I Timothy 6 Part 3
New King James Version 15. which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
The Resultant Version 15. Which He will show in its own fit seasons, Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of those who reign and Lord of those who rule as lords,
The Lord Jesus Christ will manifest His blazing forth in His own time. The word “manifest” means that He will give evidence or show to the eyes His blazing forth. This will not be a hidden thing, like all the works of God are in the dispensation of the grace of God in which we live. Instead, it will be an evidential thing, an open and obvious thing, when Christ will blaze forth to this world. He will do this in His own time. The word is actually plural in Greek, “times.” The idea of the Greek word kairos seems to be of the right times, fixed times, or some definite times. Indeed, the kingdom of God and the blazing forth of Jesus Christ that accompanies it will come at the right time, the time God has fixed for it, and the definite time He has planned for the start of His kingdom. These are the times which we eagerly await even now.
At this point Paul begins what is really a grand statement about our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul does this at times in his letters: breaking into whatever else it was he was teaching to make grand statements of praise to our great God and Savior. It is as if Paul cannot help himself at times, and must utter in praise the glories of the Lord about Whom he is writing. That is what he does here, as he speaks some superlative truths about our Lord Jesus Christ.
He starts out calling Him the blessed and only Potentate. “Blessed” is the Greek word makarios, which speaks of great happiness. How happy indeed is this great Ruler to come! It is not just that He is happy, but that the world will be a happy place, a very happy place, when He manifests Himself to it at last, and His kingdom comes upon this earth. The word “Potentate” is the Greek dunastes, which occurs only three times, coming from dunamis, meaning inherent power. Dunastes speaks of one with great authority, as it does in Luke 1:52 of the mighty in this world’s governments, and in Acts 8:27 when it speaks of the Ethiopian eunuch who was of great authority in the court of Candace queen of Ethiopia. Jesus Christ is mighty and of great authority indeed, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
We recognize that the phrase “King of kings” means that our Lord Jesus is the greatest of all kings, and “Lord of lords” means He is the greatest of all lords. Someday all rulers will ultimately answer to Him, as He will hold absolute authority over all kings, and He will prove Himself the Master of all masters. All kings will have to bow to Him, and all Lords will have to submit. This is the position our Lord Jesus Christ has even now in the sight of God.
If any wonder if this phrase truly is speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ here, we can assuredly say that it is, for it is spoken of Him in the book of Revelation. First is Revelation 19:16.
16. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
This is spoken of the One called “The Word of God,” verse 13. John 1 reveals the Word of God to be Jesus Christ. Then, Revelation 17:14 says the same thing.
14. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
Here, the One Who is called “Lord of lords and King of kings” is the Lamb, Who in Revelation 5:6-13 was positively identified as the One Who was slain, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is clear: our Lord Jesus is the One Who is King over all kings and Lord over all lords. Let us then hear His voice from His Word and obey it, for He Who has such great authority over all rulers of the future deserves to have our faithful and obedient service even now.
New King James Version 16. who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
The Resultant Version 16. The only One having immortality, inhabiting unapproachable light, Whom no one has seen nor is able to see, unto Whom be honor and strength eonian. Amen.
Paul continues to speak of the greatness of Jesus Christ by saying that He alone has immortality. Yet this is not the common thought on the matter. Most people insist that, though the body of man is mortal and dying, man has a part of him that is immortal, an immortal soul, that must go on living even after the body dies. Yet how can such a view, which makes what they claim is the most important part of the man immortal, square with Paul’s most positive statement in this verse that Jesus Christ alone has immortality? Above Paul urged Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, something which we surely should strive to do. Yet why do not we start out fighting the good fight of faith right here and believe this plain statement? If we do believe it, we can no longer claim that man is an immortal being whose soul must live forever somewhere. This passage tells us plainly that this is not the case. Moreover, it does not contradict anything else in Scripture, for the immortality of the soul claimed so vehemently by many theologians is never taught in a single passage of the Word of God. If we truly wish to believe what the Bible says about immortality, this is what we must believe.
