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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

1 Timothy 6

 

 

Verse 1

1 Timothy 6:1. The subject of Church discipline in the strict sense of the word had been finished. But social questions of no small difficulty remained to be dealt with, and these St. Paul, with the wide experience which made him perceive the falsehood of extremes, and which we trace in 1 Corinthians 7:20-23, Ephesians 6:5-9, Colossians 3:22 to Colossians 4:1, now proceeds to discuss.

As many servants as axe under the yoke. The English suggests the thought that the last words add a mark of distinction differencing some servants as slaves from others, either as being worse treated, or as having unbelieving masters. In the Greek, however, the order stands ‘as are under a yoke as slaves,’ the first word being the more generic of the two.

His doctrine. It is clear from this and Titus 2:10, that the influence of Christianity on the slave population of the Roman Empire was popularly regarded as a crucial test. Was a slave more honest, sober, truthful, generally a better servant, after his conversion? One can fancy the kind of language, half abuse and half blasphemy, which would be freely used when the answer to that question was in the negative.


Verse 2

1 Timothy 6:2. Because they are brethren. The risk contemplated was, lest the new sense of fraternity should pass into a revolutionary claim to equality. Slaves were not to despise their masters because they (the masters) were brothers in Christ. That was a ground for a new loyalty and a more thorough obedience.

Because they are faithful and beloved, partaken of the benefit. It is difficult to say what was in the minds of the translators of the Authorised Version. As it stands, it suggests the idea that ‘the benefit’ is some preeminent good, like the gift of eternal life. The rendering is, however, altogether wrong, and we must read, ‘because they who receive the benefit (i.e. as on a footing of reciprocity) are faithful and beloved.’ We note in this the delicate and generous tact with which St. Paul, following or coinciding with Seneca,(1) implies that in the increased activity of their service slaves may assume a new position as benefactors, and as it were confer a favour on their masters.


Verse 3

1 Timothy 6:3. If any man teach otherwise. The same expressive compound verb as in 1 Timothy 1:3.

Consent. Literally, ‘come over to, accede to,’ as a proselyte accedes to a new faith.

The wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no reason why the words should not be taken in their literal or most natural meaning as ‘the words spoken by the Lord Jesus.’ St. Paul, we know, quoted such words in Acts 20:35, and even in this Epistle we have an instance of his acquaintance with a written record of them (1 Timothy 5:18). Such words seem to him to present the ideal of that healthiness of thought from which the revolutionary impulses that disorganize society were morbid departures.


Verse 4

1 Timothy 6:4. He is proud. The same Greek word as in 1 Timothy 3:6, ‘He has been and is under the stupefying influence of a fever.’ The word is thus brought into the sharpest possible contrast with the ‘healthy words’ of the previous verse.

Doting. Here again the term is strictly medical: ‘raving’ mad after, morbidly dwelling on.

Strifes of words. The Greek word (λογομαχίας) is not classical, and was probably one of those coined by St. Paul. The precise nature of the logomachies in question must remain in doubt, but the context would lead us to think of debates in which high-sounding words, ‘knowledge,’ ‘freedom,’ ‘power,’ ‘right,’ were used, such as were in use at Corinth, and have been always the watchwords of revolutionary leaders in ecclesiastical or social life.

Railings. The Greek word is ‘blasphemies,’ but the English Version is right in confining it to words of reviling from man to man. So, in like manner, the ‘evil surmisings ‘are men’s suspicions of each other.

1 Timothy 6:5. Perverse disputings. There are two different readings of the Greek words, each giving a distinct meaning—(1) διαπαρατριβαὶ, continued quarrels; (2) παραδιατριβαί (as in the English Version), perverse disputings. Of these the first is best supported.

Man of corrupt mind. Literally ‘corrupted as to their mind,’ the word used being that which implies, in St. Paul’s psychology, the higher intellect or spiritual part of man, including will and conscience.

Destitute of the truth. The English ‘destitute,’ which has come to have a simply negative meaning, is hardly adequate for the Greek, ‘men who have lost the truth,’ bereaved of it, as of a treasure.

