October 28: 1 Tim 6
October 29, 2010
When the great Scottish minister Thomas Chalmers was converted, even though he had been a minister for several years, it led to a seismic shift in his preaching. Gone were the days filled with mathematical and scientific studies, with but an hour or two on a Saturday evening given to sermon preparation. In its place there was a "sense of seriousness unfelt before; and the world to come cast an aweful shadow over every sermon." Without this consciousness of eternity and of eternal realities the ministry of the Word and the care of souls is reduced to trivial talk and therapy.
The enervating breeze of eternity has already blown through 1 Timothy 5 as Paul charged Timothy to "keep these rules" concerning the disciplining of elders "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels" (5:21), and spoke of the coming judgement (5:24).
In 1 Timothy 6 the reality of eternity is woven indelibly into the fabric of the text. The way to think about ministry and the Christian life will be misshapen without it.
Unlike the false teachers who imagine that godliness is a means of gain Paul reminds Timothy that we brought nothing into the world and we take nothing out of it (6:5-7).
The unbridled pursuit of possessions and the rapacious love of money cause great spiritual harm. Thus Timothy is to exhort "the rich in this present age" not to be "haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God" (6:17).
Alongside the denunciations about how transitory riches prove to be, the proper focus is on present generosity, doing good, being rich in good works, showing a readiness to share, and "thus storing up...treasure...as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life" (6:18-19).
The mundane matters of money, and how we view it, possessions, and how we treat them, are suffused with significance because they reveal whether our affections are set on this age or whether we hold them with an open hand because we have been gripped by the realities of the age to come. Like a litmus test they indicate the presence of merely temporal or eternal affections.
In the same way the exhortations to Timothy to flee the ungodly ways of the false teachers and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness, indeed all that is involved in "fighting the good fight of the faith" (6:11-12), are to be done by taking hold of the eternal life to which he has been called and concerning which he has publicly made the good confession (compare 6:12 with John 19:36). Indeed the next great event that we await is the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is no wonder that attitudes to money, material things, and ministry can become so indistinguishable from worldly estimates of prestige when we think too little of eternity. For Paul the traumatic awe of the final judgement and the coming kingdom of Christ, far from being an impediment to how we live and minister now, are in fact the great realities that are intended to stir us to intentional acts of obedience.