Preserving the Church
We are in the last week of our study of 1 Timothy. I have loved hearing the words of this book echo in my ears: fight the good fight, hold the faith, train yourself for godliness, set an example, watch your life and doctrine. Honoring God is urgent and challenging. There is an important task and a stolid resolution towards it. This letter shows the strength in which you have to fight to live out the faith.
We get more of that today, as God tells us to fight the good fight. We have a lot to cover in this last chapter...
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brothers; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their good service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these things.
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
13 I charge you 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, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time--he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. 20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:1-21 ESV)
Paul instructed Timothy on widows, elders, and now he address slaves and false teachers. In this section he shows what it means to fight the good fight and I want to highlight three things.
● Honor Christ Above Everything.
The importance of honoring Christ above and beyond anything else is made clear. He tells slaves to obey their masters so as to not revile the name of Christ. If you have ever been in a difficult situation and felt justified in slacking off, dishonoring others, doing poor work to give your boss what he deserves, or slack off because your boss is a believer and will forgive you, then do so no longer. Paul tells slaves honor your masters. It is a reminder of who their true reward comes from, a reminder of their personal dignity in that everyone can honor Christ, and everyone has a reward.
Slave traders were clearly in breach of God’s law. (1 Tim 1:9-10). Enslavers were lumped in with liars, perjurers, lawless, disobedience, etc. Roman slavery was very different from American slavery, but slaves were still treated as property, their fate at the will of another.
And yet the greatest thing any person can do is serve Christ. He is the only one eternal, immortal, king forever and worthy of all honor (v14-15). We are to serve him, and serving him is what truly matters. Paul is interested in them living a life that honors Christ and reflects the teaching, the doctrine of the faith. That shows the dignity of any position. Even slaves are people and can honor God. They should do that (and their owners should do the same).
Here is the point though. You don’t always get easy circumstances and even in those you have to honor Christ. It is right to seek after and desire better circumstances. But we also have to see the need to look past obstacles, look past barriers, look past oppressive people and say I am not going to dishonor Christ. I’m going to serve him even when it is hard. Every day is a day to honor him; every place is a place of worship.
● Give Money to Gain Good Deeds.
It’s better to have good deeds than money.
In verses 3-10 false teachers are address. He addresses several problems with false teachers like their conceit, a craving for controversy, making a big deal about little things, envy, dissension, slander, suspicion. If you can’t tell a false teacher by their doctrine then you should be able to tell by their lifestyle.
False teachers thought godliness was a means to gain. They probably saw the great income derived from the temple of the goddess Artemis and the statues that were made of her. They thought that Christ was a way to similar gain. They thought religion could lead to dividends, and v6 godliness does lead to profit, but its dividends are a heart full of God and not pockets full of money.
The love of money can change your standards, change your theology. It is a root of all kinds of evils (v10). It is not the root of evil, but it is a root. It causes many evils. Want to avoid evils, then cleanse yourself of the love of money. Like so many other things, money is not wrong in and of itself but it is what our hearts, minds and hands do with it. It is how strong we desire it. Our desire for it is stronger than the desire to honor God.
We have to flee this. We are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness (v11). We as Christians know there is more to life than money. Money is important. Money enables us to do many things. But we don’t love it. It is not what we most want. We want God more than we want money.
V17 says we are not to set our hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God. God is the one who provides and he is the one who enables us to enjoy things. You can have more money than you know what to do with it, and yet not be happy. Money cannot fill your heart.
“Possessions are only the traveling luggage of the time; they are not the stuff of eternity.” John Stott. ( 1 Timothy, 150). All the things in the world are in our possession for just a brief moment. One of my favorite rock n rollers died recently, Tom Petty. As watched about his life, I thought about his fame, his wealth, how much he left behind. I’m just a little bit behind him in net worth. Then I thought he left it all. Death is the great leveler. Job said, “Naked I came from my mothers womb and naked I shall depart”
Be rich in good deeds and that means putting to death the love of money. We should not allow the quest for money to distract us from our walk with God, or his mission. Don’t let the desire for money distract you from discipling your kids, being a great husband or wife. Don’t let it keep you from having time to honor God, be a good friend. Find ways to bless people, take them to lunch, share time with them.
The consumer mentality of our country has robs the church of power. Os Guiness,
“ For a consumer society thrives by stoking unquenchable desires into unsustainable cravings and then fanning them with an inflated rage of rights. The restlessness it creates by providing false satisfactions and deadening true desires simultaneously fuels the economy and destroys happiness.” Os Guinness, (Fools Talk, 138).
Our consumer society tells us we have to have things. It creates false expectations. We are upset if we don’t have that new lego set, that new kitchen, that new truck. And once we cater to those desire we soon want more. That desire deadens us to greater desires. We are never satisfied.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhaurer said, “Gold is like sea water-- the more one drinks of it the thirstier one becomes.” (Stott, 152, 1 timothy).
Put to death the love of money. Use money for good deeds.
The discipline of tithing. That is a good litmus test for your spiritual walk. It’s good because there is no clearer command on how to steward our money to further God’s kingdom. This says to be rich in good deeds (v18). How do you quantify that? You can’ t. The Christian life is more than tithing but it is helpful to talk about. Malachi addresses people who were not tithing and verse 3:8 says, “Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions.” Be rich in good deeds.
