1 Timothy 6. 17 to 21
W. E. Vine, Bath
Verses 17-19 are not byway of an appendix to the Epistle. The nature of God had just been declared, followed by an “Amen.” But the Apostle’s object throughout the Epistle is the responsibility of a local assembly to maintain the truth and to live a life consistent therewith. The assembly at Ephesus, now in existence for nearly ten years, contained some who were possessed of wealth, a condition commonly fraught with spiritual dangers. The city itself was notably wealthy.
Verse 17. Charge them that are rich in this present world,—lit., ‘in the present age’ (aion). This phrase is used by Paul in the Pastoral Epistles only; here, 2 Tim. 4. 10 and Tit. 2. 12. The corresponding phrase ‘the present season’ (kairos, for which see at 2. 6) is used in Rom. 3. 26; 8. 18; 11. 5; 2 Cor. 8. 14. The phrase ‘this age (world)’ is more usual, e.g. Rom. 12. 2; 1 Cor. 1. 20; 2. 6 (twice), 8; 3. 18; 2 Cor. 4. 4; Eph. 1. 21. This latter has a more ethical force; the one used here in verse 17 has more particularly a material significance.
The clause “them that are rich” is to be contrasted with that in verse 9. To be rich is not wrong; to desire to be rich is the root of every kind of evil. Neither, the acquisition nor the possession of wealth is forbidden, provided we hold it, as God’s stewards, for His glory.
that they be not highminded,—hupselophroned, to be high-minded, is formed from hupselos, lofty, and phroneo, to think. The word is used only here in the N.T.
The danger in the acquisition of wealth lies in the natural tendency to “pride of purse.” Cp. Jer. 9. 23; Rom. 12. 16. The counteractives are mentioned in what follows.
nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches,—elpizo, to hope, followed by the preposition epi, on or upon, is rightly rendered in the R.V., ‘to have one’s hope set on’; see at 4. 10 and 5. 5. Cp. Ps. 62. 10. The phrase “the uncertainty of riches” is a condensed rhetorical way of intensifying the uncertain character of riches. The stress is upon the word “riches.” Of course hope is not set on the uncertainty; the phrase signifies “riches, which are uncertain.” See Prov. 23. 5; Matt. 6. 19. 20. What God bestows He gives not to be hoarded, but to be used for His glory in the benefit of others.
but on God,—the phrase rendered “the living” (A.V.) is not found in the most authentic mss. “God,” the faithful, the unchanging One, stands in contrast to the uncertain character of riches.
who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;—the word rendered “giveth” is not the simple verb didomi, to give, but parecho, to afford, furnish, supply. In Jas. 1. 5, where didomi is used of God, He is described, literally as ‘the Giving God.’ There He is said to give “liberally”; here, “richly.” See also Matt. 7. 11.
The phrase rendered “to enjoy” is, lit., ‘unto enjoyment’; apolausis suggests the pleasure to be obtained from a thing (the word is used elsewhere only in Heb. 11. 25, lit., ‘to have enjoyment,’ and there of sensual enjoyment).
This statement of God’s bountifulness affords no pretext for mere self-gratification and luxury. The right use of temporal things ever has supreme regard to the will of God, to whom we must give an account of the way they have been used.
Verse 18. that they do good,—agathourgeo, lit., to work good, is used elsewhere only in Acts 14. 17 (in the best mss.), there said of God’s beneficence. The synonymous word agathopoieo, to do good, is more frequent, and is used of doing well, e.g., 1 Pet. 2. 15, 20; and with definite reference to benefiting another, Luke 6. 9, 33, 35.
that they be rich—a figurative play upon the word, recalling the initial injunction in verse 17 regarding the rich in this world’s goods.
in good works,—in 2. 10 agathos, beneficial, was used; here the word is kalos, fair, honourable, as in 3. 1. The liberal use of one’s means, whilst beneficent in effect (agathos), is intrinsically honourable (kalos). The Divine estimate has regard to the giving rather than the possession (Luke 21. 4).
that they be ready to distribute,—“ready to distribute” translates the adjective eumetadotos, from eu, well (Expressed in “ready”), meta, with, suggesting the idea of sharing, and didomi, to give. It is used only here in the Greek Bible. Cp. metadidomi, Luke 3. 11; Rom. 1. 11; 12. 8; Eph. 4. 28; 1 Thess. 2. 8.
willing to communicate;—koindnikos, an adjective corresponding to the noun koinonia, fellowship, having in common, communion, signifies ‘apt, or ready to communicate.’ The preceding word eumetadotos points especially to the consideration of the needs of others; ‘koinonikos has more particularly in view the imparting of one’s own goods. Each word suggests the idea of sharing. The R.V. marg., “ready to sympathize,” is not to be preferred. Koinonikos also is found here only in the Greek Bible.
