1 Timothy 6:6-16


At the conclusion to verse 2 Paul said: "Teach and urge them to do these things." What things" The ethical injunctions which Paul stated in chapter five and the beginning of chapter six: the correct attitude toward widows, elders, and slaves. If ever a person needs true religion it is the pastor in his practice toward those in his charge. It is clear from verses 3-5 that Timothy had to deal with false teachers whose religion and teaching were of a selfish and fleshly sort. They were proud people who had a craving for debate. They had lost the truth and taught that religion is a way to become rich. It is at this point where our text begins.

This text is always very relevant. In every generation the church is plagued, more or less, by those who teach that religion should be used in attaining earthly wealth. They appeal to the lower nature in man maintaining that man should live right in order to be blessed with earthly gain. That is the problem Paul is dealing with in our text.

1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

This verse is most important in a discussion of the proper attitude toward earthly wealth. Verses 7-16 are explanatory of this verse. Note how emphatic every word in the sentence. The false teachers had maintained that godliness is great gain. Paul grants that. It’s as if he says: "They’re right. Godliness is great gain." (But according to God’s method only.)

"Satisfaction, contentment." It denotes the proper attitude, whether one has much or little. LB: "Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have." AAT: "Of course, there’s a big profit in religion if we’re satisfied." TEV: "Well, religion does make a man very rich, if he is satisfied with what he has." That means that he does not covet the property of others. He rejoices at the gain of others although he may have little, He does not grumble about the providence of God. The prepositional phrase makes all the difference here.

Kretzmann: At the opening of this paragraph, Paul arranges to obviate a misunderstanding, as though Christianity were under no circumstances a source of gain: But a great gain indeed is godliness with contentment, with the feeling of possessing all that one needs. Piety does indeed result in a gain, and one that is far more excellent than that which the errorists had in mind. It is a characteristic of godliness that this virtue offers a real gain only in connection with such an attitude of satisfaction with one’s lot as places its hope and confidence in the Lord and His providence. Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 30:8; Matthew 6:33.

Paul admits the dictum of the false teachers but with an all-important condition. We think here of 1 Timothy 4:8: "For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come."

All that I need for a truly spiritual life now and for the life to come is bound up with my mode of living. Paul calls this "godliness." Only God can give me this mode of living.

1 Timothy 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

An explanation follows. This verse and the following explain what is meant by the all-important prepositional phrase in verse 6. Commentators point out that this verse touches on an axiom which is clearly stated in Job 1:21 and Ecclesiastes 5:15 which ought to be read and pondered at this point.

The first line indicates his condition at death. He has absolutely nothing. His living should always be in the light of these two lines. God was my all in all when I was born, I needed nothing else. He will be my all in all when I die. I will need nothing more than Him. I should live with this principle in mind at all times.

Guthrie: The veracity of the first part of the verse does not seem to depend on the truth of the second clause as would be the case if the reading ‘because’ be maintained. Rather does the apostle wish to point out that material possessions are equally irrelevant at our entrance into and our exit from the world. Yet it may be that the correct reading shows that the controlling factor is exit rather than entry.
Lenski: What is so striking is Paul’s OTI and the thought it contains, that BECAUSE we cannot bring anything away, we brought nothing along when we arrived.
Kretzmann: The first reason adduced by the apostle in support of his statement is that taken from the transitory character of this world’s goods . . . . he can take nothing along with him into eternity, Psalm 49:17; Luke 12:15-21. Why, then, strive after that which cannot bring lasting satisfaction?

Matthew 6:33 truly puts everything into proper perspective here.

1 Timothy 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

This verse assumes that the hearer has heeded the kind of thought contained in Matthew 6:33-34. True Christian faith drives out worry and covetousness.

"Food" denotes the various kinds of food man eats in his lifetime.

"Coverings" denotes both clothing and shelter. It is clearly implied that a person does not need money if he has food and shelter. Many Christians learned that truth in the great depression of 1929-1935.

Various translations: "Let us be therewith content," "With these we shall be content," "May we rest content," "We should be satisfied."