Thinking that gain is godliness. The English Version exactly inverts the right order of the words, ‘thinking that godliness’ (better perhaps ‘religion’ or ‘piety’) ‘is a means of mining money.’ The words carry us back to the disturbing anti-social teaching against which the apostle had protested in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. To such men the new religion seemed, as it were, a new business, an investment, a means of getting on in life, and so they made themselves and others discontented with their station and their work.


Verse 6

1 Timothy 6:6. Godliness with contentment. In contrast with the false view of religion as a source of wealth, St. Paul brings out its true character. In the highest sense, ‘religion’ with contentment is the best business, the best investment. The Greek word for ‘contentment’ is that by which ethical writers expressed the state of one who, being truly wise, was sufficient to himself, whatever might be the outward circumstances in which he found himself. It was a favourite word of the Stoic schools, and the cognate adjective had been already used by St. Paul in Philippians 4:11.


Verse 7

1 Timothy 6:7. It is certain that we can carry nothing out. The word ‘certain’ is not in the best MSS., and seems to have been inserted to make the sense of the passage clearer. Without it we must read, ‘because neither can we carry anything out.’ God has made us enter the world with nothing, to teach that we must leave it as we came.


Verse 8

1 Timothy 6:8. Raiment. The Greek word, which is not found elsewhere in the New Testament, has the general sense of covering, and may therefore include ‘shelter’ as well.

Let us be therewith content. The better Greek text gives an authoritative future rather than an imperative. ‘We shall be content therewith.


Verse 9

1 Timothy 6:9. They that will be rich. The Greek ‘will’ is more than the simple future: They that wish to be rich. It is not the mere possession of riches, but the cupidity before gaining them, and the trust in them (Mark 10:24) when gained, that constitute their danger.

Foolish. Better ‘senseless;’ desires that have no root in the nature of things or in our actual wants, the love of display, the vulgar vanity of seeming as rich as others, or richer.

Drown. Literally ‘sink,’ used of ships as well as men.

Destruction and perdition. The Greek words are of kindred derivation, but are brought together to express the utterness of the ruin; perhaps also in the second word, to give prominence to the thought that it stretches beyond the present life.


Verse 10

1 Timothy 6:10. The root of all evil. Better ‘a root.’ The Greek for ‘root’ has no article. The thought implied is not that the love of money is the one source of evil, but that out of it, as out of other vices of character, every form of evil would naturally spring. The position of ‘root,’ however, as in the parallel construction of 1 Corinthians 11:3, gives it almost the same force as the article would do.

Which. The antecedent to the relative is not ‘money’ itself, but ‘the love of money,’ the apostle not shrinking, here or elsewhere, from a seeming pleonasm.

Some... have erred. The use of the formula in these Epistles leads us to the belief that St. Paul was making, not a general indefinite statement, but one referring to persons whom he knew, and whom Timothy would know, though they remain unnamed. The Greek tense, aorist, not perfect, strengthens this conviction.


Verse 11

1 Timothy 6:11. O man of God. The choice of phrase may be referred to two links of associations. (1) There is that of its use in the Old Testament as applied to prophets, 1 Samuel 9:6; 1 Samuel 9:8, 1 Kings 13:1; 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 13:8, and elsewhere, Timothy’s work as an evangelist having in St. Paul’s mind a character analogous to that of the older prophets. (2) With a latent reference to our Lord’s emphatic teaching that no man can serve two masters, or divide his allegiance between God and Mammon (Luke 16:13), the teacher reminds his disciple that he for his part is called to own God and God only as his Master, and therefore to renounce the love of earthly riches which lured so many to their destruction.

Patience. Better here, as elsewhere, endurance.

Meekness. The Greek word is not the simple form commonly used in the New Testament, but a compound answering to our ‘meek-spiritedness.’ It is found in Philo.


Verse 12

1 Timothy 6:12. Fight the good fight of faith. The thought is parallel to, but not identical with, the ‘good warfare’ of 1 Timothy 1:18. Here the idea is that of the conflict of the athlete rather than the soldier, and this has, as its characteristic, that it is ‘the conflict of the faith’ in its definite and objective sense, that to which the profession of the Christian faith pledges us.

