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, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Which in his times he shall shew, 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. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)
Paul has just finished an exhortation against covetousness which he concluded with his well know exhortation against "the love of money." Here he commands Timothy as a "man of God" to follow after "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." Focusing on these essentials will prevent any preoccupation with other less important things. Lest we make these goals into a vague, pseudo-spiritual state of mind we must remember that righteousness is God's justice. It is right as defined by God, not one's own personal definition of "goodness." If we understand righteousness as God defines it we will understand what true godliness is. As we understand God's grace to us we understand his gift of faith. We respond to his love to us by our love to others. As we grow in grace we learn patience in seeking God's will and timing rather than our own. In submitting to God's will, we practice godly meekness. These virtues reflect a real understanding of the things of God and growth therein by the power of God's Spirit. There is no rebellious, self-defined spirituality in view.
The man of God must "fight the good fight of faith." Too many see Christianity from a humanistic perspective; they know its joy only in terms of its blessings and ultimate reward. But Christ offers us a cross; he offers us the contempt of the worldly-wise; he offers us the opposition of all who oppose the Lordship of Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Paul tells the man of God to use his Christian virtues and enter the struggle and "lay hold on eternal life." He is not saying merely to contemplate eternity; he is saying to fight with the self-consciousness that the struggle is an eternal, not a temporal one. This is the fight to which we are "called." We struggle and focus on God's righteousness and our responsibility therein because we know it is our calling and the only possible source of fulfillment and joy. Paul then reminds Timothy of his "good profession before many witnesses." Timothy's profession was not his words but his life. His life, as should ours, reflected his faith.
Paul then admonishes Timothy in his calling by reminding him of whom he serves. God "quickeneth all things," Paul tells Timothy and us. As we fight the good fight of faith there will be many times when we see only failure, feel only rejection, and hear only ridicule. This can happen on the individual, church, community, national, or international level. The answer is not to yield to the false assumption that Satan is or can be victorious. The answer is to have faith in the God whose word never returns to him void. We must hold on to "eternal life" (v. 12) and to our God who will, in his own good time, right all wrongs and turn our mourning into joy.
Paul then adds an interesting example of a good confession — Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate. Christ said very little to Pilate. He did not use the opportunity to admonish Pilate or even call him to repentance and faith. Christ yielded to Pilate's sentence of death as a lamb brought to slaughter. This was Christ's purpose, and his confession was that he yielded willingly to the Father's will no matter how agonizing that act was. The atonement saves us and enables us to fight the good fight of faith. Christ obeyed the Father's will; we serve him by taking up our cross and following.
This faithfulness despite great difficulty, as exemplified by Christ himself, is the "charge" (v. 13) or "commandment" to which we are called. Man, even in paradise, was called to work. It is how we find fulfillment; it makes our lives bigger than ourselves. We do not find ourselves in our work, however. We find ourselves in serving our God and Christ. Our callings are then understood in this larger context of God's kingdom. Our work has value because we do it as to the Lord.
We are charged with Timothy to faithfulness in our ministry "until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." We persevere because we were made to work. We persevere because we are focused on righteousness and godliness (v. 11). We persevere because we are fighting the good fight of faith with our eye on the reality of God's eternal truth (v. 12). We persevere because our Savior persevered to Calvary (vv. 13-14).
You have heard the old line, "You don't know whom you are dealing with." Perhaps, at times, we believers forget "Whom we are serving." Timothy was separated from his spiritual father fighting alone in a pagan world with churches confused between Paul, Phariseeism, and Plato. Heresies about the very nature of Jesus Christ would not be thoroughly denounced until four centuries later at the Council of Chalcedon. Persecutions on the local level were already taking place and would become common and universal before they would subside. Believers had been given the commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth but had struggles and opposition within their own number. Paul is telling Timothy that he must remember who it is he serves. Jesus is our blessed and only Potentate; not Caesar or any of his arrogant successors. Christ alone is King of Kings and Lord of lords. Only God rules by virtue of his own authority; all other power is derivative, even that which is badly misused. Only God is immortal; it is he who judges all men and nations from all eternity. None have life or hope apart from him. If we understand God's majesty throughout all eternity, we will be able to flee not only sin, but all adversity that detracts us from our callings.
God dwells in the light, the apostle tells us, yet no man can approach him. Our sin keeps us from seeing God. We can know him by grace through faith, but now we see only through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12). It therefore behooves us to understand our duty, keep our eye on eternal life (v. 12) even if we cannot see God, and fight the good fight of faith in our calling. For Timothy, it was the ministry. He needed, as we now need, to keep focused on the majesty of the Sovereign God he served — to him "be honor and power everlasting." If we remember whom it is we serve we will also persevere in our callings.
Topics: Epistles, The