This sermon was preached on 1 Timothy 6:17-21 on June 10, 2018 at Niddrie Community Church. You can listen to the audio here (38 min.), or read the manuscript below.
1 Timothy is a letter about being a faithful pastor. We end the letter tonight. Appropriately, we get one more lesson for faithful pastors. They’re to be like a well-rounded midfielder. Able to press and create on the attack. Able to track back and defend.
1 Timothy 6:17-21 has two main parts.
First Part: Timothy is to press the issue. He is to teach. We see that in verses 17-19. We’ll spend most of our time tonight in these verses.
Second Part: Timothy is to track back and defend. He is to guard what has been entrusted to him. We see that in verses 20-21.
Let’s read 1 Timothy 6:17-21.
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
18Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
20O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— 21which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
Grace be with you.
Look back up at verse 17. Timothy is to teach. He is to “instruct”.
The faithful pastor teaches the Bible. He instructs God’s people from God’s Word.
As soon as a pastor fails to do so, he can no longer be a pastor. The very existence of a local church depends on it.
Who must Timothy teach?
He must teach rich members of his church, Christians who’ve got a lot more money and stuff than other Christians.
What must he teach them?
He must teach them to not do 2 things and to do 3 things.
What’s the first thing Timothy’s to teach rich Christians not to do?
They must not be conceited. They must not be proud or arrogant.
Why must Timothy teach this?
Conceit is going to be a particularly strong temptation for the rich. They’ll be tempted to look at their kingdom of stuff and think, “Yessirreebob! Look what I’ve gained. Look what I’ve built! I am the man!”
Why should rich Christians not be conceited?
God is the supplier. No rich man can take credit for what he has. God has given to him all his stuff. It’s all a gift. He must be humbly grateful.
Listen to what Daniel says to a rich man: “The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
What does this mean for the poor Christian?
Just as the rich man must not be conceited in his riches, the poor man must not covet the rich man’s riches. Because God is the supplier.
There are many today who will gladly feed our covetous hearts and tell us that it’s unjust for someone to have a lot more than us.
But that’s not true.
God chooses to give a lot of stuff to some and not a lot of stuff to others.
He’s chosen to give him more strength, to give her better looks, to give them better cars, better houses, and better salaries.
God has perfectly supplied the lilies. God has perfectly supplied you. And God has perfectly supplied your rich brother in Christ.
Let not the rich Christian be big-headed. Let not the poor Christian be a moaner.
What’s the second thing rich Christians must not do?
They must not fix their hope on their riches.
Why are riches a bad place to put our confidence?
No matter how abundant, riches are never secure.
Why is that?
Riches are uncertain.
Whether wearing balaclavas or suits, thieves are thieves, and they steal stuff.
Investments go south.
Mistakes are made.
And riches can be gone, just like that.
The Lord gives. And the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Even if you manage to hold onto your stuff through all of life, how many years do you get with it?
News flash. Everyone in this room is going to be dead in just a short bit of time. And we’ll take none of our stuff out of this world.
Stephen Hutchison used to be a funeral director for Purvis. Do you know what he never had to do for a funeral? Steven organized lots of hearses. He never booked a moving van.
Naked you entered this life. Naked you shall leave.
How stupid is it to hope in your riches? At their best, held onto the longest, you are guaranteed to lose all of them.
What lesson does this give to poor Christians?
Don’t dream about making it big. Don’t fix your hope on getting rich.
Chase after money and stuff, get all the money and stuff you could ever want, and you will have spent your life getting what you can’t keep.
Rich or poor, earthly riches are not meant to be the object of your hope.
Those are the two “don’t-do-that’s” Timothy is to teach. Don’t be cocky or foolishly confident in your stuff.
What’s the first “do this” command Timothy is to teach?
Rich Christians must fix their hope on God alone.
Paul highlights two reasons why in these verses.
Why is God our hope?
God himself is our portion, both now and forever! He is all we need.
Psalm 73 reads, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Why is God our hope?
God himself supplies us all things.
He clothes the lilies and feeds the sparrows. He will certainly care for his children.
He’s adopted us to be his own by giving us his only-begotten Son.
We can trust him to care for us.
What’s the second “do this” command Timothy is to teach?
Rich Christians are to enjoy everything God has given them.
A few of us went up to Inveraray a while back.
We met some Catholic monks up there. These guys are following in the footsteps of lots of monks throughout history. They’ve vowed to never get married or own any possessions whatsoever.
Paul thinks their monkish habits are stupid.
When Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, to pick up our crosses and follow him, he’s not telling us to deny ourselves the enjoyment of the gifts our Father has given us.
Rejecting a good gift is an insult to the giver. All we have has been gifted to us from our Father. Grateful enjoyment is the only right response.
Ecclesiastes 5:19 reads, “Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God.”
What if you’re poor? What if God has chosen to not give you nearly as much stuff as he’s given someone else in the church?
He’s still given you himself. He’s still saved you. He’s still given you a right relationship with him. You have the greatest gift imaginable. You have God.
And what should all Christians who have God as their supreme treasure do? We should enjoy him.
Use every moment of your life to enjoy God. Read the Bible a lot, and so listen to him speak. Pray to him a lot. Enjoy talking to him.
