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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 6

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Verses 1-2

A. Slaves 6:1-2

As he had done previously (e.g., 1 Timothy 5:1-2) Paul urged the adoption of proper attitudes toward others that would normally make it easier to produce proper actions. Christian slaves were to "regard" their masters as worthy of all "honor" (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 5:3; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 6:16) if for no other reason than that God had placed them in a position of authority over them. Such an attitude would lead to service that would not bring dishonor on the God the slave professed to serve or the faith he professed to follow (cf. Isaiah 52:5).

Christian slaves who had believing masters had a second reason to give their masters honor and faithful service. They were their brethren. As such they deserved even greater consideration than unbelieving masters. Disrespectful behavior was inappropriate in such a case, as was shoddy service, since the person who benefited from the ministry of the slave was a brother in Christ (NIV, NASB, NRSV). Another view sees "those who partake of the benefit" as the Christian slaves who, because of their respectful service, reaped benefits from their unbelieving masters (TNIV). I prefer the first view.

"A first-century slave’s hope for manumission was more than a dream, and the realistic possibility of obtaining freedom served to motivate the slave to excel in service." [Note: Ibid., p. 379.]

Timothy was to communicate this instruction to the church. Perhaps Paul wrote no instructions for Christian masters of slaves because there were none in the Ephesian church or because they were behaving properly. Perhaps Paul wrote Timothy (and Titus [1 Timothy 2:9-10]) about the conduct of slaves but not masters because many slaves had become Christians and most of them undoubtedly had non-Christian masters. [Note: Knight, The Pastoral . . ., p. 243.] Elsewhere in the New Testament other instructions for slaves and masters appear (1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; Phile.; 1 Peter 2:13-25). Paul probably did not discuss other family relationships (e.g., husband, wife, children, masters) because he was addressing a specific Ephesian situation and not teaching on family relationships in general. [Note: Mounce, p. 325.] What Paul said to slaves here is applicable to employees today.

"How could a Christian leader such as Paul tolerate the existence of oppressive, dehumanizing slavery without denouncing it? To answer this question, we must note that the time was not propitious for a Christian to secure freedom for slaves by denouncing slavery. Paul’s modification of the servant-master relationship in Ephesians 6:5-9 destroyed the very essence of slavery. Also the New Testament consistently calls Christians to a role as servants (Mark 10:43-45)." [Note: Lea, p. 163.]

"While not condoning slavery or calling for its dissolution, Paul makes it clear that the deeper and more significant relationship is that between two believers rather than how society defines their relationship on the surface." [Note: Mounce, p. 330.]

Verses 1-19


In the last major section of this letter Paul called on Timothy to instruct the members of various groups within the church concerning their Christian duty.

Verses 3-5

The apostle first described the actions of the false teachers (1 Timothy 6:3), then their attitudes (1 Timothy 6:4 a), third the fruits of their ministry (1 Timothy 6:4-5 a), and then their motivation (1 Timothy 6:5 b).

"As Paul elaborates on those who teach ’otherwise,’ it becomes clear again (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4-7) that the problem is not simply that of disseminating factual errors; it is rather a failure of the heart that involves willful rejection of God’s pattern." [Note: Idem, The Letters . . ., p. 393.]

The false teachers in Ephesus advocated doctrine that was different from what Scripture and the apostles taught. They disagreed with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ that fostered spiritual health in those who heard and responded to them. Furthermore they rejected the doctrine that conforms to and results in godly behavior. These are three overlapping rather than distinctly different activities (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:6-10). [Note: See López.]

"When it meets ’the truth,’ the corrupted mind sees and seeks only objections; when it meets what differs from this truth, it sees and seeks reasons for accepting this difference." [Note: Lenski, p. 702.]

"It is little wonder, then, that missionaries of the cults are so resistant to the gospel and so easily angered in theological discussions. Corrupt minds and argumentative dispositions go hand in hand with opposition to the gospel." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 136.]

