Summary: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 1Timothy 6: 6-19 Title: “Baptismal promises never lapse or expire.” Year C
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 1Timothy 6: 6-19
Title: “Baptismal promises never lapse or expire.”
Chapter six, begins with exhortations to Christian slaves, regarding how to treat their masters verses one and two. It then treats of the Christian attitude toward money in verses three to ten, summing up in verse ten, by saying, “The love of money is the root of all evils.” There is a change of focus in verses eleven to sixteen. The author addresses Timothy directly and charges him to express the virtuous counterparts of the vices condemned in verse four and five, then the author returns to the topic of money, true wealth and its use in verses seventeen to nineteen, only to return to direct address to Timothy in verse twenty, the last verse of this letter.
In verse eleven, but you, man of God: Although the phrase “man of God” occurs only twice in the New Testament, here and at 2Timothy 3: 17, it is used rather frequently in the LXX of Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha and lesser known leaders. The term applies to one who is a spiritual leader and an example for others to follow.
Avoid all this: This refers to the errors and sins mentioned in the previous verses, that is verse three to ten. The Greek has “flee,” a bit stronger than “avoid.” It is in counterbalance with “pursue,” its opposite. The author would be imitating Paul who was fond of “put off” and “put on” exhortations, as we find in Ephesians and Colossians.
Righteousness: In the New Testament “righteousness” is both a quality God, in, through and because of Christ, bestows upon a person and the conduct of that person, conduct that is the result of being declared righteousness, not the cause of it.
Devotion: This translates the Greek eusebeia, an important word in the Pastoral Epistles. The rest of the New Testament, except for 2 Peter does not use this word to refer to Christian faith and life. In fact, in this list of six virtues the only one not found in Paul’s lists, none of which are identical, is eusebeia. Moreover, in 2Timothy 2:22 the term is omitted where one would expect to find it sandwiched between “righteousness” and “faith, love” as it is here. Paul would speak of faith and love, but not “piety,” or, as translated here, “devotion”. This was a term used by pagans to signify the respectable life of a good citizen and “god-fearer,” a manner or way of life. Christians were exhorted to be such good citizens that they would be both acceptable to and attractive to their pagan neighbors and townsfolk. Piety is always in danger of being merely external, as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had shown. Thus, this “virtue” must be surrounded by others if it is to be authentic.
Faith: As terms were used over time they would acquire additional meanings and nuances as a result of both reflection and practical experience. Faith for Paul would mean “trust” in God and Christ. Yet, even he would use the term “faith” for “faithfulness,” as in Romans 3:3 and perhaps in 2 Thessalonians 1:4 and Galatians 5:22. As with the term “righteousness” above it is best to understand it in its fullest sense of both trust in God and fidelity to him.
Love: The object of “love” is not specified and it is best to understand this term in its fullest sense of love of God and neighbor.
Patience: The Greek hypomene has a wide range of nuances- patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance, expectation- and it is difficult to say which is intended here. The word is used regarding persevering in good works in Romans 2:7; 2Cor 12:12, enduring persecution 2Thes 1:4 and waiting patiently for Christ’s return Romans 8:25.
Verse fourteen, of our text does, indeed, refer to Christ’s return. Like all Christian virtue this term refers to the attitude one brings to suffering or persecution or waiting.
Gentleness: The Greek word praupathia occurs only here in the Bible, although the noun which helps form it is quite common in Paul. That noun means “gentleness” in the sense of humility. Along with patience this would be the recommended way for a Christian to act when confronted with the world’s hostility towards Christian faith and life.
In verse twelve, compete well for the faith: The older and more familiar translation, “Fight the good fight of the faith,” is certainly more melodious and more faithful to the original Greek. There is disagreement among scholars whether the author intends a military metaphor, conceiving Christian life as a war against evil where weapons are decisive, or an athletic metaphor, conceiving Christian life as a competition with evil wherein discipline gives one an edge. Either or both would apply. The present translation attempts to bring out the sense of the present imperative form, namely that the struggle, however conceived, is a continuous one, never-ending. Yet, it is a good one, one in which the Christian engages because of his or her faith and through his or her faith.