The final chapter of the Biblical book of 1 Timothy will offer some closing instructions on a variety of subjects. Some of those subjects have already been mentioned within this letter (like the dangers associated with false teaching that appear in 1 Timothy 6:3-5) while the remaining topics offer valuable insights into other important areas.
One subject that is new to the Epistle of 1 Timothy (but not new to some of Paul the Apostle’s other New Testament letters) (1) involves the relationship between slaves and masters…
“Let as many bondservants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed. And those who have believing masters, let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather serve them because those who are benefited are believers and beloved. Teach and exhort these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2).
As we consider these verses, we should be mindful of two important things:
- The fastest means of eradicating a moral evil like slavery may not be the most thorough, comprehensive, or complete method.
- God’s plans and methods may differ from our own. This means that God’s approach to dealing with injustice may not always align with the methods that seem best from our perspective.
We’ll discuss the application of these verses in a modern-day setting at greater length in our next study. However, the following paraphrase of 1 Timothy 6:1 serves to focus our attention on a key point: “…never let it be said that Christ’s people are poor workers. Don’t let the name of God or his teaching be laughed at because of this” (1 Timothy 6:1 TLB). In the words of one commentator…
“The Christian is not working to satisfy men; he is working to satisfy Christ. The question he must always ask himself is not: ‘Is this good enough to pass the judgment of men?’ but: ‘Is it good enough to win the approval of Christ?’” (2)
Another scholar offers another important reminder…
“…the admonition is for these Christian slaves to treat their pagan masters with the respect and honor due one who is master. They are not called upon to honor what they are, but to honor the position they occupy, lest reproach be brought upon the name of God.” (3)
With these things in mind, we should remember that our lives serve to represent Christ to colleagues, supervisors, and others. Therefore, we should prayerfully work to ensure that our conduct provides them with the right inferences about God whenever they look to our example.
(1) See 1 Corinthians 7:21, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22-4:1, and Titus 2:9-10
(2) Barclay, William. “Memories Which Inspire (1 Timothy 6:11-16 Continued)“. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.”
(3) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament [1 Timothy 6:1] Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“Those who are under the bondage of slavery should consider their own masters as worthy of full respect so that God’s name and our teaching won’t get a bad reputation. And those who have masters who are believers shouldn’t look down on them because they are brothers. Instead, they should serve them more faithfully, because the people who benefit from your good service are believers who are loved. Teach and encourage these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 CEB).
Before we approach the issue of slavery and its relationship to Christian life and practice, we should first consider the following question: how should we apply these verses in a modern-day culture where slavery does not exist?
For instance, a passage such as 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is often validated by modern-day teachers in the following manner: “The master/slave relationship model that once existed in the days of the first century is no longer in place today. Since this relationship model no longer exists, we are now responsible to adapt the Biblical teaching on this subject and apply to the next closest relationship model in place today: the employer/employee relationship.”
In other words, we should approach these verses with the understanding that a Biblical principle exists behind these Scriptures. That principle is one that extends beyond the specific type of relationship mentioned here. For example, the principle behind 1 Timothy 6:1-2 tells us that Christians must honor God and respect those who serve as their employers. This principle is something that remains consistent and applies to all societies, both ancient and modern.
However, this Biblical principle may be adapted to meet the needs of different populations and cultures. In this instance, we can adapt the Biblical teaching on slaves and masters for use in any working relationship. In taking this approach, we should note that “adapted” does not mean “changed” or “altered.” In this context, “adaptation” involves conforming one’s behavior to a Biblical principle instead of modifying the principle to suit our preferences. This approach often represents a good way to interpret and apply Scriptures like the ones found here in 1 Timothy 6:1-2.
Nevertheless, it’s important to recognize that these verses present some difficult and formidable questions. For example, how could the Scriptures advise slaves to “…consider their own masters as worthy of full respect” as they served in relationships that were clearly immoral and wrong? This can be a challenging question for anyone who desires to be a thinking person of God and represent Christ well in the arena of ideas at school or work.
We’ll address this question with a look at some important historical context next.
This study and the following messages related to this topic were revised and adapted from the studies that originally appeared here
“All those who are slaves should show full respect to their masters. Then God’s name and our teaching will not be criticized. Some slaves have masters who are believers, so they are brothers. Does this mean they should show their masters any less respect? No, they should serve them even better, because they are helping believers, people they should love. This is what you must teach and tell everyone to do” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 ERV).
As we consider the Scriptural teachings on the subject of slavery, its important to begin with the recognition that people throughout most of human history have not viewed slavery as something evil, immoral, or wrong.
For instance, a great moral wrong (like slavery) may become established as a cultural norm whenever a society chooses to abandon the God of the Scriptures. Jesus once illustrated this idea with the following observation: “You know that in this world kings are tyrants and officials lord it over the people beneath them” (Matthew 20:25 NLT).
In light of this, we can say that a society that recognizes the God of the Scriptures and accepts the fact that every human being will stand before a just, fair, and morally perfect Creator is not likely to engage in such behavior. Jesus also made another statement that relates to this subject: “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34 NIV). With this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us to encounter examples of physical enslavement among those who are spiritually enslaved.
These historical realities represent an important starting point for discussion on this subject. You see, the Roman Empire (which controlled most of the known world at the time of this letter) accepted slavery as a legitimate sector of the national economy. In fact, there were approximately 60 million human beings who served as slaves during that period. That number may have comprised up to half the population of the Roman Empire.
Slaves within the Roman Empire were recognized as the property of their owners and were viewed no differently than we might view a screwdriver, an appliance, or other such implement. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle summarized this perspective with the following observation: “…a slave is a living tool, just as a tool is an inanimate slave.” (1) These realities thus serve as the historical context for these remarks.
While some may view these verses as an expression of support for the concept of slavery, we’ll see how these teachings actually served to undermine the master/slave model of working relationships next.
(1) Nicomachean Ethics
“Those who are under the yoke as slaves must regard their own masters as deserving of full respect. This will prevent the name of God and Christian teaching from being discredited. But those who have believing masters must not show them less respect because they are brothers. Instead they are to serve all the more, because those who benefit from their service are believers and dearly loved. Teach them and exhort them about these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NET).
The idea that one human being can be made to serve as the property of another human being is properly viewed by most modern societies as a violation of human rights. We can also say that most modern societies rightly agree that the concept of “slavery” is morally repugnant.
However, the Biblical book of Ephesians tells us, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (Ephesians 6:5 NIV). The New Testament letter of Colossians also goes on to say, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (Colossians 3:22 NIV).
While these passages may seem difficult to reconcile with the unjust practice of slavery, the fact that slavery exists does not necessarily mean that God approves of it. For example, the Scriptures tell us that human beings are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Slavery is clearly the wrong expression of that image.
The Scriptures also tell us that “We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same-we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 TLB). This important New Testament concept is one that eventually served to undermine the master/slave relationship model.
You see, this passage might be compared to a series of small explosive devices that are used to implode a large building. For instance, a builder who seeks to demolish a large, outdated structure rarely does so with one large explosive charge. Instead, the structure is methodically destabilized by a series of controlled detonations that are designed to carefully (but thoroughly) bring the building down with a minimum of collateral damage. (1)
In a similar manner, Galatians 3:28 represented a revolutionary concept: everyone is equal in Christ regardless of their social position. This idea slowly began to fracture the master/slave paradigm and paved the way for a new standard of business and interpersonal relationships.
We’ll examine this impact of this teaching on the master/slave relationship model next.
(1) See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eem7d58gjno for an impressive display of such implosion techniques from around the world
“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves. These are the things you are to teach and insist on” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NIV).
Slavery was an accepted way of life within the ancient Roman Empire and Christians served as both slaves and masters during that time. But instead of mounting a direct assault upon this practice through the pages of the Scriptures, God elected to use a subtle, but highly effective means of eradicating this practice.
First, the New Testament Scriptures directed Christian slaves to work for their owners just as if they were working for Christ. Slaves who were serious about following this directive would always give their best effort- even when their owners weren’t watching (see Ephesians 6:5).
Slave owners were then commanded to treat slaves in a God-honoring manner. For instance. owners were not permitted to threaten their slaves (Ephesians 6:9). They were also instructed to interact righteously and equitably with slaves: “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven” (Colossians 4:1).
These instructions, along with Jesus’ teaching to “…treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12 NASB) meant that all Christians had an obligation to treat others with respect and dignity. Over time, these principles slowly began to undermine the “slave and owner” mentality and helped influence a move away from the master/slave model of working relationships.
In addition, we should also consider a situation that might have faced a Christian master with a Christian slave during that time. If a master and slave both attended the same church, there was a chance that a slave might hold a position of spiritual authority over his master. The possibility that a master might look to his slave for spiritual guidance would also help undermine support for the practice of slavery.
