But As For You…

11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. – 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ESV

Flee. Pursue. Fight. Take hold. Keep.

In just six short verses, Paul provides his young protégé, Timothy, with at least five imperatives or commands. And at least one of those commands includes six subsets or categories. Paul warns Timothy to run for his life, getting as far away as he can from false doctrine because it can lead to conceit, controversy, and unproductive quarreling over words. And those things will produce jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions (1 Timothy 6:4-5 NLT). 

But it wasn’t enough that Timothy avoid false teaching like the plague. In running from the negative, Timothy was to run toward the positive. Paul tells him to “pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 NLT). That word “pursue” is diōkō in the Greek and it means “to run after.” It pictures a runner in a race who is actively pressing on toward the finish line. Paul used this imagery in his first letter to the Corinthians.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! – 1 Corinthians 9:24 NLT

He used the very same illustration when writing to the believers in Philippi. In fact, in this passage he used the very same Greek word: diōkō.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on [diōkō] to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on [diōkō] to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. – Philippians 3:12-14 NLT

Paul wanted Timothy to run from one thing and run towards something else in its place. And Paul was quite specific about what Timothy was to pursue or press on toward: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. Those qualities or characteristics were to be Timothy’s end goal. But was Paul telling Timothy to achieve these things? Was he commanding his young brother in the faith to somehow increase these qualities in his life? Probably not. Because Paul told the Corinthians, “because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Paul wasn’t demanding that Timothy make himself more righteous or godly. He wasn’t suggesting that Timothy could or should increase his faith, ramp up his capacity to love, grow in his ability to persevere, or improve the degree of his gentleness.

But there is always a risk when we come across a passage like this. We read those commands from the pen of Paul and we immediately begin to think in terms of self-effort. We hear Paul telling us to flee, pursue, fight, take hold, and keep. It’s a list and we tend to like lists because they provide us with tangible, measurable, and, for the most part, achievable objectives for which to strive. Lists trigger the built-in performance mindset that exists in each and every one of us.

But is that Paul’s point? Is he really telling Timothy to achieve? It’s important to note that Paul refers to Timothy as a “man of God.” He doesn’t call him a man of God in the making or a work in process. No, he addresses Timothy as who he is: a man of God, and then he gives him five commands:

…flee these things

…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness

…fight the good fight of the faith

…take hold of the eternal life to which you were called

…keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach

And Timothy is to do these things “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, they are to be lifelong objectives or goals. But why? Because they are God’s goals for us. He has sanctified us or set us apart that we might reflect His image as we live in the power of His Spirit and exhibit the new nature He has made possible through His Son’s death on the cross.

Paul is not providing us with a to-do list of religious exercises to perform in order to improve our spiritual health. He is not asking us to become something we are not. He addressed Timothy as a man of God for a reason. Timothy was a man of God. And Paul wanted him to live as who he was. But to do so was going to entail a change of focus, a new way of Timothy seeing himself. Paul emphasized this new perception to the believers in Corinth.

Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NLT

Paul provided a similar reminder to Titus, addressing the change that takes place in the life of a believer and the need to embrace a radically different perspective.

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.

But—

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.  – Titus 3:3-7 NLT

It is not that we have no role to play in the process. But where we tend to focus all our attention on activities to be performed, Paul would have us recognize the radical transformation that has been provided for us by God.  He saved us. He washed away our sins. He gave us new birth and new life. He poured out His Spirit. He made us right in His sight. And He gave us the confidence that eternal life is ours, not because of anything we do, but because of who we are in Christ.

Our natural tendency is to look for something we can do to earn God’s favor. We’re performance-driven, rewards-oriented creatures who are hard-wired for self-achievement. And while Paul had a type-A, driven personality, he also confessed, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV). Paul prayed on behalf of the Colossian believers that they would be strengthened with all power, according to his [Jesus] glorious might” (Colossians1:11 ESV). And Paul was happy to boast about his own weaknesses and insufficiencies so, as he put it, “the power of Christ can work through me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV).

The Christian life involves effort. But there is no place for earning. It requires energy on our part but, more than anything else, it demands a new way of seeing ourselves. We are children of God. We are filled with the Spirit of God and, as a result, have the power to…

…flee these things

and to …pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness

and to …fight the good fight of the faith

and to …take hold of the eternal life to which you were called

and to …keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach

Not in our own strength or according to our own effort. Not for our own glory or in order to earn God’s favor. But in total dependence upon Him and in full recognition that, as Paul put it, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 ESV). So, by all means, flee, pursue, fight, take hold, and keep. But do so because of who you are, not because of what you hope to become.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

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Taking Every Thought Captive.

