Lessons From I Timothy: Lesson 15 – Encouragement to Faithfulness; Lesson 16 – Final Admonitions

Following are the concluding articles in this series on I Timothy planned especially for church societies, study groups, and all others interested. The writer, Rev. Henry Vander Kam, is pastor of Grace Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.


I Timothy 6:11–16

Encouragement to faithfulness

The style which the Apostle Paul lIses in his writing is by no means a matter-offact writing but it is vivid and gripping. He gave warning in the previous section concerning those who did not consent to sound doctrine and the words of the Lord Jesus.

What does he do now? Does he merely warn his son Timothy concerning these matters and the evils to which they lead and then hold a better manner of life before him? No, he must not only avoid that manner of doing things, he must flee them! He must run away from them as fast as he can. Nor must he simply adopt the opposite manner of life, he must run after it! He must put the greatest possible distance between himself and the evil and must bend every effort to obtain the good.

For the “man of God” – Paul calls Timothy “thou man of God.” This is a description which fits every true believer of New Testament times (II Tim. 3:17). Yet, it has a special meaning regarding Timothy. He has been called to the gospel ministry. He is to be an example to the membership of the church. He is to be a man of God in the manner in which an Elijah was so called. It must become evident to all that he indeed belongs to his God.

Because he belongs to his God, Timothy naturally does not serve mammon. All his allegiance is to be given to the God Who purchased him and called him to His service. To do this Timothy must diligently pursue the Christian virtues which Paul mentions. His life must be characterized by “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” These virtues are not found among those who come with a different teaching than that which was revealed by the Spirit of God. The teaching, or doctrine, always determines the practical life. This cannot be reversed! People who seek to emphasize ethics but do not care about doctrine are defeating their own purpose.

“Fight the good fight” – How does a person flee the evils and run after that which is approved? Can it be done merely by determining to do so? Paul informs Timothy that it is not an easy matter. He uses terminology which he frequently employs in his various epistles. “Fight the good fight of the faith.”

In order to accomplish that which is commanded him, Timothy will have to fight. It is the figure of a boxing or wrestling match. Paul uses examples out of the world of sports again and again. The fight of the faith is essentially a battle against himself. There is plenty of the old man within him so that Timothy will have to fight against himself if he is not to succumb to the temptations of the world. Faith is a struggle. Faith is a “foreign” element in the natural man.

Paul is no supporter of the Christianity of ease. He has learned to know himself in the light of the Word of God. It has been a struggle for him, will be for Timothy, and continues to be for every believer. To embrace the Christian virtues of which he has spoken in contrast to the manner of life which flows forth from heretical doctrine, Timothy will have to fight. However, it is a “good,” a noble fight. The fight itself is not wrong, while the fight, the battles, about genealogies were indeed wrong.

“Lay hold on life eternal” – He must fight this good fight and lay hold on life eternal. This is not the life which is still completely in the future but the life to which Timothy has been called. He must fight to keep this life and to receive it ever more abundantly. This eternal life is the fun, the complete life. It is that which is life indeed.

Timothy must grasp this life. All of his fighting must have this life as its goal. It is the reward—the victor’s crown. This may not be interpreted as though Timothy did not possess this life. Indeed he did! In fact, this is the life to which he had been called. He had confessed before many witnesses that he possessed this life. How could anyone confess his faith in Jesus Christ and not have eternal life? How could anyone be called to the ministry of the gospel and not indicate that he possessed eternal life? Although this logic is clear, Timothy must he reminded and encouraged time and again.

A holy calling – Although Timothy needs much encouragement, and the Apostle supplies that encouragement frequently, there comes the time when encouragement is not sufficient. In the verses 13 and 14 Paul goes beyond this and makes it very clear that Timothy has received a holy calling and that he has a definite duty regarding that calling. Encouragement Paul will give as needed but duty must also be underscored. He now places Timothy as before the face of God and Jesus Christ. One can also be so fearful that no amount of encouragement suffices. We must remember that, even though persecutions may come and even rob the believer of this life, God is the One who gives life to all things. Ultimately, He is the One who determines life and death.

Timothy has made the good confession, but, if that is not enough, Christ Jesus made the good confession when He stood before Pilate who was about to sentence Him to death by crucifixion. Christ there witnessed to the truth when He knew that the truth would not be accepted but would be wrested and used against Him. Yet, He did not waver. That is the direction in which Timothy must look. Here he will find encouragement and example.

The specific requirement – What is now the specific requirement? This—that Timothy keep his commission pure. The Apostle here refers to the whole calling which Timothy has received, and it includes his rule of the church. The gospel has been entrusted to him. He has been given tremendous responsibilities as well as high honors. He must keep this ministry pure – “without spot, without reproach.” He may not give occasion to others to speak evil of God, of the gospel, of the church, nor of the ministry. The God who has called him to this ministry will hold him accountable. This is a charge which the Apostle would bind on Timothy’s heart.

