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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Timothy 6

 

 

Verse 1-2

1 Timothy 6:1-2. Because the law of Moses (Exodus 21:2) did not allow Israelites to be made slaves for life, without their own consent, it seems the Judaizing teachers, with a view to allure slaves to their party, encouraged them in disobeying the commands, of their masters. This doctrine the apostle condemns here, as in his other epistles, (1 Corinthians 7:20-22; Colossians 3:22,) by enjoining Christian slaves to obey their masters, whether believers or unbelievers. Let servants — Or slaves, rather; (see on Ephesians 6:5, and Colossians 3:22;) under the yoke — Of heathen masters; count them worthy of all honour — All the honour due from a servant to a master, and show it by their obedience and respectful behaviour. That the name of God — God himself; and his doctrine — The doctrine of the gospel; be not blasphemed — That is, evil spoken of, as tending to destroy the political rights of mankind. And they that have believing masters — Which for any to have is a great privilege; let them not despise them — Pay them the less honour or obedience; because they are brethren — In Christ, believers; and in that respect on a level with them. They that live in a religious community know the danger of this, and that greater grace is requisite to bear with the faults of a brother than of a man of the world, or even of an infidel. But rather do them service —

Serve them so much the more diligently; because they are faithful — Or believers, as πιστοι may be rendered; and beloved — Of God; partakers of the benefit — The common salvation. “Instead of encouraging slaves to disobedience, the gospel makes them more faithful and conscientious. And by sweetening the temper of masters, and inspiring them with benevolence, it renders the condition of slaves more tolerable than formerly. For, in proportion as masters imbibe the true spirit of the gospel, they will treat their slaves with humanity, and even give them their freedom, when their services merit such a favour.” — Macknight. These things teach and exhort — Thus Paul the aged gives young Timothy a charge to dwell upon practical holiness. Less experienced teachers are apt to neglect the superstructure, while they lay the foundation. But of so great importance did St. Paul see it to enforce obedience to Christ, as well as to preach faith in his blood, that after urging the life of faith on professors, (1 Timothy 6:12,) he even adds another charge for the strict observance of it, 1 Timothy 6:13, &c.


Verses 3-5

1 Timothy 6:3-5. If any man teach otherwise — Than strict, practical holiness, in all its branches; and consent not to wholesome words υγιαινουσι λογοις, literally, healing, or healthful words, words that have no taint of falsehood, or tendency to encourage sin; and the doctrine which is according to godliness — The sole design and direct tendency of which is to make people godly, and to promote the glory of God, while it secures the salvation of men; he is proud — Greek, τετυφωται, puffed up; which is the cause of his not consenting to this doctrine; knowing nothing — As he ought to know; but doting — Greek, νοστων, being sick, or distempered in his mind; about questions — Dotingly fond of disputes; an evil, but common disease, especially where practice is forgotten. Such contend earnestly for singular phrases and favourite points of their own; but every thing else, however like the preaching of Christ and his apostles, is all law and bondage, and carnal reasoning. And strifes of words, whereof cometh envy — Of the gifts and success of others; contention for the pre- eminence. Such disputants seldom like the prosperity of others, or to be less esteemed themselves; railings βλασφημιαι, evil speakings, against those that differ from them; evil surmisings — Or unjust suspicions easily entertained against others; it not being their way to think well of those that hold opinions different from theirs. Perverse disputings

Carried on contrary to conscience, by men wholly corrupted in their minds, and destitute of the truth — Of the knowledge of, and faith in, the true doctrine of the gospel; supposing that gain is godliness — That what promises the greatest gain is the most worthy of their pursuit; or who reckon whatever produces most money to be the best religion. A far more common case than is usually supposed. From such withdraw thyself — Shun all society with them.