Kretzmann: The actual needs of a person are really much smaller than the person is usually willing to believe.

1 Timothy 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

Paul does not condemn the rich but he does condemn those who desire to be rich. Scripture does not condemn Abraham, Job or Solomon for their wealth. It’s the condition of the heart that is condemned.

"Falling" is the idea of being trapped unawares. Unawares they place themselves into the position of being tempted by Satan. Here compare Matthew 13:22. Unawares they are trapped like a wild animal. Unawares they are trapped by man evil desires which are senseless, foolish, irrational and harmful. The idea is of sinking to the bottom and refers to all people, irrespective of age or sex.

Rienecker: The two words are used in the sense of ruin and suggest irretrievable loss.

We think here of Judas, Ananias, Sapphira, and Dives in the parable.

Kretzmann: Foolish the apostle calls these desires, since they take away all decent reasoning, all moral common sense, causing people to be drowned, to be dragged down into ruin and destruction,into moral and spiritual bankruptcy.
Guthrie: Three clear steps of decline are discernible, first the lure, then the lust, and finally the total moral ruin.
Lenski: Their lusts are ‘reasonless,’ such as a reasonable person must shun . . . . How seldom are riches and happiness combined.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Guthrie: A well-known maxim is next quoted to justify the strong language just used.

Shall we read "The root of all evils" as does KJV or  "A root of all kinds of evil"  as reads NKJV? Commentators argue this point. Is it the sole source of all evils or merely one of the sources of all evils? Perhaps Luke 16:14-18 will help us. It is plain from that text that with love of money goes self-righteousness, an attitude of scorn toward God and disregard for the sixth commandment.

"All kinds of evils," the text is speaking of a family of sins and lusts, those that destroy faith, which is the root of all good. Then is added this summary: temptation, snare, lusts, destruction, perdition.

"Love of money" denotes either means or cause. "Love" is "reaching out for."

Some, Paul says, repented before they were lost. They were deceived and misled. Very likely "faith" here means "doctrine, teaching," that which is believed. The final phrase is very strong. Who would deliberately and knowingly pierce and transfix himself with many pains? But they do. Look at Mark 10:22.

Lenski: Here we have a striking paradox: aspiring to what produces all manner of bad things. . . . A prolific vice treated as a most desirable virtue. . . So Satan kindled Eve’s ambition to grasp the evil as though it were a great good, to eat death by calling it life . . . The delectable fruit of wealth became apples of Sodom in the mouth.
Bengel: The remedy of these sorrows is faith.
Kretzmann: Every sin in the Decalog may directly or indirectly be traced back to avarice.
Lock: It is in his address to the elders of Ephesus that St. Paul insists that he had coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel, Acts 20:33.

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

This is considered poetry, similar to that found at 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

The expression "man of God" is found only twice in the New Testament, here and in 2 Timothy 3:17. Because of its use at 2 timothy 3:17 it cannot be limited to pastors or evangelists. It speaks of any devout Christian. It means "person of God."

Lenski: Blessed everyone who may rightly be addressed ‘O man of God!’
Lock: One whose whole life is lifted above worldly aims and devoted to God’s service.
Kretzmann: He that belongs to God as His own has the fullness of riches in Him and is not in need of temporal gifts and blessings to complete his happiness.

In 2 Timothy 2:22 we have exactly the same words as used here. The desire to be wealthy is as dangerous for Christians as are youthful lusts. Note that both verbs are in the present tense denoting constant fleeing and constant pursuing. We agree with those who see three pairs of virtues here:

Righteousness - Godliness - Faith - Love - Meekness

Lenski points out that in each case the second grows out of the first.

Paul is here speaking about the righteousness of life, sanctification. Here probably Paul speaks about faith toward God and love toward human beings. And where there is endurance, the ability to stand up under adverse circumstance, there will be meekness. These are the virtues which drive out the dangerous lust of wealth which leads to perdition. Kretzmann here notes the one side of true Christian conduct. He feels that the other side is stressed in verse 12.