A few years ago, I took a phone call from a couple that was reaching out to the church for marital help. I met with them and heard how they were separated, didn’t trust each other, seeing other people, had called the police on each other. It was messy. They had many issues and many unmet and uncontrollable desires for their marriage. As we met things started coming together for them. They saw their need to follow Christ and stop doing many things they were doing.
One of the things that put a lot of strain on their marriage was finances. They had enormous debt and terrible spending habits, largely resulting from their love of the world and they couldn't break it. They met with their small group leader and he shared about the command to tithe. They felt compelled and started to find ways to cut other things out. They gave up cable, then they gave up designer clothes, eating out and much more. Then they started taking meals to people in church in times of need. The desire for the world and its possessions lessened and their commitment to each other grew. I watched this couple transform, and soon they were a couple I would tell other struggling couples to get advice from them.
We are to be rich in good deeds. That means more than tithing. But it is a place to start. Giving sets you free from the cancerous love of money. Don’t let the love of money rob you of the more important things in life. Be rich in good deeds!
● Take Hold of Eternal Life Rather than The World’s Values.
V 12 Timothy is told to take hold of eternal life. The word is used in Acts to talk about taking hold of someone in order to take them to jail. To catch, fasten on, take hold of. Its also used of drawing someone to oneself in order to help take hold of.
In Christ you receive eternal life. You receive it upon believing but there is a sense in which you have to continue to take hold of it. You grow in owning it. You may have received a degree in a subject, but you have to continue to take hold of it don’t you.
First, I want to talk about living out our confession. Timothy made a confession of faith v12. He was following Jesus who made a confession before Pilate v13. We confess the faith that we have. We are to express it, verbalize it.
Timothy’s confession may have been his baptism. In baptism we declare our faith in Christ. We profess our allegiance to him. We are following him. We are not giving in to things that would keep up from serving Christ. We are not living for the approval of others, the ways of the world. We put allegiance to Jesus above allegiance to friends, bosses, even parents. If you have not been baptized then you are denying a key part of following Jesus. If you are not willing to follow him in baptism then you have to ask what is really ruling your life?
Don’t be passive or lazy in getting baptized. Jesus commands this. Rejecting baptism is rejecting one of the clearest commands for Christians. If you have trusted in Christ profess it. Profess it in baptism and profess it every day of your life in everything that you do. If you have been baptized then continue to live our your profession. Profess it every day.
Second, have you taken hold of the mission of God. Do you really believe the doctrines of Christ-that we are redeemed only in him, that only he can atone for our sin. Are you engaging in the mission God has for us, honoring Christ, opposing false teaching? Have you taken hold of your faith. Have you made the mission your own.
As I studied this passage I spent some time in the first few verses that talk about slavery. I read about some of the history and of various Christian perspectives. I don’t understand how Christians could own slaves. But they did. It is very disturbing.
John Newton was a famous pastor, theologian, and hymn writer. In the early part of his life before he was a Christian he captained a slave ship. Because of the pervasity of slavery, Newton didn’t immediately resign after his conversion. Instead he ran a tight ship and celebrated communion on board. Do you see the irony of that? Christians above celebrating communion; men and women in chains below, sitting in their own filth, awaiting to be sold as property. What a disconnect??
God’s word eventually took hold of Newton, and at the end of his life he helped abolish slavery and wrote how he was haunted by the images of what he had seen and done. Its great that God perseveres with people! But it’s so hard to fathom how a person can see the plight of other individuals and be so unaware and unmoved.
But here is the thing. The Bible teaches that apart from Christ we are slaves to sin. Apart from Christ people have a far worse future than being sold as property. Are we moved by that. Are we doing anything to help them. I fear we are far too at ease in this culture. We hear of Christ redemption, the terrors of hell and the bliss of heaven, and walk out the door and talk about nothing more than the weather, the score of the game, and the same things culture thinks are important. Our prayers are focused on the next job and getting over a cold. Have the truths of Scripture taken hold of you. Do you see the urgency of reaching people, of building a church? Have you taken hold of eternal life; has it taken hold of you.
One of the strongest judgments against Christianity came from a young atheist I knew. He sat and voiced his skepticism of Christianity “I don’t get tripped up with the person of Christ, that he was God or that he died for sinners. That part is kind of neat, but where I get tripped up is the life of Christians. If you really believe people can only be saved from Christ and that apart from him people will spend eternity in hell for their rejection of God, then wouldn’t you be feverish in trying to tell others about him? That part doesn’t make sense to me.”
Do you see the fight? Do you believe this book? Do you believe in Christ? If you do how can you sit back and be indifferent about the people around you? Have you taken hold of the faith or has our culture taken hold of you?
Have you taken hold of the mission and calling God has for you. Ten months ago we came up with a new vision statement. Worshipping God. Loving Others. Making a Difference in the World, one person at a time. It’s the greatest commandment, second greatest commandment and the great commission. The basics of the faith. If you are a Christian you should be doing these things. We came up with a new statement because the church was dying and we needed to reach our local community. I love our new vision statement. It looks good on a website. But my question is, is this vision in your heart? Have you taken hold of it? What is different in your life now? Changing the church begins with changing yourself.
- How does Paul s instruction for slaves to honor Christ provoke and challenge you to honor Christ in your challenging circumstances (v1-3)?
- How can the love of money cause people to wander from the faith (v10)?
- In what ways might you have been influenced by culture rather than the truths of Scripture? How can you take hold of the eternal life make a good confession of Christ (v12).