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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Timothy 6

 

 

Verse 1

‘Let as many as are slaves under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed.’

All Christian slaves are to treat their masters with honour. In view of the fact that Christians are called on to show respect to all men that was only reasonable. It might suggest that some Christian slaves, recognising that they were sons of God and that their masters were not, had actually taken advantage of their easy conditions and behaved disrespectfully. But they were not to do so, for by it they would bring God’s Name into disrepute. And then it would soon become common knowledge that Christian slaves were difficult and untrustworthy, as a result of which all Christian slaves would suffer. For Paul’s further teaching on this topic see 1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:22-25; Colossians 4:1; Philemon all; 1 Peter 2:13-25).

While most of us are not literally slaves today, many are slaves to their jobs. And the same principle applies. Christians, even if they are trade union leaders, should treat their employers with respect (and expect the same respect in return) and work diligently. Being rude or arrogant or slapdash is not a Christian virtue.


Verse 1-2

The Principle Of Faithful Service Is Also To Apply To Slaves Who Become Christians, Who Are To Recognise That In Being Faithful To Their Earthly Master They Are Demonstrating Their Faithfulness to God (1 Timothy 6:1-2).

Those who know little about life in the 1st century AD ask why Paul did not openly and directly campaign against slavery. However, the fact is that the world at that time was based on slavery. It was as natural as breathing, and actually provided security for large numbers of people. Furthermore there were something like 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire, and because of their numbers they were always regarded as potential enemies. So even the suggestion that all slaves be freed might have caused a rumbling dissension resulting in a slave revolt which would have been put down with merciless force. For the Roman Empire could not take the risk of a slave uprising. If a slave ran away and was caught, he was either executed or branded on the forehead with the letter F, which stood for fugitivus, which means runaway. There was indeed a Roman law which stated that if a master was murdered all his slaves could be examined under torture, and could be put to death in a body. Besides, slaves were often freer than ‘free-men’ and held important positions. No campaign to free slaves would have had any support from anywhere else. Campaigns against slavery that were later successful depended on a solid amount of support from like-minded people, and also from the common people, on the basis of the kind of atmosphere that Christianity had built up. Anyone campaigning that way in the 1st century AD would simply have been looked at with incredulity. Opponents would well have asked, ‘If all slaves were released where would they go and what would they do?’ The answer is that they would simply have starved, while the economy of the world would have collapsed. So anyone who attempted a direct anti-slavery campaign would have spent their time battering against a brick wall, even if they had not been permanently imprisoned. What Paul did instead was use the wiser and more successful way and undermine slavery by his positive teaching concerning freedom and equality. Among Christians ‘there is neither slave nor free-- for they are all one in Christ Jesus’, he declared (Galatians 3:28). In fact what he did was alter the moral attitude of people, and that eventually led to the banning of slavery, a campaign in which Christians played a huge part. Nor must we think of 1st century AD slavery in the same terms as slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Many 1st century slaves rose to positions of great importance and were treated with great respect. They would actually have been the first to attack any anti-slavery campaigners.

So here Paul is not arguing about the rights and wrongs of slavery, which he recognises that he can do little about in the short term. He is dealing with what the attitude of a Christian slave should be towards his earthly master, probably in the light of difficulties and problems that had arisen, or were threatening to arise. For he had already given his instructions concerning masters and slaves in his previous letter to the Ephesians. He was probably aware that the masters were actually doing what he had requested, but that there had been an unfortunate reaction on the part of the slaves. They had begun to be disrespectful and even lazy (the fact that they could do so and get away with it serves to demonstrate the ease of their conditions). So Paul emphasises that they are not to be like that, but are to treat their masters with honour so that no disgrace come on the Name of God, and no discredit would come on Christianity, in such a way as to cause a great deal of harm to other Christian slaves.

