Thursday, January 26, 2012

1 Timothy 6:11-15 Pursue These

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

Vs. 11 The Apostle Paul having given a command for us to flee from Godless greed and those who expound it. Now gives us six things that we as believers should covet and pursue. For ppracticing Christian disciplines in our lives is the only way to bear the fruit of them. The first the Apostle commends to us is:
Righteousness That is pursuing what God says in His Word is morally an ethically righteous; not what ones culture says this is. For though there maybe overlap with ones societal values these will inevitably change as people embrace or reject God's moral will for them. Nonetheless God's Word does not change and it is He to whom we are all accountable too. Therefore there should be no doubt in anybodies mind that God's moral standards have not been altered or amended with the coming of Jesus Christ His Son as Savior of the world (John 12:48; Heb. 13:8). For they are a reflection of His unchanging Person and Character and thus humanity (and most certainly believers) are to bear His moral image. That is one sure way the we honor God and Christ. The problem in doing so is sin. Sin is the plague and scourge that makes bearing God's image quite problematic. For it is sin that uses God's commandment (which is good) to arouse all manner of evil desires within all who wish to live righteous lives (Rom. 7:9-11). That is the dilemma of Law given without changing the heart and soul of the person first. Therefore regeneration of ones person (which only comes by a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord) must take place before one can experience the empowering of God to live the righteous lives that He requires of us all. And that is why the gospel is Good News for all who believe, for it deals with sin completely (John 8:34-36). Both the wrath of God against it, and or our bondage to it, by Jesus' Crucifixion death; Resurrection from the dead; and ascension back to heaven by which we are brought by the Holy Spirit to life and into Christ when we believe in Him. (For greater detail on this spiritual new life and reality see John 3:1-21 and Romans 3:19-8:36). That's straight forward; Christians as a manner of life should live and strive to live righteous lives, and not seek to lessen God's moral requirements, but rather through the gospel increase grace for doing so. Making distinctions between those who are struggling, and those who are willingly living disobedient lives (Gal. 6:1-2; Jude 20-23 contrast 1 Cor. 5:9-13).

Therefore there is also a two-fold aspect to righteousness. The first is the righteousness of God imputed to us by our faith in Jesus Christ by which we are justified or declared righteous in the sight of God (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:1). That is the righteousness of God which brings us into a personal relationship with Christ when we repent and believe in Him. Therefore it is the Lord Jesus Christ whom everyone must have their faith or trust in, and not their own righteousness (Luke 18:9-14; Rom. 3:19-28; Gal. 2:21). That said, as those redeemed by the grace of God we must pursue the righteousness that Jesus Christ commands of us all (Matt. 5:19-20). That is what the Apostle Paul is emphasizing here, just as the Apostle John does in his epistles, emphasizing both righteousness and love. For “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” 1 John 2:29 So then it is incumbent upon everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus to put to death the sinful deeds of their flesh and pursue righteousness (Rom. 6; 13:12-14). For that is in accord with our new nature and standing In Christ. For we having died to sin and been raised to righteousness with Him are free from the Law of sin and death. And thus we can now bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, against such there is no law (Gal. 5:16-23). Now in pursuing righteousness i.e. that which is Biblically morally and ethically right and sound and required of us all as Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, there will be both victories and set backs as we strive against the old sinful nature. As well there will be opposition both outside and within to our doing so. Especially if coming out of previously sinful lifestyles, or family backgrounds that had no previous knowledge of, or adherence to God and His ways, and continue on that path. As the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles Paul and Peter warn us about (Matt. 10:34-39; 1 Peter 4:1-6; 2 Tim. 3:12). Nonetheless Jesus promises His blessing and future joy on everyone who suffers for righteousness' sake here and now (Matt. 5:10). For truly "Light is sown for the righteous, And gladness for the upright in heart." Ps. 97:11
Therefore we must strike a balance between the righteous lives that the Lord Jesus wants us to live. While not forsaking the grace of God which reconciles and makes right in the sight of God every sinner who repents and believes (Mark 1:15; Luke 15:11-32; John 3:16; 1 John 1:9; 2:1; Heb. 4:14-16). Now this we do when we are led by the Spirit of God, and not the letter of the Law (Rom. 7:6; 2 Cor. 3:6). For Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is our exemplary role model demonstrating for us all what it means to live righteously in the sight of God, while extending the grace of God to everyone who repents and believes. Pursuing righteousness then is the pursuit of moral excellence that God has always commanded of His people, whether in the law or the gospel.

