“But thou [Timothy], O man of God…pursue righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance, meekness of spirit. Strive earnestly in the good conflict of faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which thou hast been called, and hast confessed the good confession before many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:11–12).
Timothy was a man of God, the last man so designated in the Bible, and the only one in the New Testament (1 Timothy 6:11), though eleven men are so called in the Old.
|No.||Man of God||No. Of occurence (& distinct occasions)||References|
|1||Moses||6 (6)||Deut. 33:1; Josh. 14:6; 1 Chr. 23:14; 2 Chr. 30:16; Ezra 3:2; Ps. 90 (title)|
|2||Anonymous (to Eli)||1 (1)||1 Sam 2:27|
|3||Samuel||4 (1)||1 Sam 9:6, ect.|
|4||David||3 (2)||2 Chr. 8:14; Neh. 12:24, 36|
|5||Shemaiah||1 (1)||1 King 12:22|
|6||Anonymous (to Jeroboam)||16 (2)||1 Kings. 13:1, etc. 2 Kings. 23:16, etc.|
|7||Elijah||7 (2)||1 Kings 17:18, 24; 2 Kings 1:9, etc.|
|8||Anonymous (to Ahab)||1 (1)||1 Kings 20:28|
|9||Elisha||29 (10>||2 Kings 4:7, etc.; 5:8, etc.; 6:6, etc.; 7:17; 8:2; etc.; 13:19|
|10||Anonnymous (to Amaziah)||2 (1)||2 Chr. 25:7, 9|
|11||Igdaliah||1 (1)||Jer. 35:4|
|12||Timothy||1 (1)||1 Tim 6:11 (2Tim. 3:17)|
Each of these Old Testament men of God have one outstanding feature connected with them in the verses where they are so described for the first time. Take, for example, Moses, the first man called a man of God in the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 33:1. The feature that marks him there is a desire to bless the people of Israel, a feature that incidentally is true also the second time, where we read of Israel being brought into their possessions in the land of promise under Joshua (Joshua 14:6), though other later references bring out different features. David is called a man of God on three occasions, each time in regard to the order instituted under his direction in the Temple, the House of God (2 Chronicles 8:24; Nehemiah 12:24,36). Many wonderful features can be seen in the life of David, a man God could describe as a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22) but this one feature alone is drawn attention to when he is spoken of as a man of God. And so we could continue with each of these men of God; each would bring before us one prominent feature that led to them being described in the Word of God in this wonderful way. Paul, in writing his first epistle to Timothy where he addresses Timothy as a man of God, drew on these features to illustrate to Timothy what ought to be true of him if he also was to be a man of God.
Of these eleven Old Testament men of God only seven are named—Moses, Samuel, David, Shemaiah, Elijah, Elisha, and Igdaliah. It is to be noticed that the four unnamed men of God all have something in common: they are all mentioned on only one occasion or involving only one incident and in every case their service to God was one of pronouncing judgement, either upon believers such as Eli (1 Samuel 21:27) or upon unbelievers like the Syrians who belittled God (1 Kings 20:28). Thus, it is seen that judgement is God’s “strange work” (Isaiah 28:21): He takes no pleasure in judgement, and those who are engaged in such work, however necessary it is, are therefore not named. Rather, God would draw our attention to His approval of the features that came to light in the other seven named men of God.
Now, let us examine the text of 1 Timothy to see how Paul used what the Scriptures said of these eleven Old Testament believers to instruct Timothy as to what it means to be a man of God.
1. Moses: Seeking the blessing of others—1 Timothy 1:3-11
After the introduction to the epistle in the first two verses, Paul spoke of the task he had given Timothy in Ephesus by immediately drawing upon the example of Moses in whom we see that the man of God always seeks the blessing of others.
Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus to ensure that nothing was taught contrary to the doctrine of God. The danger was that others might teach things that might turn the minds of the Ephesian saints to fables or interminable genealogies (v. 4), but such things would not be to their blessing, they would not further God’s dispensation, they would only hinder these saints in their enjoyment of the truth; Timothy was to ensure that they enjoyed their blessings to the full.
