For the Love of God, Volume 2/April 17
From Gospel Translations
Leviticus 21; Psalms 26—27; Ecclesiastes 4; 1 Timothy 6
ONE OF THE INTRIGUING FEATURES OF 1 Timothy 6:3-19 is the way Paul’s argument cuts back and forth. There are four blocks. In the first (6:3-5), Paul warns against those who teach false doctrines and describes the character of the false teachers with whom he is dealing. One of their motives is “financial gain” (6:5): they are less interested in the Gospel and in genuine godliness than in sporting an assumed “godliness” to rake in a good living. That introduces the second block (6:6-10), which warns against the love of money. It is “a root of all kinds of evil” (6:10). The proper Christian attitude should be committed contentment, for “godliness with contentment is great gain” (6:6); moreover, at the end of our lives we take out exactly what we brought in (6:7). Focusing on the transient things of this life serves only to plunge people into “ruin and destruction” (6:9). By contrast, Paul tells Timothy what sort of man he should be: that is the third block (6:11-16). The apostle then moves to the fourth block (6:17-19) and tells Timothy to command those who are rich how to conduct themselves. They are to repudiate arrogance, to put no confidence in wealth “which is so uncertain” (6:17), but to put their confidence in God, “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (6:17). They must use their wealth to do good, to be generous, to share. In this way they will really be laying up treasure for themselves in heaven (6:19), as the Lord Jesus taught us (Matt. 6:20). Thus Paul insists not on asceticism but on committed generosity as the best Christian response to greed.
So the four blocks deal with, respectively, false teachers and their conduct, the dangers of wealth, a true teacher and his conduct, and the dangers of wealth again. Thus the section that tells Timothy what kind of man he should be (6:11-16) must be seen, in part, as an antidote to both false teaching and greed.
What is striking about this paragraph is what Paul places over against false doctrine and love of materialism. Paul tells Timothy, in effect, that a focus on eternal things will drive a far healthier Christian ambition. If Timothy is to flee from “all this” (6:11)—from the crass materialism Paul has just condemned—he must set himself to pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (6:11). While he maintains his “good confession”—as Christ maintained his—(6:12-13), he is to take hold of “eternal life” and persevere until “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:12, 14)—living and serving in the glory of God’s unapproachable light (6:14, 16).