John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
1 Timothy 6
INTRODUCTION TO 1 TIMOTHY 6
In this chapter the apostle gives some instructions to servants; lays down some rules, by which to judge of false teachers; advises to contentment; exposes the sin of covetousness; exhorts Timothy to avoid sin, and follow after things that are good, to be constant in his warfare, the issue of which would be eternal life; gives him a charge with respect to himself, and orders him what he should enjoin others, particularly the rich, and what he should do himself; and wishes grace unto him, to enable him to discharge his duty. The instructions to servants are of two sorts; first, to such who had unbelieving masters, whom they ought to honour and obey; that the name and doctrine of Christ be not evil spoken of: and then to such as had believing masters, that they despise them not being brethren, but should the more cheerfully serve them; because believers in Christ, beloved of God, and partakers of his grace; which duties are worthy to be insisted upon in the Gospel ministry, 1 Timothy 6:1, and such who teach not these things are to be accounted false teachers, whose characters are given in several particulars; as men unsound, proud, ignorant, quarrelsome, and covetous, and to be withdrawn from, 1 Timothy 6:3. And from hence the apostle exhorts to contentment; and argues for it, partly from the gain of it along with godliness; and partly from the consideration of what men are, when they come into the world, and what they will be, when they go out of it; and also from having food and raiment, which include all the necessaries of life, 1 Timothy 6:6. And then he exposes the folly and danger of covetousness, being the root of all evil; an enemy to true religion and godliness; and the cause of ruin and destruction, 1 Timothy 6:9. Wherefore he addresses himself to Timothy, in particular, to avoid everything of this kind; and to follow the reverse of those things that were in the false teachers; to fight the good fight of faith, and then lay hold on eternal life; to which he encourages him, from his calling, and the profession he had made, in a very public manner, 1 Timothy 6:11. And then follows a solemn charge unto him, given him before God and Christ; that he would observe what had been commanded him in the most perfect manner, until the appearance of Christ; which is certain, and may be concluded will be, from the various epithets of God; who will make him manifest in his own time, 1 Timothy 6:13. To which is added an injunction on Timothy to charge rich men not to be elated with their riches, nor trust in them, since they are uncertain things; but in God, from whom they have received such a plentiful measure of them; that they be beneficent to others, which will turn to their own advantage in the issue, 1 Timothy 6:17. And to close all, he is very urgent upon Timothy, to keep the Gospel pure and uncorrupt, he was intrusted with; and avoid everything that was opposite to it, as profane and mere babbling, and having only a show of knowledge, but not that itself; and the rather, since some profane teachers and professors of the Gospel had erred from it: and concludes with wishing him grace, to enable him to attend to the several instructions which had been given him, 1 Timothy 6:20.
Let as many servants as are under the yoke,.... Not under the yoke of the law of God, or under the yoke of Christ; though the servants here spoken of were under both; but "under the yoke of government", as the Arabic version renders it; that is, under the yoke of men, in a state of servitude, under the government of masters, and in their service; being either apprentices to them, or bought with their money, or hired by them:
count their own masters worthy of all honour; and give it to them; which includes subjection to them; obedience to all their lawful commands, which are consistent with religion and reason, with the laws of God, and with the light of nature; and all reverence of them, and respect unto them, expressed by words and gestures: and all this is to be given to their own masters to whom they belong; who have a property in them; whose money or goods they are; and that be they what they will, as to their religion and temper; whether they be believers or unbelievers; or whether they be good and gentle, kind and humane; or whether they be froward, peevish, and ill natured:
that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed; by unbelieving masters, who, should their believing servants be refractory, disobedient, rebellious, or disrespectful, would be apt to say, what a God do these men serve? is this their religion? is this the Gospel they talk of? does their doctrine teach them such things, to be disobedient to their masters, and carry it disrespectfully to them? does it disengage them from the laws of nature, and dissolve the bonds of civil society, and destroy the relation that subsists between man and man? If this be the case, away with their God and their doctrine too. Wherefore the apostle exhorts, that if believing servants have any regard to that name they are called by, and call upon, and to the doctrine of the Gospel they have embraced and professed; that they would be obedient and respectful to their masters; that they may have no occasion to speak reproachfully of God, and of the Gospel.
