For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

6:1.  “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.”

In those days slavery was part of the social structure, and it is instructive to note that neither the Lord nor His disciples ever spoke against it or tried to change the system, the lesson for us being that we are not left here to promote social reform, but to preach the gospel.

Many of the believers were slaves, and here Paul instructs them relative to their attitude towards their masters.  They were to be respectful of them; and in Eph 6:5 the Apostle commands them also to be obedient to their masters; and in verse nine of that same Epistle he instructs those masters who were believers, “And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven: neither is there respect of persons with him.”

“... that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed (brought into disrepute or be ill spoken of)” related to the conduct of those believers who were the slaves of unbelieving masters.  For the slaves to be disrespectful, insolent, lazy, etc., would result in God’s name being dishonored by those masters.  That many of the believing slaves obeyed Paul’s injunction is attested by the fact that masters generally were willing to pay higher prices for Christian slaves.

It need scarcely be said that the same principle holds good today relative to the relations between employee and employer.  The believing employee is to be respectful towards his employer or boss, doing his work as unto the Lord,  Who in the final analysis is really his Employer, see Eph 6:5-8.  At the Bema the Lord will abundantly reward such respectful obedience, and compensate for all unfair treatment endured for His sake, see Col 3:22-25.  Every believer should remember that he has been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and is therefore responsible to render Him faithful loyal service as an expression of gratitude for the love that led Him to pay that price to deliver us from Satan’s bondage, see 1 Cor 7:21-24.

6:2.  “And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved partakers of the  benefit.  These things teach and exhort.”

Believing slaves of believing masters were to be no less respectful towards them just because faith in Christ had made them spiritual brothers.  The slaves were, in fact, to render believing masters the more faithful service just because those masters were believers, and were therefore, as beloved brethren, worthy of such whole-hearted service.  “... the benefit” here seems to refer to the benefit that such masters would derive from just such service, though some understand it to mean that they, in common with their believing slaves, are partakers of the benefit of the common salvation.

Timothy was to be faithful in teaching these things, and in exhorting slaves and masters alike to obey that teaching.  The principle is no less valid, nor the teaching and exhortation less needful in this present day of the big impersonal corporation.  Christians in managerial positions are to act so as to glorify Christ; and believers under managerial control are also to glorify Him by their respectful obedience and diligence.  See also Tit 2:9; 1 Pe 2:18, and of course the Epistle to Philemon, for additional instruction concerning the conduct of slaves and masters.

6:3.  “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;”

6:4.  “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,”

Here Paul instructs Timothy relative to those who would teach differently, rejecting Paul’s words, even though what he taught was what was given him by the Lord Himself, he being simply the Lord’s spokesman, and his doctrine therefore being that which would produce godly conduct in those who obeyed.

The man who would reject Paul’s teaching is described as being puffed up with pride, or as the NEB version translates it, “is a pompous ignoramus.”  “...doting about questions, etc.,” is variously translated as, “diseased about questionings and word-battles” - “with a sickly appetite for disputations and contentions about words” - “a morbid appetite for discussions and controversies.”

Vine’s explanation of “doting” is, “to be ill ... ailing, whether in body or mind; hence to be taken with such a morbid interest in a thing as to be tantamount to a disease.... The primary meaning of “dote” is to be foolish ... unsound.”

Such an attitude foments envy (the false teachers envied one another), strife or wrangling (they argued, and contradicted one another), railings (denunciations of one another often expressed in scriptural language so as to lend imagined validity to the arguments and denunciations), and evil surmisings or suspicions (attributing evil motives to those who opposed them).  William MacDonald, quoting Lenski, writes, “In their questions and word battles, one envies the other because of the proficiency which he develops; there is strife as they vie with and contradict each other; blasphemies result, namely, denunciations couched in sacred words.”  In contrast with sound or healthy doctrine which produces spiritual health, the unhealthy teaching of these spiritually sick teachers produces spiritually sick Christians, and therefore spiritually sick assemblies.

While there are some genuine believers who are given to disputatious wrangling over words, and whose activity mars many a Bible study, it is clear that the men being described here by Paul are not believers at all.

6:5.  “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

Perverse disputings is variously rendered “wranglings” - “perpetual contention” - “constant friction,” while “men of corrupt minds” are those whose minds are depraved, perverted, warped by sin and rejection of the truth.  Their perverted reasoning had produced a mind set against the truth.  They deliberately sought every imagined justification for rejecting it and accepting instead Satan’s lies.

