Hebrews: a "cloud of witnesses" to refute the error that "worldly gain is godliness".

The phrase from such withdraw thyself is omitted in many manuscripts and thus also in most modern versions. However, if we include it in the text, it may mean one of two things:

  1. Paul is cautioning Timothy to withdraw himself from such ideas as the love of gain, and strifes and disputings. Cp v 11: "Flee these things."
  2. Vv 3-5 are one sentence. Reading only the first and last together: "If any man teach otherwise... from such withdraw thyself." We need to be careful not to disfellowship a brother unnecessarily; but such teachings and actions as Paul refers to here may grow to be so troublesome that action becomes essential (1Ti 1:19,20). At any rate, Paul provides us with a rule of thumb which we must sometimes sadly apply: "If any man teach otherwise... withdraw thyself." Cp also 2Th 3:14): "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." And also Tit 3:10: "A man that is an heretick, after the first and second admonition reject."

C. 6:6-10: Godliness And Gain

Paul showed in v 5 that godliness is not a source of gain in the usual sense. However, here he shows that there is a sense in which this notion is true.

Some in Ephesus were confusing the aim and purpose of the Gospel -- which is godliness -- with the aim of present human betterment and improvement of social conditions. This is sacrificing an eternal betterment for a mere temporal one. Their course, even if well-meant, would at best bring only present, external, material betterment; and in striving for present good, they would confuse and lose sight of the eternal purpose.

But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Worldly riches bring with them no guarantee. The only thing worth having in our brief wanderings, the only real "gain" at present is peace of mind. We should be content with whatever our present state might be from a material standpoint, knowing that we have a treasure that "neither moth nor rust doth corrupt" (Mat 6:19,20; Luke 12:33). Paul beautifully reveals to the Philippians the secret of his divine peace of mind:

"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Phi 4:11,12).
and to the Hebrews:

"Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb 13:8).
This contentment or peace or sufficiency was a state of mind that had to come by a process of learning. Jesus said, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart" (Mat 11:29). And of the Son of God himself it is recorded, "He learned obedience by the things he suffered" (Heb 5:8). Chastenings and privations are absolutely necessary for those who seek to be the sons of God.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Phi 4:13). This is the glorious secret of God's plan to which His servants alone have been initiated. Riches and prestige mean nothing. Armaments and political power mean nothing when compared to the power of God, Who can in a moment assemble ten legions of angels (Psa 20:7; Mat 26:53). This wonderful access to the infinite power of the Almighty can be ours, regardless of present circumstance. "When I am weak, then am I strong" (2Co 12:9, 10). When we most fully realize and are impressed with our utter helplessness and dependence on our Father, then are we most strong through the transforming power of His Son. Then we learn truly to "trust in the living God... " (4:10).

How can we consider spending all our precious time in pursuit of the riches that perish? God has guaranteed that if we seek first the kingdom, then everything we need will be given to us (Mat 6:33). Of course, this cannot be used as an excuse for slothfulness -- because among the duties we must perform to God's honor is the providing for ourselves and our dependents (1Ti 5:8). But we cannot let our attentions be always upon attaining a living in this world. And never should our concern be upon bettering our social standing or standard of living. God has promised us a "sufficiency in all things" (2Co 9:8). (The word "sufficiency" is the same as "contentment" in the original.)

God has given us all we need of the world's goods, so that we may devote the greater part of our time and energies working for Him. We need only to appreciate the words of David to know this "godliness with contentment", the marvelous peace of mind in the midst of a world of trouble and uncertainty:

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and He delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand. I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread" (Psa 37:23-25).
Yes indeed, true godliness is a source of great gain, in an assurance which most will never know. Our faith is truly a conviction based upon substance -- a trust in the "Rock": of the wilderness, a heavenly hope transcending worldly baubles. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" (Psa 23:1).

For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

"The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away: blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). Cp the parable of Luke 12:20,21. Cp also Psa 49:17 and Ecc. 5:15 ("As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand." This picture runs throughout the book of the Preacher. The grave is the ash heap of mankind -- in it there is no hope.)

Paul's line of reasoning is obvious. If we could, at death, take our possessions with us into a future state, then there would be at once an end to the "contentment" (v 6) with whatever position we occupy now. This is because the possessions of the future would then in some way be dependent upon this present existence, and what we might eke out of the earth by the sweat of our brow.

Ignorant and superstitious men have believed this fallacy from primitive times. Nearly all ancient cultures bury their dead with the best provisions possible for their trip into the unknown. But those who know the Truth realize man's state in all its stark reality -- of poverty and blindness and weakness. What God gives him now is only a provision for his journey through this life, to be dispensed with (just like a used bus ticket) when the "destination" of death is reached. We are even more helpless at death than we were when we came into the world. Without the hope of resurrection to life man is no better than the animals. Thank God we have hope!

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

Food means 'nourishment' which includes food and drink. Note also the spiritual significance. Christ is the "Word of God" -- the "bread of life" (John 6:48) and the "water of life" (Rev 22:1; John 4:14). What he teaches us of the way of true life is essential nourishment.

Raiment is literally a 'covering', which includes shelter as well as clothing. This might also refer to the other half of our spiritual needs. We need the nourishment of God's Word, and the "covering" -- the robe of righteousness found only in Christ (Rev 3:4,5; 19:8; Eph 4:24; cp also 1Ti 2:10).

With these let us be therewith content. Cp this phrase with Phi 4:11. Here again, as in v 6 "content" is the same as "sufficient". Nourishment and covering are all we truly need.

