1 Timothy 6:11-16
But you, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
The gladiator was one who fought, in the arena, at the amphitheatre of an ancient city, such as the Colosseum at Rome, for the amusement of the public. It made life real and earnest to be compelled to enter the lists, in which the issue was generally victory or death.
The arena swims around him - he is gone?
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.
He heard it, but he heeded not - his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He recked not of the life he lost or prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay;
There were his young barbarians all at play -
There was their Dacian mother! he, their sire,
Butchered to make a Roman holiday."
I. NEED OF PREPARATION. "But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness." We know what can be undergone by men of the lowest order, when they put themselves in training for entering the prize-ring. Accustomed to spend the greater part of their time in the public-house, they are found rigorously foregoing their pleasures and entailing upon themselves hard employment. In what these pugilists forego and endure, do they not put to blush many Christians, who cannot be said to forego much, or to give hard service for their religion? There is, we are here taught, what becomes the man of God, i.e. the highest type of man - the man who tries to work out the Divine idea of his life and to come to he God-like in his character. "O man of God, learn from these men of a low order. They flee their wonted pleasures; flee thou," says the apostle in earnest address, "these things," i.e. as appears from the context, those habits of mind which we call worldly, tendencies to sink higher things in the pursuit of worldly ends, money, enjoyment, position for ourselves, and for our children. Christians who may have no taste for what are regarded as coarse pleasures, may yet he worldly in their ideas and habits. Such worldliness is unworthy of the man of God; vulgar, demeaning in him. O man of God, flee thou worldliness, as thou wouldst a wild beast. Flee it, as certain to eat up thy true manliness. It may he said that more havoc has been wrought in the Church by worldliness than by intemperance. And the one is not so easily dealt with as the other. The intemperate man may be laid hold on, and aided out of his intemperance. But the worldly man may be in position in the Church; and who is likely to succeed in aiding him out of his worldliness? And so, while the one may be rescued, the other may continue to he the prey of destructive habits that are growing upon him. The other side of duty refers to the acquiring of good habits of mind that are required for the fight. And as the word for worldly habits is flee, so the word for good habits is pursue. It is implied that worldliness seeks us, and we need to get out of its way, to flee from it as from a wild beast. Good habits, on the other hand, retreat from us; they are apt to evade us, and we need to pursue them with all the keenness with which a ravenous wild beast pursues its prey. It is hard for us to come up to them, and to have them as our enjoyed possession. The good habits, so ill to grasp, which are needed for the fight by the man of God are particularized. First of all he must have righteousness, or the habit of going by rule. And along with this he must have godliness, or the habit of referring to God. Then he must have faith, which covers his defenselessness. Along with this he must have love, which supplies him with fire. He must also have patience, which enables him to hold out to the end. And along with this he must have meekness, which makes his spirit proof against all accumulation of wrong. In the eye of the world, these habits may seem unmanly; but, O man of God, be true to thyself, and pursue them; let them not escape from thee; by God's decree they shall reward thy eager pursuit.
II. NATURE OF THE FIGHT. "Fight the good fight of the faith." He that has the faith of a Christian is necessitated to fight, There is revealed to his faith a God in the heavens, who hates sin, and who also seeks the salvation of souls. In the light of this, which ought to be an increasing light, there is presented an exposure. He comes to see that there are in his flesh tendencies which are against God. He comes also to see that there is in the world, in its opinion and custom, much that is against God. As, then, he would stand by God, he must fight against the flesh and the world - against what would tempt to sin, from within and from without. It is a good fight, being for the cause of God, which is also the cause of man in his establishment in righteousness and love. It is a good fight, being grounded in the victory of Christ and carried on hopefully under his leadership. It is a fight into which the man of God can throw his undivided energies, his warmest enthusiasm. Many a fight which receives the plaudits of men has, in the strict review, only a seeming or superficial goodness. But the fight into which the man of God throws himself can stand the severest tests of goodness. Be it thine, then, O man of God, to fight the good fight of the faith.
III. THE PRICELESS PRIZE. "Lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses." The prize for which the gladiator fought was not all unsubstantial. It was life. It meant the enjoyment of liberty, return to his rude hut, his young barbarians, and their "Dacian mother." Still that life had in it elements of unsatisfactoriness and decay. It was savage life, below the level of civilized life. Such as it was in its rude delights, it was not beyond accident and death. But the prize for which the Christian gladiator fights, is life eternal. This is not to be confounded with perpetuity of existence, which may be felt to be an intolerable burden. The importance of existence lies in its joyous elements, experience of healthful activity, and of communion with those we love. So the life, which is here presented as the prize, is that kind of existence in which there is a free, unrestrained play of our powers, and in which we have communion with the Father of our spirits and with the spirits of the just. And the life has such a principle in it, such subsistence in the living God, as to be placed above the reach of death, as only to be brought forth into all its joyousness by death. The counsel of the apostle is to lay hold on this priceless prize. O man of God, do not let it escape thee. Stretch forward to it with a feeling of its supreme desirableness. It is worthy of all the strain to which thou canst put thyself. The counsel of the apostle is supported by a reference to a marked period in the past - apparently entrance on the Christian life, or that which was expressive of it to Timothy, viz. his baptism. It was a period in which Divine action and human action met. It was God calling him to life eternal It was at the same time Timothy confessing a good confession - apparently saying that life eternal was his aim. Come persecution, come death, life eternal he would seek to gain. This confession he made in the sight of many witnesses, present on the occasion of his baptism, who could speak to the earnestness of spirit with which he entered on his Christian career. O man of God, fight, remembering thy Divine calling and thy solemn engagements.