Even poor men with empty hands have hands…and feet…and eyes. There’s much to explore in the world God has made, much to see and feel and smell. And it’s there to push you to enjoy the Maker. Pick up some dirt and feel your Father’s handiwork. Feel the wind coming off the sea and enjoy your Father’s strength.
Enjoy your God.
What’s the third “do this” command Timothy is to teach?
The rich are to be just as wealthy in good works and generosity as they are rich in stuff.
Why is being rich good?
The Christian who is rich has more stuff to do more good stuff with.
A poor guy in Spain drove hours to listen to Mez preach. A rich guy in America bought his petrol for him.
That’s a prime example of what Timothy is to instruct the rich to be like. They’re to be cheerfully and willingly generous.
All Christians, rich and poor, have much reason to be generous.
Our Father gave his only-begotten Son to redeem us.
Jesus humbled himself and became a man in order to take hell on the cross in our place for our sin.
In him we have been given every blessing in the heavenly places.
The poor in Philippi saw the generosity of Jesus and joyfully responded by being generous to other churches beyond their means. Isn’t it obvious that rich Christians should do the same with their great means?
Generous, sharing with fellow believers.
Rich Christians have good reason to be generous by looking back to the cross.
But they also have good reason to be generous by looking ahead to heaven.
Christians who are generous to their fellow believers can know that God will pay them back.
God guarantees his people that generosity is good economics. It pays off all the time.
When rich Christians trust God…
and so obey his Word…
and so do a bunch of generous good works for God’s people…
they store “up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future.”
I’ve got a friend who’s a plumber. He’s obsessed with setting himself up for retirement. He’s got a dream for the future, and everything he does now is for that goal. He wants to retire at 55, sell all his stuff, buy a house in Cyprus, and play golf in the sun.
Sounds nice, huh?
It’s a fool’s dream. My friend is putting all his confidence in his savings. His savings are uncertain.
He’s building his hopes on a foundation of sand. Even if he succeeds, he’ll get to Cyprus and, after three months, he’ll realize he’s bored. He’s wasted his life.
If you’re rich, don’t be like my plumber friend. Look to a better future. Look to the New Earth. There you will live with the Lord. God will reward you there for your good works here. Be wise. Obey God and make all your financial moves investing in heaven.
Do what’s written in verse 19. “Take hold of that which is life indeed.”
Live for glory.
Now, maybe you’re listening and are a little confused at this point. God says enjoy the gifts he’s given. But he also says to share and be really generous, to invest in heaven. So, how do those two things hold together?
When I was younger, I thought the command to be generous canceled out the command to receive God’s gifts and really enjoy them.
But neither command cancels the other out. God wants obedience in both.
So, enjoy a cigar and a beer. Enjoy the power of your car. Enjoy your holiday. Enjoy your books. Enjoy it all. AND be generous.
Be like my pal back in Virginia.
He’s a wealth manager. That means he’s wealthy, and he helps other wealthy people do wealthy things with their money.
This dude built an amazing house. It’s got a hidden room with a whiskey cabinet and cigar drawer. He’s got a motorcycle, a Benz, and a dog bred to hunt lions. He dresses well, eats well, works out well, and sends his kids to the best school around.
My pal is loaded.
And my pal is a generous man. He funded one of my pastors so that he could work full-time as a university evangelist and still care for his family. He probably gave more money to the church than any other member.
He opened his home every week so that 80 obnoxious university students could meet for Bible study.
He had no problem enjoying the gifts God had given. And he was wonderfully generous.
That’s what Timothy is to teach the rich Christians in Ephesus to be like.
They’re not to be conceited.
They’re not to put their confidence in their wealth.
They’re to hope in God.
They’re to enjoy all he gives.
They’re to be generous and rich in good works.
Now, all of that is what Timothy is to teach. That’s him being Paul Pogba, the attacking midfielder.
But Paul doesn’t end there. With his last words in the letter, he reminds Timothy to track back on defense. He must guard what’s been given him.
Let’s spend our last moments in this letter looking at verses 20 & 21.
O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
Grace be with you.
These two verses sum up well what this letter has been all about. They’re a fitting end. Timothy is to guard what has been entrusted to him.
With what has Timothy been entrusted?
He’s been entrusted with ministering the gospel in the local church.
In guarding his ministry, he has to both hold his ground and attack his opponents.
In holding his ground, Timothy must hold firm to all sound doctrine.
He has to hold to all the truth. He has to obey all the truth. He has to lead the church to do the same thing.
In attacking his opponents, Timothy must fight false teachers.
There were false teachers inside the church back in the day. There are still false teachers today. These are men who’ve had our trust and love. And they’ve fallen away from the faith.
As a minister of the gospel, Timothy can’t lose heart. He must have nothing to do with them. He can’t tolerate their twisting of Scripture. He can’t tolerate their disobedience to King Jesus.
Timothy is to guard what’s been entrusted to him. He is to be a faithful pastor.
Let that be our closing reminder as we end our time in 1 Timothy.
We are reminded of our lives’ calling. God is calling each of us to be faithful Christians, faithful members of this church.
The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has been entrusted to us. Let us hold to it in faith.
Obey your King in all your ways and all your days.
Timothy wasn’t strong enough for the job. Neither are we.
So, let’s make Paul’s closing prayer our daily prayer, our prayer when we wake up, our prayer when we go to bed.
May God’s saving, empowering, preserving grace be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.