By Gregg Bing
Continued from last month.
“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:11-12)
The title “man of God” is used of several faithful men in the Old Testament, men such as Moses, David, and Elijah. These men had a close, personal relationship with the Lord, a relationship that was evident in their character, walk, and service for the Lord. The title “man of God” is used only twice in the New Testament, both in letters to Timothy, but the title seems to be applicable, not just to Timothy, but to every believer, including both men and women (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
What characterizes a “man of God”? Last month, we looked at some qualities of Moses and David that made each of them God’s man, but here in 1 Timothy 6:11-12, Paul mentions three specific traits of a “man of God”: he flees certain things, he follows after certain things, and he fights the good fight of faith. We begin by considering Paul’s admonition to the man of God to:
The word “flee” means to flee away from, to shun or avoid danger and escape to safety. We don’t usually associate “fleeing” with the idea of being “a man,” but this is exactly what the man of God is commanded to do. Believers are certainly admonished to take a stand in many areas of their life. We are to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor. 16:13), to “stand fast in the liberty” we have in Christ (Gal. 5:1), to “stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11), to “stand fast … for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27), and to “stand fast in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1). However, there are certain things and certain situations we are to continually flee.
Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, was not called a “man of God,” but the Lord was with him, in almost all that he did. When Joseph was bought as a slave in Egypt and brought into the house of Potiphar, the Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, Potiphar’s wife “cast longing eyes on Joseph” and said to him, “lie with me.” Joseph refused her. He respected the sanctity of the marriage relationship, and he respected Potiphar and would not betray his master in this way, but, most important, Joseph recognized fornication as a “great wickedness and a sin against God” (Gen. 29:8-9). In spite of Joseph’s refusal, she continued to seduce him “day by day,” but “he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” Finally, she arranged to be alone with Joseph in the house one day. “She caught him by his garment, saying ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Gen. 39:12). Though Joseph was falsely accused and wrongly imprisoned, God still honored his faithfulness to flee from this temptation to sin.
Flee Sexual Immorality
Paul instructs believers to do the same as Joseph: to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). This sin has plagued believers, both men and women, throughout history and continues to do so in our increasingly permissive society.
David, who was called a “man of God” and described by God as “a man after My own heart,” committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his most faithful soldiers. He proceeded to murder her husband, Uriah, took Bathsheba for his own wife, and then covered up the whole sordid affair. How could such a thing happen to this man of God? He did not flee sexual immorality. It all began one night as David was relaxing on the rooftop of his house. He happened to look across into another house, where Bathsheba was bathing. Instead of turning away and fleeing from this temptation, David continued to gaze at this woman, who was physically “beautiful to behold.” As a result, he succumbed to the temptation, inquired about the woman, sent for her, and lay with her (2 Sam. 11:2-4).
The man of God flees sexual immorality. Sexual immorality is a sin against one’s own body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church, an assembly of immature believers who were susceptible to this sin:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
Flee from Idolatry
Paul also wrote to the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). The Gentile believers in Corinth had come from a background of idol worship. They were continually tempted to return to their religious roots by friends, maybe even from family members. The Jewish believers in Corinth also had a background of idolatry as well. The children of Israel were plagued by this abominable sin throughout their history. Even as they waited at the foot of Mount Sinai while Moses was up in the mount to receive the law from God, they made and worshipped a golden calf.
God’s first commandment in the law was: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exo. 20:3). Israel was commanded by God to flee from idolatry. The second commandment went on to say: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God …” (Exo. 20:4-5). When you mention the word “idolatry,” this is what most people think of: bowing down to some type of image or idol. However, there are other forms of idolatry as well.
The world we live in is an evil world, headed up by Satan himself, whom the Lord Jesus referred to as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31). Satan’s greatest desire is to be worshipped as God (cf. Isa. 14:12-14), which is clearly idolatry. To accomplish this goal, Satan uses the things of this world to corrupt men’s minds and turn them away from the worship of the one true God (2 Cor. 11:3). John warned of the danger of succumbing to the lure of the things of the world:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
We must not develop a love for the world or for the things in it. The world appeals to sinful men in their weakest areas: the lusts (desires) to satisfy our bodies of flesh, the lust for things we see with our eyes, and the selfish pride that is a fundamental part of our sin nature. Paul listed the types of sins we can commit in “our members (bodies) which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5). These sins draw us away from the Lord. Notice the last sin mentioned is covetousness.
The word covetousness means greediness, a desire to have more. A covetous person is never content; he always wants more, often what belongs to someone else. His desires may include money or the things it can buy, prestige in the eyes of men, power or authority to be in control, or things that bring pleasure, especially to the body. The Lord led Paul to declare that such covetousness is idolatry. Anything that we place above God becomes an idol to us. We worship (or serve) what we set our hearts on; what we value most highly; what we spend our time and efforts pursuing. In other words, what we covet or desire most strongly. If we are not careful, any of the following can become an idol to us: work, hobby, education, money, houses, cars, boats, even our families. While none of these things are wrong in themselves, if we place them before God in importance, we are guilty of idolatry.
We flee idolatry by realizing that we are crucified to the things of this world and they are crucified to us (Gal. 6:14). Therefore, Paul instructs us to “put to death” the things of the world, the sins we are tempted to commit in our bodies of flesh (Col. 3:5) and to “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,” for “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:10-11).
Next month we will look at some specific things in 1 Timothy 6 that Paul commands the man of God to flee.
(Continued Next Month)