So instead of furthering the idea of master/slave working relationships, the New Testament teaching on this subject actually had the opposite effect. The Biblical concept that slaves and masters were equal in God’s sight laid the groundwork that helped eliminate the once common practice of slavery and continues to do so today.
“Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 ESV).
Before moving on from the question of Biblical slavery and its relationship to Christian life and practice, we should stop to consider another controversial passage on this subject…
“And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have — from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property.
And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor” (Leviticus 25:44-46).
A thinking person might be challenged to explain how a just God could permit the ancient Israelites to take slaves from among the peoples of the surrounding nations. This is a valid question and there are intelligent, just, and rational answers available for those who are sincerely willing to give these verses the attention they deserve.
We can begin with the recognition that the ancient Israelites were instructed to kill (or at least dispossess) the members of the nations that inhabited the Promised Land. (see Deuteronomy 20:16-18). While this may seem shocking to modern-day audiences, the Old Testament book of Leviticus informs us that God did not instruct the people of Israel to undertake this course of action without justification…
“You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:26-28). (1)
When measured against the prospect of death or flight to a foreign nation where conditions were likely to be worse, this type of relationship with the people of Israel may have represented the best available option for the former inhabitants of Canaan.
(1) This did not represent an impulsive or capricious act on God’s part; in fact, Genesis 15:13-16 indicates that these abominations (including, but not limited to acts such as incest, bestiality, and child sacrifice) had been ongoing for many hundreds of years by the time Israel arrived to take possession of the land.
“All slaves should show full respect for their masters so they will not bring shame on the name of God and his teaching. If the masters are believers, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. Those slaves should work all the harder because their efforts are helping other believers who are well loved. Teach these things, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT).
In allowing the ancient Israelites to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations (Leviticus 25:44-46), we should consider the larger context of God’s promise to His people…
“And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them” (Deuteronomy 28:13).
This passage underscores God’s intent to appoint the people of Israel to a leadership position among the nations of that day. The Old Testament book of Psalms describes an important advantage that derived from that appointment…
“He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, And they inherited the labor of the nations, That they might observe His statutes And keep His laws. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 105:44-45).
So God offered two object lessons in allowing the people of Israel to acquire the land, labor, and possessions of the ancient Canaanite nations:
- It served to fulfill His promise to provide the Israelites with a position of authority.
- It served to compel a sense of respect for the God of Israel and thus encourage others to observe His statutes and laws.
This scenario is also reminiscent of Jesus’ Parable of the Talents. That parable relates the account of a servant who was entrusted with a valuable possession but failed to use it properly. That possession was subsequently taken from him and given to a servant who used his resources appropriately (see Matthew 25:14-30). Much like the unworthy servant in Jesus’ parable, the former inhabitants of Canaan failed to conduct themselves in a God-honoring manner. Thus they were dispossessed of their land as a result.
In permitting the Israelites to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations, we should also note that God initiated a test for His people as well. For instance, how would the Israelites respond when given absolute authority over another human being? Would they treat those human beings with justice, wisdom, and compassion? Or would they adopt the relationship model held by the surrounding nations and view those slaves as nothing more than a commodity to be used and exploited?
“Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 KJV).
While God permitted the ancient Israelites to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations, He also instructed them to view those relationships through the lens of their experience as former slaves within the nation of Egypt…
“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you…” (Deuteronomy 15:15, see also Leviticus 19:34).
The Old Testament Law that governed the nation of Israel also contained a number of safeguards that were designed to protect slaves from those who might treat them in a less than Godly manner. For example, while slaves of other nations had no rights (and were sometimes worked to their literal deaths), the Law ensured that an Israelite slave received one day of rest each week…
“but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you” (Deuteronomy 5:14).
In addition, the Mosaic Law prohibited (or penalized) behaviors that were commonly accepted within other cultures of that time including…
- Beating a slave to death (Exodus 21:20-21).
- Causing permanent bodily injury to a slave. A slave was granted his or her freedom in such instances to compensate for their injury (Exodus 21:26-27).
- Returning an escaped slave to a master (Deuteronomy 23:15-16).
Since the inhabitants of Canaan were about to be dispossessed of their land by the people of Israel, they were left to choose from among the following options…
- They could fight (and likely die).
- They could try to escape to an area beyond the Promised Land and risk capture along with foreign enslavement.
- They could accept a master/slave relationship with the people of Israel along with the protections afforded to them by Israel’s God.
Thus, an agreement to enter a master/slave relationship with the Israelites may have represented the best available option , especially when considering these alternatives.
“All you Christians who are servants must respect your owners and work hard for them. Do not let the name of God and our teaching be spoken against because of poor work. Those who have Christian owners must respect their owners because they are Christian brothers. They should work hard for them because much-loved Christian brothers are being helped by their work. Teach and preach these things” (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLV).
As we complete our look at the topic of slavery in the Biblical era, we should recognize that God may have allowed the ancient Israelites to acquire slaves from among the surrounding nations to help secure a positive end result. While this may seem counter-intuitive, there is Biblical and practical support for this idea.
For instance, consider the way Joseph, the well-known Biblical personality, responded to an injustice that had once been committed against him: “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive…” (Genesis 50:20). By permitting and regulating the practice of slavery among the people of Old Testament Israel, God may have taken a similar approach. (1)
You see, a foreign slave among the Hebrew people would meet the acquaintance of Israel’s God, something that might otherwise be unlikely to occur. He or she would be also be permitted to take part in Israel’s spiritual observances (Exodus 12:43-44) and thus have an opportunity to find the salvation offered by the God of Israel. In this manner, God may have utilized an unjust institution to provide a beneficial result. That benefit comprised an introduction to the one true God and the salvation He offered.
One commentator expands upon this idea with the following insight…
“God’s self-disclosure and direction to his elect nation often accommodated existing cultural aspects. While such accommodation reflects God’s way of dealing with his creation, it does not necessarily imply his ideal will. Slavery is accepted in the Old Testament as part of the world in which Israel functioned. It is not abolished but regulated.
The legal codes for that regulation (Exod. 21; Lev. 25; Deut. 15) and the numerous texts that reflect Israel’s development in this domain indicate an increasing humanization of slavery in contrast to the rest of the ancient Near East. The Hebrew slave was more protected than those of other nationalities. The Old Testament raised the status of the slave from property to that of a human being who happened to be owned by another person…” (2)
(1) See here for a more extensive discussion regarding the manner in which God may utilize evil in pursuit of a greater good.
(2) Elwell, W. A., & Elwell, W. A. (1996). In Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,” (1 Timothy 6:3).
It may come as a surprise to learn that the word “doctrine” appears eight times within the 113 verses of the Biblical book of 1 Timothy. Since this word recurs once every fourteen verses on average within this epistle, (1) that provides us with a good opportunity to define its importance once more.
In this context, “doctrine” corresponds to the things we believe regarding God, humanity, Christ, the church and other related subjects. When it comes to the Biblical Scriptures, there are only two types of doctrine: true and false. True doctrine is a belief that conforms to what the Bible teaches. False doctrine is a belief that conforms to something else.
One effective way to separate true and false doctrine involves reading a portion of the Scriptures each day with an attitude of of humility and prayer. This will not only build our understanding of God’s Word but also help us identify false teachings wherever we encounter them. As one source comments, “Some of the most dangerous teaching in the church isn’t done from a pulpit, but in informal, private conversations.” (2)
This reminds us that “doctrine” is not the exclusive domain of preachers, scholars, or seminary professors. You see, everyone holds various doctrines- and everyone acts upon those doctrinal beliefs through their choices, opinions, and actions. In other words, people generally act upon what they believe whether or not they realize it. If someone holds an unbiblical doctrine, he or she is certain to act upon it eventually.
Another commentator identifies the dangers associated with false doctrine from a leadership perspective…
“The concluding section of this letter is addressed to the personal needs of Timothy as a minister. He writes first of the motives of the minister. One wrong motive is pride, which is stated in 1Ti_6:4. The results of such an unworthy motive are given in 1Ti_6:3:
(1) He will teach a different doctrine.
(2) He is not satisfied with the healthy words of the gospel.
(3) Nor does he want a teaching that produces godliness.
A love for self and position, produces a message to satisfy self and those who would be foolish enough to follow. To advance self as an authority we must discount God’s Word as the only source of authority. When such happens we can be sure such teaching as will be given will not produce healthy, strong Christians, but stunted and diseased heretics. When God and His Son are not the center of our motive for preaching, we can know the products of our preaching will not be godly.” (3)
(1) New King James Version
(2) Guzik, Dave, 1 Timothy 6 – Riches and Godliness, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-6/
(3) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment on 1 Timothy 6:3] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3 ESV).
