A Good Confession (1 Timothy 6:11-21)

Sharing Options


As we conclude our consideration of this epistle to Timothy, we will be reminded of the false teaching that would rob us of our inheritance and of the riches of this world which would distract us from it. We will also be reminded, in a wonderful way, of just how glorious that inheritance actually is.


“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. 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” (1 Tim. 6: 11-21).


In typical Pauline fashion, the apostle tells Timothy to flee from one thing and to pursue another (v. 11). He is then told to fight the good fight, an intense athletic metaphor (v. 12). In doing this, he is imitating the Lord Jesus who was faithful in front of Pilate (vv. 12-13). Paul charges Timothy to make sure he does this (v. 13), and that he stand fast to the end (v. 14). The Lord Jesus will appear in due time—and who He is will be revealed. He is the only Potentate, the ultimate authority over all kings (v. 15). He alone is the immortal one, andHe dwells in light that cannot be approached (v. 16). Those who are rich are told to avoid two things—arrogant vanity (v. 17) and trusting in that which is unstable (v. 17). They are told to trust in the living God, remembering that He gives us things generously, so that we might enjoy them (v. 17). Positively, the rich are told to do good, to be rich in good deeds, ready to give, and ready to share (v. 18). If they do this, they will be laying up treasure in heaven, just as Jesus said (v. 19). Timothy is then told to stay away from theological babblers and proto-gnostics (v. 20). Some people have professed these errors and have wandered off (v. 21). And Paul closes with a blessing and benediction (v. 21).


We naturally run from danger and chase after pleasures. Paul is tell Timothy (and us through him) that we are to run away from the desire to “get rich,” which he has just finished telling us is actually the desire to get impaled on many sharp objects (v. 10). Timothy is reminded that failure to run from a desire to get rich is a failure that has discredited many ministries. You, man of God, run away from these things (v. 11). But in Paul’s mind, turning away from one thing always means, necessarily, turning to something else. Turning away from sin (repentance) is turning to God (faith). Fleeing the snares of mammon is the same thing as pursuing godly virtues. They are just two aspects of the same motion. He is told to chase down and hold on to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness (v. 11). This is the same thing as fleeing the discontent that would fix everything with money.


The apostle Paul was well acquainted with the athletic competition of his world, and valued it as one of his chief resources for metaphors of the Christian life (e.g. 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:7). He does that here, and does so in a really striking way. Fight the noble contest, your competition characterized by beauty of technique.


The apostle introduces us to the nature and attributes of God, as revealed in Christ, and he does so in a way calculated to offend two very powerful idols in his day—Roman political pragmatism, and sophisticated Greek philosophy. And he does this in the space of a couple of phrases. To say that Jesus was the blessed and only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord oflords, was a direct challenge to the presumptions of the Roman Empire (v. 15). And to say that God alone is immortal was a direct challenge to certain Greek assumptions about the spark of immortality within us (v. 16). Those who think that such challenges are somehow out of date are showing that they simply are not paying attention.


There are four characteristics of God mentioned here. First, He is invincible, beyond the reach of all earthly rulers (vv. 15). Second, He is immortal. We, at His pleasure, will happen to live forever, but only He has life in Himself (v. 16). Third, God in His glory is inaccessible. His dwelling place is inapproachable light (v. 16). And last, He is invisible. No one has ever seen Him, and no one ever will. And here is the glory of the Father, whose wisdom is not like ours at all. God’s own Word became a man. The invincible God was defeated and beaten. The immortal God was crucified and died. The God who cannot be approached took on flesh and approached us. And the God who is invisible was made visible to our eyes. If you have seen Christ you have seen the Father.


The previous section of wealth (vv. 6-10) addressed those who wanted to get rich. This section addresses those who already are. And in his teaching, the apostle wonderfully avoids the extremes of ostentatious display and ungrateful asceticism. In the light of the things just said, those who are blessed with wealth in this present age should avoid two things (v. 17) and do two things. If they do they will be rewarded with God’s treasure (v. 19). They must avoid haughtiness and avoid trusting in their wealth. Their riches are to be matched by the riches of their good deeds. “Instruct those who are rich . . . to be rich . . .” And they should be generous, overflowing, ready to share. The result is the inheritance of God.

Guilt is ungenerous. Gratitude is generous. If wealth is a disease in itself, then why would you want to give it to others? But if it is good when held rightly, then by giving it rightly, you are sharing a real blessing. Augustine put it well—if you’re the master of money, you can do good with it. If you’re the slave of money, it can do evil with you.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments