Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him in his ministry. Timothy was the pastor of his church which had a diverse congregation. There was a mixture of people who were free and others who were still slaves. So Paul gives instructions to Timothy on how to minister to such a diverse congregation. They form a Christian set of teachings that can still be adapted and followed today.
Slaves Are To Respect Their Masters. Verses 1
6:1 “Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.”
Paul knew that believers who were free or slaves were equal in the sight of God. But the world in which they lived was very conscious of the difference. They saw slaves as having no rights and almost as tools that could be disposed of at any time for no apparent reason.
Slavery was abhorrent in the sight of God but it was a system that would take a long time to be abolished. So Paul’s instructions were given with the wisdom of God. In such a world, those who were slaves were to respect their masters and to honour them even though as believers they were equal in the eyes of God. Failure to do so would bring criticism and possible physical danger to such slaves who would have been seen as rebelling against their authority.
Showing Humiliity Is Better Than Demanding Equality. Verse 2
2 “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.”
Paul here gives some reasons as to why the slaves were to act in such a humble way. He admits that as fellow believers they were equal before God but were not to be disrespectful towards their masters. Rather they were to serve their masters in ways that were beneficial to the latter as Christian believers. It would be acting in Christian love towards their masters.
Showing humiliity in such situations would be better than demanding equality in a world that was not yet ready to understand or embrace this new way of thinking.
The Danger Of False Teaching. Verses 3-5
3 “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, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.“
Paul knew he was an apostle appointed by God and that his words and teaching were authoritative. So if anyone had a different doctrine to his or to the teaching of Jesus, the teaching that accords with godliness, then such a person would be a false teacher, puffed up with conceit with no understanding of the truth. Not only that but he would have an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words. [Note 1].
Such wrong teaching would have an adverse effect on the Christian community which Paul described as “envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions.”
It would lead to “constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” Verse 5.
It is interesting to note that Paul says that such false teaching would cause friction between those who are depraved in mind because they have been deprived of the truth.
[It is a point we need to keep in mind today when so many people seem to have beliefs that are far from the Christian message. It may be that they never have been exposed to the truth. Rather than our thinking that they know the Christian message and have deliberately rejected it! It should affect our attitude to such people. We need to expose them to the gospel message believing that if they grasp hold of it they may change their way of thinking and become believers.]
It would seem that these false teachers also had a false understanding of the need for godliness. They imagined that it was a pathway to obtaining respect or riches. However, this is what Paul now corrects in the next few verses.
The Blessing of Godliness With Contentment. Verses 6-8
6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
“Godliness” [eusebeia; εὐσέβεια] has the meaning of holiness or having respect towards God that makes the person more godly. As Peter wrote echoing so many verses in the Old Testament, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15-16.
True godliness is accompanied by contentment which Paul describes as “great gain.” [Note 2].
The Danger Of Seeking False Godliness. Verses 9-10
Paul recognised that many people including some teachers sought satisfaction in the wrong way. They thought it would come to them in material possessions, in riches. Such an attitude Paul saw as leading into temptation and into a snare where they were trapped into having the wrong sorts of desires, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Verse 9.
He then gives a statement that is unfortunately wrongly quoted, “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.” Verse 10.
It is not money that is the root of all evils. Rather it is the love of money that is destructive. It is putting one’s trust in material things rather in God Himself Who is the supplier of all things.
Fight The Good Fight Of The Faith. Verses 11 to 15a
Paul then used a number of metaphors to put his readers, especially Timothy, on the right path to true godliness. First of all they were to “flee” the destructive attitudes mentioned above, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.” Then they were to “pursue” positive qualities of “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.” Verse 11.
Then they were to 12 “Fight” the good fight of the faith.” We often associate faith with quiet rest, trusting in God. But here Paul is urging Timothy to contend for the gospel message which is based on faith. Especially because of the danger of false teachers who would seek to divert believers from the faith. Fighting the good fight of the faith meant standing for the truth of the gospel about Christ.
Paul urges Timothy to be committed to Christ in these words, “Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Eternal life existed in Christ and in those who had received it in Him. Paul was urging Timothy to take hold firmly of what he already possessed and to receive all the benefits of life with Christ.
Paul’s Charge To Timothy
Paul issued a charge to Timothy to keep the commandment “unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ “It is unclear what is meant by the commandment which could refer to the whole of the Christian teaching. But it was a permanent obligation for Timothy to fight for the truth of the gospel until Christ returned in His good time, “I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time.” Verses 13-15
A Doxology. Faith In A Powerful God. Verse 15b, 16
“[our Lord Jesus Christ] he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.” The uniqueness of Jesus is seen in these verses as He is “the only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light.” Maintaining the faith is important and possible because of who He is as the Sovereign Lord.
Charge The Rich To Trust In A Generous God Not In Uncertain Riches. Verses 17-19.
Paul’s final instruction to Timothy here is that he should minister to the earthly rich to trust in God Himself, “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.” Verse 17.
That involves doing good, being rich in good works and being generous and ready to share. Such living would have its reward, “thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
This whole passage is full of instructions for Timothy and those under his care to follow. Yet throughout the passage there are truths that are affirmed that provide the theological background as to why these instructions should be obeyed. Perhaps the most important of those truths occurs in the Doxology in verses 15-16 where Jesus is described as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Such a Saviour and Lord is indeed worthy to be obeyed in a total commitment to Him by all who call upon His name for salvation and for entrance into His eternal life.
[Note 1]. “Controversy” is from [zētēsis; ζήτησις] meaning a searching or dispute.
“Quarrels” is [logomachia; λογομαχία] meaning the strife of words or the contending about words. The dispute about trifles.
[Note 2]. “Contentment” in verse 6 is from [autarkeia; αὐτάρκεια] meaning self-satisfaction, or a sense of sufficiency. “Content” in verse 8 is the verb form [arkeō; ἀρκέω] meaning to be satisfied or sufficient.
Blog No.416 posted on Friday 19 August 2022