John the Baptist told a group of soldiers to be "content" or satisfied with their wages. (This is the same root word as the "contentment" in 1Ti). This reference (Luke 3:14) is interesting in view of the fact that Paul in his letter to Timothy is also speaking to "soldiers" (cf vv 11-14). We are offered the wages of inner peace -- that peace which passes all understanding -- and the eternal dwelling in peace which will come through God's mercy and grace. As soldiers clothed in God's armor, warring against sin in our members, what else could we want as wages? No doubt we should be satisfied with what God gives us, as we look back and consider that the only compensation from our previous employer was death (Rom 6:23).

Our fight then, like Paul's, should be motivated by confidence in God -- living for God, satisfied in Him, not worrying about present situations. Could we, like Paul, sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving while bound in prison?

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

In the next two verses, Paul shows that any more than the "sufficiency" of v 8 is an added weight of temptation, something that is best laid aside. We should be thankful if we are "not overly burdened with perishable riches".

It is not only the rich which fall into temptation. This is something that may afflict the poor as well as the rich. Perhaps it troubles them even more so. Notice Paul says will be or "want to be". Rotherham has "who are determined to be". Those poor and weak who fervently wish to be rich or powerful are turning their eyes from the one important goal. So not only are the wealthy brethren liable to this temptation, but so are the poor, who feel compelled to "keep up with the Joneses". A little money, a little "security", only increases their desire for more and more, until all other concerns are blotted out.

It is not the possession of riches that is wrong: it is the trust in riches as a "strong city" (Pro 10:15) that turns us from godliness. Rich men are therefore not told to cast their riches away, but simply not to trust in them (v 17). And elsewhere they are counselled to "make friends" of their wealth by putting it to good use in God's service (Luke 16:9).

A snare is a maze and tangle of conflicting motives. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Mat 6:24). How man can deceive himself! What vanity and self-centeredness and blindness! How can he excuse the groveling passion for base gain as a commendable virtue, as a praiseworthy and healthy enterprise, as a manly making of provision for home and family! And yet every new and useless acquisition pulls him deeper and deeper into the morass -- another useless pampering of self, another idol to add to the "temple" -- until, by little degrees, he is at last worshipping things instead of God.

These snares lead to many foolish and hurtful lusts. There is an instructive progression here, which we must recognize and shun. If we first lack a genuine trust in God that He will provide for us, then we may begin to crave or lust after present wealth and position. And this one desire, "the root of all evil", will lead into another ungodly craving, and another, and another -- pulling us down as into quicksand. We want one impractical and immoral "idol", we sacrifice and work to gain it, and then we immediately want another -- just as flesh-pleasing, just as wasteful. Let us not be like foolish children, hiding in our playpens, amusing ourselves with expensive and frivolous toys, until the urgency of the Truth has completely disappeared from our lives.

These lusts drown men in destruction and perdition. Destruction refers to the ruin of body and mind now, in the blind and ceaseless treadmill of striving to be rich, and then sacrificing God's word, and rushing to "enjoy" the fruits of that wealth. But such men, like the Gadarene swine, know not until it is too late that they are rushing to "drown" themselves in a sea of luxury. And this is inevitably followed by perdition which is the greater ruin, the complete and eternal downfall, the loss of immortality. "Whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:20,21).

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Notice that it is the love of money, not money itself, which leads to evil. This v 10 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible!

The love of money may lead to many other evils. "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (NIV). All sin has its root in the loss of faith, but the loss of single-minded trust in God, leads man to feel that he himself must provide for all his wants. Better to be poor and humble, that we might tend more toward prayer and supplication (1Ti 5:5).

Then, just as now, there were examples among the brethren, of those who had erred from the "godliness with contentment". They had coveted after money and erred from the faith. They had been "seduced" from the faith (as the same Greek word is translated in Mark 13:22). Just as Eve was tempted by the words of the serpent, and led away by her lusts, so they are tempted:

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1Jo 2:15, 16).

"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (James 1:14,15).
Leaving the Truth causes a person to be pierced... through with many sorrows. They make themselves victims to many agonies of mind, many regrets, many gnawings of conscience at wealth gained with the sacrifice of eternal good.

It has been suggested that these last two verses are based on the betrayal of the Lord by Judas Iscariot, who, for the love of silver, delivered up the Master to be crucified. Judas's fate was literally to fall into destruction (Acts 1:18)! The fate of those who follow him is described as being "pierced", or "transfixed", with "pain" or "sorrow" which is from the same Greek word odune. Here, perhaps, is a reflection of the agony of the Lord Jesus as his hands and feet were transfixed by the Roman spikes. Judas may have thought he had gained wealth initially, but he soon realized the worthlessness of the thirty pieces of silver; likewise, his followers, who hasten to be rich, will suffer all the pains of crucifixion, but know none of the glory.

Perhaps Paul is also thinking of David's words:

"Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god" (Psa 16:4).
The imagery used in this verse could also be that of a man who wanders from the straight, direct path of life, to gather some seemingly fair flower growing at a distance from the right road upon which he is traveling. He wanders away and plucks it: and now that he has it in his hands he finds himself pierced and wounded with its unsuspected thorns. Such were the experiences of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, who coveted money and garments -- only to be smitten with leprosy (2Ki 5); and Achan, who hid the goodly Babylonish garment -- and was stoned for his trouble (Josh 7).

