1: All who are under the yoke as slaves are to regard their own masters as worthy of all honor so that the name of God and our doctrine will not be spoken against.
- Paul begins this chapter by talking about how slaves and masters should relate to one another. In Ephesus, a typical Greek city, there would have been slave owners and slaves. It is important to understand that slavery in the Greek and Roman worlds are not the African slavery that was in the UK and USA in the 1700-1800s. Slaves were essentially contract workers. It was a willing participation on the part of the slave, and usually had an end of contract date. We’ll look more at this when we get to Paul’s letter to Philemon. Paul never actually addressed this system or its validity because Christianity should work regardless of what government system it encounters. Yes, there may be persecution from that system, but it has never stopped the flow or growth of Christianity. What had started to happen is that masters were being saved and telling the gospel to their household slaves, who responded and were saved. Also, household slaves would find the Lord and bring it to their master, who would respond and be saved. Now both were equal in Christ, according to Paul (Col. 3:11, no difference between slave and free). Paul is indicating that this does not change the essential relationship on earth.
- What is at stake here? So that the name of God and our teaching [didaskalia] will not be spoken against. What is the consequence of a slave that does not work well and is a Christian? Such a one is a bad testimony, and brings shame on the name of the Lord. No, Paul encourages that they not only do their work well because their masters deserve what they have paid for, but that we should do over and above what is expected of us. In this way, Christ is seen in us.
2: Those who have believers as their masters must not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but must serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers and beloved. Teach and preach these principles.
- As mentioned in verse 1, some believing slaves had believing masters. What was beginning to happen is that the slave would consider him or herself equal to the master, and either shortcut or diffuse their authority in his household. Hey, buddy, you’re still contracted to your master. You were compensated completely up front according to the rules of the day. Do the best job you can for him. In fact, do better by the grace of God.
- And this, according to Paul, is not without reason. First, those who partake of the benefit [literally, “take hold of the good deed,” a reference to the Gospel, not good works, determined by the definite article here] are believers [pistoi, those who hold the opinion or are firmly persuaded] and second, they are beloved [agapetoi, the divinely and self-sacrificially loved]. Such a person is worthy of our best becuae they theoretically should be giving us their best by the grace of God.
- Paul also tells Timothy that he is to both teach [didasko] and preach [parakaleo, to call, to strongly encourage, to come alongside for aid] these principles.
3: If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness,
- Paul here tells us that not everyone will agree with his logic. He also says that he is speaking the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. He informs us that these are the doctrines that inform us of godliness with a promise of help in the conforming to them. This is an introductory statement, setting up what comes in the next phrase.
- Think about what Paul has said about people that advocate different doctrines for a moment. Chapter 4:1 tells us that such individuals are paying attention to deceitful (lying) spirits and the teaching of demons. I’m not talking about difference in interpretive positions like Amillennialism and Dispensationalism, who fight about whose system of interpretation is more broken. I’m talking about denying the Trinity, or the Divinity of Christ, things like that. I’ve met godly men from both the dispensational and amillennial camps, but I’ve never met anyone that denies the Trinity or that Jesus Christ is God doing any good for the sake of the Gospel, regardless of how loud they shouted or how many Scriptures they twist or alternatively translate. No, these people, really any other world religion, are following the teachings of demons, and are even infiltrating things you may need to care for your loved ones, so just be aware of them and do not listen to their wrong doctrines.
4: he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions,
- Individuals that follow such lying entities have no real knowledge. In fact, Paul calls them conceited [tuphoo, arrogant, vain, foolish]. Then he begins to detail their beliefs, and these can be used as diagnostic symptoms to determine that you are indeed speaking to one of these kinds of individuals.
- The first diagnostic symptom is a morbid interest in controversial questions. The Greek phrase is noson peri zeteseis, or nauseating [interest] in searching out a debate over matters of controversy. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, a formal debate is the best way to speak the truth to the world. But people who want to argue with you about everything, even things you agree on – well, it isn’t normal, and given what these people are listening to in their hearts, isn’t spiritually healthy!