Paul regarded these men as guilty and blameworthy. Their error was not an innocent one. It sprang from improper attitudes: the desires to exalt self and to hoard money selfishly. Compare the religious hucksters of the Ephesian Artemis cult as Luke described them in Acts 19:23-41. Such motivation demonstrated that they really understood "nothing" (i.e., nothing that is truly important). This motivation also led them to an unhealthy interest in controversies and terminology. This interest produced all kinds of selfish and divisive behavior and attitudes that were not loving and edifying (1 Timothy 1:5). Contrast the elder qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2-12.

"Conceit leads to a love for controversy. Those who think well of their opinions like to argue them with others. Where a spirit of controversy seizes a family, office, or institution, all sense of community and unity disappears." [Note: Lea, p. 170. Cf. Earle, p. 383.]

"The indictment of the false teachers is thus multifaceted and comprehensive. It begins with their heterodoxy (1 Timothy 6:3), which is correlated with their conceit and lack of real understanding (1 Timothy 6:4 a) and their sick interest in mere controversy (1 Timothy 6:4 b), turns to the maliciousness of life that flows from these characteristics (1 Timothy 6:4 c), roots all this in spiritual blindness (1 Timothy 6:5 a), and ends with their materialistic motivation (1 Timothy 6:5 b). It is given to warn the church against such people. [Note: Knight, The Pastoral . . ., pp. 252-53.]

Verses 3-10

B. False teachers 6:3-10

Paul returned to instructions concerning the false teachers (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-11; 1 Timothy 4:1-5) to alert Timothy to their underlying attitudes so he could deal with them effectively.

". . . Paul issues a kind of ’wanted poster.’ It is the counterpart to the ’job description’ given in chapter 3." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p.135.]

Verses 6-8

Paul urged Timothy to remember that real "gain" comes from the acquisition of true godliness that includes an attitude of contentment with one’s material possessions. It does not come from teaching godliness to others primarily to receive pay for doing so. That conduct demonstrates an attitude of discontent with one’s material possessions.

The apostle further reminded Timothy that there is really no relationship between godliness and one’s material possessions. Material things are transitory. As we entered the world without any, so we shall leave it (cf. Job 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:15). Possessions are simply tools we can use to bring glory to God (cf. 1 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 Timothy 6:17). Having the basic necessities of life, food and clothing, we can and should be content (cf. Matthew 6:24-34; Luke 12:16-32; Hebrews 13:5-6). Food and clothing are a synecdoche for all the necessities of life. Paul had learned this lesson of healthy detachment from material things in his own life (Philippians 4:10-13). We must learn it too.

"Materialism is a desire to possess things instead of a love for the God who made those things." [Note: Lea, p. 170.]

"Contentment is one of the greatest assets of life." [Note: Earle, p. 384.]

"How can the Christian learn to be content with simple living? Certainly not by accepting the standards set by this world. Paul suggests that an eternal perspective and an attitude of detachment toward things are prerequisites. As an eternal perspective develops, dependence on things material will decline." [Note: Towner, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 139.]

Verses 9-10

A simple lifestyle demonstrates contentment with the basics of life. [Note: I. Howard Marshall, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 649.] In contrast, greed for more opens the door to temptation. This temptation comes in the form of unwise lustful desires that impede one’s spiritual progress, as a trap holds an animal that gets tangled in it. Eventually the end of the person so snared is spiritual ruin and personal destruction if he or she does not escape its grip and turn from it.

Paul used a second figure to warn against greed (1 Timothy 6:10 a). That root attitude bears all kinds of evil fruit in wicked actions. Note that it is the love of money, not money itself, that is the snare. It is possible to have very little money and yet to love it. Some people have much money yet do not love it. Love of money contrasts with love of God and neighbor, the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:39; cf. Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13; 1 John 2:15).

"The connotation in ’the love of money’ (philaguria) is not the acquisition of wealth in order that it may be used in prodigal expenditure but rather the miserly accumulation and hoarding of money for the very love of it. That which should be a means to support life is made the end of life itself." [Note: Hiebert, First Timothy, p. 114.]