Lay hold on eternal life. There is a subtle distinction in the tenses of the two imperatives which can hardly be expressed in English. The conflict is to be a continuous life-long struggle, the ‘laying hold’ is to be one vigorous act.

Whereunto thou art also called. The metaphor of the conflict is dropped, and the words fit in with the spiritual realities of Timothy’s own experience.

Hast professed a good profession. Better, ‘didst confess the good confession,’ the article pointing no less than the tense to some definite and conspicuous act. What this was cannot be defined with certainty. It may have been a formal statement of his acceptance of Christian truth at his baptism, or his ordination, or on his appointment to his special work at Ephesus. The immediate reference, however, to our Lord’s good confession before Pilate suggests that something analogous to that was in St. Paul’s mind, and that in some unrecorded crisis of his life Timothy had been brought before the civil power, and had not shrunk from acknowledging his faith in the presence of friends and foes.


Verse 13

1 Timothy 6:13. I give thee charge. The apostle retains to the opening thought of the Epistle, that of the ‘charge or ‘injunction’ which he committed to his disciple, 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 1:18; but now that he is drawing to a close, the injunction assumes a more solemn character and is given as in the presence of God and Christ.

That quickeneth all things. The special attribute of God needed for the encouragement of the faint-hearted. Men may slay the body, but God can both give life to the soul and restore it to the corpse.

Before Pontius Pilate. The Greek may have either this meaning, or ‘under Pontius Pilate,’ as in the Creed.

Witnessed a good confession. The word for ‘witness’ seems purposely chosen for the higher form of witness that was consummated by death. The Greek, as before, has the article before confession, as referring to something well known, and so the passage becomes important as evidence that the narrative of the Passion was sufficiently familiar to be thus appealed to.


Verse 14

1 Timothy 6:14. Without spot, unrebukeable. We keep the rhetorical effect of the Greek better by translating both adjectives after the same pattern, ‘without spot, without rebuke,’ or ‘spotless, reproachless, or ‘unspotted, unreproached.’

Until the appearing. The words imply, as St. Paul’s language everywhere does, a vague feeling that the great Epiphany of judgment might take place within the limits of his own lifetime or that of the next generation. That, at all events, was the goal which all were to keep in view.


Verse 15

1 Timothy 6:15. Which in his times. The words qualify the expectation just expressed. He leaves the times and the seasons in the hands of the Great Ruler.

The blessed and only Potentate. The word for ‘blessed’ is the same as in 1 Timothy 1:11. That for ‘Potentate’ is used in Luke 1:52, Acts 8:27, of men in authority. In classical poetry it is applied to the stars as the rulers of the firmament (Æsch. Agam. 6). Here only in the New Testament is it applied to the Divine sovereignty. The ‘only’ need not be explained as referring to any Gnostic scheme of dualism. It was the word which in the mouth of every true Israelite connected itself more than any other with the Divine Name.

King of kings and Lord of lords. Here, there can scarcely be a doubt, the words are applied to the Eternal Father, who has placed the seasons in His own power (Acts 1:7). The corresponding but not quite identical terms are applied in Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16, to the Logos as the Son of God. Few facts could illustrate more clearly the strength of the belief of St. John that all the attributes of the one Divine Person are shared by the other.


Verse 16

1 Timothy 6:16. Who only hath immortality. Other beings, His creatures, are immortal by the appointment of the great Creator. He only has it as the very essence of His being. The words have been much quoted of late years, as supporting the doctrine of the annihilation of the lost. They are, however, obviously inconclusive on a point which does not seem to have been in the apostle’s thoughts at the time he wrote the words, and can only be alleged as proving, what no one ever denied, that the soul of man is not necessarily immortal.

Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto. The symbolism is perhaps the highest that man’s thoughts can fashion, and has abundant sanction in Psalms 104:2. But we must remember that after all it is but symbolism, and that from another point of view God Himself is the Light in which He is here said to dwell, 1 John 1:5.

Whom no man hath teen or can see. Better, ‘whom no man ever saw.’ A comparison of this verse with John 1:18 shows that the whole passage refers to the Father and not to the Son, and the two taken together serve to show the harmony between the two great apostles on this common point of their theology. The whole passage has in the Greek a rhythmical, almost metrical character, and may have been, as many commentators think, a quotation from some liturgical hymn.