- The second diagnostic symptom is disputes about words. This is a single Greek word, logomachia, and literally means disputes about words. One of the long-standing strategies of the enemy has been to redefine the common use of a word so that it no longer means what it did. Certain words like “gay” no longer mean happy or filled with joy, but something else. (Makes one wonder who they are trying to convince, and I think it is themselves, because I know a bunch of them, and they aren’t happy. But like a typical victonteer (victim volunteer), it is everyone’s fault but theirs.)
- And you can tell these guys that are beset by these things by their behaviour!
- Envy – Jealous of everyone about everything. They can’t seem to be happy with their own situation or progress.
- Strife – they live a life of constant argument with everyone over everything, even when they agree with you.
- Abusive language [blasphemia] – They blaspheme, that is misuse the name of the Lord in thought, word, and deed. They can’t not think it, because they have deceitful spirits whispering in their ears and hearts. And that translates into foul word usage, and into self-centred deeds.
- Evil suspicions – they are not trustworthy, and so they do not trust anyone, and always believe the worst about everyone. We’re all prone to this, but these individuals are over the top.
- And Paul isn’t done, he continues the list in the next verse.
5: and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
- Constant friction [diaparatribe, mutual irritation]. This seems in the text like someone that rubs you the wrong way. All the time. At every opportunity. But only if you’re trying to do the right thing and walk with the Lord. If you aren’t, it’s smooth sailing.
- Depraved mind – literally destroyed or corrupted understanding or reason. If you listen to them for long enough, you’ll hear the false logic, the false premises, and ultimately the “I want” in the reasoning. And that’s only part of the equation.
- Deprived of the truth – defrauded, as in having believed the lie, therefore deprived of the truth [alethia]. Nothing they say will ever be right or true. And what does it say that is the main identifier of these individuals?
- They suppose that their version of godliness is a way to make money. Pastor, take warning, says Paul, don’t enter the ministry if you want a better standard of living. Enter it because you feel the palpable desire to preach the word, and because the Holy Spirit draws your attention to things pertaining to that, and divine providence opens doors for you to enter. NEVER for money.
- There are a plethora of popular teachers that teach this very thing. I’ll name a few so that you can know also. Joel Osteen. Joyce Meyer. Jesse Duplantis. Ken Hagin. Benny Hinn. Jimmy Swaggart. Creflo Dollar. Ken and Gloria Copeland. Every single one of the false teachers specializes in preaching that godliness is gain. Their reasoning is that God wants all Christians to be healthy, and wealthy. So give your money to God by sending it to us – that’s your seed of faith – and God will give it all back and then some. And the bigger your seed, the bigger your reward will be. And people believe it, and send these folks money. And what do they do with it? They buy big houses and build personal fortunes, buy jet planes for world tourism, only they tell the government it is for travel for their ministry – one of these people has a private airport in his back yard. When one of these individuals was asked by a reporter how they make their money, they became very angry and told the reporter that it was none of their business before having the reporter thrown out of the event they were at.
- There is a Steve Camp song that says, “They are clouds without water / They have hearts trained in greed / They are like wild animals / and you are the food they eat / Depraved in their mind and deprived of the truth / They promise prosperity / But the cash they steal from you / Will buy their coffin and seal their defeat / This is the agony of deceit / Promising truth for lies they teach / They come in Jesus’ name but they’re sons of Hades / This is the agony of deceit. Every single line is taken from a letter from Paul, allowing just a little poetic license. All these false teachers are clearly missing something.
6: But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
- And there is the missing ingredient. Contentment. Self-satisfaction or self-sufficiency about who you are in Christ. Christ is enough, and where He leads, you are happy to follow. Please know that we are not using self-satisfaction or self-sufficiency in the worldly sense of “I can stand on my own two feet.” That statement must be viewed through the lens of Jesus’ work on the cross.
- Every single one of the false teachers I named and all the ones I didn’t have no understanding of what this verse means. This isn’t a “be happy with what you have” kind of a statement either. Paul elaborates.
7: For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
- We didn’t bring anything with us into the world, and we don’t get to take anything out of it. Paul said it, not me. Ever hear the phrase “You can’t take it with you?” That’s where it comes from. This is how we can know that Paul’s context is the Gospel, and not the world’s version of self-sufficiency. We are not able to do anything for ourselves on our own.
