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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 6

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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Analysis Of The Chapter

This chapter 1 Timothy 6:0 embraces the following subjects of counsel and exhortation:

(1) The kind of instruction which was to be given to servants; 1 Timothy 6:1-5. They were to treat their masters with all proper respect, 1 Timothy 6:1; if their masters were Christians, they were, on that account, to serve them with the more fidelity, 1 Timothy 6:2; and any opposite kind of teaching would tend only to stir up strife and produce dissatisfaction and contention, and could proceed only from a proud and self-confident heart.

(2) The advantage of piety and of a contented mind; 1 Timothy 6:6-8. The argument for this is, that we brought nothing into the world, and can carry nothing out; that our essential needs here are food and raiment, and that, having enough to make us comfortable, we should be content.

(3) The evils of a desire to be rich 1 Timothy 6:9-10 - evils seen in the temptations to which it leads; the passions which it fosters, and the danger to religion itself.

(4) An exhortation to Timothy, as a minister of religion, to pursue higher and nobler objects; 1 Timothy 6:11-16. He was:

(a)To avoid these worldly things; he was.

(b)To pursue nobler objects. He was to follow after righteousness, and to fight the good fight of faith. To do this, he was to be encouraged by the assurance that the Great and only Potentate would, in due time, place the crown on his head.

(5) The duty of those who were rich - for it is supposed that some Christians will be rich - either by inheritance, or by prosperous business; 1 Timothy 6:17-19. They are:

(a)Not to be proud;

(b)Nor to trust in their riches so as to forget their dependence on God;

(c)To do good with their property; and,

(d)To make their wealth the means of securing eternal life.

(6) A solemn charge to Timothy to observe these things, and not to be turned from them by any of the arguments and objections of pretended science; 1 Timothy 6:20-21.

Verse 1

Let as many servants - On the word here rendered “servants” - δοῦλοι douloi - see the notes on Ephesians 6:5. The word is that which was commonly applied to a slave, but it is so extensive in its signification as to be applicable to any species of servitude, whether voluntary or involuntary. If slavery existed in Ephesus at the time when this Epistle was written, it would be applicable to slaves; if any other kind of servitude existed, the word would be equally applicable to that. There is nothing in the word itself which essentially limits it to slavery; examine Matthew 13:27; Matthew 20:27; Mark 10:44; Luke 2:29; John 15:15; Acts 2:18; Acts 4:29; Acts 16:17; Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Jude 1:1; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 2:20; Revelation 7:3. The addition of the phrase “under the yoke,” however, shows undoubtedly that it is to be understood here of slavery.

As are under the yoke - On the word yoke, see the notes on Matthew 11:29. The phrase here properly denotes slavery, as it would not be applied to any other species of servitude; see Leviticus 26:13; Dem. 322, 12. ζεῦγος δουλοσύνης zeugos doulosunēs. Robinson’s Lexicon. It sometimes denotes the bondage of the Mosaic law as being a severe and oppressive burden; Acts 15:10; Galatians 5:1. It may be remarked here that the apostle did not regard slavery as a light or desirable thing. He would not have applied this term to the condition of a wife or of a child.

Count their own masters worthy of all honour - Treat them with all proper respect. They were to manifest the right spirit themselves, whatever their masters did; they were not to do anything that would dishonor religion. The injunction here would seem to have particular reference to those whose masters were not Christians. In the following verse, the apostle gives particular instructions to those who had pious masters. The meaning here is, that the slave ought to show the Christian spirit toward his master who was not a Christian; he ought to conduct himself so that religion would not be dishonored; he ought not to give his master occasion to say that the only effect of the Christian religion on the mind of a servant was to make him restless, discontented, dissatisfied, and disobedient. In the humble and trying situation in which he confessedly was - under the yoke of bondage - he ought to evince patience, kindness, and respect for his master, and as long as the relation continued he was to be obedient. This command, however, was by no means inconsistent with his desiring his freedom, and securing it, if the opportunity presented itself; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 7:21; compare, on the passage before us, the Ephesians 6:5-8 notes, and 1 Peter 2:18 note.

That the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed - That religion be not dishonored and reproached, and that there may be no occasion to say that Christianity tends to produce discontent and to lead to insurrection. If the effect of religion had been to teach all who were servants that they should no longer obey their masters, or that they should rise upon them and assert their freedom by violence, or that their masters were to be treated with indignity on account of their usurped rights over others, the effect would have been obvious. There would have been a loud and united outcry against the new religion, and it could have made no progress in the world. Instead of this, Christianity taught the necessity of patience, and meekness, and forbearance in the endurance of all wrong - whether from private individuals Matthew 5:39-41; 1 Corinthians 6:7, or under the oppressions and exactions of Nero Romans 13:1-7, or amidst the hardships and cruelties of slavery. These peaceful injunctions, however, did not demonstrate that Christ approved the act of him “that smote on the one cheek,” or that Paul regarded the government of Nero as a good government, - and as little do they prove that Paul or the Saviour approved of slavery.

