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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Timothy 6

Verses 1-21

1 Timothy 6:4

'I cannot bring myself to take much interest in all the controversies that are going on,' Max Müller wrote in 1865, 'in the Church of England. No doubt the points at issue are great, and appeal to our hearts and minds, but the spirit in which they are treated seems to me so very small. How few men on either side give you the impression that they write face to face with God, and not face to face with men and the small powers that be.'

False Suppositions in Life

1 Timothy 6:5

'Supposing that gain is godliness.' You never need go to any other text for the remainder of your pulpit lives. 'Supposing that gain is godliness' false suppositions in life; twisted, crooked, awkward minds that are always getting hold of things by the wrong end. You know them? Yes, I do getting into a corkscrew kind of mind, out of which a straightforward answer never came. There is no straight line in a corkscrew. 'Supposing that gain is godliness,' or that godliness is gain getting confused. What was he preaching about today? 'The text was, I think, "Supposing that godliness was gain," or, "supposing that gain is godliness," or something of that kind.' You will never make a Christian out of such people, they do not know what they are talking about. They have no clear ideas, no straightforward thought. Well, I do not know, I am sure, whether to blame them; for what can a man do if he has been born with a mind that has no centre and with a mind that has no circumference, a corkscrew mind, a twisting, perverting, half-forgetting, confusing mind? That is the difficulty. Why, perhaps there are not more than two people who will know what the text was when the sermon is done. 'Oh, yes, something about well if no, no, there is no if in it 'that godliness is gain, that gain is godliness'. They have no straightforward ideas, they are living in confusion. Better have only two ideas and know what they are than have a dozen and hold them chaotically, confusedly, and absurdly. Now that is where so many people get wrong. They know fifty things in a half sort of way. They begin a sentence, and expect you to finish it the most tormenting company I ever go into. They know half a proverb, and say, 'Now, you see, that proverb "a bird in the bush a bird in the bush'' you know what I mean'. No, I don't, and you don't Why don't people get some clear idea of what Jesus Christ wants to be at? 'The Son of Man is come into the world to seek and to save that which is lost.' Why not do that, hold to that, keep that as the pure jewel, the very jewel of the Divine heart? No, I can't get on with you; you want to know about evolution, which no man can tell you much about, and you want to know about heredity, and you want to know the whole pack of cards, and a pack of nonsense. Why don't you stick to the Gospel, the one grand eternal line salvation by the Cross? Don't be clever, don't be too clever; there will be no living with you if you become much cleverer in your own estimation.

I. Now, the Apostle says, they have got the true words, gain and godliness, godliness and gain, whether to put the one first or the other first, they do not know. They must therefore make up their minds; they must be right in the first line, and then they may be right in the last line. But godliness who can define it? Nobody. What is the full word? Godlikeness. Ah, that makes a new word, not only a new orthography, but a new grammar. Godlikeness. Now the Apostle says, 'Bodily exercise' counting things, putting things back again, hanging them up, taking them down, rubbing, scrubbing, lacerations; he says, 'Now, dear friends, I have been watching you, hear me, "Bodily exercise profiteth"' what does the New Testament say? 'profiteth little'? No, no; it does say that, but that is not right. 'Bodily exercise profiteth a little.' See, there is something in it, it profiteth a little, it is a kind of beginning, a kind of pledge and earnest; but you must go further, you have got a little profit, but godliness the rising of God over the whole character, the brooding and throbbing of God in the whole soul that makes men and guarantees heaven.

II. False suppositions are vicious arguments; false suppositions turn men away from the right point of view, from the right goal, and torture and confuse the mind. Have you got that idea? The elders in Christ know it well, but I want all the young souls, and groping, fumbling people, to get hold of that, and having got hold of it, keep it; it will serve you in all your discussions, controversies, and misunderstandings.

Now shall I give you an instance or two of these false suppositions? I will, if you please.

(1) A woman was crying, sobbing, looking round, and, seeing a man, was afraid; and she, 'supposing him to be the gardener'. False suppositions in life again; they meet you at every turn. Yet no gardener ever looked quite like that. No. But I suppose he is the gardener. Well, what will you say to him? 'Oh, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where. They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. Oh, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will go to Him, and if He cannot speak to me, I will speak to Him.' Ah, there are always people who are seeking dead Christs. Only paint them a Christ, and you have no idea how far they will travel to see the painting. They cannot imagine that the Christ of God is alive for evermore. Now you must get a right idea of life. Why, a man once said to us in my house, 'You know, the idea, the bare idea, of worshipping the Virgin Mary, worshipping a dead woman!' 'No,' said my wife, 'the Virgin Mary is not dead.' That is right grand. Christ is not dead; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are not dead. God is the God of the living, and not of the dead. You can get wrong by limiting and narrowing things, and supposing that thirty or forty or seventy years terminate a man's life. There is no dead Christ. When we seek Him, we must seek Him as a living Christ, and so seeking Him we shall find Him.