8: If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
- Paul is outlining what our requirements actually are, regardless of what we imagine they are. What…you mean you don’t need a car? Not at the moment, no. I appreciate all the rides I get from brothers and sisters, it certainly saves time, but I can take the bus here in Ottawa. Usually. Or I can walk. Most days. But I have food to eat, and I have covering. I have shelter, I have warm clothing against winter in Canada. My things stay dry when it rains or snows or sleets (which is both at the same time). Why? Well, frankly, God is good! And He is ALWAYS good. I could tell stories, and have in these studies, but for the sake of time, I will move on or we’ll be here for a couple of extra hours…days if I get going. I rejoice in Christ.
9: But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
- You see, that’s the real problem. People want to get rich. Paul is going to say more about why in the next verse, so we’ll cover it when we get there in a few minutes. Do you see the inherent “I want” in that? People desire riches. Food is so expensive, I hear it said. But that’s because you want $30 meals from restaurants instead of $10 meals at home. Hey, I like that food too, I’m just trying to speak the truth. As a society, we spend pretty much everything we have after expenses on stuff to entertain ourselves, don’t we? I’m not talking about your cable bill. I’m talking about going to the local sports team (and we have at least 4 I am aware of in Ottawa: hockey, soccer, football, and AAA baseball). Or going to the movies. Food events. Hobby events. Collectibles. Wine tastings. All of these things can cost a person a lot of money if they let it.
- But this is a trap. Paul calls such pursuits “foolish and harmful desires” in this verse, and tells us the effect of those desires – they plunge men into literally ruin and loss. Gee, have you seen my card collection? Great! Wait – is that smoke coming from your windows? What happens to your “stuff” when a real crisis hits? And God is no respecter of persons – and insurance might replace certain things, but it cannot replace what is really of value – memories. I repeat, this is a trap. Don’t fall into it. Don’t “want” more than you need.
10: For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- Why? Because Paul tells us, literally, that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, which is a better understanding of that Greek phrase I am told. Paul even talks about how some, the “love of silver” has caused their hearts to wander right away from the faith and has “put themselves of a spit for roasting” with “much pain.”
- This does not mean it is wrong to have a lot of money! God can give that kind of gift to someone. He can also remove it, like he did with Job. Don’t long for it, in the sense of stretching out for it, reaching for it, yearning for it [the literal meaning of the word]. Don’t put yourself on a spit as for roasting and suffer much pain. But if God gives it to you, then use it for Him and according to His will. Don’t chase it.
11: But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
- In fact, Paul, turning a bit of a corner in topic, says as much here. In fact, he says, flee from these things. This seems to be a pivot point. Everything that has gone before starting in verse 3 (the start of a paragraph) to now (the start of a new paragraph) is the ungodly behaviour and motive to flee. What follows now are the things to run toward, to pursue.
- Man of God – This phrase is only used twice in the New Testament, and both of the references are in Paul’s letters to Timothy, the other reference being in 2 Tim. 3:17, speaking of how the man of God is made adequate – by the word of God. But a study of the phrase in the Old Testament gives 15 or so references, and not all of these men of God are given a name in the Scripture. The first of these is Moses in Deuteronomy 33:1, as Moses gives a blessing to the nation of Israel just as he is about to die. After a long life of lessons and service – God gives him that title as he is about to be taken by the Lord to glory. Other named men of God include Elijah and Elisha after him. All of these men shared a set of characteristics, and we have been looking at as we have been studying through the New Testament, through the letters of Paul. Paul here calls Timothy that name – man of God. I believe (because of the way the address is used in 2 Timothy 3:17) that this is what God desired for every believer. We are to be men of the Word. We are to be men of Christ Jesus.
- Pursue – The word for pursue is very interesting. It literally means to give chase, to ensue, to follow after, to persecute as you would a criminal requiring justice. In this sense, there is no hostility, and we are not literally chasing a person, so my lexicon says the meaning is to “seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire” the things that follow:
- Righteousness [dikaiosune] – equity of character; it is a reference to the doctrine and practice concerning the way in which a man may attain approval from God. Because Paul is speaking to Timothy, this deals with our sanctification, not our justification. It deals with our obedience and submission to the will of God.
