We have now arrived at the conclusion of Paul in this first epistle to Timothy, and in this essay we shall be finished with our study of this letter so full of instruction, admonition and reproof that the man of God be thoroughly equipped unto every good work; particularly that a minister of the gospel of Christ Jesus might know how to keep the trust, the commitment of the gospel, free from error, and thus save himself and also save those who hear him.
Writes Paul at the conclusion of this letter: “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.”
It is noteworthy that Paul ends this letter with once more directing an earnest appeal to Timothy to ‘keep that which was committed to thy trust.” We said that Paul does this once more, and now in a rather final and concluding sense. Repeatedly in this letter we see this urgent appeal of Paul to Timothy who is stationed in the congregation at Ephesus. A little leaven of error, if not removed instantaneously and resolutely, will corrupt all of doctrine and life in the church.
Permit us briefly to recapitulate the instances in this letter in which Paul directs his urgent appeal to Timothy to keep the charge committed to him by the Lord.
In I Timothy 1:18 we read: “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy.” Timothy must war a good warfare in the church in his ministry. He must “charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in the faith.” Vss. 3, 4. Those legalists who would place the believers under the principle of law, be this Jewish legalism or Gnostic speculation, must be gainsaid. Timothy must preach that other word of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God in Jesus Christ; the gospel which was so signally exhibited in the case of Paul himself, saving him notwithstanding that he had been a persecutor of the church of God.
In I Timothy 3:14 Paul tells Timothy why he wrote him concerning the matters which indicate how the affairs in God’s church must be conducted—the church which is the temple of the living God. Paul had written concerning prayer for those in authority. He had also written concerning the public prayers in the assembly of the saints; it should be the men who should lead the services and not the women in the church. Timothy is here reminded of the charge of Christ in this respect!
In I Timothy 4:6 Paul informs Timothy concerning the proper teaching of the use of the creation of God in the service of the latter; marriage is not to be rejected, nor a Gnostic abstinence from foods. All must be used and nothing is to be rejected, since it is sanctified in God’s service, by the Word of God and by prayer. If Timothy will put the church in remembrance of these things he will be an honorable and a good minister of the gospel! And inI Tim. 4:12-16 Paul tells his son, Timothy, that he must give heed to himself and to the doctrine. Thus he shall save himself and those who hear him.
Furthermore, in I Timothy 5:21 Paul admonishes Timothy that in his dealings with officebearers who offend, he must be blameless in his judgment; he must do nothing by prejudice or by preferring one before the other. He must have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ without respect of persons. This too is a charge, and a very solemn one at that!
In this final chapter, I Timothy 6, Paul issues repeated “charges” to Timothy. It seems that, as he comes to the end of the letter, he becomes the more insistent that Timothy reprove error and keep himself pure from the same. In verse 2 he writes, “These things teach and exhort.” He has here reference to the relationship of slaves and master, be this master believing or unbelieving, in their new relationship to Christ Jesus, who has saved them from the guilt and corruption of sin. He must teach that in this life, whatever the relationship, we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In verse 11 Timothy is reminded that he is a man of God, a prophet in the true sense of the term: he is the mouthpiece of God! He must flee all love for money and earthly gain, and must pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. He is charged by Paul very solemnly before the face of God that he keep this commandment irreproachable and spotless until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ in His day. And, now, he once more has a “charge” for Timothy. It is with great urgency that he underscores, in these last two verses, all that he has charged Timothy with in this entire letter.
The charge concerns the “commitment,” the trust which was given to Timothy in the laying on of hands before many witnesses. This commitment refers to the keeping of the pure words of the doctrine of Christ, the teaching of sovereign grace, love and mercy. It refers to all that Paul has instructed Timothy with in the foregoing part of this letter, as we signaled above briefly. This is evident from the Greek term teen paratheekeen. The article here indicates the well-known trust that was just pointed out in its various aspects and facets in this letter over against all false teachings and gainsayers. The singular form of the noun “commitment” refers to the entire work of Timothy as an office from God. It sums up all the several “charges” of Paul in this letter. We have here more than mere repetition. It is forcefully placing before Timothy and us the entire thrust of this epistle.