Verse 19. laying up in store for themselves—apothesaurizo signifies to treasure up, store away (thesauros, a treasure). Cp. Matt. 6. 20, lit., ‘treasure for yourselves treasures’; see Luke 16. 9. To store by giving makes, as Bengel remarks, a pleasant oxymoron (a figure of speech in which contrary things are ingeniously conjoined).
a good (kalos) foundation against the time to come,—the mixture of metaphors, combining storing with a foundation, is purposively significant. The “foundation” is set in contrast to the “uncertainty” of riches. The characteristic feature of a good foundation is stability. The laying up in store adds the thought of the abiding character of the result.
“The time to come” is “the day of Christ,” the day of reward. At the Judgment-Seat of Christ the “treasure in Heaven” (Luke 18. 22) will be disclosed.
that they may lay hold on—see at verse 12.
the life which is life indeed.—lit., ‘the life truly.’ This is the reading of the most ancient mss., instead of “eternal” (A.V.). The same word (ontos) is rendered “indeed” in 5. 3, 5, 16, as in Luke 24. 34; John 8. 36; 1 Cor. 14. 25, R.V.; and the A.V. in Mark 11. 32, where the R.V. has “verily,” as both Versions have in Gal. 3. 21.
This life is “the life which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1. 1); it consists in the reflection of His character, in utter devotion to God’s will, in ‘keeping ourselves from idols’ (1 John 5. 20, 21) set up in the heart of selfish engrossment in the things of this present life. To live for that, using the world’s things for one’s own ends, is not “life indeed” but merely carnal existence.
Verses 20, 21 contain the closing message, with its vivid contrast between the faith and mere intellectualism, which recalls much of the opening admonitions of the Epistle (1. 3-7, 18, 19).
Verse 20. O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee,—the phrase “that which is committed unto thee” is, lit., ‘the deposit’; see R.V. margin, the preferable rendering. Paratheke lit. denotes ‘a putting with,’ i.e. a deposit; it is found elsewhere in 2 Tim. 1. 12, where “that which He hath committed unto me” is, lit., ‘my deposit’ (perhaps ‘my deposit with Him’), and 1. 14, R.V. marg., “the good deposit.” It denotes the doctrines of the Christian faith. It is viewed as a treasure sedulously to be kept free from the admixture of error, and without loss through neglect of any detail, and that not only for the spiritual welfare of the teacher himself but for those to whom he ministers. The danger of compromise with those who ignore, or fail to teach, certain truths of the faith is ever to be avoided.
turning away from—the same word as in 1. 6, where see note.
the profane babblings—for “profane” see 1. 9 and 4. 7. The word kenophonia lit. denotes ‘empty sound,’ and hence signifies profitless discussion. It occurs elsewhere only in 2 Tim. 2. 16. A synonymous term is mataiologia, “vain talking” (see 1. 6).
and opposition of the knowledge which is falsely so called;—the “oppositions” refer not merely to the objections but to the definite antagonism of the false teachers, especially the Judaistic propagandists, who constantly sought to undermine Paul’s testimony. The “knowledge” (not “science”) probably refers, not to the teachings of Gnosticism (though the seeds of that error, which the Apostle John combated later, were already existent), but to the elaborate and profitless subtleties and niceties propounded by Jewish interpreters of the Law (see especially Tit. 1. 14-16).
Verse 21. which some professing have erred concerning the faith—“professing” represents the same word as in 2. 10. For astocheo, to err, see at 1. 6. “The faith” of the body of Christian doctrine.
To receive error in any one part of the faith is to jeopardize one’s hold upon the whole.
Grace be with you.—the use of the plural, as in the texts followed by the R.V., does not necessarily imply that the benediction was to the assembly. It has been pointed out that the papyri letters of the period in which the N.T. was written, show that the “singular and the plural alternated in the same document with apparently no distinction of meaning” (Moulton). Grace, God’s unmerited favour, forms part both of the greeting (see 1. 1) and of the benediction in all Paul’s Epistles.