1 Tim. 6:18
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
The Rich (1 Ti. 6:17-19)
This instruction is for those who are “rich in this world.”
- This refers to rich believers, not to unbelievers. Unbelievers cannot do good works that are acceptable to God, because they are not cleansed and justified, nor can they lay up in store a good foundation by giving.
- Some believers are rich. This is a relative term, depending on the time and place. But it refers to those who have the ability to “distribute.” They have an abundance. In the first churches there were well-to-do people like Dionysius (Ac. 17:34), Lydia (Ac. 16:14-15), Philemon (Phm. 1), and Crispus (Ac. 18:8).
- We see that it is not wrong for a believer to be rich if he is in God’s will. It is wrong to will to be rich, meaning to desire to be rich and to pursue riches for oneself (1 Ti. 6:9). Having money is not wrong; loving money is wrong (1 Ti. 6:10).
This instruction is to be given as a charge.
- A “charge” is not a suggestion; it is a command. The Greek paraggelio is translated “command” 22 times (e.g., Mt. 10:5; Ac. 1;4; 5:28; 1 Th. 4:11; 2 Th. 3:6; 1 Ti. 4;11). God’s people are under God’s authority and are no more to live as they please. They are to walk in the works which God has ordained (Eph. 2:10).
- Every preacher has the right and responsibility to charge God’s people in this manner. See 2 Ti. 4:2; Tit. 2:15; 1 Pe. 4:11.
- Every church has the right and responsibility to charge its members in this manner. The church is the house of God, and it is responsible to teach God’s people “how to behave” themselves (1 Ti. 3:15). Church membership is no light thing. The example of true church membership is found in Acts 2:42, where we see that “they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” This is real Christianity. This describes church members who are true disciples of Christ; they are passionate about, and devoted to the things of God. Church members are under authority; they are under discipline. They are God’s people. They are no longer to live as they please. The church is an outpost of the coming kingdom of Christ; the members are pilgrims on the way to their heavenly home; and they are to learn how to live by God’s rules in this present life.
The rich believer is to “be not highminded” (1 Ti. 6:17).
- Wealth tends to produce pride because of the fallen human nature. Compare De. 8:17; Pr. 18:23.
- Through God’s Word, the rich believer can obtain wisdom to avoid the sin of pride. First, we brought nothing into this world, and we carry nothing out (Job 1:21; Ps. 49:17; Ec. 5:15; 1 Ti. 6:7). Second, God owns everything (Ps. 24:1). Third, God gives power to obtain wealth (De. 8:18; Ac. 17:25). Fourth, a rich man is not better than other men (1 Co. 4:7).
The rich believer is not to trust in riches (“nor trust in uncertain riches,” 1 Ti. 6:17).
- It is natural for man to trust in his riches. His possessions and his success breed an attitude of self-sufficiency. See Ps. 52:7; Pr. 18:11.
- The wise person understands that riches in this world are uncertain because life is short, changeable, and unpredictable. The phrase “rich in this world” (1 Ti. 6:17) reminds us that this present world is temporal and will soon pass away. The person who gives his heart to the things of this world is very unwise and short sighted. See Pr. 23:5; 27:24.
The rich believer is to trust in God (“but in the living God,” 1 Ti. 6:17).
- The wise person trusts in the living God, the author of all things (Ps. 118:8-9; Jer. 9:23-24; 17:7-8).
- This shows the heart condition of the rich person who is blessed of God.
The rich believer can enjoy his riches in God’s will (“who giveth us richly all things to enjoy,” 1 Ti. 6:17).
- God gives men things to enjoy. He is the God who made Eden for Adam and Eve.
- There is no communism taught in Scripture. God’s Word supports private ownership of property; Ananias and Sapphira had power over their own possessions (Ac. 5:4). The rich are enjoined to give of a free will, not by compulsion. See 2 Co. 9:7.
- The poor cannot demand that which belongs to others. To covet or to take that which belongs to others is theft and is a sin against God’s law (Ex. 20:15).
The rich believer should do good, be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate (1 Ti. 6:18).
- “Do good ... be rich in good works.” Doing good is a summary of the Christian life that pleases God. Doing good should be the priority and focus of every believer’s life. Doing good is to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. It is loving God’s Word and loving my family and loving my church.
- Note that doing good is emphasized by repetition and by the word “rich.” The rich in this world are to be rich in good works. This should be the rich believer’s passion and reputation. Christ redeemed us to “purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:14). In Jesus’ parable, the rich man’s sin was in not being “rich toward God” (Lu. 12:21).
- He should be “ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” This describes a giving spirit, a giving mindset. His heart is not on pursuing riches, but on distributing and communicating. It is a ready and willing mind. It is not giving out of duty or giving to obtain some personal benefit. It is the mindset of a Barnabas who was moved by the needs of his brethren and sold his property (Ac. 4:36-37). Ready to distribute to the needy (Isa. 58:7; Ac. 11:29; Ga. 6:10; 1 Jo. 3:17), to widows (1 Ti. 5:16), to the support of elders (1 Ti. 5:17-18) and to gospel preachers/teachers (1 Co. 9:11-14; Ga. 6:6),
The rich believer is to be “laying up in store a good foundation against the time to come” (1 Ti. 6:18-19).
- This refers to laying up treasures in heaven. Compare Mt. 6:19-21. The “time to come” is the next life. The “good foundation” is the believer’s position and situation in the next life. Christ said that the overcomers will sit with Him in His throne (Re. 3:21), referring to a position of ruling in Christ’s kingdom. See also Re. 2:26-27. The good foundation pertains to the awards that are bestowed at Christ’s judgment seat (1 Co. 3:15).
- To “lay hold on eternal life” is not to lay hold on in the sense of obtaining eternal life, because it is a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Christ’s blood (Eph. 2:8-9). It is to lay hold on eternal life in the sense of preparing for it, laying up treasures for it by how I live for Christ in the present time. “Lay hold” is aorist subjunctive, indicating simple action in the present, not future action. This is something that I am doing now. Similar language is used in 2 Pe. 1:10-11, where zealous Christian growth (as described in 2 Pe. 1:5-8) is said to minister an entrance into the kingdom of Christ. This is not entrance in the sense of whether or not the believer will enter Christ’s kingdom. That is determined by saving faith in Christ. This is entrance in the sense of what manner the believer enters Christ’s kingdom.
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