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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 6

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

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Verses 1-2

The Station of the Slaves.

v. 1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed.

v. 2. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

As in other parts of the New Testament, the slave problem is also here dealt with simply and directly, leaving no room for misunderstandings: As many as are slaves under the yoke, let them regard their own masters worthy of all honor, lest the name of God and the doctrine be blasphemed. See Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18. The apostle in this verse evidently has such slaves in mind as had heathen masters. These slaves were not free to do as they pleased, but were under the yoke, they were bound to their masters in absolute obedience. This submission, however, which the apostle refers to in a self-evident way, should not be an unwilling, grudging obedience. The slaves should rather regard those masters who were over them by God's will and permission as worthy of all honor. The Fourth Commandment thus has its full force and meaning in this relationship and cannot be set aside. At the same time Paul has in mind the honor of the Word of God, which should be furthered by such willing obedience on the part of Christian slaves. In most cases a slave's profession of Christianity could hardly remain hidden. In such an instance disobedience, obstinacy, stubbornness would be sure to reflect upon the doctrine confessed by the Christian servant and harm the cause of his Master.

But the apostle finds it necessary also to add a specific warning to such slaves as had Christian masters: But those that have believing masters should not despise them because they are brethren, but perform their service all the better because believers they are and beloved that partake of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. Knowing himself to be the equal of any Christian brother by virtue of the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, a Christian slave would be more likely to presume on this newly acquired theory of liberty, equality, and fraternity in relation to a Christian master than in relation to one that was a. heathen. He might even, in a false understanding of such passages as Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11, get the idea that his master no longer had the right to exercise authority over him, and that he was no longer obliged to yield him obedience. This notion might even reach such absurd limits as to cause the slave to forget the respect due to his master and to treat him with a familiarity amounting to contempt. But the apostle teaches that the very opposite is true, that the service of Christian slaves should be all the more willing, all the more faithful, since the men that received their services were believing, beloved brothers in Christ and of Christ. See Ephesians 6:5-6. The apostle purposely adds an exhortation to Timothy to teach and exhort these things; he wanted to have every slave possess a clear understanding of God's will in these matters, indicating, at the same time, that it was necessary to repeat such teaching time and again in order to make it effective.

Verses 3-5

A Description Characterizing the Errorists.

v. 3. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness,

v. 4. he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

v. 5. perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness. From such withdraw thyself.

The apostle has finished his table of duties concerning the work of Christians in the various stations, and now finds it necessary to expose the false position of the errorists also with reference to questions of life: If any man teaches otherwise and does not adhere to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ and to the teaching that agrees with godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing. The apostle knows that the doctrine which he was teaching was right and true; this he had emphasized with still greater force upon other occasions, 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3. If any person, therefore, has the temerity to differ from him in the proclamation of faith and love, in the teaching of justification and sanctification, he belongs to a class opposed to Christ. He does not assent, he does not adhere to the wholesome words of Christ; he does not apply himself properly to that teaching which agrees with godliness, which is in agreement with Christ's demands concerning true righteousness of life. The right doctrine is preached without a shadow of selfish interests, always looking forward to the edification and sanctification of the hearers. Paul's jealousy for the honor of God was so great that it caused him to express his criticism in very sharp terms; for he says that such errorists are ignorant from conceit. Their spiritual condition of foolishness is the result of their moral attitude, of their boundless conceit concerning their own knowledge and ability. They had no understanding of those principles, those fundamentals, in which they pretended to possess all knowledge.

