1 Timothy 6:11-21
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. (vv. 11-21)
In this particular section we have three definite charges given to Timothy personally, and one which he is to pass on to others. But we may well take to ourselves the charges given to him as well as the less particular one. We read, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things.” This naturally leads us to ask what things are referred to. So we have to go back in our thoughts to that verse where we were warned against ignoring the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as set forth in the four Gospels and where we were urged not to give way to perverse disputings, and the verses that follow in which we are warned above all else to avoid covetousness because the love of money is a root of every evil.
Paul says to Timothy, “O man of God, flee these things.” This expression “man of God” is used on a number of occasions in both the Old and New Testaments, and it always seems to mean the man who stands for God in a day of declension. Some of the prophets of old are so designated. Timothy here is spoken of as “man of God.” And I am sure that you and I who know and love the Lord long to merit that appellation, to be men and women who honor God in a day when so many ignore or rebel against Him.
The man of God is told to flee covetousness, selfishness, and perverse disput-ings. He is to “follow after righteousness,” which has to do with our attitude toward our fellow men. It is a vain thing to profess to be justified before God and made the righteousness of God in Christ while acting unrighteously toward others. The Christian is to be characterized by righteousness in all his dealings. “Godliness” has to do with our attitude toward God. “Faith” is that confidence in God which enables us ever to count on Him. “Love”—that love which goes out first to the One who loved us and gave His Son to die for us and then to all for whom He died. “Patience”—that patience which enables one to endure as seeing Him who is invisible. Then “meekness,” which is the very opposite of the pride, vanity, and self-satisfaction that are so common to the natural heart. Meekness is a plant of great rarity. Even in many who have a reputation for godliness and for expounding the Word there is very little evidence of meekness. May God give us to become increasingly like Him who said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).
“Fight the good fight of faith.” We are to be good soldiers. Timothy primarily, but all believers are called upon to fight the good fight of faith. It is interesting to note that in the next epistle when we come to the last chapter which was written by Paul in a prison cell while waiting for martyrdom, he says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). He did not ask others to do that which he himself had not done.
“Lay hold on eternal life.” Does not every believer possess eternal life? Yes. The moment we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ we have eternal life. There are many Scripture passages to support this, but a few will suffice:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
So eternal life is the present portion of all believers. What does the Apostle mean, then, when he says, “Lay hold on eternal life”? It is an exhortation to make it a practical thing as we go through this scene. It is quite possible to trust in Christ and thus to have eternal life in the soul, and yet to drop down to a low spiritual level where one is not living in the reality of eternal life. He exhorts everyone of us to enter into that life which is unworldly and heavenly in character. When in this scene, Christ Himself was the manifestation of eternal life. It is a poor thing to talk about having eternal life while living for the things of the world. “Lay hold on eternal life!” As I realize that my life is hid with Christ in God I will look very lightly upon the things of this world. Its pleasures will not attract me; its treasures will not possess my soul. I can go through this world as using without abusing the things God gives me. Knowing Him, who to know is life eternal, everything else is of little importance. Thus one may lay hold on eternal life.
“Whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” That was a nice thing for the older preacher to say to the younger. Paul took Timothy with him when he was a mere lad and instructed him in the work of the gospel. As he looks back over the years of service he can say, “You have confessed [for in place of the word professed we should read confessed] a good confession before many witnesses.” It was a nice thing to be able to say to a younger servant of Christ. May it be true of every one of us!
A very definite charge was committed to Timothy in verses 13-14. “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is a very solemn charge indeed, and it should come home to everyone of us. We are commanded to keep the truth of God: “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our Savior Himself was a Confessor when here on earth, and we are called to follow Him in confessing His name.
Observe how the name of Pontius Pilate is brought in here. Have you ever noticed that Pontius Pilate is mentioned in the greatest of the Christian creeds, so that in thousands of churches all over this world every Lord’s Day, and on many other occasions, the name of the governor of Judea, who condemned our Savior to death, is linked with our Lord’s name? He had the power to free the Lord Jesus Christ, and he said, “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4). But instead of freeing Him, Pilate turned Him over to the multitude to be crucified. So professing Christians recite the creed, “Jesus Christ crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Pilate will face that for all eternity. Oh, my friends, see that your confession is real in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, that thus your name will never be held up to eternal infamy because of your unfaithfulness.
Our blessed Lord made a good confession before Pontius Pilate. He did not hold back the truth even though He knew it meant the cross because He was going there for your salvation and for mine. We, too, are called upon to maintain a good confession. “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This will be the great climax for believers when everything will be manifested, and they will be rewarded according to the results of their faithfulness down here. There is no discharge in this war (Eccl. 8:8). We are enlisted for life, or until we meet our Lord when He returns in power and glory. Then each one will be rewarded according to the measure of his devotedness to Christ and subjection to His Word.
Notice what is said in connection with His second coming: “Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.” That is a striking expression. He is going to be manifested in His own times—those times we believe are drawing very, very near. It seems to many of us as we read Scripture carefully and then notice what is going on in the church, in the world, and in connection with Israel, God’s earthly people, that the times of the Gentiles are near the close, and these will be followed by “his times” when He Himself will be the blessed and only Potentate.