And they that have believing masters,.... That believe in one God, in opposition to the Gentiles, that held many gods, and in Jesus Christ, in distinction from the Jews; who believed in him with the heart, and professed him with their mouths, and held the mystery of faith in a pure conscience. What is said before, is said to servants that had unbelieving masters; who would be ready to blaspheme, should they act amiss. Servants were under a snare both ways, through the insinuations of false teachers; who suggested, that their servitude was not consistent with their Christian liberty; that they ought not to serve wicked men, because being called of God, they were advanced above them; nor good men, because they were upon a level with them. But the apostle teaches another doctrine;
let them not despise them, because they are brethren; of the same family named of Christ, and of the same household of God, and of faith, and have the same father; for though with regard to spiritual blessings, privileges, and ordinances, they were equal; yet not with regard to temporal and civil affairs; and therefore should not treat them with less respect, or be more backward to obey their lawful commands, on that account:
but rather do them service; more heartily, and with a greater good will, as to the Lord; these masters belonging to him, and being engaged in his cause; which they, their servants, by yielding a cheerful obedience to them, are assisting in: and the rather,
because they are faithful; in lesser things, in giving to them, their servants, what is just and equal, proper food and suitable raiment, and their just wages; and in using their wealth and riches in a good way, for the interest of Christ, the assistance of the poor saints, and the spreading of the Gospel; and so in greater things, by holding fast the profession of their faith, adhering to Christ, his truths and ordinances: or "because they are believing, or believers"; it is the same word as before used; and therefore they should be precious to them, and high in their esteem; for faith is a precious grace, and such as have it are chosen of God, and precious:
and beloved; of God, who had chosen them to salvation; and of Christ, who had redeemed them by his blood; and of the saints, who are taught of God to love one another; and this is another reason why they should be served, and not despised; and a third follows:
partakers of the benefit; of the free grace of God; of redemption and salvation by Jesus Christ, and of all spiritual blessings in him; and therefore should serve them the more cheerfully. The Syriac version renders it, "such as enjoy rest in", or "are refreshed by their service"; or "by their service to them", as the Arabic version: the sense is, that when believing servants serve their believing masters readily and faithfully, their masters are well pleased with them, delight in their service, and consider it as a benefit to them, and a kindness done them; and which therefore should animate and encourage them to serve them. Some understand these characters of
faithful and beloved, of the servants' themselves; that because they are such; therefore they should serve, and not despise their believing masters; and particularly the last clause, which may be rendered, "who in return receive a benefit from them", as food, raiment, and wages; and besides, they are used with humanity and kindness, and in a manner becoming Christians; to which agrees the Ethiopic version, which renders it, "who will receive and help you"; will take care of you, and assist you, and supply you with what is proper and necessary:
these things teach and exhort; the Syriac and Arabic versions add them; the servants. The apostle was not above instructing and exhorting persons of such a capacity, and in so low a state of life; and it became Timothy to do so likewise; and every minister of the word.
If any man teach otherwise,.... Or another doctrine, as the Syriac version renders it; a doctrine different from what the apostle had now taught, concerning the duty of servants to their masters; as did the false teachers, who despised dominion or government; not only civil government, and so spoke evil of rulers and magistrates; and church government, and therefore reviled the apostles, elders, and pastors of churches; but family government, and encouraged disobedience to parents and masters; see 2 Peter 2:10
or teach another doctrine, from that of the Bible, of Christ and his apostles:
and consent not to wholesome words: such as the doctrines of the Gospel; they are food to the saints, milk for babes, and meat for strong men; they are sweet and savoury food to a spiritual taste; they are nourishing, and the means of a spiritual growth; they are salutary and healthful; they have no corruption, taint, or poison in them:
even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ; the doctrines which he preached when on each, who was anointed with the Spirit of God without measure, to preach the Gospel, and by whom all the doctrines of grace and truth came; or the doctrines relating to Christ, to his person, offices, grace, righteousness, sacrifice and satisfaction; to what he is, has done, does, and will do.
And to the doctrine which is according to godliness. The whole Gospel is the mystery of godliness; it is the truth that is after it, and it has a tendency to promote true godliness in heart and life: even such is the nature of the more distinguishing doctrines of it, which are charged with licentiousness; as the doctrine of eternal and personal election; for though it is not of works, but of grace, yet holiness is a means fixed in election, and an end secured by it; it is the source and spring of all real holiness; holiness of heart is an evidence of it to believers themselves; and holiness of life is an evidence of it to the world; nor can anything more powerfully engage men to it than the consideration that they are chosen of God to grace and glory. The covenant of grace, which is absolute and unconditional, provides for both internal and external holiness; and the promises of it, under the influence of grace, powerfully operate in the minds of believers, to the cleansing of them from all impurity of flesh and spirit, and to the perfecting of holiness in the fear of the Lord: and so the doctrines of free justification, by the righteousness of Christ, which does not make void the law, nor discourage good works; and of Christ's bearing the sins of his people, and making satisfaction for them, that they being dead to sin might live unto righteousness; and of redemption of them by the blood of Christ from sin, Satan, and the law, which is done that they might be a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and of the effectual calling of them, which is with an holy calling; and of their final perseverance in grace and holiness, are all of them doctrines according to godliness, and greatly encourage and promote it: now, whoever does not accede to these truths, and acquiesce in them, but differs from them, and teaches the reverse of them, he is a false teacher, and is all that the apostle says in the next words.