And this was to be especially so where slaves had a Christian master. They must not take advantage of the fact but rather serve them the better because what they did would be benefiting a Christian. The fact that he gives no instruction concerning Christian masters may indicate that he was aware that in Ephesus the Christian masters treated their slaves well. He had certainly gives them instructions previously (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1).

Analysis.

· Let as many as are slaves under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour (1 Timothy 6:1 a)

· That the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed (1 Timothy 6:1 b).

· And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brothers, but let them serve them the rather, because they who partake of the benefit are believing and beloved. These things teach and exhort (1 Timothy 6:2).

Note that in ‘a’ slaves are to count their masters as worthy of honour, and in the parallel they are not to despise masters who are believers. Central in ‘b’ is the fear lest the name of God and the doctrine be blasphemed.


Verse 2

‘These things teach and exhort.’

Timothy is called on to teach and exhort what Paul has shown him. This may refer to the whole letter, or the section from 1 Timothy 4:1 onwards, or to what now follows, or indeed all, for that was his intention.


Verse 3

‘If any man teaches a different doctrine, and does not adhere to sound words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness,’

And the reason that he had to teach them was because if anyone taught anything contrary to ‘sound words’, that is, the recognised teaching of the Apostles (Galatians 2:2), or taught a ‘different doctrine’ (compare 1 Timothy 1:3) from Paul, he was demonstrating that he did not consent to such ‘sound words’, that is, words which truly declared and revealed the truth. He then points out that these are also in line with what our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself taught. His claim is thus that his own teaching, unlike that of these false teachers, is solidly based on that of the Lord, Jesus Christ. The heretics claimed to have advanced on His known teaching by introducing ‘mysteries’, but Paul calls all men back to His known teaching, as known and recorded in all the churches.

‘And to the doctrine which is according to godliness’. And that teaching provides the basis for true piety, for true religion, for being pleasing to God, for truly fulfilling their obligations towards God and man.


Verse 4-5

‘He is puffed up, knowing nothing, but having a sick craving about questionings and disputes of words, of which comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.’

Having described the wayward teaching of the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6:3, Paul now brings out:

1) Their attitude and approach (1 Timothy 6:4 a).

2) The fruits of their ministry (1 Timothy 6:4 b-5a).

3) What it is that motivates them (1 Timothy 6:5 b).

1). Criticism of their attitude and approach. Those who claim to be Christians but who teach other than the Apostles’ teaching are living in the clouds, they are puffed up and full of hot air, they know nothing. Rather they have a sick interest in questionings, and disputation about words, giving the words an exotic meaning other than their real sense, and in opening men’s minds to extravagant ‘new thought’, always seeking ‘some new thing’ (Acts 17:21). But their thoughts were all on airy-fairy ideas (and thus not really heavenly) rather than being firmly grounded in true moral behaviour and response in this life. They do not think in terms of ‘doing the will of My Father in Heaven’ (Matthew 7:21), but in terms of exotic experiences. They are a parody of true heavenly-mindedness. But there is one way in which their teachingisearthly minded, and that is in their building up riches for themselves. They suppose that ‘godliness’ is a way of gain, not of holy living, and they act accordingly.

2). The fruits of their teaching. Their teaching results in envy, in strife (a word only used by Paul) and disputing, in railing (or ‘slander’) against others, especially true Christians, in evil surmising and wranglings which skirt round the truth, and all that is because their minds are corrupted, and they themselves are bereft of the truth. Such envy, strife, railing against others, and wranglings were actually well known in those days among professional philosophers who were often at each other’s throats, and it also involved their adherents.

3). What motivates their teaching. It is evidenced by their love of money, which, of course, is for ‘the cause’ but ends up in their own pockets. Their forte is goldliness, not godliness.