1 Timothy 6:3 brings closure to a topic that Paul the Apostle began in the first chapter of this book. That topic involves the subject of heretical teachers. This subject is one that bears repeating, for a person who holds a faulty understanding of Jesus’ teachings will surely express his or her mistaken beliefs through any number of negative characteristics.
For instance, consider the qualities of a false teacher mentioned below…
“Paul identifies 3 characteristics of false teachers: 1) they ‘advocate a different doctrine’—a different teaching that contradicts God’s revelation in Scripture (see notes on Gal 1:6–9); 2) they do ‘not agree with sound words’—they do not accept sound, healthy teaching, specifically the teaching contained in Scripture (2Pe 3:16); and 3) they reject ‘doctrine conforming to godliness’—teaching not based on Scripture will always result in an unholy life. Instead of godliness, false teachers will be marked by sin…” (1)
Since new spiritual movements, novel experiences, or “fresh anointings” seem to arise in every age, these characteristics are worthy of our attention. Some of these movements may be good and beneficial while others (like the rise of Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses movements in the 19th century) may produce teachings that cause spiritual damage that lasts for decades and beyond.
Those who fail to read and grow in their understanding of God’s Word thus become targets for various forms of deception. This may include religious belief systems that appear reasonable but are opposed to genuine Biblical teaching. It might also include cultic organizations led by charismatic and persuasive leaders. Or it may simply involve those who drift away from a relationship with Christ because they never established a Biblical foundation for faith.
In contrast, good churches that emphasize sound Biblical teaching can help us discern a genuine work of God from a counterfeit. On the other hand, those who don’t know the Scriptures yet consistently seek to catch the next wave of a supposed “move of God” may find themselves tossed back and forth like a cork in the ocean. Sadly, these individuals may also fit the description offered by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament book of Ephesians…
“…tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 6:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions” (1 Timothy 6:4).
Anyone who takes part in an online forum or unmoderated “comments” section of an Internet site will surely encounter some (or all) of the qualities mentioned here in 1 Timothy 6:4: “…an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions” (NIV).
While such things may represent little more than an annoyance to the members of an online community, a teacher or preacher who exhibits the qualities of 1 Timothy 6:4 can inflict lasting spiritual injury upon others. Some of those negative characteristics from 1 Timothy 6:4 include the following…
- Pride: “Doctrinal error is seldom merely a case of being innocently mistaken. There is almost always some degree of culpability. The false teachers in Ephesus were conceited (lit., ‘puffed up’), with inflated egos (cf. 1Ti_1:7). Such a one understands nothing.” (1)
- Unhealthy obsessions: 1 Timothy 6:4 employs a medical analogy that points to an excessive and vicious fondness for something, (2)
- Disputes and arguments over words: This refers to the quarrels that arise from insignificant details that have little or nothing to do with the matter under discussion.
- Envy: Envy involves a feeling of unhappiness or disapproval when others are favored or successful.
- Strife: This is a quality that relates to contentions, rivalries, or discord with others.
- Reviling: This word is associated with “slander, detraction, [or] speech [that is] injurious to another’s good name.” (3)
- Evil suspicions: Those who automatically assume the worst about others are those who might fall into this category.
These are the qualities that fail to “…help people live a life of faith in God” (NLT) as mentioned earlier in 1 Timothy 1:4. We can also borrow a cautionary message from Jesus regarding these behaviors…
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:15-20).
(1) John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Bible Knowledge Commentary [p.746]
(2) See G3552 noseo https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/noseo
(3) G988 blasphemia Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/lexicon.cfm?bn=63&ot=KJV&page=1&strongs=G988&t=YLT
“useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:5).
1 Timothy 6:5 continues with a list of three characteristics that can help us identify those who are likely to inflict spiritual injury upon their listeners…
- Useless wranglings: One commentary summarizes an appropriate response to this characteristic: “Paul told Timothy to stay away from those who just wanted to make money from preaching and from those who strayed from the sound teachings of the Good News into quarrels that caused strife in the church. A person’s understanding of the finer points of theology should not become the basis for lording it over others or for making money. Stay away from people who just want to argue.” (1)
- Destitute of the truth: Whether these individuals reject spiritual truth or never possessed it at all is an open question. One certainty is that their actions demonstrate that they have no acquaintance with sound doctrine. As Jesus taught in Mark 4:25, “For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
- Who suppose that godliness is a means of gain: Unlike the type of leaders mentioned here, Paul the Apostle reminded the Thessalonian church of his commitment to financial transparency in 1 Thessalonians 2:5: “God knows we never tried to get money from you by preaching” (NLV). Paul also told the leaders of the church at Ephesus, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me” (Acts 20:33-34).
So unlike those who “…think that religion is a way to become rich” (GNT), Paul rejected such behaviors. He also declined to leverage his spiritual authority to secure greater financial or material wealth. For Paul, the knowledge that his daily choices and decisions were made in the presence of a holy, righteous, and virtuous Creator helped him avoid the trap of financial impropriety. This was especially true in regard to the ministry that God entrusted to him, and those who follow Christ would be wise to adopt a similar mindset.
Finally, Jesus provided us with a similar warning regarding covetousness that helps reveal the misguided philosophy of those who are driven to accumulate wealth and/or possessions: “…Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
(1) Life Application Study Bible [1 Timothy 6:3-5] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“and constant bickering by people corrupted in their minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit” (1 Timothy 6:5 NET).
“He that serves God for money will serve the Devil for better wages.” (1)
Unlike those who are mentioned here in 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul the Apostle worked to maintain a high standard of financial integrity. For instance, Paul was willing to resort to outside employment to ease any concern regarding his financial motives…
“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).
This set the right leadership example for others in an important way. You see, this decision served to undercut anyone who might seek to discredit Paul’s ministry by asserting that “he was only in it for the money.” Since there were many who sought to peddle the Word of God for profit, this example set Paul apart from those who viewed religion (or Christianity in particular) as a business opportunity.
Two commentators offer valuable insights regarding this passage that are worthy of our attention…
” Christianity is commonly presented today on the basis of what you will gain by following Jesus: personal success and happiness, a stronger family, a more secure life. These things may be true to some degree, but we must never market the gospel as a product that will fix every life problem. When the gospel is marketed this way, it makes followers of Jesus who are completely unprepared for tough times.
After all, if the ‘Jesus product’ isn’t working, why not try another brand? Also, this sales approach takes the focus off Jesus Himself, and puts the focus on what He will give us. Many have their hearts set on the blessings, not the One who blesses us.” (2)
“There are some who use the guise of godliness as a means of profit. They take advantage of people who want to know God better and convince them that if they send money they will achieve status with God. They are motivated by greed and often use greed to motivate their followers. Paul said to turn away from those kinds of people. Turn the channel. The alternative is to realize that real gain comes when we learn to be content with what we have and pursue godliness with alt our hearts.” (3)
(1) Sir Roger L’Estrange (1616-1704), Fables, of Aesop and other eminent mythologists : with morals and reflections [pg. 156] https://archive.org/details/fablesofaesopoth00lest
(2) Guzik, Dave, 1 Timothy 6 – Riches and Godliness, https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-6/
(3) Chuck Smith, The Word For Today Bible, study note on 1 Timothy 6:5,6 pg 1593
“they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:4-5 NIV).
As we close our look at 1 Timothy 6:4-5, we will feature a few final observations from a commentator who takes the characteristics from this passage and distills them into four easily-discernable qualities. A person who can recognize these negative attributes will be well-positioned to conduct an accurate assessment of his or her own life and identify such traits in others…
“Here in this passage are set out the characteristics of the false teacher.
(i) His first characteristic is conceit. His desire is not to display Christ, but to display himself, There are still preachers and teachers who are more concerned to gain a following for themselves than for Jesus Christ, more concerned to press their own views than to bring to men the word of God….
(ii) His concern is with abstruse and recondite speculations. There is a kind of Christianity which is more concerned with argument than with life. To be a member of a discussion circle or a Bible study group and spend enjoyable hours in talk about doctrines does not necessarily make a Christian…
(iii) The false teacher is a disturber of the peace. He is instinctively competitive; he is suspicious of all who differ from him; when he cannot win in an argument he hurls insults at his opponent’s theological position, and even at his character; in any argument the accent of his voice is bitterness and not love. He has never learned to speak the truth in love. The source of his bitterness is the exaltation of self; for his tendency is to regard any difference from or any criticism of his views as a personal insult.