He is proud,.... Or swelled and puffed up with a vain conceit of himself and his own notions, and treats with an haughty air the faithful ministers of the word. The doctrines of grace are of an humbling nature, especially when they are spiritually and experimentally understood and received; but notional knowledge, knowledge of natural things, and the doctrines of men, such as are of their own invention, fill the mind with pride and vanity:
knowing nothing; as he ought to know; not anything that is solid and substantial; nothing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: he may have knowledge of natural and civil things, but not of spiritual ones; he may have collected a medley of knowledge together, but what will be of no real use either to himself or others:
but doting about questions and strifes of words: or he is "sick or diseased"; his mind is distempered; he is like one in a fever, that is delirious; his head is light and wild; his fancy is roving, and he talks of things he knows not what; his head runs upon "questions"; foolish and unlearned ones, about the law and works, and the necessity of them to justification and salvation; concerning genealogies, and other fruitless and unprofitable subjects:
and strifes of words; mere logomachies; contending and quarrelling more about words than things, which tend to no profit, but to the subverting and confounding of hearers. The ill effects of which are as follow:
whereof cometh envy: at the superior gifts and talents of others; at their success, and any little degree of honour and respect they have from others; which shows that such men, in whom this vice is a governing one, are carnal men, for this is a work of the flesh; and that they are destitute of charity, or the grace of love, which envieth not: also from hence comes
strife; contention, quarrelling; the peace and comfort of particular persons, and even of whole communities, are broken and destroyed hereby; for foolish and unlearned questions gender strifes, 2 Timothy 2:24 which are very unbecoming the servants of the Lord, and very uncomfortable to the churches of Christ: yea, these also produce
railings; at one another, and especially at the faithful ministers of the Gospel; for when the false teachers cannot overcome them by Scripture and argument, they fall to railing and reviling of them: or entertain
evil surmises; groundless suspicions: or from hence follow, as the words may be rendered, "wicked opinions": concerning the being, perfections, purposes, and providence of God; concerning the person and offices of Christ; concerning the law and Gospel, grace and good works; and so the Syriac version renders it, "an evil opinion of the mind".
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds,.... Who being corrupt in their principles, and corrupters of the word of God, dispute in a very froward and perverse way, rubbing and galling one another, and so provoke, to wrath and anger, and, every evil work:
and destitute of the truth of Christ, who is the truth, knowing nothing of him spiritually and savingly; and of the Gospel, the word of truth; and also of the truth of grace, being carnal, sensual, and having not the Spirit of God.
Supposing that gain is godliness; such were Simon Magus and his followers, and other false teachers, who made merchandise of men, looked everyone for his gain from his quarter, and acted as if there was nothing in religion but worldly profit and gain; these served themselves, their own bellies, and selfish interests, and not the Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore the apostle gives the following advice to Timothy, and through him to all ministers and churches,
from such withdraw thyself: do not come near them; have nothing to do with them; do not lay hands on them, or admit them into the ministry; do not suffer them to preach, or encourage them by hearing them: if in the church, cast them out; have communion with them, neither in a civil nor in a religious way; avoid all conversation with them. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions omit this clause; it is wanting in the Alexandrian copy, and in Beza's Claromontane Exemplar, but is in other copies.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. By "godliness" is not meant any particular grace, but all the graces of the Spirit of God; as faith, hope, love, fear, &c. the whole of internal religion, as it shows itself in outward worship, and in all acts of holiness of life and conversation; and which the doctrine that is according to godliness teaches and engages to; and this is gain, very great gain indeed. A man possessed of true godliness is a gaining, thriving, man: such as are godly, or truly gracious, they are come into good and happy circumstances, and are possessor of the true, solid, satisfying, durable, and unsearchable riches of grace; all their debts are paid, they are richly clothed, and deliciously fed, and are in a good family, even the household of God, who before were in debt, arrayed in rags, were in a starving condition, and strangers and foreigners; yea, they are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, and have both a right and a meetness for the heavenly inheritance; they are now made kings and priests to God, and, in the present state of things, have God to be their portion, and exceeding great reward; they have an interest in Christ, and in all spiritual blessings in him, and have the Spirit as the earnest of their future inheritance; they are rich in faith, and in good works; their souls, which were lost, are gained, and shall be saved with an everlasting salvation; and ere long they will be possessed of all the riches of glory, signified by a house not made with hands, a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, an incorruptible inheritance, and a kingdom and glory: how great is the gain of godliness! And what adds to this gain, and now goes along with it, is "contentment"; for this is not to be considered as the condition of godliness being great gain, as if it was not so without it; but as the effect of godliness, what that produces, and as a part of its gain. The word here used signifies "sufficiency"; and so it is rendered in the Vulgate Latin version: it designs a competency of the good things of this life; and what that is, is expressed in 1 Timothy 6:8 and such God gives to them that fear him, his godly ones, who shall lack no good thing convenient for them; for godliness has the promise of this life, as well as of that which is to come; and God does give to such all things pertaining to life and godliness, even all things richly to enjoy. The word indeed properly signifies "self-sufficiency", which in its strict sense, only belongs to God, who is "El-Shaddai", God all-sufficient and self-sufficient; but here it intends such a sufficiency as a man himself judges to be so; for this phrase does not so much design the thing itself, which is a sufficiency, as the opinion, the sense which the godly man has of it, who himself judges it, as Jacob did, to be enough; and such a man is content with what he has, and thankful for it, submits quietly to the will of God, and patiently bears every adverse providence: and this is now the fruit and effect of godliness, or true grace, and is a considerable part of that gain which godliness brings with it; and such a man is a happy man indeed, let his circumstances be what they will. The Jews have a saying
"he is a rich man whose spirit rests in, or is contented with his riches;'
that is, as the gloss explains it.
