Truth is Eternal and Will Prevail
Pursue Spiritual Gain
1 Timothy 6:3-21
Tom J. Nettles
The last phrase of verse 2 should be connected with what follows but surely is a bridge to indicate the urgency of all the things in which Paul has instructed Timothy. The faithful gospel minister must both teach and urge/exhort. Replacing false ideas with true ideas includes replacing bad and worldly behavior with godly heaven-centered behavior.
I. Unsavory fruit of bad doctrine 6:3-5
A. Paul does not recognize the validity of anything other than that revealed; don’t allow a “different doctrine.” – cf. 1:3 - this is a function of his understanding of the apostles’ relation to the new covenant- 2 Cor 3-4:1; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2; Eph 3:2-5 - None should doubt that the apostles believed they were teachers of the church universal for all time. Their instructions to the church could not, therefore, be either contradicted or augmented. Christ, by his Holy Spirit, gave to them, both in the oral proclamation and in their written communication, the interpretation and the application of His redemptive work. Their inspired instruction completed and clarified all past revelation including that of Christ Himself. Compare 1 Peter 1:10-12 and 2 Peter 1:16-21 In this latter passage, Peter is identifying his “prophetic word” as of the same inspired quality with, and by the progressive unfolding of redemptive revelation, of greater clarity than the pre-apostolic writings.
B. He describes his message, also committed to Timothy – word-centered: Nothing can replace the medium of preaching and teaching through which gospel truth lands on the ears and enters the heart. Neither at the time of Christian worship or the time of Bible study should the introduction of art, drama, or other types of creative expression be introduced. The apostles strictly and specifically isolate verbal instruction, built strictly on clear exposition of the biblical text, as the God-ordained instrument for instruction in truth. This, in my view, does not render attempts on the part of Christian artists of various sorts to depict historical events through drama, sculpture, painting, etc. as either unbiblical or invalid. Their efforts to capture through those mediums the significance and pathos of the particular instant or more sustained history may be produced and then viewed, enjoyed, and evaluated by the Christian, and other, public. These should never be seen, however, as rising to the level of instruction and should not be substituted for the ordained means of preaching and teaching in the stated times of worship and teaching in the Christian congregation. When Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21, “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” he pointed both to the content of the message and the manner of its presentation. The message must not be hidden behind visual images or bound within the rules of rhyme and rhythm, but must be the plain proclamation of news by a faithful messenger.
1. sound words – Lk 5:31 “Those who are well;” 1:10 “sound teaching;” 2 Tim 1:13 “sound words” [“wholesome words” KJV] not in need of healing, no correction or alteration needed. The infallibility of its authority and the consequent inerrancy of all the constituent elements of the text may be naturally and correctly inferred from this assertion. Failure to agree with the “sound words” constitutes a fallacious approach to Scripture. Christian preaching and exposition does not violate this requirement since it is the way God has established for revealed truth to permeate human society, and particularly to call and instruct his own people. [See 2 Tim 4:2; Luke 24:44-49; also see methods employed by Stephen (Acts 7), Peter (Acts 2:14-26; 3:12-26; 10:34-43), Paul (Acts 13:16-41) and Paul’s argument about justification built on exposition and synthesis of Old Testament texts (Romans 4; Romans 10) This instruction does determine, however, that Christian preaching always seeks a systematic and accurate presentation of the scriptural revelation in a pattern that aims at proclaiming the full counsel of God.
2. of our Lord Jesus Christ – Not a logia of the sayings of Jesus but apostolic teaching about Christ; cf. John 16:12-15; 1 Cor 15—The progression of redemptive history and revelation is unabashedly Christ-centered. The glory of the person and wisdom and counsel of the tri-une God so centers in Christ that we have virtually no knowledge of Him apart from Christ. God has determined that we shall know him only through these redemptive events. See Luke 24:25-27, 44-49; Ephesians 1:9-14; 3:7-13. Apart from Christ we would know, and experience with existential power the knowledge that God is holy, just, mighty and will not compromise his righteous standards, that is, will by no means clear the guilty; but we would not know his patience, slowness to anger, lovingkindness, mercy, grace, and tender fatherhood. We would have no manifestation of the infinite dimensions of his wisdom, as to how he can be just and yet justify a sinner
3. doctrine conforming to godliness - the Gospel properly preached and understood does not promote carelessness, but godliness; godliness is an end of true teaching. Godliness is a constant theme throughout 1 Timothy because true knowledge of God produces a desire to worship him and praise him. True worship and praise shows that one truly admires and loves the one praised and considers him worthy of emulation.
