But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.
Grace be with you all.
- 1 Timothy 6:11-21
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
On ‘man of God’: “Cf. 2 Tim. 3:17. This is a term used in the NT only for Timothy; as a technical term it is used about 70 times in the OT, always to refer to a man who officially spoke for God (see Deut. 33:1). This, along with 1:2; 2:1, indicates that the letter is primarily directed to Timothy, exhorting him to be faithful and strong in light of persecution and difficulty – and particularly with Paul’s death near. The man of God is known by what he: 1) flees from (1 Tim. 6:11); 2) follows after (v. 11); 3) fights for (v. 12); and 4) is faithful to (vv. 13, 14). The key to his success in all these endeavors is the perfection produced in him by the Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).”
On ‘Fight the good fight of faith’: “The Gr. word for ‘fight’ gives us the Eng. Word ‘agonize,’ and was used in military and athletic endeavors to describe the concentration, discipline, and extreme effort needed to win. The ‘good fight of faith’ is the spiritual conflict with Satan’s kingdom of darkness in which all men of God are necessarily involved. See 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 2 Tim. 4:2.”
On ‘take hold of the eternal life’: “Paul is here admonishing Timothy to ‘get a grip’ on the reality of the matters associated with eternal life, so that he would live and minister with a heavenly and eternal perspective (cf. Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:2).”
On ‘Take this command’: “The entire revealed Word of God, which Paul charged Timothy to preach (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul also repeatedly encouraged Timothy to guard it (1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 4:6, 16; 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:13, 14; 2:15-18).”
On ‘what is falsely called knowledge’: “False doctrine – anything claiming to be the truth that is in fact a lie. False teachers typically claim to have the superior knowledge (as in Gnosticism). They claim to know the transcendent secrets, but actually are ignorant and infantile in their understanding (see Col. 2:8).”
On ‘Grace be with you all’: “Paul’s closing salutation is plural, i.e., ‘you all’ – it goes beyond Timothy to the entire congregation at Ephesus. All believers require the grace of God to preserve the truth and pass it on to the next generation.”
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
1 Timothy 6:12 ‘fighting the good fight’: “We’re told to ‘take hold of eternal life.’ Observe that this precept is preceded by another: ‘Fight the good fight of the faith.’ Those who take hold of eternal life will have to fight for it. The way of the spiritual life is no easy one; we will have to contest every step of the way. ‘Contest the good contest of the faith’ would be an accurate rendering of the passage, and a contest it is against the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we live unto God, we will need to war a daily warfare and tread down the powers of death and hell.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
With the first half of 1 Timothy 6 dealing with false teachers, especially the money-hungry false teachers, I felt it necessary for this section to be separated out. This passage stands alone as a charge for all who are servants of God, not just ministers of the sacraments, meaning all who believe. Should we not all pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness?
Just a day before I wrote this, my endurance was waning. A doctor’s office requested that I leave the building so that only my wife would be seen by the doctor – it being an appointment for her only. With waning endurance, the gentleness of my answer disappeared. I said, a little too loudly but not shouting, “Your records should show that my wife has a fuzziness in her thinking. She may or may not answer the doctor’s questions. Her answers may not be accurate. I help keep her straight, and I take notes to ensure that all doctor instructions are actually followed. Otherwise, I will gladly leave and then you get what you get.” I just “love” these COVID-19 rules.
My wife slept through what I said, even though we had just walked into the office less than a minute beforehand. A minute later, the nurse returned and said that I would be allowed to enter the examining room with her. At that point, my wife was awake wondering what the nurse was talking about, which helped confirm what I had told the nurse.
I felt guilty over the abnormally loud voice. Not shouting, just my frustration was showing.
