1 Timothy 6:17-21
Take hold of that which is truly life!
Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7b)
Believers at Ephesus were tempted to walk away from the gospel in favor of the new theological / philosophical / pragmatic flavor of the day.
What was at stake was the paradise of God, the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ and it was being challenged with the Turkish delight of bad teaching.
They had begun to wander into speculations and myths in the delusion of the evil one. Some had made shipwreck of their faith by believing that godliness was how we got gain rather than the gain being God alone. Some had begun to believe the teachings of demons through the demon’s prophets disguised as shepherds. Some forbid marriage. Some forbid certain foods. Myths, speculations…shipwreck.
So, with one final push Paul commands Timothy to take hold of real life not some fake imitation that would break down once they got it home.
Listen to Paul’s final instruction:
 As for the rich in this present age, charge (imperative; to order; charge; give instruction; same word as in verse 13 only in the imperative here in 17) them not to be haughty (think exalted thoughts), nor to set their hopes (expect) on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly (abundantly) provides (participle; maintain the state of; cause to happen) us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,  thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.  O Timothy, guard (imperative; keep; observe; guard) the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid (participle; wander away; stray after; be dislocated; avoid) the irreverent babble and contradictions (transliterated word: antithesis) of what is falsely called “knowledge,”  for by professing it some have swerved (deviated from) from the faith. Grace (grace has the article here and could be rendered “the grace”; grace – the unearned favor of God. All the favor of God purchased by Christ’s perfection for his people to be treated as completely innocent children of God. Common grace is the unearned favor of God that is not part of salvation) be with you.
Paul’s first command in his final instruction is buried at the end of this initial section in verse 19. He states it in the negative at the start of verse 17 and then states it in the positive in verse 19. So, lets state it in the positive in order for the command to takes its effect in our ears. I’m afraid that if we don’t set this instruction in the setting properly some of us may not hear. So, let’s begin:
Take hold of true life v. 17-19
What is at stake here is true life. This true life is contrasted with life that is not true. Fake. A mirage. A trap.
The trap is that by gaining something other than Jesus there is actually gain in it. This was the lie of the garden: God is holding out on you. Take what he has forbidden and get what you deserve.
This rebellion caused the breaking of everything. We are broken. So we crave the gifts not the giver thinking that we will find what we want in the gift. But, as always, we discover that the gaining of “stuff” is empty and soon fades into the “ache of wanting” still being present and accounted for.
This is because that ache is only satisfied in being reconciled back to Father who we declared war on in the garden. Even as Christians we still wrestle this match. Jesus satisfies us and our soul is transformed but our body still aches with the disease of the fall and we wage a Romans 7 battle of wanting to do right but it being so impossible and desiring to do evil and it being so easy.
This is a temptation not only for those who have abundance but also for those who don’t and perceive that abundance is the key to happiness or success.
For the slaveholder at Ephesus and for the slave alike the temptation is the same.
Whether they had riches or had their future hope pinned on gaining them Paul’s instruction on how to gain true life is vital.
So, Paul says:
For those with abundance:
1. Do NOT be haughty – there is no life in being haughty!
The belief that having abundance is a sign of God’s grace is a lie. That works in a western economic situation of prosperity, but what about a depressed third world country where the Christian suffers?
The idea that one is exalted spiritually and blessed because they have abundance is a lie. At Ephesus, that seemed to be part of the demonic teaching some have believed. Godliness is a way to get gain. But Paul tells them not to be haughty. The fact that Paul has to instruct this indicates that these folks have believed that lie. They see themselves as “higher”. So, they say, “I’m so blessed.”
Those who have nothing and suffer injustice are just a blessed as the one with much. See Joseph in Genesis 32-50. Was Joseph less “blessed” than his brothers? No. He was the chosen instrument by which his family would be saved. Remember, blessing biblically is “family inclusion” with all the benefits of being in the family.
So, if we find ourselves with much, and each of us have riches by global standards, don’t think it’s a sign of blessing above the brother or sister who has been chosen to struggle for God’s good purposes.
2. Do NOT set hope on the uncertainty of riches – there is no life in riches!
Listen to Proverbs 23:4-5
“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.”
Note that Paul does not tell the wealthy to get rid of their wealth. Paul tells them to NOT put their hope in it. Reason? Riches are as temporary as a bird staying in one place.
3. Do set hope on God who provides us with everything to enjoy – there IS life in Father, Son and Spirit!
Setting hope on God stores up the good foundation of treasure in the kingdom of heaven and this is truly life.
Matthew 19:16-22 (verse 21 – “treasure in heaven”)
Matthew 6:19-21 (“treasure in heaven”)
Guard the deposit v. 20-21
Guard the entrusted gospel
Guard the gospel by avoiding the babble and contradictions of “knowledge”
Technology has made available much preaching and teaching. This has given rise to the Christian super star thing where the good talker gets an “interweb” following and ends up propagating lies because they tickle ears with the fare of a fallen culture disguised with a little coating of Jesus to sneak it past the fledgling flame of discernment.
This must be avoided. Often the failure is that one believes that they have met God’s spiritual quota for the week by listening to or watching their favorite preacher boy and fail to engage in their local fellowship. This is a small yet deadly purchase of anti-gospel babble. They are thinking that they have gained knowledge and they are good for the week when in fact the gospel call is not to intake more data but to go and fellowship with the family of God, learning together and being “servant of all by setting up their chairs and making their coffee and opening their doors and showing the new people where to go” as their spiritual act of worship (see Romans 12:1-2).
Then we learn: Abandoning the gospel results in swerving from the faith
The faith is more than a set of facts we assimilate in our heads. The faith is the total system of truth(s) that affect our actions.
