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November 29, 2009

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses… I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” 1 Timothy 6:11-12, 14 (NIV)

Timothy had been given overwhelming responsibilities. He was a young man, probably in his thirties[1], and he had been given the task of leading the church in Ephesus:

  • He has to stop those who are teaching false doctrine (1:3)
  • He has to sustain a ministry of the Word and of prayer (2:1, 4)
  • He has to lead other leaders in ministry (3:1)
  • He has to grow, so that others can see his progress (4:15, 16)
  • He has to oversee the care of widows, and others in need (5:3)
  • He has to help God’s people grow in godliness with contentment, lay up treasure in heaven, and take hold of eternal life (6:6, 19)

This is a massive responsibility. We know that by temperament Timothy was timid and shy (2 Timothy 1:7). He was not a forceful person. He was not confident by nature.

John Stott suggests that in addition to this, Timothy may have suffered from a recurrent gastric problem. Paul says that Timothy should “Take a little wine for his stomach’s sake” (1 Timothy 5:23).[2]

Putting these things together, I think Timothy must often have felt that he was in over his head, out of his depth, and sometimes at the end of his rope. Maybe you know what that feels like too.

When You’re In Over Your Head

How do you sustain what God has called you to do year after year? Where do you find the energy to live a godly life when everything is pressing in on you? How do you keep going when you feel overwhelmed by life, and there are discouragements on every side?

Paul ends this letter with some much-needed encouragement for Timothy. I think this is something all of us can use today.

Paul was writing under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

God knows what His people need. He knew what Timothy needed then, and He knows what you need right now. My prayer is that you will be refreshed and renewed in the hope of the Gospel today.

Man of God

“But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue…” (v11)

Paul has been describing the way of false teachers and of people who set their hearts on money, and then he encourages Timothy to pursue a different path.

You would expect him to say “But you, Timothy, flee from all this and pursue…” He speaks to Timothy by name in verse 20, but he doesn’t do that here. Instead he says “man of God.” That would have gotten Timothy’s attention.

The phrase “man of God” was used in the Old Testament to describe some of the great heroes of the faith:

  • Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1)
  • Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6)
  • David (Nehemiah 12:24)
  • Elijah (1 Kings 17:18)
  • Elisha (2 Kings 4:7)

Do you think Timothy felt he belonged in that company? Paul says “Timothy, I want you to remember who you are. You are God’s man. I want you to think and speak and act and live as God’s man because that is who you are!”

What about you? Do you think you belong in this company?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Scriptures are given, not to some Christians, but to all Christians.  This is telling us something wonderful. In Old Testament times God called only a few to be His prophets, His priests and His kings. But now every man who is in Christ is God’s man, and every woman who is in Christ is God’s woman.

If you are in Christ, you are God’s man as much as Moses, Samuel, David and Elijah. If you are in Christ you are God’s woman as much as Sarah, Deborah, Ruth or Esther.

You need to know who you are in Jesus Christ. You are God’s man, God’s woman. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price. God created you. Christ purchased you. The angels in heaven confess “with Your blood You purchased men for God…” (Revelation 5:9).

How God speaks to believers

By nature Timothy is a quiet guy in his mid-thirties, easily overwhelmed, and with a weak stomach. In Christ, he is God’s man. “Timothy, that’s what you need to know.”

When God speaks to believers, He speaks to us, not as we are by nature, but as we are in Christ. William Barclay comments:

“When the charge is given to Timothy, he is not reminded of his own weakness and his own helplessness and his own inadequacy and his own sin… He is rather challenged by the honor which is his, the honor of being God’s man.” [3]

When you read through the New Testament epistles, you don’t find God saying to believers: “You really are a miserable, pathetic failure. You are so weak and helpless and hopeless. When are you going to realize what a miserable failure you are?”

How could that be true of people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God? God does not tread us down by branding us according to our nature. He lifts us up by calling us to be who we are in Christ.