Verse 2

And they that have believing masters - Masters who are Christians. It is clear from this, that Paul supposed that, at that time, and under those circumstances, a man might become a Christian who had slaves under him. How long he might continue to hold his fellow-men in bondage, and yet be a Christian, is, however, quite a different question. It is quite clear, from the New Testament, as well as from facts now, that God may convert people when pursuing any kind of wickedness. The effect of religion, however, in all cases, will be to lead them to cease to do wrong. It is by no means improbable that many of those who had owned slaves, in accordance with the prevailing custom in the Roman empire, may have been converted - for the fact that a man has been living a life of sin does not prevent the possibility of his conversion. There is no evidence that Paul refers here to any who had bought slaves after they were converted; nor is there any intimation of any such transaction among Christians in the New Testament. Nor is there any intimation that he regarded it as right and best that they should continue to hold slaves; nor that he would approve their making arrangements to persevere in this as a permanent institution.

Nor is it to be fairly inferred from this passage that he meant to teach that they might continue this, and yet be entitled to all the respect and confidence due to the Christian name, or be regarded as maintaining a good standing in the church. Whatever may be true on these points, the passage before us only proves that Paul considered that a man who was a slaveholder might be converted, and be spoken of as a “believer,” or a Christian. Many have been converted in similar circumstances, as many have in the practice of all other kinds of iniquity. What was their duty after their conversion, was another question and what was the duty of their “servants” or slaves, was another question still. It is only this latter question which the apostle is here considering.

Not despise them, because they are brethren - Not treat them with any want of the respect which is due to their station. The word here used sometimes denotes “to neglect,” or, “not to care for;” Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13. Here it is not necessary to suppose that it denotes actual contempt, but only that want of respect which might possibly spring up in the mind if not well instructed, or not on its guard, among those who were servants or slaves. It was to be apprehended that the effect of the master and the slave having both embraced religion, would be to produce in the mind of the servant a want of respect and deference for his master. This danger was to be apprehended from the following causes:

(1) Christianity taught that all people were made of “one blood,” and were by nature equal; Acts 17:26. It was natural, therefore for the slave to infer that by nature he was equal to his master, and it would be easy to pervert this truth to make him disrespectful and insubordinate.

(2) They were equal to them as Christians. Christianity taught them that they were all “brethren” in the Lord, and that there was no distinction before God. It might be natural to infer from this, that all distinctions in society were to be abolished, and that, in all respects, the slave was to regard himself as on a level with his master.

(3) Some, who did not well understand the nature of Christianity, or who might have been disposed to cause trouble, may have taken advantage of the undeniable truths about the equality of people by nature and by redemption, to produce discontent on the part of the slave. They may have endeavored to embitter the feelings of the slaves toward their masters who held them in bondage. The effect, it is easy to see, may have been to lead those who were in a state of servitude to manifest open and marked disrespect. In opposition to this, the apostle would have Timothy teach that Christianity did not rudely assail the existing institutions of society, and especially did not teach those who were in subordinate ranks to be disrespectful to these above them.

But rather do them service - That is, serve them with more cheerfulness and alacrity than they did before the master was converted; or serve them with the more cheerfulness because they were Christians. The reasons for this were, because the master was now more worthy of affectionate regard, and because the servant might look for better treatment at his hands; compare notes on Ephesians 6:6.

Because they are faithful - That is, “because” they are “believers,” or are Christians - πιστοί pistoi; the same word which in the beginning of the verse is rendered “believing.” It does not here mean that they were “faithful” to their servants or their God, but merely that they were Christians.

And beloved - Probably, “beloved of God;” for so the word is often used. As they are the friends of God, they who are servants should show them the more respect. The idea is, simply, that one whom God loves should be treated with more respect than if he were not thus beloved; or, a good man deserves more respect than a wicked man. In all the relations of life, we should respect those above us the more in proportion to the excellency of their character.

Partakers of the benefit - That is, the benefit which the gospel imparts - for so the connection requires us to understand it. It cannot mean, as many have supposed, that they were “partakers of the benefit of the labors of the servant,” or enjoyed the fruits of their labors - for how could this be a reason for their treating them with the more respect? It would be rather a reason for treating them with less respect, because they were living on the avails of unrequited toil. But the true reason assigned is that the master had been, by the grace of God, permitted to participate in the same benefits of salvation as the servant; he had received, like him, the pardon of sin, and he was to be regarded as a fellow-heir of the grace of life. The expression here might be rendered, “they are partakers of, or are devoted to, the good cause.” Robinson’s Lexicon. The argument is, that they were not infidels, or strangers to religion, or those who would try to hinder the progress of that which was dear to the heart of the servant, but were united with them in that same good work; they participated in the blessings of the same salvation, and they were really endeavoring to further the interests of religion. There ought, therefore, to be the more respect shown to them, and the more cheerful service rendered them.