"who rejoices in his portion, be it little or much: thus, though godliness is not gain, nor gain godliness, in the sense of the false teachers, yet is it true gain in a spiritual sense.'
For we brought nothing into this world,.... Which is a reason both clearly showing that godliness is great gain, since those who have it brought nothing into the world with them but sin, and yet are now in such happy circumstances as before described; and that godly persons should be content with what they have, even of worldly things, seeing they are so much more than they had when they came into the world, into which they came naked; and which should be a quieting consideration under the most stripping providences; see Job 1:21
and it is certain we can carry nothing out: as men come into the world, so will they go out of it; nor will they need their worldly substance after death, any more than they did before they were born; and what they now have, and use not, will then be lost to them, whatever gain it may be to others: wherefore it becomes them cheerfully to use what they have, and be content therewith; see Ecclesiastes 5:15. The Jews have a saying like this
"as a man comes (into the world), בחליטין, "simply" or "nakedly", so he goes out in like manner.'
And having food and raiment,.... "Food" includes all things necessary to be ate and drank, of which there is a great variety, and is here expressed in the plural number; and "raiment" every necessary covering, as the word used signifies, and includes an habitation, which is a cover and shelter from the inclementencies of the weather. And now having all these comforts and necessaries of life, food to eat, and drink to extinguish thirst and refresh, raiment to put on, and a house to dwell in,
let us be therewith content: there is very good reason why the saints should be content; since more than these things cannot be enjoyed; and these they have with a blessing, and as a fruit and token of the love of God to them; these were all that Jacob desired, Agur petitioned for, and Christ directs his disciples daily to pray for; and which to have, is to have enough, a proper sufficiency and competency: the words may be rendered, "we shall be content with them"; which the apostle could say for himself, Timothy, and others, who had been content, even when they wanted these things. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, "we are content"; and the Syriac version, "food and raiment are sufficient for us"; and so the apostle sets himself, and others, as examples of contentment to be imitated and followed.
But they that will be rich,.... Not they that are rich; for some rich men are good men; and do much good with their riches; and are as free from temptations and snares, and foolish and hurtful lusts, as other persons, as Abraham, Joseph of Arimathea, Gaius, and others were; but such that would be rich, who labour after, make haste for it, and are resolved upon it, at any rate, right or wrong, as there be thousands, who never attain to it; so that the apostle does not point at rich men particularly, but at such who are determined to be rich, whether they ever are so or not: these
fall into temptation; not in such sense in which the phrase is used in James 1:2 but in such sense as Christ uses it, Matthew 6:13 namely, a falling into temptation to sin, so as to be drawn away by it, and overcome with it:
and a snare; the Vulgate Latin version reads, "the snare of the devil", and so Beza's Claromontane copy; which perhaps is taken from 1 Timothy 3:7, and though this seems not to be the genuine reading, yet it may give the true sense: Satan may be compared to a fowler; his temptations to sin are his nets and snares; and they that will be rich, are the birds that are caught and entangled therein, out of which sometimes it is impracticable to extricate themselves:
and into many foolish and hurtful lusts; carnal and worldly lusts, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, which are the things that are in the world and draw the affections to them; yea, what sin is there but such persons may, and do fall into; as defrauding of the neighbour, oppressing the poor, lying, perjury, theft, murder, rapine, violence, and injustice of every kind? so that they may be said to be "many", and some of them are "foolish". All sin is folly, and every wicked man is a foolish one, and acts a part quite contrary to reason; but some evil ways are notoriously silly, weak and foolish, and which they that will be rich make use of to get money; though others of them are sly and artful enough, and all of them are "hurtful" to their credit and reputation, or to the health of their bodies, and especially to the welfare of their immortal souls. So the phrase יצריהון טפשא, "their foolish lust", is used by the Targumist in Ezekiel 20:25 and the corruption of nature in general is by the Jews called the old and foolish king, in Ecclesiastes 4:13. They ask
"why is he called a king? because all obey him; why is he called old? because he is joined to him (a man) from his birth to his old age; and why is he called כסיל, "foolish?" because he teaches him an evil way, which he knows not how to warn him of again.'
Which drown men in destruction and perdition; that is, in utter ruin, in the ruin both of soul and body; and which is irrecoverable, like that of the drowning of a man in the sea, with a millstone about his neck; such folly and danger do those expose themselves to, who will be rich at any rate.