D. 6:11-14: Good Fight Of Faith

Paul, in his letter to this same Ephesian ecclesia, where Timothy was, had instructed them in similar military terms, to "put on the whole armour of God, that ye might be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph 6:11). In speaking directly to Timothy, Paul exhorts him (and us) to fight the good fight of faith (cp 1Ti 1:18). And in Eph 6 he describes the weapons to be used in this fight.

The passage in Eph 6:14-17 particularizes the whole armor of God -- the belt, or girdle, or binding together of Truth; the protective breastplate or heart-covering of Righteousness (not self-accomplished, but "It is God that worketh in you" and "We are His workmanship, created unto good works"); feet shod with the "preparation" -- the preparedness -- the eager, enthusiastic readiness to serve the Gospel of Peace -- "How beautiful are the swiftly running feet of him that bringeth good tidings of peace!" (Isa 52:7).

"Above all" the shield of Faith -- belief, confidence, assurance -- the unassailable conviction that God is and that He will unfailingly reward all who diligently seek Him with all their heart. This shield will defend against every attack, every assault of the enemy, all his inflammatory darts of temptation and evil desire, all his shafts of discouragement and doubt.

"And take Salvation for your helmet", or more fully, as in 1Th 5:8, "for an helmet the Hope of Salvation". Why a helmet and a breastplate, if the Shield of Faith is all-sufficient protection? Because "Faith without Works is dead" (James 2:17,20). The head must be enclosed by the hope that Paul says comes by a tested steadfastness, and the heart must be covered by the righteousness that comes from God.

And finally, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. That is the weapon against all the rulership and authority and domination of evil, both within and without. The Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, the one and only weapon of offence -- sharper and more piercing than any literal sword -- searching and dividing between soul and spirit -- between that which is fleshly and that which is of the Spirit (Heb 4:12). Only the Word can discern, and teach us to discern by its insight, our own hearts and motives.

He has mentioned six elements of the armor of God. What is the seventh? That he describes in vv 18,19 -- Prayer.

"Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints."
Another version puts the thought perhaps a little clearer:

"Use every kind of prayer and entreaty, and at every opportunity pray in the Spirit. Be on the alert about it; devote yourself constantly to prayer for all God's people."
Those who bring their lives to this state of devotion will stand approved before Christ. There must be an urgency and intensity about our supplications -- a great consciousness of inadequacy and shortcoming and spiritual need. We may fight the good fight of faith only if we have the backing of our Father in heaven.

Now returning to this section of 1 Timothy, let us first notice the progression of verbs. They picture so precisely the "military operations" of our faith. First of all, there is something to FLEE; "Flee these things" (cf v 11). Often, a tactical retreat is necessary before an army may advance safely. And then FOLLOW (v 11) a new leader, Christ our Lord. We follow Christ, and then we FIGHT (v 12) his fight, and LAY HOLD (v 12) or capture the prize -- our glorious hope. And finally, once we have laid hold upon this hope of eternal life, we must keep it (v 14) firm to the end. What a glorious campaign we fight against the forces of darkness and sin: FLEE, FOLLOW, FIGHT, LAY HOLD, AND KEEP!

But thou O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

Timothy was a man of God. Sometimes we tend to forget that these characters of the Bible, of which we read so often, were just men and women, with the same weaknesses that we have. We sometimes excuse our feeble attempts in contrast to their lives, by telling ourselves how much more favored they were than we. This is utterly wrong! The very reason that we have the examples of these men of faith is so that we may see how much our experiences are the same as theirs. When God through Paul addressed Timothy, "O man", he was speaking for our benefit. And He expects us to obey, just as the ancient worthies did.

The phrase Man of God is used quite frequently in the Old Testament -- of Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, and others. In the New Testament it is found only in the Pastorals, where works are stressed. The "man of God" is such a man only by doing the works of God. Behind the use of the phrase here lies Paul's characteristic thought, that all Christians are in the same relation to God as were the most favored servants of God in the Old Testament. And it is just as incumbent upon all believers to emulate these men of faith -- who showed their faith by their works. We are reminded of the impressive list Paul compiles in Heb 11, of men and women of faith, and of Paul's conclusion to the matter:

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1).
A "Man of God" is a man born from above, not by the will of the flesh nor by the will of man, but the will of God (1Pe 1:23). A believer born of God (James 1:18; 1Jo 5:1), no longer a "man of the world". A man of God, well-stocked with the provisions of Scripture (2Ti 3:17) for the doing of all good works. God's property, bought with a price, with no life of his own. "Yet not I live, but Christ liveth in me (Gal 2:20).

This word flee was chosen to emphasize the dangers involved here. This word in Scripture always signifies a hasty escape from danger, usually danger which brought death. We should not play around on the edge of the cliff, like carefree children without falling; but we should flee far and quickly from any danger of an ungodly walk.

These words were of course written first of all to Timothy. Covetousness of wealth and gain is such a strong temptation, that Paul felt even Timothy needed a special warning. Let us remember Timothy's position. Before, he had been a faithful companion of Paul in his travels, most likely he was the sufferer of hardships, privations, and persecutions. But now, in wealthy and worldly Ephesus Timothy had perhaps attained some measure of personal comfort. Here was the reason he was to be warned: the greater struggle is to overcome comfort. Israel did not turn away from God when she suffered (for then she realized how much she needed Him); but when she abounded, she soon forgot her Maker. When she waxed fat she lost her trust in God and forgot to praise Him as the benefactor. The temptations to sin were nearby, on every hand, and God could more easily be put out of mind in the presence of plenty. So it might have been with Timothy, and might be with us!

