It is a horrible thing to fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which causes “some” to fall into destruction and eternal perdition. And it is thrice horrible when this is done in the name of “godliness,” as did those who preached godliness as a means of earthly gain, honor, power and temporal, ethereal glory; vainly such imagined that they were advocates of the true and everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Only those who have godliness combined with spiritual contentment can possibly keep their eye of hope fixed unalterably upon the hope of eternal salvation. And such Timothy must do for his very life’s sake and for those who hear him. He must save himself and those who hear him by taking heed to himself and to the doctrine of godliness. Paul makes a strong appeal in these verses, first of all, to Timothy in this that he is a Man of God.” Says he: “But thou, O man of God, flee these things! The fact that Paul never elsewhere uses this term “Man of God” in all his writings addressing anyone personally, should cause us to inquire just a bit into the meaning of the term as used elsewhere in the Holy Scriptures. To the best of my knowledge it is not used elsewhere in the New Testament Scriptures ever by any other writers than Paul. It is true that Paul speaks of the “man of God” in II Timothy 3:17 but according to the original Greek in this passage Paul is net addressing any individual but is rather speaking of the “inner man” or of the new man in Christ Jesus of all who are regenerated and called unto salvation. It refers in this latter passage in the sense of being born from above, and therefore we read evidently in the original text “the of God man!” Here, however, Paul addresses Timothy as being a man of God.
When we turn to the Old Testament Scriptures we find that there were a few who were called by this name. It is reserved for the prophets. The term in the Hebrew is not “adame Elohim” but rather “ish ha-Elohim.” The term “ish” refers to simply a man, an individual, while the term “adam” can refer to the genus “man” in distinction from other creatures. A man of God is, therefore, an individual man with name and surname. Wherefore we read in Dem. 33:1: “This is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death.” That he is called the man of God refers particularly to his being in the service of God in a special sense as prophet, from whose mouth proceeded the blessing of the Lord upon his people and the curse upon their enemies.
When we scan the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures we find that the prophet, who was sent by the Lord to prophesy against the altar at Bethel in the presence of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat who caused Israel to sin, that this man is emphatically designated as being a “man of God.” See I Kings 13:1 ff. if you desire to verify what we are here alleging. The greatest prophet, possibly, in the Old Testament by name of Elijah is called a man of God, and his being a man of God is put severely to the test by the unbelievers of his day, by the false prophets and by the wicked King Ahab and his far more evil wife Jezebel. I Kings 17:24; II Kings 1:6-13. The appellative “man of God” is also applied to Elisha the Tishbite. II Kings 5:8, 14, 15, 20, 26; II Kings 6:6, 9, 10, etc. From this data it is rather clear that the term “man of God” is a rather set and ackowledged term in Israel for an acknowledged prophet through whom God spoke to His people. When we bear in mind that Timothy is youthful, and not always strong as an oak, it is understandable that Paul, his spiritual father, will undergird him with the reminder that in contra-distinction from the false teachers, bereft of the truth, he, Timothy; is a “man of God,” and as such is in a class with the prophets. To be sure this does not exclude the fact that Timothy is also as far as his new birth in Christ is concerned born from above, and according to the inner man, man of God!
As “man of God” it is neither befitting his calling as a minister or consonant with his being a child of God to get ensnared with the evil teaching and walk of those who mind earthly things, and have no eye for the heavenly and the eternal things which abide forever. Wherefore Paul writes in verse 11: “flee these things.” This does not mean that he must be engaged in “world-flight,” for the things of God’s creation are given us “richly to enjoy.” Vs. 17. Timothy must not set his affections on these things; he must not in his personal life and in his ministry seek earthly things, but must keep the great mystery of the glory of God in Christ before his eye of faith and hope. Then he will flee a teaching and practice, which would make this very mystery of godliness, which must needs end in the new heaven and new earth, a mere means of earthly and carnal advancement. Such is ever the symptom and earmark of those who pose as men of God but who are not, but rather are as Jude pictures them “gone the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and perished in the gainsaying of Core . . . clouds without water carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by tine roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” Jude 1:11-13. Paul warns Timothy never to find himself in the company of such: he must not sit in the counsel of the wicked, nor sit in the seat of the scornful.
Timothy must flee all teaching of a “social Gospel” which is no Gospel. And we may add he must in so doing also flee all advocacy of a so-called “civil righteousness” which is not righteousness!