For the love of money is the root of all evil,.... Of all the evils before mentioned, and of others; not money itself, as silver and gold, which are God's creatures, and his gifts, and may be used to, and answer many good purposes; but the love of it, and not any love of it; for there may be a lawful love of it, and desire after it, so far as it is requisite to the necessaries of life, to answer the calls of Providence, the duties we owe to God and men, to serve the interest of Christ, and do good to fellow creatures and fellow Christians: but it is an immoderate insatiable desire after it, and an inordinate love of it, which is here meant, such as is properly idolatry: as when a man loves it, not only besides, but above God; serves it as if it was God, and places his trust and confidence in it, independent of God, and his providence; such love of it is the source and spring of all iniquity, as above; it was the sin of Judas, and the root of all his iniquity. The phrase is Jewish. So idolatry is said to be עיקר כל עונות, "the root of all iniquities"
which while some coveted after; in a greedy and insatiable way:
they have erred from the faith; the doctrine of faith. Observing that the professors of it are generally poor, they have declined that path, and have not so much as heard the word; and if they have heard and embraced it, yet when persecution arises because of it, they drop their profession of it; or else their minds are so filled with worldly cares, and deceitful riches, that the word is choked, and becomes unprofitable, and by and by, Demas like, they forsake it, having loved this present world.
And pierced themselves through with many sorrows; riches are therefore fitly compared to thorns, which give great trouble and uneasiness, both in getting and keeping them; and oftentimes the reflection upon the unlawful ways and means made use of to obtain them, gives very pungent pain and distress; see Job 20:15. The apostle seem to allude to the Hebrew word בצע, used for a covetous man, which signifies one that pierces, cuts, and wounds, as such an one does both himself and others.
But thou, O man of God,.... Not only by creation, as every man is; nor merely by special grace, as everyone is, that is chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit; but by his peculiar office, as an evangelist and minister of the word, being qualified for, and devoted to, and employed in the service of God. The phrase is taken out of the Old Testament, where the prophets, Elijah and Elisha, are so called, 2 Kings 1:9,
flee these things; the Arabic version reads "these abominations"; namely, all questions and strifes of words, from whence so many evils follow, 1 Timothy 6:4 and all worldly gain, selfish interest, and mercenary views in religion; a wicked resolution to be rich, at any rate, and an immoderate love of the things of the world, and an eager pursuit after them, which expose to great danger, and even utter ruin; things very unbecoming any professor of religion, but much more a minister of the Gospel.
And follow after righteousness; not for justification before God, that he had followed after, and attained unto, which is the righteousness of Christ, and not of the law; but for the honour of religion before men; and intends the doing of justice between man and man, giving everyone their own, which in undue affection for the world sometimes leads men from:
godliness; spiritual religion, holiness of heart, and conversation, which has the promise of this life, as well as of the other, and with contentment is great gain; wherefore to pursue this is much better than greedily to run after the riches of this world, or with the false teachers to suppose that godliness lies in worldly gain, or in securing to a man his worldly interest:
faith; the grace of faith, which looks not to things seen, which are temporal, but to things not seen, which are eternal; and leads off the mind from sublunary enjoyments to God, and Christ, and the glories of another world; and is the leading grace to all others, and the foundation of good works, without which there is no pleasing in acts of moral righteousness, or in any acts of religious worship, which may be called godliness:
love; to God, which is inconsistent with serving mammon, or with an immoderate love of money; and to Christ, which will put a man on seeking, not his own things, but the things of Christ; and to the saints, which will direct him to serve them by acts of beneficence and liberality:
patience; in bearing reproaches and indignities; in suffering injuries, loss of goods, imprisonment, and every sort of persecution, for the sake of the Gospel; which a covetous disposition will not admit of: last of all,
meekness; or humility, not seeking great things, but being content with a lower station of life; for generally it is pride that puts men upon a determination to be rich at any rate: it may also design meekness in instructing the ignorant, in refuting error, and in reproving offenders.
Fight the good fight of faith,.... The apostle suggests to Timothy, that he had other business to do than to mind the things of this world; his life was a state of warfare; he was a soldier, and was not to entangle himself with the things of this life; he had many enemies to engage with, as Satan, and his principalities and powers; sin, and the lusts of the flesh; the world, and the men of it, and a great fight of afflictions to endure with them; as also false teachers, with, whom particularly he was to fight the good fight of faith, that so the truth of the Gospel, which they resisted, might continue with the saints. This fight is called "the fight of faith"; partly in opposition to the law, and to מלחמתה של תורה, "the fight", or "war of the law" the Jews
lay hold on eternal life; as Timothy for his encouragement is here bid to do. Eternal life is the prize of the high calling of God, which is held up, and held forth to those who are fighting the Lord's battles; and this they should look unto as the recompense of reward; and this they may lay hold upon, even now by faith, believing their interest in it, their right unto it, and that they shall enjoy it; of which they may be the more assured, because of their effectual calling:
whereunto thou art also called; not barely by the external ministration of the Gospel, in which sense many are called, but few chosen and saved; but internally, by the special grace and power of the Spirit of God; and such who are so called, are not only called to grace, but to eternal glory; and the God of all grace, who has called unto it, of his sovereign good will and pleasure, is faithful, and will bestow it. The word "also" is left out in the Alexandrian copy, and in the Vulgate Latin, and in all the Oriental versions; but it seems to be emphatic, and is used to strengthen Timothy's faith, as to the enjoyment of eternal life; since it was not only the reward of grace, following upon the good fight of faith, but was that also to which he was called by the grace of God:
and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses; both before the brethren at Lystra, at his baptism and admission into the church, before whom he gave an account of his faith, and made a profession of it; and who, upon this, and his agreeable life and conversation, gave a good report of him to the Apostle Paul, Acts 16:1 and before the apostle, and the rest of the elders, when they laid their hands on him, whereby an extraordinary gift was conveyed unto him, 1 Timothy 4:14 or it may be before the men of the world, some violent persecutors, before whom he bravely, and with great intrepidity, professed his faith in Christ Jesus; and which he continued constantly to do, in every place wherever he came; and which being done so often, and so publicly, is a reason why he should keep on till the battle was over.