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!—I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. – 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 ESV

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. But Paul’s experience was just the opposite. His long-distance relationship with the Corinthians had created some significant leadership issues for him. While he had been away, a variety of different individuals had shown up who questioned his apostolic authority, accused him of heavy-handedness, painted him as a coward, and labeled him as weak. A good portion of this letter contains Paul’s defense of his actions and authority. He felt compelled to defend himself because, ultimately, an attack on him was an attack on the very gospel he preached. And he saw the battle as a spiritual one. This wasn’t just a case of one man’s opinion over another’s. This was about the integrity of the gospel.

Paul uses military terms to describe what is going on. And he indicates that the conflict is taking place behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm. So those who were attempting to raise doubts about Paul’s integrity and undermine his ministry were actually being used by Satan himself to damage the cause of Christ. And Paul makes it clear that the attacks against him called for something other than a “fleshly” response. He was human (of the flesh), but his actions were anything but fleshly (according to the human means). He says, “we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3b ESV). Paul wasn’t going to resort to human means to fight a spiritual battle. Manipulation, deceit, slander, lying, self-promotion, power-grabbing, and hypocrisy had no place in a battle that was spiritual in nature. Paul’s enemies were waging war according to the flesh. They were using any means possible to tear down Paul and destroy his influence among the Corinthians. They spread rumors about him. They raised questions about his integrity. They insinuated his lack of trustworthiness. They flatly denied his apostleship. They accused him of timidity when he was present with them, but of an arrogant boldness when he was writing his letters from a safe distance.

But Paul has a different fighting technique. He says, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 ESV). He knows the source behind the attacks of his enemies, and it is none other than Satan. What Paul was facing was more than a battle of words and whits. He describes the verbal attacks of his enemies as “arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5a ESV). When these people attacked Paul and his ministry, they were really speaking against God Himself. And like Satan himself, these pawns of the enemy were really attempting to cause people to doubt the veracity and reality of God and His offer of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. The NET Bible translates verse five as, “we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.” Paul wasn’t going to let the false opinions and deceptive teachings of his enemies just slide by. He was going to attack them and make them his captive, forcing them to surrender to the sovereignty and Lordship of Christ.

Paul was ready to come and clean house. But he wanted to make sure that the Corinthians were obedient to the will and Word of God. His primary concern was their obedience. Once that was taken care of, he would do business with the rebels in their midst, punishing their disobedience once and for all. Paul was anything but politically correct or tolerant. He did not operate on the notion that everyone is free to have their own opinion. At least not when it came to the message of the gospel. And since the gospel, including man’s salvation, sanctification and ultimate glorification, was what Paul’s entire ministry was all about, he was anything but tolerant of those who claimed to teach a different version of the gospel. He was not going to put up with those who questioned the validity of his claim to have been commissioned by Christ Himself. There was too much at stake.

The phrase, “Taking every thought captive” has often been construed to mean that believers are to manage their thought lives. They are think right thoughts and to control the inner workings of their minds. And while this is true, it would seem that Paul’s point has nothing to do with our thoughts, but with those of the enemies of God. We are to do battle with these false teaching and vain philosophies, taking them captive, like prisoners at the end of a victorious battle. We are to force those thoughts to submit the Lordship of Christ, like captives kneeling before a conquering king. They have proven insufficient and inadequate to overthrow the King of kings and Lord of lords.

In order to stand for the truth, you must know it. If we are to do battle with the false teachings and the subtle lies of the enemy, it is essential that we know what the truth is. We can’t spot the counterfeit if we don’t know what the real thing looks like. Our familiarity with the truth is what gives us the ability to stand against falsehood. And our commitment to that truth is what motivates us to fight against the lies, no matter what form they may take. Exposing the lies of the enemy is one of our primary functions as believers. Paul was at war and he knew he was on the winning side. He was willing to go out swinging, never letting up or giving up, until the Lord called him home. Which is why he could write to Timothy and say, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT).

 

 

Stand!

Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. – Ephesians 6:14-18a ESV

Two times Paul told his readers to put on “the whole armor of God.” He was not providing them with a menu of optional items from which to choose. They were not to decide for themselves which piece of God’s divine equipment they were interested in wearing or utilizing. But the sad truth is, that is exactly the way many of us as Christians approach this passage. Whether we intend to or not, we jeopardize our spiritual well-being by self-selecting the armor of God we want to put on. But Paul would have us understand that when it comes to the armor of God, it’s all or nothing. He tells us to “put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm” (Ephesians 6:13 NLT).

Paul uses two Greek words, ἀνθίστημι (anthistēmi) and ἵστημι (histēmi). The first means “to stand against” and the other means “to stand” (“G436 – anthistēmi, G2476 – histēmi – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). To withstand in the evil day carries the idea of being able to stand your ground in the midst of battle. You are under attack. The enemy has you surrounded, but you refuse to surrender your position. You resist. It is a defensive posture, not an offensive one. The enemy is bringing the battle to you. Jesus told Peter, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18 NET). Satan is out to destroy God’s people and has His church under constant assault both from without and within. But Paul calls us to stand our ground, to resist. James uses the same Greek word, ἀνθίστημι (anthistēmi), when he writes, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 ESV).

And Paul calls us to stand. It means to stand firm, immovable, ready and prepared for action. But how are we to pull that off? What is the secret to our standing firm? Paul makes it quite clear. It is the whole armor of God. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes for your feet comprised of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. This six items are to be the indispensable equipment for every soldier of God. You can’t survive without them. It isn’t a question of whether the enemy will attack and you will see battle. His is bringing the war to your doorstep each and every day. And God has given us all that we need to withstand and stand firm in the heat of the battle. The belt of truth is the first and most essential piece of equipment. It most likely refers to the truth as revealed in God’s Word. Truth is key to standing up to the lies of the enemy. Remember, the goal is to “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 ESV). That word, “schemes” means “deceit or trickery.” Satan is a liar. He is cunning and clever and he uses falsehood as his primary weapon of choice. So truth is going to be one of our greatest assets as believers.

The breastplate of righteousness is probably referring the righteousness of Christ. Like the armor of a Roman soldier, this breastplate would provide protection from the neck to the thighs, covering all the vital organs. As believers, we are covered by the righteousness of Christ. It is His righteousness that has made us right with God. When the enemy attacks and hurls darts of accusations against our self-righteousness, we are protected or covered by the righteousness imputed to us by Christ at His death. Satan can accuse us, but he cannot harm us. We must daily take up Christ’s righteousness and understand that it is what He has given us that protects us from the assault of the enemy.

No soldier would go into battle without shoes. How can you stand firm without proper footwear? And Paul describes these shoes that are “the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15 ESV). The gospel of peace, the Good News is what provides us with the ability to stand firm, without slipping or sliding in uncertainty or losing our spiritual footing. Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, we have peace with God. We are His and He is ours. That is why so confidently claimed, “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39 ESV).

The shield of faith is not something you wear, but something you hold. Like all of the other pieces of armor, it is given to you by God. It is His armor. Our faith is not self-manufactured, but it is a gift of the Spirit, provided for us by a gracious and loving God. As long as we stand behind our faith, we are safe. It is when we set aside our faith that we become vulnerable to the darts of the enemy. Our faith is our trust in God and in His promises regarding us. He will not leave us or forsake us. He has prepared a permanent place for us. He will fight our battles for us. He has placed His all-powerful Spirit within us. I must trust in these truths at all time. A weak shield is of little use in the heat of battle. Strong faith in a strong and faithful God will provide protection each and every time, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

The helmet of salvation protects our mind. It is the awareness and recognition of God’s ongoing saving work in our lives. It not only refers to our coming to faith in Christ, but to our ongoing sanctification and the daily saving work of God in our lives. Through His Son’s death, he saved us from sin and death, but He is also saving us from the flesh, the world and the enemy. We must keep our minds focused on the saving work of God in our lives. We must constantly remind ourselves that He is faithful and strong, and that the battle is already won.

The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. It is designed for hand-to-hand combat. The Scriptures are what we are to use when the enemy gets up close and personal. God’s Word provides us with the truth we need to deflect the lies thrown at us by Satan. It is both a defensive and offensive weapon, allowing us to protect ourselves, but also to bring harm to the enemy. Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “when he come he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment” (John 16:8 NLT). The Spirit of God in conjunction with the Word of God are essential in our fight against the forces of this world.

