1 Timothy 6:3-10 The pathway of the cross will end with great gains and glory!
1 Timothy 6:3-10
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, 5 and constant argument*, men** of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
* NASB translates as friction.
** NASB translates as between men.
Paul warns Timothy of ministers who are prone to raising controversies, causing disunity and gathering followers after themselves. Such advocate the practice of Christianity as a means to fulfil their worldly desires. The best defence for believers is to be content with all that we possess and to adhere to the sound words of Jesus Christ. In today’s devotion, we learn the sound teachings of Christ that will reward us beyond our expectations. The pathway of the cross will certainly end with great gains and glory!
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing.
Paul advocates that all doctrine must agree with the sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ. By agreeing with sounds words, doctrine must espouse the virtues and Jesus Christ’s manner of life – His purity, His sacrificial love for humanity and His unyielding obedience to God. It also follows that the purpose of doctrine is to lead hearers towards Christ-likeness or godliness. Any doctrine that diminishes the importance of sanctification towards Christ-likeness is considered a different doctrine. And any branch of teaching (e.g. prayer, worship) that stands apart from the pursuit of godliness is considered a suspect. In some circles, prayer is presented as a means through which one fulfils his fleshly desires. The apostle James warns against soulish prayers, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. Jesus teaches concerning the purpose of prayer is to facilitate God’s will to be done on earth as it is predetermined in heaven (see Matthew 6:9-13).
but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant argument*, men** of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
Paul pulls no punches for such teachers labelling them as conceited and understands nothing. Conceited connotes one who is puffed up in his own notions even though he does not possess a firm mental grasp of the subject matter (understands nothing). And such a one in refusing to be corrected, descends into foolishness and depravity of mind. Paul describes the proponents of a different doctrine as harbouring an unhealthy tendency (morbid interest) in stirring controversies while distracting hearers from the true purpose of doctrine, which is sanctification and godliness. For their minds can no longer grasp the truth (depraved mind and deprived of the truth), being trapped in constant arguments in order to justify themselves. Therefore, instead of fostering unity within the Christian community, their teachings ferment distrust, envy and strife while drawing followers after themselves. In some circles, ministers advocate that confession of sins is no longer necessary as Christ’s work on the cross has forgiven all sins. This is unwarranted as much as it is unhelpful in aiding the pursuit of godliness. Instead, it causes much dispute and strife within the Christian community.
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
Paul exposes the underlying motives of errant ministers who suppose the practice of Christianity is a means of fulfilling their worldly desires. Such pride themselves in exploiting the benefits of God’s love and forgiveness. They supercharge themselves with an air of godliness while boldly exhibiting the appearance of blessedness. Instead of making Christ the model of their faith, He is reduced to a conduit of grace for personal gains. No wonder the followers of such ministers have little desire to “go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Mark 10:21. They are made to believe that by “faith”, they are already heirs of creation. And the heavenly edict to serve the poor is reduced to a whim of gratitude.
Paul, in defence of godliness substantiates that true godliness must be accompanied by contentment. Contentment is a state of being content with one’s possessions and circumstances. One who is content is not lured by wealth, fame or power, for he is at peace in his spirit and with all that God has supplied. True godliness with contentment is a far cry from the brand of Christianity these teachers espouses; an insatiable whirlpool of greed and emptiness that drowns their followers with many griefs. Therefore, bearing in mind that material wealth cannot be exported to the next life, Paul advices constraint in the acquisition of resources: If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. Excesses are not to be hoarded, but to be used for works of charity.
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
What greater gain than having our desires fulfilled and being at peace with God and with one another! Therefore, the secret to great gain is not in the acquisition of material wealth but in putting our security in the Almighty God. However, many who have tasted the sweetness of wealth and glamour plunge themselves into ruin and destruction. Their families broken, and their souls being torn apart in the pit of hell. The love of money is a curse that has caused many their salvation.
Truth & Application
In the light of Paul’s warning concerning errant ministers who espouses a different doctrine. I have selected excerpts of Jesus’ teachings which we will do well if we keep these sound words in our hearts.
a. Loving Jesus means loving His commands and obeying them.
Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:10. Jesus commands believers to carry the cross, to fulfil the commission of bringing salvation to the poor and to the world. And again, Jesus says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” John 15:14. Jesus teaches that love and fellowship with God are inextricably tied with the believer’s obedience to his calling.
Errant ministers mesmerise their followers with the prospect of blessings that flowed from the finished work of the cross. They become fixated on Jesus not as their model of godliness but as a conduit that fulfils their personal desires. Their prayers and worship are trained towards the gratification of their emotional needs and personal desires. Their motive is not to understand God’s plans for the world or to join Him in establishing His kingdom. Much like a child who never grows up, constantly demanding attention from his parents. Regrettably, many worship services have relegated Jesus to a romantic subject, a heart candy they cannot otherwise obtain from the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the more we participate in God’s work and obey His will, the more we will experience His love and fellowship. Indeed, the road of love and obedience will lead to great gains and glory!