I give thee charge in the sight of God,.... Who is omniscient and omnipotent:
who quickeneth all things; all creatures, for all animate creatures have their life, motion, and bring in him; and who quickeneth all his people, at first conversion, when dead in sin, and afterwards when dull and lifeless; and who will quicken the dead at the last day. This seems to be mentioned to strengthen Timothy against the fears of death, that should he die in fighting the Lord's battles, he was able to raise him from the dead, and would do it.
And before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; or rather "under Pontius Pilate"; or, as the Arabic and Ethiopic versions render it, "in the time of Pontius Pilate"; for this may refer not only to the confession Christ made in his presence, at his examination by him, when he owned himself to be a King, declared the nature of his kingdom, and signified that the end of his incarnation was to bear a testimony to the truth; but it may also refer to the faithful, plain, and open witness Christ bore to truth throughout the whole of his ministry, under Pontius Pilate, by his doctrine and miracles, and at last by his sufferings and death, which he endured under him; and this is mentioned for Timothy's imitation, and to encourage him, and all other saints, to hold fast the profession of their faith to the end.
That thou keep this commandment,.... Meaning either what he had now last of all enjoined him, to fight the good fight of faith; or the whole of the orders he had given him throughout the epistle, relating both to the doctrine and discipline of the house of God; or rather the work and office of preaching the Gospel, which was committed to him by the Holy Ghost, and enjoined him by the commandment of the everlasting God: and this the apostle, before God and Christ, charges him to observe and keep, in the following manner,
without spot, and unrebukeable; the sense is, that he would discharge his ministerial function with all faithfulness and purity; that he would sincerely, and without any adulteration, preach the pure Gospel of Christ; and that he would so behave in his life and conversation, that his ministry might not be justly blamed by men, or he be rebuked by the church here, or by Christ hereafter: and this he would have him do,
until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; to judge the quick and dead at the last day, and which will be very illustrious and glorious. Now Christ is hid from the eyes of men, but to them that look for him he will appear a second time in great glory; in the glory of his Father, and of his own, and of the holy angels; and when his saints will appear with him in glory: and this the apostle the rather mentions, since every man's work and ministry will then be made manifest; this bright day of Christ's appearing will declare it, and everyone must give an account of himself, and his talents, unto him: and this shows that the apostle did not design this charge, and these instructions, for Timothy only, but for all other ministers of the Gospel, till the second coming of Christ; though this was then, as now, so much unknown, when it would be, that it could not be said but Timothy might live unto it.
Which in his times he shall show,.... For though the time of Christ's appearing is unknown, yet the thing itself is certain; God will bring it about, and make it manifest in his own time, in the time that is fixed and appointed by him; and which is only known unto him, and which he keeps in his own power, and has reserved in his own breast:
who is the blessed; the Syriac version reads, "the blessed God"; who is blessed in himself, in his Son and Spirit, in the perfections of his nature; who is God all-sufficient, has enough in himself for himself, and for all his creatures; who is the fountain and the author of all blessedness, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, which any of them are, or shall be possessed of:
and only Potentate; or Governor of the whole world, which can be said of none but himself: he is the Governor among the nations, and over all the nations of the earth; his kingdom rules over all other kingdoms; and he has his power and government from himself, whereas all other potentates have their power from him, as follows:
the King of kings, and Lord of lords; from whom they receive their sceptres, crowns, and kingdoms; by whom they reign, and are continued in their power; for he sets up kings, and removes kings at his pleasure, and to him they must be accountable for all their administrations another day; and at present they are under his influence, and at his control; he has their hearts, and their counsels, as well as kingdoms, in his hands, and under his overruling providence; and causes all to answer his wise and eternal purposes. These titles are used by the Jews, who style him, אדון כל האדונים מלך על כל המלכים, "Lord of all lords, King over all kings"
Who only hath immortality,.... Angels are immortal, and so are the souls of men, and so will be the bodies of men after the resurrection; but then neither of these have immortality of themselves, they have it from God; who only has it, of himself, originally, essentially, and inderivatively.
