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Bible Commentaries

Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT

1 Timothy 6

Verse 1

Our apostle having, in the preceding chapters, instructed Timothy to give the necessary directions for the performances of several relative duties, in this chapter he particularly directs him to instruct Christian servants to the acceptable performance of that great duty of obedience which they owe to their respective masters, whether infidels or Christians.

Christianity frees persons from sinful slavery or bondage, but not from civil servitude and subjection. Religion does not level persons, but allows of an inequality amongst men, superiors and inferiors; and as it gives the former a power to command, so it lays the latter under an obligation to obey.

Observe, 2. The general duty required of all servants towards their masters, and that is, to give them all the honour and obedience which is due in that relation: let them account their masters worthy of all honour.

What masters?

1. Their infidel and unbelieving masters; they are required to carry it dutifully and respectfully towards them.

2. Their believing or Christian masters: they should not despise them because they are brethren; for Christian brotherhood consists with inequality of place and relation, and with subjection of one person to another: but they ought to serve such masters the more readily and cheerfully, because brethren beloved of God, and partakers of the benefit, namely, of redemption by Christ, and of the sanctifying grace of God.

Observe lastly, The grand argument which St. Paul uses to enforce the duty of obedience upon all servants, That the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed; that is, the men of the world will reproach religion, revile Christianity, and say that it teaches, or allows at least, that men be stubborn and disobedient.

Where note, That the poorest and meanest professor of Christianity may do much good or much hurt to religion: some might be ready to say "Alas, what credit or discredit can a poor servant do to religion? Much every way: he may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, Titus 2:9 by his Christian behaviour; and the name of God, and his doctrine, may be blasphemed by him, if he be negligent in his duty.

None are so inconsiderable but they are capable of serving the great ends of religion, and may honour God in some measure; and are capable of being honoured by him upon earth, and with him in the highest heavens.

Verse 3

Observe here, 1. The solemn charge which the Holy Ghost by St. Paul gives to Timothy, to teach and press these relative duties of servants towards their masters, with great zeal and affectionate earnestness, These things teach and exhort: as if our apostle had said, "They are duties of great moment, therefore teach and press them earnestly."

Doubtless there is much of the pleasure and will of God in these commands, and the honour and glory of God is much concerned in them, otherwise the Spirit of God had never been so earnest in the pressing of them; the power of holiness in nothing discovers itself more conspicuously than in the performance of relative duties: we are no more really than what we are relatively; relative holiness is the brightest ornament of religion.

Observe, 2. The high character which St. Paul gives of this doctrine, which urges the practice of these relative duties: he calls what he says and writes about it, Wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Learn thence, That the words written by St. Paul in this and his other epistles, are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is, words agreeable to his mind and will, written with an eye to his glory, promoting his honour, correspondent with and suitable to his practice when here on earth.

Observe, 3. The odious character wherewith he brands those false and flattering teachers, which preached contrary doctrine to what Jesus Christ by his apostles had delivered; he charges them with pride, ignorance, envy, strife, railing, evil surmising, and with supposing that gain was godliness; that is, their end in professing godliness was this, that they might make gain of it, and get preferment by it, making use of religion only as a block to take horse: but to make use of religion in policy, for worldly advantage sake, is the way to be damned with a vengeance for religion sake.

Observe lastly, St. Paul's advice to Timothy to withdraw from these men, From such withdraw thyself; hold no communion with them, maintain no disputes with them, for they dote about questions, and strive about words.

Note here, from St. Paul bidding Timothy withdraw himself from them, that it is very evident that he speaks of persons who were then in being, the Gnostic heretics, according to some; the judiazing teachers, in the opinion of others; that is, they of the circumcision, who taught things which they ought not, for filthy lucre sake.

Whoever they were, St. Paul's admonition to Timothy, to withdraw himself from such, teaches us that heretical seducers are to be shunned and avoided, rather than disputed with, as unfit for our Christian communion, and common conversation.

Verse 6

As if the apostle had said, "Although these seducers are for making a gain of godliness, yet we know that godliness is great gain, especially godliness with contentment; with contentment, I say, which it becomes us to have, for we brought nothing into the world with us, and shall carry nothing away with us; having therefore food and raiment, let us be therewith content and satisfied."

Learn hence, 1. That godliness is the sincere practice of the Christian religion, so called, because it directeth and prescribeth to us the true and only way of worshipping and serving God.

