1 Timothy 6 - James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Bible Comments
  • 1 Timothy 6:12 open_in_new


    ‘Fight the good fight of faith.’

    1 Timothy 6:12

    Here are bold brave words—words that might have been said by a general to his troops or a captain to his soldiers. And yet they were written by an aged Apostle to a very young man, although that young man was a Christian bishop. But where will you find a bolder, braver man than the Apostle Paul? Where will you find a truer soldier than his disciple St. Timothy?

    What are the lessons for us to learn? That we are as truly soldiers as any of those old Roman soldiers St. Paul wrote about, and that we are, or ought to be, engaged in as true a warfare as ever they were engaged in.

    I. When were we made soldiers?—At our baptism.

    II. When did we enroll ourselves?—At our confirmation.

    III. When do we renew our vow of allegiance to our King as the Roman soldiers did to the Emperor before their campaigns? Every time we go to the Blessed Sacrament.

    IV. To what does our vow pledge us?—To renounce our ghostly enemy. To fight manfully under the banner of our Captain against sin, the world, and the devil.

    V. What are our safeguards?—Striving, watching, praying.

    VI. What are our requisites?—Courage, constancy, endurance, perseverance.


    ‘So far from shrinking, the holy martyrs, like the Apostles of old, went away from the face of the rulers rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer for their Saviour, and were ready to die for Him when the time came. The aged Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, prayed before his execution thus: “O Lord God Almighty, Father of Thy well-beloved and Blessed Son Jesus Christ, by Whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of the whole creation, and of all the race of the righteous who live before Thee, I bless Thee that Thou hast counted me worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy witnesses in the cup of Thy Christ.” Many martyrs prayed for their enemies, and forgave the judges who had condemned them, and the executioners who were carrying the sentences into effect, as their Lord did for the soldiers who were nailing Him to the Cross. And they were not only experienced Christians as we should call them, but young and untried disciples, newly-made converts. Thus we read of a little girl of fifteen—a slave girl in truth, whose faith neither torture nor wild beasts could make to falter. Older Christians feared for her; but it was she who strengthened their faith. Before the whole circus, full of a scowling crowd, in view of the gaping mouth of the lion, she stood calm and smiling, and that calm smile of the poor slave girl proved the “gospel to be the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.” The old Pagan philosophers called it obstinacy, but the Church knew it to be Christian firmness, and the strength which Christ gives through the Holy Spirit.’



    I. What are we to fight against?—Our enemies are three in number—they are three strong and mighty kings—the Devil, the world, and self. And then, too, each one of us for himself, has to fight against his own easily besetting sin.

    II. How are we to fight?—As lightly and unencumbered as possible. ‘No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.’ ‘And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.’ Find out what your enemy, i.e. your own special temptation is, by earnest self-examination, and then fight against that. Christian! fight bravely on and imitate thy Lord and Captain. For He was bold in attack, going up into the wilderness to meet the enemy, and yet not rushing into temptation of His own mind and will, but following the leadings of the Blessed Spirit. He was skilful in defence, parrying every attack with some passage of Holy Scripture. He was steadfast in conflict, for He persevered to the end until the Devil left Him, and angels came and ministered unto Him. So, brethren, let us not be content with repelling the first attacks of evil, but let us persevere in our resistance until the evil suggestions are put to flight, and heavenly resolutions take their place.

    III. We are engaged in fighting, not ‘for our own hand,’ but for our Lord and for His faith. Hence we must fight in His Name and for His sake, for His truth, ‘the truth as it is in Jesus.’ We must ‘earnestly contend for the faith’—the one sacred deposit of truth—‘once for all delivered to the saints.’ For this is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. War, then, the good warfare; ‘holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning the faith have made shipwreck.’

    Rev. W. Frank Shaw.


