By Gregg Bing
“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)
(Continued from last month)
Paul identified three things that characterize a “man of God:” the things he flees, the things he follows after, and the fight he wages. Last month we looked at two specific things in 1 Timothy 6 Paul told Timothy to flee: false teaching and the love of money. We move on to what the man of God is to:
The man of God is to “pursue” or “follow after” (KJV) certain things. The Greek word used in this verse is “dioko” which literally means “to pursue, to run or follow after in order to catch.” A similar word is used in the Old Testament to describe Pharaoah’s army as they “pursued” the children of Israel after they left Egypt (Exo. 14:4). Figuratively, dioko means “to seek after eagerly, to endeavor to acquire.” Paul wrote the Romans, “Let us pursue the things which make for peace” (Rom. 14:9). In the New Testament, the most common translation of the Greek dioko is the word “persecute” (28 of its 44 occurrences). Saul of Tarsus, before he came to know Christ as Savior, “persecuted the church of God beyond measure” (Gal. 1:13). While Saul’s persecution of the church was certainly a sinful pursuit, done “ignorantly in unbelief,” his zeal, eagerness, and intensity in pursuing his objective to destroy the church, helps us understand what it means to “pursue” or “follow after.”
The Declaration of Independence begins with these words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Most people focus on the last of these rights: “the pursuit of happiness.” They devote their time and energy to the pursuit of such things as pleasure, power, prestige in the eyes of men, even “the almighty dollar,” thinking these things will bring them happiness. Yet, so few in the world are really happy.
A man of God is to zealously pursue six things: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
The word righteousness refers to what is right or just in God’s eyes. There are two different types of righteousness to consider: imputed righteousness and practical righteousness. The man of God is not to pursue imputed righteousness. This righteousness becomes ours the very moment we trust Christ as Savior. Christ took our sin upon Himself on the cross of Calvary, that we might have His righteousness imputed to us (put on our account) (2 Cor. 5:21). Upon believing, God justifies us, or declares us righteous in Christ, enabling us to have peace with God (Rom. 5:1).
In 1 Timothy 6:11, Paul is referring to practical righteousness or righteous livingdoing what is right in God’s sight. Noah is described as a “just” or “righteous” man; a man who walked with God (Gen. 6:9) during a time when this was not an easy thing to do. During the days of Noah, the earth was “corrupt before God” and “filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11). The Lord saw that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Yet the Lord took note of Noah, “I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation” (Gen. 7:1), therefore He saved Noah and his family through the flood. While the world around him pursued evil, Noah pursued righteousness. He sought to do what was right in God’s eyes, what was pleasing to Him.
Paul is another example of a man who focused on pleasing God and not men. He wrote the Galatians: “Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). He reminded the Thessalonians that while in their midst, he lived “not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:4). He told the Corinthians: “We make it our aim … to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
What is your aim in life? What do you labor and strive earnestly to attain in life? The man of God pursues righteousness; not what is pleasing or right in his own eyes or in men’s eyes, but what is pleasing to God.
Many like to define “godliness” as “God-likeness,” being or behaving “like God.” A godly man will certainly be “like God,” but there is much more to godliness. Being “like God” is the result of godliness, not godliness itself. In fact, it is possible to act like God and not be godly at all. Paul warned Timothy of those who have “a form of godliness” but deny its power; from such people we are to “turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5).
While righteousness speaks of our outward behaviordoing what pleases Godgodliness has more to do with our inner man, or our heart. It is concerned with two things: our attitude toward God’s person and our awareness of God’s presence. Godliness is characterized by the following traits:
Godliness begins with fear, a respect or reverence for who God is; to stand in awe of His eternal being, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His holiness, His righteousness, His love, His sovereignty. The psalmist said: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Psa. 33:8).
The wicked have quite a different attitude: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Psa. 36:1). As believers, we are instructed: “work out your own salvation (practically) with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in your both to will and do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
Godliness involves having a desire to know God; not just to know about Him, but to know Him personally and intimately; to develop a close relationship with Him. Jeremiah put in perspective the importance of knowing God.
“Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23-24)
This desire to know God is something that is to continue throughout our lives. Paul, as he neared the end of his life, expressed what was still his heartfelt desire: “that I may know Him” (Phil. 3:10). What a tremendous privilege to know the Lord of glory, to have a personal relationship with the One who is our God, our Creator, our Savior, and our Head.
Godliness is also seen in a growing love for God. Those who fear the Lord and truly desire to know Him, will grow to love Him more and more each day. This is what God desires for His children. The Lord instructed His earthly people, Israel:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)
Jesus later told the Pharisees this was the greatest commandment! As we experience the love of the Lord and grow to love Him more, we will then show forth His love to others (1 John 4:11).
Godliness is, in essence, complete devotion to God, and to God alone! Godliness is seen in a life that is totally committed to knowing, loving, and serving the Lord. What about you? Are you devoted to God? Do you truly fear God? Do you stand in awe of who He is and of what He has done for you? Do you desire and actively seek to know Him more and more each passing day? Do you spend time feeding on His Word? Do you truly love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength? The pursuit of godliness is, in reality, the pursuit of God. This is what characterizes the man of God.
The pursuit of godliness, a heart and life devoted to God, enables us to purse righteousness, a life that pleases God. A good example from the Scriptures is the life of Enoch. We read in Genesis 5:24 that Enoch “walked with God.” He had a close personal relationship with the Lord. As a result, we find this testimony concerning Enoch: “he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). The pursuit of godliness and righteousness is the key to an effective ministry for the Lord and a powerful testimony for Christ.
How do we practically pursue godliness and righteousness? The way to develop a close, personal relationship and walk with the Lord is by spending time in His Word. It is only in the Holy Scriptures that we find the teaching (doctrine) that “accords with godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). It is only in the Bible that we receive sound “instruction in righteousness (righteous living)” (2 Tim. 3:16). If we are to be men and women of God, we must be men and women of the Word.
Next month we will continue looking at what the man of God “follows after.”
(Continued Next Month)