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)
A “man of God” is characterized by three specific traits: he flees certain things, he follows after certain things, and he fights the good fight of faith. Last month, we looked at Paul’s admonitions to believers to “flee sexual immorality” and to “flee idolatry,” both found in Paul’s letters to the Corinthian believers. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul told Timothy to “flee these things.” The context of this chapter reveals there are two such “things” the man of God is to flee.
Flee False Teaching
Paul’s first letter to Timothy teaches the proper conduct for believers in “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Having communicated these truths to Timothy, Paul instructed Timothy to “teach and exhort these things” (1 Tim. 6:2). He continued with a warning about those who taught otherwise (differently) and did not “consent (agree) to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3).
The word “wholesome” is translated from the same Greek word which gives us our English word “hygiene” which means sound or healthy. Paul often referred to the truth entrusted to him by God as “sound” doctrine. For instance, in 1 Timothy 1:10-11, Paul spoke of “sound doctrine” as “the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (cf. 2 Tim. 1:13, 4:3, Titus 1:9, 2:1). Many today do not “consent to” (agree with) the truths given to Paul for this present dispensation of God’s grace. They insist that Paul’s words are somehow inferior to the words Jesus spoke while He was here on earth. Paul is careful to point out that the “wholesome words” he spoke were, in fact, the “words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This glorious gospel message is sound doctrine for our spiritual lives today; it “accords with godliness” instilling within us a proper attitude of reverence for God.
Those who teach otherwise and do not consent to God’s truth for this present age have a very different attitude.
“He is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” (1 Tim. 6:4-5)
These false teachers are proud, caring only about themselves. They have no reverence for God and no concern for others. Having rejected the truth of God’s Word, they know nothing and have no real desire even to come to a knowledge of the truth. Instead, they are obsessed with finding objections to the things of God and arguing over words (trivial things), activities which are useless and only result in envy, strife, criticism, and evil suspicions. The men who follow this path have had their minds corrupted (perverted, twisted) by Satan (2 Cor. 11:3). They have turned their ears away from the truth and been turned aside to fables (2 Tim. 4:4). In their own minds, they reason that godliness (pious behavior) is a means of personal gain. They have “forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15). Paul says very pointedly: “From such withdraw yourself” or, in other words, “flee!”
Flee the Love of Money
Money is the primary motivation for most false teachers, but it must not be so for “the man of God.” Nothing is more detrimental to a person’s ministry for the Lord or more destructive to his or her credibility than the “love of money.”
Money is clearly a temporary possession. “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. 6:7). The accumulation of money or the things it can buy is not real gain. However, “godliness with contentment (the very opposite of covetousness) is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Having the things we need to sustain our physical life (food, clothing, etc.), we should learn to be content, to recognize, as Paul did that “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
There is nothing wrong with having money; that is not the problem. The problem lies in the desires of men’s hearts.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9)
The word “desire” implies careful thought, purpose, and determination, the will to become rich or wealthy in this world’s goods. This type of desire causes men to “fall,” which carries the idea of falling into or under the power or control of someone or something else. When our minds and hearts are focused on money and the things of this world, we fall under Satan’s power. We “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts;” lusts which Satan can use to entice us and ensnare us (cf. James 1:14-15); lusts which are foolish and harmful, to ourselves as well as to others; lusts which drown us in the depths of destruction and perdition (loss, ruin), not necessarily physical or financial ruin, but certainly spiritual ruin.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:10)
The love of money, not the possession of it, is the root (cause or origin), of all kinds of evil. This covetous desire for monetary gain leads us to become involved in every imaginable type of evil activity: lying, stealing, even murder. A glance at the local newspaper of almost any city, regardless of it size, testifies to the truth of this statement. However, the greatest danger is that in their greedy desire to have more and more, men have strayed away from the faith (the truth of God’s Word) and been led into error. As a result, they have “pierced themselves through with many sorrows,” torturing their souls with continual and consuming grief. Paul commands the man of God to “flee these things.”
Jesus taught this same basic truth to His disciples in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”
A “man of God” is to be God’s man, God’s servant, thus he is to be constantly fleeing anything that would hinder his relationship with God or his service for God. It is an undeniable fact: you cannot serve God and money! It is simply not possible.
For the first forty years of his life, Moses was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter in Egypt. He had access to all the treasures and riches of that great nation (consider the gold and treasures that have been discovered in the excavated pyramids of Egypt). Yet, Moses esteemed (valued) the reproach and shame of Christ to be greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt. He chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” What helped Moses with this difficult choice? He turned his eyes and his desires away from everything else and looked to one thing—”he looked to the reward” of serving the Lord (Heb. 11:24-26). The person whose values and priorities are set on spiritual things, as Moses’ was, can truly be called a “man of God.”
Next month we will look at the things Paul commands the man of God to follow after.
(Continued Next Month)