Godliness: Is next in the series of transforming character traits given by the Apostle Paul for us to pursue. Now the word Paul uses here is the same word that the Apostle Peter also makes use of in his second epistle to both affirm the mystery of Godliness (compare 1 Tim. 3:16 with 2 Peter 1:3) and to encourage a believer’s pursuit of it (2 Peter 1:6, 7). In the main it is to be devoted to God, piety and or the Scriptural admonishment of the "fear of the Lord "(See Psalms and Proverbs where this phrase is most prevalent). Thus it is reverence and holiness towards God by our obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Biblical Apostle commandments; regarding our conduct both inside and outside of the house of faith. And is spoken of both here and in the Apostle Peters second epistle as an admonition in expectation of the Day of the Lord (1 Tim. 6:14-16; 2 Peter 3:10-14). Godliness then is a virtue that all who follow Jesus Christ must embrace.

Faith: The third in the series is faith. Now the pursuit of faith can be thought of in several ways:

  • First faith is foundational to ones redemption (Heb. 11:6). That is ones absolute trust in the Word of God and the Person to whom it attests; that is God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Bible has a purpose beyond teaching moral absolutes or prophecy to revealing the Son of Man so that mankind might be saved from their sins by their absolute trust or faith in Him. Thus the Biblical pursuit of faith starts with the pursuit of the Biblical God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ the Lord.
  • Second the pursuit of faith is the living out the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, revealed both in the gospel and Biblical Apostle’s writings. That is what discipleship is. The Lord Jesus said: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. John 14:24
  • Third the pursuit of faith is sharing or proclamation of the gospel and God’s love and redemption of all people through it. The Lord Jesus said: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matt. 4:19 The pursuit of faith then is sharing the Biblical truth’s our faith attests too and are believed by us. The Apostle Paul simply said: “I believed and therefore I spoke.” 2 Cor. 4:13 Therefore genuine faith In Jesus Christ always results in genuine witness of Him (Acts 1:8).
  • Fourth the pursuit of faith is not only believing the gospel; but also doing good works and deeds of kindness that are born out of the gospel. Just as Jesus did and commands, and the New Testament declares as coming out of a Spirit filled person's life and faith (Matt. 5:16; John 10:32; Acts 9:36; Eph. 2:10; Col. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:9-10; 5:9-10; 5:25; 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:20-21; 3:17; Titus 2:7-8 antithesis Titus 1:16). Therefore the Apostle Paul does not differ from the Apostle James in his outlook about believers doing good works (Acts 26:20). Rather in light of peoples wrong beliefs of self-redemption. The Apostle Paul sets out to shatter all such delusions in his Epistle to the Romans. There he emphasizes the sole agency of salvation is God’s Work through Jesus Christ and an individuals faith in Him apart from their own works or righteousness (Rom. 3:19-28; 4:4-5, 11:6). Whereas the Apostle James has a different problem to address. Profession of faith In Jesus Christ without any good works that attest to it (James 2:14-26). The pursuit of faith then is doing good works as both the Apostle James and the Apostle Paul asserts we are to do (Titus 2:14; 3:8; 3:14). “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:10
  • Fifth the pursuit of faith is belief in the absolute Power and Authority of the Lord Jesus Christ both for salvation and for judgment (Matt. 28:18; John 3:16-21, 5:21-23; Rev. 1:8; 21:6-8; 22:12-17). Therefore those who deny Christ's Sovereign Lordship or the power of His gospel that brings salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16-17; Eph. 1:13-14), and or the eternal judgment on those who don’t, we are to turn away from (2 Tim. 3:5). For as in the Old Covenant to deny the Sovereign Authority and Power of Yahweh, either for redemption or judgment, was considered blaspheme (Num. 14:11, 23). For there is only Mediator between God and mankind that is the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5-6). "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other Name under heaven by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