The apostle now continues his characterization from the positive side: But [they] have a morbid passion for questionings and strifes of words, out of which come envy, strife, blasphemies, evil opinions, quarrellings of men that are affected in mind and deprived of the truth, supposing godliness to be a source of gain. This sentence is an excellent description of the sectarian enthusiasts of all times. They have a morbid, feverish passion for all manner of questionings; they like to be occupied with apparently abstruse reasonings, with matters that are of no value in doctrine, but serve only for vain disputings. This is an abnormal, a morbid condition, always dangerous where the Word of God is concerned. And the result of such empty disputings is envy, mutual mistrust, and disfavor of people that are jealous of one another, culminating in quarrels, no one being able to claim the victory for lack of sound arguments. Then follow blasphemies, the one party promptly spreading slanderous reports about the other, each one trying to harm the reputation of the other; evil opinions, insinuations, one accusing the other of impure motives and misrepresenting the situation; and finally quarrellings, constant friction between people that are depraved in mind, that cause them all to be heated to an uncomfortable degree. No wonder that the idea is found with such persons according to which they suppose godliness, piety, the Christian religion, to be a source of income. The false teachers were careful to arrange for payment in advance for their dubious teaching, probably haggling over the price which they expected for their services, while Paul's attitude was one of the most unselfish devotion and service. The entire situation brought about by the manner of the errorists was one which naturally tended to fill St. Paul with the deepest disgust, for which reason he also writes to Timothy that this is a notion, a false opinion, on their part, thus including a warning to all faithful ministers not to be found in a similar condemnation.

Verses 6-10

The Sin of Avarice and Its Results.

v. 6. But godliness with contentment is great gain.

v. 7. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

v. 8. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content.

v. 9. But 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.

v. 10. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which, while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

At the opening of this paragraph, Paul arranges to obviate a misunderstanding, as though Christianity were under no circumstances a source of gain: But a great gain indeed is godliness with contentment, with the feeling of possessing all that one needs. Piety does indeed result in a gain, and one that is far more excellent than that which the errorists had in mind. It is a characteristic of godliness that this virtue offers a real gain only in connection with such an attitude of satisfaction with one's lot as places its hope and confidence in the Lord and His providence, Psalms 37:5; Proverbs 30:8; Matthew 6:33.

The first reason adduced by the apostle in support of his statement is that taken from the transitory character of this world's goods: For nothing it was that we brought into this world; that we also can bring nothing away (who will doubt?). That is the common, the general human experience. Not only without money and goods, but in absolute nakedness man is born into the world, Job 1:21. And no matter how much he may earn and gain during this short life, no matter how greedily he may seek the things of this world, he can take nothing along with him into eternity, Psalms 49:17; Luke 12:15-21. All the money and goods of this present life are thus transitory in character; they can be our property at best for only a short time, take them along with us we cannot: why, then, strive after that which cannot bring lasting satisfaction?

The second reason of the apostle in support of his statement warning against dissatisfaction and avarice: But having food and raiment, with these let us be content. The actual needs of a man are really much smaller than he himself usually is willing to believe. If he is in possession of that which keeps him alive from day to day; if he has the simplest foods to eat and water to drink; if he can cover his nakedness against heat and cold; if he has some form of shelter against the inclemencies of the weather, then he is in possession of those factors which he needs for the sustaining of his life. Christians that realize the truth of these facts will therefore gladly heed the admonition to be content with this measure of God's goodness and bounty, especially since they have the promise that they will always have what they need for the support and wants of the body, Matthew 6:33-34.

The apostle furthermore refers to the danger connected with the possession of many goods of this world: They, however, that desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and pernicious lusts, which drown the people in ruin and destruction. Note that Paul does not condemn riches in themselves, not the fact that a person is rich, his having received an unusual amount of God's blessings, although it remains true that such people are exposed to very great temptations. He is speaking of such as make it their object and goal to be rich at all costs, that have no other interest in the world than to heap up riches to themselves. People of this kind deliberately court temptation and therefore find little difficulty in finding it; in fact, they readily fall into temptation, they find cause and inspiration for many sins, they find many sins beckoning them on to which they, in their former less prosperous state, never gave a second thought. Following the lure of riches, they fall into the snares of sins, of intemperance, of dissipation, of voluptuousness, and many other vices. Every new day provides further food for the lust of their heart and eyes; with ever greater eagerness they strive after the flimsy hollowness of this world's gifts. Foolish the apostle calls these desires, since they take away all decent reasoning, all moral common sense, causing people to be drowned, to be dragged down into ruin and destruction, into moral and spiritual bankruptcy. So immeasurably deep is this perdition that it includes bodily ruin as well as intellectual, spiritual, and eternal condemnation. At present all the nations of the world seem to have been caught in the vortex of a wild whirlpool, as the mania for amusements and luxuries indicates all too plainly.