If it keeps us from the fellowship, it is a lie. If it keeps us from reading Scripture, it is a lie.
What is the last instruction in 1 Timothy?
Receive grace v. 21b “Grace be with you.”
Finally, and in conclusion, Timothy and the church in Ephesus are to receive the grace of God. God’s grace is the innumerable gifts that are poured out on us that are purchased by the suffering of Christ.
Common grace is the innumerable blessings given by God to all mankind that are not part of salvation. God, being good, graces even the unbelieving with sun and rain to make crops grow so mankind can eat and drink. This is the common goodness of God for all image bearers.
However, the grace received by those who believe the gospel is a special kind of grace that only a child of God can receive.
I love students. I love the students at my school and the students at our church. I’ll bend over backwards to serve them and be kind to them. But that will only go so far.
But my kids came to me and remain through suffering. Childbirth prematurely and in distress and through a hard yearlong adoption process are the marks of love that we were willing to endure because we love and those babies are ours. When I see my babies and watch the way they walk, talk, hug me, hug Jennifer, smile at me and all their little nuances that are unique to just them my soul stirs. Even when I’m angry with them for their failing to do what they are supposed to do my soul stirs. Even when I discipline them my soul stirs and I’m gracious even in discipline because I love them. I can’t help it. They are mine.
The bible tells us we are adopted children of God and heirs as children. We are full blown children. As a result we get the innumerable gifts of blessing that have been purchased for us by Christ in his suffering for us to bring us to Father.
Sometimes that grace looks like abundance. Sometimes that grace looks like support in discipline (Father can uphold me with one hand and discipline me with the other). Sometimes that grace looks like keeping us in the faith when every principality and power is assaulting our trust in the Lord. But that grace is ours at the cost of Jesus’ suffering for us in order that we may receive that grace.
Paul tells Timothy, “Grace be with you.”
Its not like Paul’s words trip some spiritual / magical switch that causes God’s goodness chain to be yanked and all of the sudden good things will fall from the heavens on Timothy and the Ephesian Christians. Paul often says these words to the recipients of his letters. “Grace and peace to you”.
The bible tells us that words convey life or death (Proverbs 18:21 – death and life in the power of the tongue). Words are powerful things because words carry ideas/understanding/lack of understanding/truth/lies. Ideas are powerful things because ideas carry implications.
When Paul tells Timothy, “Grace be with you”, it is a reminder that God’s grace is lavishly available to him. But Paul does not tell Timothy how to draw on that grace. That’s just Father’s way.
He tells Jeremiah after everybody’s favorite bible verse:
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord…”. (Jeremiah 29:12-14a)
How are we to draw on Father’s good and innumerable gifts to us as children?
1. Seek Jesus’ kingdom and his righteousness first (Matthew 6:33)
How do you seek Jesus’ kingdom? Do Matthew 5-7.
2. Ask for eyes that see so that we can see the treasure hidden in the field and comprehend how the yeast of the kingdom leavens the dough of created order.
Father has made it so that we will seek after him as his children.
3. Know Father and thus know his intentions in all things (goodness, purposeful, unfailing, providential, kind, powerful)
4. Be aware of Father’s providence (Job 36:32; Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20 – Psalm 105:16-17; Esther 6:1 – Agag’s descendants are dealt with through the providential leading of Father long after the Amalekite king’s sentence was passed by Samuel and not done through Saul)
5. Know that Father has not left us without instruction (its in the Manual)
This is one of the functions of Sunday mornings. You don’t need to miss this time.
6. Know that storms are opportunities to rest in the stern with Jesus not fret on the bow with Peter
Don’t let the “cheese” of this statement cause you to miss the point. Jesus is in charge of storms, even the ones he allows Satan to stir up (see Job). So, stop…get perspective with Scripture…pray for help…fight your flesh’s desire to fret…don’t be stupid or do anything stupid you will regret…wait…watch Father be faithful.
7. Sit still and quiet with bible open and pen in hand waiting for the Lord to speak then record your time with Father.
You will draw on these testimonies later. Also, don’t confuse a word from the Spirit for you as being for others unless the Spirit gives you a word for others specifically. Then the recipient needs to test that word.
8. Be in fellowship with people (often the Lord sends a word through a faithful brother or sister)
The interweb may be a place to get some teaching but is lacks severely in face-to-face fellowship and leaves us empty. Teaching / preaching has never been intended to be consumed as information. Teaching is the ministry of the Spirit and because the Godhead is in community he intends to teach in community. Preaching/teaching by flesh and blood by the power of the Spirit’s ministry building fellowship through preaching/teaching
Why? Jesus came in person (incarnation), lived among us, taught / showed us glory, suffered, rose supernaturally, received his kingdom of people given by the Father. This should be our model for all ministry: Incarnate. Teach. Display glory. Suffer as needed. Receive the supernatural work of God. Reap fruit.
This happens in person not by distance.
9. Don’t let your spiritual sight get crowded with myths, speculations, and useless discussions
Take inventory and purge your soul of false ideas and misguided ends.
10. Read and meditate on the kingdom of God (read the gospels and study the kingdom hard).
Father simply does not operate the way we are wired to think things should operate and we are to not expect him to. We are to bend around how he does his kingdom work. We are to adapt to the way things will be done from now on in the full reign of Christ.
The flow of the bible is that theology leads to doxology. The study of God and his word leads to worship.
Worship is our public and private communion with God in which believers, by grace, center their mind’s attention and their heart’s affection on the Lord humbly glorifying God in response to the revelation of his glory and his majesty.