Verse 3

If any man teach otherwise - Any otherwise than that respect should be shown to masters; and that a more cheerful and ready service should be rendered because they were Christians. It is evidently implied here that some might be disposed to inculcate such views of religion as would produce discontent and a spirit of insubordination among those who were held to servitude. Who they were is not known, nor is it known what arguments they would employ to do it. It would seem probable that the arguments which would be employed would be such as these: that God made all people equal; that all had been redeemed by the same blood; that all true Christians were fellow-heirs of heaven; and that it was wrong to hold a Christian brother in bondage, etc. From undeniable principles it would seem that they drew the inference that slaves ought at once to assert their freedom; that they should refuse obedience to their masters; and that the tendency of their teaching was, instead of removing the evil by the gradual and silent influence of Christian principles, to produce discontent and insurrection. From some of the expressions here used by the apostle, as characteristic of these teachers, it would seem to be probable that these persons were Jews. They were people given to subtle disputations, and those who doted about questions and verbal disputes, and who were intent on gain, supposing that that which conduced to mere worldly prosperity was of course religion. These characteristics apply well to Jewish teachers.

And consent not to wholesome words - Words conducing to a healthful state of the church; that is, doctrines tending to produce order and a due observance of the proprieties of life; doctrines leading to contentment, and sober industry, and the patient endurance of evils.

Even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ - The doctrines of the Saviour - all of which tended to a quiet life, and to a patient endurance of wrongs.

And to the doctrine which is according to godliness - Which tends to produce piety or religion; that is, the doctrine which would be most favorable to an easy and rapid propagation of the gospel. The idea seems to be, that such a state of insubordination and discontent as they would produce, would be unfavorable to the promotion of religion. Who can doubt it?

Verse 4

He is proud - That is, he is lifted up with his fancied superior acquaintance with the nature of religion. The Greek verb means, properly, “to smoke, to fume;” and then to be inflated, to “be conceited, etc.” The idea is, that he has no proper knowledge of the nature of the gospel, and yet he values himself on a fancied superior acquaintance with its principles.

Knowing nothing - Margin, “a fool.” That is, that he does not understand the nature of religion as he supposes he does. His views in regard to the relation of masters and servants, and to the bearing of religion on that relation, show that he does not understand the genius of Christianity. The apostle expresses this in strong language; by saying that he knows nothing; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 8:2.

But doting - Margin, “sick.” The Greek word - νοσέω noseō - means properly to be sick; then to languish, to pine after. The meaning here is, that such persons had a sickly or morbid desire for debates of this kind. They had not a sound and healthy state of mind on the subject of religion. They were like a sickly man, who has no desire for solid and healthful food, but for that which will gratify a diseased appetite. They desired not sound doctrine, but controversies about unimportant and unsubstantial matters - things that bore the same relation to important doctrines which the things that a sick man pines after do to substantial food.

Questions and strifes of words - The Jews abounded much in disputes of this sort, and it would seem probable that the persons here referred to were Jewish teachers; compare 1 Timothy 1:6-7 notes, and Acts 18:15 note.

Whereof cometh envy - The only fruit of which is to produce envy. That is, the appearance of superior knowledge; the boast of being profoundly acquainted with religion, and the show of an ability for subtle argumentation, would produce in a certain class envy. Envy is uneasiness, pain, mortification, or discontent, excited by another’s prosperity, or by his superior knowledge or possessions; see the notes on Romans 1:29.

Strife - Or contentions with those who will not readily yield to their opinions.

Railings - Harsh and abusive language toward those who will not concede a point - a common effect of disputes, and more commonly of disputes about small and unimportant matters, than of these which are of magnitude. Such railings often attend disputes that arise out of nice and subtle distinctions.

Evil surmisings - Suspicions that they are led to hold their views, not by the love of the truth, but from sordid or worldly motives. Such suspicions are very apt to attend an angry debate of any kind. It might be expected especially to exist on such a question as the apostle refers to here - the relation of a master and a slave. It is always very hard to do justice to the motives of one who seems to us to be living in sin, or to believe it to be possible that he acts from right motives.

Verse 5

Perverse disputings - Margin, “gallings one of another.” In regard to the correct reading of this passage, see Bib. Repository, vol. iii. pp. 61, 62. The word which is here used in the Received Text - παραδιατρίβη paradiatribē - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means “mis-employment;” then “idle occupation.” (Robinson’s Lexicon) The verb from which this is derived means to “rub in pieces, to wear away;” and hence the word here used refers to what was a mere “wearing away” of time. The idea is that of employments that merely consumed time without any advantage. The notion of contention or dispute is not necessarily implied in this passage, but the allusion is to inquiries or discussions that were of no practical value, but; were a mere consumption of time; compare Koppe on the passage. The reading in the margin is derived from the common usage of the verb “to rub,” and hence our translators attached the idea of “rubbing against” each other, or of “galling” each other, as by rubbing. This is not, however, the idea in the Greek word. The phrase “idle employments” would better suit the meaning of the Greek than either of the phrases which our translators have employed.

Of men of corrupt minds - That is, of wicked hearts.

And destitute of the truth - Not knowing the truth; or not having just views of truth. They show that they have no correct acquaintance with the Christian system.

