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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

1 Timothy 6

Verses 1-21

IN THE APOSTOLIC age, as now, the gospel won many of its triumphs among the poor, hence not a few servants, or slaves, were found in the church. Chapter 6 opens with instructions which show the way of godliness as it applies to them. Slavery is foreign to Christianity yet inasmuch as the rectifying of earthly wrongs was not the Lord’s object in His first coming, (See, Luke 12:14) and is only to be accomplished when He comes again, the will of God for His people now is to accept the conditions which characterize their times, and in them adorn the doctrine and honour His name.

Servants have the lower place, then let them be marked by subjection and the honouring of their masters, and should these themselves be believers far from it being a reason for slighting them or belittling their authority it would only furnish the slave with an additional reason for serving them faithfully. These instructions the Apostle calls “the doctrine which is according to godliness,” for they were wholesome words as given by the Lord Himself.

The present age is marked by a very considerable uprising against authority even in Christian circles. The thing itself is not new for it was in evidence when this epistle was written. There were men teaching things which were in contradiction of “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,” even in the first century; it is not surprising therefore that such abound in these later times. The Apostle writes very plainly about these opponents. He unmasks their true character. They were marked by pride and ignorance. How often these two things go together! The less a man knows of God and of himself the more he imagines he has something to boast in. The true knowledge of God and of himself at once dispels his pride.

Verse 1 Timothy 6:4 also makes plain what is the effect of repudiating the authority of the Lord. Questions and strifes of words come to the fore. This of course is inevitable, since if the Lord’s authority is set aside it all becomes a question of opinion; and if so one man’s opinion is as good as another, and argumentative and verbal strife may be carried on almost ad infinitum, and all kinds of envy and strife flourish.

Men who thus dispute show themselves to have corrupt minds and to be destitute of the truth, and that which underlies their proud thoughts is the idea that personal gain is the real end of godliness—that a man is only godly for what he can get out of it. If that is their idea then of course they would not advocate a slave rendering such service as is enjoined in verse 1 Timothy 6:2, since any gain from that would accrue to his master and not to himself. The truth is that not gain but God is the end of godliness, though as the Apostle so strikingly adds, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” To walk as in the presence of the living God with a simple trust in His goodness and with contentment of heart is very great gain of a spiritual sort.

We have to recognize that we are but life tenants of all that we possess. We entered the world with nothing; we go out with nothing. God may indeed give us much for our enjoyment but on the other hand we should be contented with just the necessaries of life—food and raiment. This sets a high standard before us; one that but few of us come up to, though the Apostle himself did. The exhortation of verse 1 Timothy 6:8 is much needed by us all in these days.

On all hands are people who earnestly desire to become rich; the making of money is to them the chief end of life. The Christian may all too easily become infected with this spirit to his great loss. Verse 1 Timothy 6:9 does not speak of those that are rich, as does verse 1 Timothy 6:17, but of those that “will be rich” or “desire to be rich,” that is, they set it before them as the object to be pursued. Such become ensnared by many lusts, which in the case of the man of the world plunge him into destruction and ruin. This is so whether they succeed in their aim and amass wealth or whether they do not, for the coveting of money it is that turns men aside from the faith and pierces them through with sorrows, and not the acquisition and misuse of it only. The love of money is declared to be the root of every kind of evil. It is not that every bit of evil in the world can be traced to the love of money, but that the love of money is a root from which on various occasions every description of evil springs.

The appeal to Timothy in verses 1 Timothy 6:11-14 sets before us the will of God for the believer, which is wholly apart from and opposed to the idea that gain is godliness with its consequent love of money. Timothy is here addressed as a “man of God.” The meaning of this term is evident if we observe its use in Scripture. It signifies a man who stands with God and acts for God in days of emergency when the majority of those who are professedly His people are proving faithless to His cause.

The man of God then, or for the matter of that, all true believers are to flee all these evil things that follow in the train of the love of money and they are to pursue the things which are the fruit of the Spirit. Six lovely features are enumerated which hang together like a cluster of fruit; beginning with righteousness, which ever has to be to the fore in a world of unrighteousness and sin, and ending with meekness, which is the very opposite of what we are by nature, for it concerns our spirit as righteousness concerns our acts.

If we make such things as these our pursuit we shall at once become conscious of opposition. There is plenty of opposition in the pursuit of money for we live in a competitive world. Money-making becomes usually a fight, in some cases a fight of a pretty sordid kind. It is a fight also if we pursue these things that please God, only this time it is a fight of faith, for our opponents now will be the world, the flesh and the devil, and nothing but faith in the living God will prevail against these.

