2 Cor 1:12
...our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity , not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

2 Cor 2:17
...we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity , but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.

Phil 1:10-11
...that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Phil 1:15-16
...some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely...

1 Peter 2:2-3
As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Alan L. Barrow

Reading: 1 Timothy 6:3-16

THE phrase 'Man of God' occurs quite infrequently in the New Testament. So far as I can discover it is only used on two occasions and they are both in Paul's letters to Timothy. Elsewhere in the New Testament it is not found, except that Peter describes those who were responsible for writing the Old Testament as 'holy men of God' (2 Peter 1:21). This is a reference back and surely enough, when we come to consider the Old Testament, we find that the phrase 'man of God' occurs frequently. There were well-known prophets who were described as men of God; there were virtually unknown prophets who appeared on the scene and then disappeared but who were also called men of God. David was referred to as a man of God, particularly in relation to his music, his capacity of providing a vehicle of praise for God's people. And then Moses was described as "the man of God". So we see that in the Old Testament many were so designated, and in some cases considerable emphasis was placed on the title. In the New Testament, however, the phrase is hardly used at all.

Now what does this mean? Surely not that men of God are of less importance now. There must be some reason for the particular stress which is found in these writings to Timothy. It is possibly due to the fact that Paul had a very close relationship with Timothy. He knew the family. He and Timothy had worked together and travelled together for quite a long time, and had shared much adversity. There seems every evidence that the apostle regarded Timothy as something of an investment for the future, and so gave a considerable amount of time and attention to this next generation servant of the Lord. Having observed Timothy under a variety of circumstances and been associated with him in their working for God, he naturally was very concerned for him and for his spiritual success. The close relationship between the two men is indicated by the fact that Paul wrote to Timothy as "my true child in the faith". It seems likely that the younger man found Christ as a result of Paul's visit to Lystra. The apostle addressed him as "Timothy, my son" (1:18) and added weight to his exhortations by saying: "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you ..." (6:20). We are not surprised at the personal element, for this -- unlike most of the others -- was a very personal letter. In the second epistle Paul referred to his acquaintance with Timothy's childhood, as though everything to do with him was a matter of ultimate knowledge and concern to the writer. To such a man, under such circumstances, the apostle wished to stress the importance of being 'a man of God'.

This is not a term which we would think of applying to ourselves. We never refer to ourselves as men and women of God. This may be due to a very proper modesty, but it may also be because we feel that it should be an exceptional title, reserved for someone who is quite unusual. This might have been true in Old Testament times, but it should not be true today. Could the phrase be rightly applied to us? Could Paul write to us and address us as men and women of God? I suggest that it will be a profitable occupation to look closer into the implications of the title, seeking to discover what are the implications of being 'a man of God'.

GOING back to the Old Testament we note that the man of God was primarily a prophet, which means that he was a man with a job to do. He seemed to come into some situation with a task assigned to him and, so far as I know, he always fulfilled that task. I cannot find a single instance of a man described as 'a man of God' who failed to do the job assigned to him. So naturally he was a man of determination, one who had an air of purposefulness about his movements and actions. There is no sense of drift associated with the Old Testament men of God; they did not wait around needing some sort of entertainment or amusement to keep them going; they never seemed to be bored. Whether the man of God was a public figure or whether he was quite unknown, he was moved by a clear appreciation of what he was called to and what he was meant to be doing. He did not unduly concern himself with what other people were doing: he knew what his own particular job was and he got on with it. [81/82]

It is true that Christ was not described as a 'Man of God', partly because He Himself is God but chiefly because His self chosen title "the Son of man" covered all that we are now to consider. His title was unique, and rightly so, but He is to us a true example of the kind of man God requires and so from Him we may learn something of how a man of God behaves. His was certainly a life of purpose. It is inconceivable that He should have spent a single day seeking amusement or needing entertainment. As He moved about, morning by morning and afternoon by afternoon, He always knew that there was something to be done for God; people to be met, needs to be dealt with, situations to be faced; for Him every moment was one of purpose. Of course He enjoyed refreshment, and one might even say recreation. I would suggest, though, that He never felt in need of entertainment.

If I am asked what is the difference between entertainment and recreation, I would advance the explanation that everything depends on the end in view. Entertainment seems to me to be an end in itself, entertainment for entertainment's sake. Recreation, however, is not an end in itself but is meant to equip a man better for the demands and challenge of the work which he is called to. The very same thing could be entertainment (and therefore somewhat dubious) or recreation which would be most commendable. As we know, Christ had periods of recreation, periods of refreshment. He did not drive Himself relentlessly just for the sake of keeping on. On the other hand, with Him it was never a case of looking round for something to occupy His time, as though there were nothing important to do. What would be sheer entertainment for some might well be recreation for others, the whole point being the purpose 'behind what is being done. Is it to equip those who are concerned with God's service, to freshen them up for that service? Or is it because they cannot think of anything else to do and have no purpose to govern their behaviour? Well, the man of God has a purposeful life to live, and in that sense there can be little doubt that -- modesty apart -- we should all be marked out as men and women of God.

