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6 Warnings against Pride of the Flesh and Instruction in Piety
( 1 Timothy 6 )
The apostle has warned us against religious flesh that apostatises from the truth and adopts asceticism ( 1 Timothy 4 ); and against worldly flesh, leading to wantonness and self-indulgence ( 1 Timothy 5 ); now, in the closing chapter, we are warned against the pride of the flesh that covets money and worldly advantage. To meet these evils the apostle again presses upon us practical piety (verses 3, 5, 6, 11).
In the course of his exhortation the apostle brings before us the Christian slave (verses 1, 2); the proud and ignorant professor of Christianity (verses 3-8); the backslider, enticed by the riches of the world (verses 9, 10); the man of God (verses 11, 12); Christ, the perfect Example (verses 13-16); the believer who is rich in this world (verses 17-19); and the professed scientist (verses 20, 21).
(a) Christian slaves (verses 1, 2)
(V. 1). The chapter fitly opens with instruction for the Christian slave. Such might attempt to use Christianity as a means of improving his social position. The institution of slavery may, indeed, be entirely contrary to the spirit of Christianity. Nevertheless, the great object of the house of God is not to set the world right, nor to advance the worldly interests of those who form the house, but to maintain the glory of the Name of God and to witness to, and support, the truth. The Christian slave, then, was to show all honour to his unbelieving master, that there might be nothing in his conduct that could justly cast a slur upon the Name of the One who dwells in the house, or that would deny the truth that the house of God is to maintain.
(V. 2). The apostle gives a special warning to the Christian slave with a believing master. The fact that his master was a brother in the Lord was not to be used to set aside the respect that was due from a servant to a master. Any lack in this proper respect would be an attempt on the part of the slave to use Christianity to raise his social position, thus seeking his own worldly advantage.
In the assembly the slave and the master were on common ground, equal before the Lord. There, indeed, the slave might by reason of his spirituality, or gift, be more prominent than his earthly master. Let believing slaves, however, beware lest they are tempted to abuse the privileges of the assembly by making them a ground for undue familiarity to their masters in the every-day affairs of life. So far from growing slack in their duties to masters who were believers, they were rather to render them service because they were faithful and beloved and partakers of Christian benefits.
(b)The ignorant professor, destitute of the truth (verses 3-8)
(V. 3). Clearly, then, Christianity is not a system for the advancement of our social position in this world. It is true that the believer, as he passes through this world, is to do good, and that the presence of the Christian and right Christian conduct must have a beneficial effect. Nevertheless, the great object of the house of God is not to improve the world, but to witness to the grace of God in order that men may be saved out of the world which, in spite of civilisation and any social improvements, is going on to judgment.
Apparently, in those early days there were those who taught otherwise. They viewed Christianity merely as a means for improving the social conditions of men and women, thus making this world a better and a brighter place. Probably they were teaching that the converted slave, having come under the Lordship of Christ, could consider himself free from his earthly master. Such views, however, were contrary to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the teaching which is according to piety.
Thus, again, the apostle brings in piety as the safeguard against the abuse of our Christian privileges. Piety walks in the fear of God, trusting in the living God, who is the Preserver of all men. Thus walking we should be preserved from seeking to use Christianity simply as a means of improving our worldly position.
(Vv. 4, 5). Having shown that piety is the safeguard against the abuse of Christianity, the apostle states that the one who teaches otherwise is moved by the pride of the flesh. Pride that trusts in self, and seeks to maintain one's self-importance, is utterly opposed to piety that trusts in God and seeks His glory.
Behind this pride there is ignorance of the mind of the Lord as conveyed in His words. This ignorance of the Lord's mind arises from allowing the human mind to be occupied with the endless questions raised by men and strifes about words. Wholly indifferent to the moral power of the Christian faith working in the soul and leading to the life of piety, men treat Christianity as if it were a matter of “questions and disputes of words”.