Verses 6-10

1 Timothy 6:6-10. But godliness — The genuine fear and love of God, and obedience to his will; with contentment — The inseparable companion of vital piety; is great gain — Brings unspeakable profit in time as well as in eternity, and indeed is the only true abiding gain; for all other gain is perishing. For we brought nothing into this world — But were thrown naked upon the indulgent provision which our gracious Creator has been pleased to make for us; and it is certain — Whatever treasures insatiable avarice may amass; we can carry nothing out — But must, in a little time, return to the dust, stripped of all. To what purpose then do we heap together so many things? O let us remember one thing is needful, and let us, above all things, take care to ensure that. And having — While we continue in this transitory and uncertain life; food and raiment — Or food and coverings, rather; the word σκεπασματα comprehending not only clothes, but lodgings; (it signifies indeed coverings of every sort;) let us be therewith content — And not seek, with restless solicitude, the great things of this world, which are often of short continuance, and of a precarious as well as an unsatisfying nature. But they — Who, not content with these; (which are all that a Christian needs, and all that his religion allows him to desire;) will be rich — Who desire to be so, and resolve to use every means in order thereto; fall — Headlong; into temptation — Or trial, frequently great, peculiar, and distressing; and a snare — Which entangles them in sin and misery; and into many foolish and hurtful lusts — Or desires, which have no reason whatever in them, and which not only sink men below the dignity of their nature, but prove the occasion of much further mischief, yea, drown men in destruction here, and eternal perdition hereafter. “In this admirable picture the apostle represents men who are actuated by the desire of riches, and with the lusts excited by the possession of them, as pursuing, to the utmost verge of a precipice, those shadowy phantoms which owe all their semblance of reality to the magic of the passions, which riches, and the desire of them, have excited in their minds; and as falling into a gulf, where they plunge so deep that they are irrecoverably lost.” For the love of money — Commonly called prudent care of what a man has; is the root — Or source; of all — Of every kind of; evil — Of sin and misery consequent thereon, in various respects. “The pernicious influence of this vice hath been taken notice of, and painted in striking colours, by moralists and poets, even among the heathen. But none of them have drawn the picture with such skill and effect as the apostle hath done in this and the preceding verse; where he hath set forth, in the strongest colouring, and with the fewest words, the deformity of the passion, and the evils which it produces, both in the bodies and in the minds of those who indulge it.” — Macknight. Which, while some have coveted after — Greek, ορεγομενοι, reaching out to, or eagerly coveting; have erred απεπλανηθησαν, have wandered far from the faith, or have wholly missed the mark. Indeed they aimed not at faith, but at something else; and pierced themselves through — Or all round, as περιεπειραν properly signifies; have stabbed themselves, as it were, from head to foot on all sides, so as to be like a person wholly covered with wounds; with many sorrows — Arising from a guilty conscience, tormenting passions, desires contrary to reason, religion, and one another. How cruel are worldly men to themselves!


Verse 11-12

1 Timothy 6:11-12. But thou, O man of God — Whatever all the world else do; (a man of God is either a prophet, a messenger of God, or a man devoted to God, a man of another world;) flee — As from a serpent, instead of coveting these things, and follow after righteousness — Truth, justice, mercy, with all their proper fruits; godliness — Sincere and fervent piety, implying devotedness to God, in heart and life, and a conformity to his image; faith — In all its branches, especially as having the perfections of God, and the truths and promises of his word for its object, implying an evidence of things not seen, and an earnest of things hoped for, with fidelity as to every trust committed to thee. This faith is the foundation of righteousness, the support of godliness, the root of every grace of the Spirit; love — To God and all mankind, friends or enemies, and especially to all the saints. This the apostle intermixes with every thing that is good: he, as it were, penetrates whatever he treats of with love, the glorious spring of all inward and outward holiness. Patience — Under all afflictions coming immediately from the hand of God; meekness — Under all provocations proceeding from man through God’s permission. Fight the good fight of faith — Greek, αγωνιζου τον καλον αγωνα, agonize the good agony, or, maintain the good combat: the words, with those that follow, are plainly agonistical, and refer to the eagerness with which they who contended in the Grecian games struggled for, and laid hold on the crown; and the degree to which the presence of many spectators, or the cloud of witnesses, animated them in their contests. Some would translate the clause, Exercise the good exercise; but the word exercise does not, by any means, express the force of αγωνα, which always supposes an opponent to be resisted. Lay hold on eternal life — The prize just before thee; whereunto thou art also called — By the gospel and the grace of God; and — In pursuance thereof; hast professed, &c. — Or, rather, hast confessed; a good confession — Probably at his baptism or ordination, or perhaps at both; before many witnesses — Who were present on that solemn day, when thou wast dedicated entirely and irrevocably to the service of God, of Christ, of his church, and all mankind.