That word blessed might just as well be rendered happy. When the Lord reigns, the earth will see a happy Ruler. I do not think there is any happy potentate now. I am sure the kings of Europe and in other lands are far from happy, nor are presidents of republics in any more cheerful state. No, there are no happy potentates today. They are so hampered by conflicting principles and contesting political parties that they find themselves almost helpless to carry out the things which they believe are for the betterment of the nations. But when the Lord Jesus Christ reigns He will be a happy Potentate, because in Him the world will see One who not only has the desire to do good, but also the power to enforce His authority everywhere; He will rule the nations with the iron rod of righteousness. When He reigns there will be no one to dispute His Word, for He will be the only Potentate. All the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
In the next verse we read that He “only hath immortality.” That is, He is the source or fount of immortality. All others derive it from Him. He dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto,” in the full blaze of Deity, for “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). No mortal eye can stand that light. Only they who are in Christ can abide in its presence in peace. “Honour and power everlasting” are His, and it is He who in grace has opened up to sinners the gates of life.
Immortality in Scripture is connected with the body. Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ had a body that was not subject to death. It was possible for Him to die only by divine authority. He said concerning His life, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:18). And so in that body which came back from the dead at His own command, He sits at the right hand of the Father. He only has immortality, but at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ all believers will be raised or changed and will be gathered together unto Himself. “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” Deity is invisible to creatures.
Then we have the charge which Timothy was to lay upon those to whom he ministered, and which comes home very definitely to any today who are in such circumstances that these words really apply to them: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.”
This is a message to all those to whom God has entrusted wealth. You have nothing you did not receive. You are not a superior people because you have a few more dollars than some others, or because you are able to buy a few more stocks and bonds. Everything you have is by the mercy of God. Do not forget that riches may be here today and gone tomorrow. During the great depression of 1929 I met people every day who were rich one day and poor the next. People went to bed in those days thinking they were well-off for the rest of their lives, but they woke up the next morning to find that the bottom had dropped out of the market, and they had lost everything.
Even if riches are gotten rightly they may be lost overnight, but if they are riches ill-gotten—well, Scripture says, “As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool” (Jer. 17:11). So if I am addressing anybody today who is piling up riches obtained unrighteously, I would suggest that you straighten things up as soon as you can. Take the place of Zacchaeus when he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). We are told to “trust… in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” It is wonderful how happy one can be with very little if he has the Lord. Like the dear old lady who, when someone came to see her in her little attic, was found sitting down to a lunch of an onion, a piece of bread, and a glass of water. The visitor started to commiserate, “Oh,” she said, “I have all this and heaven too.” We are immensely wealthy if we have Christ.
Observe Paul’s advice to the rich: “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” As we have it here, the expression “eternal life” is just the same as that in verse 12. That is, “Lay hold on eternal life,” which we have already received. But in the Greek text a different word is used, and why the translators did not indicate this I do not know. But the exact rendering should be “that they may lay hold on that which is really life.”
You see, the rich man imagines, when he enjoys all the pleasures that his wealth can give him that he is seeing life, that he is having a good time. As he passes his hours in pleasure, he says, “This is life!” The Apostle says that is not life at all; that is just death. If you want to see life, if you want to enjoy life at its very best, then use what God has committed to your trust for the blessing of others. If you really want to be happy, and you are sure you know the Lord, if you have come to Him and taken your place before Him as a lost, guilty sinner, and trusted Him as your Savior, if you have passed from death unto life, then I can tell you what to do, not on my own authority, but as it is given here in the Word of God: begin today and use what God has given you for the blessing of others. Try to think of people in need who could be benefited by what you have hoarded away. Ask God to guide you as to using your money to the good of others that you may be rich in good works.
If a man is rich only in stocks, bonds, and real estate, when he dies he will have to leave it all behind. But if he is rich in good works, when he dies he will take these with him—that is treasure laid up in heaven. Be ready to distribute when opportunity is given, to use of your means for furthering the work of the Lord, assisting the needy, helping the lepers, relieving the blind, and caring for the orphans. Be ready to give. Do not hold back or say, “Oh, well, I suppose I ought to do it.” Be glad that God has enabled you to help, and be willing to give. If you use your money in that way you will be laying up in store a good foundation against the time to come, for this is real life.
It is a terrible thing to be in the grip of covetousness. If you are afraid that perhaps the love of money is getting a hold on your soul, start giving some of it away and see how you feel! If you feel really glad, then you are still safe, but if it almost breaks your heart, then it is time to get down on your knees and pray to be freed from this sin of covetousness! It is going to ruin you unless you are delivered from it.
In closing we have another charge to Timothy—and it is one for us all— against being taken up with false theories. Many of these are being promulgated today, and we need to be guarded against them. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called.” Science is knowledge arranged in an orderly way. It is not mere theory unsupported by facts. When people talk about the science of evolution, they misuse the word, for evolution is not a science because it is contrary to fact. When they talk of certain other sciences which deny the truth of the Bible, they are using the word in a wrong way. A hypothesis is one thing; science is another.
“Keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” These false theories turn people away from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ and leave them in error and confusion of mind. It was never more important to give heed to such admonitions than in this day when science is glorified and revelation is denied.