1 Timothy 6 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of 1 Timothy 6)


1. servants--to be taken as predicated thus, "Let as many as are under the yoke (as) slaves" (Tit 2:9). The exhortation is natural as there was a danger of Christian slaves inwardly feeling above their heathen masters.
their own masters--The phrase "their own," is an argument for submissiveness; it is not strangers, but their own masters whom they are required to respect.
all honour--all possible and fitting honor; not merely outward subjection, but that inward honor from which will flow spontaneously right outward conduct (see on Eph 5:22).
that the name of God--by which Christians are called.
blasphemed--Heathen masters would say, What kind of a God must be the God of the Christians, when such are the fruits of His worship (Ro 2:24; Tit 2:5, 10)?

2. And--rather, "But." The opposition is between those Christian slaves under the yoke of heathen, and those that have believing masters (he does not use the phrase "under the yoke" in the latter case, for service under believers is not a yoke). Connect the following words thus, "Let them (the slaves) not, because they (the masters) are brethren (and so equals, masters and slaves alike being Christians), despise them (the masters)."
but rather, &c.--"but all the more (so much the more: with the greater good will) do them service because they (the masters) are faithful (that is, believers) and beloved who receive (in the mutual interchange of relative duties between master and servant; so the Greek) the benefit" (English Version violates Greek grammar). This latter clause is parallel to, "because they are brethren"; which proves that "they" refers to the masters, not the servants, as TITTMANN takes it, explaining the verb in the common sense (Lu 1:54; Ac 20:35), "who sedulously labor for their (masters') benefit." The very term "benefit" delicately implies service done with the right motive, Christian "good will" (Eph 6:7). If the common sense of the Greek verb be urged, the sense must be, "Because they (the masters) are faithful and beloved who are sedulously intent on the benefiting" of their servants. But PORPHYRY [On Abstinence, 1.46] justifies the sense of the Greek verb given above, which also better accords with the context; for otherwise, the article "the," will have nothing in the preceding words to explain it, whereas in my explanation above "the benefit" will be that of the slaves' service.
These things teach-- (1Ti 4:11; Tit 2:15).

3. teach otherwise--than I desire thee to "teach" (1Ti 6:2). The Greek indicative implies, he puts not a merely supposed case, but one actually existing, 1Ti 1:3, "Every one who teaches otherwise," that is, who teaches heterodoxy.
consent not--Greek, "accede not to."
wholesome--"sound" (1Ti 1:10): opposed to the false teachers' words, unsound through profitless science and immorality.
words of our Lord Jesus Christ--Paul's inspired words are not merely his own, but are also Christ's words.

4. He is proud--literally, "wrapt in smoke"; filled with the fumes of self-conceit (1Ti 3:6) while "knowing nothing," namely, of the doctrine which is according to godliness (1Ti 6:3), though arrogating pre-eminent knowledge (1Ti 1:7).
doting about--literally, "sick about"; the opposite of "wholesome" (1Ti 6:3). Truth is not the center about which his investigations move, but mere word-strifes.
questions--of controversy.
strifes of words--rather than about realities (2Ti 2:14). These stand with them instead of "godliness" and "wholesome words" (1Ti 6:3; 1Ti 1:4; Tit 3:9).
evil surmisings--as to those who are of a different party from themselves.

5. Perverse disputings--useless disputings. The oldest manuscripts read, "lasting contests" [WIESINGER]; "incessant collisions" [ALFORD]. "Strifes of words" had already been mentioned so that he would not be likely to repeat the same idea (as in the English Version reading) again.
corrupt minds--Greek, "of men corrupted (depraved) in mind." The inmost source of the evil is in the perverted mind (1Ti 6:4; 2Ti 3:8; Tit 1:15).
destitute of the truth-- (Tit 1:14). They had had the truth, but through want of moral integrity and of love of the truth, they were misled by a pretended deeper gnosis (knowledge) and higher ascetical holiness, of which they made a trade [WIESINGER].
supposing, &c.--The Greek requires, "supposing (regarding the matter in this point of view) that piety (so translated for 'godliness') is a means of gain (that is, a way of advancing one's worldly interests: a different Greek form, poriswa, expresses the thing gained, gain)"; not "that gain is godliness," as English Version.
from such withdraw thyself--omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The connection with 1Ti 6:6 favors the omission of these words, which interrupt the connection.