(iv) The false teacher commercializes religion. He is out for profit. He looks on his teaching and preaching, not as a vocation, but as a career. One thing is certain–there is no place for careerists in the ministry of any Church. The Pastorals are quite clear that the labourer is worthy of his hire; but the motive of his work must be public service and not private gain. His passion is, not to get, but to spend and be spent in the service of Christ and of his fellow-men.” (1)
(1) Barclay, William. “The Characteristics Of The False Teacher (1 Timothy 6:3-5 continued)“. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-6.html. 1956-1959.
“Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).
Human beings typically use a variety of measuring devices for various tasks. For instance, we use clocks to measure time, graduated rulers to measure length, and scales to measure weight. But how does one measure value in life? Well, the answer to that question largely depends upon the standard we use.
For instance, let’s consider the example of someone who views the acquisition of financial and/or material wealth as the key to worth and contentment. While the person in our example may have many different paths to financial or material enrichment, that type of mindset reflects an inaccurate standard of measurement according to 1 Timothy 6:6.
Jesus communicated a similar idea in His correspondence with the ancient church of Laodicea…
“You claim to be rich and successful and to have everything you need. But you don’t know how bad off you are. You are pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 317 CEV).
A far better standard is offered here in 1 Timothy 6:6: “…godliness combined with contentment brings great profit” (NET). When used in this context, the word “contentment” is associated with the idea of self-sufficiency. However, we should not equate “self-sufficiency” with sufficiency in ourselves. Instead, our sufficiency is rooted in God’s provision for our needs…
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
“…I’ve learned to be content in whatever situation I’m in. I know how to live in poverty or prosperity. No matter what the situation, I’ve learned the secret of how to live when I’m full or when I’m hungry, when I have too much or when I have too little. I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 GW).
These passages should also prompt us to address some important questions regarding genuine contentment. For instance…
- Can we find contentment in Christ when our circumstances do not align with our expectations?
- Can we find contentment when a ministry, relationship, or employment situation has not prospered as we hoped?
- Are we willing to seek contentment in the blessings that God has given us instead of those things He has elected to withhold?
As 1 Timothy 6:6 reminds us, “…godliness with contentment is great gain.” In light of this, we would do well to prayerfully cultivate an attitude of appreciation for the blessings God has provided us and seek to honor Him with them.
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).
1 Timothy 6:7-8 continues a brief discussion regarding genuine contentment with an undeniable statement: “We didn’t bring anything into this world, and we won’t take anything with us when we leave” (CEV). This passage echoes a similar observation from the Biblical personality Job in the Old Testament book that bears his name…
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21).
These self-evident observations further serve to undermine the belief that the accumulation of earthly wealth brings lasting satisfaction and contentment. Thus, the phrase “You can’t take it with you when you go“ has been memorialized throughout popular culture. Although we may take great pride in our material possessions, the knowledge that we will eventually leave such things behind is always present to disrupt our contentment with them.
While many prefer to dismiss, avoid, or ignore this uncomfortable truth, commentators have remarked upon this reality for centuries…
“Remember that you can carry nothing out of this world except your character.” (1)
“…a shroud, a coffin, and a grave, are all that the richest man in the world can have from all his wealth.” (2)
“If we believe heaven to be our country, it is better for us to transmit our wealth thither, than to retain it here, where we may lose it by a sudden removal.” (3)
Yet even the most gifted commentator cannot improve upon the inspired Word of God in this regard…
“I began to hate all the hard work I had done, because I saw that the people who live after me would get the things that I worked for. I will not be able to take them with me. Some other person will control everything I worked and studied for. And I don’t know if that person will be wise or foolish. This is also senseless” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 ERV).
While it is wise and prudent to plan for the future, we should recognize that all our endeavors are subject to the sovereign will of God. It is extremely presumptuous to accumulate wealth and possessions without regard for the One who is the ultimate provider of such things for “…we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”
(1) Meyer, Frederick Brotherton. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 6“. “F. B. Meyer’s ‘Through the Bible’ Commentary”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/fbm/1-timothy-6.html. 1914.
(2) Henry, Matthew. “Concise Commentary on 1 Timothy 6“. “Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhc-con/1-timothy-6.html. 1706.
(3) Calvin, John Institutes Of The Christian Religion Vol 2 [pg 313] http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/64392
“for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8 ESV).
There is an old adage that offers a powerful yet simple principle that we can apply to many situations: “know your enemy.” This axiom is traditionally credited to the ancient military strategist Sun Tzu who is best known for a work entitled, The Art Of War. The idea behind this principle should be readily apparent: a person who knows his or her enemy is someone who is well-positioned to defeat his or her opponent.
We can apply this same idea to genuine satisfaction and contentment in life. If we know the enemies that rob us of contentment, we can defend against them and prevent them from doing so. For instance, it is possible to be content and satisfied with the blessings and provisions we receive from God- until we encounter those who seem to have more. That’s when the struggles with envy, jealousy, and other negative emotions often begin.
It’s also possible to become discontent if it seems as if God’s provision has resulted in less than we desire for ourselves. However, 1 Timothy 6:7-8 encourages us to reorient our thinking in this respect…
“Contentment consists of satisfaction with the basic necessities of life. Our heavenly Father knows that we need food and covering and has promised to supply these. Most of an unbeliever’s life revolves around food and clothing. The Christian should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and God will see that he does not lack the essentials of life. The word translated clothing here means covering and can include a place to live as well as clothes to wear. We should be content with food, clothing, and a place to live.” (1)
This does not mean that we should seek to impoverish ourselves for as 1 Timothy 6:17 will later go on to tell us, God “…gives us richly all things to enjoy.” If God elects to prosper us beyond the necessities of food, clothing, and a good place to live, we should make certain to use those assets in a way that honors Him. This can help us find genuine satisfaction in the blessings that God has extended to us.
As the ancient wisdom contained within the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes tells us…
“Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, pg.2100
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9).
1 Timothy 6:9 alerts us to another concern regarding the pursuit of financial wealth: the internal motives that lead to the desire to accumulate such things. We can separate this passage into its constituent elements for the benefit of anyone who seeks to remember and apply this verse…
Those who desire to be rich. An ancient maxim tells us that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. In a similar manner, the first step on the road to becoming rich involves a desire to be rich. Therefore, we can benefit from examining our attitudes in this area. Why do we want to obtain wealth? An honest answer to that simple question may help reveal any motives that are less than Godly.
Fall into temptation. A person who seeks to accumulate wealth and possessions might be tempted to justify that pursuit in various ways. For instance, we might validate our quest for financial gain with the thought of all the good things we could do if we only had more money. While greater wealth certainly opens up the potential for greater opportunities, we should consider how we are handling the assets we already possess. If we are not faithful in using the resources we already have, then why would God provide us with anything more?
A snare. One commentator offers a penetrating analysis of this word-picture: “Possessions also change your relationship with others. You discover that people are treating you differently because you have something that is a symbol of prestige or status. People no longer treat you for who you are; they are treating you for what you have, so you begin to get suspicious of your friends and your friendships. You can even get involved in court cases, lawsuits, etc. All this enters when the love of money starts to possess you. That is the snare involved.” (1)
Foolish and harmful lusts. Lust is a characteristic that reflects other negative qualities like exploitation and selfishness. It serves to describe the mindset of a person who uses someone to fulfill his or her desires. This is harmful to others and highly inappropriate in the sight of a morally pure God.
Which drown men in destruction and perdition. One source defines perdition as “the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell” (2) thus providing a fitting incentive to take this counsel seriously.
(1) Excerpted with permission from The Cost of Riches © 2010 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected]
(2) G684 apoleia Thayer’s Greek Definitions https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g684
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Some may be familiar with a quote that was attributed to John D. Rockefeller, a prominent industrialist of the 19th century and a man who was among the wealthiest people of his time. When Mr. Rockefeller was allegedly asked, “Sir, how much money is enough money?” Rockefeller is said to have replied, “Just a little bit more.”
While the life of Israel’s King Solomon predated John D. Rockefeller’s life by many centuries, Solomon would have undoubtedly agreed with that assessment. For instance, consider Solomon’s observation regarding the love of money from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes…
“He who loves money shall never have enough. The foolishness of thinking that wealth brings happiness! The more you have, the more you spend, right up to the limits of your income. So what is the advantage of wealth– except perhaps to watch it as it runs through your fingers!” (Ecclesiastes 5:9-10 TLB).
One serious issue related to an effort to secure greater wealth and/or possessions involves the temptation to engage in actions that are inappropriate from a Biblical perspective. 1 Timothy 6:10 explains why: “…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (ESV). This brings us to a common inaccuracy regarding this passage.
You see, people commonly misquote the first portion of 1 Timothy 6:10 as follows: “money is the root of all evil.” However, it’s not that “money is the root of all evil,” it’s, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Money itself is not evil- it is our internal attitude towards money and what we do with it that can make it that way.