Finally, Paul tells us to keep “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18a ESV). Prayer is nothing more than communication with God. Like a soldier out on the field of battle, timely communication from headquarters is key to victory. We must listen to our heavenly commander, the Lord of Hosts. He is the captain of the armies of heaven and He has a battle plan in place. We are not to act as freelance mercenaries, operating based on our own agenda and implementing our own battle plan. It is through prayer and the reading of God’s Word that we receive instructions. It also provides us with a means of sharing our own needs and news from the battlefield. Staying in touch with God is essential to our survival.

The battle is real. The enemy is powerful. But our God is great and our armor is time-tested and proven reliable in the heat of battle. It has been made by God. It has been given to us by God. And our victory is assured because of God. “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4 NLT).

1 Timothy 6:11-21

The Goal of Godliness.

1 Timothy 6:11-21

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11 NLT

As Paul wraps up his letter to Timothy, he gives him one last charge. He calls him to live differently and to see he life as distinctive and set apart from all those around him, including those who are crave money and have wandered from the faith. Unlike the false teachers for whom godliness was merely a way to become wealthy, Timothy was to run from that kind of attitude and make true godliness his sole goal, along with ever-increasing faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Paul tells him to “pursue” godliness – which in the Greek meant “to run swiftly in order to catch” or of one “who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal.” Money, materialism, popularity, power, pleasure, significance, comfort – none of these things were to be the focus of Timothy’s life. And while Paul is addressing this last section of his letter to Timothy, it is really a call to all believers of every age. Paul had made it clear to Timothy that he was to “Teach these things … and encourage everyone to obey them. Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life” (1 Timothy 6:2-3 NLT). Everything Paul had shared in his letter was intended to be practiced and promoted among the people of God. As a leader, Timothy was to be an example of godly living to all those under his care. Paul had told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NLT).

As believers, our lives are always on display, and others are watching. Our behavior and conduct is constantly being witnessed by God Himself, our fellow believers and the lost. Paul wanted Timothy to live his life well and consistently. He told him to “fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you” (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT). For Paul, perseverance and consistency of faith was essential. He wanted Timothy to finish well. He wanted him to keep his eyes on the goal, which was the return of Christ. The reality of that event was to never be far from Timothy’s heart and mind, so that he would live his life in such a way that no one could find fault with his character or conduct. There would certainly be those who disliked and disparaged his life because he lived it for God, just as Paul had experienced. Suffering for the sake of Christ was always acceptable and expected. But Paul  didn’t want Timothy to do anything that would harm his reputation as a believer or bring dishonor to God.

Paul gives Timothy one last message concerning those who are rich in the things of this world. He doesn’t condemn them, but simply warns them that they are not to put their trust in their money, because it is unreliable. It makes a lousy god. Instead, they were to put their trust in God, who is the ultimate provider of all that we need. Those who had been blessed with money were to see it as a God-provided resource to be used for the care of others and the cause of the Kingdom of God. They were to be “rich” in good works and generous to those in need. God called them while they wealthy, so God must have had a purpose for placing them in the body of Christ in that condition. By focusing their attention on obedience to God and service to others, they would learn that their wealth was just a tool in the hands of God, not a treasure to be horded and held onto.

Some of Paul’s last words to Timothy were, “guard what God has entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20 NLT). He was to see his own salvation and the news of salvation through Jesus Christ as invaluable and worthy of his constant protection. Leadership in the body of Christ is a dangerous calling and it comes with great responsibilities. Timothy had been entrusted with the message of the Gospel and the care of the flock of Jesus Christ. He had an obligation to put the needs of the congregation ahead of his own. And yet, he was also to guard himself – watching over his character and conduct constantly. The same message applied to Timothy that Paul shared with the elders from Ephesus: “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock – his church, purchased with his own blood – over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders” (Acts 20:28 NLT). The goal for all spiritual leaders should be godliness – not only for themselves, but for all those under their care. But godliness without God’s grace is impossible. This journey of faith to which we have been called is only possible through an ever-increasing dependence upon God. We need His Word to teach and guide us. We need His Spirit to empower us. We need His grace and mercy to miraculously meet us where we are along the way and constantly remind us that godliness is our one and only calling.

Father, make us godly. Continue to mold and make us into the likeness of Your Son. Keep us focused on the one and only goal that we should all have – our godliness. Don’t let us get distracted by the things of this world. Prevent us from loving the world more than we love You. May our godliness as individuals and as members of the body of Christ be what drives and motivates us all the days of our lives – until You call us home or send Your Son to come and get us. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org