IV. THE WITNESSES. "I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession; that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach." The many witnesses just mentioned call up such a scene as was to be witnessed in the Coliseum. There was an assemblage of eighty-seven thousand people, tier above tier all round. As the gladiator stepped into the arena, he might well be awed by so vast and unwonted a crowd. But this would quickly give way to the feeling of what depended on the way in which he quitted himself. And there would not be absent from his mind the thought of the applause which would reward a victory. O man of God, thou art now in the arena, and there are many onlookers. They are watching how thou art quitting thyself in the fight of the faith - whether thou art realizing the seriousness of thy position, thy splendid opportunity. Their approval is worthy of being considered, worthy of being coveted by thee, and should help to nerve thee to the fight. But there was one pre-eminent personage who was expected to grace a Roman gladiatorial festival, viz. the emperor. As the gladiator entered, his eye would rest on the emperor and his attendants. And he would have a peculiar feeling in being called upon to fight under the eye of the august Caesar, to whom he would look up as to a very god. So, O man of God, there is one great Personage who is looking down on the arena in which thou art, and under whose eye thou art called upon to fight. It is not a Caesar - a man born and upheld and mortal like other men; but it is God, who quickeneth all things - the Substratum of all created existence, the almighty Upholder of men, the almighty Upholder of the universe with all its forms of life. There is another Personage, and yet not another. This is Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate wirelessed the good confession. "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a King then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness of the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." "In these words we see the majesty and fearless exposure of Jesus. 'I cannot and will not deny that I am a King. It is my office to declare the truth; it is by the influence of truth that I am to reign in the hearts of men, and I cannot shrink from asserting this most important truth, that I have the power and authority of a sovereign at once to rule and to defend my people. Let not this doctrine offend. Every one who is of the truth, who loves the light, and whose mind is open to conviction, heareth and acknowledgeth this and all my doctrines.' These words, spoken at so interesting and trying a period, discover to us the elevation of our Savior in a very striking light. We see his mind unbroken by suffering. We see in him the firmest adherence to the doctrines he had formerly taught. We see in him a conscious dignity, a full conviction of the glory and power with which he was invested. He asserts his royal office, not from ostentation, not amidst a host of flatterers, but in the face of enemies; and when he made this solemn declaration his appearance bore little conformity, indeed, to the splendor of earthly monarchs." There is a difference between the good confession of Timothy and the good confession of Christ indicated in the language. Timothy confessed his good confession, i.e. in the way of saying beforehand what he would do in the trial. Christ witnessed his good confession, i.e. authenticated it by making it in the immediate prospect of death. He went forth from Pilate's judgment-hall and sealed his confession with his blood. He was thus the first and greatest of confessors. It adds much in the way of definiteness, that we can thus think of him. It also adds much in the way of bracing. There is a halo around the great Onlooker from his past. The presence in a battle of the hero of a hundred fights, of a Napoleon or Wellington, is worth some additional battalions. So, O man of God, be braced up to the fight, by the thought that thou art fighting under the eye of thy God, under the eye of thy Savior. And do not think of getting the prize surreptitiously, but only by fair means, keeping to the rules of the contest, what is here called keeping the commandment, so that no little spot is made on it, no little dishonor done to it. For, however little, it means so much taken away from the value of the prize. I charge thee, then, says the apostle, in these great presences keep the commandment.
V. FINAL EVENT. "Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen." The final event of the day, on the occasion of a great gladiatorial show, was the coming forward of Caesar, in circumstances of pomp, to crown, or otherwise reward, the victors. So the final event of time will be the coming forward of our Lord Jesus Christ (as from looking on) to crown the victors in the good fight of the faith. There is reference to the same event in 2 Timothy 4:7, 8. It would be the proudest moment of a man's life when he was called forth to receive the prize from the hand of his emperor. So it will be a moment of greatest satisfaction to the believer when he is called forth (as by the herald proclaiming his name before a great assemblage) to receive the crown from the hand of his Lord. He will not certainly be filled with self-satisfaction. He will feel that he is only a debtor to Christ, and his first impulse will be to cast his crown at the feet of his great Benefactor. This appearing God is to show, i.e. to effect and to bring forth into view. He is to show it in its own times - at present hidden, but clear to the mind of God, and to be shown when his purposes are ripe. He who is to effect the appearing is appropriately adored as the Potentate (the Wielder of power). Not less appropriately is he adored as the blessed or (better) the happy Potentate, i.e. self-happy, having all elements of happiness within himself, no void within his infinite existence to fill up, but not therefore disposed to keep happiness to himself, rather prompted, in his own experience of happiness, to bestow it on others, first in creation and then in redemption. It is the happy Wielder of power that is to bring about an event that is fraught with so much happiness to believers. He shall show it, for he is the only Potentate; none can dispute the name with him. There are Towers under him as there were rulers, with different names, under the emperor; but he is the King of kings and Lord of lords - sovereign Disposer of all human and angelic representatives of power. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of water: he turns it [however impetuous] whithersoever he will." He shall show it in its own times; for, however distant those times, he shall live to do it, being the only One who hath immortality from himself, essential imperviousness to decay. He shall show it, who is himself inaccessible within a circle of light, and not only never seen by men but necessarily invisible to men, i.e. in the unveiled brightness of his glory. All honor and power eternal, then, be to this God. We may judge of what the appearing is to be that is to be effected by One in whose praise the apostle breaks forth in so lofty a strain. We may conclude that it is to be the grandest display of the honor and power of God. And what a privilege that the humble believer - victor in the battle of life - is to be called forth before an assembled universe, under the presidency of Christ and by the hand of Christ, to be crowned with the life eternal! Let every one add his Amen to the ascription of honor and power to God, as displayed in the appearing of Christ. - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.