"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" (2Ti 2:4).
Many of us are now living in a climate of unprecedented wealth and leisure and "opportunity" (of the wrong sort). Let us not begin to question whether we need God anymore. We need Him more now than we ever did before!

Timothy was exhorted to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness -- Flee one thing, then follow after another. (This contrast of negative and positive is repeated by Paul in 2Ti 21:22 and Titus 2:12.) Carrying out the idea of the soldier's campaign, this word "follow" means to "pursue in order to find or overtake", or "to follow after earnestly". The characteristics of a faithful soldier of God are to be pursued with all the diligence at one's disposal. They never come to one who sits passively and waits. We should emulate the fervent spirit of Jacob, who clung so tenaciously to the angel, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Gen 32:26). In the battle of faith, the evil must be overcome with good (Rom 12:21).

Righteousness is used in a general sense for the inner life of a believer shaped after the law of God. An inner feeling of peace and contentment and conviction which finds its expression in the longsuffering and tireless works of a Paul or a Timothy.

Godliness is the Greek eusebia -- the specific word used so often by Paul in the Pastorals, to speak of good works. [This word has been discussed in the introduction.]

Faith, love and patience are three additional characteristics which Paul urged Timothy to follow after. The comment by James is appropriate here: "knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing" (1:3,4).

Let patience stand in the place of hope -- as the endurance of trials, with the steadfast, immovable expectation of life eternal. "For he is faithful that promised." Then we have here the three cardinal rules in the Truth: "Now abideth faith, hope and love." This is the only 'Trinity' which the true believer will recognize. These three related characteristics so often appear together in Paul's letters, as in 1Co13.

Meekness means 'gentleness of feeling'. In imitation of the meekest of men, the Lord Jesus. A meekness to accept whatever God offers in this life and to be content with it.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, Whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

For comments on the words fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life see Eph 6:11-18 again. Cp 1Co 9:24 ("Run the race") and Phi 3:13,14 ("Press toward the mark for the prize"). The words "fight" in this verse are from a root, from which our English word "agony" derives. The old stirring metaphors of the Greek ideal are here intended, the agonizing Olympic contests for the prize. "Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (endurance) the race that is set before us" (Heb 12:1). Put to death your enemy the flesh by growing in the spirit (Gal 5:16-26). The prize to be gained is a "stephanos" -- an athletic award in the form of an evergreen coronal wreath, which to the spiritual eye symbolizes kingship and life ever new and fresh (Eureka, vol. 1, pp. 386-389). This is the real prize: the "crown of life" (Rev 2:10; James 1:12), and the privilege of reigning as kings and priests with Christ in God's kingdom.

Not long after Paul wrote these words to his young student Timothy, as he sat again in a prison cell about to face death, he was able to say:

"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown ('stephanos') of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2Ti 4:7,8).
Lay hold means to take hold of, to capture, to seize. Eternal life is not now in our possession; instead, we must seek for it (Rom 2:7). We hold firmly to the hope now, and in the great day of judgement we redeem that hope for the real thing.

The phrase whereunto thou art also called is translated by the Diaglott as "for which thou was called out". God has been, for thousands of years, engaged in calling out of the nations a people for His name. (Acts 15:14). We see this plan in the lives of Abraham and his sons, of Moses and the children of Israel, and in the call of the nations to the one hope of Israel.

"Draw me, we will run after thee" (Song 1:4). Jesus said, "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44). "Ye are bought with a price," Paul says (1Co 6:20; 7:23). We each must first be attracted to Christ because of the peace which he offers ("Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" -- Mat 11:28). First comes selection, or our choosing by God (for He chooses each of us for a special purpose, and we are each very important to Him). But we must also come to God by our own free will. Afterward comes the following, the running after Christ. As Paul tells us, "Be ye followers of me, even also as I am a follower of Christ" (1Co 11:1). As sheep, we hear our master's call, and we obediently follow.

Certainly we must note, before passing on, the parallel with Gideon's 300 soldiers -- inasmuch as Paul is definitely speaking here of our holy warfare. When the children of Israel gathered together to oppose the Midianites, God was concerned that the people might be too many -- lest they win and be puffed with pride in their own strength, saying "My own hand hath saved me" (Jdg 7:2). So He commanded Gideon to trim down the number by two means. Firstly, he said, "Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from Mount Gilead. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand; and there remained ten thousand" (Jdg 7:3). This was still too many --

"So he brought down the people unto the water: and the LORD said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, thou shalt set by himself; likewise every one that boweth down upon his knees to drink. And the number of them that lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, were three hundred men; but all the rest... bowed down upon their knees... And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you..." (Jdg 7:5-7).

Of 32,000 men God chose only those 300 (less than one in a hundred) who were alert enough to recognize their true position of danger, who would not take their eyes off the enemy for even one second, and who were ready for battle at all times. These same lessons apply to us today. God is watching us to see our attitude: how do we treat the enemy before us? Do we casually ignore him, while satisfying our own desires? Or do we always remain on the guard, with a mind to discern good and evil? In the final analysis, God will only call those 300 faithful of Gideon. The other 30,000 are but actors on the stage for a few moments. Many are called (initially), but few are chosen (for the actual work, and to receive the soldier's wage). And should it be otherwise? God does not save by many or few. Numbers of men mean nothing to Him. One man may be a more effective instrument in His hand than a hundred men. Let us go bravely into battle, not caring about numbers; nor should we be afraid if our companions, once called, later fall away in fear:

"We will rejoice in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: The Lord fulfill all they petitions... Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Psa 20:5,7).
This good profession (homologia, as in v 13 also) before many witnesses

must have been made at the same time that Timothy was first called to eternal life. This would have been at his baptism. Baptism is the event in which every believer shares in making a public confession of his belief. But we would be negligent if we did not point out how many more opportunities we all have, in daily life and by special efforts, to continue our profession in different ways before many witnesses of the world.