It has occurred to me that there must be a reason for the title being 'man of God' and not 'man from God'. This may be possibly because the prophets came not just as those with whom God had entrusted a message which had no relevance to their own character. They did not just come with words from Him. Rather is it God's way to have embodied the message in the man. The man was the message. Indeed if the message is to be rightly understood it seems necessary for God's purpose that it must be enshrined in human life. This is, of course, the principle of the incarnation, for as a Man Christ embodied the message which He brought to earth. We can have our teaching, our convictions, have all the facts and all the rules, but they will be very cold and unhelpful if they are not enshrined in people in whom those principles are seen to be working. So God has His prophets and His priests, and pre-eminently He has His Christ in whom can be seen the living reality of what it is that He is saying to us. And He has us all. His 'saints', those who are set apart to be men and women of God in this sense, that we enshrine and illustrate the message which we bring. It may be right to suggest that we are bringing people a message from God. Are we not called ambassadors for Christ? Yet even so, it may be asked if we have a right to a hearing, and the answer lies in what we are as well as what we say. It is those who themselves embody their message who can truly be called men and women of God.

THE man of God should "follow after ... godliness" (verse 11). We might naturally suggest what he should aim at would be the possibility of leadership in the church of God, the ability to make his mark by preaching in power, prevailing in prayer, studying his Bible or other similar activities. In fact these would be legitimate ambitions, but the stress of the apostolic appeal touches something more fundamental. He is to aim at godliness. It is worthy of note that the thought of godliness occurs time and again in these letters to Timothy and Titus, and then only again in 2 Peter. Not that the rest of the Bible fails to indicate this important quality, but it seems that in this letter there is a special concentration on the need for godliness. By the time that he wrote these words to Timothy Paul had had much experience of spiritual matters. He had seen Christian churches founded; he had seen them flourish and he had also seen them fail or flounder. He had seen individual Christians start well, and had also seen some of them come to near disaster. At this stage of his life, therefore, and with only two more pastoral epistles to write. [82/83] he must have had a clear perspective of the needs of the churches as well as of individual Christians. It is interesting to note that it was also in his final epistle that Peter made this same emphasis on godliness.

1 Timothy 2:2

In this verse we find that godliness -- or the need for it -- provides a reason for praying about our circumstances. The argument seems to be that we should ask God for the kind of governments and rulers which will provide an environment which is helpful to a life of godliness. It surely does not mean that too much importance should be devoted to the quietness or peaceableness of our surroundings, but rather that we are to welcome and pray for everything which can be used by God to further this most important aim of godliness. It is the godliness and not peaceful conditions which is to be the real objective of our prayers. The passage goes on to speak of the women folk and how godliness can be expressed by them (verse 10). Here again the main concern is not on the outward but on the inward, not on rules and regulations concerning dress but on the godly character of those concerned. God is just as concerned to have women of God as men of God, and calls for the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit which He values so highly. Both by prayer and by behaviour we are to seek to deal with anything which can obscure true godliness.

1 Timothy 3:16

According to this passage the tremendously important secret of true godliness is revealed in the person of Christ, so that right at the heart of this letter we are given this concept, that the very essence of the idea of godliness is to be found in the incarnation. Christ came to show us what God is like. "Manifested in the flesh." In the life, death and glorification of the Man Jesus, we can see the quality of character which is called godliness. The mystery of godliness had to wait a long time before it was disclosed, since only in the person of the Lord Jesus could it be fully revealed. Now we are instructed as to the real godliness of man as God meant him to be, and in the Man Christ Jesus we are shown how we ought to behave ourselves in that household of God which is the Church of the living God.

1 Timothy 4:7

Here we are told that we should train ourselves in godliness, stressing the effort involved by a comparison with bodily training. We live in a day when in any sphere concentrated training is regarded as absolutely vital. You will even meet people running round the block at all hours of night or day, seeking to prepare themselves for some contest, and the whole matter is regarded as proper and reasonable. Why should we be less devoted in seeking to be spiritually 'fit'? Surely in this matter of godliness we ought to make use of the same sort of discipline and ordered planning. The man of God does not regard godliness as a hobby but as the prior commitment of his whole life.

1 Timothy 6:3

Godliness is also a test which may rightly be applied to teaching. It is useless to put emphasis on 'sound words' merely as orthodox teaching. They must be backed by that 'orthodox' Christian living which is shown in godliness of life. The words of our Lord Jesus were substantiated and confirmed by His manner of life, and it was He who warned us to test every would-be prophet or teacher by enquiry into the way they live as well as the words they speak. Paul had no hesitation in saying that it is impossible to accept teaching which is not being made valid in the life of the teacher.

1 Timothy 6:6

"There is great gain in godliness with contentment." In going on to remark that as we brought nothing into this world we shall not be able to take anything out of it, the apostle implies that there is something which we can and will take with us into eternity, the great and lasting gain of godliness. Godliness is not just a quality of character but it is a relationship that we have with God through Christ. It is this relationship which we must develop, an ever growing maturity in the matter of trust and love. Hence the argument that this is something worth disciplining ourselves for, something worthy of all our attention and effort, since it is the only wealth which we will be able to carryover from this life into the next.

I hope that I have established my point, that as he looked at the Church situation and at his [83/84] fellow workers and fellow believers, he came to the conclusion that it was most important that they should put godliness above all else. He loved Timothy greatly and could speak frankly to him, and so he made his appeal: 'O man of God, aim for godliness'. If he felt like this about the Christian life then, I wonder what the apostle would think today of the current vogue among many Christians which seems to be more concerned about show and entertainment than about solid godly living. So much effort and so much money is spent that there is almost an industry being built up for the purpose of entertaining Christians. We are not here to be entertained: we are here to pursue godliness. In any case we are not so concerned with what Paul would think as with what Christ thinks of this claimant need for Christian entertainment. He who was incarnate godliness here on earth calls us to be men of God, women of God. A right sense of modesty will prevent us from adopting such a noble title, but we must accept that this is our calling, and seek grace from God to pursue it and to encourage one another to be men of God.

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