C. He characterizes those who teach a different doctrine
1. Conceited – puffed up, self-important, not submissive; Their conceit is shown in their development of a special truth of their own, not available to anyone else. It is a bit of special knowledge or a personal revelation but surely not in accord with the revelation of the gospel, which is open for all to read and understand. When Paul speaks of “my gospel” [2 Tim 2:8] he is not claiming that his version differs from Peter’s or John’s, but that his revelation is the only true revelation. In fact it accords perfectly with that of the other apostles, Gal 2:6-9.
2. without understanding - because unreceptive to divine revelation through the apostles – see 1 John 4:1-6; Those who stray from the gospel to pursue their own religious agendum isolate themselves from the truth. Obedience to the apostolic message is the spirit of truth; resistance to it is the spirit of error. See 2 Thess 2:9-12. Those that resist and seek to alter the apostolic teaching are those that “refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
3. morbid interest in logomachies - They are interested in disputes about words, not a heart transformation. The heretic is a theorist merely. Paul also warns Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 2:14 where he links such vain struggles with a tendency to faithlessness.
D. He describes their fruit 4b, 5
1. envy, strife, abusive language – purely personal “truth” seeks personal prominence. They strive, therefore, with those who teach the truth, but also with other self-styled religionists. When teachers pursue a goal built on their own ideas instead of seeking “unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God” [Eph 4:13] they cannot tolerate any competing idea. The Christian teacher, however, in obedience to the truth granted by grace from outside himself has a goal of seeing all “grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Others, using their own ingeniously devised schemes, used “cunning craftiness” and “deceitful scheming” to gain their way and their own devoted adherents. Thus arise these traits of “envy, strife, and abusive language.”
2. suspicions and constant friction – competition for the upper hand—The situation described immediately above produces these interpersonal dissonances with all who will not cower to their authoritarian schemes. Their personally devised schemes of doctrine, their invented god and invented gospel make necessary the destruction of the credibility of those that oppose them. Their own importance and standing cannot be separated from their idiosyncratic system and thus they must slander any teacher that seeks to correct them.
3. uses a façade of godliness for personal gain - Many times these idiosyncrasies of teaching are designed purely for the generation of “support” for this vital “ministry” which of course calls for endless contributions to the coffers. The “godliness” of such teachers does not consist of obedience to Scripture but a contrived [perhaps of a zeal that is self-deceived as well as deceitful] but has little or nothing to do with the sanctifying work of the Spirit built on application of Scripture.
II. What is true gain?
A. Godliness is gain even in this world 6:6-8; cf. 4:8
1. Godliness recognizes the purpose of temporal provisions 7; cf: Ecclesiastes 5:10-17; Also read Job 1, 2 for his reaction to the loss of all temporal goods and temporal comfort. To the degree that we expect temporal, material, passing things to be the source of joy, to that degree they are useless and even “loss.” Godliness recognizes that temporal goods sustain temporal life that we might live to the gory of God but have no value to the adornment of the soul with Christlikeness. We learn to pray with Agur “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me.” (Proverbs 30:8)
2. Godliness minimizes expectations as to what is really needed. We have the promise that God will provide all of our needs “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19
3. Godliness brings contentment – Paul knew this from consistent experience. He had learned whatever state he was in to be content. Godliness makes one see all provision as coming from heaven [also compare Jesus in Sermon on Mount Mt 6:26-34] Contentment is not in the things provided themselves but in the graciousness of their source, the benevolent hand of God. If his hand, therefore, brings chastisement, contentment may still be our response. Paul had seen the provision of God even in the most desperate of circumstances [2Corinthians 1:8-11] In a variety of circumstances, Paul had learned that his contentment was found only in Christ himself. Phil 4:11-13.
B. Temporal gain may bring eternal ruin 6:9, 10
1. If temporal gains reflects pride rather than usefulness it is destructive. See James 5:1-6 for the corruptive influence of a desire to get rich.
2. Love of money is a motivation for a multiplicity of evils. This does not indicate that all evil has its root in a love of money, but that “All kinds of evil” may find their genesis in the love of money. There are other sources of evil—power, lust for physical pleasure, prestige—but there is no evil which cannot find its source in the love of money. From the most subtle of individual sins that constantly tarnish a Christian’s holiness to the most reckless and destructive coterie of evils perfected by the godless, the love of money can foster them.
3. Finally produces loss of faith and grief [Judas – Matt. 27:1-10 cf John 12:1-8; It seems that Judas’s desire for money gradually gained control of him so that he began with petty thievery, feigned piety as a cover for his greed, and finally, betrayed Jesus for money. His sorrow led to destruction, not to life.]