Do your love for Jesus motivate you towards knowing Him through the word? The more we know the truth, the greater our capacity to understand Jesus and to communicate with Him.
b. The cross of Christ frees every man to carry his own cross.
Then Jesus says to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25. Jesus appeals to every man who believes in Him to deny his own dreams and desires so as to fulfil God’s plans for his life. The cross is not just a device that frees man from the Law of sin and death, it carries a command to live in the manner that Jesus lives. Jesus says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38. Hence, the duality of the cross are two sides of the same coin. On one hand, the cross breaks the curse of sin and death over humanity. On the other hand, it supplies the grace to fulfil God’s will for the believer. The believer, in embracing the salvation of the cross is obligated to fulfil God’s commands for his life.
Many churchgoers, after being exposed to a different doctrine, suppose that the cross is a blank cheque to their needs and desires with no obligation to fulfil God’s will. It is true that the cross breaks the curses of sin over humanity so that man may experience abundant life. However, the spirit of the cross also demands the denial of the believer’s earthly pursuits in exchange for the heavenly vision. The cross beckons the believer to lay down his life and resources to fulfil the work of the kingdom. Indeed, the cross is the prelude to great gains and glory!
Does the grace that comes from the cross fuel your passion to reach out to the underprivileged? The more I taste of the goodness of God, the more I desire to give it away!
c. On the day of judgment, Jesus judges a man’s heart through his works, and not his religious affiliations or theological convictions.
Jesus says in no uncertain terms, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” Matthew 7:21. It is true that by faith alone, a man finds salvation. As faith is a matter of the heart, how can a man’s heart be judged as worthy of salvation? Hence, the apostle James in recalling the obedience of Abraham proclaims, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” James 2:24. If a man claims to love a woman, he will inadvertently show by his passion and kind consideration for her wellbeing.
Many churchgoers harbour a serious misunderstanding concerning faith in Christ and how it relates to salvation. They suppose that a verbal confession of Christ as Lord and baptism of water will suffice (see Romans 10:17). However, the apostle Paul says concerning the Jews that their declaration of faith through circumcision must be accompanied by keeping God’s commandments, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” 1 Corinthians 7:19. Therefore, a believer’s confession of faith and water baptism mean nothing without the accompanying works of godliness. The apostle Paul says that God’s judgment will be based on one standard applicable to both churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike, for there is no partiality: to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. The posture of each man’s heart will determine his outcome (see Romans 2:9-11): glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, … tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil (see Romans 2:7-10).
Put in a nutshell, a true believer of Jesus Christ chooses out of his heart’s desire to do good; thereafter he will be regenerated by God to do even greater good. However, one who desires to do good (to the best of his ability) may not necessarily at the point in time possess the full revelation of Jesus Christ as the Lord of the world. For such, God will in His own way reveal Himself in all His glory and call him into His kingdom. Indeed, God will surely reward a pure heart with great gains and glory!
Do you judge people by their religious affiliations and social status? It is so easy to jump into conclusion concerning people at first glance. Learn to observe and perceive people not by their appearance but by their heart.
d. The New Covenant shifts the believer’s focus from earthly riches to heavenly inheritances.
Jesus’ life espouses a New Covenant mindset of being rich toward God; a life of earthly simplicity while awaiting a glorious inheritance in heaven. No doubt, the Old Covenant promises earthly riches (Deuteronomy 28), but the New Covenant looks beyond the earth to the inheritances in heaven (Ephesians 1:18-22). Jesus speaks of a man whose desire is to amass great wealth on earth but has no concern for the things of God. One fateful day, God says to him, “‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:20. Jesus, being the first Man to exemplify the New Covenant lifestyle, dies in poverty but resurrects as King over creation.
Many ministers, desiring to draw followers after them are reluctant to proclaim the New Covenant lifestyle of Jesus Christ. Although their messages carry the promises of the New Covenant; forgiveness, eternal inheritances and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the essence of their messages remains Old Covenant. Hence, they speak a different doctrine touting the prospect of earthly riches through the New Covenantal promise. They dress up Jesus as a rich businessman having inherited his father’s lucrative carpentry business. Some ministers in response to Jesus’ vocal slant towards frugality and earthly simplicity even portray Him as an Old Covenant minister. The New Covenant advocates simplicity and contentment on earth while looking to great gains and a glorious inheritance in heaven.
As a New Covenant believer, do you look forward to the things in heaven? Or are you occupied with the immediate issues and the cares of life? Perhaps, you should plan to live out the remaining years of your life with the end in mind. What then is your endgame?
Dear Lord, I desire nothing but to leave a legacy just like you did. Imbue in me the spirit and the virtues of Christ. Also impart to me the authority that Christ had so that I may be help establish your kingdom on earth. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.