- Godliness [eusebeia] – piety; reverence, respect for God, practical holiness toward God.
- Faith [pistis] – that firm persuasion or opinion held about how Jesus both expiated (made amends) and propitiated (made us to be in right standing) toward God for us. The verb form is our English word “believe.”
- Love [agape] – Divine, self-giving, self-sacrificing; not an emotion but a conscious choice regardless of emotion.
- Perseverance [hupomone] – cheerful endurance, patient continuance in waiting; not being swerved from one’s own deliberate purpose of pursuing Christ Jesus in this case.
- Gentleness [prapatheia] – a humility of spirit, meekness; recall that this is not a position of weakness. Jesus is the perfect model for this. He was God made flesh. He retained all of His deity in his bodily form according to the Scriptures. And apart from his kingdom-revealing miracles to identify Himself to the Elders of Israel, he lived His life as a human man, trusting and submitting to God. He had all power available to Him when they came for Him in the garden. He chose not to use it. And here we are still talking about Him 2000 years later.
12: Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
- Fight the good fight of THE faith. This is a phrase that gives the image of an athlete competing in an event. Compete in the contest of faith is another possible rendering of this verse. We should consider ourselves spiritual athletes competing for a spiritual prize. We should have a training regimen – are you reading continuously through the Scriptures every day, for example? Where do you fellowship? DO you fellowship somewhere? If you don’t this will be impossible, by the way. You NEED the community of faith that goes with this. How are your prayer times? Do you pray by yourself? Do you pray with others where you gather for worship? Notice that the question I didn’t ask is “Where do you go to Church?” That is because as a real Christian, you cannot GO to church, because when you gather in Jesus’ name, you ARE the church! This is how you fight that good fight of the faith.
- Take hold of THE eternal life to which – eternal = aeonios, from aeon, meaning the ages; it takes in all time, but itself (like God) is a timeless thing. My lexicon indicates it to include all of the past, the present and all future events in perpetuity.
- you were called – Kaleo, to call or invite specifically, i.e., by name. This is a connection in the text to a selection by God, which Ephesians 1 tells us was before the world and time began, often called “Sovereign Election.” It’s a big theological term, but what it means is that you as a real Christian were chosen by God the Father before time began. That’s all it means, and there is no need to get nervous about the term.
- And you made the good confession in front of many witnesses – Confession [homologia, confession in the objective sense, so profession of faith] here is that acknowledgement that Jesus has made atonement for himself specifically.
13: I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,
- After telling Timothy what to pursue, he turns the instruction into a holy charge [paraggello] in the presence of God, a reference to the Father because of the attached phrase “who gives life to all things” as one of His actions, and of Christ Jesus…
- Side note – this is a mention of two persons of the Godhead in the same line at the same time giving them the same status. Please tell me again how the Scriptures do not demonstrate a Trinity. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Bible study.
- Paul also tells Timothy that this same Christ Jesus testified [martureo, to be a witness, one who gives testimony in a court] that same confession of the kingdom of God (as its King I might add) to Pontius Pilate, the earthly authority of the day.
- What did Paul command Timothy? Next verse.
14: that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,
- Keep – tereo, guard. This is going to be important in a bit, so keep that top of mind. What is he to guard?
- The commandment – entole, injunction, commandment, precept. Without a more clear context, we must assume the widest range of Paul’s letter, which means we must consider everything Paul has commanded in this letter to Timothy to be part of that commandment. How are we to guard it?
- Without stain or reproach – that is, without bad behaviour or conduct that would call Timothy’s authority or position into question, and in an unrebukeable manner. Until when?
- Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Either when he comes to get His people, or when He comes to get you personally. Literally for the rest of your life here on the planet.
15: which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
- Paul here reminding us that no one can know the day or hour of the Lord’s return to earth, but we can rest assured it will be at the proper time, when He is ready for it to happen, and in the manner that He sees fit. From here, he launches into this doxology that is very well known, and is such an incredible encouragement, because Paul is speaking in context of “our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the previous verse.