Verse 6-7

‘But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out,’

In total contrast is true doctrine and true Christianity. That, while not condemning riches, eschews seeking to become rich (compare Matthew 6:19-21), and at the same time recognises that such riches may well keep men from God. It produces genuine heavenly-mindedness (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3) which cares nothing for the treasures of this life but centres on pleasing God, and doing the will of their Father in Heaven. It stresses the fulfilment of their responsibility towards God (eusebeia - godliness). Pleasing God and having His contentment in their hearts is all that they desire. For they know that earthly things are nothing, and that they brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out. Compare Job 1:21 - ‘naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked will I return there’; Ecclesiastes 5:15 - ‘as he (a rich man) came forth from his mother’s womb, naked will he go again as he came, and will take nothing for his labour which he may carry away in his hand’. Thus they look not at the things that are seen but at the things which are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporary and transient, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). They have respect to the recompense of the reward (Hebrews 11:26) when they will hear their Lord say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord’.

It may well be that the false teachers had offered ‘contentment’, or self-assurance. The word was used similarly by Stoic philosophers. But Paul wants to stress that if it does not go along with fulfilling our responsibilities towards God it is worth nothing. The only genuine contentment, which includes a full supply of all that is necessary, is found in Him, for that is contentment that rests on a sound basis. The same root is found in Deuteronomy 32:10 LXX, ‘Hemaintainedhim in the wilderness, in burning thirst and a dry land. He led him about and instructed him, and kept him as the apple of an eye, as an eagle would watch over his brood, and yearns over his young, and receives them, having spread his wings, and takes them up on his back.’ That is the basis of the Christian’s contentment.


Verse 8

‘But having food and covering we will be content with those.’

Thus Christians are satisfied when God provides their food, clothing and shelter (compare Matthew 6:25-34) which they receive with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4). And with that they are content, for they want to spend their whole lives in pleasing God in accordance with Jesus’ teaching, and in bringing men to Christ and building them up in Christ. Here is the test of true religion. Paul was only asking them to experience what he had experienced himself (Philippians 4:10-13).


Verse 9

‘But those whose minds are set on being rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful longings, such as drown men in ruin and destruction.’

In total contrast again are those who desire to be rich by any means. The slaves may labour without any hope of earthly advancement (1 Timothy 6:1-2), but at least they avoid the perils of being rich. They can only set their hope on God. In contrast those who set their minds on being rich, soon fall into temptation and a snare, and are entrapped by their foolish longings. They see the glitter of gold or hear the rustle of bank-notes, or moon over their bank statements, and that is what they set their hearts on, and it fails to satisfy them. And such longings finally then result in men drowning in ruin and destruction, either in this world or the next (Luke 12:13-21; Luke 16:19-31). Compare the ‘deceitfulness of riches’ in Mark 4:19.

The pictures are vivid. First they fall into temptation, they cannot resist the call of gold, then they are caught in a snare as their search for money entraps them, then their continued longings lead them into being drowned - in the sea of ruin and destruction. They are like a man who has risked all to obtain a treasure from a sunken wreck, only to find himself entangled in weeds and in danger of drowning with none to help, or seeking treasure in a swamp and finding it, only to find himself being unavoidably sucked in by the quicksand.


Verse 10

‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.’

For the love of money (not money itself which is simply a tool) is a root which produces all kinds of evil; greed, covetousness, envy, deceit, disregard for others, the argument that all is fair in business, the scheming of schemes to get money out of others, self-accumulation, and so on, with the result that the hunger for true righteousness and godly living disappears. They often do not realise what is happening but soon gold has become their god. And they often even try to justify their greed by claiming that it is God-provided. Thus they float along enjoying their riches and leave the world to fend for itself. Not for them teaching about widows, and the needy and care for one another and laying up treasure in Heaven. To them God is the treasure chest on which they draw for their own indulgence, the hole in the wall into which they feed their pin number, not the One Whom they seek to please by following the teaching of Jesus. They are takers and not givers. And they fashion their teachings to suit.


Verse 11

‘But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.’