Learn, 2. That some men suit their godliness with their worldly ends, they make a trade and saving bargain of it.

Learn, 3. That godliness, or the sincere practice of the Christian religion, is true gain, great gain, yea, the best gain, both for this world, and that which is to come.

Learn, 4. That one great point of godliness, is to be content with what we have, yea, though it be only food and raiment.

Contentment is a sedate and quiet temper of mind about outward things: it is the wisdom and will of God not to give to all alike, but to some more, to others less, of these outward comforts; but nothing besides food and raiment is absolutely necessary, a little will suffice a contented mind; he is not rich that has much, but he that has enough: that man is poor who covets more, having food and raiment, &c.

Observe lastly, The apostle's argument to excite and move the Christian to this duty of contentment, without enlarging his desires inordinately after the world, and the perishing satisfactions of it. For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out;

where remark, that the note of assurance is fixed rather to our carrying out than to our bringing in; the apostle doth not say, it is certain that we brought nothing into the world, and we shall carry nothing out: but he says, we brought nothing in, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

The note of assurance is applied to the latter; for this reason I conceive, because though all persons come naked, and bring nothing with them into the world, yet abundance is put upon them, and they are born heirs to vast possessions; but it is obvious to every eye, and most indubitably certain, that they carry nothing away with them.

Death is called an unclothing; it unclothes the body, disrobing it of all its gaudy and glorious attire: yea, it unclothes the bones; our flesh wears off quickly in the grave. We proverbially say of a rich man, he has left a vast estate, left it behind him, carrying neither a foot of land, nor a farthing of money with him; therefore doth St. Paul add, it is certain we can carry nothing out.

Verse 9

Observe here, 1. The parties described: they that will be rich, that is, whether God will or no; their hearts are set upon the world, they feel it coming, and have it they will, if by any means, right or wrong, they can come at it, ask nobody's leave, no, not God Almighty's leave, but rich they are resolved to be.

Observe, 2. Their danger represented: they fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish lusts, &c.

Learn hence, That a will and resolution to be rich, is the occasion of much mischief to those that cherish and allow it in themselves; a will to be rich, is to make riches our principal business, our main scope, our great work, to pursue the world with the full bent of our wills: now the bent of our wills is discovered, first, by intention, secondly, by industrious prosecution; when the mind is wholly intent upon getting wealth, and unwearied industry is found in the pursuit of it. Now this is to make a god of the world; for that which is a man's aim, design, and end, is his chief good, and that which is our chiefest good is God. They that will be rich, &c.

Learn, 2. That an hot and over eager pursuit of the world lays a man open to endless temptations, so that it is not only difficult, but impossible, to keep his innocency; and that being irrecoverably lost, drowns a man in perdition and destruction.

Verse 10

Here we have the nature of covetousness, the evil and sin of covetousness, and the mischief and hurt of it declared.

Observe, 1. The nature of it: it is an inordinate love of money, an insatiable desire after wealth.

Observe, 2. The evil and sinfulness of it: it is a root of sin, The root of all evil; the fruit of all sin grows from this root, distrustful care, tormenting fear, anger, malice, envy, deceit, oppression, bribery, perjury, vexatious lawsuits, and the like; nay, farther, covetousness is the root of heresy in judgment, as well as of iniquity in practice.

They have erred from the faith: that is, in point of doctrine, as well as in practice; it makes a man believe, as well as act, against the rule of faith, for filthy lucre.

Observe, 3. The mischief and hurt of covetousness declared: it pierces, it pierces through with sorrows, yea, with many sorrows.

But whom doth it pierce?

First, others; it pierces the poor, the needy, the widow, the fatherless, all that fall within the reach of its gripping hand; nay, it doth not spare its own master, or slave rather, but pierces him: They pierce themselves through, says the apostle, with many sorrows, with many more, and much worse sorrows, than they pierce others with.

Riches ill gotten, by covetousness or oppression, instead of making their owners heartily merry, make their consciences ache, and give them many a stitch in their side. None can tell what gall and wormwood springs from this bitter root, both to themselves and others: The love of money is the root of all evil; which while some covet after, they err from the faith, piercing themselves through with many sorrows. It is the root of all evil, of sin, and also of trouble and disquiet.

Verse 11

Observe here, 1. The apostle's compellation, or the title given to Timothy, Thou, O man of God: it is a title borrowed from the Old Testament, where it is frequently given to the prophets, who revealed the mind and will of God to the people.