Paul pictured a person wandering from the narrow path of truth as he pursues money. He gets caught in thorns that pierce his skin and cause him great pain (cf. Matthew 13:22). Paul may have been speaking of these false teachers impaling themselves. [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 404.]

"The sentiment is, that there is no kind of evil to which the love of money may not lead men, when once it fairly takes hold of them." [Note: Patrick Fairbairn, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, p. 239.]

As Christians who live in a materialistic world, we must cultivate Paul’s attitude of contentment very deliberately. This is an especially difficult task in a society like the one in which we live in North America. We are constantly hearing through advertising and the media that we "need" all kinds of luxuries. According to Paul, and Jesus, our personal needs as human beings are very few. Paul’s point was that we should seek godliness more diligently than we seek money and the things it can buy.

"If you are afraid that perhaps the love of money is getting a hold on your soul, start giving some of it away and see how you feel! If you feel really glad then you are still safe, but if it almost breaks your heart then it is time to get down on your knees and pray to be freed from this sin of covetousness! It is going to ruin you unless you are delivered from it." [Note: Ironside, p. 155.]

Compare the attitude of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:22, Mark 10:22, or Luke 18:23.

Verse 11

In contrast to the "some" (1 Timothy 6:10) who pursued money, Timothy should flee from this attitude. Paul evidently called him a "man of God" to remind Timothy of his calling and commitment to follow God. The Old Testament writers used the title "man of God" of prophets (i.e., Moses, Deuteronomy 33:1; David, Nehemiah 12:24; Elijah, 1 Kings 17:18; and Elisha, 2 Kings 4:7). God used it only of Timothy in the New Testament. Paul was giving Timothy a great honor and encouragement by calling him a man of God. The title describes one who stands for God faithfully against opposition as a spiritual leader and as an example to all believers.

In following God Timothy should pursue objectives different from the acquisition of wealth for selfish purposes. He should emphasize what the Holy Spirit seeks to produce in the life of a Christian (Galatians 5:22-23) and what is essential for a leader of God’s people (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

"Righteousness" includes all attitudes and actions in harmony with what God calls right.

"Godliness" is godlike character and conduct.

"Faith" is trust in God.

"Love" is selfless devotion to the needs of others.

"Perseverance" is faithful continuance through adverse or discouraging circumstances.

"Gentleness" is tender kindness toward others.

The first two of these goals are general characteristics that represent one’s relationship with God. The second two are specific attitudes that animate the Christian life. The third two are specific actions that define correct ways of relating to a hostile world. Together they draw a silhouette of a "man [person] of God." The trio of faith, love, and perseverance also appears in Titus 2:2.

"Virtue lists, such as this one (2 Timothy 2:22-25; 2 Timothy 3:10), were a typical feature of Hellenistic ethical teaching that allowed the cardinal virtues to be packaged and presented neatly and concisely. The use of this device by Paul and other NT writers (sometimes alongside a contrasting list of vices) shows indebtedness to the literary and pedagogical fashions of the day." [Note: Towner, The Letters . . ., p. 408.]

The Christian’s Three-Fold Enemy
The WorldFlee
1 John 2:15-171 Timothy 6:11;
2 Timothy 2:22
Lust of the Flesh
Lust of the Eyes
Pride of Life
The FleshDeny
Romans 7:18-24Romans 6:12-13; Romans 8:13
The DevilResist
1 Peter 5:81 Peter 5:9

Verses 11-16

C. Those committed to Christ 6:11-16

Paul continued the emphasis he began in the previous section (1 Timothy 6:3-10) by appealing to Timothy to pursue spiritual rather than physical goals in his life. He seems to have intended his instructions for all the faithful Ephesian Christians in view of what he just said in 1 Timothy 6:3 through 10. He addressed them to Timothy personally since he, as a leader of the church, had the greatest responsibility to set the example for the rest. Paul called on Timothy to persevere. This section is the climax of the epistle.

"In chaps. 1 and 4 Paul establishes the pattern of criticizing his opponents (1 Timothy 1:3-7; 1 Timothy 4:1-5) and then following with words of encouragement to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Timothy 4:6-16), which include reference to Timothy’s spiritual beginnings (1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:14). He repeats this same pattern here." [Note: Mounce, p. 351.]