(2) There comes another false supposition, which I have always thought very curious and preached about it twenty times or more. There was a great commotion on the hillside, or in the city or elsewhere, and there was the usual comment upon it ever since the days when Samuel was about to be born, ever since the day when Hannah did this [silently moving the lips], 'You see Hannah, she is drunk, you see how it is, look at her lips'. And so they said on this occasion 'They are drunk'. And one said, 'No, no, these are not drunken, as ye suppose' the same word, 'suppose' 'seeing it is but the third hour of the day'. No, you must go deeper, you must find a larger and fuller explanation of this; this is nothing less than the Spirit of God working in its wonderful way. Now, believe that, and you will cover the whole ground. Oh, it is so easy to say people are drunk, it comes naturally to beautiful, innocent, guileless human nature. Oh, when shall we have the man that comes with broad interpretations, grand definitions, and that lifts up the occasion to its right level? When will that man come? He will himself be counted drunk. Until the Church gets drunk in that way, that particular special way, the Church will make no impression upon the world. So long as the Church is one of a number of institutions, she will be respectable, and she will have her little day and cease to be. She must be drunk, not with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, and then she will come into close grips with the devil, and fling him to the dust and trample on him. Be earnest, be alive.

III. Then what have we to do, preacher? I tell you what we have to do: you have got to cleanse the mind of all false suppositions. Now I must get into every corner of your mind, and get these suppositions out out! It is so difficult to get a supposition out; a supposition is like a prejudice. No man ever really got hold of a prejudice and pulled it and threw it into the fire. Now you must get rid of all these false suppositions. When you came into the Church what was your motive? 'Well, of course, I have been very much disappointed, you know; I thought that if I entered the Church in any of its communions, I should have peace and joy, and get rid of the enemy.' Oh, no! he never was such an enemy as when you prayed your last, greatest prayer; he hated you then. Some of the great Apostles have said, they that will live godly shall suffer persecution, expect persecution. What persecution have I endured for Christ's sake? None; I have worked on the sunny side of the wall; my shame is reserved for the day of judgment.

Joseph Parker.

Reference. VI. 5. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 202.

1 Timothy 6:6 , etc.

In an age when fortunes are made, either by pleasing vast numbers of persons, and those for the most part half-taught and rude of habit, or else by pleasing those who have amassed fortunes and nothing else the pursuit of fortune is the ruin of art. I may be asked, what practical measures I would advocate to remedy this state of things, a state of things which seems but another illustration of the old saying that 'the love of money is the root of all evil'.... The only true remedy is that contained in the Apostle's words to Timothy: 'They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition'. And it is as true for the artist or the poet today as it was for the divine and the disciple, as it was true for the Apostle's own son in the faith, whom he had left in Ephesus: 'But then, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness'. Men hear these words in church on Sunday, and for the next six days in the week they go to 'change and to their office, and contend for the turn of the market like hungry tigers at the hour of meal. 'They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts.' And no snare is so cunning as that spread for those that will be rich in fame and money by their skill in art.

Frederic Harrison, Realities and Ideals, pp. 332 f.

Reference. VI. 6. R. G. Soans, Sermons for the Young, p. 30.

1 Timothy 6:7

'Constantine,' says Dean Stanley ( History of Eastern Church, VI.), 'usually preached on the general system of the Christian revelation; the follies of paganism; the unity and providence of God; the scheme of redemption; the judgment; and then attacked fiercely the avarice and rapacity of the courtiers, who cheered lustily, but did nothing of what he had told them. On one occasion he caught hold of one of them and drawing on the ground with his spear the figure of a man, said: "In this space is contained all that you will carry with you after death".'

1 Timothy 6:7-10

The way to visit a palace is to take your Testament and read the Epistles as you walk about. Never does the insignificance of all human splendours diminish to such a degree at such a time.

B. R. Haydon.

Reference. VI. 8. J. S. Boone, Sermons, p. 265.

