One of my favorite songs is “My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less.” I love this song because it provokes and challenges the hearts, souls, and minds of the saints gathered to affirm that their foundation and hope is the Lord Jesus Christ. What a lovely song and a grand message! However, are we accurately affirming that message in our minds and hearts? There is a constant challenge in our perseverance of faith as temptation swarms us from all around. It is time to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5), readjust our focus (Heb. 12:1-2), and take hold of what matters most (Phil. 2:12). In 1Timothy 6:17-21, Paul will address two temptations that often take the place of the gospel: riches and knowledge.
Warning for Those Tempted by Riches (6:17-19)
Paul speaks to the rich, encouraging them to use their riches for the kingdom. He is not challenging the rich themselves, but rather their perspective. How often do people become rich and consider it their due payment? It happens every day and everywhere. The apostle Paul challenges their perspective by indicating that riches come from God and implying that wealth is for the church and not for us. There seems to be an attitude that circulates in the church that we must be wary of our wealthier members, but Psalm 49:16 clearly states that we should not become wary of these members, but rejoice. There is, however, a level of awareness that needs to exist in our minds as we potentially accumulate riches because of the temptation that so heavily surrounds money (1 Tim. 6:9; Eccl. 5:10; Acts 5:1-11; Jas. 5:1-10). The temptation is to be greedy (Luke 12:15) and to envision money as our savior (Zeph. 1:18; Pro. 11:4; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The reality is that our wealth is a blessing which the Lord supplies us with as a means of ministering to others (Pro. 3:9, 14:31; 1 Cor. 16:2; Phil. 4:17-18). The main message that Paul desires for the rich to know is that they need to “take hold of that which is truly life.” Henry David Thoreau is quoted, saying, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” In other words, the real treasure is to pursue a life of meaning. What means more than the life that God intends for His people to enjoy? Nothing can compare (Heb. 11:26)! Now, how does Paul say we can “take hold of that which is truly life”? We can attain the prize by doing good (Gal. 6:10), being rich in good works (1 John 3:17-18), being generous (2 Cor. 8:1-7), and by being ready to share (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32- 37).
Warning for Those Tempted by Knowledge (6:20-21a)
Paul, in his personal address to Timothy, commands him to “guard the deposit entrusted to him.” This is in reference to the gospel. Paul is encouraging Timothy to remain strong and guard the gospel, something which he has done on more than one occasion (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:8-10, 15-16; 6:12-14; 2 Tim. 1:8, 12-14; 2:12; 3:14-15; 4:2-8). To help Timothy see how he, a young preacher of the gospel, could be swayed, Paul speaks of things which are falsely called knowledge. Is it wrong for a Christian to pursue further education? No, if that were the case, then Paul would have been a hypocrite (Col. 1:9- 10; 2 Tim. 2:15). The warning is not against knowledge; it is against supposed knowledge. What sort of teaching could have been circulating during the time that Timothy was preaching, to which he could have been vulnerable? 2 Timothy 2:16-18 speaks of a possibility. In 1 Timothy 6:20 and 2 Timothy 2:16, the same phrase is present “irreverent babble,” or empty speech. The later goes on to mention two who have given themselves over to the irreverent speech, Hymenaeus and Philetus. The two men were teachers of Gnosticism, in which they taught that the resurrection of the dead already took place. They taught so because they mingled the Greek view of immortality (the body dying eternally and the spirit remaining awakened) with the biblical doctrine of a resurrection. This teaching was denying Christ His true deity and even that He arose from the grave bodily (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7; Acts 1:10-11). Is it wrong for the Christian to be filled with knowledge? No, however, we must be sure to fill it with what is actually knowledge (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). How many Christians have grown by listening to gospel sermons? In contrast, how many Christians have hurt themselves by listening to denominational sermons, filled with false doctrine? The key is the ability to filter the good from the bad. The Hebrews writer makes the argument in Hebrews 5:14 that the mature in Christ are those who have had their power of discernment tested. How can a Christian guard the deposit entrusted to them? Through proper discernment.
Exhortation for Us All (6:21b)
In 1 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul said,
I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.
Paul’s focus is behavior, and the way he chooses to conclude this appeal for behaving godly is by reminding Timothy and the audience of the reading of this letter to have the proper perspective. Eyes fixed towards heaven are the only kind that can one day behold it. Hearts centered on Christ are the only kind that can one day worship Him in heaven. Minds set on those things which are above are the only kind that can make it above. May the Lord be with you. May you continue to walk by His side. May all we do be in response to the glory of God and for the glory of God.
-Cody Kilgore serves as the minister for the Riverside Church of Christ, Corpus Christi, TX