Consider this question: is there anything people won’t do for the love of money? For instance, why do swindlers cheat others out of their savings? For money. Why do so-called psychics give brokenhearted families phony “messages” from loved ones who have passed away? For money. Why did Judas betray Jesus? For money. The unfortunate reality is that the love of money is something that may compel us to engage in any number of evil, harmful things.
In light of these things, we can say that money is much like a tool that we can use according to our desire. Remember, money itself is not evil- it is our attitude towards money and the actions we take with it that serve to make it that way.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10 ESV).
The first-century counsel given to us here in in 1 Timothy 6:10 has led one commentator to identify an important 21st century application…
“As Christians who live in a materialistic world, we must cultivate Paul’s attitude of contentment very deliberately (cf. Heb. 13:5-6). This is an especially difficult task in a society like the one in which we live in North America. We are constantly hearing through advertising and the media that we ‘need’ all kinds of luxuries. According to Paul, and Jesus, our personal needs as human beings are very few. Paul’s point was that we should seek godliness more diligently than we seek money and the things it can buy.” (1)
The correlation between this ancient cautionary message from 1 Timothy 6:10 and modern-day advertising is worthy of further exploration. For instance, have you ever considered why advertising dominates so many internet web sites? At times, it may seem as if the content of a web page is little more than a vehicle that is designed to deliver the maximum number of advertisements.
The reason for this is simple: the right kind of advertising can be highly effective in selling merchandise. For instance, advertisers frequently imply that consumers will get more than just the benefit of a product or service; they will also get something desirable in return. That “something” might include happiness, respect, attention from others, or social acceptance, just to name a few examples.
This strategy often involves an attempt to make us feel dissatisfied with the things we already possess. If we can be made to feel dissatisfied because we don’t have what an advertiser is selling, we may be more inclined to purchase their merchandise. This is how promotional campaigns get viewers and listeners to concentrate on “needs” that are related to their products. It also aligns with a basic rule that governs all advertising: “Find a need and fill it. If no need exists, then create one.”
In light of this, 1 Timothy 6:10 (along with the counsel given to us earlier in 1 Timothy 6:9) should motivate us to guard against a materialistic attitude. As we’re told in Romans 12:2…
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
(1) Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2021 Edition [6:9-10 B. False teachers 6:3-10] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
“For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:10 NET).
If we are honest with ourselves, we may have to admit that it is sometimes difficult to use money in way that honors God.
For instance, our purchasing decisions may become a form of “retail therapy” that helps us escape the pressures and demands of everyday life. Or perhaps we may overextend a line of credit in order to keep pace with others or acquire things that promote an image we wish to project. These examples (and others like them) often make it difficult to make God-honoring financial decisions.
Another example might include the type of mindset that says, “I worked hard to get the money I have and I have the right to spend it however I wish.” While this may be an accurate statement for a hardworking individual, we should recognize the difference between a right and an obligation for those who seek to honor God.
For instance, the Biblical Scriptures clearly affirm the virtue of hard work. This is an area where Paul the Apostle led by example…
“You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:34-35 NIV).
However, we should also acknowledge that the ability to engage in hard work (along with every other talent and ability we possess) originates with the sovereign God who graciously provides us with such things. Therefore, a person who possesses the qualities that are necessary for achievement in life should recognize that we do not possess anything that God has not allowed us to have.
Once we acknowledge that we owe everything to God’s gracious provision, it becomes easier to use our money and possessions in ways that honor Him. This important Biblical precept is best summarized by the following passage from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy…
“You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NIV).
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11).
Having already addressed a variety of subjects within this letter, Paul the Apostle now encouraged Timothy to live in a manner that honored God’s call upon his life.
The phrase “…man of God” has a long Biblical history dating back to the early Old Testament period. This designation was used to identify such well-known Biblical personalities as Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18), and David (2 Chronicles 8:14), as well as others who are completely unknown to us (1 Kings 13).
So unlike those whose lives were characterized by the pursuit of riches, Timothy was instructed to flee such things in order to focus upon other pursuits of greater eternal significance. Those objectives included…
- Righteousness. A righteous person is someone who is in right standing with God. The Scriptures tell us that those who accept Christ’s sacrificial death are declared to be “righteous” (or “without guilt”) in God’s sight (Romans 4:5-8). Furthermore, Jesus’ righteousness is imputed (or transferred) to those who accept His sacrifice on their behalf according to 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.
- Godliness is another way of referring to God-honoring character. It “…denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to Him.” (1)
- Faith. As mentioned earlier, genuine, Biblical faith is characterized by the confident belief that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do. One Biblical dictionary defines faith as “A belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.” (2) Faith involves the confident expectation that God will act in a trustworthy manner to fulfill His promises even when external appearances seem to suggest otherwise. This kind of faith serves as a defining quality of a God-honoring life, for as Romans 1:17 tell us, “…it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (NIV). This makes faith something we possess and a lifestyle that characterizes the attitude of a Godly person.
- Love. In the original language of this passage, the word “love” incorporates the idea of affection, good will, and benevolence (3) as well as generosity, kindly concern, and devotedness. (4)
- Patience (literally “an abiding under”) (5) is associated with the qualities of steadfastness, constancy, endurance (6)
- Gentleness is distinguished by the characteristics of mildness and humility. (7)
While the world often undervalues such things, each of these qualities reflects well upon anyone who seeks to be man or woman of God.
(1) G2150 eusebeia Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ved/g/godliness-godly.html
(2) “Faith” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(3) G26 agape Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g26
(4) G26 agape Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/agape
(5) G5281 hupomone Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ved/p/patience-patient-patiently.html
(6) G5281 hypomone Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5281
(7) G4236 praotes Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4236
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).
One of the characteristic elements of Paul the Apostle’s New Testament letters involves his use of athletic metaphors. In light of this, it should not surprise us to find that Paul employed a boxing reference as he encouraged Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith…”
In addition to what we read here in 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul also employed the imagery of a boxer in the Biblical book of 1 Corinthians. In that portion of Scripture, Paul used the example of a prizefighter to communicate the importance of qualities like focus, purpose, and determination as they relate to a life that honors Christ…
“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT).
Perhaps the best known use of this illustration is found in some of Paul’s final recorded words: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Here in 1 Timothy 6:12, the word “fight” connotes the following idea: “to contend with adversaries… to endeavour with strenuous zeal, strive: to obtain something.” (1) Much like a prizefighter in the ring with an opponent, “The word Fight (Gr agonizomai) is an athletic term meaning ‘to engage in a contest.’ This contest is the whole life of the believer striving to win ‘the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 4:13). It is a good fight whereas the fight for money is evil (vs. 10).” (2)
In a similar manner, Paul made use of a racing analogy in Galatians 5:7 when he wrote, “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7 NIV). This illustration recalls an old saying with many applications: “It’s not how you start the race but how you finish that counts.” Finally, Paul will also employ this imagery in the Biblical letter of 2 Timothy: “…if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).
So much like those who sought to excel in competitive athletic events, Paul urged Timothy to adopt a similar attitude in regard to God’s call upon his life.
(1) G75 agonizomai Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g75
(2) Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2506). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
“I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate” (1 Timothy 6:13).
This portion of Scripture contains Paul the Apostle’s fourth charge to Timothy within this letter. The first occurred in the beginning of this book: “…remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3). The second appeared in 1 Timothy 1:18, and then again in 1 Timothy 5:21: “I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality.”
To “charge” someone in this manner means, “To impose a duty, responsibility, or obligation…” (1) This tells us that Paul did not make a casual request. In the words of one source, “The word ‘charge’ carries with it the meaning of an official order, one to be carried out at any cost.” (2) To underscore the importance of this duty, Paul made certain to remind Timothy that he was initiating this charge in the presence of God and Christ Jesus who stood before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
Unlike some other teachings and events from His life, Jesus’ interaction with Pilate is recorded in all four Gospel accounts of His life. That “good confession” before Pilate contained several important elements:
- Jesus acknowledged His authority: “…(T)he governor asked Him, saying, ‘Are You the King of the Jews?’ Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you say’” (Matthew 27:11).
- Jesus bore witness to the truth: “…For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).
- Jesus confirmed God’s sovereignty over the circumstances of His life: “…You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11).
Pilate responded to these things with an assessment that featured implications that were likely beyond his grasp: “I find no fault in this Man” (Luke 23:4). In light of this, one commentator offers a helpful summary of Jesus’ appearance before Pilate in the context of 1 Timothy 6:13…
“Knowing that such a confession would cost Him His life, Jesus nevertheless confessed that He was truly the King and Messiah (Jn 18:33–37). He rarely evaded danger (cf. Jn 7:1); He boldly and trustfully committed Himself to God who raises the dead (cf. Col 2:12).” (3)
(1) “charge” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Retrieved 02 April 2021 from https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=charge
(2) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 6”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-timothy-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
(3) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 6:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing” (1 Timothy 6:14).