I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession.

I give thee charge means "I command thee", as in 1:3, 18.

For more detail on the phrase in the sight of God -- and Christ Jesus see 1Ti 5:21n.

The word quickeneth is better translated as preserves. The all things refers especially to us, the saints -- 1Ti 4:10). Fight the good fight of faith, always remembering that God stands with us, to support us, to lift us up, to lead us forward.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me" (Psa 23:4).
Before Christ Jesus means 'in the presence of our Lord', our special succourer and advocate (Heb 4:15; 1Jo 2:1).

Christ Jesus stood in the presence of the alien lords such as Pontius Pilate and confessed boldly the same faith as we do, who followed the same course first, as our example.

"Thou sayest that I am a king, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I would bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37).
Christ came into the world, but he was not of this world (Mat 27:11). He had already made that decision, when he refused to weaken to the Satan's offers of worldly wealth and power (Mat 4:8-10). And he remained faithful to that decision during the next three years. He preferred instead the "godliness with contentment" which is "great gain" (v 6), and this is what he professed and exemplified.

Just as Jesus made his faithful witness before Pilate and then endured the humiliation and agony of the Cross (which is called a "baptism" in Luke 12:50), so the candidate for baptism must first make his confession and then undergo baptism, which is itself a showing forth of Jesus' death (Rom 6:3).

That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The commandment is to "fight the good fight of faith" -- the one, all-encompassing command to which this entire letter has been dedicated: a patient, trusting struggle. The word keep is tereo -- meaning to 'watch, guard, preserve'. It is aorist imperative, which indicates that the statement is given with military curtness.

Without spot echoes the theme of the Song of Songs. The ecclesia is the multitudinous Bride of Christ, of which her spouse says, "There is no spot in thee" (Song 4:7). Paul's discourse upon marriage in the letter to the Ephesians is based upon this ideal -- the perfection of the Bride through the life and sacrifice of Christ:

"Christ loveth the ecclesia, and gave himself for it... that he might present it to himself a glorious ecclesia, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:25, 7).

But Christ has not done all our work, though we continue to benefit from his work. We need to do more than just lean upon Christ and depend on him to do all. We need to work ourselves, to try to keep his commands properly and to keep ourselves "without spot" (Jam 1:27; 2Pe 3:14).

Timothy was exhorted to be unrebukeable. Some who had not kept the spirit of the commandment had already been "rebuked" (1Ti 1:18-20). What a warning to contemplate!

The great expectation of the early ecclesia was that Christ would shortly appear in person -- 2Ti 4:1; Tit 2:13; 2Th 2:8. The great apostasy mentioned in 4:1-5 corrupted this glorious hope by degrees, treating it as a doubtful speculation, and then as a profound allegory, and at last as a damnable heresy. As the soldier of God fights the fight of faith, he keeps his eyes firmly upon that certain future, when Jesus Christ "shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom" (2Ti 4:1).

E. 6:15,16: Glory To God

This is the second interjection of praise to God. One is in 1Ti 1, the other in 1Ti 6. Paul begins and closes this letter with the thought, "Honour to God". (This is the significance of Timothy's name -- see 1Ti 1:2n.) These two verses emphasize that "God is light".

Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

The words his and he refer to Christ (cf v 14) who at a predetermined time shall shew or reveal God by his earthly reign (cp 1Ti 2:6n). When the proper time for the coming of the Saviour, ordained of old, had at last arrived, then "the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Christ brought the light of God's knowledge to men (2Co 4:4,6), teaching them to glorify God and preaching of the kingdom to come, when all the earth will be filled with God's glory (Num 14:21). And this kingdom will assuredly come, even though some scoffers ask, "Where is the promise of his coming?" -- 2Pe 3:4. When Christ returns from his Father's right hand, to be glorified with his brethren, then our hope will become reality, and our riches (our lives) that have been hid will be manifest (Col 3:3,4). What use is there in playing among a few trinkets now, in view of the fact that Christ will come shortly, bringing us all things that we could hope for? The calm realization that God will certainly manifest this salvation in His Son in the near future is a great step toward that "godliness with contentment" of which Paul has been speaking. God was (is) in Christ reconciling the world. God revealed Himself in His Son and will do so again.

God is the blessed and only Potentate. The One God is the only real Power. God is blessed because He is the fountain of all blessings, the source and giver of our life and breath, from whom comes the glorious gospel of hope (1Ti 1:11). God is the only Potentate, the only power, the only ruler. Even Christ must say, "Of mine own self I can do nothing" (John 5:19, 30; 8:28).

The title The King of Kings, and Lord of Lords is pre-eminently God's title. There are Old Testament parallels in Deut. 10:17; Psa 136:3; Dan 4:34. Christ may bear it (Rev 17:14; 19:16), but only as the manifestation of his Father. God is King over those men styled kings, and Lord over all whom men call lords in this age and in the age to come.