Supposing that gain is godliness - That that which contributes to an increase of property is of course true religion; or that it is proper to infer that any course which contributes to worldly prosperity must be sanctioned by religion. They judge of the consistency of any course with religion by its tendency to promote outward prosperity. This they have exalted into a maxim, and this they make the essential thing in religion. But how could any man do this? And what connection would this have with the subject under consideration - the kind of instruction that was to be given to servants? The meaning of the maxim seems to be, that religion must necessarily promote prosperity by its promoting temperance, and industry, and length of days; and that since this was the case, it was fair to infer that anything which would not do this could not be consistent with religion. They adopted it, therefore, as a general rule of judging, and one in entire accordance with the wishes of their own hearts, that any course of life that would not do this must be contrary to the true spirit of religion. This maxim, it would seem, they applied to the relation of the slave and his master, and as the tendency of the system was always to keep the servant poor and in an humble condition, they seem to have inferred that the relation was contrary to Christianity, and hence to have excited the servant to disaffection. In their reasoning they were not far out of the way, for it is fair to infer that a system that tends to produce uniform poverty, and to perpetuate a degraded condition in society, is contrary to the genius of Christianity. They were wrong:

(1) In making this a general maxim by which to judge of everything in religion; and,

(2) In so applying it as to produce insubordination and discontent in the minds of servants toward their masters; and,

(3) In supposing that everything which produced gain was consistent with religion, or that they could infallibly judge of the moral quality of any course of life by its contributing to outward prosperity. Religion will uniformly lead to that which conduces to prosperity, but it does not follow that every way of making money is therefore a part of piety. It is possible, also, that in some way they hoped for “gain” to themselves by inculcating those principles. It may be remarked here, that this is not an uncommon maxim practically among people - that “gain is godliness.” The whole object of life with them is to make money; the rule by which they judge of everything is by its tendency to produce gain; and their whole religion may be summed up in this, that they live for gain. Wealth is the real object of pursuit; but it is often with them cloaked under the pretence of piety. They have no more religion than they suppose will contribute to this object; they judge of the nature and value of every maxim by its tendency to make people prosperous in their worldly business; they have as much as they suppose will promote their pecuniary interest, and they sacrifice every principle of religion which they suppose would conflict with their earthly advancement.

From such withdraw thyself - That is, have no communion or fellowship with them. Do not recognize them as religious teachers; do not countenance their views. Timothy was, in no way, to show that he regarded them as inculcating truth, or to patronize their doctrines. From such people, as having any claim to the character of Christians, every man should withdraw with feelings of unutterable pity and loathing. This passage 1 Timothy 6:1-5 is often appealed to by the advocates and apologists for slavery, to prove that Christianity countenances that institution, and that no direct attempt should be made by the ministers of the gospel, or other Christians, to show the evil of the institution, and to promote its abolition, and to prove that we have no right to interfere in any way with what pertains to these “domestic relations.” It is of importance, therefore, in view of the exposition which has been given of the words and phrases in the passage, to sum up the truths which it inculcates. From it, therefore, the following lessons may be derived:

(1) That those who are slaves, and who have been converted to Christianity, should not be indolent or disorderly. If their masters are Christians, they should treat them with respect, and all the more because they are fellow-heirs of the grace of life. If they are not Christians, they should yet show the nature of religion on themselves, and bear the evils of their condition with patience - showing how religion teaches them to endure wrong. In either case, they are to be quiet, industrious, kind, meek, respectful. This Christianity everywhere enjoins while the relation continues, At the same time, however, it does not forbid the slave earnestly to desire his freedom, or to use all proper measures to obtain it; see 1 Corinthians 7:21.

(2) That the ministers of religion should not labor to produce a spirit of discontent among slaves, or excite them to rise upon their masters. This passage would undoubtedly forbid all such interference, and all agencies or embassies sent among slaves themselves to inflame their minds against their masters, in view of their wrongs; to put arms into their hands; or to induce them to form combinations for purposes of insurrection. It is not so much in the true spirit of Christianity to go to those who are wronged, as to those who do the wrong. The primary message in such cases is to the latter; and when it does go to the former, it is to teach them to be patient under their wrongs, to evince the Christian spirit there, and to make use only of those means which are consistent with the gospel to free themselves from the evils under which they suffer. At the same time, nothing in this passage, or in any other part of the New Testament, forbids us to go to the master himself, and to show him the evil of the system, and to enjoin upon him to let the oppressed go free.

Nothing in this passage can be reasonably construed as teaching that an appeal of the most earnest and urgent kind may not be made to him; or that the wrongs of the system may not be fully set before him, or that any man or set of men may not lawfully lift up in his hearing a loud and earnest voice in favor of the freedom of all. And in like manner there is nothing which makes it improper that the slave himself should be put fully in possession of that gospel which will apprize him of his rights as a man, and as redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Every human being, whether held in bondage or not, has a right to be made acquainted with all the provisions and truths of that gospel, nor has any man or class of men a right to withhold such knowledge from him. No system of things can be right which contemplates that that gospel shall be withheld, or under which it is necessary to withhold it in order to the perpetuity of the system.

