************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 30, 2013
1 Timothy 6:11-16,20-21
"The Good Confession"
This morning we heard Marie and Kim make a "good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:11).
I dare say that half of those who hear or read these words right away think of a criminal admitting his crimes before a police officer or judge, or a person acknowledging his sins to God. This is the negative meaning of "confession."
Like every other person here, Marie and Kim need to make this kind of confession to God. After all, they are sinners who fall short of God's demand to love Him above all and our neighbor as ourself. Everyone of us is a sinner who needs to confess his or her sin to God because sin confessed is, by the grace of God, sin forgiven (1 Jn 1:9).
However, this is not what Paul means when he speaks of the good "confession."
There is another more positive use of the word – namely, to make a solemn statement of faith. Marie and Kim made a "good confession in the presence of many witnesses." Marie and Kim made a solemn statement of faith. This is something Jesus wants every person to do; Jesus wants every person here to make this kind of confession (Mt 10:32-33).
I The Content of the Good Confession
A In our Bible reading, Paul reminds Timothy that "you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12). And Timothy, we are told, was being like Jesus "who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession" (1 Tim 6:13).
The Greek word for "confession" is made up of two parts which literally mean "to speak the same thing." So, to make the "good confession" means you and I and Marie and Kim need to speak the same thing as Timothy who, in turn, speaks the same thing as Christ.
Meaning what? Meaning that to know what a "good confession" looks like we have to spend some time looking at what Jesus said to Pilate.
B What did Jesus say to Pilate? Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied (Mt 27:11; cf Jn 18:33-37). Before Pilate, then, Jesus declared that He was a King, the King of the Jews. To any observant Jew, this meant that before the Roman authorities Jesus claimed to be the descendant of David, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.
This is not the only time that Jesus made the "good confession." When Jesus was arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin, do you remember the demand of the high priest?
(Mt 26:63-65) "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." (64) "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (65) Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy."Jesus made the "good confession" before the Sanhedrin. He claimed to be the Christ, the Son of God, and the glorious Son of Man first mentioned in Daniel.
"Are you the king of the Jews?" (Mt 27:11). "Are you the Christ?" (Mt 26:63). Jesus could have said "No." That, of course, means He would have denied His Messianic office before Pilate and the Sanhedrin. However, Jesus said "Yes," even though He knew this would mean death on the cross. "Yes, it is as you say" (Mt 26:64; 27:11). This "good confession" cost Jesus His life.
C Timothy made the "good confession." This means he confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. In everyday language this means Timothy confessed Jesus to be Savior and Lord.
Timothy made the "good confession." This was not a secret testimony. This was not a low-key testimony. This was not a private testimony. Timothy made the good confession "in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12). He stood up before God and His people, as did Marie and Kim this morning, and declared for all to hear that Jesus is his Savior and Lord. Timothy was not like Joseph of Arimathea who, at first, was a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn 19:38; cf Jn 12:42-43). Timothy made the good confession as part of the church. He made the "good confession" in the presence of other confessors – thereby encouraging the saints and being encouraged by them.
Timothy made the "good confession." And, do you know what happened to him? The ending to Hebrews indicates he spent time in prison (Heb 13:23). Timothy was in prison because he made the "good confession." Like the Lord Jesus, he was persecuted and mistreated because he made the "good confession."
D Timothy stands in a long line of saints who made the same confession and suffered as a result. Think of Paul, Timothy's mentor and spiritual father. Paul made the "good confession" and faced not only various tortures and persecutions, but at length was beheaded at Rome by the Emperor Nero (cf 2 Cor 11:23-28). Stephen made the "good confession" and was stoned to death (Acts 7). History records for us what happened to the Gospel writers and Apostles because they made the "good confession":
Matthew suffered martyrdom by being slain with a sword at a distant city of Ethiopia.I want you to realize that in the early church it was costly to make the "good confession" that Jesus is Savior and Lord.
Mark expired at Alexandria, after being cruelly dragged through the streets of that city.
Luke was hanged upon an olive tree in Greece.
John was put in a caldron of boiling oil, but escaped death in a miraculous manner, and was afterward branded at Patmos.
Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downward.
James, the Greater, was beheaded at Jerusalem.
James, the Less, was thrown from a lofty pinnacle of the temple, and then beaten to death with a club.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Andrew was bound to a cross, whence he preached to his persecutors until he died.
Thomas was run through the body with a lance in the East Indies.
Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Matthias was first stoned and then beheaded.
And this remains true today in many parts of the world – it is costly to make the "good confession" because it often leads to arrest, torture, and death. We can be thankful that our persecution in America is of a different sort: mockery by the liberal media, problems with the IRS, and so on.
Marie and Kim, congregation, there will be times when you will want to say "No." There will be times when it will be embarrassing to admit you are a Christian. At such times remember Jesus. He set the good example; He was the "faithful witness" even though His "Yes" meant death (Rev 1:5). And, remember young Timothy who imitated Jesus regardless of the cost.
II The Lifestyle of the Good Confession
A Kim told me that her husband has noticed something different in her since she has been in worship with us. I know what he has noticed. He has noticed that the good confession is not just words said with the mouth but it is also a life lived with the heart.
In his comments on 1 Timothy 6, Dr John MacArthur states that they who make the "good confession" are known by four things:
-first, what they flee from (vs 11)
-second, what they follow after (vs 11)
-third, what they fight for (vs 12)
-and fourth, what they are faithful to (vs 20)
First, those who make the "good confession" are known by what they flee from. Paul writes, "But you, man of God, flee from all this ..." (1 Tim 6:11). Flee. Flee does not mean crawl. Flee does not mean walk. Flee does not mean trot. Flee means to run rapidly from danger. In our mind we are to have an image of Timothy and Marie and Kim and you and I running as quickly as possible from danger.
What are the dangers Paul has in mind? Timothy is to flee from false doctrine and the sin that goes with it (1 Tim 6:3-10).
Recently, I had an appointment to visit with someone. They called and said they needed to cancel because they had the flu. I couldn't hang up quick enough – as if the virus or bug would attack me over the phone line. This is the attitude we need to have about sin and temptation and false doctrine. Too often, however, we are more scared of a physical virus than sin and heresy.
"Flee from all this." I can never think of this command without thinking of Joseph in the household of Potiphar. Mrs Potiphar was rich and bored. Joseph was young and handsome. Like most people in the world, Mrs Potiphar didn't see a connection between marriage and sex. So she pestered Joseph day after day to go to bed with her. One day she caught him alone in the house and ripped off his cloak. Joseph fled. Outside. In his underwear. He rather be humiliated than sin against God (Gen 39:6-20)!
Those who make the "good confession" flee from sin and temptation and false doctrine.
B Second, those who make the "good confession" are known by what they follow after. Paul writes, "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" (1 Tim 6:11). Pursue. Chase. This implies effort. This implies a purpose, a goal. This implies direction.
As the Christian flees he doesn't run randomly. I don't know if you have ever seen a chicken without its head. It runs aimlessly, in every direction, back and forth, without getting anywhere. There is lots of wing-flapping and lots of leg movement but nothing gets accomplished. Christians who flee from sin and temptation and false doctrine are not to run like chickens without their heads.
Those who make the "good confession" are to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." They are to pursue the Christ-centered life.
There are church members who flee from lust and materialism and alcohol and drugs while pompously displaying a self-righteous pride. They flee from sin but do not pursue righteousness. Amos describes a man fleeing aimlessly from a lion only to come face to face with a bear (Amos 5:19). We go terribly astray in the wrong direction if we do not deliberately pursue the virtues inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Congregation, those who make the "good confession" flee from sin and pursue righteousness. Yet, as Christians, we often turn this around and flee from righteousness and pursue sin. I see this in my own life far too often. Or, I try to have it both ways at once: I try to follow Christ with my mouth, while my heart chases after sin. But as Jesus points out, I cannot pursue sin and godliness at the same time:
(Mt 6:24) No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.When this is my behavior, I am neither fleeing sin nor pursuing righteousness – I am simply pursuing sin.
C Third, Paul follows the "flee and pursue" command to Timothy by telling him that those who make the "good confession" "fight the good fight" (1 Tim 6:12).
We cannot flee sin and pursue godliness without a struggle, a battle, a fight. Even on our best days this means spiritual warfare. As long as we are on this earth and in this body and have this life there will be a struggle between sin and righteousness. Temptation is always present. The old man of sin is constantly pulling on us. The Devil, the world, and our own flesh never stop attacking us. The Apostle Paul wrote about this struggle in his own life:
(Rom 7:22-23) For in my inner being I delight in God's law; (23) but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
What it comes down to, my brothers and sisters, is that those who make the "good confession" end up at war as they flee sin and pursue righteousness.
"Fight the good fight." I doubt if God will call any of us to smuggle Bibles into Eritrea or Saudi Arabia. I doubt if God will call many of us to be missionaries in Papua New Guinea. I doubt if any of us will be called to debate the virtues of Christianity before a largely pagan audience, like Paul did in Athens.
So what does it mean for you and I and Marie and Kim to "fight the good fight." This is something we are to do in the everyday events of our life. For instance, you are in conversation and you have a chance to say something about a brother or sister. You almost blurt it out, and it would be neither slander nor untruth. But you stifle your urge because it would be hurtful. Your husband has just said something sharp to you but you bite your tongue instead of replying in kind. Your kids are testing your patience to the limit and you discover you have new limits. You are tired because of a busy weekend and you are tempted to stay home from worship but you and your family attend anyway. This is the good fight of the faith.
For those who make the "good confession" godly warfare is not something that happens overseas in China or Myanmar. It is something that happens at home, at work, at school, in the church, and on vacation. It is a daily struggle. It is a lifelong struggle. There can be no peace treaty between sin and righteousness in the lives of those who make the "good confession."
D Fourth, Paul says that those who make the "good confession" are faithful to the Word of Christ. Paul writes,
(1Tim 6:20-21) Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, (21) which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith. Grace be with you.
This is important to Paul. His letter to Timothy started with a warning about those who "teach false doctrine" (1 Tim 1:3) and "devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies" (1 Tim 1:4). Now it closes with a command to "guard what has been entrusted to your care" and to turn away from "godless chatter" (1 Tim 6:20).
"Guard what has been entrusted to your care." Be faithful to the Word of Christ. Don't water down the Gospel. Don't stray from or deny the truth. Keep the "good confession" about Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Often, we think that only pastors and elders are supposed to guard the truth. But we know this command is really given to the whole church. I say this because the "you" of "grace be with you" in verse 21 is plural. Not just elders and pastors but everyone who makes the "good confession" has a responsibility to guard the truth of God's Word.
Another translation says, "Guard the deposit entrusted to you." This makes me think of a bank vault. Or a treasure chest of jewels. Paul wants to convey the idea that what we are to guard is valuable and expensive and essential and crucial and all important for us and our family. In fact, nothing is more important than the truth of God's Word. Northing is more important than the "good confession" of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Marie and Kim, congregation of Jesus Christ, "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12).
Do you hear what is at stake: eternal life. Make the good confession, live out the good confession, and yours – by grace – is eternal life.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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