The Greek word for “immortality” is athanasia, coming from the Greek word thanatos, which means death. The a or “alpha” in front of the word is a negative prefix. It is similar to our prefix “un,” as when we take a word such as “known” and reverse its meaning by placing the prefix “un” in front of it to make it “unknown.” The Greek prefix a does the same thing. We use this prefix occasionally in English as well. An example might be the word “theist,” which we know means one who has or believes in a god. Yet if we add an “a” in front and make it “atheist,” the word now means one who has or believes in no god, or who is without any god at all. The same alpha prefix here makes this word to mean one who has no death or is “without death.”
Yet we have a tendency to misunderstand what immortality truly is. Many get the idea of a person of such a character that a mountain might fall on him, crushing him under millions of pounds of rock, and yet he would not die; he might fall into the depths of the ocean with no air to breathe and yet he would not die; and so forth. In other words, death is utterly impossible for him. Yet this is not what athanasia means. One who was immortal might still die under millions of pounds of rock or in the depths of the ocean without air.
The reality is that all of us who are born into this world have the process of death working in us. For some of us who are young the process seems to be working very slowly, and the reality of dying seems a long way off. Others of us may be elderly, and the reality of dying might seem to be right around the corner. Yet for all of us there is an inevitable appointment with death, and even without some accident or tragedy, we still will all wear out and die eventually, for death is working in us.
One who is athanasia, however, has no death working in him. This is how Adam was when God created him. It was not that it was impossible for him to die if his body were subjected to conditions in which it would be impossible for a human body to live. Yet Adam was not growing older, and his body was not wearing out. If he had never eaten of the forbidden fruit, with no death process working in him he might have lived for ever without death. Yet once he ate that fruit, the death process started, and from then on he was no longer immortal or athanasia.
How did Adam receive such an immortal or undying body? He got it from God, who granted him a body that would allow him to live perpetually without death. Adam squandered this gift, as we know. Yet Jesus Christ was not given immortality, neither by God nor by anyone else. Rather, He has immortality, and it is His by right. Christ has never sinned, so that the statement, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) might apply to Him. Nor is He a created being, so that immortality might have been granted to Him by His Creator, as Adam’s was. No, Jesus Christ is God, and immortality is part of His very nature. He has it, it is His by right, and it is a part of Him. Truly He alone has immortality.
What of man, then? Do we have no hope for immortality? Will every last one of us die and cease to exist someday with no hope of recovery? No, for the Bible tells us that immortality, which is inherent in Jesus Christ, can be granted by Him to anyone to whom He wishes to give it. I Corinthians 15:53-54 declares this great truth.
53. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
These verses tell us that sinful, fallen mankind as we are will, in Christ, have immortality granted to us. It is not ours by right of birth nor by inheritance from our parents. Rather, we will be clothed with it because of our position in Jesus Christ. For Adam’s race, immortality is not something we have inherently. Rather, it is something that is given to us conditionally upon our believing and being in Jesus Christ. God grants immortality to us. We do not have it by right and by nature. That is only true of Jesus Christ.
Next we read that Jesus Christ is dwelling in unapproachable light, and that no man has seen or can see Him. This would seem to be a strange thing for Paul to say, for Paul himself saw the Lord Jesus Christ on the Damascus road. True, the sight blinded him, but he both did see Him and could see Him. Thus there must be more to this than what appears on the surface. This would seem to indicate that when He is clothed with the light of all His glory, no man, not even those closest to Him, could see Him or approach Him. This is a mysterious thing, but it squares well with what we read elsewhere in Scripture. For example, in Exodus 33:11, we learn of the close relationship the man Moses had with Jehovah.
11. So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.
Such a close relationship was at the time an unusual one, as Yahweh made it plain in no unclear terms when He was rebuking Miriam and Aaron for daring to speak against Moses in Numbers 12:6-8.
6. Then He said,
“Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
7. Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
8. I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the LORD.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”
So Moses was a man most favored in order to have such a close place to the LORD that He would speak with him face to face. Yet Moses was not satisfied. In Exodus 33:18, just a few verses after we read that Moses spoke with Jehovah face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, Moses makes a request of Jehovah, “Please, show me Your glory.” Yahweh’s answer to this request is most interesting.
19. Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20. But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21. And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
Just a few verses here after reading that Moses spoke with the LORD face to face, the LORD tells Moses that he cannot see His face, for no man shall see Him and live. How can this be, when we have already read in the very same chapter that Moses not only saw the face of Jehovah, but that he lived and talked with Him, as a man talks to his friend? The answer can only be in the question of Moses, “Please, show me Your glory.” Moses knew that, though he had seen Yahweh and talked with Him face to face, that he had not seen Him in all His glory. He asked to see this, and the LORD told him that he could not, for no man shall see His face in that glory and live. Moses could see His back in His glory, but not His face. That is a sight no man may see.
This seems to be the very thing that the Lord is saying through Paul here. Jesus Christ, Who is in the New Testament the same as the Jehovah of the Old Testament, when He is dwelling in His natural state in all His glory, dwells in unapproachable light, and no man has seen Him that way nor can see Him that way. When He is there, no man shall approach Him, and no human eye can see Him. When He comes before Man, He veils that glory, even as He did when He came to earth and dwelt among us. Yet even now it is still true that, when He is in all His glory, no man shall see His face. No man can approach Him, no man can see Him, for the light of His glory is too great. That is the truth Paul is telling us here.
Now Paul completes his grand statement of the glories of our Lord Jesus Christ by expressing his true desire that to Him be honor and everlasting power. We might make this, “to Whom be honor and power eonian.” That word “eonian” has to do with that which flows out or flows down, and can speak of that which flows on perpetually. Indeed this is true, for our Lord Jesus Christ will have honor and power without end. Yet there is probably also the idea here that it will flow on and on, from one tongue to another, so that all may join together in offering Him praise. And finally, the name “the eon” is given to the great Kingdom of God that will govern this earth. It is Christ Who will have all the power in the Kingdom, and all honor will be given to Him. He concludes with “Amen,” which probably means “So be it” or “Let it be so.” Amen, let it be so, and let His kingdom come to this poor, darkened earth at last!
New King James Version 17. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.
The Resultant Version 17. To those rich in the present eon continue to give charge not to be puffed up with pride, nor to have confidence in regard to uncertain riches, but in regard to the living God, the One Who richly renders to us all things for enjoyment.
Paul gave Timothy a charge or command to follow back in verse 13, and now he instructs Timothy to charge certain ones who were there in Ephesus. Specifically, he instructs him to charge those who are rich in this present age. The word “age” here is the Greek word aion, which does not mean “the present age,” but rather means the present flow of things, this present eon. Those of us in Jesus Christ are to be laying up our true riches in the kingdom of God, that great flow of things to come. Yet some are believers who are rich in this present flow of things. This is not wrong, yet those who are this way are not to be haughty. The riches of this life are little enough to be haughty about. God calls the one a “fool” who “lays up treasure for himself” in this flow of things, “and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20-21. Therefore, the mere fact of being wealthy in this life is no reason for pride or arrogance.
Those who are rich in this present flow of things are also not to trust in uncertain riches. This is also good advice, for wealth can indeed be a fleeting thing. Financial disasters have ruined even the wealthiest of people. Consider what happened to Job! And even the wealthy in our society depend upon the currencies in which their wealth is invested remaining stable and viable. Yet there is no stability or trustworthiness in wealth, and those who trust in it are trusting in an uncertain thing indeed. It is much better to trust in the living God than in dead wealth. He may only act in secret in this dispensation of grace, yet He is active and He is alive, and so is far more trustworthy than dead wealth.
