by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1 Lincolnton, NC May 7, 2006
17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
1901 ASV Translation:
17 Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.
I. Laying Hold of Eternal Life.
A. This is Paul's "so that" statement at the end of 6:19.
1. This is the "purpose" for Paul's instruction in 6:17-19.
2. Purpose statements, such as this one, reveal the foundations of the instruction.
B. What does it mean?
1. First, it seems from 6:12 that Paul has "latched onto" this "idea" as he nears the end of this letter.
a. In 6:12 he urged Timothy to "lay hold of eternal life".
b. In this verse, he urged Timothy to teach the wealthy to "lay hold of 'being life'." The translators call it "life indeed". There is a textual difference between the Authorized Version and the Nestle/Aland 26, but the textual editors give the Nestle/Aland 26 reading a "B", which indicates a fair degree of confidence that Paul wrote "that which is life indeed" rather than simply repeating himself verbatim from 6:12.
c. The issue is that everyone tends to define "life" in their own terms, but there is only one real definition: the experience of the true glory of God (John 17:3 compared with Romans 5:2).
2. The biblical concept of "Life" is "everything that is wrapped up in a person's actual experience of God".
a. This concept reaches into every "realm" of experience. In every "realm" in which man has a capacity to "experience", Life is a possibility.
1) There are multiple "realms". God has created man with a physical frame that contains the capacity to "live". God has created man with a relational capacity that includes the ability to "live". God has created man with a spiritual capacity that also includes the ability to "live". He has also made promises about future provisions that indicate the reality of these "realms". What, for instance, is the point of physical resurrection without some sense of physical life? Why is there a heavenly city that is prepared for inhabitants if there is no relational life? What could be the point of a servant kingdom, with specific tasks and responsibilities, unless it has something to do with "life" on a different plane than physical or relational?
2) Life reaches into each realm with a "definition" of what it means for that realm.
b. This concept, of necessity in the present state of affairs, introduces a tangle of challenging alternatives.
1) Sin is characteristic of this present state of affairs.
2) Sin tangles the issues because it "pits" the input of "Life" in one realm against the input of "Life" in anther. For example, relational life may well require physical death (this is the message of Calvary); or, spiritual life may require relational death (this is the message of the conflict between people over both what is valuable and true and how value and truth are to be expressed in any given circumstance).
3. "Laying hold" indicates that there is a specific "methodology" that is involved.
a. This "methodology issue" is the foundation of Paul's exhortation to Timothy to tell the wealthy what to believe and how to act.
b. The "problem" with the "methodology" issue is that we are so gun shy about the possibility of "works" being injected into the methodology of justification that we tend to divorce "Life" from "actions" pretty much altogether.
c. However, if instruction on behavior is an integrated aspect of "laying hold of life", God obviously does not share our excessive isolation of "works" from "Life".
1) With God, the issue of inserting "works" into the methodology of justification is both ridiculous (how can finite human effort have any success with an effort to satisfy an infinite divine attribute?) and foundationally flawed ("works" that lead to a divine decree of righteousness invariably lead, in a fallen world, to boasting, which sponsors all manner of unrighteousness).
2) But, once the "justification" issue has been successfully addressed, the person is free to participate in the Life of God and that includes both a new provision for behavior and a new consequence of behavior. And that means that "behavior" has a real place in the methodology of laying hold of Life. In fact, there is no real laying hold of life without real activity.
3) The "problem" here is that men often do not approach the issue of "works unto the experience of Life" properly even after they have been justified. There is still a very pronounced intent in man to "glory over his fellow man". There is still a very pronounced tendency in man to reach into his own "resources" bag to obtain the tools of the task. Given these two "residual baggage" issues (it is not in the wisdom of God to provide man with "justification" and, then, to immediately eradicate the Law of Sin in his members), an emphasis upon "works" may well lead the ignorant and erring into a terrible fleshliness, but no emphasis upon "works" does exactly the same thing. Thus, we are left between two issues of "Death", with "Life" existing on a razor's edge between them. On the one side of the razor's edge is the "Death principle" of "self-produced works that lead to false boasting" and on the other side of that edge is the other "Death principle" of simply not "doing" anything worth doing. No one lives the experience of God by sitting on the sidelines, watching the action, but neither does anyone live the experience of God out of inadequate (human) resources with the goal of proud boasting.
C. How do we do it?
1. We follow Paul's instructions to Timothy.
2. We take a look at our personal stewardship resources.
a. They are "given by God" -- i.e., they are a stewardship from God.
b. They are not simply "ours" -- though Peter did tell Ananias that the money he received from the sale of his property was "his" (Acts 5:4).
c. But they are "ours" for the "potentiality" they possess. God will allow us to "spend" the resources upon our own lusts, but He ties the "spending" to the "reward" so that what is spent upon oneself brings an immediate reward, but not an eternal one, while that which is spent under divine impetus brings an eternal reward, but not, necessarily, an immediate one (see Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16 in contrast with 10:42).
3. We address what it means to be "highminded" and make sure we are not participating in that mindset.
4. We address what it means to "trust" in riches or in God.
5. We address what "good works" are.
6. We address what it means to use our excess for some other's benefit.