III. Pursue things that never fade 6:11-16
A. not money but the fruit of the Spirit 11. Paul shows the appropriateness of this instruction by reminding Timothy that he is a “Man of God.” Great energy is required in achieving this goal. “Flee” that dominating affection for mammon that promises happiness but delivers sorrow. “Pursue” the advance in those traits that cannot be lost and succeed in giving a wholeness to life that produces lasting pleasure.
B. Maintain devotion to truth, from eternity to eternity “Fight the good fight of faith.” – Faith often puts one at odds with the world. Christian perseverance lives in this tension with both gentleness and purity. We instruct unbelievers in the truth while living respectfully among them. We admonish brethren who are in error, but do not treat them as enemies. Also, a constant fight with the reality of indwelling sin means constant vigilance to mortify, by the Spirit, the deeds of the flesh. This fight, perhaps, should be the most unforgiving and unremitting of all. Jesus spoke of it in terms of cutting off feet and hands and plucking out eyes. Paul says “Put to death the members that are on earth” in their use for immorality, impurity, evil desire, and greed. The language used for sanctification and perseverance in Scripture is vigorous and unrelenting. It recognizes fully the deceitfulness of the human heart and the power of indwelling sin. It also assumes that each Christian has a spirit-wrought desire for true holiness and faithfulness. “Take hold of eternal life to which you were called” – while eternal life is a gift, and the call of God secures it for us [1 Corinthians 1:9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:24] the assumption here is at its reality invades this life and informs our operations in this present world. Paul desired to take hold of this for himself even as he admonished Timothy; Phil 3:10-13.
C. A Strong charge to Timothy - The charge involves the proper evaluation of both this life and eternal life. To live with integrity now while placing supreme value on eternity requires good doctrine.
1. Before God who gives life to all things. Nothing exists that he did not make, and nothing has life without his giving it. We should use everything here, therefore, as he intended and be grateful for it. [refer back to 4:1-5]
2. Before Christ, who made a good confession - John 18:33-37
ü He asks that inquirers have personal conviction and make personal confession about his kingship - John 18:34
ü He asserts his kingship, but it is not of this world. He is not even willing to save his life for any of the treasures or privileges of this world. It is worth nothing by comparison to His kingdom. He will allow even those who hate him and that will eventually come into judgment to have supreme power in matters of this world. Paul on this basis counted all the things that were gain to him as dung that he might gain Christ. Those who want Christ, therefore, cannot set their focus on any worldly position, approval, or material thing, but on Christ who is seated at the right hand of God. [cf Col 3:1-4].
ü Christ’s purpose in this world was to testify to the truth. We recall that he said, John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but through me.” His truth involved, therefore, the uniqueness of his person and the sure and exclusive efficacy of his atoning work. His eternal reign would be expressive of true and righteous judgment, not the feeble and cowardly capitulation to injustice to which Pilate consented.
3. Keep the commandment – Perhaps specifically verse 12 which is comprehensive in scope. To fight the good fight intrinsically involves moral and spiritual uprightness – “without stain or reproach.” Consistently in 1 Timothy and the other pastoral epistles, true faith involves a submission to the truth of revelation (that is, a right cognition), a valuing of that truth as more excellent than any worldly advantage (that is, surpassing affection), and true moral goodness (that is godly behavior). Deceptive profession may be indicated by the obvious lack of any of these three.
4. Recalls the testimony of Jesus under humiliation that pointed to his glorious appearing  in due time “which he will bring about at the proper time”15 – Paul reminds Timothy that the fight of faith lasts only until [death or] the appearing of Christ. His appearance in glory will end all personal speculations that lead to “strange teaching” and all illusion that worldly wealth is true wealth. Christ makes manifest the eternal life that is life indeed.
D. A doxology – built on Jesus Testimony before Pilate of his Kingdom and considering him in his proper deity – 15b-16
1. Absolute sovereignty – also Rev 10:16 – The insistent accumulation of language and figures should embarrass any attempt to represent The Lord Jesus as less than God or as relinquishing any element of his absolute rule of the world to his own glory. Not only is he exclusively [monos] the ruling power [dunatia], but he is perfectly content and spiritually fulfilled [makarios] in this natural and intrinsically appropriate status. Emphasis to his sovereignty abounds with the turgid expression “King over all kings and Lord over all lords.”