    ‘This daily struggle betwixt the flesh and the spirit, this hourly conflict between the grace of God within ui>nd our own natural and evil inclinations, is well illustrated by the reply of an aged man to a friend who inquired, “What causes you so often to complain of pain and weariness in the evening?” “Alas!” said he, “I have every day so much to do. I have two falcons to tame, two hares to keep from running away, two hawks to manage, a serpent to confine, a lion to chain, and a sick man to tend and wait upon.” “Impossible!” said the friend, “no man can have all these things to do at once.” “Alas!” he replied, “it is only too true, and is exactly as I have said. The two falcons are my two eyes, which I must diligently guard lest something should please them which may be hurtful to my salvation; the two hares are my feet, which I must hold back lest they should run after evil and walk in the ways of sin; the two hawks are my two hands, which I must train and keep to work in order that I may be able to provide for myself and for my brethren that are in need; the serpent is my tongue, which I must always keep in with a bridle lest it should speak anything unseemly; the lion is my heart, with which I have to maintain a continual fight in order that vanity and pride may not fill it, but that the grace of God may dwell and work therein; the sick man is my whole body, which is ever needing my watchfulness.” ’



    It is atrophy rather than perversity of will that is responsible for many of the wrecks with which the shores of life are strewn.

    I. It is a defective sense of the dignity of their own personality that makes so many men fail to come to the measure of their full stature—either in their individual lives or in their social responsibilities. On the whole it is not the shattered careers that are the saddest things to contemplate; it is the vast mass of respectable and mediocre lives that have never risen, or had any consciousness that they were meant to rise, to the height of their great argument; of people who really imagine that their day’s work is done day after day when they have finished adding up the columns in a ledger and have glanced through the evening paper on the journey home.

    II. The number of these imperfect, incomplete lives is the saddest thing. The great heart of the people which beats so languidly, and yet to which alone appeal can be made; the stolid unimaginativeness of hearts and ears to which the trumpet voices of prophet and reformer are merely so much sounding brass; the many educated minds to which the thought of human brotherhood, of citizenship in its larger sense, means nothing—these are the phenomena which maddened a Ruskin and soured a Carlyle. It is they which constitute the dead mass of indifference on which the waves of thought and the winds of reform seem to beat in vain.

    III. Will nothing galvanise them into life?—Will nothing make us recognise that the fight is our fight, that we matter, that our opinion counts, that our bit of activity and productiveness is wanted to make the tale complete? ‘Produce, produce’—it is the message that Carlyle preached as a gospel—‘were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fragment of a product, produce it in God’s Name.’Tis the utmost thou hast in thee; out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called to-day, for the night cometh wherein no man can work.’

    IV. Christianity is a gospel of work, alive and active. Its distinctive feature, if I may quote once more, ‘is not the renunciation of self, in the sense in which some Asiatic religions have inculcated renunciation, but the combination of an intense desire for self-expression with the desire for disinterested social service.’

    Rev. Lionel Ford.


    ‘It is the life and progress of a pilgrim to which we are called—a life of movement and of danger, with its Sloughs of Despond to wade, its perils by the way, its steeps to climb. But it is a life, too, which has the Celestial City as its goal at the end, and as we pass along the road we are conscious of a heavenly guide. Evangelist is not far off. The city is not attained as yet, ah, no! but though “we count not ourselves to have apprehended,” yet, walking in the Spirit, we may securely move forward, stretching out the hand of friendship to those that lag, while for ourselves, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, we press toward the mark. Let Bunyan’s own words be our marching cry:—

    “He who would valiant be

    ’Gainst all disaster,

    Let him in constancy

    Follow the Master.

    There’s no discouragement

    Shall make him once relent

    His first avowed intent

    To be a pilgrim.

    Who so beset him round

    With dismal stories,

    Do but themselves confound,

    His strength the more is.

    No foes shall stay his might,

    Tho’ he with giants fight;

    He will make good his right

    To be a pilgrim.

    Since, Lord, Thou dost defend

    Us with Thy Spirit,

    We know we at the end

    Shall life inherit.

    Then fancies flee away!

    I’ll fear not what men say,

    I’ll labour night and day

    To be a pilgrim.” ’

  • 1 Timothy 6:16 open_in_new


    ‘Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto.’