The description ‘man of God’ is intended to nerve Timothy for what lies ahead. He is to recognise his importance in God’s eyes and that he follows in a noble train. This was a title given to the prophets of old. Deuteronomy 33:1 speaks of "Moses, the man of God", (compare also Joshua 14:6) while the title to Psalms 90 is, "A Prayer of Moses the man of God." God's messenger to Eli was a ‘man of God’ (1 Samuel 2:27). Samuel himself was described as a man of God (1 Samuel 9:6). Shemaiah, God's messenger to Rehoboam, was a man of God (1 Kings 12:22) at the time of the dividing of the kingdom, as was His messenger to Jeroboam (1 Kings 13). Elijah was a man of God (1 Kings 17:18 and often). And so we could go on. But with Moses, Samuel and Elijah described as men of God, what further need have we of witnesses? And all of them were called on by God at crucial times.

‘Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentle strength.’ As a man of God Timothy was to flee from the message, behaviour and involvements of the false prophets, and from the glitter of gold. The point of fleeing is to get out of the way of them. Compare ‘flee youthful desires’ (2 Timothy 2:22). Having turned his back on the glitter of gold, and having charged the false teachers to forsake their false teaching (1 Timothy 1:3-4) he is not to get involved in arguing with them, something which will lead nowhere (1 Timothy 6:20). He is rather to follow another path.

He is rather to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patient endurance, gentle strength (courtesy with backbone). Righteousness involves seeking to have a part in His active saving righteousness (compare Matthew 5:6; Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 46:13 and often), and subsequently doing what is right in the sight of God. Godliness involves fulfilling their responsibilities towards Him in obedience and worship. Faith involves trusting Him fully in accordance with His word and with His teaching. Love involves letting the love of God flow through him (Romans 5:5; Matthew 5:42-48). Patient endurance involves pressing forward whatever the difficulties. Courtesy with backbone involves gentleness combined with strength. Being ‘meek’ as Moses was meek. For the whole list compare Galatians 5:22.


Verses 11-21

Final Exhortation And Teaching (1 Timothy 6:11-21).

Paul closes his letter with a further charge to Timothy (compare 1 Timothy 1:5), followed by a reference to the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and a further description of the glory of God (compare 1 Timothy 1:17), and ending with a warning against getting ensnared in the teaching of false prophets, which is where his letter began (1 Timothy 1:3-4). Incorporated within it is an powerful exhortation to Timothy to fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life, and a call to him set the church on the right road for the future, so that they too might set their hope on God (compare 1 Timothy 4:10) and similarly lay hold on that life, which is life indeed.

Analysis.

a But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11).

b Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, to which you were called, and did confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

c I charge you in the sight of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that you keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:13-14).

d Which in its own times he will show (1 Timothy 6:15 a).

e Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15 b).

f Who only has immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable

e Whom no man has seen, nor can see (1 Timothy 6:16 a).

d To Whom be honour and power eternal. Amen (1 Timothy 6:16 b).

c Charge those who are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Timothy 6:17-18).

b Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:19).

a O Timothy, guard what is committed to you, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

Note that in ‘a’ he is to flee these things and in contrast follow after what is godly, and in the parallel he is to guard what is committed to him and is to turn away from all that is false. In ‘b’ he is to lay hold on eternal life, and in the parallel is to lay hold on life which is life indeed. In ‘c’ he is given a solemn charge to obedience to God’s will, and in the parallel a further solemn charge to obedience to God’s will. In ‘d’ God will in His own time show the appearing of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and in the parallel to Him as a consequence will be honour and power eternal. In ‘e’ the glorious sovereign uniqueness of God is described and in the parallel the fact that He is beyond men’s ken, and centrally the uniqueness of His Being is described.

The Exhortation.

Paul commences this final section with an exhortation to flee from ‘these things’ that is the teaching, activities and wranglings of the false teachers, and the deceitfulness and entanglements of riches, and instead to follow after what is good, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (compare 1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 2:3-4), so that he might finally ‘lay hold on eternal life’ both now and in the future (compare 1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Timothy 4:10. See also 1 Timothy 1:16; 1 Timothy 6:19).

Analysis.