Finally, Paul acknowledges that the living God gives us all things to enjoy. The Lord is not telling us that it is wrong to be rich. In fact, God always intended us to live with our physical needs met and a wonderful world before us to live in and enjoy. Now, sadly, many do not have enough to truly enjoy the many good things of life, but that does not make it wrong for those who do have enough to enjoy them. They are only doing now what all will do in the kingdom to come: enjoying the rich bounty of God, which He always intended to give to us. In fact, what they now enjoy falls short of what God will have for us in His great kingdom. Therefore, the rich are by Scripture allowed to enjoy the wealth they have. Yet they are warned that it is not right to allow your riches not make you haughty, nor to trust in those uncertain riches they have been given. Their trust and hope must be in the living God. Him they can trust, but not their wealth, which can pass away, and all the wealth of this flow of things someday will pass away, get God remains forever. We do best when we are rich toward Him.
New King James Version 18. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,
The Resultant Version 18. To be doing good, to be rich in good works, to be generous in sharing, willing to give out,
Paul speaks further to the rich. There is much focus on the rich here, and it could be that those among the rich and powerful were those who were causing many of the problems Timothy was in Ephesus to counteract. Remember that Timothy was in Ephesus to charge some to teach no other teaching (I Timothy 1:3). It may be that many of those who were false teachers were wealthy. Therefore they needed much instruction, as Paul is giving Timothy here.
Paul further urges that those who are rich in this present flow of things do good, and that they be rich in good works. The reality is that wealth can give people an opportunity to do certain good things that those without wealth would never have the option to do. The rich not only can do such things, but should do such things. They should be ready and eager to do such good as they can, and to be rich not only in wealth but also in good works.
The rich should also be ready to give and willing to share. This works best in a society such as most lived in back then in which most people lived in a fairly small community, and so most everyone knew most everyone else in the community. Everyone knew who the local poor were, and so the rich would have plenty of opportunity to share with them and do good for them. Our society has become an extremely mobile one wherein many people do not know their neighbors very well, and choose to spend much of their time with people very like themselves, often people who live some distance away from them. Moreover, many of the poor in our society are poor due to things like mental illness or chemical dependency. These things make the path to doing good works for the poor a difficult one. Yet in our society, like every society, it is good for those who have wealth and who are believers in Jesus Christ to be giving people and sharing people. This is something a Godly person should be ready to do at any time, as we emulate the God Who gave so much for us, and Who shares His wealth with us so freely.
New King James Version 19. storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
The Resultant Version 19. Treasuring up for themselves a good foundation in relation to thing to come, in order that they may take hold of the life that is life indeed.
By doing good and being ready to give, these rich folks will store up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come. We know that wealth provides a good foundation for a comfortable life in this world, and those who have more wealth than they need often attempt to store it up for the future. Yet what God is suggesting these rich people do here by being ready to give and willing to share is to give away some of what they have now and store it up instead as a good foundation for the time to come. In the kingdom of God, it is the good they have done in this world, not the wealth they have laid up in this life, that will be laid up in store for them. Thus if they want to “save for the future,” they should do so by being willing to give away and share.
They should also do this so that they may lay hold on eternal life. We already talked about laying hold on eonian life back in verse 12. We saw that this is not suggesting that those who already believe in Jesus Christ need yet to assure themselves of the life to come. It is also not suggesting that we can achieve eternal life now, as if we could stop ourselves from growing old and dying. Instead, we suggested that in the context of that portion “laying hold on eonian life” meant laying hold on the knowledge of God, so that they might know Him Who is eonian life.
In this case, the laying hold on eonian life has to do with storing up a foundation for that life by giving away and sharing wealth now. This may refer to the fact that in the eon of the kingdom of God to come, God’s bounty will be available to all, and all will share it alike. Therefore, by sharing the good they have now, they lay hold on life as it will be in the eon. Yet it could also be, as he suggested in the first half of the verse, that giving now is laying up a foundation for the time to come and laying hold on much wealth in eonian life to come, rather than selfishly keeping what you have and squandering it for the life to come. At any rate, it is clear from the context that Paul means they should lay hold on that life now by giving.
Though our text here reads eternal or “eonian” life, there are some manuscripts that read differently, having ontos life in the Greek rather than aionou life. Ontos life is “real” life, and certainly the eonian life of the kingdom to come is the “real” life, next to which our life now is just a pale reflection. Yet it would seem strange, since we had talked about laying hold on eonian life just back in verse 12, if verse 19 is totally different here and speaks of laying hold of “real life” instead. Yet whatever the case, the reference clearly is to the life to come. That should be our real hope, not riches held in these uncertain days.