  • Six the pursuit of faith is to live by faith, for “we walk by faith and not by sight.” 2 Cor. 5:7 Therefore a believer’s faith (what we believe about Jesus Christ and ourselves, and what we do as a result of it) is both a current transforming reality; as the Holy Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ likeness. And a future hope yet to be revealed with the return of Jesus Christ for us and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. That is why the Bible says: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.” Heb. 11:6 Therefore believers must remember that no one is perfected at the point of salvation (Phil. 3:12-14), thus no one is sinless or attains to sinlessness in this life (1 John 1:8-10). Believers will have to struggle against their sin natures and in this there will times of great victory and times of setback. So don’t get discouraged when you’re not all that you aspire to be, or you are chastened by God (Rom. 7; Heb. 12:4-11). The pursuit of faith then is a life lived in faith, hope and love. Lived not in the letter (Rom. 2:29; 2 Cor. 3:5-6, 9, 17) but in the Spirit, being led by the Spirit and in the Power of the Spirit (Gal. 3:2-3; 5:16-26; Rom. 8; Phil. 3:3; Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:10 etc.) in anticipation of Jesus Christ’s return and the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23-25).  Therefore living in the Spirit with such anticipation is not idle, but active (Heb. 10:24). Consider the Apostle Paul’s encouraging words to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them: “Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father” 1 Thess 1:3 Again believers live purposeful lives, (not perfect lives) knowing that all things in this life ultimately bring us closer to our finial destiny. 12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:12-14
  • Seven the pursuit of faith is keeping the ordinances the Lord Jesus Christ instituted in the New Covenant which all Believers are to follow; the Lord’s Table and Baptism. Or if one broadens that scope this includes the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 15:22-29; 1 Cor. 11:2; 2 Thess. 2:15). Which is not keeping the doctrines, commandments or traditions of men (Matt. 15:1-9; Gal. 4:9-11; 21-31; Col. 2:8-10; 20-22) which invariably alienate believers from one another and or mankind in general from the grace of God.The pursuit of faith in this sense then is growing in the grace of God (Rom. 5:20), of being led by the Spirit of God and not the letter of the law (2 Cor. 3:6). For having been set free from both sin and the law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 4:21-31) there is an immeasurable amount of liberty and freedom that God affords His children to do good in the Name and Power of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ the Lord (Titus 2:11-15).
  • Eight The pursuit of faith is a pursuit of faithfulness towards God through Jesus Christ and the Spiritual truths He teaches us. Thus constancy in profession and application. Since it is through these that our faith is made known and God is glorified (Matt. 5:16).
  • Nine: the pursuit of faith is interceding for sinners that mercy might be shown. For that is what Jesus Christ does (Heb. 4:14-14; 1 John 2:1).
  • Ten: the pursuit of faith is living life richly and fully in both the Power of the Spirit and the grace of God; thus liberty of life and person (2 Cor. 3:17). For being in Jesus Christ means you are complete in Him. Therefore: 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. Col. 2:8-10 
Love: The Apostle Paul now commends the pursuit of love to us all who believe in Jesus Christ. Love is the essence of knowing God and believing in Jesus (1 John 4:8, 16). Divorce the Christian life from love and all you’ve got is "religion". Now Jesus linked having the love of God inside us to our having faith in Him (John 5:42-43). Therefore we cannot love God until we first believe in His love for us (John 3:16). God’s love then is brought to us through Jesus Christ and His death on a cross and kept in us by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). God’s love then bought us back from sin and death. Therefore the Bible declares we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:7-13). Now all believers are not only inseparably linked to the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39) but are commanded to walk in love (Eph. 5:2) which is the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). That said the Lord Jesus linked loving Him with both keeping His commands and loving one another (John 13:35); for in doing so we abide In His love (John 15:9-12). The proof of discipleship then is both obedience to Christ’s commands (1 John 5:3) and loving fellow believers (1 John 4:7-8). For love does no harm to ones neighbor and thus fulfills the law (Rom. 13:10). Love then excels knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1); Spirit gifts, great personal sacrifices or even accomplishing mighty works as the primary goal of our sanctification (1 Cor. 13). Yet love is not without the pursuit of Spirit gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), wisdom (Pr. 8:1-36), knowledge (Col. 1:10; 2 Peter 1:6), good works (Eph. 2:10), justice (Luke 11:42) or discernment (Phil. 1:9). But these are to be governed by non-hypocritical love (Rom. 12:9; 1 Cor. 16:14; 1 Tim. 1:5). Love then finds its expression not only in affectionate displays and feelings (1 Peter 5:14) but also in obedience (Prov. 9:10; 1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 6) service (Gal. 5:13; Heb. 10:24), benevolence (1 John 3:17), mercy (2 Cor. 2:6-11) and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4). Love is the culmination of a Godly life (2 Peter 1:5-7). Therefore all believers are charged to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 21). For love is above all else the bond of perfection (Col. 3:12-14).