In Deuteronomy 33 we see that Moses, even though he himself was denied entry into the land of promise that so filled his heart, sought the blessing of the people who were the cause of his exclusion, for it was their previous rebellion and disbelief that had led him to lose his temper on the occasion when he struck the rock for the second time instead of simply speaking to it as God had told him (Numbers 20:8–11). Being angry on that fateful occasion he spoke of them as rebels, but now at the end of his life, with the people on the threshold of the land of promise, he desired only their blessing, he desired that others might take possession of this land that he himself was forbidden to enter.
Other references to Moses as the man of God may bring out different points concerning the law he was given by God, the order in the Tabernacle, the priesthood and the offerings but, as stated in the introduction, it is the first reference to each that is drawn upon in 1 Timothy. Thus, it is Moses’ selfless desire to bless the people of God that sets the tone for Paul’s words in this portion of 1 Timothy.
It is interesting to note also that the teachers who Paul warned Timothy of were those who desired to be law-teachers but who did not understand either what they said nor what they so strenuously affirmed (v. 7); they were, in effect, seeking to live in the wrong dispensation. How appropriate to use the example of Moses in this context—Moses, the law-giver! The law that he taught was good, if used correctly or “lawfully” (v. 8). It was not given for a righteous person but for the unrighteous, to convict them before God of their unrighteous state (vv. 9–11). The law does not bring blessing to a Christian, but the man of God always desires the blessing of others, and it is remarkable that Moses’ last words to the people were a blessing, the last words of this man of God.
2. Elisha: Always acting in grace—1 Timothy 1:12-20
In drawing upon his own experiences of the grace of God, Paul next drew Timothy’s attention to a lesson to be learnt from Elisha, the prophet who as no other exemplified grace in all his doings.
In this section Paul recounted his past life as a blasphemer and a persecutor of God’s people and as an insolent overbearing man. Whether Godward or manward or even as regards himself, Paul was the perfect example of what a sinful man is, but he experienced the surpassing over-abounding grace of God with love and faith that was (and still is today) available to all in Christ Jesus.
The man of God who predominantly exhibits this grace is Elisha. Elisha is referred to as a man of God more often than any other man (some 29 times in all) and on many different occasions, thus showing that continually acting in grace is perhaps one of the most important features of a man of God. The tendency with us is always to act with a legal spirit as was encouraged by the teachers Paul warned Timothy about. Thus, the example of always acting in grace as can be learnt from the life of Elisha is so important.
The first time Elisha is called a man of God is in 2 Kings 4:7. The widow of one of the sons of the prophets called upon him for help with the threat of her sons being taken away by the creditors in payment for the debts hanging over her. She, being a widow, had no natural hope, but her solitary pot of oil was multiplied according to Elisha’s words, and she was left with enough money to pay the debt and more to live on. What a wonderful demonstration of “the grace of our Lord surpassingly over-abounding with faith and love!” Bondage was turned to liberty and despair to joy; the debt of the past was paid and all she needed for the future was provided freely! Along these lines Paul could speak of the salvation of sinners (v. 15) and of life eternal for those who are saved (v. 16). No wonder that upon penning these thoughts he had to pause to break forth into a doxology of praise to the King of the Ages (v. 17)!
The seriousness of not acting in grace is seen in the warning which follows concerning those who did not maintain faith and a good conscience and who were thus shipwrecked as to their faith. These were delivered by the apostle to Satan that they might be taught not to blaspheme. Continually acting in grace as is seen in the case of Elisha, the man of God, is preserved from such a fate.
