Secrets of Godly Living, 1 Timothy 6:11—21

This concluding section of Paul’s letter to Timothy is highly personal.  The great pastor’s pastor had given a young pastor the benefit of his years of wisdom and now, as he ends his letter, Paul gives just a little more personal advice.

1.  The fight worth fighting, verses 11, 12

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

In contrast to the sins Paul just discussed (lusting after material gain), stand the virtues Timothy should strive to cultivate in his life.  As if to emphasize the importance of what he was about to write, Paul places “you” in the emphatic position in the Greek.   Timothy is addressed as “man of God,” which was a very common designation for prophets in Biblical times.  There has been much discussion among scholars as to whether this list of virtues is applicable to only a “man of God,” ie., a pastor, or are these Godly qualities things to be pursued by Christians in general.   Opinion is split, however, while the immediate context favors the obvious interpretation: this list is for Timothy, it is pretty safe to conclude that these virtues are qualities that should be seen every believer’s life!

Timothy, then, is urged to “flee” from certain things.  To “flee” suggests more than merely “avoid” or “steer clear” of certain bad behavior; it means to deliberately turn and move away from bad behavior and replace that bad behavior with good behavior.  Paul does not have in mind just that Timothy should run away from the deceit of money, but from all the evil attitudes that have been exposed from verse 4 on.

Instead, Timothy should “run after,” or “keep on pursing” certain good behavior.  This is meant to be a lifelong pursuit.  It is a striking list of virtues for Christians to seek:

  • Righteousness.  This is the first and most comprehensive of Christian virtues, and it indicates a state of mind and heart which is in complete harmony with God’s will and Word.  A believer striving to be “righteous” will render to both God and his fellow man their due.
  • Godliness, faith, and love.  These three actually form a group of virtues directed to God.  “Godliness” is not so much a kind of behavior as it is a reverent attitude; an awareness that God’s presence permeates every area of our lives, and we live like we believe that.  “Faith” means loyalty; in this case, being steadfastly loyal to God no matter what.  And “love” (Greek agape) ought to be our soul’s response to God’s grace manifested toward us.
  • Endurance.  This is a special kind of grace all believers should manifest because it is placed in our lives by the Holy Spirit.  It is the supernatural ability to bear up under the most severe of circumstances.   This kind of “endurance” is not synonymous with patience; it is much more than that.   It is actively confronting what is horrible with joy and peace and having an anticipation of victory.
  • Gentleness.  When all these virtues are present in one’s life, gentleness and humility of spirit will always result.  The Greek word used is praupathia and is used only here in the Bible.

Paul has compared living the Christian life to an athletic competition in other letters and he does so again.   To “fight the good fight” is literally “agonize the good agony.”  The phrase is a complicated one, but was most often used in reference to sporting events in ancient Greece.  To “agonize the good agony” was to successfully contend against a worthy opponent.   To this struggle every Christian is called for the Christian life is most certainly a struggle sometimes.  Every believer is called to carry on this personal struggle against sin and evil in every one of its seductive forms.  What’s more, the admonition is stated in the present imperative, indicating that this struggle is a spiritual battle Christians fight every day until the day they leave this life.

To this life-long fight Timothy had been called, and the prize was eternal life.  Of course, eternal life is the present possession of all believers, but in another sense we have yet to grab hold of it in reality.   We might say that how we “fight the good fight” determines whether or not we may be able latch onto eternal life!  Thankfully, our spiritual battles are not fought in a vacuum; we have the weapons at our disposal and the armor to protect us.  How can we not win?

2.  A solemn charge, verses 13—16

These verses are among the most solemn in the New Testament.

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ… (verses 13, 14)

It is in God’s sight and Jesus’ sight that Timothy is charged to keep “this command.”  God “gives life to everything,” before anything began, God was there.  He is the Ancient of Days.  He is “above and over all.”  How would you dare live before Someone so credentialed?  If you knew the One who gave you life was watching how you lived that life, would you take more care?  Jesus Christ, on threat of His life, never wavered from His confession.  If Jesus could maintain His faith in the face of certain death, shouldn’t you also?  He ultimately gave His life for you; don’t make a mockery of His sacrifice on your behalf by wasting your life.

The Greek in verse 14 is a bit unclear.  Is the “command” to be kept “without spot or blame,” or is Timothy (“you” in verse 14) to keep himself “without spot or blame”?   Perhaps both ideas should be combined:  if Timothy adheres to Paul’s admonitions to the best of his ability with the help of the Holy Spirit, he will himself be “spotless and  unblemished” and “without reproach,” both in this life and in the sight of God.