Such disputes of words, instead of strengthening piety, only give occasion for the manifestation of the works of the flesh. The pride that seeks to exalt self by these endless questions must inevitably lead to “envy”, for the proud man can brook no rival. Naturally the flesh will strive against the one of whom it is envious. Thus envy leads to strife, and striving against another will lead to “injurious words” about him. The knowledge that “injurious words” are being uttered will raise “evil suspicions” and “constant quarrellings”. Such is the evil crop that arises from envy. There is no greater power for evil among the saints of God than the allowance of envy in the heart. “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but”, says the preacher, “who is able to stand before envy?” It was envy that led to the first murder in this world; and it was envy that led to the greatest murder in this world. Pilate “knew that for envy they had delivered Him” ( Mat_27:18 ).
Alas! this envy may show itself among the true people of the Lord. Here the apostle traces it back to the pride of a heart that is corrupt and destitute of the truth of Christianity. The underlying motive with such is earthly gain; hence they hold that “gain” is the end of piety. In other words, they teach that Christianity is merely a means of improving our condition and adding to our worldly advantage. This we know, from the history of Job, is really a suggestion of the devil. Job was a pious man and one that feared God, but, says Satan, “Doth Job fear God for nought?” Satan's vile suggestion is that no such thing as godliness exists, and that if a man makes a profession of piety, it is not that he fears God, or cares for God, but simply that he knows it pays and is to his worldly advantage. Satan says to God, “Put forth Thy hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face.” The Lord allows this horrible lie of the devil to be thoroughly exposed. Satan is allowed to strip Job of all that he has, and, in result, Satan is exposed as a liar. Instead of cursing God, Job fell down before the LORD and worshipped, saying, “The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the LORD” ( Job_1:8-12 ; Job_1:20 ; Job_1:21 ).
(Vv. 6-8). Thus the truth, as well as the experience of the people of God, proves not only that piety is gain but, when accompanied with contentment that trusts God, it is great gain. We brought nothing into the world, and whatever possessions we may acquire as we pass through the world, it is evident that we can carry nothing out. Having food and covering - and the slave had these things - let us therewith be content.
(c) The backslider enticed by the riches of the world (verses 9, 10)
In contrast with godly contentment there is the restlessness of those who desire to be rich. Wealth has its snares as the apostle shows a little later, but it is not necessarily the possession of wealth that ruins the soul, but the “desire to be rich” (N.T.). It has been pointed out that this word “desire” includes the idea of purpose. The danger is that the believer, instead of being content to earn his living, may set himself with “purpose” of heart to be rich. Thus riches become an object instead of the Lord. Better for us to cleave to the Lord “with purpose of heart” ( Act_11:23 ).
The apostle warns us against the evils that result from the desire to gain riches. All are tempted, but the one that desires to be rich will fall into the temptation and find himself caught in some hidden snare of the enemy. Moreover, the desire to be rich opens the way to foolish and hurtful lusts, for it panders to the vanity and pride of the flesh, ministering to selfishness and ambition. These are the things that plunge men into destruction and ruin. Thus it is not simply money, but “the love of money” that is the root of every evil. How solemn that it is possible for the believer to be drawn into the very things that bring destruction and ruin upon the men of the world. Even in the days of the apostle some had coveted after riches, only to wander from the faith and pierce themselves through with many sorrows.
(d) The man of God (verses 11, 12)
(V. 11). In contrast with the backslider that wanders from the faith, the apostle sets before us the characteristics of the “man of God”. In the New Testament the expression “man of God” only occurs in the Epistles to Timothy. Here it is definitely applied to Timothy; in the Second Epistle it is applied to all who, in an evil day, walk in faithful obedience to the word of God ( 2Ti_3:17 ). There are things from which the man of God has to “flee”; things that he is exhorted to “follow”; things for which he is called to “fight”; there is something to “lay hold” of; and something to be “confessed”.