6. But--Though they err in this, there is a sense in which "piety is" not merely gain, but "great means of gain": not the gaining which they pursue, and which makes men to be discontented with their present possessions, and to use religion as "a cloak of covetousness" (1Th 2:5) and means of earthly gain, but the present and eternal gain which piety, whose accompaniment is contentment, secures to the soul. WIESINGER remarks that Paul observed in Timothy a tendency to indolence and shrinking from the conflict, whence he felt (1Ti 6:11) that Timothy needed cautioning against such temptation; compare also the second Epistle. Not merely contentment is great gain (a sentiment of the heathen CICERO [Paradox 6], "the greatest and surest riches"), but "piety with contentment"; for piety not only feels no need of what it has not, but also has that which exalts it above what it has not [WIESINGER]. The Greek for contentment is translated "sufficiency" (2Co 9:8). But the adjective (Php 4:11) "content"; literally, "having a sufficiency in one's self" independent of others. "The Lord always supplies His people with what is necessary for them. True happiness lies in piety, but this sufficiency [supplied by God, with which moreover His people are content] is thrown into the scale as a kind of overweight" [CALVIN] (1Ki 17:1-16; Ps 37:19; Isa 33:6, 16; Jer 37:21).

7. For--confirming the reasonableness of "contentment."
and it is certain--Vulgate and other old versions support this reading. The oldest manuscripts, however, omit "and it is certain"; then the translation will be, "We brought nothing into the world (to teach us to remember) that neither can we carry anything out" (Job 1:21; Ec 5:15). Therefore, we should have no gain-seeking anxiety, the breeder of discontent (Mt 6:25).

8. And--Greek, "But." In contrast to the greedy gain-seekers (1Ti 6:5).
having--so long as we have food. (The Greek expresses "food sufficient in each case for our continually recurring wants" [ALFORD]). It is implied that we, as believers, shall have this (Isa 23:16).
raiment--Greek, "covering"; according to some including a roof to cover us, that is, a dwelling, as well as clothing.
let us be therewith content--literally, "we shall be sufficiently provided"; "we shall be sufficed" [ALFORD].

9. will be rich--have more than "food and raiment." Greek, "wish to be rich"; not merely are willing, but are resolved, and earnestly desire to have riches at any cost (Pr 28:20, 22). This wishing (not the riches themselves) is fatal to "contentment" (1Ti 6:6). Rich men are not told to cast away their riches, but not to "trust" in them, and to "do good" with them (1Ti 6:17, 18; Ps 62:10).
fall into temptation--not merely "are exposed to temptation," but actually "fall into" it. The falling into it is what we are to pray against, "Lead us not into temptation" (Jas 1:14); such a one is already in a sinful state, even before any overt act of sin. The Greek for "temptation" and "gain" contains a play on sounds--porasmus, peirasmus.
snare--a further step downwards (1Ti 3:7). He falls into "the snare of the devil."
hurtful--to those who fall into the snare. Compare Eph 4:22, "deceitful lusts" which deceive to one's deadly hurt.
lusts--With the one evil lust ("wish to be rich") many others join themselves: the one is the "root of all evils" (1Ti 6:10).
which--Greek, "whatever (lusts)."
drown--an awful descending climax from "fall into"; this is the last step in the terrible descent (Jas 1:15); translated "sink," Lu 5:7.
destruction . . . perdition--destruction in general (temporal or eternal), and perdition in particular, namely, that of body and soul in hell.

10. the love of money--not the money itself, but the love of it--the wishing to be rich (1Ti 6:9) --"is a root (ELLICOTT and MIDDLETON: not as English Version, 'the root') of all evils." (So the Greek plural). The wealthiest may be rich not in a bad sense; the poorest may covet to be so (Ps 62:10). Love of money is not the sole root of evils, but it is a leading "root of bitterness" (Heb 12:15), for "it destroys faith, the root of all that is good" [BENGEL]; its offshoots are "temptation, a snare, lusts, destruction, perdition."
coveted after--lusted after.
erred from--literally, "have been made to err from the faith" (1Ti 1:19; 4:1).
pierced-- (Lu 2:35).
with . . . sorrows--"pains": "thorns" of the parable (Mt 13:22) which choke the word of "faith." "The prosperity of fools destroys them" (Pr 1:32). BENGEL and WIESINGER make them the gnawings of conscience, producing remorse for wealth badly acquired; the harbingers of the future "perdition" (1Ti 6:9).

11. But thou--in contrast to the "some" (1Ti 6:10).
man of God--who hast God as thy true riches (Ge 15:1; Ps 16:5; La 3:24). Applying primarily to Timothy as a minister (compare 2Pe 1:21), just as the term was used of Moses (De 33:1), Samuel (1Sa 9:6), Elijah, and Elisha; but, as the exhortation is as to duties incumbent also on all Christians, the term applies secondarily to him (so 2Ti 3:17) as a Christian man born of God (Jas 1:18; 1Jo 5:1), no longer a man of the world raised above earthly things; therefore, God's property, not his own, bought with a price, and so having parted with all right in himself: Christ's work is to be his great work: he is to be Christ's living representative.
flee these things--namely, "the love of money" with its evil results (1Ti 6:9, 10).
follow after righteousness-- (2Ti 2:22).
godliness--"piety." Righteousness is more in relation to our fellow man; piety ("godliness") to God"; faith is the root of both (see on Tit 2:12).
love--by which "faith worketh."
patience--enduring perseverance amidst trials.
meekness--The oldest manuscripts read, "meek-spiritedness," namely, towards the opponents of the Gospel.

12. Fight the good fight--BIRKS thinks this Epistle was written from Corinth, where contests in the national games recurred at stated seasons, which will account for the allusion here as in 1Co 9:24-26. Contrast "strifes of words" (1Ti 6:4). Compare 1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 4:7. The "good profession" is connected with the good fight (Ps 60:4).
lay hold on eternal life--the crown, or garland, the prize of victory, laid hold of by the winner in the "good fight" (2Ti 4:7, 8; Php 3:12-14). "Fight (literally, 'strive') with such striving earnestness as to lay hold on the prize, eternal life."
also--not in the oldest manuscripts.
professed a good profession--Greek, "didst confess THE good confession," namely, the Christian confession (as the Greek word is the same in this verse as that for "confession" in 1Ti 6:13, probably the profession here is the confession that Christ's kingdom is the kingdom of the truth, Joh 18:36, 37), at thy being set apart to thy ministerial function (whether in general, or as overseer at Ephesus): the same occasion as is referred to in 1Ti 1:18; 4:14; 2Ti 1:4.
before many witnesses--who would testify against thee if thou shouldest fall away [BENGEL].

13. quickeneth all things--that is, "maketh alive." But the oldest manuscripts read, "preserveth alive"; as the same Greek means in Ac 7:19; compare Ne 9:6. He urges Timothy to faithfulness here by the present manifestation of God's power in preserving all things, as in 1Ti 6:14, by the future manifestation of God's power at the appearing of Christ. The assurance that "eternal life," 1Ti 6:12, will be the result of "fighting the good fight," rests on the fulness and power of Him who is the God of all life, present and to come.
witnessed--It was the Lord's part to witness, Timothy's part to confess (or "profess," 1Ti 6:12) "the good confession" [BENGEL]. The confession was His testimony that He was King, and His kingdom that of the truth (see on 1Ti 6:12; 1Ti 6:15; Mt 27:11). Christ, in attesting, or bearing witness to this truth, attested the truth of the whole of Christianity. Timothy's profession, or confession, included therefore the whole of the Christian truth.

14. keep this commandment--Greek, "the commandment," that is, the Gospel rule of life (1Ti 1:5; Joh 13:34; 2Pe 2:21; 3:2).
without spot, unrebukeable--agreeing with "thou." Keep the commandment and so be without spot," &c. "Pure" (1Ti 5:22; Eph 5:27; Jas 1:27; 2Pe 3:14).
until the appearing of . . . Christ--His coming in person (2Th 2:8; Tit 2:13). Believers then used in their practice to set before themselves the day of Christ as near at hand; we, the hour of death [BENGEL]. The fact has in all ages of the Church been certain, the time as uncertain to Paul, as it is to us; hence, 1Ti 6:15, he says, "in HIS times": the Church's true attitude is that of continual expectation of her Lord's return (1Co 1:8; Php 1:6, 10).

15. in his times--Greek, "His own [fitting] times" (Ac 1:7). The plural implies successive stages in the manifestation of the kingdom of God, each having its own appropriate time, the regulating principle and knowledge of which rests with the Father (1Ti 2:6; 2Ti 1:9; Tit 1:3; Heb 1:1).
he shall show--"display": an expression appropriate in reference to His "APPEARING," which is stronger than His "coming," and implies its visibility; "manifest": make visible (compare Ac 3:20): "He" is the Father (1Ti 6:16).
blessed--in Himself: so about to be the source of blessing to His people at Christ appearing, whence flows their "blessed hope" (1Ti 1:11; Tit 2:13).
only-- (Joh 17:3; Ro 16:27; Re 15:4).
King of kings--elsewhere applied also to Jesus (Re 1:5; 17:14; 19:16).