There is never a time in the Christian’s life when he is allowed to slack off and live beneath his calling.  Timothy, and all believers, need to follow these admonitions until Christ returns.  Whether you are on vacation or celebrating your birthday or anniversary, you are not allowed to live beneath your calling.  You may be all by yourself, with nobody watching you, but you are not allowed to live beneath your calling.  You may be angry or depressed and some may say you are justified, but you are not allowed to live beneath your calling.

Only God knows when Christ will return, and it can happen at any moment; we must all be ready, and that means living right all the time.  It means living like Jesus could come back in the next five minutes!

… which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (verses 15, 16)

In verse 15, the word for “time” is kairos, which means a fixed and definite time.   God has a plan, and His plan is perfect down to the last second.   Perhaps Paul realized the enormity of this thought because these two verses were written in the form of a doxology.  Every element in this marvelous doxology describes the transcendent greatness of God.  In light of the awesomeness of our Heavenly Father, how can we not live to please Him?   These verses are, at the same time, both frightening and inspiring.  If we are caught in sin by the One who lives in unapproachable light, we should be scared.  But knowing how great our God is we should desire to “fight the good fight” to win.

3.  A sharp contrast, verses 17—19

On the face of it, it seems like this short paragraph is another digression.  However, it serves well to contrast virtues of eternal value with things of temporal earthly value.  Paul has already dealt with the problem of greed and materialism, and he returns very briefly to it.  The fact that he mentions it again seems to indicate that Timothy’s church in Ephesus may have had a problem with wealthy people, or perhaps more accurately a problem with the attitudes of those who have and those who don’t have.

Those who don’t have tend to envy those who have, or think badly about them.  At the same time, those who have may be tempted to place their trust in their wealth; they may have a false sense of security because of what they posses.  Paul makes it clear that there is value in wealth, but it is not that it provides any security to those who possess it.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  (verse 18)

The great thing about wealth is that a wealthy person is able to be “be rich in good deeds.”  Verse 19 gives a good reason for being generous—

In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

While money can never buy one’s salvation, if a believer uses his money properly,  he can develop the kind of Godly character he needs to lay hold of or to secure eternal life.  J.B. Phillips translates verse 19 this way—

Their security should be invested in the life to come, so that they may be sure of holding a share in the life which is permanent.

Human beings seem to place a premium on possessing things that don’t last.  The opposite should be true:  we should pursue the things that last forever:  Godly virtues that lead to eternal life.  If we can’t life Godly lives for the relatively short time we have on Earth, how will be able to do it for all eternity?

4.  Final thoughts, verses 20, 21

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Paul ends  his first letter to Timothy with a very personal admonition:  “Guard what has been entrust to your care.”  Literally, Timothy must guard “what is placed inside.”  The question arises:  to what was Paul referring?  What was placed inside Timothy?  The context suggests that “the trust,” KJV, is the sound doctrine—the very Word of God—that had been entrusted to Timothy.

The Word of God has been given, not only to Timothy, but to all believers, and one way to protect it is to “turn away from godless chatter.”  The quickest way to lose faith is to listen to unbelievers or take to heart what they say.  “Empty talk” amounts to little more than childish “babbling,” but some Christians give it far too much credence.  Timothy is urged to avoid that kind of false knowledge.  This necessarily means that he is to avoid those who engage in such profane talk.

Why avoid godless talk?  Such talk, though of no value whatsoever, is responsible for drawing some “from the faith.”  The power of a lie is that it is able to shake the faith of some people.  It is a universal truism that most people would rather believe a lie than the truth, and generally the bigger the lie the easier it is to believe.  This seems to explain the success of recent political candidates.  The best course of action for a believer to take is to simply turn a deaf ear to all speech that is hostile to or opposed to the Word of God in any way.  It is far better to be safe than sorry.  While we may have the freedom to listen to anybody we want to, the value of the Gospel entrusted to our care is far greater than our freedom.

The very last sentence is 1 Timothy is more interesting that it seems on the surface:

Grace be with you all.

Though this letter is addressed to a young pastor named Timothy, the benediction is written in the plural, which means that Paul expected many other people to read this letter.  This is important to note because it means that what Paul admonished Timothy was not only applicable to him or to persons in his position, but each Christian who is serious about their faith needs to consider carefully the advice Paul gave to Timothy.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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