The man of God will flee from the foolish and hurtful lusts of which the apostle has been speaking. It is not enough, however, to avoid evil; there must be the pursuit of good. Therefore the man of God is to follow after “righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit” (N.T.). However others may act, the man of God will seek to walk in consistency with his relationships to others as brethren; this is righteousness. But this righteousness to others is taken up in the holy fear that realises our relationships to God, and what is due to God; this is piety. Further, the man of God will pursue faith that has Christ for its Object, and “love” that goes out to his brethren, bearing evil and insults with quiet endurance and meekness, instead of impatience and resentment.
(V. 12). Further, the man of God will not be content with fleeing from evil and following certain great moral qualities. These things are, indeed, of the first importance, but the man of God is not content with the formation of a beautiful character individually, while indifferent to the maintenance of the truth of Christianity. He realises that the great truths of Christianity will meet with unceasing and deadly opposition of the devil and he will not shrink from the conflict for the faith.
Moreover, in contending for the faith, the man of God will not forget the eternal life which, though he possesses, in all its fulness, lies before him. He is to lay hold of it in present enjoyment as his sustaining hope.
Lastly, if the man of God flees from evil, follows good, fights for the faith and lays hold of eternal life, he will be one who in his life makes a good confession before others. He becomes a living witness to the truths that he professes.
(e) The perfect Example (verses 13-16)
To encourage us to keep this charge, the apostle reminds us that we live in the sight of One who preserves all things in life (N.T.). Can He not then preserve His own, however severe the conflict they may have to pass through? Moreover, if we are called to faithfulness, let us not forget we are under the eye of One who has been before us in the conflict, and who, in the presence of the contradiction of sinners, of envy and insult, acted in absolute faithfulness to God, maintaining the truth in patience and meekness, and thus witnessed a good confession.
Moreover, faithfulness will have its reward. The commandment is, therefore, to be kept spotless and irreproachable, until the appearing of Jesus Christ. The glory of His appearing will bring with it an answer to any little faithfulness on our part, as, indeed, it will be the glorious answer to the perfect faithfulness of Christ. Then, indeed, when the One men reviled, insulted and crucified is displayed in glory, there will be not only a full answer to all His faithfulness, but a full display of all that God is. It will be manifest to all the world what is already revealed to faith, that, in the Person of Christ, God is revealed as the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, the One who, in the majesty of His Deity, alone has essential immortality, and who dwells in inaccessible light.
Those who form the house of God may fail to witness for God; the man of God may only display God in measure, but in Christ there will be the full display of God for His everlasting glory.
(f) The rich in this world (verses 17-19)
The apostle has a special exhortation for believers who are rich in this world. Such are beset by two dangers. Firstly, there is the tendency of riches to lead the possessors to assume an air of highmindedness, thinking themselves to be superior to others because of their riches. Secondly, there is the natural tendency to trust in the riches that at best are uncertain.
The safeguard against these snares is found in trusting in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. However rich a man may be, he cannot buy the things that God gives. However poor, he can receive and enjoy what God gives.
Trusting in the living God, who is the Giver of all good, will enable the rich man also to become a giver. But God loves a cheerful giver; hence the rich man is exhorted to be “ready to distribute” and “willing to communicate”. Thus acting he will be laying by a good store in view of future blessing, instead of laying up riches for this present age. The man who lays up for the time to come will lay hold of that which is really life, in contrast with the life of pleasure and self-indulgence that earthly riches might secure.
(g) The professed scientist (verses 20, 21)
Finally, we are warned to keep “the entrusted deposit”. The whole truth of Christianity has been given to the saints as a “trust” to be held in the face of every opposition. Here we are specially warned against the opposition of the theories of men, which prove to be utterly false by subjecting God, His creation and His revelation to the mind of man, instead of being subject to God and His world. Presumptuously occupied with their infidel theories they have missed the faith.
These files are public domain.
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany