On the First Epistle to Timothy

Chapter 6:20-21.

Taken from The Bible Treasury Number 355 - December 1885


Chapter 6:20-21

The conclusion is a solemn appeal, which 'vas never more seasonable than at this moment, when the vanity of scientific speculation misleads souls increasingly to despise revelation.

"O Timothy, keep the deposit, tuning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge, in professing' which some missed the mark concerning the faith. Grace [be] with you1" (ver. 20, 21).

"The deposit " here, as in 2 Tim. i. 14 means the truth entrusted by God through His chosen instruments, divine revelation conveyed in words taught of the Holy Spirit, the pattern of sound words which Timothy heard from Paul among many witnesses. It is neither the soul nor its salvation on the one hand, nor yet on the other the ministerial office, nor even the race of the Spirit. It is the perfect communication of what Goal is in nature, ways, relationships, amid counsels. This revelation alone gave, as inspiration now alone secures. It is not only the material of ministry, but. its safeguard; as it is of those ministered to; for grace would vouchsafe to all an unerring standard. This the church, the assembly, is not nor in the nature of things can be: the church is not the truth, but its pillar and base, as the truth calls out each member of Christ and forms and fashions the whole. There only among men is the truth plainly inscribed and maintained. Where else is the word of God responsibly attested or presented here below?

Doubtless Timothy had a special place according to the favour shown, the truth unreservedly made known, the position given, and the charge and work assigned, as we see from the first to the last of this Epistle. But if we may not overstep our measure or intrude into the peculiar duties of that honoured colleague of the apostle, we are no less bound in our place to guard that truth which is now entrusted to our keeping. It is the declared tower of safety in these last days of deception and self-will—every scripture as being inspired of God.

But along with adhesion and subjection to the truth goes the necessity of watching against the false. And so Timothy is exhorted to turn away from "the profane" babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge." What more thoroughly undermines the power of the truth confessed, than the allowance of theories which flatter man, occupy the creature, and, as they ignore or debase God and His Son, so will be found at last really to deny both? "This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou host sent." All must be false where the true state of man is unfelt, and consequently the real character and intervention of God because of that state left out; for the intervention of God to triumph in His grace over sin and Satan has formed relationships on which our duties depend. "The falsely-named knowledge" attempts to fill the void which unbelief ever finds because it does not really know God and His Son, possessing it with its profane vapourings and antitheses. It cannot face the stern fact of utter ruin by sin; it shirks therefore the revelation of pure grace and of a righteousness which is God's and can justify the ungodly when man was proved to have none for Him. If it introduces Christ at all, which may often be and largely too, it is not as the Saviour of the lost to God's glory, and as the Judge of all who believe not and so are unjust and have done evil, but only as the flower that adorns the race and bears witness to the moral perfectness of which humanity is capable. God revealed in man, Christ rejected even to the death of the cross, yet in that cross an efficacious sacrifice for the guiltiest by faith of Him, and now man in Christ accepted in the holiest, and sending down the Holy Spirit to make all that is believed good in those that believe,—this is the truth which defeats those babblings and oppositions. And as the centre of it all is He who was manifested in flesh, a divine person yet man, the truth is perfectly suited to each soul, Jew or Gentile, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free. It is independent of ruin or development, of learning or the lack of it, forming the believer inwardly and outwardly according to its own character by the Holy Spirit, who sets Christ as the object and pattern before the eye of faith. No wonder then that the apostle was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. And the gospel is not, as is so often thought, a mere display of mercy irrespective of God's moral glory; for therein is revealed God's righteousness by faith unto faith. The law was God's just claim on man; the gospel is the glad tidings of salvation, as the fruit of Christ's death and resurrection, and therein of God's undertaking for man and delivering him that believes. It is God's, not man's, righteousness, and hence revealed to faith, so as to be as open to the Greek as to the Jew, faith (not law) being the only source and way and principle of blessing for a lost sinner.

In this Epistle, however, it is not our privileges as God's children or as members of Christ's body that we see developed, but the broad and deep foundations of the divine nature and glory as the Saviour God dealing with all mankind through the mediation of Christ. And, in keeping with this, it is not here the heavenly wealth and beauty of the church, but its moral order as the responsible witness and true defender of the faith before the world, the misuse of the law being denounced, and the profane fables and logomachies of man's imagination yet more, which, if they begin by promising showy and superior sanctity, soon betray their worthlessness and worse by grievous moral laxity. Hence the importance given throughout to every-day duty which the grace and truth which came by Jesus strongly enforce, while making the yoke easy and the burden light. "The falsely-named knowledge" always subjects God and His revelation to the mind of man. Thus man acquires the place as far as possible of judge—ever agreeable to his self-importance, and withal necessary to veil from himself his own guilty and ruined estate in the sight of God. Nay more, in the fulness of his presumption, he avails himself of the human medium to deny inspiration in any true force, so as to sit in judgment of that word which, our Lord declares, shall judge him at the last day. Thus, in criticising what God is in the communication of scripture, Who He is gets utterly lost; and sinful man in effect sets up, perhaps without suspecting what he does or its heinous sin, to judge God Himself!

The manner, in which God is now and then presented in this Epistle, appears to be directly suited to meet and expose such airy and daring speculations, which developed later into all the many vagaries of Gnosticism, sometimes subtle and bewildering, at others low and licentious, but always destructive delusions. The Ring of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, only God, and with that God one, one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all; God, the Creator and Giver of every creature, the living God the Preserver of all, specially of the faithful; God who preserves all things in life; who is about to display the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, while He dwells in light unapproachable, whom no man has seen nor can see. God so revealed consigns to their own nothingness the profane babblings and oppositions of the falsely-named knowledge; as the humble and godly walk produced points to its excellent and wise and holy source, in contrast with the degrading ways which falsehood entails, and on none more surely than on those who once called on the name of the Lord.

Here accordingly the apostle briefly touches on the effect of this spurious knowledge, "In professing which some missed the mark [or, erred] concerning the faith." It is sad to know men loving darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. But there is a deeper sorrow over those who once seemed to run well, thus fatally erring about the faith, not only the victims of folly and evil; but dishonouring blindly the Name which is above every name.

"Grace be with you:" so the most ancient copies say, though one might have expected "thee" as in most manuscripts and some of weight. But compare the closing words of the second Epistle. There it is the more striking, because they follow a strictly individual prayer that the Lord should be with Timothy's spirit. Yet I am not aware of a single MS. that favours the singular, and scarce any version save the Peshito Syriac. The comparison appears to confirm the judgment of Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Westcott and Hort as to the close of the First Epistle. The benediction is of few words, but, as ever, weighty. Timothy did surely need grace, and the grace of the Lord would be sufficient for him; but it is the common need, the unfailing support, of all others, and they are not forgotten, even in a confidential communication to a tried fellow-serνant.



1) The critical reading (the plural) seems confirmed, contrary to what at first sight would appear natural, by the end of the second epistle, where after thin benediction to Timothy individually, we certainly close with ή χ. μ. ὐμῶν without question of σον. Those with him if not all the saints at large are in view.