Article by Francis Foulkes
‘But as for you, man of God, shun all this; aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 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, I charge you to keep the commandments unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; and this will be made manifest at the proper time by the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen’
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Much of what the apostle has said in 1 Timothy 6: 3-10 has been about the love of money, the desire for personal gain, personal power, personal importance. Now the apostle says to Timothy, ‘shun all this’. Whatever others may do, he, as a ‘man of God’, must ‘keep clear of such things’ (Phillips). But the apostle is not satisfied to speak only in a negative way about the ‘man of God’. He also speaks of the high aims that he should have.
Timothy is to aim at six qualities of Christian character.
Righteousness – that is, striving to be upright in all his daily activities. ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness’ Jesus said (Matthew 5:6)
Godliness – this word, often used in this letter, comes again. He is called to live a godly, God-centred life.
Faith – this can mean both relying on God and reliability.
Love – that quality which stands first of all for the Christian ( 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5:22), and which is beyond everything else the mark of the Christian (John 13:35). ‘Make love your aim’ says the apostle in 1 Corinthians 14:1.
Steadfastness – the word has the sense of patient endurance to the end whatever the difficulties, This quality is mentioned many times in the New Testament.
Gentleness – the Christian must stand for what is true and right with all courage and boldness, but at the same time with humility, with thoughtfulness for others, and with great kindness in dealing with them. ‘With the help of God’, says the apostle, ‘aim for these things, and then you will be seen by the world as a man of God.’
The Christian life, however, is not just the quiet development of Christian character. A person can only live as a ‘man of God’, by fighting ‘the good fight of the faith’ against the evil that is around him and within. The Christian life is no easy life; from beginning to end it is a struggle. Paul uses again here that word from which we have the English word ‘agony’ (see 4:10). In his time it was used to describe the different contests in the Greek games in which the athlete or boxer would struggle with every ounce of his strength. The Christian life is warfare, but it is the one ‘good fight’ that there is (see note on 1:18). In our Christian calling we, by faith ‘take hold of… eternal life’, and we struggle to keep hold, and to live for the things of eternity, whatever forces may try to tear us away from Christ.
In verse 12 Paul takes Timothy back in thought to a great day of his life. When he was baptized, ‘in the presence of many witnesses’ he confessed that he believed in Jesus Christ, that he belonged to Him, he would serve Him, and ‘fight manfully’ in ‘the good fight of the faith’. ‘Go on,’ the apostle says, ‘go on to the end, witnessing faithfully to your Lord.’ In verse 13 Paul takes Timothy’s thoughts further back to a still greater day, when Jesus Christ his Lord ‘before Pontius Pilate made the good confession’. Though the cost was death, the shameful death of the cross, He would not deny the truth before the Roman Governor (see John 18:33-37). Paul is saying, in effect, to Timothy, ‘Remember Him, “the faithful Witness” (Revelation 1:5), and keep your own witness true.’
There is a particular work that Christ had commanded and commissioned Timothy to do – and we also have work that He has given to us. For Timothy, and for us, there should be one aim, and one standard – to ‘keep the commandment’, to do His will, and to do it perfectly. ‘Unstained and free from reproach’, the apostle says (compare 3:2 and 5:7) – and that means not allowing the standards to slip in anything.
Finally Paul says, ‘Remember that all that you do is in the sight of God. Remember that you will give account of your witness at “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Remember the greatness of the God whom you serve, the “only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has ever seen or can see”.
A mighty and glorious God is the God whom we are called to know and to serve – what an amazing privilege this is! And He promises to be with us to strengthen us in Christian character, in the Christian warfare, and in our Christian witness, that from our lives there may be honour and glory to Him.
Lord God Almighty, Thou didst come to Saul of Tarsus as a blinding light, and the glorious light of Thy presence never left him. Come to us in the light of Thy glory; humble us; direct us; burn up in us all that is evil and useless; and may we walk in increasing light until the day of the appearing of Thy Son Jesus Christ, whom by His grace we will see Thee face to face, AMEN.