    1 Timothy 6:16

    The frequency with which ‘light’ is used in the Scriptures in connection with God cannot fail to have impressed every careful student. It is His creation (Genesis 1:3), His gift (Psalms 43:3), His garment (Psalms 104:2), His dwelling-place (1 Timothy 6:16), His symbol in most, if not all, His manifestations of Himself (to Moses, Exodus 3:2; to Israel, Exodus 13:21; on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:3; to St. Paul, Acts 9:3; to St. John, Revelation 1:16, etc.), and His very essence (1 John 1:5).

    I. That there is a connection between life and light cannot be denied—a connection indeed so close that life without light is both rare and of a degraded type. God is light; and in Him we live, and move, and have our being.

    II. God the source of all energy.—All other energies, physical and mental and even spiritual, are but transformations of light; so when we say, ‘God is light,’ we affirm Him to be the source of all the energy of the universe.

    III. God’s covenant.—It is not without significance that when God first expressly covenanted with fallen man, in the person of Noah, the new head of the race, He chose the rainbow as the sign of the covenant—the rainbow which is not light in its compound unity, but in its Triune diversity, split up by the raindrops through which it glances. Thus it is only as the light of God’s ineffable deity passes through the falling tears of penitence that His Trinity is apprehended. Thus in saying that God is Light, if we do not prove, we must strikingly illustrate both the Trinity of His nature and the redemptive relation of that Trinity to ourselves.


    ‘There is a beautiful thought in one of the old mythologies, that the rainbow is the bridge over which the souls of the departed find their way into the unseen world; hardly less beautiful is this speculation of modern science, which affirms that the light of which the rainbow is the visible expression is in reality the bond between ourselves and the universe of spirits.

  • 1 Timothy 6:17 open_in_new


    ‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.’

    1 Timothy 6:17

    In other words, the Apostle is emphasising the teaching of our Lord, ‘Ye cannot serve God and mammon.’

    I. The choice.—Riches, which are indeed uncertain; or ‘the living God,’ Who not only abideth for ever but giveth us richly all things to enjoy? You have to make the choice—riches, the world, or God? Can there be a doubt? Yet there are thousands who, in their lust after wealth, forget Him by Whom alone they live, and move, and have their being.

    II. The pursuit of wealth.—The love of money is eating like a canker into the life of the nation. The office-boy who steals half a crown from his employer that he may back a horse is affected by the mad craze to get rich, just as much as the man who gambles on the Stock Exchange in securities (!) which he thinks will yield a high rate of interest. The love of money, no matter in what way it is fostered, means death—spiritual death.

    III. The life of faith.—The poor person who trusts in ‘the living God’ is in an infinitely better position than the millionaire who trusts in his riches. The one has treasure in heaven which can never disappoint; the other may lose his all by a single turn in the money market. Which life will you choose? The life of faith, with its positive assurance for the life which now is as well as for that which is to come; or the life which has its affections and its interests centred in the things which are uncertain and pass away even ere we have time to enjoy them?


    ‘The votary of earthly wealth does, in fact, with all the energies of his nature, strain after that very security of unchangeable bliss which we preach; but, mistaking the illusory phantom, weds his whole soul to the fictitious heaven, which the powers of evil have clothed in colours stolen from the skies. The soul made for heaven is lost among heaven’s shadows upon earth; it feigns the heaven it cannot find, and casts around the miserable companions of its exile, the attributes that belong to the God it was born to adore.’

  • 1 Timothy 6:20 open_in_new


    ‘O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust.’

    1 Timothy 6:20

    St. Paul’s time had nearly run its course, but he could depart in peace if he could be quite sure that according to the Lord’s will the precious ‘deposit’ could be handed on; it was meant for the future as well as for the present; it had in it the gift of power and life for all generations; it was meant for Spain, which he had hoped to reach; it was the secret of happiness for ‘barbarous Britain’; but it could not reach them unless by faithful hands, as careful as his own; it was received and guarded in all its entirety and handed on undimmed and undiminished and unaltered, to be the living spring and force of the generations which were yet to come.

    I want to look at four or five truths in this sacred treasure, denied, and still worse, misrepresented, to-day, which I am certain St. Paul would tell us to hold fast to with all our force of faith and hope and love.