Verses 13-16

1 Timothy 6:13-16. I give thee charge, &c. — See note on 1 Timothy 5:21; in the sight — In the presence; of God — Whose eye is upon us both; and who quickeneth all things — Who is the source of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal, and therefore is able to raise those from the dead that suffer for him: a suitable, though oblique intimation, that should Timothy, after the example of his great Lord, sacrifice his life to the honour of his profession, God, who raised Christ from the dead, would raise him. See 2 Timothy 2:3; 2 Timothy 2:10-12. The earnestness and solemnity with which the apostle addresses Timothy on this occasion, did not proceed from any suspicion of his fidelity as a minister, but from his own deep sense of the importance of the truths which Timothy was to confess and maintain. Hence the ministers of the gospel may learn that these truths ought to be often and earnestly insisted on by them in their public discourses. And before — In the presence of; Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession — This was made by our Lord most explicitly before Caiaphas and the Jewish council, when, being asked whether he was Christ, the Son of the Blessed, he acknowledged that he was; and added, Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, &c, Mark 14:61-62. This confession was adhered to by our Lord in the presence of Pilate, when he acknowledged himself the King of the Jews, John 18:33; John 18:37; that is, acknowledged that he was Messiah the prince, and suffered death rather than conceal or retract it. And the apostle calls it a good confession, because all our hopes of salvation are built upon the truth of it. That thou keep this commandment — That thou observe whatsoever I have enjoined thee, or, that thou keep the doctrine which I have committed to thee; without spot — Without adding to it, detracting from it, concealing or misrepresenting any part of it; and unrebukable — So that no one may have cause to find any fault with thee, or reprove thee for thy neglect; till the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ — Till he shall call thee hence by death; or the meaning of the exhortation is, that Timothy, by keeping the doctrines and precepts which the apostle had committed to him without spot, was to hand them down pure to his successors in the ministry, and thereby to contribute his part toward preserving them in the world till Christ’s second coming. Which appearing, in his appointed time — (The power, the knowledge, the revelation of which remain in his own eternal mind;) he shall show — In the most awful and conspicuous manner; who is the blessed and only Potentate — Before whom no other name or power is worthy of being mentioned; the King of kings, and Lord of lords — These titles the apostle gave to God, because all who have dominion, whether in heaven or on earth, have it from God, and are absolutely subject to him. The eastern princes affected these titles very improperly, being weak, mortal men: the true King of kings, and Lord of lords, who hath the fates and lives of all the monarchs on earth entirely in his hands, is alone worthy of them. Who only hath — Underived and independent; immortality — Life without beginning and without ending; and as this implies immutability, he only is immutable, as well as immortal; whence he is called, (Romans 1:23,) αφθαρτος θεος, the incorruptible, or immutable God, as also 1 Timothy 1:17. Every other being, angel or man, that hath life without end, hath it by his gift. Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto — Which is absolutely inaccessible to mortals, and probably also to angels. Whom no man hath seen, nor can see — With bodily eyes; yet there is a sense in which the pure in heart shall see God, in the future and eternal state: yea, shall see him as he is, Matthew 5:8; 1 John 3:2. To whom be honour, &c. — Ascribed by every intelligent being in the universe, through eternal ages.


Verses 17-19

1 Timothy 6:17-19. What follows seems to be a kind of postscript. Charge them that are rich in this world — Rich in such beggarly riches as this world affords. For the clause, εν τω νυν αιωνι, seems evidently to be added to extenuate the value of riches, which extend only to this transitory and precarious world, and cannot attend us into the other; nor, if they did, could at all influence our happiness there; that they be not high-minded — That they do not think better of themselves on account of their money, or any thing it can purchase. But, alas! who regards this advice? Nor trust in uncertain riches — Which they may lose in an hour, either for happiness or defence. Those who place their happiness in the enjoyment of sensual pleasure, or in the possession of the conveniences and elegancies of life, naturally trust to their riches for their happiness, because by their money they can procure these things; and thus they become dead to all sense of their dependance on God and his providence for their happiness. But in the living God — All the rest is dead clay; who giveth us — As it were, holding them out in his hand; richly — Freely, plentifully; all things — Which we have; to enjoy — As his gift, in him and for him. When we use them thus, we do indeed enjoy all things. That they do good — Make this their daily employ; that they be rich — That they abound; in good works — To their utmost ability; ready to distribute — Singly, to particular persons; willing to communicate — To join in all public works of benevolence and beneficence. These advices clearly show that there was not, at this time, a community of goods among Christians in general: for in that case there could have been no room for the exhortation here given, and the distinction on which it is founded. Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation — Hereby manifesting the truth of their faith in Christ, and in the promises of his gospel, and the genuineness of their love to God and mankind, and thereby proving that they are united to Christ, and made heirs through him of the heavenly inheritance; and, by bringing forth these fruits of righteousness, obtain for themselves, from the free mercy of God in Christ, an everlasting and abundant reward; that they may lay hold on eternal life — This cannot be done by alms-deeds, or any good works that we can perform; which are all so defective, that they have need of a pardon, instead of being sufficient to procure for us eternal life. They, however, when performed, as here directed, both manifest the reality of our grace, and come up for a memorial before God, Acts 10:4; and while they are, through Christ Jesus, to the praise and glory of God, (Philippians 1:11,) shall assuredly meet with an ample recompense from Him who is not unfaithful to forget that work and labour of love which his children thus show to his name, Hebrews 6:10; Galatians 6:9.


Verse 20-21

1 Timothy 6:20-21. To conclude all: O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust — The original expression, την παρακαταθηκην φυλαξον, is, literally, guard the deposite; namely, the purity of gospel doctrine, with the dispensation of which thou art intrusted; avoiding profane and vain babblings — See 1 Timothy 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:7; and oppositions of science falsely so called — Such philosophical disquisitions and debates, as both contradict one another, and were contrary to the truth, though reckoned high points of knowledge. Though it is not certain that the name of Gnostics, or the knowing men, was used in the church so early to denominate a distinct sect, yet it is highly probable that they who opposed the apostle made extraordinary pretences to knowledge, and this text seems sufficient to prove it. Indeed, most of the ancient heretics were great pretenders to knowledge. Which knowledge, some teachers professing to have attained, (1 Timothy 1:6-7,) have erred concerning the faith — Have departed from the true Christian doctrine, some entirely forsaking it, and others corrupting it with gross adulterations. Grace be with thee — To guide, in all things, thy judgment and thy conduct. This epistle being chiefly designed for Timothy’s own use, no salutations were sent to any of the brethren at Ephesus.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-timothy-6.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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