A Commentary by John Stott

1 Timothy. 6:11-16.  3). A charge to a man of God.

Paul couches his next appeal, which is to Timothy himself, in very poignant terms. He does not yet address him by name, as he will in verse 20 (‘O Timothy’, AV, RSV). Instead, he uses the honorific title ‘man of God’. In the Old Testament it was a term reserved for the leaders of Israel. It was applied to Moses (Dt.33:1; Jos.14:6; 1 Ch.23:14; and the title of Ps.90), Samuel (1 Sa.9:6), David (Ne.12:24, 36), the prophet Shemaiah (1 Ki.12:22), Elijah (1 Ki.17:18; 2 Ki.1:9), Elisha (2 Ki.4:7), Igdaliah the Rechabite (Je.35:4) and three anonymous prophets (1 Sam.2:27; 1 Ki.13:1ff.; 2 Ch.25:7ff.). In the only other use of the expression in the New Testament ‘the man of God’ appears to be any mature Christian who becomes ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:17).

As a man of God Timothy is deliberately contrasted with the false Teachers who, being conceited, quarrelsome and covetous (4-10), are more men of the world than of God. *But you, man of God*, Paul writes (or sharpening the antithesis, ‘But as for you’, RSV), you are to be radically different from them. Timothy must take his stand firmly against their ungodliness. And Paul goes on to develop a threefold appeal to him – ethical, doctrinal and experimental.

a). The ethical appeal (6:11)

As a man of God, Timothy must both *flee from all this (tauta*, ‘these things’) *and pursue* other things. He is to flee the love of money, and all the many evils associated with it (9-10), together with ‘the wayward passions of youth’ (2 Tim.2:22, REB), and everything else which is incompatible with the wholesome will of God. Instead, he is to pursue six qualities, which seem to be listed in pairs, and which are particularly appropriate as an alternative to covetousness. First, he must *pursue righteousness* (perhaps here meaning justice and fair dealing with people) and *godliness* (for God not mammon is the right object of human worship). Next, the man of God must pursue *faith* and *love*, a familiar couplet in Paul’s letters. Perhaps in this context he means on the one hand faithfulness or ‘integrity’ (REB) and on the other the love of sacrifice and service which has no room for greed. Then Timothy’s third goal is to be *endurance (hypomone)*, which is patience in difficult circumstances, *and gentleness*, which is patience with difficult people.

What is especially noteworthy is that this ethical appeal has both a negative and a positive aspect, which are complementary. Negatively, we are to ‘flee’ from evil, to take ‘constant evasive action’, to run from it as far as we can and as fast as we can. Positively, we are to go in hot pursuit of goodness. This combination occurs frequently in the New Testament, although in different terms. We are to deny ourselves and follow Christ (Mk.8:34), to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and ‘yes’ to godliness and self-control (Tit.2:12), to take off the old clothing which belonged to our previous life and put on the new which belongs to our Christian life, and here to run away from evil and run after goodness.

Now we human beings are great runners. It is natural for us to run away from anything which threatens us. To run from a real danger is common sense, but to run from issues we dare not face or from responsibilities we dare not shoulder is escapism. Instead, we should concentrate on running away from evil. We also run after many things which attract us – pleasure, promotion, fame, wealth and power. Instead, we should concentrate on the pursuit of holiness.

There is no particular secret to learn, no formula to recite, no technique to master. The apostle gives us no teaching on ‘holiness and how to attain it’. We are simply to run from evil as we run from danger, and to run after goodness as we run after success. That is, we have to give our mind, time and energy to both flight and pursuit. Once we see evil as the evil it is, we will want to flee from it, and once we see goodness as the good it is, we will want to pursue it.

Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 6:12a.  b) The doctrinal appeal.


The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.