In conclusion, the apostle characterizes this insane desire for money: For a root of all evils is the eagerness for money, which some coveting after have erred from the faith and have transfixed themselves with many sorrows. So dangerous is avarice, the love of money, the desire for riches, that St. Paul expressly says there is no evil in the world which cannot grow and receive its nourishment from this terrible vice. Every sin in the Decalogue may directly or indirectly be traced back to avarice. Those are the fruits which a person harvests if he permits this root to obtain a firm hold in his heart. From his experience of many years, gained in many countries, the apostle is able to add that such people as did covet after money, as did desire it with all the eagerness of their foolish mind, lost the spiritual life given to them by faith with this gift itself. They have gone aside, they have erred from the right way. They may not have felt the danger of the situation at first, but the more their love for money grew, the more their love for their neighbor, for Christ, was stifled. They made Mammon their god, and that god made them unhappy. They are plagued with many sorrows and restless thoughts, not only thoughts of remorse, but also internal torments of various kinds: worry for the future, apprehension for the safety of all the money and goods that they have accumulated, fear on account of the uncertainty of investments. Thus Paul characterizes the foolishness, the sinfulness, the damnableness of the love of money. All the more should Christians be found willing to heed his warning and to flee the vice of covetousness.

Verses 11-16

The Conduct of the True Christian and Its Reward. 1 Timothy 6:11-16

v. 11. but thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

v. 12. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

v. 13. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession,

v. 14. that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ;

v. 15. which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords;

v. 16. who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.

Having shown the transitoriness, the superfluity, and the danger of possessing and, more still, of striving after great earthly possessions, St. Paul, by way of contrast, now shows the glory of spiritual possessions, as an incentive to him to make every effort toward their attainment: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; follow rather after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. It is a title by which high honor was conferred upon Timothy and upon all Christians, that of being designated a man of God, 2 Timothy 3:17. The believers are children of God, they belong to God as His own, a fact which alone is a strong argument for the Christians to show themselves worthy of the grace expressed by the name. He that belongs to God as His own has the fullness of riches in Him and is not in need of temporal gifts and blessings to complete his happiness. The Christians, therefore, gladly heed the call of the apostle: Shun, avoid, flee these things. It is a bad plan to try out one's powers of resistance in courting the dangers connected with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. To keep away from their alluring attractions is the one safe thing to do. By constant activity in matters pertaining to the kingdom of God and the service of his neighbor a Christian will put away from him the temptation to many sins of the flesh. Rather, on the other hand, he will follow after, seek with all his might, the virtues which are so often praised so highly in Scriptures: righteousness of life, according to which a person will at all times and in all conditions conduct himself in accordance with the Word of God and His holy will; godliness, according to which the entire religious life of a person will be one of reverence for the holy God; faith, which accepts the merits of Christ and finds comfort in the grace and help of God at all times; love, by which faith shows itself active in good works toward God and one's neighbor; patience or steadfastness in sustaining trials; meekness and humility, according to which a person will not permit himself to become embittered. That is the one side of true Christian conduct.

But the other side is emphasized by the apostle with just as much force: Fight the good fight of faith, take a firm hold on eternal life, to which thou hast been called and hast confessed the good confession before many witnesses. The apostle uses the picture of an athletic contest, in which the participants must exert every muscle, every nerve to the utmost, if they desire to possess the victor's crown. The entire life of the Christians is a continual battle against the many enemies of their faith; they must hold their faith against every attack, against every temptation. Hereby faith itself must contribute and impart strength for proper steadfastness, especially for securing, for laying hold upon, eternal life. The life of eternity with God above is in itself the prize for which the Christians must strive with unabated rigor and eagerness. For obtaining this prize Timothy and every other Christian has been called, that is the real object of their lives, Php_3:14 . This argument possessed all the more weight, since Timothy had professed his faith in Christ and in the certainty of eternal life in a confession before many witnesses. St. Paul is most probably referring to the confession made by Timothy at the time of his Baptism and reception into the congregation. For even in those early days a special baptismal confession was in use. This was a good, a fine, an excellent confession, both its content and its significance elevating it above all confessions with a mere worldly content. Since, moreover, many witnesses, very likely the entire congregation, had been present at the time of his making his confession of faith, he should remember also the obligation toward these Christian brothers and sisters, and not lightly set aside the responsibility resting upon him. These words are so important that they should be heeded also in our days by every catechumen or confirm and, both before and after the special rite by which he joins the congregation as a communicant member.