3. Elijah: Dependence upon God in prayer—1 Timothy 2:1-8
In chapter 2 Paul highlights another feature of what is to mark a man of God—prayer in all its features, whether supplications (the earnestness of the pleadings), prayers (a dependence upon a God who has all power), intercessions (on behalf of others), or thanksgiving (for answered prayers), a lifting up of pious hands without wrath or reasoning (with the motive of blessing and in simple faith); and Elijah is the Old Testament man of God who displays this aspect of dependence upon God in prayer.
In 1 Kings 17:18 Elijah was challenged as to his being a man of God by the widow with whom he was lodging during the famine. Her only son had died and Elijah in response took her son to an upper chamber and prayed to the Lord in faith that the child should be restored to life (a thing which had never happened before as far as we know), stretched himself upon the child and again cried to Jehovah in earnest supplication, interceding on behalf of the widow, and when the child was restored to life, he took him down to his mother and presented him alive to her. When she saw what had happened, she said, “Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of Jehovah in thy mouth is truth.” What better example is there in the word of God of prayer in all its blessed features marking the man of God than this act of Elijah?
Further, James records that Elijah continually prayed for the rain to be withheld during the three and half years of famine (James 5:17), and in the text of 1 Kings we read that Elijah prayed also for the rain to end the famine (1 Kings 18:42). He is truly one of whom it could be rightly said that he prayed in every place, “lifting up pious hands, without wrath or reasoning” (1 Timothy 2:8).
Thus, we can say that a man of God acknowledges that all power rests with God. He knows that he has no power in himself, he knows his own utter weakness, and he is therefore marked by prayer in all its features, and he encompasses all men in his prayers for he knows that it is God’s desire that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. He knows that there is a Mediator to whom he can go, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, and he continually avails himself of this wonderful resource.
4. Igdaliah: Being inconspicuous in service, not self-seeking—1 Timothy 2:9-15
After stating that Christian men should be marked by prayer, Paul, in the remainder of chapter 2, speaks of the need of the Christian women also to be marked by good works, though in a more private fashion. These works, although no less important than those of the men, were not to be done in public as those of the men (v. 8) but as is proper for the actions of women; they were to be done with modesty and discretion (vv. 9–10). The reasons for this difference are outlined in the verses that follow and refer back to the order established in creation (vv. 13–14) according to the purpose of God and also reinforced by the details of the fall.
This principle can be seen in the case of Igdaliah, a man of God of whom nothing is known save that he was a man of God and that his grandsons had a chamber in the house of the Lord (Jeremiah 35:4). Jeremiah took the sons of the house of the Rechabites there and drew forth their confession of obedience to the command of their father Jonadab the son of Rechab concerning abstaining from wine and living a life of separation from those among whom they dwelt. This God used as a testimony to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem concerning His messages to them which they had ignored.
What marked Igdaliah? We do not know, but what we do know is that he had God’s commendation; he was a man of God. Further, the event that occurred in his grandsons’ chamber teaches us the same lesson. The actions of the Rechabites were unknown to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and it appears even to Jeremiah also; but God knew them and valued them and stated that He would reward the Rechabites for them in His own time (Jeremiah 35:18–19). Their actions typify the actions of the women in 1 Timothy 2—works done in secret today, for the eye of God alone, that will one day be rewarded publicly.
Being inconspicuous in service is a mark of a man of God; such a man does not seek a place of prominence among his brethren but desires that all honor be given to God and for himself to shrink from any recognition or reward from men down here. He is content with the knowledge that God will honor every act done for Him in His own time, and his life is therefore marked by subjection to the Lord. He does not seek to exercise authority over his fellow saints but simply desires to serve in quietness and discretion for the pleasure of God.
In seeking to draw a lesson for Timothy as a man of God from the behavior of the sisters, we are of course stating the well-known Scriptural principle that just because a Scripture is not about us it does not mean that there is no application to us. In like manner, although we are speaking of characteristics of a man of God, these features are just as open for a sister to display as a brother. What was to mark Timothy as a man of God should also be true of every brother and sister in Christ. This is one reason why Paul’s first letter to Timothy was inspired and has been preserved for us to read and study.
To be continued in the next issue.