The calling to serve God is a calling to a position of special honor. Paul designates Timothy (and equally all faithful ministers) as man of God, a title given to Moses (Deut 33:1), David (Neh 12:24), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:7) in the Old Testament. In so doing, he sets the minister apart as one having a special relationship with and an origin in God. The minister is God's special representative, one whom God has personally chosen and sent.
And God's expectations of those with a high calling are great. There can be no compromise in the Christian leader's lifestyle. Against the backdrop of spiritual defection, Paul makes this clear in the flee . . . pursue command that he issues. This traditional formula of exhortation (2 Tim 2:22) compels the readers to "escape" from the dangers of sin (in this case, the way of the false teachers in 6:3-5, 9-10—all this) to pursue a righteous life (compare 2 Tim 2:22). The tone is that of an emergency. Both flight and pursuit, however, require not only a conscious decision but also a sustained, lifelong effort; the emergency ends only with the appearance of Christ (6:14).
The object of pursuit is a balanced spiritual life. It is described with a list of virtues that throughout these letters stand for marks of genuine faith (4:12; 2 Tim 2:22; 3:10; compare Gal 5:22-23; Phil 4:8). The purpose of this list is to provide poetic impact more than precise description. Nevertheless, the items included give ample direction for the Christian life.
The first four terms, righteousness, godliness, faith and love, depict the new life of faith in contrast to the perverse behavior of the false teachers (6:4-5). Righteousness means observable "uprightness," a life in accordance with God's values. Godliness is Paul's term for the whole of the Christian experience, the vertical posture of faith and its horizontal, visible outworking in life (see notes on 2:2). It appears in this list (it is not in the others) because the heretics' false notions about it were mentioned in 6:5. Faith and love (see 4:12; notes on 2:15) depict these two dimensions of genuine Christianity, a balance of personal faith and correct doctrine and works done in the power of the Spirit.
The final two items anticipate the charge to ministry (v. 12). Endurance is the "won't quit" determination of God's servants in the face of opposition to the gospel (2 Tim 3:10; compare 2:10, 12). Gentleness is an attitude of patient, gentle composure that encourages the repentance of the unbeliever and the apostate (2 Tim 2:25; Tit 3:2).
The six virtues together describe the lifestyle of balanced spirituality that ought to characterize the Christian. A Christian leader must be a model of these things. A holistic portrait, it encompasses one's walk with God and disposition toward unbelievers. Are these standards impossibly high? If we think in terms of human effort, yes; but with the high calling to ministry also go vast resources for godly living.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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