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

For more detail on the phrase Who only hath immortality -- cp 1Ti 1:17. Again it is referring to the Father, God Almighty. God only has underived immortality. God brought to light, or made possible, the way to immortality through His Son (John 3:17; 10:10, 26, 28) by the gospel (Mark 16:15,16; Rom 1:16). Men do not have immortality, as they must seek for it (Rom 2:7).

God Almighty dwells in the light which no man can approach unto. Paul is contemplating a heavenly scene of splendor impossible for human eyes to behold. Yet the Father purposes to manifest His glory also upon earth through the corporate body of Christ. Even upon earth the reflection of effulgent light (through the medium of His chosen ones -- the Cherubim of Eze 1:28) will be, at times, far too dazzling for mortal sight. They will shine like the stars of heaven (Mat 13:43; Dan 12:3), just as Christ does (Mat 28:3).

If the saints, who as the "moon" only reflect God's resplendent glory, can nevertheless shine so brightly themselves, how much more does their Father, "Who covers Himself with light as with a garment" (Psa 104:2). This no doubt also refers to the fact that God is not confined by our concept of time and space.

The Father is a wonderful being Whom no man hath seen, nor can see. God is called "invisible" in 1Ti 1:17. Much sport has been made of the Bible by shallow men who claim to see a contradiction in this. They read such passages as Exo 33:11 to prove that Moses saw God (Elohim) face to face, but they neglect other passages like Acts 7:35, which show that the angels were God's messengers to communicate with man:

"Behold, I send an Angel before thee... Beware of him, and obey his voice... for My name is in him" (Exo 23:20,21).
God could direct one of His angels so that the angel became in effect God. Cp, for example, Gen 32:30 with Hos 12:3-5. Abraham was said to have talked to God, but a careful look at Gen 18:1,2; 19:1 shows that he dealt only with angels.

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him" (John 1:18).
Confined by our current limitations we cannot physically see God. Tainted by our sinfulness we cannot bear to see Him in His resplendent purity.

If men wish to know God, they may know Him through His Son, who has revealed Him (v 15).

F. 6:17-19: Riches In Heaven

These verses resume the theme of vv 7-10. The natural desire and tendency of men is to accumulate money and possessions, for various real and supposed motives of "taking care of their own" or doing great and spectacular things for the Truth. This, if we are not very careful, leads again to confusing gain with godliness. God's work is primarily with the poor and He chooses weak and poor instruments for the purpose that the glory may be of God and not of man. After speaking earlier of those who desire to be rich, Paul now turns to those who are already rich.

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.

Those that are rich in this world may be "rich in this world", but not necessarily rich in the world to come. There were a few wealthy believers in the first century, especially in Ephesus, although they were the exception rather than the rule (1Co 1:26). As said before, it is not in itself a sin to be rich, but it is the occasion of sore temptation (v 9).

Paul asks Timothy to charge the rich in the ecclesia that they be not high minded or "haughty" (RSV), "arrogant" (NIV), foolishly proud, feeling that the chance of their having money makes them better than their poorer brethren. Notice what Paul says:

"Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits" (Rom 12:16).
In fact, if a brother has by his own effort accumulated great wealth, he may have reason to feel inferior to his poorer brethren, for he may have neglected those things which are most needful.

The words uncertain riches are perhaps better translated as the uncertainty of riches. Jesus' parables often speak of this pride and this trust of rich men in their riches. In one such parable, Jesus begins:

"Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15).
The rich man spoken of here thought that the protection of the inheritance was essential to his life, but Jesus says that a man's life does not consist in wealth; a man is what he is, not what he has. True wealth is measured by our Father in the degree of our closeness to Him; or, in the words of Jesus in concluding the parable, in being "rich towards God". To know God is life; to know His saving truth is to possess a "treasure". True riches are those things which are pleasing to God. In rare cases a man may have earthly riches and so regard them that they do not interfere with his hold on the "true riches". Abraham is an outstanding case.

On the other hand it does not follow that poverty is a virtue, for a poor man can be eaten up with covetousness as much as a rich man, and so also miss the real wealth. Yet it remains true as a general that "the poor" tend to appreciate the gospel more than the rich who, because of their possessions, are too busy enjoying the present life to be concerned with a future.

"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry" (Luke 12:16-19).
This man had no thought for others. He could have used his abundance to help many. He had no thought that the fruitful seasons which had made him rich were due to the rain from heaven and the power of each seed having life and that these were matters beyond his ultimate control. Behind his prosperity was the power of God. He heeded not the warnings: "If riches increase, set not thine heart upon them" (Psa 62:10). "The prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Prov1:32).

God made an assessment of the man: "Thou fool" -- clear, and emphatic, and true; for the folly was apparent in that he had not power over his own life, when that was required of him. He was planning for "many years" ahead, but God said "this night". What then of his plans, his barns, his fruits, his goods? They ceased to be his -- they were only his till the lease expired; wealth cannot buy off death. "No man can redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom that he should not taste of death" (Psa 49:7). The rich man, used to finding in his wealth the key to all doors, stands helpless before the door of the Kingdom of God.

The issue might be focalized in this way. At the judgment, when a man is stripped of all that men consider to be riches, is he then "rich" or "poor"? (Rev 3:17). God reveals that man's state and his end: "Thou fool!"; and Jesus says, "So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:21).

