But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God … I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ … (verses 11-14)
I am struck by the title Paul gives to Timothy in this closing charge. “Man of God.” It must have warmed Timothy’s heart. It’s full of affirmation, but also deeply challenging.
Timothy had been taken under Paul’s wing while he was still young (likely in his teens), travelling with Paul and assisting him in ministry. Now, years later, Paul has appointed him as his representative in the church in Ephesus, entrusting him to give leadership to this community which is in danger of being led astray by false teachers.
It's a weighty responsibility – we’ve seen that in this whole letter. Clearly Paul has deep trust for his younger friend. But the title he uses here puts it into words. “Man of God.” Timothy, who had known the Old Testament scriptures since his youth, would recognize the phrase. It had been used of some of the key figures in Israel’s history – specifically Moses, Samuel, David, Elijah, and Elisha. Paul would not have used this term lightly but is intentionally affirming the work the Lord has already carried out in Timothy’s life, establishing him in leadership ministry like one of these Old Testament heroes of faith.
At the same time, Paul uses this title to urge Timothy to persevere. Be the “man of God” that you are, Timothy. Keep on keeping on. That’s the implication.
Paul then gives Timothy four strong commands, each of them infused with athletic imagery.
The first, is a defensive stance. “Flee.” That’s the word Paul uses. He has just reminded Timothy that some in the church are teaching false doctrines, are corrupt, have become eager for money, and have wandered from the faith (1 Timothy 6:3-10). “Flee from all of this,” Paul says. Don’t get caught up in any of it. Shun it all. Avoid it passionately.
Secondly, “pursue.” Timothy, run hard, like an athlete in a race, passionate to reach the goal, chasing after the prize. What is the prize? Paul gives a whole list of virtues: righteousness(which in this case refers to living rightly in human relationships), godliness(living rightly with God), faith (trusting Christ with all), love (just as Christ has loved us), endurance (pressing on), and gentleness (the very attitude of Christ Jesus himself). Run hard after these things, Timothy. Keep them in your sights.
Thirdly, “fight.” This image comes not from the battlefield, but rather from the gymnastic games. Enter the contest, engage with strenuous zeal, struggle hard, contend for the prize. Faith in Christ is not to be taken sitting down. No. We’re meant to actively keep pressing forward, following eagerly after the Master.
Fourthly, “take hold.” In the context of these other commands, the image that comes to mind is of an Olympic relay race, the runner laying hold of the baton as it is passed, grasping it firmly, not letting go. What is Timothy to clutch so strongly? The guaranteed promise of eternal life. Yes, it’s a promise for the future, but it’s guaranteed by the sure coming of our Lord Jesus Christ – so lay hold of it passionately right now.
Man of God: flee, pursue, fight, take hold.
If these commands were good enough for Timothy, they’re good enough for me.
How about you?
Lord Jesus, strengthen me to be the person you have called me to be. I choose to flee from all that undermines faith. I choose to pursue all that is good, to engage actively in following you, and to lay hold of the certainty of your future promise. Fill me with your Spirit. Continue your good work in me. To your glory alone.
Reflect: Which of these four commands do you most need today? Flee, pursue, fight, or take hold? Stew on the word. Bring it to mind throughout the day. Ask for the Lord’s strengthening power.