· But you, O man of God, flee these things (1 Timothy 6:11 a).

· And follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11 b).

· Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Timothy 6:12 a).

· Lay hold on the life eternal, to which you were called (1 Timothy 6:12 b).

· And did confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12 c).

Note that in ‘a’ he is declared to be a ‘man of God, and in the parallel he is one who made a good confession. In ‘b he is to follow after all the Christian virtues and in the parallel he is to lay hold on eternal life. Centrally in ‘c’ he is to fight the good fight of faith.


Verse 12

Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, to which you were called, and did confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.’

The thought of fighting the good fight of faith has been a theme of the letter. In 1 Timothy 1:18 he was told to war a good warfare, and military terminology has appeared all the way through. It is a central theme of the letter. There is no need therefore to resort to he terminology of the games, although that too has been previously in mind (1 Timothy 4:8-10). Here, however, he is emphasising his opening theme. The battle has to be won, and each must play his part to the full, and life has to be wrested from the midst of death (‘lay hold on eternal life’). For soon will appear the mighty relieving forces of Heaven led by God’s Commander in Chief (1 Timothy 6:14) and the King of Kings Himself (1 Timothy 6:15; compare Revelation 19:16).

Whether it means fighting for ‘the faith’ delivered by the Apostles, or fighting ‘in faith’ in connection with the fact that he has believed in Jesus and has trusted in Him is impossible to determine. Both are in fact necessary, and involved in each other, and it is doubtful if at this stage they were separated, certainly not in Paul’s eyes. However, the fact that earlier he was commanded to ‘hold faith and a good conscience’ (1 Timothy 1:19 compare 1 Timothy 1:5) suggests that the emphasis is more on the latter. He would only fight for the faith delivered by the Apostles if he believed in it himself with all his heart.

‘Lay hold on eternal life.’ We saw in 1 Timothy 4:8 that true godliness had the promise of ‘the life that now is and that which is to come’, so the indication is that he can lay hold of eternal life now (John 5:24; 1 John 5:13) and with full confidence put every effort into ensuring it for the future (1 Timothy 4:10; compare Philippians 3:10-14; Colossians 1:29; Titus 1:2; Titus 3:7), allowing God to do the saving work within him which will guarantee his inheritance (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Corinthians 1:8-9; Philippians 2:12-13).

‘To which you were called.’ For he had experienced the elective call of God which was the earnest of what was to come (Romans 8:30; John 6:44; Acts 2:39; Romans 1:6; Romans 8:28; Romans 9:11; 1 Corinthians 1:9; etc).

‘And did confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.’ This probably has in mind his testimony at his public baptism, by which he proclaimed that he was dying with Christ and rising again with Him, to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3), thereby renouncing all rights on his own life (Galatians 2:20).


Verse 13

‘I charge you in the sight of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession,’

Paul now gives Timothy a solemn charge, a charge which applies to all God’s people. It is made in the sight of God Who is the giver of life, and of the Messiah Jesus, Who sealed His confession before Pontius Pilate ‘unto death’, as the Faithful and True Witness (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14). His was the death and resurrection from which the good confession of Timothy (1 Timothy 6:12), and of all others (Romans 6:3), gains its meaning. Life and death, both as God’s gifts, are thus involved, and the whole of God’s working in salvation is in mind, for it indicates that God has done all that is necessary for our deliverance. It was because God is the giver of all life, and the Messiah Jesus had lived and died and risen again, appropriating that life for His own, that Timothy, and all Christians, could partake in eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12; compare Ephesians 2:1-8).

‘Before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession.’ Note the emphasis on the historicity of the occasion. Unlike the myths of the false teachers Jesus made His confession in history, and His coming in the flesh (compare 1 Timothy 3:16), followed by His death and resurrection were a part of history, never needing to be repeated.


Verses 13-15

Having Exhorted Timothy, Paul Now Charges Him In The Sight Of God To Obey His Orders Blamelessly Until The Coming Of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:13-15).