(3) The passage teaches that it is possible that a man who is a slaveholder may become a Christian. But it does not teach that, though he may become a Christian while he is a slaveholder, that it is proper for him to continue this relation after he becomes such. It does not teach that a man can be a Christian and yet go into the business of buying and selling slaves. It does not teach that a man can be a Christian and continue to hold others in bondage, whatever may be true on that point. It does not teach that he ought to be considered as maintaining a “good standing” in the church, if he continues to be a slaveholder; and whatever may be the truth on these points, this passage should not be adduced as demonstrating them. It settles one point only in regard to these questions - that a case was supposable in which a slave had a Christian master. It settles the duty of the slave in such a case; it says nothing about the duty of the master.

(4) This passage does not teach that slavery is either a good thing, or a just thing, a desirable relation in life, or an institution that God wishes to be perpetuated on the earth. The injunctions to slaves to be patient, meek, industrious, and respectful, no more demonstrate this, than the command to subjects to be obedient to the laws proves that God regarded the government of Nero as such an administration as he wished to be perpetuated on the earth. To exhort a slave to manifest a Christian spirit under his oppressions and wrongs, is not to justify the system that does him wrong, nor does it prohibit us from showing to masters that the system is contrary to the gospel, and that it ought to be abandoned.

(5) This passage, therefore, furnishes no real support for slavery. It can no more be adduced in favor of it than any exhortation to those who are oppressed, or in any degrading situation in life, to be patient, proves that the system which oppresses and degrades them, is a good one. Nor does the fact that a man might be converted who was a slaveholder, and might be spoken of as a πιστός pistos, or believer, prove that it would be right and desirable that he should continue that relation, anymore than the fact that Saul of Tarsus became a Christian when engaged in persecution, proves that it would have been right for him to continue in that business, or than the conversion of the Ephesians who “used curious arts” Acts 19:19, proved that it would have been proper for them to continue in that employment. People who are doing wrong are converted in order to turn them from that course of life, not to justify them in it.

Verse 6

But godliness - Piety; religion. The meaning is, that real religion should be regarded as the greatest and most valuable acquisition. “With contentment.” This word, as now used, refers to a state of mind; a calm and satisfied feeling; a freedom from murmuring and complaining. The idea is, that “piety, connected with a contented mind - or a mind acquiescing in the allotments of life - is to be regarded as the real gain.” Tyndale gives substantially the same interpretation: “Godliness is great riches, if a man be content with that he hath” Coverdale: “Howbeit, it is of great advantage, who is so godly, and holdeth him content with that he hath.” The word which is used here - αὐτάρκεια autarkeia - means, properly, “self-sufficency,” and is used here, in a good sense, to denote a mind satisfied with its lot. If there be true religion, united with its proper accompaniment, peace of mind, it is to be regarded as the true riches. The object of the apostle seems to be, to rebuke those who supposed that property constituted everything that was worth living for. He tells them, therefore, that the true gain, the real riches which we ought to seek, is religion, with a contented mind. This does more to promote happiness than wealth can ever do, and this is what should be regarded as the great object of life.

Verse 7

For we brought nothing into this world ... - A sentiment very similar to this occurs in Job 1:21 - and it would seem probable that the apostle had that passage in his eye; see the notes on that passage. Numerous expressions of this kind occur in the classic writers; see Wetstein, in loc., and Pricaeus, in loc. in the Critici Sacri. Of the truth of what is here said, there can be nothing more obvious. It is apparent to all. We bring no property with us into the world - no clothing, no jewels, no gold - and it is equally clear that we can take nothing with us when we leave the earth. Our coming into the world introduces no additional property to that which the race before possessed, and our going from the world removes none that we may have helped the race to accumulate. This is said by the apostle as an obvious reason why we should be contented if our actual needs are supplied - for this is really all that we need, and all that the world is toiling for.

We can carry nothing out - compare Psalms 49:17. “For when he - the rich man - dieth, he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him.”

Verse 8

And having food and raiment - Food and raiment, here, seem to be used to denote supplies for our needs in general. It is not uncommon to denote the whole by a part, and, as these are the principal things which we really need, and without which life could not be sustained, the apostle uses the phrase to denote all that is really necessary for us. We cannot suppose that he would forbid a desire of a comfortable habitation, or of the means of knowledge, or of conveniences for worshipping God, etc. The idea is, that having those flyings which meet the actual necessities of our nature, and save us from distress, we should not strive after “uncertain riches,” or make wealth the object of our anxious pursuit; compare notes on Philippians 4:11-12.

Verse 9

But they that will be rich - Further to enforce the duty of contentment, the apostle refers to some of the evils which necessarily attend a desire to be rich. Those evils have been so great and uniform in all ages, and are so necessary accompaniments of that desire, that, even amidst many inconveniences which may attend the opposite condition, we should he contented with our lot. Indeed, if we could see all, it would only be necessary to see the evils which the desire of wealth produces in the world, to make us contented with a most lowly condition of life. Perhaps nothing more would be necessary to make a poor man satisfied with his lot, and grateful for it, than to be acquainted with the perplexities and cares of a rich man. There is more emphasis to be placed on the word will, here, in the phrase, “will be rich,” than might be supposed from our translation. It is not the sign of the future tense, but implies an actual “purpose” or “design” to become rich - οἱ βουλόμενοι hoi boulomenoi. The reference is to those in whom this becomes the object of earnest desire, and who lay their plans for it.