2. Eternality – alone possesses immortality, immortal by natural necessity; The son of God as possessing all the fullness of the godhead [that is manifesting the essence of the triune God and embodying all the eternal interests of Father, Son and Holy Spirit] is that necessary, independent being on which all else depends. That this quality flows eternally from the Father makes it no less a self existence; for just as Jesus testified that “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father,” he also taught, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also the have life in himself.” “Life in Himself” is a divine attribute, not a personal distinctive within the Trinity, and is so shared by each person of the triune God. Our immortality is not necessary but derived from our being created in the image of God with moral natures consequently requiring eternity for an adequate demonstration of justice.
3. Extrinsic manifestation of intrinsic glory –Jesus now manifests the glory of a man in a resurrected body, but also the glory of his deity [see Hebrews 1:2] It is this glory that Jesus hid in his incarnation--Phil 2:6 “existed in the form of God;” “Lord of Glory” 1 Cor 2:8. This is the glory no man has ever seen or can see. This is certainly the case in the present state of sinfulness without the glorified body, but probably includes all the redeemed of al the ages even in the glorified state. His glory even then will ever transcend our powers of perception no matter how rapidly they increase throughout eternity. The two persons that saw the greatest degree of this glory were Moses and the Apostle Paul. Moses (Exodus 33:18-23; 2 Corinthians 3:7-14] and Paul [2 Corinthians 12:1-7]. Peter James and John saw a manifestation of Jesus’ glory (Mark 9:1-9), but none of these revelations were fully commensurate with the unmuted, intrinsic moral and rational brilliance of the divine holiness to the third power.
IV. The necessity of appropriate stewardship
A. Warnings, therefore, for the spiritual stewardship of earthly riches 6:17-19
1. The rich must be aware that though they might be envied by the world, they are to realize that present riches are nothing, and should not make them feel superior to any other person.
2. Rather, their faith in is the living God who distributes to each person as He will and means for us to enjoy these gifts.
3. They must also realize that possession of abundance means that they have a “gift” of giving and sharing [cf. Ephesians 4:28; 1 Cor. 12:28; 1 Peter 4:11]
4. Giving with right motive for eternal causes shows that one’s treasure is in heaven. Paul points to the necessity of the rich being as wise in the investment of material wealth for eternal glory as the unjust steward was in his manipulation of the wealth of others for his temporal well-being (Luke 16:1-13).
B. Exhortation for faithful stewardship of eternal truth. 6:20, 21
1. Timothy has a more valuable trust than the most exorbitant material wealth, the trust of God’s truth.
2. He must not trivialize it by mixing it with the speculations previously mentioned [1:4-6], and now identifies this false teaching with something called “knowledge” perhaps an indication that even at this early stage a systematic Gnosticism was beginning to develop. Irenaeus used this verse as a key indicator in his great work against Gnosticism.
3. The professing of this speculation has so many principles out of harmony with apostolic truth, that the profession of it causes one to miss the mark of the true faith.
V. Recapitulation of 1 Timothy
A. The heaviest burden, the most pervasively applied concern, is the importance of the bishop/elder for the orderly, God-ordained growth and holiness of the church. His gender, his selection, his maintenance, his discipline, his public function with the whole church, his private relations with individual members, his task of teaching both publicly and privately for correction of a variety of errors both in conduct and doctrine, and the importance of his personal growth in knowledge, skill, and holiness are interweaved throughout the letter.
B. The divinely appointed uniqueness of the apostolic ministry is an undercurrent throughout being emphasized in 1:1 as fundamental to the authority claimed. The movement of the gospel to the Gentiles (2:7), the ordering the church (2:12; 3:15), and the reception of a deposit of truth (6:20) all depend on this.
C. Orthodox teaching arising from absolute reliance on divine revelation for its content and emphasis is set beside teaching of purely human generation. The church should be nurtured on one and avoid the other.
D. The goodness of the present order as having come from God combined with a recognition of its present condition of passing away should instruct Christians as to how to live with present enjoyment and godly use of the world while looking forward to eternal life. That which drives their right understand and affection for both of these is their desire for the glory of God.
E. The church has an elevated place of importance as the Household of God, the community in which God’s truth about himself is invested. Church order, therefore, has eternal implications. Appropriately ordered relationships inside the church as well as relationships of integrity toward outsiders give godly shape to the body of believers.
F. The right use of the Law in its relationship to the Gospel is another important element of teaching. The power of the Law’s moral implications gives definition to the content of the Gospel, the nature of saving faith, and the advance in godliness.
G. 1 Timothy follows the New Testament pattern of Christocentric Trinitarianism in his Theology proper. Specific entailments of each person of the Trinity inform the discussion at those points peculiar to the operations of that divine person, but the whole concentrates on and culminates in Christ.