However, Timothy does not need to live in a vacuum. He has a very definite and positive calling; he is a “man of God.” In the world he is; yet he isnot of the world; he is a fellow-pilgrim with the brethren and sisters in the Lord. Wherefore he must pursue with all the power of his soul, as a veritable contest, a race to be run, “to lay hold on eternal life.” And to attain that prize of eternal life he must “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Verse 11b.
In an earlier essay we have alluded to these concepts here. We believe that “righteousness” here is the chief and general concept, inclusive of “godliness.” This pursuit can only be executed by a “faith” that works by love. And this faith and this love in their operation we must seek by faith in earnest prayer. And when that is done we will truly walk in righteousness. Over against all evil that be falls us in this vale of tears we shall then have “patience” and will maintain that meek and quiet spirit which waits for God.
That Timothy must “pursue.” He must as it were chase after it. Doing so he will flee the earthly lust for riches here below. Truly a great challenge and assignment! What earnest prayer this entails.
Paul likens this pursuit of righteousness and this fleeing from all covetousness which parades under the guise of godliness, to competing in a great contest. Writes he: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life.” The term in the original Greek translated in the King James Version by “fight” a term which means: to contend, to struggle with difficulties, and with all dangers which are antagonistic to the gospel. The term in the original you will find in the word “agony,” that is, great mental and spiritual conflict. One thinks here of the agony of effort registered on the face of a runner in the contest. The very arena was called in the Greek language: “stadion,” a race course, where the one who outran the other took the prize. Now a “stadion” like the Olympia, we are told, was 625 Roman feet. Of course, such a contest in the games was for the honor of receiving a prize, a corruptible one at that. Paul refers to an incorruptible prize: eternal life and immortality in the glory of God in Christ.
It should be noticed that Paul speaks of this contest as a “good” contest. The term good is a translation of the Greek word “kales.” This contest is honorable. The rules are good, the contestants are good, the referee is good, the road though rough and rugged leads to the right goal-post, the prize of the upward (from above) calling in Christ Jesus. There is nothing in all this contest which would do dishonor to a contestant, nor would there be a sense of futility and let-down when once the prize is gained. It is the prize than which there is none greater, none more befitting the creature created in Christ Jesus unto good works and renewed after his image.
For really in this contest the strength and initiative to run is worked in our hearts by God so that we may work out our salvation in this contest with fear and trembling. It is a contest which we run, but which is really out of God, through God and unto God! For really this is a constant struggle against all odds to lay hold on eternal life. One must by faith and hope get a good grip on it; one must make his calling and election sure. Here the contestant, the runner runs in the midst of death; all manner of temptations and sins which so easily beset us. It seems that Satan and his agents pursue us in this running. The siren songs are dinned into our ears from the side lines, and the “golden apples” of temptation are cast into our path to tempt us to stop running and to take our eye off the mark of the prize: eternal life. For the end of our running is, with a good conscience in the love of God and faith unfeigned, to have fellowship in Christ now with the ever blessed God, and presently to see him face to face! And having this hope upon him we purify ourselves as he is pure. That is the extreme contest. It is nevertheless as good a contest as it is intense. If it were not a “contest” it would not be intense and exacting!
But Timothy and every contestant may be comforted and strengthened. For this is exactly the contest unto which we have been “called.” In a sense we are not even volunteers. We are really selected and elected by God unto this race. He gives us the desire to run the race and the feet to go with it he supplies us. The preparedness of our feet, with the preparedness of the Gospel is from him. Otherwise we would not be enrolled amongst the contestants in this race along the rough, rugged and steep ascent to Zion’s hill-top.
For the “Calling” is unto faith and justification, and has implicit in it the assurance of glorification, whilst this is rooted in God’s foreknowledge and foreordination. That Timothy has been called became evident in the fruit of his “good confession” before many witnesses. This faith had been in him; it was the same faith which was also in his mother Eunice and in his grandmother Lois. He had confessed this faith, in personal confession, and not least in his preaching as a young minister. Preaching, it should be remembered, is really confession of faith: I have believed and therefore I have spoken! And many had heard this confession concerning the hope eternal. It was a beautiful confession in content. It spoke of the great future when Jerusalem shall be glorified as the desired (Hephzibah) and be called the land of Beulah.
In this confession, this good confession, we sing with the poet,
O, Beulah land, sweet Beulah land,
As on thy highest mount I stand;
I look away across the sea,
Where mansions are prepared for me;
And view the shining, glory shore,
My heaven, my home, for evermore!