It is often difficult to understand how human beings can act in ways that knowingly bring pain and sorrow to others. It can be hard to comprehend why others choose to act unethically, abuse their authority, or lie, cheat, and steal from other human beings. While there may be any number of explanations for these behaviors, there is one underlying answer that accounts for each of these choices.
You see, the people who engage in these practices (and others like them) probably do not expect to be held to account for their actions. However, that belief contradicts the counsel given to us in the passage quoted above. There are two aspects to this verse that should draw our attention in this respect. The first is blamelessness: “…fulfill all he has told you to do so that no one can find fault with you” (TLB). The second is associated with Jesus’ return: “…from now until our Lord Jesus Christ returns” (TLB).
Jesus alluded to the reality of His second advent on several occasions…
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30 NIV).
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory” (Matthew 25:31 HCSB).
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 KJV).
If the reality of Jesus’ return serves to influence our choices and decisions, we are more likely to act in a manner that is “…above reproach until the final coming of Christ” (Phillips). Jesus linked these concepts in some of His final recorded words…
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:12-15).
“that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:14-15).
The time and date of Jesus’ return is a subject that has engaged the interest of untold numbers of people over the years. For instance, one Pastoral author addressed this topic with the following observation…
“When is Jesus coming? Many are asking that question these days. Are we in the ‘last days’? Is the ‘man of sin’ about to appear on the earth? Are we facing the great tribulation? Is the antichrist at hand? Are we in the last season?” (1)
The paragraph above would fit well within a modern-day internet web site devoted to an analysis of current events and their potential relationship to the end-times. Therefore, it might be surprising to learn that it was actually written in 1981. Then there were others within that era who went beyond mere speculation concerning Jesus’ return…
“…we have shown that sunset 20 September 1988 (the start of the Day of Atonement 1988) is the end of this present Church Age. Thus sunset 20 September 1988 is also the end of times of the Gentiles, while Armageddon (the Day of Atonement) on 4 October 1995 is the end of the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). And the times of the restitution of all things is 4 October 1995, when Jesus arrives on earth (Acts 3:21) at the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).” (2)
Another author made a similar prediction in the 1990’s…
“Last Day and return of Christ some on or between: September 15, 1994: Beginning of 1994 Jubilee year, and September 27, 1994: Last Day of Feast of Tabernacles.” (3)
This same author predicted Jesus’ return in the post 2000-era as well. In responding to a question concerning his belief that Jesus would return to rapture His church on May 11, 2011, that author responded by saying…
“It. Is. Going. To. Happen. Because I trust the Bible implicitly, the Bible is God’s word — it’s not from a man, it’s not from an organization of some kind where there’s plenty of room for error.” (4)
When current events seem to indicate that Jesus will return soon, we would be wise to remember the words of 1 Timothy 6:14 concerning “…our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing which He will manifest in His own time.” We would also do well to remember Jesus’ counsel from Mark 13:33: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come” (ESV).
See related studies here and here
(1) Excerpted with permission from O Man of God! © 1988 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected]
(2) Edgar C. Whisenant 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988 [pg. 42] https://ia601303.us.archive.org/19/items/ReasonsWhyTheRaptureWillBeIn1988PDF/14080011-88-Reasons-Why-The-Rapture-Will-Be-in-1988.pdf
(3) Camping, Harold, 1994? New York: Vantage Press [pg. 531] https://archive.org/details/19940000camp
(4) Intelligencer magazine, A Conversation With Harold Camping, Prophesier of Judgment Day https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2011/05/a_conversation_with_harold_cam.html Retrieved 06 April 2021. To Mr. Camping’s credit, he later repented for what he characterized as an “incorrect and sinful statement” concerning this prediction. See Harold Camping says May 21 prediction was ‘incorrect and sinful’ (religionnews.com)
“which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16).
Much like an earthly king, the word “Potentate” describes a royal minister of great authority (1) But unlike a human monarch, Jesus does not rule within a territorial border; instead, He is the “…King of kings and Lord of lords.” Similar designations for Jesus are found in the book of Revelation as well. Because of this, we can say that Jesus exercises ultimate authority over everyone and everything that has ever come into existence.
The following description from this passage (“…who alone has immortality) makes use of a familiar word (immortality) that may have lost some of its meaning.
For instance, we might introduce an outstanding athlete with the phrase, “The immortal…” By this, we mean that the athlete in question possesses skills that make that person seem more than mortal. However, the word “immortality” actually describes someone who is incapable of dying.
In the strictest sense, God is the only Being who is truly immortal, for He has always existed and has no end. Thus, God possesses inherent immortality and is eternally self-existent. This makes God different from angelic beings (who are created and thus have a beginning) or resurrected men and women of God (who are also created but have immortality conferred upon them). One author brings some additional clarity to the use of this word…
“Jesus Christ is God and, therefore, is the only one who has intrinsic immortality. However, He assumed human flesh, in order to die as man’s substitute for sin. ‘I am He that liveth, and was dead;’ He says; ‘and, behold I am alive for evermore’ (Revelation 1:18). Now He ‘hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel’ (II Timothy 1:10). Now we can say, with Him: ‘This mortal must put on immortality’ (I Corinthians 15:53).” 
Another source closes with a helpful summary of this passage…
“The Second Coming of Christ will reveal the character of God. Notice, please: (1) He will be seen as the blessed and only Potentate (2) King of kings (3) Lord of lords (4) Who only hath immortality (5) dwells in an unapproachable light (6) whom no man hath seen, nor can see (7) to whom all honor and power are due.” (3)
(1) G1413 dynastes Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g1413
(2) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes [1 Timothy 6:16] https://www.icr.org/bible/1Timothy/6/16/
(3) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment on 1 Timothy 6:15] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961 https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesTimothyAndTitus/18TimothyAndTitus_djvu.txt
“who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16),
1 Timothy 6:16 may be a difficult verse to reconcile when we consider it in light of some other Biblical passages. For instance, the verse quoted above tells us that God “…dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” This seems to conflict with the experience of Adam and Eve, the first human couple who clearly interacted with their Creator in a visible manner (Genesis 2:15-16, 3:8-10).
We also have the following portion of Scripture from the Biblical book of 1 John: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Then there is Jesus’ promise from Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.”
We can resolve theses issues (at least in part) when we stop to remember that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and therefore invisible to human beings. Words like immaterial (something that exists without a material form) and incorporeal (something without physical substance) also define this aspect of God’s existence. The Old Testament book of Job expresses this idea as well: “If He goes by me, I do not see Him; If He moves past, I do not perceive Him” (Job 9:11).
We should also consider the fact that God is so powerful, radiant, glorious, and morally pure that His presence would overwhelm a sinful human being. This explains why the Lord said to Moses, the Biblical patriarch, “…You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).
One Biblical scholar offers some additional insights that can help us understand and reconcile these passages…
“As spirit, God is ‘invisible’ to our physical eyes (1:17). Yet God condescends to make His glory visible to sinful human beings while at the same time shielding them from the full manifestation of His divine being, lest they be destroyed by His consuming holiness (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 24:10, 11; 33:18–23; Num. 12:6–8; Is. 6:1–5).
Paul refers here to the overpowering radiance of God’s divine being in Himself, which we His sinful creatures cannot perceive apart from the mediation of Christ the divine Son (John 1:18; Rev. 22:3–5). In glory, however, once all sin has been removed from us, we will see the Lord as He is and view Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2).” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 2163–2164). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
“He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see. To him be honor and eternal power! Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Today’s message will incorporate some important observations from the late Biblical scholar Norman Geisler. Dr. Geisler was a prolific author who wrote on a variety of topics related to Christian life and practice. In his examination of the various challenges related to this passage, Dr. Geisler provided several insights that are worth our time and attention…
1 TIMOTHY 6:16—Does only God have immortality or do humans also have it?
PROBLEM: According to Paul in this passage, God ‘alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light. However, in other places, Paul speaks of Christians being raised in ‘immortal’ physical bodies (1 Cor. 15:53) and partaking of ‘immortality’ through the Gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). But if God alone has immortality, then how can anyone else have it?