1 Timothy 6:9

Where you are, remember that you are in the very centre of the barbaric mercantile system of England, whose rule is, 'They that make haste to be rich,' instead of 'piercing themselves through with many sorrows,' do their best as wise and prudent citizens. Remember that that is a lie; and without offending any one (and the most solemn truths can be spoken without offence, for men in England are very kind-hearted and reasonable), tell them so, and fight against the sins of a commercial city.

Kingsley, to a Liverpool Clergyman.

References. VI. 9. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 24; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 381. VI. 9, 10. T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 26. VI. 9-11. A. Jenkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 156. VI. 10. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. i. p. 262. R. C. Trench, Sermons New and Old, p. 60. VI. 12. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2226. F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 305. D. W. Whittle, ibid. vol. lvi. p. 254. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1946. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 248. T. F. Crosse, Sermons, p. 114. O. Bronson, Sermons, p. 245. J. H. Jowett, British Congregationalist (New Series), No. 106, p. 122. VI. 12-14. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 370. VI. 12-19. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 203. VI. 13. Ibid. vol. ii. p. 261; ibid. (5th Series), vol. vii. p. 218; ibid. (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 267. VI. 14. Ibid. (4th Series), vol. x. p. 109. VI. 16. Ibid. vol. i. p. 34; ibid. vol. iii. p. 402.

Spirituality and Civilisation

1 Timothy 6:1

In a time of abounding wealth, of leisure and opportunity, of manifold luxury and fashion, novelty and pleasure, it is of the first importance that we understand our relation to the opulent civilisation which marks our age.

I. Let us then observe that the Christian life is a comprehensive and catholic life. The Christian is free to enter into all possible relations with the world: seeing everything, using everything, enjoying everything. It is not the genius of our spiritual faith to narrow the earthly life, but to make it as wide as possible. Some teachers maintain that it is the highest wisdom to narrow life as much as possible, to bring into it as few things and interests as possible, to reduce it to as few sensations as possible. I venture to say that this is exactly contrary to the genius of the Christian faith. The world is accustomed to regard spiritually minded men as specially narrow, as fanatically morbid and exclusive. Let us not be misunderstood. We are as broad as nature; all her pipes are in our organ, all her strings are in our harp.

II. But the catholic life can be realised only through the limitations laid down in the context: 'Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may hold on eternal life'. (1) Note how this applies to the physical life. Nothing is more common than the notion that a spiritual faith does injustice to our animal nature, and discourages us in relation to the whole range of carnal pleasure. But in truth it is only through the discipline of our corporeal life, such a discipline as the text suggests, that we can enjoy the fulness of the possibilities of our physique. (2) Note how the higher law applies to wealth, fashion, and luxury. Let us clearly and fully recognise the legitimacy of the affluence of the times. Let us not proscribe these things of taste and splendour, but insist that they shall be conditioned by godliness, righteousness, and disinterestedness. (3) Finally, a word as to the bearing of our text upon our intellectual, aesthetic, and sentimental life. Here, once again, we recognise that God 'giveth us all things richly to enjoy'.

But whilst Christianity sanctions this glowing and delightful universe, it insists upon the supremacy of the spiritual and ethical elements.

W. L. Watkinson, The Blind Spot, p. 135.

References. VI. 17. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 390. VI. 18, 19. James Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (9th Series), p. 9.

The Reality of the Spiritual Life

1 Timothy 6:19

In speaking of a life that is 'life indeed,' St. Paul implies that all life is not such, but that many live a false life. In the conviction of the Apostle, the true life, the life indeed, is the spiritual life. Can we, in this perplexing pilgrimage of life, distinguish between the true and the false? Several tests will demonstrate the reality of the spiritual life.

I. The Persistence of the Spiritual Instinct. Despite the most frantic efforts we cannot rid ourselves of the consciousness of the spiritual universe. If our faith in the spiritual world were a mere hallucination, a perception without an object, it would of necessity ever become more attenuated and less influential. The scientist assures us of this. Creatures never retain organs of any sort that are useless. The spiritual instinct is the most inveterate and influential of all our instincts.

II. The Irrationality of Human Life without the Spiritual Idea. If we are to regard the universe as rational, and human life as serious and satisfactory, the spiritual idea is essential. There is no logic in life except we give it the larger interpretation; it is a melancholy enigma, and only that, until we recognise its spiritual ideas and laws, its transcendent ideals and hopes.