Now by giving it to Timothy, the apostle intimates his duty to him, to contemn the world, and flee the eager pursuit of riches. As if the apostle had said, "O Timothy! thou art a minister, and a man of God, solemnly dedicated to his service, and devoted entirely to his glory; see then that thou abhor, and avoid that detestable sin of covetousness. Heavenly truths are the subjects of thy daily study; Oh! let not earthly things be the object of thy chiefest delight and love; but follow after spiritual riches, namely, righteousness and godliness, faith and love, patience and meekness; that godliness which gives contentment with food and raiment, that faith which assures us of a better and more enduring substance, that righteousness or justice which requires us to let every man enjoy his own, that love which makes us willing to distribute, that patience which makes us willing to submit to a low condition, that meekness which suppresses wrath against those that are injurious to us. All these virtues and graces are necessary to thee as a minister of God; they are certainly indications of a mind free from covetousness, and infallible preservations from it."

Verse 12

The whole verse is an allusion to the Olympic games, particularly to that of racing, where the garland or crown being hung up at the end of the goal, he that came first did lay hold of it, and take it to himself; and because these games were performed in the sight of many spectators, the apostle continues the allusion, and says, Timothy had before many witnesses professed his readiness to suffer for the faith.

The sense of the apostle in this advice seems to be this: "Fight the good fight of faith: go on by faith to overcome all temptations and difficulties; press toward the mark, till thou hold on the prize, which is eternal life: to which spiritual welfare and Christian race thou gavest in thy name, when being baptised and ordained, thou madest a public profession of the faith before many witnesses."

Verse 13

Observe here, what a solemn adjuration and vehement charge is given to Timothy, by our apostle to watch and guard against the sin of covetousness, and avoid the eager pursuit of worldly wealth: I charge thee before God and Christ, that thou keep this commandment spotless and unrebukable, until the coming of Christ, and mayest be found such at his appearing.

Observe, 2. What a glorious display our apostle here makes of the adorable attributes of God; he styles him the God that quickeneth all things, that is all things that have, or shall have life; the blessed and only Potentate, because all power is essential in him, and derived from him; who only hath immortality, that is, an original, primative, simple, independent, essential immortality, that is only proper and peculiar to God; he only is essentially and necessarily of himself immortal; dwelling in the light which is inaccessible, and none can approach unto; and whom no man hath seen, nor can see.

God is invisible in his essence; the nature and essence of God never was seen, nor shall be seen. But we are by the sight of God in heaven, to understand a more clear and full manifestation of God unto us, even so far as our glorified natures can bear it; it will be abundantly beyond expression, yea, beyond our comprehension.

Observe, 3. The testimony which the holy apostle bears to our Lord Jesus Christ when here on earth, that before Pontius Pilate he witnessed a good confession: that is, he did not deny the truth to save his life, but gave all his ministers and people an example of courage and constancy in owning the truth, and sealing it with his blood.

Verse 17

Our apostle having in a very solemn manner exhorted Timothy to avoid that dangerous sin of covetousness himself, in the foregoing verses he doth in these verses require him to lay the same charge upon others, particularly upon worldly rich men; Charge them that are rich.

Observe here, 1. Timothy's duty, not barely to exhort and teach, but to charge and command. True, the ministers of Christ are servants to their people; but servants to their souls, not to their wills, much less to their lusts: there is an authority in our office, which empowers us to command for God, as well as to entreat.

Observe, 2. The subject of this Charge: them that are rich in this world.

Mark, no man is forbidden to be rich, nor yet to use such lawful means by which, through God's blessing thereupon, man may be rich; but rich men need a charge; they want plain dealing from ministers, because they meet with so little of it from other men; for some flatter them, others fear them: God's ministers ought surely to deal fairly with them.

Observe, 3. The charge itself; and this is set down negatively, and affirmatively, both, twofold.

1. The negative matter of the charge, That they be not high-minded; pride of heart, and haughtiness of mind and spirit, is one special sin which great men are subject to.

When God lifts them up by his providence, they lift themselves up by pride: there is a secret malignity in riches when they meet with men's corruptions, to lift them above their due region: though neither the wiser, the holier, the nearer heaven, for all their wealth, nay, perhaps a great deal nearer hell for the abuse of it, yet still the rich think high, look big, breathe scorn, talk with disdain, forgetting that God gives them riches to exalt him, and not themselves.