Dwelling in that light which no man can approach unto; in this present, frail, and mortal state; yea, angels themselves cannot bear the lustre of it, but cover their faces with their wings; for God is light itself, as well as clothes himself with light, as with a garment; and is the Father and fountain of lights to all his creatures.
Whom no man hath seen, nor can see: nowhere but in Christ, at least spiritually and savingly; and that but very imperfectly in the present state: the sin, frailty, and mortality of human nature must be taken away, in order to inherit the kingdom of God, and enjoy the beatific vision of him; which saints in heaven have, who see him as he is, and in such sort as no man now does, or can see him:
to whom be honour and power everlasting, Amen. Which may be considered either as a wish, that such honour, power, and glory might be ascribed unto him, as we supply it; or as an assertion that it is given to him, as it is by the angels, and by the saints in heaven and in earth.
Charge them that are rich in this world,.... Or in the things of this world. The Arabic version reads, "in this present world": in distinction from the world to come: some are poor in this world, and rich in another; others are rich in this world, and poor, and wretched, and miserable in the world to come: some are rich in both worlds, and such were at least some of those the apostle here refers to, who were members of the church at Ephesus, which was a rich city, and some rich men in it were called by the grace of God; and to distinguish these from others, who, though poor in this world, were rich in grace and in spiritual gifts, he so calls them; as well as to observe that their riches were like the world they were in, deceitful, empty, unsatisfying, and perishing: these the apostle would have not only spoke to, instructed, exhorted, and entreated, but strictly charged and commanded, without paying any regard to their worldly grandeur and riches,
that they be not high minded; the Ethiopic version reads, "that they be not lifted up in this world"; with their wealth and worldly substance, and look down from the height of their honour and riches with contempt upon the poor, entertaining high thoughts of themselves, as if their bodies were of another matter and make, when they have all one Maker, are of one blood, and of the earth, earthly, and must return to it; or as if their souls were more large and capacious, and they were wiser and more knowing, whereas riches are not always to men of understanding, a fool may be rich, and a wise man poor; or as if they were the peculiar favourites of heaven, when, for the most part, God chooses and calls the poor of this world; or as if others were unworthy of their looks, company, and conversation. Riches produce pride; rich men are apt to be proud of themselves, and despise others; and therefore this evil is taken notice of, as what they are to be cautioned against, and charged to the contrary:
nor trust in uncertain riches; or "in the uncertainty of riches"; they are here today, and gone tomorrow; no man that is possessed of them can be sure of them a moment; they make themselves wings and flee away; he that gives them, can take them away at pleasure: and there are various ways by which they are suddenly, and at once taken from the owners of them; as by loss in trade, by shipwreck, by inundations, by fire, by thieves, &c, and yet men are apt to promise themselves a continuance of them, and to have their dependence upon them, and place their trust and confidence in them, yea, even good men; and that very much to the neglect of, and disregard to the providence of God, which is always best and safest in every circumstance and station of life to depend upon, as follows:
but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; almost every word carries in it an argument or reason why he should be trusted, because he is God, and not a creature; the "living" God, who has life in himself, essentially and originally; is the author, giver, and maintainer of life in others; and who always is, ever continues unchangeably the same: and "giveth all things"; every good gift comes from him; all the gifts of nature, and bounties of Providence; and as he gives, he can take away, and therefore should be only regarded; and he gives all things "richly", largely, and plenteously; what is necessary and convenient, and abundantly more than men deserve: and that "to enjoy"; not to lay up, but to use for support, refreshment, and pleasure, though not to abuse.
That they do good,.... Rich men sometimes do much ill to themselves, to the hurt of their bodies, by luxury, intemperance, and debauchery, and to their souls, to the ruin of them; and to others by fraud, oppression, and violence; for it is in the power of their hands to do much evil, and also to do much good, as they should; and much is required of them, since much is given them to do good with, and for which they are accountable: it becomes them, and especially such as believe in Christ, to do every good work in general, and to do acts of beneficence in particular, both to all men, and to the household of faith.
That they be rich in good works; or abound in the performance of them, as Dorcas is said to be full of good works and alms deeds; and to reckon that their true riches lie more in the exercise of grace, and in the fruits of it, doing good works, than in their worldly enjoyments. The phrase seems to be Rabbinical. Frequent mention is made of עשיר בתורה, "rich in the law", and עשיר במצות, "rich in the commandments"
Ready to distribute; unasked; and when they are asked, do not turn away, and put off, but give at once, and without grief, and with cheerfulness; want no arguments to press them to it, nor use any against it.
Willing to communicate; of their good things to the necessities of the poor, making them common to them, and them partakers of them. Some render the word "sociable", in opposition to that moroseness, stillness, and those haughty and forbidding airs, with which rich men are apt to treat the poor, when they should be affable and courteous to them, and admit them to a free conversation with them.
Laying up in store for themselves..... Laying up a treasure in heaven, which will be for themselves to enjoy to all eternity; whereas what they lay up here is for others, for their children or friends, and sometimes for strangers, and they know not who, whether for a wise man or a fool, yea, even for enemies: so it is said of King Munbaz, when he dispersed his father's treasures to the poor, his brethren and friends came about him, complaining of it; to whom he said
"my fathers treasured up below, I treasure up above. My fathers treasured "up for others", I treasure up לעצמי, "for myself"; my fathers treasured up for this world, I treasure up for the world to come.'