Once again Paul comes to the conclusion of a section with a picture of the magnificence and glory of God and of Jesus Christ. In 1 Timothy 1:17 he revealed the glory and uniqueness of God, although as we saw it might equally refer to the Lord, Jesus Christ, in 1 Timothy 3:16 he revealed the glory of Jesus’ activity in salvation as God carried out His might purposes, here now he again combines both God and Messiah Jesus and reveals their glory, and that as a means of giving a solemn background to his ‘charge’. We may see in these summaries that he has, or had previously, begun to build up small summaries of doctrine to help the faithful. Thus a, b, c, c, b, a could easily be built up into such a summary.

Analysis.

a I charge you in the sight of God (1 Timothy 6:13 a).

b Who gives life to all things (1 Timothy 6:13 b)

c And of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession (1 Timothy 6:13 c).

d That you keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach (1 Timothy 6:14 a)

e Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:14 b).

d Which in its own times He will show (1 Timothy 6:15 a).

c Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15 b).

b Who only has immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable (1 Timothy 6:15 c).

a Whom no man has seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and power eternal. Amen (15d).

Note that in ‘a’ he is charged in the sight of God, while in contrast in the parallel man has not seen God, and cannot. In ‘b’ God gives life to all things, and in the parallel alone has immortality. In ‘c’ the Messiah Jesus has witnessed a good confession and in the parallel we have reference to the only Potentate Who is King of kings and Lord of lords. In ‘d’ he is to keep he commandment without reproach because in the parallel Jesus will be revealed in his own time, and centrally in ‘e’ we have the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Verse 14-15

‘That you keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in its own times he will show,’

And in the light of this solemn charge, Timothy (and all of us) is to keep the commandment (as contained in His word and His Law, possibly as stressed at his baptism. Compare also John 12:49; John 15:12) in such a way that there will be no blemish on him and no reproach due to him. And this he must do continually until the ‘appearing’ of our Lord, Jesus the Messiah, which He will accomplish within the time span of God’s purposes. For in that appearing all things will be laid bare and any blemish or reproach brought to light (Matthew 10:26; Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

‘The appearing of our Lord, Jesus Christ.’ In the secular world this word ‘appearing’ was regularly used of theophanies when the gods manifested themselves to men, but here is the true appearing, when ‘our Lord’ (in contrast with the ‘lords’ worshipped by the nations) Himself is to be manifested to men (2 Thessalonians 2:8; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13).


Verse 15

‘Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,’

Once again, as in 1 Timothy 1:18, we are faced with the question as to whether this is spoken of God or of the Lord. It appears that Paul is deliberately merging the two ideas. Where the Lord is, God is not far away. ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). And certainly these titles are applied to Jesus Christ in Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16. Compare also Revelation 1:5. For their application to God see Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalms 136:3; Daniel 4:34 LXX). Thus here ‘our Lord, Jesus Christ’ is merging into the Godhead, having received again the glory that had been His before the world was (John 17:5).

And it is this glorious vision that Timothy must keep in mind as he goes forward with his sword drawn in his hand (1 Timothy 6:12). It is no coincidence that both charge and warfare are linked with the eternal King both at the beginning and end of the letter (compare 1 Timothy 1:17-19) and here in reverse order. The letter to Timothy contains the charge of the eternal King.

‘Potentate.’ The mighty One of great authority. Compare its use in Luke 1:52; Acts 8:27.


Verse 16

‘Who only has immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable, whom no man has seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and power eternal. Amen.’

The King of kings, and Lord of lords is now defined. He is unique and is the One Who alone has absolute immortality. All life has its source in Him, and all life is subject to Him. Even in eternity the redeemed will enjoy their life at His behest, guaranteed because He is unchangeable. And He dwells in unapproachable light. We are reminded how the people dared not approach Sinai, even though God’s glory was veiled in a cloud (Exodus 19). And yet even so that glory was manifested in the flesh (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:3). But what He is in Himself is so glorious that none can approach unless they are made fit by Him (Revelation 21:22-23; Revelation 22:5). From before Him even earth and Heaven flee away (Revelation 20:11). For His light is so pure and so holy that only absolute holiness can stand before its outshining. For us it will one day be possible, but only through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:5-7).