Many and powerful are the forces of Satan to remove from the hope of the gospel. Timothy must not let himself be tempted. He must stand guard and not fall asleep on his watch. The term here employed in the Greek text is phulaxson. This word means to guard, to keep the watch. Positively this implies the doctrine we taught as outlined by Paul here in this letter. Otherwise, there is nothing over which to keep to watch. Negatively this means that Timothy shall turn away from all that is antithetical to the teaching of the word of truth.
Paul singles out this negative aspect here.
The form of the verb here is the present participle, middle of the verb ektrepoo: to turn away from. The tense of the participle indicates that simultaneously with the defending of the truth there must also be a turning away from all that opposes the truth. One cannot interpret this to mean -a mere negative turning away from error and nothing more. This certainly means that, hand in hand with the confession and maintenance of the pure preaching of the gospel, there must be a rejection of all errors repugnant thereto. Shall we maintain a strong testimony positively, then that positive witness must go hand in hand with a strong polemic against all error. We have a good example of this in this letter of Paul as well as in the other epistles of the Apostles. And this shall be the norm in the church of Christ. Those who insist on a “positive testimony,” but who are adverse to sound and healthy apologetics, do not really cling to the truth with all their heart. They failed to hear the urgency of Paul in this letter to Timothy!
Paul here also characterizes the false teachings of those who love not the gospel, for what they really are.
In the first place, unbelief ever desires to prate its learnedness. They pretend that they have a toehold on knowledge which the believer in Christ does not possess. They like to speak of their very special knowledge (gnosis). They look down over their noses upon the simplicity of the Bible believer. But Paul calls their number; he calls them by their proper name. They are apostates from the faith. They fell away from truth to error. Writes Paul in I Timothy 1:6, 7: “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” And, earlier in this sixth Chapter he writes concerning such: “He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.” Such are literally “sick” in their hearts and in their head. They are not learned at all, except in their own vain imagination. Of such there be many in our day of education.
They have nothing positive to teach concerning God, Christ, the church, sin, grace, atonement, applied salvation, or the doctrine of the last things. They have no ethics which befits man as the image-bearer of God, or a walk of sanctification and godliness. All their teaching is vain, empty. Such are the ways of those who depart from the faith in Christ. They are like Esau, that profane one who despised his birthright. They have no distinction between that which is holy and that which is profane. All must be secularized. God is not in all their thoughts.
Wherefore Paul calls them such that have a teaching of opposition, they are against the “thesis” of the truth. They have no platform and teaching of their own, but only a denial of the truth. They are “antithetical.” It is for this reason that their knowledge, their “science” is a pseudonym; it operates under a name that is not merely inept and ill chosen; it is a name that is designed to deceive. They are liars, these apostates from the truth, and they have nothing to teach the church. We do well that our sons and daughters do not worship at the shrine of this worldly learning concerning religion.
Sad to say some did. Hymaneus and Alexander did so, and suffered shipwreck in the faith. Some others did at Ephesus and they too, professing this false knowledge, departed from the faith. They did not simply deny certain peripheral truths, but they denied the truth in Jesus.
Well may Timothy be reminded of the seriousness and earnestness of this life-and-death question of truth and error.
But then too he must understand that one can keep the charge only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Writes Paul in II Tim. 1:14: “That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which was committed unto us.” Here in this verse 21 Paul adds, “Grace be with thee, Amen.” Certainly this does not merely mean to be a closing salutation with no reference to this immediate exhortation. Only when the grace of God is with Timothy will he stand. It is all of grace, the power of the Holy Spirit which works faith in the heart. Then the preacher and every believer says: “I believed, therefore did I speak.” For the victory is by faith and is, therefore, of grace alone.
All these promises are, of course, in Christ Jesus. He is the “Amen.” He will cause His church to stand. He causes His word to become efficacious in the heart of Timothy. He will cause also His Word through the feeble effort of the writer of this rubric to be efficacious unto salvation. It is with this glad assurance that we now come to the end of our exposition of this first epistle of Paul to Timothy. Amen.