III. The Deep Satisfaction of those who Cherish the Spiritual Hope. It has been said by a cynical philosopher that man is simply a lucky bubble on the protoplasmic pot. But if he is nothing more than a bubble, blown by the breath of blind chance and pricked by the hand of blind death, he will steadily and reasonably refuse to believe that he is a 'lucky' bubble. It is altogether another thing with the spiritual man. (1) We may affirm that in the truest sense the Lord Jesus revealed to us the spiritual world. Christ, by flashing upon us the great vision of the Divine, the perfect and the eternal, awoke in us the latent spiritual instinct; it is He who founded that active, passionate, fruitful, spirituality which created the modern world, and in which lies the hope of the race. (2) In Christ alone do we find ability to live the spiritual life. A Jewish legend affirms that if an angel spends seven days on the earth it becomes gross and opaque and loses the use of its wings. We all know the debasing power of the worldly environment. The heavenly virtue is our supreme salvation against the whole treacherous, debasing environment.

W. L. Watkinson, The Bane and the Antidote, p. 57.

References. VI. 19. G. S. Barrett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 312. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1946. W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 214. R. F. Horton, The Hidden God, p. 145. W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 228. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 379.

Timothy's Life and Mission

1 Timothy 6:20

The text comes to us in one of the Epistles written by St. Paul to his tried friend and companion Timothy, and what do we know about that apostolic man?

I. His Infancy. He was the son, like the great St. Augustine, of a religious mother and a heathen father, and by the care of his mother, Eunice, he was trained from a child in the knowledge of 'the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus'. Now, St Paul, of course, there is speaking of the Old Testament, because the New Testament did not as yet exist It is a very familiar and a very charming picture, that of Timothy at his mother's knee learning his first lessons in the Book of Life. But we ought not to think only of the grace and the tenderness of this little vignette of an old-world family party. See rather what it has to teach us.

(a) It is the right and the duty of parents to instil into their children that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom according to the dictates of their consciences. But there is another point and much more important. What Timothy read with his mother was the Old Testament Scriptures, and we see what St. Paul says of those.

(b) The ancient Hebrew Scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Through faith, the Apostle says, and he means that in themselves they are not adequate because they were written long before the coming of the Gospel and to prepare the way of the Gospel, and that they are therefore inferior to the Gospel, just as the twilight of the dawning is inferior to the full splendour of the sun; but if a man have faith, if the spirit of Christ Jesus is in his heart, if, therefore, he knows already Him towards Whom the Jews were being led through shadows and through symbols, then he can see the finger of God in every page. He can see that these old Scriptures are imperfect, and he can see where they are imperfect, and yet at the same time he can see how they are instinct with the growing light of God, while at the same time he blesses God for the fuller light in which he stands. Now is not that what St. Paul means, and does it not answer a great number of questions that are perpetually asked, and that trouble men's minds? Look upon the Old Testament as the Gospel of the infancy, and you will find that many a perplexity dies away quite of its own accord.

II. His Ordination. Timothy became the friend and the companion of St. Paul, and finally he was selected to be one of the great officers of the Church, or, as we say, he was ordained. It is important to recall the text which tells us about that fact to your memory. 'Neglect,' the Apostle says, 'neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophesy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery'; and in another notable passage which we may couple with this whether it refers to the same incident or to that later time when be was specially set in charge of the Church of Ephesus St. Paul says, 'Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands'. Well, there you have first of all the prophet, the inspired layman, the representative of the Church whose voice was the voice of God, and through whom the Holy Ghost spoke, saying, 'Separate unto Me this man or that for the work of My ministry'. Prophecy, in the narrower sense of the word at any rate, has ceased, but in the place of the prophets stand all good Christian people. It has always been their part, and should be more emphatically and confessedly their part to bear their testimony.

III. His Work. The reason why Timothy was sent to Ephesus was that the Church there was torn by idle and profane questions. A question is idle when it cannot be answered, and therefore ought not to be asked, and it is profane when it causes strife instead of ministering to godliness, when it leads men to think more of their own devices and less of the sovereign grace of God. There were many such questions in the primitive Church. Timothy was despatched to that scene of contention not to plunge joyously into the fray, but to preach that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man. In that simple Gospel St. Paul knew that there was grace and mercy and peace.

References. VI. 20. G. Body, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lviii. p. 233. W. M. Sinclair, Difficulties of our Day, p. 18. VI. 20, 21. Expositor (6th Series), vol. iv. p. 21.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-timothy-6.html. 1910.