The matter is of such importance to Paul as to make him add a very impressive exhortation: I charge thee before God, who quickens all things, and Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, that thou keep the commandment immaculate, irreproachable, until the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in the form of a serious, emphatic, cordial exhortation, of an earnest charge, that Paul addressed his pupil at this point. He adjures him before, in the sight of, God, of whom he says that He gives life to all things. God is the Source of all life, both physical and spiritual; Timothy, therefore, having received his spiritual life from God, may be assured that the same Lord will continue to keep him by His power unto life everlasting. But Paul not only reminds Timothy of God and His quickening strength, but also of his Savior Christ Jesus, whose frank confession as to His person and office during the trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate is an example for all Christians of all times. These two facts should be the reasons influencing and strengthening Timothy to keep the commandment, the sum of the entire body of Christian doctrine entrusted to him, immaculate, pure, uncontaminated, without the slightest admixture of error, and also irreproachable, so that no one would be able to bring a charge against him of even the slightest irregularity in his preaching. The gift of the pure doctrine is too precious to permit any careless handling. Timothy should therefore observe the charge to keep the doctrine in all purity until the revelation, the last coming, of the Lord Jesus Christ. With the second advent of Christ the Church will be transformed from the humble and militant to the glorious and triumphant state. Then also the proclamation of the Gospel-message will have an end, for then we shall see, possess, and enjoy what we have here believed.

As usual, the feeling of exaltation which takes hold of the apostle here lifts him to the point of joyous exclamation: Which in due time will show the blessed and only Powerful One, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, He alone having immortality, living in an inaccessible light, whom nobody of men has seen nor can see; to whom honor and everlasting power. Amen. The revelation of Christ will be shown; according to His human nature He will be revealed before the eyes of the astonished nations. God will set this revelation forth, cause it to be made. In due time this will be done, at the period of the world's existence which is known only to God, having been hidden even from Christ according to His human nature in His state of humiliation. The Blessed and the only Powerful One God is called, since He is in possession of the fullness of heavenly bliss and happiness, and since He is, in His essence, almighty, the Sovereign, the Lord, or, as Paul continues to explain, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. ALL people that dwell on earth, no matter whether they bear the title and exercise the power of unlimited monarchs over millions of subjects, sink into insignificance beside Him. He alone has immortality; He is the only one in whom this attribute is a quality of His essence; He is the Source of everlasting life. He lives in a light of heavenly glory, which is inaccessible to mere human beings, to mortal sinners. The very reflection of the divine glory is unbearable to human eyes, Exodus 34:30; much less will they be able to look into the glory of the divine essence itself. No man's eyes have seen nor will see the glory of the great God of heaven, not on this side of eternity. And yet the apostle breaks forth into a deliberate doxology, saying that both glory and eternal strength should be given to Him. Our praise and adoration of His wonderful essence will continue throughout eternity, long after we have changed the mortal hull of our body into the glorified body of heavenly majesty. This is most certainly true.

Verses 17-21

Final Admonitions and Conclusion. 1 Timothy 6:17-21

v. 17. 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;

v. 18. that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

v. 19. laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

v. 20. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called;

v. 21. which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee! Amen.

The admonition which Timothy is to address to the rich people of the world is by no means a mere postscript, but shows the application of the doctrinal exposition in the early part of this chapter. Of the desire to get rich quickly and its dangerous consequences the apostle had treated; to the rich themselves he says: Those that are rich in this present world-period charge not to be proud-minded, not to have their hope rest on the uncertainty of riches, but upon the living God, who offers everything to us richly for enjoyment. St. Paul speaks of the rich in this present period of the world, of men that are wealthy in the goods pertaining to this temporal life. These goods are for the moment only, they are transitory, they are vain. For that reason the wealthy people should not be supercilious, proud-minded, a vice to which they are peculiarly addicted. In reality, they have nothing to be proud of, for their possessions arc merely entrusted to them by God for a season, and they are transitory and evanescent. How foolish for them to indulge in sinful pride! Another thought brought out by the apostle is this, that the wealthy should not rest their hope on the uncertainty of their wealth. The riches of this present world are an uncertain quantity, subject to rapid change, gained today, lost tomorrow. To place one's hope and confidence in wealth is to place it on an uncertain, deceitful foundation. Instead, the rich people should let their hope rest in God, who is not a dead idol like the money which these people adore, but is the living God, the God and Fountain of life. He it is that offers and provides us with all that we need in this life, and in rich measure at that. As a rule, we receive far more than we actually and absolutely need and can use; we are able not only to satisfy our immediate wants, but also to enjoy the gifts of God in quantities above our actual needs. How foolish, then, for men to put their trust in riches!