16. Who only hath immortality--in His own essence, not merely at the will of another, as all other immortal beings [JUSTIN MARTYR, Quæst. ad Orthod., 61]. As He hath immortality, so will He give it to us who believe; to be out of Him is death. It is mere heathen philosophy that attributes to the soul indestructibility in itself, which is to be attributed solely to God's gift. As He hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself (Joh 5:26). The term used in the New Testament for "immortal," which does not occur, is "incorruptible." "Immortality" is found in 1Co 15:53, 54.
dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto--After life comes mention of light, as in Joh 1:4. That light is unapproachable to creatures, except in so far as they are admitted by Him, and as He goes forth to them [BENGEL]. It is unapproachable on account of its exceeding brightness [THEOPHYLACT]. If one cannot gaze steadfastly at the sun, which is but a small part of creation, by reason of its exceeding heat and power, how much less can mortal man gaze at the inexpressible glory of God [THEOPHYLACT, To Autolycus] (Ps 104:2; 1Jo 1:5).
no man hath seen-- (Ex 23:20; Joh 1:18; Col 1:15; Heb 11:27; 1Jo 4:12). Perhaps even in the perfect state no creature shall fully see God. Still the saints shall, in some sense, have the blessedness of seeing Him, which is denied to mere man (Mt 5:8; 1Co 13:12; 1Jo 3:2; Re 22:4).

17. Resuming the subject from above, 1Ti 6:5, 10. The immortality of God, alone rich in glory, and of His people through Him, is opposed to the lust of money (compare 1Ti 6:14-16). From speaking of the desire to be rich, he here passes to those who are rich: (1) What ought to be their disposition; (2) What use they ought to make of their riches, and, (3) The consequences of their so using them.
rich in this world--contrasted with the riches of the future kingdom to be the portion of believers at Christ's "appearing," 1Ti 6:14.
high-minded--often the character of the rich (see Ro 12:16).
trust--Greek, "to have their trust resting."
in . . . in--rather, "upon . . . upon," as the oldest manuscripts.
uncertain riches--rather as Greek, "the uncertainty of riches." They who rest their trust on riches, rest trust on uncertainty itself (Pr 23:5). Now they belong to one person, now to another, and that which has many masters is possessed by none [THEODORET].
living God--The best manuscripts and versions omit "living." He who trusts in riches transfers to them the duty he owes to God [CALVIN].
who giveth--Greek, "affordeth."
all things richly--temporal and eternal, for the body and for the soul. In order to be truly rich, seek to be blessed of, and in, God (Pr 10:22; 2Pe 1:3).
to enjoy--Greek, "for enjoyment." Not that the heart may cleave to them as its idol and trust (1Ti 4:3). Enjoyment consists in giving, not in holding fast. Non-employment should be far removed, as from man, so from his resources (Jas 5:2, 3) [BENGEL].

18. do good--like God Himself (Ps 119:68; Ac 14:17) and Christ (Ac 10:38). TITTMANN translates, "to do," or "act well"; as the Greek for "to be beneficent" is a distinct word, agathopoiein.
rich in good works--so "rich in faith," which produces good works (Jas 2:5). Contrasted with "rich in this world," 1Ti 6:17. Literally, it is "rich in honorable (right) works." Greek, "kalois," "ergois," are works good or right in themselves: "agathois," good to another.
ready to distribute--free givers [ALFORD]; the heart not cleaving to possessions, but ready to impart to others.
willing to communicate--ready contributors [ALFORD]: liberal in admitting others to share our goods in common with ourselves (Ga 6:6; Heb 13:16).

19. Laying up in store--"therefrom (that is, by this means [ALFORD]; but BENGEL makes the Greek "apo" mean laying apart against a future time), laying up for themselves as a treasure" [ALFORD] (Mt 6:19, 20). This is a treasure which we act wisely in laying up in store, whereas the wisest thing we can do with earthly treasures is "to distribute" them and give others a share of them (1Ti 6:18).
good foundation--(See on 1Ti 3:13; Lu 6:48; 1Co 3:11). The sure reversion of the future heavenly inheritance: earthly riches scattered in faith lay up in store a sure increase of heavenly riches. We gather by scattering (Pr 11:24; 13:7; Lu 16:9).
that . . . eternal life--The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "that which is really life," its joys being solid and enduring (Ps 16:11). The life that now is cannot be called so, its goods being unsubstantial, and itself a vapor (Jas 4:14). "In order that ('with their feet so to speak on this foundation' [DE WETTE]) they may lay hold on that which is life indeed."