    I. And the first is—the gospel of the love of God.—Owing to local causes in our branch of the Church, men are apt to-day, when they hear of Catholic truth, to think of some point of ceremonial or ritual; but we do well to remind ourselves that, important as all those things are in their way, St. Paul would have meant by the Catholic Faith something which would go back far beyond any ceremonial, to what was or was not taking place in the heart of God.

    II. And that brings me to the second truth: How are we in effect to be sure of this?—It is impossible to take one truth and leave out another of the Catholic Faith; it is the one fatal thing to do. You can defend that faith as a whole; I defy you to defend it in fragments; and the second great truth of the Catholic Faith which fits into the first, and makes it possible to believe the first, is that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ or, as St. Paul in his four undisputed Epistles says: ‘God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,’ and that this Son, ‘though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor,’ that ‘He was declared to be the Son of God with power,’ and that ‘through Him were all things.’ Now you will understand why I lay stress on these passages and quote them again to you, familiar as they are: it is because we have to uphold that faith to-day in opposition to a counterfeit of it, proclaimed by earnest and good men, but which is indeed ‘a different gospel.’ ‘Jesus is God; so are we’—is the modern counterfeit. I have reason to know that its similarity to the old Gospel is deceiving not a few. Is it a true description of the Gospel of St. Paul or St. John to say ‘Jesus is God; so are we’? Is it not our faith that Jesus Christ was in an absolutely unique way the revelation of the Father, that it would be nothing but the most terrible blasphemy for one of us to say, ‘He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father’?

    III. And that brings me, in the third place, to the nature of evil.—Is the devil only a vacuum? as asserted by some of the prophets of the so-called New Theology to-day. You will make the most awful mistake of your lives if you are persuaded into thinking that he is. The Catholic Church is committed to very few details of eschatology, and has never laid down that any one person is irretrievably lost; but what the Church is committed to, while it holds the Bible in its hands, is that evil is not an undeveloped form of good, but the contrary of good; that when God looked down upon His fair Creation, and saw the tares among the wheat, He said, ‘An enemy hath done this’; and that instead of some rose-water gospel by which good is going to blossom out of evil, in the trenchant words of Browning:—

    There’s a battle to fight

    E’er the guerdon be gained,

    The reward of it all!

    IV. But that brings us right into the heart of the fourth great truth of the Catholic faith—the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins. It is not enough to look upon the Atonement as an At-one-ment with God, worked by the melting of the human heart by the self-sacrifice of Calvary; and yet that is, so far as it is possible to put it into words, the vague Gospel of the Atonement as put before us in some quarters to-day. God forbid that we should deny the extreme difficulty of every theory of the Atonement which has been put forward, but we are not saved by any theory of the Atonement, but by the fact of it, and the fact of it must be preached by us in a way to satisfy the language of the New Testament. ‘The Son of Man is come to give His life a ransom for many.’ ‘Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.’ ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.’

    V. The last great truth on which I shall speak is ‘The Gospel of the Empty Tomb.’—We are face to face every day with dying people; they look up into our faces with their dying eyes and ask: ‘Is death the end?’ ‘May I believe that I am going anywhere?’ ‘Are you sure that there is a heaven?’ And I know not what to answer unless Jesus really died and rose again. It is not enough to believe in some vague apparition, if the sacred body lay dead in the tomb, and con his grave the Syrian stars look down.’ The Apostles believed that the tomb was empty, that He really rose from the dead, that His Easter cry was, ‘I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen. And have the keys of hell and of death.’ And it is this faith, oh Timothy of to-day, that I would have you hold fast for the comfort of the world.

    Bishop A. F. Winnington-Ingram.



    The text comes to us in one of the Epistles written by St. Paul to his tried friend and companion Timothy, and what do we know about that apostolic man?

    I. His infancy.—He was the son, like the great St. Augustine, of a religious mother. It is a very familiar and a very charming picture, that of Timothy at his mother’s knee learning his first lessons in the Book of Life. But we ought not to think only of the grace and the tenderness of this little vignette of an old-world family party. See rather what it has to teach us.