New King James Version 20. O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—
The Resultant Version 20. O Timothy! Guard the deposit, turning aside from profane and empty sounds and oppositions of knowledge falsely so named—
Now he calls on Timothy to guard what was committed to his trust. What does this refer to? Perhaps we can get a clue from II Timothy, for Paul makes the same charge to Timothy there. He orders him to guard what was committed to his trust in II Timothy 1:14, and the Greek word for “what was committed to your trust,” parakatatheke, is the same in both cases. In the context of verse 14 of II Timothy is verse 13 and the pattern of sound words committed to Timothy.
13. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Therefore in both cases we would believe that it is proper teaching according to sound words used according to the pattern of truth laid down in the Bible that was entrusted to Timothy, and that he was to guard. We have been entrusted these things, not by direct teaching from an apostle like Paul or from the Holy Spirit, but rather by the Word of God, the Bible that has been given to us. We need to carefully study the Bible to learn what It teaches. We need to discover from the Bible what God’s sound words are, and then carefully note how those words are used in the context of the Bible so we can learn to use them according to the same pattern. In this way we can first attain to what Paul is talking about here, and then guard it.
In doing this, Paul urges Timothy to avoid or turn aside from profane and idle babbling. “Profane” carries the idea of common, that which is not holy or set apart to God. There is much that is “common” in religious circles that the man of God, taught by the Bible, should avoid, since it is not according to God’s truth. “Idle babbling” is the Greek kenophonea, which means empty sounds. This probably refers to teaching that claims to be setting forth God’s truth, but since it has no backing from Scripture and no conformity either to the sound words God uses or to the pattern He uses those words in, it really is just empty noise with no truth behind it. Of course, we tend to think of the common habit of many to make empty sounds that they claim are Godly, calling them “speaking in tongues.” This sort of thing is probably not what Paul had in mind here, though certainly this would qualify as “empty sounds,” if anything does.
Timothy is also to turn away from the contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. The word for “contradictions” is the Greek antithesis, and indeed this false knowledge is the antithesis of the truth of God. That is why Timothy is to avoid it. There is much that passes for knowledge today that really is not. First of all in the scientific world, which claims to have knowledge that we made ourselves from a rock with no god involved. This is falsely called knowledge, for no such thing happened or could happen. Then there is much that is supposedly knowledge in the religious world that does not come from Scripture and so is not real knowledge. The false teachers Timothy was dealing with as Paul was writing him this book were doubtless spreading such “knowledge.” They claimed to have a source for truth besides the Bible, like some angel or mediator who was giving them knowledge. Yet this knowledge was false, and Timothy was to turn aside from all such ideas of what is knowledge.
New King James Version 21. by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.
Grace be with you. Amen.
The Resultant Version 21. Which some professing have swerved concerning the faith. Grace be with you.
Paul warns Timothy that some have professed this knowledge falsely so called, and this has caused them to stray concerning the faith. How often this happens in our day! Men think they are getting on the intellectual side, they think they are being wise, they think they are showing how knowledgeable they are, and yet in doing so they really are straying concerning the faith. There is no real knowledge in giving up on the sound words and pattern of God’s truth. One who follows knowledge that is against God’s knowledge is really straying from what God’s people should believe who know and receive the truth. May we avoid all such false knowledge and cling to God’s truth in everything.
Paul leaves off this letter, as he always does, with the grace of God. Grace is God’s love and favor to the undeserving. Paul wishes to Timothy, “May the undeserved favor of God be your portion.” To this we say, “Amen.” That is exactly what we need in this dark, fallen world as well.
Thus we close out the book of I Timothy. In some ways, this is the most difficult of the post-Acts 28:28 books of Paul. We do not understand completely everything Paul teaches here, but we have looked at it and understood as much as we can. May God bless our striving to know His truth, and may His grace be with us in the effort.