This is not the kind of a charge which is to be kept only for the moment, while a person might stand on a mountaintop of spiritual strength, but is to be kept “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When will this be? Some believe that Paul was under the impression that the Lord would return soon—perhaps in his lifetime or in that of Timothy. However, nowhere in the New Testament writings is there an indication that the Apostles believed the coming of Jesus Christ to be so soon.

Here the Apostle adds that this will come about at the proper time. Why thcn is Timothy charged to be faithful until such a time as Christ’s return? He might also have charged Timothy to he faithful IIntil death, but this would not fit into the argumentation which the Apostle employs. One must recognize the difference between general and individual eschatalogy. Christ is coming again at the end of the ages and time shall be no more. At the end of an individual believer‘s life Christ also comes to take His own to Himself. Timothy is to remain faithful until such time as the Lord calls him to higher service, i.e., until death. This passage may, therefore, not he interpreted as though Paul were teaching that the Lord would return during the ministry of Timothy—His Second Coming.

A beautiful doxology – Timothy is called to be faithful to the end, and it is a faithfulness which will be rewarded richly. That reward is found in the service and in the approval of such a God and such a Savior as he has mentioned and of whom he will now sing.

Beautiful is the doxology to which Timothy is now led! The God Who will send Jesus Christ at the right time is the only Potentate and the blessed Potentate He has all sovereignty—also over the return of Jesus Christ. What He decrees shall come to pass and nobody shall be able to thwart His purposes. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. Every knee shall how before Him. He is the One Who alone has immortality.

Of course, men also are immortal in the sense that they shall “exist” forever. But, He alone has immortality, He is the fountain of it, in the sense that it is “life” forever. He is the God of life and is the wellspring of life for His people. He also dwells in unapproachable light. God is light and it is a light so great that it would blind anyone seeking to come near Him. He covers Himself with light which serves to hide Him from all. Therefore no man has seen Him or can see Him. This fact not only makes Him greater than all others—it sets Him completely apart from others.

To that God, Who is so great that human language fails, to that God is due all honor and power eternal. Let God receive the honor of every creature and let Him display His power over all who would oppose Him and use that power for the benefit of His people! So let it be—Amen!

Here we hear the Apostle whose logic as a dogmatician slays all those who would oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ with the philosophies of men.

At the same time we hear the doxology of a man who is so gripped by the gospel of Jesus Christ and has such a deep love for the God Who has redeemed him that it causes him to sing out in jubilation! What a combination–a man who has plumbed the depths of the meaning of the gospel, and a man who feels the love-relationship in which he stands to his God!

Questions for discussion:

1. How important are the personality and character of a minister to the effectiveness of his ministry? 2. Is the retention and progress of faith always a battle? 3. Why was Christ silent before His judges at times? Was His silence also a witness? 4. Does the second coming of our Lord receive enough attention in our circles? 5. Why are there so many doxologies in the Pauline writings?    


I Timothy 6:17–21

Final Admonitions

Paul is coming to the end of the epistle he is writing to Timothy his son in the faith and his successor. However, it is always a difficult matter for this author to end his letters. The last chapter of Romans is a good example. In this letter too Paul was moved to sing his doxology in the previous verses—and what better way to end a letter than by means of a doxology?—but he has still more to say.

Concerning the rich – First of all Paul instructs Timothy how he is to deal with those members of the church who are rich. He is not referring to those mentioned in verses 9 and 10 of this chapter. Those were people who were still seeking riches and sought to obtain wealth in any way possible. The people to whom he now refers are those who have been blest with more than the average members of the church. True, there were not many rich in the early church, but there were some. The early chapters of the Book of Acts already mentioned some of them.

The people who are rich, that is, those who do not have to live off the lab::m of thcir hands, should not be highminded. They must remember that these riches belong only to this present world or this present age. They surely realize that there is more to reality than the present!

The danger always exists that the rich will have an inRated opinion of themselves and look down on those who have less. This attitude should not he present among members of the church of Christ. They certainly should not set their hope on the uncertainty of riches. Riches belong to the present world which has no stability, and the riches one may have are even less stable than the world in which they are found. For anyone to set his hope on such uncertainties would he greatest folly.

No, the hope is to be set on God. He is not suhject to the changes which occur in this present world, and therefore the hope which is grollnded in Him remains unshaken. That is also the God who distrihutes to all His creatures and gives liberally to all. He gives us all things to enjoy. He knows what is needed, He gives it in abundant measure, and these are precisely the things which we can enjoy. The riches of the world are not always an enjoyment for those who possess them.

What should they do with their riches? They are to be rich in good works. They are to be ready to give for the needs of others.