- He is the blessed and only Sovereign – blessed is well understood as happy or joyful, and only Sovereign can also be said as “who alone is Sovereign.” Sovereign is the Greek word dunastes, a ruler, potentate. We get our English word dynasty from this, but this is not a hereditary authority passed down through a bloodline. He is the only one. The next couple of phrases are very intriguing to me. Our Lord Jesus Christ is King [basileus] of all kinging, and Lord [kurios] of all lording. If there are people that do these things, He is the master of them, and better at it than them all as a direct implication of the Greek text!
16: who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.
- Immortality [anathasia] – a compounding of the Greek prefix ana, against or opposite and thasia, mortality or death. So the One that cannot and will not die.
- Dwells in unapproachable light – it means exactly what the translators had in their English text. What does that mean, Gerry? I think we see an example of it in Isaiah 6:1-3. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.'” Why would one of these majestic, angelic, heavenly beings cover his face with his wings? Because to see God’s face would destroy them, just like it would have destroyed Moses when God covered him with his hand as He passed by. Isaiah continues – And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah thought he was a dead man because he had looked upon Almighty God.
- Whom no man has seen or can see. Well, I guess not! If looking at God will cause one’s head to explode, it is no wonder that God hides himself from us!
- To HIM be honour and eternal dominion! Amen!
17: Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
- Paul again returns to this issue of riches, this time instructing Christians who are wealthy. The first thing to realize is that it is okay for a Christian to be wealthy. Not all of them are, I know I’m not, but some are, because they are not affected by wealth the same way as some of us. He didn’t tell them to give all their money to the poor and follow Christ, that was a very specific message for a very specific person who wanted to “inherit eternal life,” according to the Gospel. It is not wrong to have or use money. What is wrong is to put your hope in it, or to let it make you think that you’re better than everyone else (conceited).
- Rather than wealth, our focus is to be on God, our source of hope, because it is really God that is the source of all the stuff with which we like to entertain ourselves. In fact, it says He lavishes it on us because He loves us – and not just in terms of money. ALL things means ALL things. You own a home? You have a pet? You have nice clothes? You have a car? Like that.
18: Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,
- Instead, wealthy people should take their money, whatever God puts on their heart, and do good with it. Be rich in good works as well as money. Be generous and ready to share with those who need help, or those in need of the Gospel. Wealthy people are always looking to invest somewhere. How about investing in the kingdom? Earlier in the chapter in verse 7, we were reminded that we can’t take our wealth with us. However, you CAN send it ahead by your good works. Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven, and investing your time, effort, and wealth in spreading the Gospel is a way of doing that. If you can’t do it yourself, how about supporting a ministry like us that does? Just saying!
19: storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
- See? Send it on ahead. What does that look like? It’s a bit different for everyone, so I don’t want to tell you what to think here.
20: O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—
- There is the word again – guard. Remember verse 14? Keep the commandment? Guard the commandment. It has been entrusted to you, Paul tells Timothy, and the rest of us by extension. Paul knew timothy would read the letter in the church at Ephesus as Paul’s credential and action plan. It was for all those who would serve the Lord, particularly in ministry.
- While you guard it, avoid worldly [bebelos, unhallowed; we get our word balling from this word] and empty chatter. It’s just noise. It is, as Shakespeare said in Macbeth, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” It doesn’t mean anything.
- Opposing arguments of what is falsely called knowledge – Literally, antithesis. Words against sound doctrine. Words under a false name, masquerading as “knowledge.” The Greek word? Gnosis. Where we get Gnosticism. Wonder why we call it that. Okay, no I don’t.
21: which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you.
- In the closing line of Paul’s letter he warns that there is an inherent danger in trusting or believing this false Gnostic teaching. It will lead you astray from THE faith, that firm persuasion that Jesus died in our place, and take you into a world of deceiving spirits whispering things you want to hear that will ultimately cost you in the end. Rather, Paul says, Grace be with you. It is only by the grace of God that we may lay hold on that eternal life to which we were called, it is only by the grace of God that we may fill our lives with good works of blessings to meet the needs of others, and it is only by the grace of God that we will guard the sacred trust given us, the command of God, and arrive safely home – because His grace has been with us the whole time, and we have walked in it.
And that is the final chapter!