Moreover these excellent things are the working out into expression of that eternal life which is the portion of the believer on the Son of God. The life is ours as is made so abundantly plain in the writings of the Apostle John, yet we are exhorted to lay hold of it, for it is a dependent life, Christ being its Source and Object, and we lay hold of it in laying hold by faith of Him and of all those things which find their centre in Him. The men of the world lay hold of earthly gain, or of as much of it as they can compress into their fists. We are called to eternal life, and are to lay hold of it by going in for all those things in which from a practical standpoint it consists.

Timothy had made a good profession and now he is solemnly charged in the sight of God, who is the Source of all life, and of the Lord Jesus, who was the great Confessor of truth before the highest circles of the world, to walk according to these instructions in an untarnished way until the moment when the servant’s responsibility shall cease.

The time is coming when the Lord Jesus Christ shall shine forth in His glory and then the faithful servant shall see the happy fruit of faithfulness and of the good confession rendered. That time is fixed by the blessed and only Potentate whose purposes nothing can frustrate, who dwells in faceless splendour beyond the reach of mortal eye.

Notice the full and complete way in which Scripture identifies the Lord Jesus and God. In these verses (14-16) it is not easy to discern which of the two is spoken of. It appears however that in this Scripture it is God who is King of kings and Lord of lords, who is going to show forth the Lord Jesus in His glory when the time is come. In Revelation 19:16 it is without a doubt the Lord Jesus who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

Observe also the force of the words, “who only hath immortality,” for there are not wanting those who attempt to press them into service, as supporting the denial of immortality to the soul of man and the teaching of annihilation. Their meaning is of course that God alone has immortality in an essential and unqualified way. If creatures possess it they have it as derived from Him. Did it mean that as to actual fact God only is immortal we should have of course to accept the ultimate extinction of all the saints and even of the holy angels. Read in that way the words mean too much even for the annihilationist.

Having ascribed “honour and power everlasting” to the immortal, invisible God, before whom Timothy was to walk far removed from the spirit and ways of those whose main object was the acquisition of riches, the Apostle turns in verse 1 Timothy 6:17 to give instructions as to those believers who are “rich in this world.” His words indicate first of all the dangers attached to the possession of wealth. It has a tendency to generate high-mindedness and to divert the possessor from trust in God to trust in money. The worldly man of wealth naturally fancies himself greatly and feels himself secure against the ordinary troubles and struggles of humanity. The wealthy Christian must not imagine that his money entitles him to dominate the church of God and lord it over his fellow-believers.

Secondly Paul shows us the privileges attaching to wealth. It may be used in the service of God, in the help of His people; and thus he who starts by being rich in money may end in being rich in good works, and this is wealth of a more enduring kind. Earthly riches are uncertain, and he who lays it up in store for himself may find his store sadly depleted just when most needed. He who uses his riches in the service of God is laying up in store a good foundation of reward in eternity and meanwhile his trust is in the living God, who after all does not deny us what is good but gives it to us richly for our enjoyment. It is just those who hold and use their possessions as stewards responsible to God that can be trusted to enjoy God’s good gifts without misusing them.

We saw that trust in the living God is the very essence of godliness when we were looking at 1 Timothy 4:10. The expression occurs again in verse 1 Timothy 6:17 here. Rich believers are to be godly and to bend their energies not to the laying hold of larger things in this world but to the laying hold of “eternal life,” or “that which is really life.” The latter is probably the correct reading. Real life is not found in money and the pleasures it procures (See, v. 1 Timothy 6:6.) but in the knowledge and service of God.

The closing charge to Timothy is very striking. To him had been entrusted as a deposit the knowledge and maintenance of the revealed truth of God, as stated more fully in 2 Timothy 3:14-17. This he was to jealously guard for it would be imperilled, on the one hand by profane and vain babblings—doubtless foolish teachings akin to the “profane and old wives fables” of 1 Timothy 4:7 —and on the other hand by “science falsely so called. These words plainly infer that true science exists which is in complete harmony with revelation. They plainly state that there was even 2000 years ago a mix-named science which opposed revelation. It was largely composed of the speculations of the philosophers. The mix-named science of today also is composed of partial knowledge based on imperfect or inaccurate observations with a very large admixture of speculation often of the wildest kind. If that kind of “science” be professed the faith is missed altogether.

As to all this the instructions are very simple. Avoid the babblings and AVOID the mis-named science no less than the babblings. We shall need grace from God to do this. Hence the closing words, “Grace be with thee Amen.”

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Bibliographical Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.