‘Whom no man has seen, nor can see.’ This is firstly because He is invisible and beyond the eye of man (1 Timothy 1:17), but also because man could not bear the sight. If men had to demand the veiling of Moses because the glory of God shone on his face (Exodus 34:29-35), how much less could they behold the unveiled glory of the Supreme? Through the graciousness of God men have been allowed glimpses. Consider Abraham from the depths of a divine sleep (Genesis 15:12; Genesis 15:17); Jacob when He came to him in the form of a man (Genesis 32:24-30); Moses who was the most favoured of all but could only look on the tail end of His glory, for had he seen the whole he would have been blasted out of existence (Exodus 33:18-23); Isaiah who saw him dimly through the smoke in the Temple (Isaiah 6:1-7); Ezekiel Who saw something of His glory revealed on His travelling throne (Ezekiel 1:26-28). But none had seen Him face to face, or had beheld the fullness of His glory. And even His light is but a garment beneath which is the unknowable and unseeable (Psalms 104:2)

‘To whom be honour and power eternal. Amen.’ And all honour and power is summed up in Him, and must be given to Him. For He is the Lord of all. In comparison to Him all Caesar’s claims to honour and power, and some of them had made great claims, were as nothing. Amen (so be it).


Verse 17

‘Charge those who are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy,’

As Timothy has received a solemn charge, so must he give a solemn charge to others. He is to charge the rich Christians, that is, those who have more than a basic standard of living, not to be highminded (a word seemingly invented by Paul and first used in Romans 11:20). That is, they are not to be haughty and above themselves. They are not to see themselves as somehow made superior because of heir wealth. Nor are they to set their hopes on their riches, for their riches are uncertain. A few moths, a bit of rust, and they are gone (Compare Matthew 6:19). They are rather to set their hopes on God Who is the source of all true riches. And the truth is that He is generous, and abundantly pours out His riches on all, for He is the One Who has provided us with all things so that we might enjoy them (compare 1 Timothy 4:4). We should note here that God is not saying that He has given rich people their riches so that they can enjoy them. Rather He is saying that, as the Creator, He has given the world to all of us, and He has given us all that is in it for us to enjoy. The corollary is that we should ensure that ALL enjoy it, not just ourselves. We should be as richly generous as He is.

This is the very opposite of the aim of the ascetic. He is not out to enjoy God’s goodness, or to see others enjoy God’s goodness. He is concerned only with betterment for himself. Therefore he fails to thank God for all His goodness, for he rejects it as not being for him. His interest is in self-gain, even if it is on a ‘spiritual’ level. He is seeking to buy God’s grace for himself.


Verses 17-19

The Charge Given To Timothy Is Now To Be Applied To All Who Are Men of Substance, For They Were The Ones Most In Danger Of Forgetting It (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

We are reminded here of the rich young ruler. Most people envied him, but Jesus sighed over him. For he went away without hope because of his great possessions (Mark 10:17-22). So are all rich people to beware, for unless they control their riches and use them wisely they will follow the rich young ruler. Rather then they are to use them to lay up treasure above, laying a good foundation so that they too may lay hold on eternal life (compare 1 Timothy 6:12).

Analysis.

· Charge those who are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded (1 Timothy 6:17 a).

· Nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17 b).

· That they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Timothy 6:18).

· Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come (1 Timothy 6:19 a).

· That they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed (1 Timothy 6:19 b).

Note that in ‘a’ the rich are not to have their minds fixed on their own importance, but in the parallel are to ensure that the lay hold on life that is truly life. In ‘b’ they are not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but in the parallel are to lay up a good foundation for the time to come. Centrally in ‘c’ is the description of how that is to be done.