Does it not seem as though the rich always have many duties while the poor seem to have rights? We are to remember that it is God who has given the riches. He then imposes great responsibilities all those whom He has favored with wealth. They arc tested regarding their stewardship. The poor do not have specific responsibilities. They then seem to have all the rights while the rich have only duties. Yet, God places the poor in His place so that the rich may now minister of their wealth to them and thus do it as unto Him. These He calls good works. No, good works are not the ground of salvation, but its fruits! Charge them to deal with their wealth in the Godappointed way! Let it never cause them to be high-minded.

The manner in which the New Testament, and, so too, this passage, deals with riches is unique. By sharing their wealth with those who are not blest as they are, the rich will “lay up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come.” That is, such use of their riches is going to stand them in good stead when this present world is no more. Jesus points in the same direction in Luke 16.

Salvation is by grace alone. This is clear from all the Scriptures. However, we are also taught that we shall he judged according to that which we have done, whether good or bad. He now instructs Timothy to impress upon the rich that they do good with the wealth they have received because they are going to be judged according to what they have done with it.

A foundation is laid – in contrast to the uncertainty and instability of the present—against the time to come. They themselves will have the judgment of conscience that they have acted in accordance with the law and will of God. They will also be praised by those who received help from them. So they will lay hold of true life. This is life indeed—far different from the life which riches might purchase in this present world.

This teaching, calling the rich to a proper stewardship, is therefore not a hardship imposed, but is richly rewarded. It is not even rewarded in kind. It is indeed true that those who obey His commands in this area of life will be enriched the more in the present world, but the rewards go far beyond the present. God uses strange arithmetic! Give, and you will have morel This is learned only in the school of the Spirit of God.

Concerning the Word intrusted to Timothy – Now the Apostle addresses a very personal word to Timothy. This is clear from the way he is now specifically addressed. He is to guard that which has been committed to him.

That which was committed to Timothy was the entire revelation of God. It was committed to him as a precious, but dead, deposit. No, a treasure has been given him which throbs with life and which must be used constantly. This makes the guarding far more difficult. Nevertheless, he must guard it. It is to be guarded so that it will not be taken away. It must also be guarded so that it will accomplish its work. It must be guarded so that its purity is not comprised.

This is an awesome responsibility! God has intrusted His Word to Timothy and He will claim it later with interest! It is actually a double responsibility which is given him. He must be very active with it and he must guard its safety. It can be done—Paul did it! It must be done—not only by Timothy, but by all those who are called to the ministry of the word, and by the church. If this treasure is lost there will be nothing left and the poverty of those ministers and those churches who have not been faithful regarding this trust is beyond description. Guard it at all costs!

Concerning attacks from within – The gospel is to be defended against all the attacks from without, and there will be many attacks on the gospel. However, the Apostle is here warning Timothy especially against the attacks from within. These attacks may not seem as serious and certainly do not pretend to cast the gospel aside at once. Yet, they are most dangerous.

Paul warns against the “profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called.” He had warned against this idle talk before.

It seems that there were many in Ephesus who were engaged in such things. They use the Scriptures, but use them in a wrong manner. They refer to the law and to the genealogies and use them to “prove” all manner of things. This is supposed to be a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures. They use the Bible as though it is a book of magic rather than the revelation of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. This “knowledge” is falsely so called. Only the truth of God as it is revealed clearly in the Scriptures gives a knowledge unto life.

Some of those who engage in the evil practices he has just described have already wandered away from the faith. Faith is neither planted nor fed by such practices—and, consequently, it does not govern their so-called study of the Scriptures. Yet, though departed from the faith, they may be in the church. These look for something “new,” something “sensational.” Timothy is not to waste his time on such. He must shun them. Seeking to convince them would be foolish. The man of God has more important things to do than to spend time on them.

The benediction – A very brief benediction now follows. Usually the Apostle uses a longer form of the benediction when he comes to the end of his epistles.

Here the one word “grace” is employed. Although it is brief, it nevertheless contains all essentials. It is “the grace,” the grace only God gives. That grace is sufficient. This is not a prayer that grace may he given, but it is a declaration. Paul wrote this epistle to one person, Timothy, but he now pronounces the grace upon more than one, that is, the whole church, because he speaks in the plural. Though it is a personal letter in many respects, it will be read to the church for the edification of the people of God.

So ends a very remarkable and precious letter from the hand of this great Apostle. His concern for the church and his concern for Timothy is evident throughout. His high esteem of office is constantly emphasized. A careful study of this book will teach us how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God.”

Questions for discussion:

1. Is it dangerous to be rich? Is wealth a blessing of God? 2. Are more duties required of the rich than of the poor? Explain. 3. When Paul speaks of the rich laying up in store for themselves a good foundation by means of the right use of their wealth, would you say that he is teaching that “you can take it with you”? 4. Do you think ministers (and churches) are concerned enough about guarding that which has been committed to them? 5. Do you think that those who find all manner of modern happenings in the prophets might be classified among those of whom Paul speaks in verse 20?