Paul now asks Timothy to exhort the brethren about the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy -- the living God of Christ, in contrast to the dead gods and goddesses of Ephesus:

"But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them" (Psa 115:3-8).
Let us never think that idols are of no concern to us. This very thing of which we have been speaking, the love of money, is a terrible kind of idolatry (Col 3:5).

These sayings declare plainly enough that earthly riches may fly away and only the treasures of the spirit are permanent. But these riches are also the very symbols for the world around us, in which men set their hearts. And those whose hearts are in the world (who worship the world as an idol) are as doomed to perish as the world order to which they belong: they, like it, will consume away like smoke. The only worthwhile "store" must be laid up with God.

The Psalms speak of God as "laying up" a store for the righteous (Psa 31:19). If their desire is set on this divine treasure, then they will have "treasure with God", and the "godliness with contentment" in this life. But God may store judgment for the future as well as goodness and a man's own life determines what kind the store shall be. So men may be said to lay it up by their own actions:

"Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death" (Pro 11:4).
As he does in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul constantly draws the contrast between the senselessness and weakness of the idols and the omniscience and omnipotence of the one true, living God. God has the power to give us all things -- temporal and eternal (1Ti 4:8). This reminds us of 4:3: Paul thinks again of those apostate teachers who condemn some foods as unclean, while at the same time hastening after all that "clean" money!

That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.

The benefit of the rich man's goods is in its spending (for worthwhile purposes), not in its hoarding! Again, and again the same theme: good works, godliness, is not some monastic contemplation; it is a striving among the bustle of the world to do the will of God, actively, eagerly, lovingly. It is the seeking for the place where one's possessions or talents might be best used to the glory of our Father.

Ready to distribute means many things -- "Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality" (Rom 12:13). "Pursuing hospitality", entertaining strangers (Heb 13:2), "given to hospitality" (1Ti 3:2). "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2).

Willing to communicate means to be liberal, "willing to bestow" (Diaglott), generous in giving. Communicate is from the same root word as "fellowship" (koinos). This word signifies a having in common (Acts 2:44), a sharing with one another, both in material possessions and in sympathies:

"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" (Rom 12:15).
It is one thing to share one's goods from a cold sense of duty and quite another thing to share material goods and warm, loving, spiritual sympathies at the same time. "Fellowship" is much more than meeting together on Sundays to break bread. "Fellowship" is much more far-reaching. It enters into every aspect of our lives. In each thing that we do, we are either doing it in the fellowship of God's Truth and His children, or in the fellowship of the world.

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Paul has been thinking upon Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal" (Mat 6:19,20; cp Luke 18:22).
Men think they make lasting provision when they lay up a store of valuable clothes, supplies of food, or a hoard of money. But moths may destroy the fabrics, insects and rodents corrupt the grain, and thieves may burrow through the mud walls and steal the gold. The saying covers all the forms in which wealth is customarily hoarded; none of them is safe.

Not only does God lay up treasure for those who are God-fearing, but they are a treasure to Him. "They shall be mine". He says... "a peculiar treasure" (Mal 3:17). This is the thesis of Malachi's message that the true Israel are "they that fear the Lord" and who alone are written in His book of remembrance; and it deliberately recalls the use of the same expression at the beginning of Israel's national history (Exo 19:5). They are chosen as God's prized possession. But it is Abraham's seed by faith who are truly God's treasure; and so Peter writes to those "sojourners of the Dispersion" who are "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ"; and in the language of the law and in the spirit of the prophet he says: "But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye should show forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1Pe 2:9).

These are the Lord's "inheritance", a term which is used of Israel of old (Exo 34:9; Psa 33:12). And Paul, applying the Old Testament language to spiritual Israel, can write to the Ephesians of "the riches of the glory of God's inheritance in the saints" (Eph 1:18). But if they are the Lord's inheritance, He also is theirs. "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage" (Psa 16:5,6). The words are those of the spirit of Christ in the Psalms, but what is true of him is true also of those who are "in him".

In the light of these sayings of the Psalmist we can feel the force of the Lord's words, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mat 6:21). The heart will turn as surely as the needle of a compass toward what it really values. No amount of outward religious performance will change its direction for long if the world is its attraction. But if God is our prized possession, then to Him our hearts will be drawn; and He is the only possession which can never perish, and can ensure that the possessors will never perish either. We cannot pretend that delight and a sense of wealth in God come easily to human nature; only a long and constant direction of the mind can bring the consciousness of that precious treasure, that "godliness with contentment". Paul advises us:

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth, For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col 3:2,3).
Life is our treasure; and our treasure, like our citizenship, is in heaven (Phi 3:20).

Eternal life is translated by the RSV as "life indeed". Linked with the similar phrase in v 12, the thought is this: there is a life now, and if men are not careful they will come to feel that this is the only important life. All their making of provisions will be with this in mind. They will forget about the future, that which is really life -- the only life that does not finally reward us with pain and sorrow and death.

Solomon speaks of God "laying up" sound wisdom for the righteous.

"He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path" (Pro 2:7-9).
It needs to be stressed here (or else a misconception may arise) that man cannot, by his own self-centered labors, lay up this store which will guarantee him eternal life. This was the mistake of the Pharisees, who leaned upon the letter of the Law, but failed to keep its spirit and were condemned thereby. And it may be our mistake today.

We must rely upon our Father in Heaven. We have to beseech Him for assistance and then He will work through us. He will give us the "sound wisdom" we need, not the knowledge that puffs us up in our self-importance (1Co 13:4), but the simple and practical wisdom to guide us in our day-to-day works. Then we shall, but only with God's help, attain to that true "godliness with contentment".