God speaks to us like this:

Put on the whole armor of God so that when the evil day comes you may be able to stand your ground… (Ephesians 6:13)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature… (Colossians 3:5)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage… (1 Corinthians 16:13)

Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness… (1 Timothy 6:11)

Without Christ you were a lost and helpless and hopeless sinner. But now in Christ you are a new creation. God’s Spirit lives in you! You are God’s man, God’s woman. Be who you are.

Paul underlines Timothy’s position in Christ by reminding him of three distinguishing marks.

Three Distinguishing Marks…

…of Every Man and Woman of God

1. You have made a confession

“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Paul is pointing to a specific time, remembered by many people, when Timothy confessed faith in Jesus Christ. It seems most likely that this would have been his baptism.

Since the day of Pentecost, Christian believers have confessed faith in Jesus through baptism, which is a sign and seal of our union with Christ. Scripture says:

“If you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

From the earliest times people made this confession at baptism: “Jesus is Lord.” Timothy had made this confession, and a large crowd of people had heard it.

A Christian is a person who has reached a conclusion about Jesus Christ. Christians are in process about many things. We are in the process over holiness, and repentance, and spiritual growth and overcoming temptation, and prayer.

But we are not in process over who Jesus is. We stand with Peter when he said to Jesus “You are the Christ.” We stand with Thomas when he bowed before Jesus and said “My Lord and my God.” We stand with the whole church in every place and every age, confessing that “Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

A confession of faith is more than an opinion. It’s like vows in marriage, or like receiving citizenship of a country. That is the significance of baptism. In the presence of witnesses you confess that Jesus is Lord and you receive the sign of one who has been crucified with Christ and raised to new life in Him.

This is not a private matter. Baptism is a public confession before witnesses. The role of the witnesses is to remind you of your confession. Just as it is the role of bridesmaids and groomsmen who stand up at a wedding to remind the bride and groom of their vows when marriage gets difficult, so it is our task in the church to remind one another of our confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

If you are God’s man or God’s woman, you don’t start each day wondering who you are, why you are here, or who you belong to. You are Christ’s, united with Him in His death and resurrection. You have made a confession. You no longer live for yourself, but for Christ who died for you and was raised to life (2 Corinthians 5:15). “Remember your confession, Timothy. You are God’s man, a man who is in Christ.”

This confession is not something that we made up. Paul reminds us of “Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13). Pilate asked Jesus “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus said “It is as you say” (Matthew 27:11). When we confess that Jesus is Lord, we stand with Him in His confession.

This is a good confession (v12). If you have confessed Christ as your Savior and Lord, you have made the best confession a person can make in this world. You have identified yourself with Jesus Christ who died bearing your sins and rose bringing you eternal life. You belong to Him. You are God’s man.

Have you made this confession? If you have, remember who you are: God’s man, God’s woman. If not, I invite you to speak to one of the campus pastors. We are preparing for a baptism service in the new year. This would be an opportunity for you to move your faith from the world of private opinion to public confession before many witnesses.

2. You have embraced a calling

“In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus… I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame…” 1 Timothy 6:13-14

The command that Paul is referring to seems to be in verses 11 and 12: “There is character to pursue, a battle to fight, and a life to gain… But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

a. Character to pursue

“But you, man of God… pursue… righteousness and godliness, faith and love, … endurance and gentleness” (v11-12).

John Stott says that: “Endurance is patience in difficult circumstances. Gentleness is patience with difficult people.” [4]

“Timothy, you have made the confession that you are God’s man. You have embraced the calling to live as God’s man.”

b. A battle to fight

“Fight the good fight of the faith” (v12).

The world will always reject Christ, and those who proclaim that “Christ is Lord” will always be in conflict with the unbelieving world.

c. A life to gain

“Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses…” (v12).

Notice the language—pursue, fight, take hold… the Christian life will be a struggle. Calvin says that:

Self indulgence springs from [the Christian’s] desire to serve Christ… as if it were a mere leisure activity. Christ calls [his servants]… to wage a war.[5]

Where do you find the energy for this struggle? Sometimes it is hard to keep going—too many disappointments, too many unanswered prayers, too many failures. You feel run down and you get weary in the struggle.