Patience: Given the nature of Jesus’ mission that will bring hostility towards all who believe in Him, not only from the world (John 15:19) but potentially even from those closest to us (Matt. 10:34-39). Each of us will need patience to endure, as we through many tribulations enter the Kingdom (Acts 14:22); especially as the end draws near (Matt. 24:9-26; Luke 21:19; Mark 13:13). Therefore Jesus gave warnings about the cost of discipleship (Mark 8:36-39) and of not finishing the salvation course that we start on (Luke 14:25-33). Therefore as believers we all have need of endurance to inherit the promises of God (Heb. 12:35-39). Patience then is a thread that must be knit through all the other attributes that we are to pursue; for without patience our desire to puruse these can wane. The Apostle Paul exhorts that God will render to each person according to their deeds: "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. Rom. 2:7-11

On the other hand it is through our trials that our patience is developed; our character grows; and our hope is assured (Rom. 5:3-5; 8:25; 15:4-5). Therefore in every difficult trial our Sovereign God and our Saviour Jesus Christ has a purpose, and His designs for us are always intended for our good in the end (James 5:10-11). We are wise when we do not get discouraged by the process, but rather focus on the intended results. The Apostle James understood this when he declared: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 Now whatever God permits in our lives He always bountifully repays at the other end as Job's suffering reveals. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Heb. 6:10-12

Finally the Apostle James declares blessed are those who endure temptation, “…for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 For it is through patient endurance that not only our character is formed (just as a black smith forges a metals properties conforming both its shape and its qualities) so we bear the fruit of the Word of God; by patiently continuing in it (Luke 8:15). Therefore the Apostle Paul’s exhortation here to pursue patience is that of both a needed virtue (2 Peter 1:6), and needed endurance which is necessary to maintain a sound perspective in difficult times (2 Tim. 3:10-13); effectively lead in the church (Titus 2:2); encourage others in their own faith journeys (2 Cor. 1:6; Heb. 12:1-11) and or continue on in the work Jesus Christ has called us to do (1 Thess. 1:3-4).Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” 2 Thess. 3:5

Gentleness: is one of the key attributes that defines Jesus Christ’s Person; Lordship and Salvation (Matt. 11:28-30). Therefore it must also define His followers (2 Cor. 10:1; Eph. 4:2). Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines the word used here as: “kindness, consideration, a spirit of fairness and compassion...” Therefore gentleness must denote not only ones demeanor but more importantly ones conduct. Gentleness is an attribute of the wise (James 3:13-17); who maintain their composure even when circumstances or feelings might seemingly warrant a more emphatic response (1 Peter 3:15-16). Thus it is to be an expression of Christian love (Col. 3:12), being a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:23). Τhat believers are to manifest not only towards each other but to everyone (Phil. 4:5; Titus 3:2). Now in terms of Pastoral leadership gentleness is a perquisite (1 Tim. 3:3) as well as a requirement when restoring believers who fall into sin (Gal. 6:1), or when correcting those in opposition, who are outside the household of faith (2 Tim. 2:25). The Apostle Paul once asked the Corinthians whom he discipled: “What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” 1 Cor. 4:12 Thus the Godly manner in which we are to regulate all the other virtues is in a spirit of gentleness.

Vs. 12 “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The Apostle Paul’s exhortation here to “Fight the good fight of faith...” is a colorful metaphor in light of what he previously wrote telling us how to flesh that out. Hence Paul is not saying fight and argue with those outside the household of faith, rather contend for the faith and the doctrines that are true to it (Jude 3), lay hold on eternal life, which Jesus Christ has given us all who believe by the grace of God. Thus we are called by Jesus Christ not just to believe in Him through the gospel, but also to declare the gospel. Now in this there will be spiritual opposition both to the truth of the gospel as well as the doctrines within it; even inside the house of faith, there will be adversaries’ who will oppose segments of it or the apostolic doctrine given by the Spirit of God found only in the New Testament, as the Apostle Paul already warned: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Cor. 10:3-5 Thus the Apostle Paul wants Timothy (and us all) to succeed in our lives and live up to our confessions of faith In Jesus Christ by holding fast to the truth. That is what fighting the good fight of faith is; believing, obeying and declaring Jesus Christ the Lord in the face of all mortal and spiritual opposition to God and the truth.
Vs. 13-16 To conclude the Apostle Paul strongly appeals to Timothy to heed and obey the things he has written him. Declaring his exhortation as coming in the sight of God who gives life to all things, who brought Timothy to life through the gospel, by faith in His Son the Lord Jesus Christ; whom Paul cites as also having witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate (vs. 13). Timothy then must strive to keep all that the Apostle has written him, both as an individual believer as well as a church Pastor, keeping this commandment without spot, blameless until the Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, which He will manifest in His own time. Therefore Timothy is not to be dissuaded by false teachers or ungodly scoffers in pursuing the things that make for having a true faith In Christ. Rather he is to hold fast to Jesus Christ in anticipation of His return. Consider than how the Apostle Paul began his epistle with an exhortation saying to Timothy; “that you teach no other doctrine” 1 Tim 1:3 then at different points continued to admonish him to do so: “These things command and teach” 1 Tim. 4:11 “…Teach and exhort these things.” 1 Tim. 6:2 For if Timothy's congregation or any church body is going survive; obedience to, and confession of the gospel of Jesus Christ is paramount. For it is the Lord Jesus Christ alone who is “…the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.” Vs. 14-16 Therefore since it is Jesus Christ alone whom we must give an accounting too, let us submit too and hallow the Fullness of His Person, Sovereignty; Divinity; Immortality, Eternal Glory, Honor and Power. Amen

Scripture Quotations
The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982

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