The corrupt teachers troubling the saints at Ephesus must be addressed. Some were teaching a “different doctrine” and not consenting to the “nourishing words of our Lord Jesus.” The phrase may refer to words “from Christ” and “about Christ.” Jesus’ teaching requires “godliness,” and these charlatans reveled in wickedness. They are inflated with a sense of self-importance and are wholly ignorant. Their discussions and disputes are sick (ASVfn) and produce the most horrible results, e.g., envy, quarreling, abuses, lowdown suspicions, and constant friction generated by those corrupt in their thinking and utterly void of truth. They are so crooked they think religion is a good way to make money (vv. 4-5).
There is “great gain” to “godliness,” but the gain is in “contentment”—of which vast multitudes know nothing (v. 6). When we come into this world, we bring nothing. When we leave, we take nothing with us. There are no pockets in a shroud (v. 7)! The true child of God will be content, if need be, with the basic necessities of life (v. 8). In contrast, those who are obsessed (the force of the Greek) with the ambition to be rich keep falling into temptations and traps of the sort that overwhelm men like a destructive flood that brings absolute ruin (v. 9).
A love of money is a bitter root out of which springs a multitude of evils—robberies, murders for hire, gambling, neglect of others, etc. Those consumed with money-lust (covetousness), who “keep on reaching after for themselves” (the Greek force), are thus led away from gospel faith. But that is not the end; they commit spiritual suicide, stabbing themselves through with countless sorrows.
Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary
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