Next part of the negative charge is, That they trust not in uncertain riches; intimating that creature-confidence, or making an idol or wealth, is the dreadful bane and ruin of rich men; their actions say to the gold, Thou art my hope, and to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; but the vanity and sinfulness of this appears by the apostle's calling them uncertain riches; uncertain in their abode and continuances with us, uncertain in their promises and pretences to us: we expect more from them than ever we find in them.

Observe, 4. The positive part of the charge;

1. To trust in God, the living God, a bountiful God; he giveth riches; they buy, they do not give, he giveth all things; all the wealth in the world cannot give a mouthful of air or ray of light if God withholds it. God is the giver of all: he giveth richly all things; the most miserable man cannot number the rich mercies which he doth receive; and he giveth all things richly to enjoy: that is, he gives an heart to take and taste the comfort of what he gives; he gives not only possessions, but fruition. Riches can do none of these things; why then should we trust in uncertain riches and not in the living God?

Observe, 5. Another duty exhorted to; and that is, to imitate God in the works of bounty; to do good. Rich men are to make their wealth the materials of good works; nay, they must not only do good works, but be rich in good works; as their estate is plentiful, so must their charity be proportionable: they must do it copiously, be rich in good works; they must do it cheerfully, ready to distribute, without grudging, and without delay; they must do it diffusively, willing to communicate, that is, to do as much good to the community as possibly they can, upon principles of Christianity also.

Observe, 6. The encouragements given to this duty.

1. Thus to lay out is to lay up, and that as in a treasury; it is like scattering of seed, in order to an increase and harvest.

2. Thus to lay out upon others, is to lay up for themselves; they have the comfort here, and the reward hereafter.

3. It is to lay up for themselves a foundation; not by way of merit towards God, but by way of evidence in regard of ourselves; a testimony of our reconciliation to, and acceptance with, God.

4. It is a good foundation for the time to come: all our glory, wealth, and substance, is no durable foundation; here to-day, and gone to-morrow; but good works are a bank in heaven: all is deposited in a safe hand that we lay out for God.

5. It shall be rewarded with eternal life; Laying up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Now from the whole learn, 1. That the wisdom of God has seen fit to make a great distinction between men in this world; some are poor, others rich, as God sees best for both.

Learn, 2. That some are rich who are not rich in this world; rich in faith, heirs of a kingdom, yet wandering in deserts, dens, and caves.

3. That there are many who are only rich in this world; look beyond the grave, and they are poor men, miserable men, having great possessions in this world, but no provisions for the next.

Learn, 4. That the great design which all men, especially rich men, should pursue and prosecute in this life, is, how they may in this life secure and lay hold of eternal life: blessed be God, it may be laid hold upon; it is worth laying hold upon; it is life, it is eternal life.

Quest. But how should we lay hold upon eternal life?

Ans. 1. In our judgments; by having them convinced of the transcendant excellency of it, and by having them approve of the strictest conditions upon which it is tendered.

2. In our affections; by strong and vehement desires after eternal life.

3. In our endeavours; by a diligent use of all means in order to the obtaining of it, and particularly by doing good, by being rich in good works, by being ready to distribute, and willing to communicate: for hereby shall we lay up for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, and at length lay hold of eternal life.

Verse 20

Our apostles concludes this his epistle to Timothy with a very passionate and pathetic exhortation to him; that he would maintain the purity of the doctrine of the gospel, and preach that to his hearers, avoiding all idle speculations and philosophical niceties, which the heathen philosophers admire, despising, in the mean time, the plainness and simplicity of the gospel: and he tells him farther, that some Christians, being taken with this sort of learning, have corrupted christianity, turned heretics, erring concerning the faith; to prevent which, he begs for Timothy the grace of God, to preserve, sanctify, and save him.

Learn hence, That in the first beginnings of Christianity, the philosphers, by pretences of great learning, were the greatest despisers and the bitterest enemies of Christianity.

Secondly, That the generality of them were taken up with mere useless notions, instead of necessary and useful knowledge.

Thirdly, That Timothy, and every minister of Christ with him, ought to preach the gospel without any such human mixtures, in the purity and plainness of it; and the people receive it with a simplicity of mind, to be guided and directed by it.

Lastly, That the sanctifying and establishing grace of God is necessary, and indispensably needful, to preserve both ministers and people steadfast in the faith of the gospel, and to persevere in their obedience to it.

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Bibliographical Information
Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wbc/1-timothy-6.html. 1700-1703.