Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:22 that “the one who endures to the end will be saved,” and remembering this text is key if we would properly understand 1 Timothy 6:12. Paul’s exhortation to “take hold of the eternal life” to which Timothy was called exhorts the young man to not “pause or slacken in the middle” of his course (Calvin). Christianity does not consist of a single profession but a life full of repentance, finally clinging to Him in our deaths (see Phil. 3:12). Of course, everyone who trusts in God’s promises through Christ will endure to the end; nevertheless, those of faith demonstrate its authenticity by heeding the Bible’s call to persevere, thereby laying hold of eternal life (Heb. 10:39).
This theme continues in today’s passage as Timothy is told to “keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 13–14). Specifically, the apostle is talking about Timothy’s need to follow the call to godly character, which is described in chapter 2 and 4:6–16 and 6:11. Paying heed to his sanctification and faithfully executing his appointed ministry, Timothy would prove his faith and endure to the end. As we do the same, we will also be assured that we are laying hold of eternal life.
Aside from impressing upon us the solemnity of the charge, Paul’s invoking of the presence of God also motivates us to persevere. The Lord God Almighty has promised to be with His people through thick and thin (Isa. 43:1–3), and it is this promise that guarantees that He will carry us through from this world into the next. Moreover, God was with our Savior as He made His great confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13), which was part of the greatest travail any man would ever experience. This same Jesus had the trust He put in His Father vindicated when He was raised from the dead on the third day, and He will share this vindication with His people when He comes again to reward them with resurrection on a renewed earth for their faithfulness. Dr. John MacArthur reminds us that “because Christ’s return is imminent, that ought to be motivation enough for the man of God to remain faithful to his calling until he dies or the Lord returns” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1,798–99).
Christianity is a lifelong surrender to Christ. There is no such thing as “retirement” in the kingdom of God, and, therefore, if we are truly in Christ, we will never abandon our callings as members of the one body nor shirk our responsibility to guard the deposit of truth the apostles and prophets have left for us. Even if we can no longer work full-time or are too weak or frail to serve physically, we can pray and encourage others in the fight.