“... destitute of the truth” is literally “robbed of, or who have lost the truth,” not in the sense that they had ever possessed it, but rather that their lust for money and power had blinded them to the truth.

“... supposing that gain is godliness” means simply that they see Christianity as nothing but a means of making money.  It is apparent that the clerical system is governed largely by just such thinking, the majority of those who comprise it viewing it  simply as a gainful trade similar to medicine, law, engineering, teaching, etc.  The whole system which governs “Christianity” (Catholic and Protestant alike) is infected with the same evil mind set.  Look, for example, at all the money-making schemes being used to finance its operations.  The “Christian” house of God has become virtually the same “house of merchandise” as was denounced by the Lord in Jn 2:16.

The words “... from such withdraw thyself” are not found in most manuscripts, but that doesn’t detract from the soundness of the advice.  We should keep ourselves far away from all such men, systems, and schemes.

6:6.  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

“Contentment” is basically related to the idea of having sufficiency, of having enough, needing no assistance.  According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, it means “a perfect condition of life, in which no aid or support is needed; a sufficiency of the necessaries of life: a mind contented with its lot; sufficient for one’s self, strong enough or possessing enough to need no aid or support; independent of external circumstances; contented with one’s lot, with one’s means, though the slenderest.”  For the believer this self-sufficiency is the result of having total trust in the sufficiency of God, and of having that dependence upon Him which believes implicitly that His perfect wisdom combines with His perfect love to ordain or permit all the circumstances of our lives for our ultimate blessing, as it is written, “... all things work together for good to them that love God” Ro 8:28. 

In contrast with the worldly attitude that sees “religion” as simply a means to financial gain, the contentment which accompanies godliness is true gain, for it gives peace here on earth, and at the Bema will bring eternal reward.  (As noted already, godliness is that manner of life which reflects the thinking, speech, and conduct of God Himself as displayed in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ).

6:7.  “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Some translate this verse as “We brought nothing into the world, since (because) we take nothing out either.”  It is strange that a fact so axiomatic is so universally rejected as is manifested in the diligence with which we seek earthly wealth and ignore that which is eternal.  He is a wise man who learns early to evaluate the worth of earthly things by the standards of heaven, and who doesn’t impoverish himself eternally by the vain pursuit of the temporal.  MacDonald has very aptly commented, “There are three times in life when we have empty hands - at birth, at the time we come to Jesus, and at death.”

6:8.  “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

In the original this is a statement of fact rather than a command, the “let us be therewith content” being “we shall be content therewith.”  The reason so few of us achieve this high standard is that we fail to distinguish between our needs and our wants.  God has promised to supply the former, not the latter.

6:9.  “But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

Those who set their hearts on being rich expose themselves to many temptations which Satan uses to lure them on step-by-step to ruin, for once the heart has been set on riches it will never be satisfied.  No matter how much is accumulated it never seems enough.  There is the insatiable longing for more.  The craving for wealth is in the same category as the four things which are never satisfied, “The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough,” Pr 30:15-16.  Those who crave wealth are like creatures caught in a snare.  Unless delivered by God, their end is death: death for the unbeliever being consignment to the eternal torment of the lake of fire; and for the believer, eternal loss of reward at the Bema.

“... foolish and hurtful lusts” is rendered by TCNT as “foolish and harmful ambitions,” and by Phillips, as “silly and wicked desires.”

The craving for riches is foolish in several ways.  When attained, the riches bring no lasting peace or satisfaction; and his pursuit of money robs the man of time and energy that might have been devoted to the accumulation of eternal treasure.  It also tends to make him selfish, and a hindrance rather than a help to the assembly of which he is a member.  It is almost always associated with shady business methods, lies, etc.

Relative to “destruction and perdition:” in the case of the unbeliever the pursuit of wealth will occupy him to the exclusion of any concern about his soul, and will thus drag him down to hell.  It is significant that the word “perdition” is used in connection with Judas, Jn 17:12, and the beast, Re 17:8.  In the case of the believer, it will ruin his testimony here on earth, and leave him to enter heaven without a reward, as described in 1 Cor 3:15 “...saved; yet so as by fire,” i.e., all the activity related to the pursuit of this world’s wealth will prove to be the equivalent of “wood, hay, and stubble” which will not survive the testing by fire at the judgment seat of Christ.

6:10.  “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Every commentator has pointed out the obvious: it is not the money itself, but the inordinate love of it that produces all kinds of evil.  It is to be noted also that the more accurate rendering of this verse is “a” not “the” root, not of all or every evil, but of a variety of evils, for clearly the love of money is not the only thing which produces evil.