Fall into temptation - That is, they are tempted to do wicked things in order to accomplish their purposes. It is extremely difficult to cherish the desire to be rich, as the leading purpose of the soul, and to he an honest man.

And a snare - Birds are taken in a snare, and wild beasts were formerly; see the notes on Job 18:8-9. The net was sprung suddenly upon them, and they could not escape. The idea here is, that they who have this desire become so entangled, that they cannot easily escape. They become involved in the meshes of worldliness and sin; their movements are so fettered by cares, and inordinate desires, and by artificial needs, that they are no longer freemen. They become so involved in these things, that they cannot well break away from them if they would; compare Proverbs 28:20.

And into many foolish and hurtful lusts - Desires, such as the love of wealth creates. They are foolish - as being not such as an intelligent and immortal being should pursue; and they are hurtful - as being injurious to morals, to health, and to the soul. Among those desires, are the fondness for display; for a magnificent dwelling, a train of menials, and a splendid equipage; for sumptuous living, feasting, the social glass, company, and riotous dissipation.

Which drown men in destruction and perdition - The word which is here rendered, “drown” - βυθίζω buthizō - means, to “sink in the” deep, or, “to cause to sink;” and the meaning here is, that they become submerged as a ship that sinks. The idea of drowning is not properly that of the apostle, but the image is that of a wreck, where a ship and all that is in it go down together. The destruction is complete. There is a total ruin of happiness, of virtue, of reputation, and of the soul. The ruling desire to be rich leads on a train of follies which ruins everything here, and hereafter. How many of the human family have thus been destroyed!

Verse 10

For the love of money is the root of all evil - That is, of all kinds of evil. This is evidently not to be understood as literally true, for there are evils which cannot, be traced to the love of money - the evils growing out of ambition, and intemperance, and debasing lusts, and of the hatred of God and of goodness. The expression here is evidently a popular saying - “all sorts of evils grow out of the love of money.” Similar expressions often occur in the classic writers; see Wetstein, in loc, and numerous examples quoted by Priceaus. Of the truth of this, no one can doubt. No small part of the crimes of the world can be traced to the love of gold. But it deserves to be remarked here, that the apostle does not say that “money is the root of all evil,” or that it is an evil at all. It is the “love” of it which is the source of evil.

Which while some coveted after - That is, some who were professing Christians. The apostle is doubtless referring to persons whose history was known to Timothy, and warning him, and teaching him to warn others, by their example.

They have erred from the faith - Margin, “been seduced.” The Greek is, they have been led astray from; that is, they have been so deceived as to depart from the faith. The notion of deception or delusion is in the word, and the sense is, that, deceived by the promises held out by the prospect of wealth, they have apostatized from the faith. It is not implied of necessity that they were ever real Christians. They have been led off from truth and duty, and from all the hopes and joys which religion would have imparted.

And pierced themselves through with many sorrows - With such sorrows as remorse, and painful reflections on their folly, and the apprehension of future wrath. Too late they see that they have thrown away the hopes of religion for that which is at best unworthy the pursuit of an immortal mind; which leads them on to a life of wickedness; which fails of imparting what it promised when its pursuit is successful, and which, in the great majority of instances, disappoints its votaries in respect to its attainment. The word rendered “pierced themselves through” - περιέπειραν periepeiran - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and is a word whose force and emphasis cannot be well expressed in a translation. It is from πείρω peirō, and is made more emphatic by the addition of the preposition περι peri. The word πείρω peirō, means, properly, “to pierce through from one end to another,” and is applied to meat that is “pierced through” by the spit when it is to be roasted (Passow); then it means to pierce through and through. The addition of the preposition περι peri to the word, conveys the idea of doing this “all round;” of piercing everywhere. It was not a single thrust which was made, but they are gashed all round with penetrating wounds. Such is the effect on those who cast off religion for the sake of gold. None can avoid these consequences who do this. Every man is in the hands of a holy and just God, and sooner or later he must feel the effects of his sin and folly.

Verse 11

But thou, O man of God, flee these things - These allurements of wealth, and these sad consequences which the love of gold produces.

And follow after righteousness, ... - Make these the grand object of your pursuit. On the virtues here enumerated, see the notes on Galatians 5:22-23.

Verse 12

Fight the good fight of faith - The noble conflict in the cause of religion; see the notes on Ephesians 6:10-17; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. The allusion is to the contests at the Grecian games.

Lay hold on eternal life - As the crown of victory that is held out to you. Seize this as eagerly as the competitors at the Grecian games laid hold on the prize; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Whereunto thou art also called - That is, by the Spirit of God, and by the very nature of your profession. God does not “call” his people that they may become rich; he does not convert them in order that they may devote themselves to the business of gain. They are “called” to a higher and nobler work. Yet how many professing Christians there are who seem to live as if God had “called” them to the special business of making money, and who devote themselves to it with a zeal and assiduity that would do honor to such a calling, if this had been the grand object which God had in view in converting them!