Instead of this the apostle admonishes that the rich of this world prove themselves faithful stewards of the gifts entrusted to their care: TO do good, to be rich in good works, to be liberal, ready to share, laying down for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may take hold on the real life. The apostle uses synonymous expressions in order to emphasize his point. The rich people, as stewards of God's gifts to them, should be ready with the proper conduct toward men in all circumstances of life. They will therefore excel, be especially rich, in good works which map be done with the aid of money and earthly goods: that is a wealth which far surpasses that of mere money. They should be liberal, generous, where the need is shown to exist; they should be cheerfully willing to be of service to their neighbor at all times In this way they will gather for themselves true treasures, such as have a lasting value, beyond the transitoriness of this present age and world, Luke 16:9; Luke 6:35; Proverbs 19:17. Every gift that comes from a heart full of true love, all assistance that flows from real interest in our neighbor's welfare, is a jewel in the eyes of God. He, therefore, that has many deeds of true kindness to his credit will have a large treasure standing in his name. a capital bearing interest in the best sense of the word. On the Great Day, when the Lord will render to every man his account, He mill pay interest of mercy to him that was rich in good works, and he will be able to lay hold on eternal life. 11-hat an inducement to us to trust in Him as our faithful and gracious God, to fear, lore, and trust in Him, to show Him our gratitude by never forgetting or forsaking our neighbor in any case of real want!

The apostle cannot close without addressing a most urgent and cordial call to his pupil: O Timothy, guard what is entrusted to thee, strictly avoiding profane and vain disputations and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. Timothy had been entrusted with the precious gift of the Gospel and its pure proclamation; he had, indeed, been charged to preach it in its full power and purity. As a faithful guardian he should now watch over this treasure lest it become contaminated in the interest of false unionism or weak compliance with liberalism. To do this, Timothy was to avoid the profane and senseless disputings and babblings of which Paul had spoken in the body of his letter, chap. 1:4; 4:7. Such empty word-quarrels and vain talk as that which was indulged in by the false teachers invariably degrades the truth of salvation and profanes the holy name of God and Christ. And in this case they were not satisfied with such an attitude, but actually had the temerity to come out with contradictions of the truth. These stilted arguments and the system based upon them they called true knowledge. But it was not even a good imitation; it was abominable philosophy, without proper understanding and discrimination. In the case of such people the apostle's advice teaches the only correct attitude, namely, that of aloofness; the best plan is to ignore them entirely. State the truth of Scriptures briefly, succinctly, clearly, and do not begin to argue a philosophy falsely so-called.

How necessary such a warning is at all times appears from the apostle's remark: Which some professing have gone astray concerning the faith. There is always danger that shallow natures may be influenced by the show of wisdom presented by teachers of the class described by the apostle. Some there are to whom the soundness of the old catechism-truths does not appeal, who have ears itching for something new all the time. But it is dangerous to listen to the arguments of the errorists, to heed their plausible speculations. A person indulging in this pastime will quickly find himself on the way to eternal damnation. The faith that saves clings entirely and alone to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, and to His redemption. All other understanding in the field of religion is secondary and, if combined with human speculations, dangerous.

Paul's final greeting to Timothy and also to the congregation in his charge was: Grace with you! If the grace, the unmerited favor of God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, is in and with the Christians, then they are in need of no other spiritual gift; for this grace assures them of the fullness of heavenly bliss and glory, world without end. Amen.


The apostle gives rules of conduct for slaves, warns against covetousness, and shows the advantages of contentment, urges Timothy to give a good account of himself as a soldier of Christ, includes a charge to the rich, and closes with a final admonition to firmness and a personal greeting.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/1-timothy-6.html. 1921-23.
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