I enjoyed the Spurgeon quote above, but he lived in a different age than our present one. In our present age, Satan has convinced the “church” that all waging of “war” is bad, thus Satan can run amok within our churches, waging war against everything that is holy within the church, because our defenses are down. Spurgeon takes the quote and changes “fight” to “contest,” and even then, it is a spiritual contest, and not a contest of physical warfare. Paul uses the metaphor of putting on armor of God in Ephesians 6, but that is a metaphor and each item of ancient armor represents things such as prayer, Bible study, and contact with other believers for fellowship and accountability. We are not waging war against flesh and blood, but as this part of 1 Timothy warns, we must be on our guard or false doctrine will invade flesh and blood and live within the church.
I may have my old military training coming out here, but if we do not recognize that there is warfare with Satan and that we need to be prepared for battle, we are part of the problem. The Apostle Paul begins with false doctrine in 1 Timothy. He speaks of it directly and tangentially throughout the letter and ends with an admonition to turn away from false teaching (or doctrine). We are at war. We are at war with spiritual forces. If we let our guard down, Satan will convince us that the false doctrine is true, and the Bible is false. Many within the church already question the validity of Scripture. Some go cherry picking, taking a little “God is Love” here and a lot of “God gives you your heart’s desire” there and they throw out the rest of Scripture, including what those two concepts that I just stated really mean. I had someone argue that they believed the first prepositional phrase that Jesus said, but the rest of the sentence “could never have been uttered by MY Jesus.” Welcome to idolatry and false doctrine – within the church. Cherry picking is perfect for the attention deficit of our present age. Some of these may still be saved. That is for God to sort out, but they become totally impotent in doing God’s will on this earth. It seems that they believe in a god of their own creation, and I do not think it was different in the days of the Apostle Paul.
As for the unapproachable light, A. W. Tozer wrote about God being like fire. I have a post for the A. W. Tozer quote and my thoughts on the unapproachable light – in a couple of days, my Saturday Evening Post this week.
Paul again talks of money, but from a different light – not the root of all kinds of evil. He talks of rich people helping others, being generous and saving up treasures in Heaven, not relying on their wealth. I have heard it countless times when people say that they have faith in God, but if God fails them, they have plenty in savings. That statement alone shows that they have no faith; they have already built a backdoor, expecting God to fail in giving them their desires – the needs are assumed as a given.
Then, Paul returns to make final summary quotes regarding false doctrine.
The guarding of oneself against false doctrine is odd in today’s churches. The established denominations have been around long enough for false doctrine to have filtered into their statements of faith, their creeds and confessions. The newer churches may not have any creeds, just going with the Bible alone. That may sound good, but it is like the old fellow says. When you have ten people read the Bible, you end up with twelve opinions. Whether the old fellow is joking or not about the math, you don’t know if the interpretation being presented is the correct one. The church sways like a reed in the wind with the passing of each pastor. That is why the other churches have carefully discussed the Scriptures and written things down in a “creed” to express their interpretation of what the Bible says – not add to it. Regardless of method, it is easy to develop false doctrine, especially when people of the secular world are involved. The arguments over LGBTQ and abortion have ripped denominations asunder. It was so much easier when the hot topics were biker gangs, tattoos, and folks that tried to cover the smell of cigarette smoke before getting inside the church.
And the concept of creating a new denomination based on “not” being like the other guys ensures you of starting on the wrong foot. Negatives are not foundational. The only basis that makes any sense is to base your faith on Christ, and Christ alone. That only gets you started, but hopefully started in the right direction. You should always be on your guard, for Satan works in churches, ready to suggest a new idea, a new interpretation, and many will lose sight of Jesus and follow this new idea.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. Are you wandering spiritually, or are you in hot pursuit of the qualities in verse 11? Why? Which quality do you especially want to develop in your life? What witnesses” (v. 12) could help keep you accountable?
”2. Who was a ‘Paul,’ who served as a spiritual coach in your life and gave you advice when you needed it?
“3. Who is a ‘Timothy’ in your life, for whom you can be a ‘Paul’?
“4. What false teachings are you aware of and concerned about today? How can you help your church to be on guard, and to present a strong offense?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.