Verse 12

Our enemy opposes the Christian’s pursuit of godly ideals. Paul therefore urged his younger friend to plunge into this conflict. The goal is worth fighting for, and it requires fighting for. In so doing Timothy could obtain the reward that God wants to bestow on every believer: the fullness of eternal life (cf. John 10:10). Some Christians have eternal life but never really lay hold of it. Similarly some people who are alive physically never really enter into the fullness of life because they are never fully healthy and strong.

"Like a skillful coach, Paul supplies ample motivation for maintaining the struggle." [Note: Idem, 1-2 Timothy . . ., p. 142.]

". . . growth is not automatic; it is conditioned upon our responses. Only by the exercise of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, obedience, faith, study of the Scriptures, and proper responses to trials, does our intimacy with Christ increase. Only by continuing in doing good does that spiritual life imparted at regeneration grow to maturity and earn a reward." [Note: Dillow, p. 136.]

"Possessing eternal life is one thing, but ’taking hold’ of it is another. The former is static; the latter is dynamic. The former depends upon God; the latter depends upon us. The former comes through faith alone; ’taking hold’ requires faith plus obedience (1 Timothy 6:14)." [Note: Ibid., p. 137. Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1, 40; 5:29, 33; Hebrews 12:9-11.]

Timothy’s profession of eternal life before many witnesses probably refers to his baptism in water rather than to his ordination.

Verses 13-14

Here is Paul’s strongest exhortation to Timothy in this letter. He wanted him to keep God’s commandment without shameful inconsistencies or behavior that could elicit justifiable criticism. God’s commandment here probably refers to the gospel viewed as a rule of life. [Note: Knight, The Pastoral . . ., p. 266.] Paul reminded Timothy that God, who gives life to all things and who therefore could and would give Timothy fullness of life, was observing him. He reminded him that he lived under the gaze of God’s Anointed, Jesus, who had maintained a good testimony in His hour of trial. The Christian’s fight only lasts until the Lord returns, which could happen at any moment.

"The word ’appearing’ or ’manifestation’ emphasizes the visibility and glory of the coming Lord who is now hidden and invisible to human sight in Heaven." [Note: Hiebert, First Timothy, p. 118.]

The fact that Paul referred to that event rather than Timothy’s death, either of which would end his struggle, is interesting. It suggests that Paul believed Christ’s return for his saints at the Rapture was imminent and could precede Timothy’s natural death. Compare Paul’s final words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 with these closing words in 1 Timothy 6:12-14. They are very similar.

Verses 15-16

God will send Jesus Christ back at His appointed time. Paul’s doxology (a statement glorifying God) emphasized His adorable and unique sovereignty, immortality, and incomprehensible holiness (cf. Exodus 24:17). To Him belong all honor and rule throughout eternity (cf. 1 Timothy 1:17).

"Ephesus was not only the haven of Artemis, but an early center of emperor worship as well. This doxology, therefore, is Paul’s parting shot that the God with whom the church has to do in the gospel of Christ is none other than the supreme Ruler of the universe, the Lord over all other lords." [Note: Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy . . ., p. 154. Cf. Mounce, p. 361.]

Verse 17

He had previously instructed those who thought of themselves as not having wealth. Now he addressed those who had it and knew it. The Greek word plousioi, meaning "the wealthy," refers to the materially rich, particularly those who did not need to work for a living. [Note: Knight, The Pastoral . . ., p. 272.] Two attitudes often mislead the rich. One is the idea that greater monetary wealth indicates greater personal value or worth. The other is the notion that riches guarantee power and security. Paul warned against both of these conclusions. God will determine our future, not our present financial resources. Rich people should put their hope in the Giver rather than in His gifts (cf. 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 5:5). God controls these resources. If he has given them to us, we can enjoy His gifts unselfishly. We can take pleasure in the fact that they free us from certain temptations (cf. Proverbs 30:7-9) and enable us to help others.