Verse 17

1 Timothy 6:17. Charge them that are rich in this world. It is quite after St. Paul’s manner to return in this way to the subject from which he had been led away by the train of thought that issued in a doxology. Before, he had spoken of those who set their hearts on becoming rich. Now, he deals with those whom he finds rich by inheritance or otherwise.

High-minded. The state of one who forms great and ambitious schemes in which be himself is the centre.

Nor trust in uncertain riches. Better, ‘nor to fix their hope on the un-certainty of riches.’

In God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy. If we seek for riches, God gives richly; but that which He gives brings with it no cares and sorrows, like earthly wealth, but tends, whether it be outward or inward good, to direct and immediate enjoyment.


Verse 18

1 Timothy 6:18. Do good, be rich in good works. The second ‘good’ is higher than the first, as noble deeds are above merely beneficent ones.

Ready to distribute, willing to communicate. The two words are nearly synonymous. If there is any difference, it is that the former implies general benevolence, the latter a feeling more individual in its object. One distributes what it has to the poor, the other shares its possessions with a friend.


Verse 19

1 Timothy 6:19. Laying up in store. Better, ‘as a treasure.’ We need not be startled at the apparent contradiction between this reference to good works as a foundation, and the language in which St. Paul elsewhere asserts that the one foundation is Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11). Men do not commonly check their figurative speech by the rules of a rigid consistency. On the assumption of some acquaintance on St. Paul’s part with our Lord’s teaching, the language of Luke 6:48 would suggest the aspect of the figure now brought before us. There we find first the rock, then the foundation, then the house; or, interpreting the parable, first faith in Christ, then good works, then the general order of the life.


Verse 20

1 Timothy 6:20. O Timothy. The letter is coming to its close, and the feelings of the writer grow more intense.

That which is committed to thy trust. The Greek has one word with the sense of ‘deposit.’ Taken by itself, it is general in its meaning, and may refer either (1) to the faith committed to him, (2) to the Church entrusted to his charge, or (3) to the spiritual gifts bestowed on him. Looking to the antithesis with ‘profane babblings’ here, to the use of the cognate verb in 1 Timothy 1:18 and 2 Timothy 2:2, to its connexion with ‘the form of sound words’ in 2 Timothy 1:12-13, there can be little hesitation in accepting (1) as the most probable.

Vain babblings. A various reading, differing only in two vowels, gives ‘new phrases,’ but the text is preferable.

Oppositions of science falsely so called. There is not much difficulty as to the ‘science’ thus spoken of. ‘Knowledge,’ the familiar rendering in other passages, as 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:8; 1 Corinthians 13:2, would be far better here also. The dreamy fantastic gnosis of the Apostolic Age was as remote as possible in its character and tendencies from the ‘science’ of modern culture. We know from the passages referred to that there were some in St. Paul’s time at Corinth’ who boasted of a gnosis which he did not recognise as worthy of the name. In the second century, what was then seen in germ had developed into a swarm of fantastic heresies, each claiming ‘gnosis’ as their special glory. The Pastoral Epistles represent an intermediate stage. What precise meaning is to be attached to the ‘oppositions of science,’ it is not so easy to say. Those who deny St. Paul’s authorship refer it to the ‘antitheses’ or ‘contrasts’ which Marcion drew out between the theology of the Old and New Covenants. It is possible that such contrasts may have been familiar at a much earlier date, and 1 Corinthians 8:1 seems to indicate that the claim to gnosis was allied with an anti-Jewish tendency, with the claim of a right to eat things sacrificed to idols or to indulge in sensual lusts. Teaching of this type, in which such words as ‘knowledge,’ ‘power,’ ‘freedom,’ were set up against faith, love, obedience, might well be said, without assuming a full-blown Marcionite heresy, to be fruitful in the ‘antitheses’ of a falsely-called knowledge.


Verse 21

1 Timothy 6:21. Which some professing. Once again we have the indefinite mention of those who were known though unnamed. There were some who, boasting of their knowledge, had as concerning the faith missed their mark.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 6:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/1-timothy-6.html. 1879-90.

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