Verse 18

‘That they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate,’

Thus the rich are to work hard at ‘doing good’. That should be their main aim and ambition. They should be rich in good works. They should be good at distributing their wealth to those who need it. They should be looking out for opportunities to use it for the genuine benefit of others. They should be delighted to pass it on to any who are in need. The idea of ‘willing to communicate’ is that it indicates true neighbourliness. For God has given them their riches precisely for that reason, so that they might be a blessing to others. Freely they have received, freely they should give (Matthew 10:8). They should give hilariously (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).


Verse 19

‘Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.’

And by doing so they will be laying a firm foundation which will be kept in store for them in readiness for the time to come. Just as a large building firm will lay up a land bank for the future, which they keep ‘in store’, so should the rich lay up a firm foundation for the future, so that it will be in store when it is needed. They are to make friends for themselves in the eternal habitations (Luke 16:9). And by doing this they will lay hold on life which is life indeed (compare 1 Timothy 6:12). This is the opposite of being ‘dead while they live’ (1 Timothy 5:6). Instead of living their rich lives of excess, they will begin to live the true life which can be enjoyed ‘to excess’ in this life and the next (John 10:10). Eternal life is God’s free gift, given to all who believe on Him (Romans 6:23). But the full enjoyment of it is dependent on our response to His promptings. We must lay hold of it for ourselves.


Verse 20

‘O Timothy, guard what is committed to you, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called,’

‘O Timothy.’ Note the heartfelt cry. He wants Timothy to recognise the depths of his concern. The name Timothy means ‘honourer of God’, and that is what Timothy has to do.

‘Guard what is committed to you (‘has been deposited with you’).’ The Gospel was seen as a ‘deposit’ (the true riches), and as committed to God’s people as something that had faithfully to be handed down. Compare where Paul says, ‘ForI delivered to you what I first of all received, how Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, (compare ‘before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession’ (1 Timothy 6:13), ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15)) and that He was buried, and that He was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.’ Thus it is stressed that it is ‘according to the Scriptures’. That is how it was originally handed down. And His death for our sins, genuine burial, and resurrection are the central planks of the truth that God became man and died and rose again so that He might be the Mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5-6). This truth had been handed down in the Scriptures, and by the Apostles, and it was to be faithfully guarded (compare 1 Timothy 5:21 ‘I charge you -- guard these things’, where the same word is used). This is the true Apostolic Succession. It is the truth passed on in the New Testament, the new Scriptures.

‘Turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions (antitheses - counter-affirmations as men vied with each other, or contradictory elements in the world) of the knowledge which is falsely so called.’ Man’s wisdom screams at the world from every angle but is full of contradictions. And when it comes to talking about God it is ‘vain babbling’, it is an opposition which claims to have ‘knowledge’ (all cults claim special knowledge and add to the Scriptures) but is not true knowledge. For the true knowledge see 1 Timothy 2:4-6, for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).


Verse 20-21

But Above All Timothy Must Guard The Truth That Has Been Committed To Him, Turning Away From All The Philosophical Babblings Of Men (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

Having commenced the letter with the need to deal with the false teachers, Paul now ends it in the same way. What is of more importance than anything else is the preservation of the truth, and it is that which has been committed to Timothy. He must guard it with his whole being. And in order to do that he must turn away from all men’s babbling, and all that men see as ‘knowledge’ (gnosis), things which have caused other to go astray.

Analysis.

O Timothy, guard what is committed to you (1 Timothy 6:20 a).

· Turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called (1 Timothy 6:20 b).

· Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you (plural) (1 Timothy 6:21).

Note that Timothy is to guard what has been committed to him so that he might not err from God’s ways, and in the parallel he speaks of others who have erred from God’s ways because they have not guarded the truth. Thus centrally he must avoid their babblings and claims to knowledge which are not really so.


Verse 21

‘Grace be with you (plural).’

Note the final plural greeting. This suggests that the letter was to be read to the church.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-timothy-6.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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