SOLUTION: God is the only one who has immortality intrinsically, by virtue of His very nature. All believers get it as a gift from God, but it is not inherent to their very nature as creatures. Or, to put it another way, only God is immortal—human beings simply have immortality. Likewise, God alone is existence (cf. Ex. 3:14)—creatures only have existence (cf. Acts 17:28). Further, God’s immortality is without beginning or end. Our immortality has a beginning with no end. In summary:
|GOD’S IMMORTALITY||HUMAN IMMORTALITY|
|Intrinsic to His nature||Not intrinsic to our nature|
|Something God is||Something humans have|
|Possesses by His essence||Possess by participation|
|No beginning or end||A beginning but no end|
1 TIMOTHY 6:16—Does God dwell in darkness or in light?
PROBLEM: According to Paul, God ‘dwells in unapproachable light.’ However, the Bible repeatedly says things like ‘the Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud’ (1 Kings 8:12) because ‘He made darkness His secret place’ (Ps. 18:11; cf. 97:2). Which is it—darkness or light?
SOLUTION: In considering this discrepancy, we must remember, first of all, that ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ may be figures of speech and need not be taken literally. Both describe God’s unsearchableness (cf. Rom. 11:33). Furthermore, even if taken literally, they are not necessarily contradictory, for what is light to God can be darkness to us. For example, the dawn brings light to the robin, but darkness to the bat. Indeed, the blinding light of His transcendent deity can create darkness for our finite attempt to comprehend God. So there is no necessary conflict, even if light and darkness are understood literally. (1)
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books [pg.74]
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
Earlier in 1 Timothy 6:7-8, Paul the Apostle provided Timothy with an important reminder along with an application: “…we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content” (NLT). Here now in 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul will address the obligations of those who have been blessed with more than just these mere essentials.
Unlike Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler who idolized his wealth, Paul did not counsel the wealthy to dispose of their financial assets here in 1 Timothy 6:17. Nor did he criticize the affluent simply because they possessed more than others. Instead, Paul advised those who were financially prosperous to use their resources in a God-honoring manner.
Since God “…richly provides everything for our enjoyment” (CEB), we should be thankful to Him for the things that bring happiness, enjoyment, pleasure, or contentment in life. The problem comes when we fail to recognize the difference between financial motives and attitudes that honor God and those that don’t. For instance, Paul highlighted the temporal nature of earthly wealth in addressing “…those who are rich in this present age.” With this in mind, we are best served by adopting the attitude of a steward or manager in managing the financial resources that God provides for us.
Those who adopt this view can look forward to a good return on their investment- and in the words of Acts 20:35, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus also made the following promise in Luke 6:38…
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (NLT).
The act of amassing a large store of financial wealth without respect to the God who graciously provides such things is ultimately foolish. Thus, as one source observes, “Seeking riches for their own sake is wrong, but seeking to have something to share with others in need is not. Thus, while God ‘gives us richly all things to enjoy’ (1 Tim. 6:17), in the same breath He warns, ‘not … to trust in uncertain riches.’” (1)
(1) Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. (1992). When critics ask : a popular handbook on Bible difficulties (p. 502). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 ESV).
The intended audience for this passage of Scripture are those who are “rich in this present age.” You see, it is one thing to possess wealth in the current economy. The real question is how much wealth does one possess in God’s economy? In other words, how many will possess a comparable degree of wealth when they pass from this temporal age into eternity?
This passage thus touches upon two subtle dangers associated with monetary wealth. The first involves haughtiness or arrogance. The second concerns the tendency to place our trust in financial and/or material resources. One author draws our attention to several important applications regarding this verse…
“Two attitudes often mislead the rich. One is the idea that greater monetary wealth indicates greater personal value or worth. The other is the notion that riches guarantee power and security (‘the uncertainty of riches’). Paul warned against both of these conclusions. ‘Those who spend more than they make, trusting that future income will cover their present overspending, are trusting in uncertain riches.’ [a]
…’rich’ people should put ‘their hope’ in the Giver, rather than in His gifts (cf. 4:10; 5:5). God controls these resources. Since He has given them to us (‘who richly supplies us with all things), we can ‘enjoy’ His gifts unselfishly. We can take pleasure in the fact that they free us from certain temptations (cf. Prov. 30:7-9), and they enable us to help others.” (1)
We can also benefit from considering the following perspective…
“Scripture does not say that it is wrong to be rich. Many godly men in the Bible were very wealthy, including Abraham, Job, and King David. What is important is the motivation behind the pursuit of wealth, and then the attitude toward wealth. Those who are rich should use their money to do good deeds, always giving happily to those who are in need. Paul calls that kind of giving the only safe investment in eternity (18-19).” (2)
This explains why Jesus offered the follow instruction…
“Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 CSB).
(1) [a] “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy.” In The Grace New Testament Commentary, Edited by Robert N. Wilkin. 2 vols. Denton, Tex.: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010. 2:990. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition [D. The wealthy 6:17-19] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
(2) Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Study Booklet #14 Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus and Philemon [pg.32] https://mbc.icm.org/
“Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17 NET).
While it may be tempting to gravitate toward the “…all things for our enjoyment” portion of this verse, it is the “…God who richly provides us” segment that carries the most importance. Those who have an opportunity to enjoy good things in life should not overlook the fact that it is God’s gracious provision that allows us to do so.
For instance, those who take part in a hobby, pastime, or other pursuit that offers a respite from the pressures and demands of daily life should be thankful to the God who provides such things. A person who engages in a leisure sport should acknowledge the Creator who graciously provides the ability to do so. The same is true for things like vacations and holidays; the ability to partake in such things comes from the “…God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.”
However, God’s gracious provision goes far beyond these examples. For instance, it has often been said that “the best things in life are free.” Thus, the ability to enjoy the aroma of a good meal, the beauty of a sunset, a cool drink on a hot day, or a myriad of other little pleasures in life all proceed from God’s goodness and benevolence towards us. Such things often go unnoticed or undervalued as we navigate the challenges of daily life.
This explains why Israel’s King Solomon, a man who possessed an abundance of earthly wealth, came to the following conclusion regarding this matter…
“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).
We’ll consider some additional wisdom from King Solomon and how we can apply that wisdom in light of 1 Timothy 6:17 next.
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17 NLT).
One of the most famous kings of Old Testament Israel was Solomon, who reigned from 971 B.C. to 931 B.C. Other than Jesus Himself, Solomon was a man who was gifted with wisdom that far surpassed those who preceded or followed him. In the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon made a common-sense statement that relates to this passage from 1 Timothy 6:17…
“Here is someone who lives alone. He has no son, no brother, yet he is always working, never satisfied with the wealth he has. For whom is he working so hard and denying himself any pleasure? This is useless, too—and a miserable way to live” (Ecclesiastes 4:8 GNB).
Even though Solomon lived almost three thousand years ago, his observations about life and work remain true today. For instance, let’s take the example of a person who is determined to become wealthy and make it to the top of the business world. When someone decides to place that kind of success at the forefront of his or her life, other things like family, friendships, and a relationship with Christ often become secondary or irrelevant.
Another problem is that a climb up the business ladder often never ends. For example, there is always a better office, a more prestigious position, or a greater opportunity available for the person who is willing to sacrifice a little more. As a result, it’s easy to become more isolated, more focused on “success,” and more preoccupied with a career goal to the exclusion of everything else.
In fact, it’s possible to become so preoccupied with “success” that we often fail to ask one simple question: “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” (ESV). In considering this verse, one commentator from the 17th century observed, “Frequently, the more men have, the more they would have; and on this they are so intent, that they get no enjoyment from what they have.” (1)
Because of this, those who seek business or financial success above all else may ultimately find that such things have eluded them- and in the words of King Solomon, “This also is vanity and a grave misfortune” (NKJV). Finally, this attitude serves to deny the gracious provision of God “who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment” (NET).
Portions of this message originally appeared here
(1) Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mhn/ecclesiastes-4.html
“Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19).
This passage points the way to a path that enables us to derive the most enjoyment and satisfaction from our financial assets. One source offers several insights that will enable the wealthy (as well as those of modest financial means) to secure the greatest measure of fulfillment, pleasure, and contentment from their monetary resources…
“Notice the four ways to enjoy riches:
(1) To do good—i.e. to find some area where help is needed, and supply the need. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God.
(2) Be rich in good works. This would seem to be but an emphasis of the former admonition. It suggests that the satisfaction and pleasure of the rich, will be found in work for Christ through their riches, instead of in the bank account.
(3) Be ready to share well and generously with others—find the real meaning of ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’. This is easily said by those who have but little—but it was originally said by Him who possessed all things (Act_20:35).
(4) Be ready to associate closely with those who have less—feel a real partnership with every other Christian—rich or poor. How pointed and pertinent these words are for the wealthy in Ephesus, and in all other places.” (1)
We should also remember that motivations are important when it comes to securing genuine satisfaction from earthly wealth…
“Paul urged Timothy to instruct the rich to view their money as God’s enablement to accomplish good deeds. Rather than enjoying a reputation for having much money, they should cultivate a reputation for being ‘rich in good works.. They should also be openhanded (‘generous’), ‘ready’ and willing ‘to share’ with others generously what God had given them.
