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The "Man of God"

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

I would like for you to read I Timothy 6:1-12.

There is much controversy in our day. There is controversy and confusion in almost every area....including religion and theology. There is even controversy surrounding the verses you just read. Many people get caught up in all of the arguing, and fussing. The wise way to approach all of this controversy and confusion is to

  1. Love God with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself,

  2. Thoroughly study and understand your Bible, and

  3. Wisely, judiciously, and with discernment, put the Bible into practice in your life.

This article will hopefully help you do that.

I want to deal with one area that I see come up repeatedly. That area is the apparent problem surrounding the phrase "man of God." This phrase is usually abbreviated to MOG in social media posts. Apparently some people take exception with the use of this term in relation to New Testament preachers/pastors.

The phrase "man of God" is found 78 times in the Bible. It is found 76 times in the Old Testament and 2 times in the New Testament. Both occasions in the New Testament are found in Paul's Epistles to Timothy.

The verses are as follows:

1 Timothy 6:11

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness,faith, love, patience, meekness.

2 Timothy 3:17

That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

It looks like this in the Greek

ἄνθρωπε τοῦ Θεοῦ

ἄνθρωπε - Man

τοῦ - of

Θεοῦ - God

This phrase, man of God, was almost exclusively used in relation to OT prophets.

Joshua 14:6

Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the Lord said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea.

1 Samuel 2:27

And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?

1 Kings 12:22

But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,

If this Old Testament usage predominates, then why would Paul use it here to refer to Timothy? He obviously understood its Old Testament context. The Holy Ghost deliberately chose this designation for Timothy.

The Old Testament prophet, being designated as a "man of God," is identified as a person who belonged to God and represented God. This was an extremely powerful and honorable designation. It was a position of great privilege, but also great responsibility. The position dare not be misused or, certainly, evil will follow (See the very unusual story in I Kings 13:11-32).

Because a true "man of God" belonged to God in a unique way, and represented God in a special way, he was revered in the Old Testament.

1 Samuel 16:4

And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to Beth-lehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?

We see this same sentiment alluded to in the New Testament when John the Baptist is referenced.

Mark 6:20

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

It wasn't too long ago that New Testament gospel preachers were honored and given the respect due their position. I can remember when the breakdown of honor and respect began in a public fashion. It began with certain scandals among some high profile preachers. Soon, more and more scandal was revealed among the ranks of ministers. Today, it seems that hardly a month goes by when we do not hear about another preacher falling and disgracing his calling in some way....if he ever had a calling (which is a discussion for another day).

So why would Paul identify Timothy as a "man of God?"

I believe that Paul was trying to identify Timothy (and encourage him) as one who had a special calling, and a special message from God, in contrast to those who didn't.

There is a great challenge which lies before "men of God."

Timothy, as a "man of God" in this passage, was to do two things:

  1. Flee

  2. Follow

First of all, he was to FLEE

He was to flee "these things."

What things? The things mentioned in I Timothy 6:3-10.

1 Timothy 6:3–10

3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

He is to flee:

  1. Unwholesome words

  2. Any doctrine which is not consistent with godliness

  3. Pride (Relating to people who think they know so much, yet not realizing that they know nothing.)

  4. Words and questions which produce

    1. strife (heated bitter conflict / violent dissension),

    2. railings (abusive words falsely spoken that damage a person’s reputation),

    3. evil surmisings (Morally wrong or bad reasoning that involves the formation of conclusions from incomplete evidence. Another word used to describe this idea is conjecture.)

    4. Perverse Disputings (Constant, irritating, and often heated arguing)

Paul said that men who approached life and/or ministry in this unhealthy way were not people that he wanted to be around. The word "doting" (in verse 4) literally means to be sick. These people have engaged in so much controversy and argumentation that their mental faculties have become sick....and they don't even know it. Paul said that people like this were "destitute of the truth." He said they lacked integrity and uprightness ("men of corrupt minds"). Paul went so far as to tell Timothy to withdraw himself from such persons because they stir up, incite, and cause rebellion (v. 5).

Men of this character have a fatal flaw. Their heart is set on worldliness. That is, they progressively fall prey to the corrupting influence of money (v. 5, 9-10). They get tired of not having money and the things that money can buy and eventually wind up prostituting the faith to achieve (or at least pursue) greater wealth, popularity, and influence.

I think it will be profitable to also point out another of the underlying problems of these troublemakers, that may not be readily apparent on the surface. That problem is envy. Consider this thought from one of my commentaries concerning the state of these men who are being described in this passage.

"All the evil results mentioned are mental activities, with some discernible progression, for dissension is bound to follow envy. In fact, on every occasion except one where eris (the Greek word translated strife) is used in the New Testament, it is linked with a word for envy (three times with phthonos as here and elsewhere with zēlos)."

Donald Guthrie, Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 14, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 126.

Envy is a terrible thing!

Secondly, Timothy was to follow some things.

What things?

The things mentioned in vv. 11-12

1 Timothy 6:11–12

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

So Timothy, the man of God, was to follow after:

  1. Righteousness

  2. Godliness

  3. Faith

  4. Love

  5. Patience

  6. Meekness

Each one of these traits are critical to the success of Timothy's life and ministry. The traits are given in three pairs: righteousness and godliness, faith and love, patience and meekness.

Righteousness refers to upright conduct in front of your fellow man. It means that Timothy was not to just preach the Word, but he was also to live the Word. This is what "godliness" is all about....allowing God to manifest Himself through your life. Timothy was to be a sincere disciple, genuinely living out his faith.

The next pair is "faith" and "love." Faith means that Timothy was to trust God. He was to trust him so much that he would faithfully follow and obey Him no matter what. When a man lives his life this way, it provides a pathway to loving God and others....even when they are sometimes hard to love. Faith and love are two great preservatives which provides great protection to the proper expression of the Christian's life and ministry

The final two things Timothy was to follow, as a man of God, are patience and meekness. Oh, how God's men, yea, all Christians need patience and meekness. As God's man, Timothy would need endurance. He would need steadfast persistence, not just in his life, but in the truth. It is so easy to get off the biblical path and follow our own way. The flesh is so deceptive. Sometimes the adrenaline rush from all the arguing becomes addictive. Paul ends this section by encouraging meekness. Timothy was to be gentle, mild, and even-tempered. Wow! what a concept. This temperament was the exact opposite of the troublemakers.

Gentlemen, pastors, Christians; if we will conduct ourselves in the above way, and follow the same things that Timothy was encouraged to follow, we will once again reclaim the honor that is due to "men of God" and the respect that all christians should have.

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