Today, we will be looking at the final section of chapter 6, where the Apostle Paul continues his instructions to Timothy on ministering to the various kinds of believers in the church (if you missed Part 1, I encourage you to read it now).
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 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, 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.
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.
While caring for the needs of his people, Timothy needed to care for himself as well. “But you” indicates a contrast between Timothy and the false teachers. They were men of the world, but he was a “man of God.” This special designation was also given to Moses (Deut. 33:1), Samuel (1 Sam. 9:6), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18), and David (Neh. 12:24); so Timothy was in good company.
Paul gave four admonitions to Timothy that, if obeyed, would assure him success in his ministry and a continued testimony as “a man of God.”
Flee (v. 11a). There are times when running away is a mark of cowardice. “Should such a man as I flee?” asked Nehemiah (Neh. 6:11). But there are other times when fleeing is a mark of wisdom and a means of victory. Joseph fled when he was tempted by his master’s wife (Gen. 39:12) and David fled when King Saul tried to kill him (1 Sam. 19:10). The word “flee” that Paul uses here does not refer to literal running, but to Timothy’s separating himself from the sins of the false teachers.
Not all unity is good and not all division is bad. There are times when a servant of God should take a stand against false doctrine and godless practices, and separate himself from them. He must be sure, however, that he acts on the basis of biblical conviction and not because of a personal prejudice or carnal agenda.
Pursue (v. 11b). Separation without positive growth becomes isolation. We must cultivate these graces of the Spirit (“righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness”) in our lives or else we will be known only for what we oppose rather than for what we propose.
Fight (vv. 12–16). The verb means “keep on fighting!” It is a word from which we get our English word agonize, and it applies both to athletes and to soldiers. It describes a person straining and giving his best to win the prize or win the battle. Near the end of his own life, Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7).
This “fight,” however, is not between believers; it is between a person of God and the enemy around him. He is fighting to defend the faith, that body of truth deposited with the church (1 Tim. 6:20). Like Nehemiah, Christians today need to have a trowel in one hand for building and a sword in the other hand for battling (Neh. 4:17). It is sad when some Christians spend so much time fighting the enemy that they have no time to do their work and build the church. On the other hand, if we do not stand guard and oppose the enemy, what we have built could be taken from us.
What is it that encourages us in the battle? We have “eternal life” and need to take hold of it and let it work in our experience. We have been called by God and this assures us of victory. We have made our public profession of faith in Christ and others in the church stand with us.
Another encouragement in our battle is the witness of Jesus Christ our Savior. He “witnessed a good confession” before Pontius Pilate and did not relent before the enemy. He knew God the Father was with Him and watching over Him, and He would be raised from the dead. It is “God who makes all things alive,” who is caring for us, so we need not fear. Timothy’s natural timidity might want to make him shrink from the battle. But all he had to do was remember Jesus Christ and His bold confession, and this would encourage him.
Paul gave Timothy military orders: “I charge you” (also 1:3). He was to guard the commandment and obey it. Why? Because one day the Commander would appear and he would have to report on his assignment! The only way he could be ready would be to obey the orders “without spot or blame.”
It is impossible for a sinful human to approach the holy God. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can be accepted into His glorious presence. Why did Paul write so much about the person and glory of God? Probably as a warning against the “emperor cult” that existed in the Roman Empire. It was customary to acknowledge regularly, “Caesar is Lord!” Of course, Christians would say, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” Only God has “honor and power everlasting.” If Timothy was going to fight the good fight of faith, he had to decide that Jesus Christ alone was worthy of worship and complete devotion.
Take Hold (vv. 20–21). God had committed the truth to Paul (1 Tim. 1:11) and Paul had committed it to Timothy. It was Timothy’s responsibility to guard the deposit and then pass it along to others who would, in turn, continue to pass it on (2 Tim. 2:2). This is God’s way of protecting the truth and spreading it around the world. We are stewards of the doctrines of the faith and God expects us to be faithful in sharing His Good News.
Why should Timothy avoid the teachings of those who claimed to have special knowledge from God (the Gnostics)? Because some who got involved with them “wandered from the faith.” Not only will wrong motives (a desire for money) cause a person to wander from the faith (1 Tim. 6:10), but so will wrong teachings. These lies work their way into a person’s mind and heart gradually, and before he realizes it, he is wandering off the path of truth.
The Rich (1 Tim. 6:17–19)
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 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.
Paul had already written about the danger of the love of money, but he added a special “charge” for Timothy to give to the rich. We may not think this charge applies to us, but it does. After all, our standard of living today would certainly make us “rich” in the eyes of Timothy’s congregation!
Be humble (v. 17a). If wealth makes a person proud, then he understands neither himself nor his wealth. “But remember the Lord your God for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deut. 8:18). We are not owners; we are stewards. If we have wealth, it is by the goodness of God and not because of any special merits on our part. The possessing of material wealth ought to humble a person and cause him to glorify God, not himself.
It is possible to be “rich in the world” and be poor in the next. It is also possible to be poor in this world and rich in the next. Jesus talked about both (Luke 16:19–31). But a believer can be rich in this world and also rich in the next if he uses what he has to honor God (Matt. 6:19–34). In fact, a person who is poor in this world can use even his limited means to glorify God and discover great reward in the next world.
Trust God, not wealth (v. 17b). The rich farmer in our Lord’s parable (Luke 12:13–21) thought his wealth meant security, when really it was an evidence of insecurity. He was not really trusting God. Riches are uncertain, not only in their value (which changes constantly), but also in their durability. Thieves can steal wealth, investments can drop in value, and the ravages of time can ruin cars and houses. If God gives us wealth, we should trust Him, the Giver, and not the gifts.
Enjoy what God gives you (v. 17c). Yes, the word enjoy is in the Bible! In fact, one of the recurring themes in the book of Ecclesiastes is, “Enjoy the blessings of life now because life will end one day” (Ecc. 2:24; 3:12–15, 22; 5:18–20; 9:7–10; 11:9–10). This is not sinful “hedonism,” living for the pleasures of life. It is simply enjoying all God gives us for His glory.
Employ what God gives you (vv. 18–19). We should use our wealth to do good to others; we should share; we should put our money to work. When we do, we enrich ourselves spiritually and make investments for the future (Luke 16:1–13). Riches can lure a person into a make-believe world of shallow pleasure, but riches plus God’s will can introduce a person to life that is real and ministry that is lasting.
Paul’s final sentence was not for Timothy alone because the pronoun is plural: “Grace be with all of you.” Paul had the entire church in mind when he wrote this letter, not just Timothy. As the pastor and leader of the church, Timothy needed to heed the word of the apostle; but all of his church members had a responsibility to hear and obey as well.
And so do we today.
1. In what practical ways do we “take hold of … eternal life”? How will it affect our attitude and order our priorities?
2. We live in a culture in which many false ideas about God and the Lord Jesus Christ exist. How do we “guard the gospel” in this context?
3. Read Ephesians 6:10–18 and identify the weapons God gives us to “fight the good fight of the faith.”
* This concludes our 6-week series in the book of 1 Timothy. I hope and pray you have enjoyed and benefitted from this study as much as I have.
Our next series will begin on Monday in the Book of James.