It is unclear whether the “some (who have) coveted after” and have “... erred from the faith” are believers or unbelievers, but in either case the result is that the individual suffers many painful prickings of conscience, and as the end of life approaches, has also bitter regrets over a wasted life.

6:11.  “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”

“Flee” not only suggests the thought of urgency in getting away from the evil of loving money, but indicates also how evil such a love is.  Nor is the fleeing a one time only act.  The idea is of fleeing continually from evil.  It is not, however, good enough to flee from the evil of loving money: there is to be the equally energetic pursuit of good.  Righteousness is simply the doing of what is right in the sight of God and man, while godliness is that pattern of thought, word, and deed which reflects the thoughts, words, and deeds of God Himself, as demonstrated in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith refers to that attitude of mind which believes implicitly that every circumstance of life is ordained or permitted by God, and is designed for our eternal blessing.  It may also refer to faithfulness in doing whatever God gives us to do, and it is to be remembered that every believer has been commanded, “To ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.  Not everyone has the ability to preach, but everyone can at least pass on a tract.

The love mentioned here is not the sentimental thing which the world calls love, but rather that response to God’s goodness which expresses itself in obedience, the Lord Himself declaring, “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jn 14:15.  That obedience, however, requires us also to act towards others in love, as it is written, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another,” Jn 13:35.  That it is possible to manifest such love to all men is made clear when we remember that it doesn’t require us to have for everyone the same emotional love we have for our spouses, children, parents etc., but that we act towards them as though we had that love.

Patience needs little comment except to note that the frenzied busyness of our modern world is more conducive to impatience than its godly opposite, but that is all the more reason why we should strive for God’s ideal, particularly in the midst of trial.

What makes the cultivation of meekness (a kindly gentle disposition) so difficult is that it is often mistaken for cowardice.  Attainment of the divine ideal, however, will be easier if we remember that God values meekness highly, and it is His opinion, not man’s, that matters.

6:12.  “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.”

This reminds us that faith in Christ automatically sets us at odds with Satan, unconverted men, and the world in general, to say nothing of our own old nature, the contest beginning the moment we trust Christ as Savior, and continuing until we enter heaven.  Its being described as a “good” fight declares the truth that all the things we are called upon to fight against are evil, because they are the inveterate foes of God, and therefore of us who through faith in Christ, possess His life and His nature.

They cannot keep us out of heaven, but they can rob us of our peace, and the joy of communion, and of the reward with which the Lord has promised to recompense obedience, hence the exhortation here to keep a firm grip on all that pertains to eternal life, lest our enemies rob us of what God has given us and wants us to enjoy, not only here on earth, but also in heaven.

“... whereunto thou art also called” reminds us that God, through the gospel, called us to the enjoyment of present and eternal blessing; and having taken hold of His priceless gift of eternal life, we are not to permit anyone or anything to rob us of any part of that glorious inheritance.

We are to remember, however, that profession (more correctly confession) is inseparably linked with that gift, as it is written, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation,” Ro 10:9-10.

6:13.  “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;”

6:14.  “That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:”

Paul’s command to Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” was given in the presence of witnesses: God, Who is the Source and Observer of all life; and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who when He was arraigned before Pilate, fearlessly witnessed to the truth, even though He knew that that testimony would result in His death.  The reference to God as the Source of all life may have been to remind Timothy that even if the confession of his faith resulted in his death at the hand of man, the God they both served is the God of resurrection Who raised the Lord Jesus Christ up from death, as He will also every believer.

Timothy was being reminded that God Himself would be the Witness as to how faithfully he carried out Paul’s instructions.  We should remember that our lives are also lived under that same divine scrutiny, and that we have the Lord’s example to encourage us.

Timothy was to fight the good fight, and maintain a fearless testimony for God, being careful to keep himself from any taint of sin, or of anything that might afford anyone opportunity to reproach him, and through him the Lord Jesus Christ.  We should exercise the same care relative to our own lives.

The mention of the Lord’s appearing indicates that Paul viewed that event as being imminent, but two thousand years have passed since then, and with the canon of Scripture complete we have available to us information not available to the Apostle.  Since one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day, the Lord’s return was in a sense imminent in Paul’s day, but with the foretold events of those two thousand years virtually all fulfilled, we have the assurance that literally that return could be today.  May we then have the wisdom to walk in the light of that knowledge.  Today may be the last opportunity we will have to witness to the saving and keeping power of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (It is necessary to note that the appearing spoken of here is that of the Lord in glory with His saints at the end of the Tribulation, to inaugurate His millennial kingdom, that return, of course, being preceded by His coming to the air seven years earlier, before the Tribulation, to rapture His church home to heaven).