And hast professed a good profession before many witnesses - That is, either when he embraced the Christian religion, and made a public profession of it in the presence of the church and of the world; or when he was solemnly set apart to the ministry; or as he in his Christian life had been enabled publicly to evince his attachment to the Saviour. I see no reason to doubt that the apostle may have referred to the former, and that in early times a profession of religion may have been openly made before the church and the world. Such a method of admitting members to the church would have been natural, and would have been fitted to make a deep impression on others. It is a good thing often to remind professors of religion of the feelings which they had when they made a profession of religion; of the fact that the transaction was witnessed by the world; and of the promises which they then made to lead holy lives. One of the best ways of stimulating ourselves or others to the faithful performance of duty, is the remembrance of the vows then made; and one of the most effectual methods of reclaiming a backslider is to bring to his remembrance that solemn hour when he publicly gave himself to God.

Verse 13

I give thee charge in the sight God - see the notes on 1 Timothy 5:21.

Who quickeneth all things - Who gives life to all; notes on Ephesians 2:1. It is not quite clear why the apostle refers to this attribute of God as enforcing the charge which he here makes. Perhaps he means to say that God is the source of life, and that as he had given life to Timothy - natural and spiritual - he had a right to require that it should be employed in his service; and that, if, in obedience to this charge and in the performance of his duties, he should be required to lay down his life, he should bear in remembrance that God had power to raise him up again. This is more distinctly urged in 2 Timothy 2:8-10.

And before Christ Jesus - As in the presence of Christ, and stimulated by his example.

Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession - Margin, “profession.” The same Greek word is used which in 1 Timothy 6:12 is translated “profession.” The reference is to the fact that the Lord Jesus, when standing at the bar of Pilate who claimed to have power over his life, did not shrink from an open avowal of the truth; John 18:36-37. Nothing can be better fitted to preserve our minds steadfast in the faith, and to enable us to maintain our sacred vows in this world when allured by temptation, or when ridiculed for our religion, than to remember the example of the Lord Jesus; Let us place him before us as he stood at the bar of Pilate - threatened with death in its most appalling form, and ridiculed for the principles which he maintained; let us look on him, friendless and alone, and see with what seriousness, and sincerity, and boldness he stated the simple truth about himself, and we shall have one of the best securities that we can have, that we shall not dishonor our profession. A clear view of the example of Christ our Saviour, in those circumstances, and a deep conviction that his eye is upon us to discern whether we are steadfast as he was, will do more than all abstract precepts to make us faithful to our christian calling.

Verse 14

That thou keep this commandment - Referring particularly to the solemn injunction which he had just given him, to “fight the good fight of faith,” but perhaps also including all that he had enjoined on him.

Without spot - It seems harsh, and is unusual, to apply the epithet, “without spot” - ἄσπιλος aspilos - to a command or doctrine, and the passage may be so construed that this may be understood as referring to Timothy himself - “That thou keep the commandment so that thou mayest be without spot and unrebukable.” See Bloomfield, Crit. Dig., in loc. The word here rendered “without spot,” occurs in the New Testament only here and in James 1:27; 1Pe 1:19; 2 Peter 3:14. It means without any “stain” or “blemish; pure.” If applied here to Timothy, it means that he should so keep the command that there would be no stain on his moral character; if to the doctrine, that that should be kept pure.

Unrebukable - So that there be no occasion for reproach or reproof; see notes on Philippians 2:15.

Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ - see notes on 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

Verse 15

Which in his times he shall show - Which God will reveal at such times as he shall deem best. It is implied here that the time is unknown to people; see the notes on Acts 1:7.

Who is the blessed and only Potentate - God, who is the ruler over all. The word used here - δυνάστης dunastēs - means one who is “mighty” Luke 1:22, then a prince or ruler; compare Acts 8:27. It is applied here to God as the mighty ruler over the universe.

The King of kings - Who claims dominion over all the kings of the earth. In Revelation 7:14, the same appellation is applied to the Lord Jesus, ascribing to him universal dominion.

Lord of lords - The idea here is, that all the sovereigns of the earth are under his sway; that none of them can prevent the accomplishment of his purposes; and that he can direct the winding up of human affairs when he pleases.

Verse 16

Who only hath immortality - The word here - ἀθανασία athanasia - properly means “exemption from death,” and seems to mean that God, in his own nature, enjoys a perfect and certain exemption from death. Creatures have immortality only as they derive it from him, and of course are dependent on him for it. He has it by his very nature, and it is in his case underived, and he cannot be deprived of it. It is one of the essential attributes of his being, that he will always exist, and that death cannot reach him; compare the expression in John 5:26, “The Father hath life in himself,” and the notes on that passage.

Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto - Greek, “Inhabiting inapproachable light.” The light where he dwells is so brilliant and dazzling that mortal eyes could not endure it. This is a very common representation of the dwelling place of God. See examples quoted in Pricaeus, in loc. Heaven is constantly represented as a place of the most pure and brilliant light, needing not the light of the sun, or the moon, or the stars Revelation 21:23-24; Revelation 22:5, and God is represented as dwelling in that light, surrounded by amazing and inapproachable glory compare Revelation 4:6; Ezekiel 1:4; Hebrews 1:3.

Whom no man hath seen nor can see - notes on John 1:18.

To whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen - see the notes on Romans 11:36.

Verse 17

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded - One of the evils to which they are particularly exposed. The idea is, that they should not value themselves on account of their wealth, or look down with pride and arrogance on their inferiors. They should not suppose that they are any better people or any nearer heaven, because they are wealthy. Property really makes no distinction in the great things that pertain to character and salvation, It does not necessarily make one wise, or learned, or great, or good. In all these things, the man who has not wealth may be vastly the superior of him who has; and for so slight and unimportant a distinction as gold can confer, no man should be proud. Besides, let such a man reflect that his property is the gift of God; that he is made rich because God has chosen to arrange things so that he should be; that it is not primarily owing to any skill or wisdom which he has; that his property only increases his responsibility, and that it must all soon be left, and he be as poor as the “beggar that lies at his gate;” and he will see ample reason why he should not be proud.

Nor trust in uncertain riches - Margin, “The uncertainty of.” The margin expresses the meaning of the Greek more accurately than the text, but the sense is not materially varied. Riches are uncertain because they may soon be taken away. No dependence can be placed on them in the emergencies of life. He who is rich today, has no security that he will be tomorrow; and if he shall be rich tomorrow, he has no certainty that his riches will meet his necessities then. A man whose house is in flames, or who is shipwrecked, or whose child lies dying, or who is himself in the agonizes of death, can derive no advantage from the fact that he is richer than other people; see notes on Luke 12:16-21. That against which Paul here directs Timothy to caution the rich, is that to which they are most exposed. A man who is rich, is very liable to “trust” in His riches, and to suppose that he needs nothing more; compare Luke 12:19. He feels that he is not dependent on his fellow-men, and he is very likely to feel that he is not dependent on God. It is for this cause that God has recorded so many solemn declarations in his word respecting the instability of riches (compare Proverbs 23:5), and that he is furnishing so many instructive lessons in his providence, showing how easily riches may suddenly vanish away.

But in the living God -

(1) He is able to supply all our needs, and to do for us what riches cannot do; and,

(2) He never changes, or leaves those who put their trust in him. He is able to meet our needs if in the flames, or in a storm at sea, or when a friend dies, or when we lie down on a bed of death, or wherever we may be in the eternal world.

Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy - The meaning of this seems to be, that God permits us to enjoy everything. Everything in the works of creation and redemption he has given to man for his happiness, and he should therefore trust in him. He has not merely given wealth for the comfort of people, but he has given everything, and he on whom so many and so great blessings have been bestowed for his comfort, should trust in the great Benefactor himself, and not rely merely on one of his gifts; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

Verse 18

That they do good - On the duty enjoined in this verse, see Galatians 6:10 note; Hebrews 13:10 note.

That they be rich in good works - “That their good works may be as abundant as their riches.”

Ready to distribute - To divide with others; compare Acts 4:34. The meaning is, that they should be liberal, or bountiful.

Willing to communicate - Margin, or “sociable.” The translation in the text is a more correct rendering of the Greek. The idea is, that they should be willing to share their blessings with others, so as to make others comfortable; see the notes on Hebrews 13:16; compare the argument of Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, and the notes on that passage.

Verse 19

Laying up in store for themselves ... - The meaning of this verse is, that they were to make such a use of their property that it would contribute to their eternal welfare. It might be the means of exalted happiness and honor in heaven, if they would so use it as not to interfere with religion in the soul, and so as to do the most good possible. See the sentiment in this verse explained at length in the notes on Luke 16:9.

Verse 20

Keep that which is committed to thy trust - All that is entrusted to you, and to which reference has been particularly made in this Epistle. The honor of the gospel, and the interests of religion, had been specially committed to him; and he was sacredly to guard this holy trust, and not suffer it to be wrested from him.

Avoiding profane and vain babblings - Greek, “Profane, empty words.” The reference is to such controversies and doctrines as tended only to produce strife, and were not adapted to promote the edification of the church; see the notes on 1Ti 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7.

And oppositions of science falsely so called - Religion has nothing to fear from true science, and the minister of the gospel is not exhorted to dread that. Real science, in all its advances, contributes to the support of religion; and just in proportion as that is promoted will it be found to sustain the Bible, and to confirm the claims of religion to the faith of mankind. See this illustrated at length in Wiseman’s Lectures on the connection between science and religion. It is only false or pretended science that religion has to dread, and which the friend of Christianity is to avoid. The meaning here is, that Timothy was to avoid everything which falsely laid claim to being “knowledge” or “science.” There was much of this in the world at the time the apostle wrote; and this, more perhaps than anything else, has tended to corrupt true religion since.

Verse 21

Which some professing - Evidently some who professed to be true Christians. They were attracted by false philosophy, and soon, as a consequence, were led to deny the doctrines of Christianity. This result has not been uncommon in the world.

Have erred concerning the faith - see notes on 1 Timothy 1:6-7; 1 Timothy 6:10.

Grace be with thee - see the notes, Romans 1:7.

On the subscription at the close of this Epistle, see Intro., Section 2. It is, like the other subscriptions at the close of the epistles, of no authority.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnn/1-timothy-6.html. 1870.
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