G. 6:20a: The Truth

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust

Perhaps this is an allusion to the parables of the talents and the pounds (Mat 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27). In the parables, money is deposited to the trust of the disciples as though to a bank, for the purpose of earning "usury" or interest. Christ has given each of us the Truth and we must utilize it to the best of our ability, not casting it aside to decay through negligence, nor neatly storing it away in a white napkin!

What a poignant picture we have here! What an uplifting example to stir us from our lethargy! Paul, the aged, with no family of his own, is beginning certainly to feel the approach of death. He knows his days are numbered, and that he has "fought a good fight" (2Ti 4:7). Will those whom he leaves behind carry this fight forward, or will they allow the gospel of Christ to languish without strong and resolute warriors? As the apostle John was to say in his declining years, Paul also "had no greater joy than to hear that his children walk in the Truth" (3Jo 1:4). Paul's most fervent desire, as he neared the end of his sojourn, was that Timothy his own son in the faith (1Ti 1:2) would keep that trust committed to him and would in the end lay hold on the prize of eternal life. May we do the same, following the examples of all those faithful ones that have gone before.

H. 6:20b-21a: Apostasy To "Science"

The last mention in this letter of that glorious gospel is followed by a final mention of one of the false teachings, which was a nullification of the pure and simple Truth. Of the false conceptions mentioned here there is much evidence today, in the Body as well as outside.

Avoid profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.

Profane and vain babblings were useless and profitless disputes (cp 1Ti 1:4,6).

Developments at Ephesus, and other ecclesias, led to new heresies which Paul calls science falsely so called. John's first letter (90 AD) was written to correct serious error that was developing among the ecclesias. John does not name the error, but the general opinion is that it was an early form of Gnosticism. The full growth of this heresy did not come until the second century, but its earliest forms had been revealed before John, and it is here mentioned by Paul to Timothy, when he warned him to be on his guard against the "oppositions of science (Greek 'gnosis') falsely so called".

The theory of Gnosticism threatened the ecclesia from within and constituted a more seductive and dangerous doctrine than persecution from without. The apostle John wrote to counteract the influence of a so-called "higher form" of "knowledge" that challenged the foundation of faith. The peril came not from men who were out to destroy the Truth, but from those who thought that they were improving it by loosening its restrictions and whose aim was to make it "intellectually" respectable.

By the time John wrote (towards the end of the first century), many members of the ecclesias were second or even third generation believers, and this is also the case today in regard to the most recent revival of the Truth. Then, as now, the pioneering spirit was being set aside and more and more time was being given to mere speculation upon minor points (1Ti 1:4).

Jesus had warned of this: "The love of many shall wax cold" (Mat 24:12). By John's time, as today, the first thrill of the early establishment of ecclesias had faded, and, in many instances, the early flame of zeal had dimmed to a flicker. John ministered at Ephesus, Timothy's ecclesia, and Christ warned this very ecclesia: "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (Rev 2:4).

Therefore, while Paul and John always exemplified that great love for their brethren, they also manifested a stem attitude toward those who would undermine the faith with their theories. In describing them, Paul uses such words as "heretics", "blasphemers" and "hypocrites"; and John is even stronger: "liars", "seducers", "false prophets", "deceivers", and "anti-Christs". In this way they wrote, in the abundance of their love, though it must have appeared to some as extreme harshness.

The Greek word gnosis signifies "knowledge", and the Gnostics claimed to be "knowing ones". However, the form of knowledge they embraced did not constitute a greater understanding of the Bible, or a growing in "godliness". Gnosticism was not, like some heresies, an open enemy of the Truth. It professed to give its approval and patronage to the gospel. But the Gnostics professed to have a better way than Christ and the apostles. They said that the Scriptures did not need to be taken historically and literally and it was not necessary to believe that the Scriptures contained all that was essential to eternal life. The philosopher whose mind was enlightened by a greater knowledge from other sources need not trouble himself much about his conduct. Righteousness was of no account in comparison with his new illumination. It is a matter of indifference what the human body does. We can certainly understand how such a liberal philosophy was so much in contrast to the righteousness of the pastoral letters, where good works are seen as the evidence of our faith.

Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.

In contrast to the "profession" of vv 12,13, some brethren profess their own crotchets, their own self-satisfying theories, while others profess the pure and simple faith, and live their lives by its commands. Have erred means "have missed the mark", an active, knowing sin (1Ti 1:6).

I. 6:21b: Conclusion

Grace be with thee. Amen.

In the phrase grace be with thee the text should probably read "you" (plural) rather than thee (singular) -- as in 2Ti 4:22 and Tit 3:15. This would mean that the letter was designed for others beside Timothy.

Paul concludes as he has begun, with the prayer for grace from God (1Ti 1:2). This is the grace that God offered to Paul, to Timothy, and to all the brethren at Ephesus, and lastly to us. This is the grace which leads a man to serve God in sincerity and truth.

We must keep bringing ourselves back to this -- the simple, personal work of each individual, day after day.

The Truth is a very simple, individual, personal thing, passed on in joyful zeal from person to person, radiated in personal example, personal dedication and personal holiness.

Look at the example of Christ. Look at the example of Paul. This was the living power that swept the Roman Empire in the early centuries. All the might of Caesar's legions could not stand against an humble little band of believers who marched under the banner of their Lord. And this is the work which by God's grace we must carry forward -- each individual one of us in this our brief "day of salvation".


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