Lock: The virtues chosen are the central Christian virtues, first towards God,. then towards all human beings, and those specially needed for enduring trial and the opposition of false teachers.

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

As noted above, Kretzmann considers this verse the other side of true Christian conduct. The two go together.

Here we have an athletic, not a military, metaphor. It means:

Constantly contend the noble contention.

Athletic events demand the athlete’s all. Likewise the life of the Christian. There can be no slacking or letting up. It is a constant and fierce struggle.

It is a struggle which is very different from that in every day living because it reaches into all eternity.

Whether "faith" is the faith in the heart of the believer, or the doctrines and the teachings which bring and support the faith in the heart of the believer, is unclear, either way the meaning is clear.

"Eternal life" is evidently here used as a present reality as at John 3:15-16.

The phrase "to which you have been called" eliminates all synergism. Timothy need not earn eternal life. He has already been called, from eternity, to this eternal life. Most commentators take the last part of verse 12 of the occasion of Timothy’s baptism. Paul reminds Timothy that he made his Christian confession in the presence of many witnesses. These witnesses should be a constant incentive to Timothy. If Timothy were to give up his Christian confession he would become an offense to these witnesses. Perhaps there is also a kindred idea such as is found in Hebrews 12:1.

Kretzmann: For obtaining this prize Timothy and every other Christian has been called, that is the real object of their lives, Philippians 3:14.

1 Timothy 6:13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you

Compare this verse with 1 Timothy 5:21.

Just as many mere human witnesses were present when Timothy was baptized, so now Paul reminds Timothy that God Himself is witnessing what is said. God is described as the one who is the only source of life, both physical and spiritual. His Son is described as the One who confessed the good confession in the presence of Pontius Pilate. This verse denotes the great seriousness of what is going to be said in verse 14.

Bengel: To attest the confession is of the Lord, to confess the confession is of Timothy.
Lenski: Timothy confessed it, Jesus attested it . . . . Jesus’ attestation was an actual fulfilling of the prophecies, an attestation by deed, not only by world.

Lenski is saying that not only is Paul speaking about the occasion and what Jesus said, Matthew 27:11; John 18:36, on this occasion, but also about Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. In other words, what is said in verse 13 is a comfort to the Christian in devoting his entire life to living and witnessing for the Lord who made him and redeemed him. God gave him life twice: when he was conceived and when he was converted.

1 Timothy 6:14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Here is the substance of the charge announced in the previous verse. There are two ways of translating this verse. One is represented by AAT: "That you do what you are ordered, without spot or blame, till our Lord Jesus Christ appears." The other way of translating is represented by RSV: "I charge you to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a second problem in interpretation. Is the verse speaking about a specific commandment or is it used, as in Matthew and John, of the word of God in general,. Law and Gospel?

Kretzmann: These two facts, of God the quickener and Jesus the Confessor, should be the reasons influencing and strengthening Timothy to keep the commandment, the sum of the entire body of Christian doctrine entrusted to him, immaculate, pure, uncontaminated, without the slightest admixture of error, and also irreproachable, so that no one would be able to bring a charge against him of even the slightest irregularity in his preaching. The gift of the pure doctrine is too precious to permit any careless handling.
Lenski: As the passages in John’s and in Matthew’s gospels show, ‘the commandment’ is Jesus’ Word or his words," and no less is meant by Paul . . . . ‘Till the epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ until the end of the world. This is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 28:20.

Because of the similar command in Matthew 28:20 it seems quite self-evident that "word" here means the entire Word of God.

1 Timothy 6:15 which God will bring about in his own time -- God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

1 Timothy 6:16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Paul closes with a grand doxology. We agree that the subject of these two serves is the Triune god, not Jesus in particular. Praising God’s majesty does not detract from Jesus’ deity. Read Exodus 33:18-23 and John 1:18 side by side.

The incarnate Christ revealed God to us. But no one will see the glorified Christ until God will it. God is unique in His power and immortality.

To Him is eternal honor and might. Amen.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 94-98. Used with permission.

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