How do you find the strength to sustain the rigors and the demands of this Christian life? When Paul gives Timothy this charge, he says “in the sight of God, who gives life to everything…” (v13).

God will give you the energy you need for this. He gives you life. He sustains your life. He will give you strength for each day. Pursue your calling in the sight of the God who gives life. He will quicken you by His Spirit. As your days are, so shall your strength be.

3. You anticipate Christ’s coming

“Keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” 1 Timothy 6:14

One day we are going to see Jesus Christ. He will appear. God will bring that day about “in His own time.” The day will come when your faith will be turned to sight. This is an amazing promise.

Then Paul reminds us that “God… lives in unapproachable light” (v16). God is not hidden in unapproachable darkness, but in unapproachable light. We are not alienated from God because He is obscured in darkness, but because He is inaccessible in light.

Our problem is not that we can’t find God. It is that we couldn’t come near Him if we did! All through the Bible, we find that man at his best is unable to stand in the presence of God:

When Isaiah, the holiest man of his time, saw God’s glory fill the temple, he cried “Woe to me… I am ruined” (Isaiah 6:5). When John the Apostle saw the glory of the risen Christ, he “fell at His feet as though dead…” (Revelation 1:17).

If the best of men in the Old and New Testaments are on their faces in the presence of God, how do you think it will be for us when the Son of God comes in His glory and all His holy angels with him?

And yet the Lord Jesus says to us: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). John, who fell at Christ’s feet as if he were dead, says “When he appears… we shall see Him as He is…” (1 John 3:2). How is this possible?

A man by the name of Thomas Binney wrote a hymn called Eternal Light [6] that asks and answers that question. I feel sure he would have had this passage of Scripture in mind when he wrote it:

Eternal light! Eternal light!

How pure the soul must be,

When, placed within Thy searching sight,

It shrinks not, but with calm delight

Can live and look on Thee.

If the soul is not completely pure, it will shrivel up in the white heat of the presence of God. Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). How is it possible for people like us to live with calm delight in the presence of God?

O how shall I, whose native sphere

Is dark, whose mind is dim,

Before the ineffable appear,

And on my naked spirit bear

The uncreated beam?

“Ineffable” means too great for description in words. You see the point of His question. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Here I am living in this dark world. When I stand before God, everything about me will be exposed. How can my naked spirit possibly bear the presence of the uncreated light of Almighty God?

Here’s the answer:

There is a way for man to rise

To that sublime abode:

An offering and a sacrifice

A Holy Spirit’s energies,

An advocate with God.

How can we live with joy in the unapproachable light of God’s presence?

An offering: The Son of God loved us and gave Himself for us

A sacrifice: Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree

The Holy Spirit: uniting us with Christ through the bond of faith

The risen Christ: advocating for us in the presence of the Father

Binney ends by saying:

These, these, prepare us for the sight

Of holiness above:

The sons of ignorance and night

May dwell in the eternal light

Through the eternal love!

–Thomas Binney (1798 -1847)

This is the life that we share together in the church: We share the same confession of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. We share the same calling to pursue a holy life, to fight the good fight of faith and to lay hold of the eternal life to which we have been called. We live in the same anticipation of Christ’s appearing and our entry into the glory of His presence

Whatever you are facing in your life right now, here’s what you need to know. You are God’s man, God’s woman, bought by the precious blood of Christ, called to the blessing of life under the rule of God: The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who alone is immortal, who lives in unapproachable light, to whom be glory and might forever. Amen.


© Colin S. Smith

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[1] John Stott, 1 Timothy, p.37

[2] Ibid., p. 38

[3] William Barclay, Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p.155

[4] John Stott, 1 Timothy, p. 155

[5] John Calvin, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, p. 103, Crossway Classic Commentaries, 1998,

[6] Thomas Binney, Eternal Light, hymn (c. 1826)

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