"The reason everything may be enjoyed lies in the recognition that everything, including one’s wealth, is a gift, the expression of God’s gracious generosity." [Note: Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy . . ., p. 157.]

Verses 17-19

D. The wealthy 6:17-19

Paul had not finished all he wanted to say about money, so he returned to that subject briefly with a word of instruction for the wealthy Ephesian believers. He gave these directions to balance what he had said earlier in this epistle (in 1 Timothy 6:9-11).

Verses 18-19

Paul urged Timothy to instruct the rich to view their money as God’s enablement to accomplish good deeds. Rather than enjoying a reputation for having much money, they should cultivate a reputation for being rich in good deeds. They should also be openhanded, ready and willing to share with others generously what God had given them. By doing so, they would be insuring that the Lord would reward them for their faithful stewardship when they stood before Him (cf. Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:33-34; Luke 18:22). Moreover in so doing they would experience the fullness of their eternal life (cf. 1 Timothy 6:12).

"A kind heart as well as a generous hand is demanded of the rich." [Note: Bernard, p. 102.]

It is not sinful to be rich, and it is not godly to be poor. God has given wealthy Christians resources for ministry that other Christians do not possess. With these resources come the temptations and opportunities to misuse them.

Note that Paul did not say the wealthy should dispose of all or even most of their wealth. He said they should be "ready to share" (1 Timothy 6:18) as the Lord directed them. Presumably God will lead one person to do one thing with his or her money and another person something else (cf. John 21:22).

Note, too, that wealthy Christians should not feel guilty because they are wealthy, assuming that they have become wealthy legitimately. They should "enjoy" the benefits of wealth. This is difficult for some to do because we commonly equate personal enjoyment with the gratification of our flesh. The rich Christian should cultivate the joy that comes from laying up treasure in heaven by investing his or her life and wealth in what will endure forever. [Note: See Knight, The Pastoral . . ., p. 274.] Furthermore since everything we have is a gift from God (1 Timothy 6:17), we can enjoy everything.

This passage is one that most of us Western Christians in particular need to take to heart. In comparison with the rest of the world, we are wealthy. We must guard ourselves against the flesh and the voices in our culture that urge us to take a very different attitude toward money than what Paul taught.

Verses 20-21


Paul closed his letter with a final exhortation to urge Timothy once more to avoid going astray in his ministry (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-5; 1 Timothy 1:18-20). Paul again mentioned two of the primary themes in the Pastoral Epistles: the importance of personal perseverance (cf. 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:1-16; 1 Timothy 6:11-16) and the error of the opponents.

"What is most remarkable about this conclusion is the lack of any final greetings. All the Pauline letters, including this one, sign off with a final grace, or benediction. But only 1 Timothy and Galatians have no greetings from Paul and friends to the recipient and friends (cf. 2 Timothy 4:19-21; Titus 3:15). To the very end this letter is characteristically ’all business,’ and except for some new language, this final charge merely summarizes that business." [Note: Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy . . ., p. 160.]

"O Timothy" gives a personal emotional touch to Paul’s charge. He loved his son in the faith and wanted to spare him pain and failure.

Timothy should guard all that had been committed to his charge, including this epistle, the gospel, and his ministry (cf. 1 Timothy 4:12-14; 1 Timothy 6:2; 2 Timothy 2:2). This also included his responsibility to oppose the false teachers and to keep his own life pure (cf. 1 Timothy 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 5:22-23; 1 Timothy 6:11-12). Specifically he should avoid the controversies and false teaching that Paul referred to previously that characterize the world system and are valueless, as well as the opposition of those who claimed superior knowledge. This last warning is apparently a reference to Gnostic influence that was increasing in Ephesus. Gnostics taught that there was a higher knowledge available only to the initiates of their cult. Paul had already set forth his full rebuttal to their contention in his epistle to the Colossians. The appeal of these false teachers had seduced some in Ephesus who had wandered from the path of truth.

In closing, Paul wished God’s grace for Timothy and the other saints in Ephesus. The "you" is plural in the Greek text (cf. Colossians 4:18; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-timothy-6.html. 2012.
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