    (a) It is the right and the duty of parents to instil into their children that fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom.

    (b) The ancient Hebrew Scriptures are able to make men wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

    II. His ordination.—Timothy became the friend and the companion of St. Paul, and finally he was selected to be one of the great officers of the Church, or, as we say, he was ordained. It is important to recall the text which tells us about that fact to your memory. ‘Neglect,’ the Apostle says, ‘neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery’; and in another notable passage which we may couple with this—whether it refers to the same incident or to that later time when he was specially set in charge of the Church of Ephesus—St. Paul says, ‘Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.’ Well, there you have first of all the prophet, the inspired layman, the representative of the Church whose voice was the voice of God, and through whom the Holy Ghost spoke, saying, ‘Separate unto Me this man or that for the work of My ministry.’ Prophecy, in the narrower sense of the word at any rate, has ceased, but in the place of the prophets stand all good Christian people. It has always been their part, and should be more emphatically and confessedly their part to bear their testimony. And then we have the solemn imposition of hands by those who were already priests and by the Apostle himself, and they also were witnesses and judges, expert judges, we might say, because they had been themselves leaders, and therefore knew the qualities which a good leader ought to possess, and, by the laying on of their hands, they ratified and confirmed the voice of the laity, using the authority committed to them for that purpose. That has been the method followed by the Church from that day to this. But those priests and that Apostle who ordained St. Timothy were something more than witnesses; they bestowed also a gift, which, like all God’s gifts, is not a blessing only, but a high and sacred responsibility. He who receives it must not let it sleep. He must stir it up, use it to the utmost, extract from it every drop of the rich possibilities with which it is stored.

    III. His work.—What is it that divides the Church and therefore weakens it when it ought to be marching along as one body, conquering and to conquer, against all the evils that afflict the world? There are vice, drink, and lust and hatred and covetousness, those four sworn enemies of the human race which stand between man and his God, between man and his chance of earthly happiness. That ought to unite us all in a great holy war. The reason why Timothy was sent to Ephesus was that the Church there was torn by idle and profane questions. Timothy was despatched to that scene of contention not to plunge joyously into the fray, but to preach that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man. In that simple Gospel St. Paul knew that there was grace and mercy and peace.

    —Rev. Canon Bigg.



    We, who by our presence here proclaim our adherence to those Christian truths which we believe to be the expression of the teaching of our Church, are possessors of a glorious inheritance—an inheritance which may well call upon us to realise our responsibility, lest we should fail in keeping ‘that which has been committed to our trust.’

    I. Great fundamental doctrines.—It may be doubted whether even those who call themselves Christians are always mindful of the great fundamental doctrines. A careful examination will show that they embraced the following important truths:—

    (a) The supremacy and sufficiency of the Word of God as the guide in matters of faith.

    (b) The total and absolute depravity of human nature.

    (c) The Incarnation and the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ as the sole means of our redemption.

    (d) Justification by faith only. Good works are the result and not the means of salvation.

    (e) Conversion, or the personal and definite appropriation of the work of Christ, involving the turning away from sin, and the clear and conscious acceptance of Christ’s service.

    (f) Sanctification, or the growth in holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    II. It cannot be said that these are new truths.—They have been written plainly in the formularies of our Church, but they have been allowed to become forgotten, or buried almost out of sight. But now they are proclaimed with a new earnestness and enthusiasm. The absolute necessity of a personal as opposed to a formal and mechanical religion is preached with an irresistible force and power.

    III. We must maintain these principles.—From these we dare not swerve or shrink. To do so would be fatal. Here is ‘that which is committed to our trust.’ Let us strive to keep it. Steadfast in the faith, definite in doctrine, active in service, who is there amongst us who believes that we can fail? God grant that in these perilous times we may have grace given us to hold fast and to persevere, so that we may in these days kindle again the fervour and ardour of olden times, and by the vitality of the principles which are so precious to us, as well as by the self-sacrifice and self-devotion of our service, show that we are determined to keep that which is committed to our trust!

    —Rev. Prebendary Kitto.