6:15.  “Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;”

That glorious appearing of Christ is an event which God, the “only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,” will bring about in His own predetermined time, but which we know from Scripture to now be very near.  Since this is the same description given of Christ in Re 17:14, it emphasizes His equality with the Father.

6:16.  “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 honor and power everlasting.  Amen.”

Immortality, meaning deathlessness, declares that God will never die, hence the need for God the Son, coequal with God the Father, to become Man: as God He could not die.  The brightness of that light which is the very essence of God would destroy man in his natural state, so that no man in his natural body has seen, or can see God.  God at times has appeared in human form to men (such an appearance is called a theophany), but never in all the effulgence of His glory.  It to this same One that all honor and everlasting power belong.

6:17.  “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;”

Those who have been entrusted with this world’s wealth are not to be proud, arrogant, haughty, etc., nor are they to place confidence in those same riches, but rather in the glorious God described in the preceding verses.  Their trust is to be in Him Who has given them the riches, and Who can also take them away again.  Riches may fly away, but the immortal, unchanging God is the eternal Portion of all who trust in Him.  Unlike the riches of earth, the things He gives us for our enjoyment are like Himself, eternal.  Earthly riches are never to be taken as evidence of God’s blessing.  They are given to test us.  Accepted as from Him, and used for His glory, they are a blessing.  Looked upon as being the result of our own efforts or cleverness, or used for our own selfish pleasure, they are a curse.

6:18.  “That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;”

The rich, instead of using their riches to gratify their own desires, are to use them to alleviate the need of the poor.  Their being “rich in good works” implies that this godly use of earthly riches will make them rich eternally: the Lord will recompense them at the Bema.

“... ready to distribute” means simply to be free or generous in sharing their riches with those in need.  They are to use their wealth in the same spirit as was enjoined by the Lord when He sent the disciples out richly endowed with spiritual wealth, saying ”... freely ye have received, freely give,” Mt 10:8.

“... willing to communicate,” is rendered as, “inclined to make others sharers in one’s possessions, inclined to impart, free in giving, liberal,” Thayer’s Greek-English Lex of the NT.  Connected with this kind of giving is the thought of fellowship with the one benefitted.  In other words, it rules out that cold impersonal giving which is associated with organizational giving where giver and recipient never know each other.

6:19.  “Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

This isn’t teaching salvation by works, but rather that giving, according to the principles set forth, forms a good foundation upon which to rest the assurance that at the Bema all such giving will bring a great and eternal reward in the currency of heaven, for “the time to come” clearly points to that day of review and reward of earthly service rendered to Christ.

“... that they may lay hold on eternal life,” doesn’t mean that they acquire eternal life by liberal giving, but that such giving is one of the evidences that they already have eternal life.

6:20.  “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:”

In the preceding verse Paul has referred to liberal giving as being the equivalent of a deposit laid up in heaven, and here by means of a similar metaphor he describes what Timothy has received from God as being something that God has entrusted to him or has deposited with him, and he exhorts his young friend to guard that deposit with the same care as does God what men commit to His safekeeping.  The exhortation extends also to us, for God has committed to our trust the same faith (sound doctrine) as He had deposited with Timothy. 

“Profane and vain babblings” are variously translated as “irreligious and frivolous talk; worldly, futile phrases; irreligious and empty discussions; empty and worldly chatter.”  How frequently we are guilty of this very sin!  How seldom we engage in the discussion of spiritual things!

“Science” is literally “so-called knowledge.”  It is to be noted that such “knowledge” is in opposition to what is of God.  It objects to, and contradicts what God says.  Timothy was to avoid all such profitless discussion, and so are we.

6:21.  “Which some professing have erred from the faith.  Grace be with you.  Amen.”

Some professing to have this so-called superior knowledge had “erred concerning the faith,” that is, they had gone far astray from the faith: they had never known it: they were Satan’s agents masquerading as believers, and attempting to discredit sound doctrine.  Christendom today is filled with such false teachers who sneer at sound doctrine as being unworthy of acceptance by intelligent people.

Paul’s closing words express his wish that Timothy may continue under God’s favor and blessing.  That grace was never more needed than today faced as we are by the intellectualism of our “educated” western world which is directing all its power to destroying the knowledge of God.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough