1 Timothy, Lesson 11: Slavery, False Teaching, and the Dangers that Can Come with Wealth

Newfoundland one dollar billPaul, having finished dealing with overseers/elders, he now deals with slaves and their masters.


Slaves and Masters

Read 1 Timothy 6:1

  • How does Paul want slaves to treat their masters? Why?


  • Discuss: “the name of God” and “the Teaching” [note the definite article, “the”].


Read 1 Timothy 6:2a

  • For believing slaves and masters, what is their relationship?


Excursus: Understanding Paul’s view on slavery

In the Old Covenant, we find that slavery existed as a temporary allowance because of human weakness—not as a God-given right! For example, following their enslavement in Egypt, the Law of Moses allowed Israelites to have slaves, but only for six years. After that, at the beginning of every seventh year, slaves had to be set free (Exodus 21:2). Someone could only serve as a slave beyond that if he chose to do so (Exodus 21:5-6).

In the New Covenant, Paul would often concentrate on one group within the Church, teaching them as needed. For husbands and wives, he taught that marriage was something that originated from God (Ephesians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9). He wanted a married couple to understand their union based on God’s order of creation (Ephesians 5:31). For life between parents and children, Paul pointed to the Fourth Commandment, “honor your father and mother” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

When it came to slaves, Paul was no different. He addressed them, directly, in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-4:1, or, indirectly, here in 1 Timothy and also in Titus 2:9-10. But for slavery, we find a different nuance. Now, Paul wasn’t an “abolitionist,” but he did have an eye for what could be better. For, unlike marriage and family life, Paul never appealed to God for the existence of slavery.

Paul, instead, stressed the equal worth of slaves and masters before God (Ephesians 6:8). He said that when it came to salvation, everyone was equal in Christ, whether slave or free (Galatians 3:28). Back then, that was something that most people had never heard!

Paul also strove to improve relations between slave and master (Ephesians 6:9), focusing on moral behavior for both master (Colossians 4:1) and slave (Colossians3:22-25). When possible, he even encouraged slaves to leave slavery when they could do so in a way that wasn’t sinful (1 Corinthians 7:21). He also urged masters to free their slaves (Philemon 1:10-21). Read Philemon 1:10-21 to get a “feel” for this.

Despite Paul’s wish for what could be better, he even saw slavery as an opportunity for a Christian to bring glory to God (Titus 2:9-10). That’s also the context of this section in 1 Timothy 6:1-2. Even as a slave, a Christian could live his life pointing toward God (the “name of God”), living out the teachings, the content, of the Christian faith and religion (the Teaching).


The Transition

Read 1 Timothy 6:2b

“teach” and “encourage”: Both are present-tense imperative verbs. Paul is commanding Timothy that he must do “these [things].”

“these [things]”: Refers to what Paul told Timothy in 5:1-6:2, which related to widows, overseers/elders, and slaves and masters. But it also serves as a transition to what Timothy is to do next.


Final Words to Timothy

The dangers of false teachers (6:3-5)

Read 1 Timothy 6:3

  • In this letter to Timothy, Paul had dealt with false teaching and teachers two times before (1:3-11, 4:1-5). That Paul deals with it, once more, says what about false teaching and teachers?


  • Who or what is the source of the Church’s doctrine, especially as it relates to us in the New Covenant? (vs. 3)


Lesson 11, 1 Timothy 6.3


Read 1 Timothy 6:4-5

  • Instead of Christ and His teachings filling the false teacher, what is within him instead?


“means of gain”: Greek, porismos, meaning “means or way of getting wealth.”

“godliness”: Greek, eusebeia. Paul, again, uses this word to mean “religion.”

  • Instead of being enlightened and filled with the truth, what is the state of these false teachers? (vs. 5)


  • Christ’s words are “wholesoming” and correcting, but what are the words from these false teachers?


  • How was the false teacher using religion (or a distortion of the Christian religion)?


  • Earlier, Paul said, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (5:17), and “the laborer deserves his wages” (5:18). Discuss the difference between the elder “worthy of double honor” and the false teacher.


The dangers that can come with wealth

Paul now transitions to the dangers of lusting after wealth for the average Christian.

Read 1 Timothy 6:6

Paul now uses two of the same words that he applied to false teachers but with a huge difference: “But there is great means of gain [porismos] in religion [eusebeia] with contentment.”

  • Who has the greater “means of gain,” the false teacher chasing after money or the Christian who is content with God’s provision for him?


Read 1 Timothy 6:7-8

  • When we are being content with what we have, how does Paul reveal that our existence right now is not our true reality?


Read 1 Timothy 6:9-10

  • What has chasing after wealth caused to happen to many Christians? Why?


  • So, what is the antidote to lusting after wealth (hint: Jesus’ words being “correcting”)?


Personal words from Paul to Timothy as an overseer 

Read 1 Timothy 6:11-12a

“man of God”: We will find this expression again at 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The Old Testament often used “man of God” to refer to a leader who was doing what God had given him to do. See Deuteronomy 33:1 (referring to Moses), 2 Chronicles 8:14 (referring to David), 1 Samuel 9:6 (referring to Samuel and other prophets); 1 Samuel 2:27 (an unspecified prophet); 1 Kings 13:1 (another unspecified prophet). This testifies to the God-given overseeing role that Timothy had.

“flee,” “pursue,” and “fight [struggle, strain]” and “take hold [grasp]”: These are all imperative, commanding verbs.

  • What is Timothy to flee?


  • What is Timothy to pursue (note the Greek word, eusebeia)? Where will he find these?


  • That Timothy is to struggle/fight for the faith (notice the definitive article before “faith”) says what?


Lesson 11, Grasping and Being Called


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