20, 21. Recapitulatory conclusion: the main aim of the whole Epistle being here summarily stated.
O Timothy--a personal appeal, marking at once his affection for Timothy, and his prescience of the coming heresies.
keep--from spiritual thieves, and from enemies who will, while men sleep, sow tares amidst the good seed sown by the Son of man.
that which is committed to thy trust--Greek, "the deposit" (1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 1:12, 14; 2:2). "The true" or "sound doctrine" to be taught, as opposed to "the science falsely so called," which leads to "error concerning the faith" (1Ti 6:21). "It is not thine: it is another's property with which thou hast been entrusted: Diminish it not at all" [CHRYSOSTOM]. "That which was entrusted to thee, not found by thee; which thou hast received, not invented; a matter not of genius, but of teaching; not of private usurpation, but of public tradition; a matter brought to thee, not put forth by thee, in which thou oughtest to be not an enlarger, but a guardian; not an originator, but a disciple; not leading, but following. 'Keep,' saith he, 'the deposit,'; preserve intact and inviolate the talent of the catholic faith. What has been entrusted to thee, let that same remain with thee; let that same be handed down by thee. Gold thou hast received, gold return. I should be sorry thou shouldest substitute aught else. I should be sorry that for gold thou shouldest substitute lead impudently, or brass fraudulently. I do not want the mere appearance of gold, but its actual reality. Not that there is to be no progress in religion in Christ's Church. Let there be so by all means, and the greatest progress; but then let it be real progress, not a change of the faith. Let the intelligence of the whole Church and its individual members increase exceedingly, provided it be only in its own kind, the doctrine being still the same. Let the religion of the soul resemble the growth of the body,which, though it develops its several parts in the progress of years, yet remains the same as it was essentially" [VINCENTIUS LIRINENSIS, A.D. 434].
avoiding--"turning away from" (compare 2Ti 3:4). Even as they have "turned away from the truth" (1Ti 1:6; 5:15; 2Ti 4:4).
profane-- (1Ti 4:7; 2Ti 2:16).
vain--Greek, "empty": mere "strifes of words," 1Ti 6:4, producing no moral fruit.
oppositions--dialectic antithesis of the false teachers [ALFORD]. WIESINGER, not so probably, "oppositions to the sound doctrine." I think it likely germs existed already of the heresy of dualistic oppositions, namely, between the good and evil principle, afterwards fully developed in Gnosticism. Contrast Paul's just antithesis (1Ti 3:16; 6:5, 6; 2Ti 2:15-23).
science falsely so called--where there is not faith, there is not knowledge [CHRYSOSTOM]. There was true "knowledge," a special gift of the Spirit, which was abused by some (1Co 8:1; 12:8; 14:6). This gift was soon counterfeited by false teachers arrogating to themselves pre-eminently the gift (Col 2:8, 18, 23). Hence arose the creeds of the Church, called symbols, that is, in Greek, "watchwords," or a test whereby the orthodox might distinguish one another in opposition to the heretical. Perhaps here, 1Ti 6:20, and 2Ti 1:13, 14, imply the existence of some such brief formula of doctrine then existing in the Church; if so, we see a good reason for its not being written in Scripture, which is designed not to give dogmatic formularies, but to be the fountain whence all such formularies are to be drawn according to the exigencies of the several churches and ages. Probably thus a portion of the so-called apostle's creed may have had their sanction, and been preserved solely by tradition on this account. "The creed, handed down from the apostles, is not written on paper and with ink, but on fleshy tables of the heart" JEROME [Against John of Jerusalem, 9]. Thus, in the creed, contrary to the "oppositions" (the germs of which probably existed in the Church in Paul's latter days) whereby the aeons were set off in pairs, God is stated to be "the Father Almighty," or all-governing "maker of heaven and earth" [BISHOP HINDS].

21. Which some professing--namely, professing these oppositions of science falsely so called.
erred--(See on 1Ti 1:6; 1Ti 2:11) --literally, "missed the mark" (2Ti 3:7, 8). True sagacity is inseparable from faith.
Grace--Greek, "the grace," namely, of God, for which we Christians look, and in which we stand [ALFORD].
be with thee--He restricts the salutation to Timothy, as the Epistle was not to be read in public [BENGEL]. But the oldest manuscripts read, "be with you"; and the "thee" may be a transcriber's alteration to harmonize with 2Ti 4:22; Tit 3:15.
Amen--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.