“so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:19
I think we have lost something in how we discuss “eternal life.” I think we have made “eternal life” a thing that we get instead of a life to be lived. Eternal life is not merely a possession, like a diploma or a house or a marriage certificate. Eternal life is a progression, something we begin, when God makes us his child, and continue in, living it to the full throughout life on earth. We must appropriate it.
Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:11-19, uses this word that is translated “take hold of” two different times, in verse 12 and then again here in verse 19. The questions to be answered here are, what are we to take hold of, and how are we to take hold of it?
Paul is writing to Timothy, his true son in the faith, encouraging him, and through this letter encouraging all of us, in the life of faith. Paul contrasts in this section of the letter the uncertainty of riches and the certainty of trust in God. He makes this contrast because we all tend to place confidence in the things of this world to provide us with significance or satisfaction or security.
When Paul uses these words in verse 12, he writes “take hold of the eternal life”. It cannot be a thing we get and merely possess if the challenge is to take hold of it. Life is something that we have and that we make use of. It is qualified here as eternal life (verse 12) or real, true life (verse 19). It’s not the empty, hollow life that the world has to offer. It is the life that God gives us, the new life through which we are progressing as a result of the work of God through the cross of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wants to encourage us to take hold of real life through Jesus, not uncertain life which comes through riches or anything else. And implores us take hold of this life passionately by faith. John Piper writes this:
One of the reasons there is so little deep, earnest, passionate concern for godliness in the contemporary church is that this truth is so little understood—the truth, namely, that eternal life is laid hold of only by a persevering fight of faith. There is today, by and large, a devil-may-care, cavalier, superficial attitude toward the on-going, daily intensity of personal faith because people do not believe that their eternal life depends on it. The last 200 years has seen an almost incredible devaluation of the fight of faith. We have moved a hundred miles from Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian labors and struggles and fights all his life until he is safe in the Celestial City. O, how different is the biblical view of the Christian life than the one prevalent in the American church. (John Piper)
Paul’s challenge is to seize this life by faith. Live it out, pursue it, fight for it. Paul emphasizes the active nature of this life, activity that is lived out by faith. Let’s appropriate this life, which means to take it and use it forcefully.