So it follows here,
a good foundation against the time to come; by which is meant, not a foundation of happiness, for that is laid already, and by God himself; and much less by doing acts of beneficence is that foundation laid; for there is no other foundation of happiness, life, and salvation, that can be laid, besides what is laid, which is Jesus Christ: nor is the apostle speaking of laying a foundation here, to build upon, but of laying up a foundation in heaven, by which he intends happiness itself; and which he calls a "foundation", because it is solid and substantial, permanent and durable, in opposition to the uncertain, precarious, transitory, and perishing enjoyments and treasures of this life; and
good, because profitable, when the laying up of worldly riches is often to the hurt of its owners, and will be useful, when they will not profit; and besides, will always continue, and be a foundation that will always support them, and never give way: now to lay up this is no other than to seek those things which are above, to show a concern for them, and to set the affections on them, and live in the comfortable hope and expectation of enjoying them. The phrase is the same with that in Matthew 6:19 and takes in a regard to spiritual riches, the riches of grace flow, such as sanctifying, justifying, and pardoning grace through Christ; which will be a good foundation
against the time to come; and will give both a right and meetness for the enjoyment of the heavenly treasures, which will be for futurity, even to all eternity.
That they may lay hold on eternal life; not by way of merit, but as the free gift of God, which the riches of grace give a title to, and a fitness for; and which shall be laid hold upon, and enjoyed by all that seek the true riches. The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, read, "true life"; for the present life is rather a show, an appearance of life, than life itself.
Keep that which is committed to thy trust,.... That is, the Gospel, see 1 Timothy 1:11 which is a rich treasure put into earthen vessels, and ought to be kept pure and uncorrupt, and faithfully dispensed, and diligently preserved, that so it may be continued genuine and sincere, and not be either adulterated and depraved, or be taken away by false teachers. And it may also include his gifts for the ministration of it, which were to be kept in use, and stirred up, and not neglected, but cultivated and improved to the advantage of the church, and of the interest of Christ:
avoiding profane and vain babblings; about the law, and circumcision, and other things, which the false teachers insisted much on, and amused their hearers with; and which were vain, empty, useless, and unprofitable talk. Some copies, and so the Vulgate Latin version, read, "profane newnesses of words"; or new words, which ought not to be introduced, for they often bring in new doctrines: the form of sound words, the wholesome words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, should be held fast; and especially all new words should be avoided, which are contrary to them, or in the least weaken them, or detract from them.
And oppositions of science falsely so called; the false teachers boasted of their science and knowledge, but it was not true, solid, spiritual, and saving; it was not an experimental knowledge of the Gospel; it was not the excellent knowledge of Christ, which has eternal life connected with it; it was merely notional and speculative; it was idle, empty, and useless, mere Pagan philosophy, and vain deceit, upon which they formed antitheses, or oppositions and objections to the truths of the Gospel; and even opposed themselves, and the word of God, as well as the faithful ministers of it.
(Knowledge is not determined by a "show of hands". Even though the majority of people believe something, that does not make it true. The majority today do not believe in Noah's flood, 2 Peter 3:4. It was so in Noah's day also, but the unbelievers all drowned! Many fervently believe in evolution and try to compromise the scriptures with it. This verse stands as a stark warning to those who do not try everything through God's Word. Isaiah 8:20 Editor.)
Which some professing,.... Pretending to be masters of the above science, boasting and making great show of it, and valuing themselves upon it:
have erred concerning the faith: have wandered from the way of truth, and gone into the path of error; have fallen from the doctrine of faith, and made shipwreck of it, and become entire apostates: from the danger attending vain jangling, the use of new words, the profession of a false science, and making objections from it against the truth, does the apostle dissuade Timothy from them, since they generally issue in apostasy.
Grace be with thee. Amen. This the apostle wishes to him, that he might be enabled to discharge every branch of his duty he had pointed to him in this epistle, and to keep him from all evil, and every false way, and preserve him safe to the kingdom and glory of God. And which he doubted not but would be his case, and therefore puts his "Amen" to it. The Alexandrian copy and Arabic version read, "grace be with you. Amen".
The first to Timothy was written from Laodicea, which is the chiefest city of Phrygia Pacatiana. This last clause is left out in the Alexandrian copy and Syriac version; and indeed, in the apostle's time, Phrygia was not known by such an appellation as "Pacatiana", which was given it some years after by the Romans; and which shows, that the subscriptions to the epistles are not only of human authority, but of later date, at least some of them. The Arabic version calls it the metropolis of Phrygia, and leaves out "Pacatiana"; and one of Beza's manuscripts, instead of "Laodicea", reads "Macedonia", from whence, as from Philippi, or some other city there, he thinks it was written; and several learned men have been of opinion that it was written from Philippi.
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