By doing so, they would be ensuring that the Lord would reward them for their faithful stewardship, and investing in ‘the treasure of a good foundation for the future’ when they stood before Him (cf. Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 12:33-34; 18:22). Moreover, in so doing they would experience the fullness of their eternal life (‘life indeed’; cf. v. 12)… The whole teaching of the Christian ethic is, not that wealth is a sin, but that wealth is a very great responsibility.” [a] (2)
(1) Don De Welt, Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus, [Comment on 1 Timothy 6:18] College Press, Joplin, Missouri Copyright 1961
(2) [a] William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p. 55. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition [D. The wealthy 6:17-19] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
“Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NLT).
We can illustrate the concept behind “storing up treasure… as a good foundation for the future” (ESV) with a thought-provoking parable from Luke 16:1-9…
“Jesus also said to the disciples, ‘A certain rich man heard that his household manager was wasting his estate. He called the manager in and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give me a report of your administration because you can no longer serve as my manager.’
The household manager said to himself, What will I do now that my master is firing me as his manager? I’m not strong enough to dig and too proud to beg. I know what I’ll do so that, when I am removed from my management position, people will welcome me into their houses.
One by one, the manager sent for each person who owed his master money. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil.’ The manager said to him, ‘Take your contract, sit down quickly, and write four hundred fifty gallons.’ Then the manager said to another, ‘How much do you owe?’ He said, ‘One thousand bushels of wheat.’ He said, ‘Take your contract and write eight hundred.’
The master commended the dishonest manager because he acted cleverly. People who belong to this world are more clever in dealing with their peers than are people who belong to the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to make friends for yourselves so that when it’s gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal homes” (CEB).
While it may be difficult to understand why this manager was commended, there is an underlying spiritual truth behind this passage. You see, this parable features an administrator who made use of the resources that were available to him to prepare for the future. While the master was undoubtedly displeased to learn that his steward had disposed of his assets in this manner, he still recognized (and praised) his shrewd foresight.
In a similar manner, those who honor God and use their financial assets to “do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share” (CSB) will also be “…invested in the life to come so that they may be sure of holding a share in the life which is permanent” (Philips).
“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” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 NIV).
As we conclude this brief series on monetary wealth from 1 Timothy 6:17-19, we will close with some final observations regarding the proper use of financial and material resources from the following commentators…
“The financial wealth of prosperous Christians is not merely for their personal consumption, but provides resources for them to amass eternal ‘riches’ through generous sharing with others. God blesses His people so that they may be a blessing to others… Generous distribution of one’s wealth to meet others’ needs does not earn eternal life, but it demonstrates that one’s hope has been transferred from ‘the uncertainty of riches’ and placed instead on God, the lavish giver (v. 17).” (1)
“If a man’s wealth ministers to nothing but his own pride and enriches no one but himself, it becomes his ruination, because it impoverishes his soul. But if he uses it to bring help and comfort to others, in becoming poorer, he really becomes richer. In time and in eternity ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (3)
“Paul urged Timothy to instruct the rich to view their money as God’s enablement to accomplish good deeds. Rather than enjoying a reputation for having much money, they should cultivate a reputation for being ‘rich in good works.’ They should also be openhanded (‘generous’), ‘ready’ and willing ‘to share’ with others generously what God had given them. By doing so, they would be ensuring that the Lord would reward them for their faithful stewardship, and investing in ‘the treasure of a good foundation for the future’ when they stood before Him (cf. Matt. 6:19-21; Luke 12:33-34; 18:22). Moreover, in so doing they would experience the fullness of their eternal life (‘life indeed’; cf. v. 12).” (3)
“Honest wealth, rightly used, blesses both those who give and those who receive.” (4)
“If you have been blessed with wealth, then thank the Lord. Don’t be proud and don’t trust in your money. Use your money to do good. Be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. No matter how much money you have, your life should demonstrate that God controls the wealth that he has placed under your care.” (5)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2164). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
(2) Barclay, William, William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible “Advice To The Rich (1Ti_6:17-19)”
(3) Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2021 Edition [The wealthy 6:17-19] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
(4) Ice, Rhoderick D. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:18”. “The Bible Study New Testament“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/1-timothy-6.html
(5) Life Application Study Bible [1 Timothy 6:17-19] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge–” (1 Timothy 6:20).
In the business world, a person who holds a “fiduciary duty” is someone who is responsible to act in the best interests of another. Much like Timothy was instructed to guard what had been committed to his trust, God’s people have also been entrusted with a responsibility to represent the best interests of the God who has given us all we possess.
Consider the emphasis on personal responsibility here in the penultimate verse of 1 Timothy…
“…protect what has been entrusted to you” (NET).
“…guard what God has placed in your care!” (CEV).
“…Keep safe what has been entrusted to you” (CJB).
This should prompt us to ask an important question: what has God entrusted to our care? Some obvious answers to that question might include things like time, money, and/or material possessions. The way we use those resources can often tell a lot about our internal priorities. However, there may be other things that are entrusted to our care that are not so obvious.
For instance, there are intangible assets that include our talents, skills, gifts, and abilities. The New Testament book of 1 Peter touches upon our responsibility to use these assets in a God-honoring manner: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10 NIV).
Other examples might include a spouse, a child, a student, a friend, or others who have been entrusted to us. If we view those relationships as investments for eternity, we will be certain to guard them appropriately. While it is true that there are some who may not permit us to invest in their lives, that should not dissuade us from at least attempting to do so.
Thus, this passage should serve to awaken our sense of responsibility. It should also bring Jesus’ Parable of the Talents to our remembrance. That parable relates the account of a servant who was entrusted with a valuable asset but failed to invest it properly. That asset was then taken from him and given to someone who could be trusted to manage it appropriately (see Matthew 25:14-30).
This brings us to Jesus’ closing message from that parable, a conclusion that is both encouraging and sobering…
“…to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).
“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge–by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).
The final verses of the Biblical book of 1 Timothy do not indict genuine intellectual inquiry. Instead these verses target the pseudo-intellectualism of “what is falsely called knowledge.” Paul the Apostle issued a similar admonition in the New Testament book of Colossians when he said, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8 NIV).
Philosophical beliefs that build upon “…men’s ideas of the nature of the world and disregards Christ” (Phillips) may sometimes lead to the “idle babblings and contradictions” referenced here. Those beliefs can range from theories that attempt to explain the existence of a creation without a Creator to casual conversations on metaphysical subjects that feature thoughts, conjectures, opinions, and/or ideas that have no basis for support other than what may exist inside someone else’s head.
As mentioned previously, it is not unusual to encounter those who hold spiritual beliefs that are influenced by theories and speculations that are impossible to prove or disprove. Author and apologist Greg Koukl observes that those who hold such beliefs often begin by asserting, “You could say…” (or a variation of that phrase) in expressing their views.
While anyone can preface their beliefs in this manner, this does not necessarily mean that such beliefs are valid or consistent. Koukl goes on to say that we can often uncover questionable examples of so-called “knowledge” with questions such as, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or, “What do you mean by that?” In doing so, we may be able to unmask an ill-advised belief, communicate the Gospel, and avoid the unproductive disputes and arguments mentioned earlier in this chapter.
One scholar concludes this thought with the following insight…
“Paul began his letter by addressing false teaching (1:3–7), and here in vv. 20 and 21 he concludes the epistle by once more addressing false teaching. Thus, the letter is bounded by the conceptual bookends of false teaching, which shows that false teaching is the main occasion that inspired Paul to write this letter. Accordingly, much of what is said in this letter is, in one way or another, related to aspects of the false teaching…” (1)
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2164). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.3
“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21 ESV).
“What is most remarkable about this conclusion is the lack of any final greetings. All the Pauline letters, including this one, sign off with a final grace, or benediction. But only 1 Timothy and Galatians have no greetings from Paul and friends to the recipient and friends (cf. 2 Tim. 4:19-21; Titus 3:15). To the very end this letter is characteristically ‘all business,’ and except for some new language, this final charge merely summarizes that business.” (1)
“The book of 1 Timothy provides guiding principles for local churches, including rules for public worship and qualifications for elders (overseers, pastors), deacons, and special church workers (widows). Paul tells the church leaders to correct incorrect doctrine and to deal lovingly and fairly with all people in the church. The church is not organized simply for the sake of organization but so that Christ can be honored and glorified. While studying these guidelines, don’t lose sight of what is most important in the life of the church—knowing God, working together in loving harmony, and taking God’s Good News to the world.” (2)
(1) Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, p. 160. Quoted in Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2021 Edition [VI. Concluding Charge And Benediction 6:20-21] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
(2) Life Application Study Bible [1 Timothy 6:21] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.