Also available as MP3: The Art of Christian Self Defense – 1 Timothy 6:11-12
The “things” Paul tells Timothy to “flee” (v.11) are the things he just mentioned, the desire to be rich and the love of money (v.9,10). Timothy was a “man of God” like Moses (Deut.33:1) but even men of God weren’t perfect (IKi.13:26) and had to be told what to do, as here.
To “flee” means to run from danger, so these things must be as dangerous as fornication, which Paul also says to flee (ICor.6:18). No one thinks a rabbit is a coward for running from a wolf, since he is not equipped to deal with it, and no one should think Joseph a coward for running from fornication (Gen.39:7-12). Idolatry, which is covetousness (Col.3:5) must be just as dangerous if we are told to flee it (ICor.10:14). We aren’t equipped to deal with these things and must flee them.
Since Paul says to flee the profit of money and follow these other things instead, in that context he is saying to flee the profit of money and follow things that will profit you eternally. So lets focus on the profit of these things.
“Righteousness” is doing right, like helping the poor (IICor. 9:9). That kind of righteousness endures forever, unlike the profit of riches (ITim.6:7). “Godliness” is also something you can take with you (ITim.4:8). Since Timothy already had saving “faith,” the word faith here must refer to the profit of faithfulness (Pr.28:20). “Abound” is the verb form of “abundance,” a word used mostly in Scripture to describe Solomon’s abundance. But not even Solomon could take his riches with him—but a faithful man could, and still can.
Paul also says to flee the profit of money and follow “love,” another thing that profits eternally (Col.2:2). There is also eternal profit in “patience” (Ps.37:7) if you wait for the Lord. “Meekness” means not easily provoked and there was profit for it under the kingdom program (Mt. 5:5), for if you gained the world you gained everything in it. And there must be eternal profit in it for us as well if Paul tells us to follow it.
Now that you know what to flee and follow, you’re ready to fight (ITim.6:12) against those who teach error. If you’ll do these things, you’ll “lay hold on eternal life.” Some teach that this means the way to be saved is to flee bad things, follow good things and fight the fight of faith, and can quote Isaiah 56:1,2 to prove it. But while it is good to define Scripture by comparing Scripture, you have to be careful when comparing prophetic Scripture with mystery Scripture. So what does it mean to lay hold on eternal life?
First, you need to know it is possible to lay hold on some-thing you already own (Mt.12:11). A sheep in a pit is still yours, but it can’t benefit you until you lay hold on it. When you fall in the pit of sin, salvation is still yours, but you can’t benefit from it until you lay hold on it by fleeing bad things, following good things and fighting the fight of the faith. But if you do, you’ll “live” (Ro.8:13), really live, live it up, spiritually speaking. Why wait until the next life to enjoy your eternal life when you can lay hold on it now? If you live in sin you’ll continue to live in eternal life, but you’ll just be eeking out a living, and God wants so much more for you.He doesn’t want you to just survive the Christian life, he wants you to thrive and live it to the fullest.
Did you notice that this is what you are called to? (ITim. 6:12). God didn’t call you to desire to be rich and love money, you were doing that just fine before He saved you!
If you’re not fleeing, following and fighting, don’t be wondering why all things don’t work together for good (Rom.8:28), for God’s purpose for you is to flee, follow and fight, and He called you according to that purpose.
If you need help in doing these things, notice Paul reminded Timothy he had professed a good profession before many witnesses at his ordination (6:12). He reminds him of this because he knows Timothy will feel spiritual pressure to live up to the profession he made at that time that he would flee, follow and fight. You may not be ordained, but if you start telling people you’re saved, you too will feel the pressure of living up to your profession. This is the reason many Christians remain silent about being saved, they don’t want that pressure.