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1 Timothy 1

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ch. 1:1-2     ch. 1:3-12     ch.1:12-19


My Commentary On 1Timothy




The following commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  The chapter titles correspond to the chapter titles of the NIV to make for easy comparison.


Concerning the dating of this letter there seems to be much ambiguity about just when it was written.  However, we know that it was written by Paul to Timothy as an instructional letter.  Timothy was in Ephesus at the time and Paul could not be there so he wanted Timothy to carry out certain tasks, thus this letter was to help Timothy do his work.



Paul’s Introduction (ch. 1:1 - 2)


In verse 1 Paul introduces himself as an “apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God”.  Of course an apostle is one who is sent, and in this case Paul was sent by a command of God.  We often say that God “calls” us to His service and that is correct.  Yet in this verse Paul says that God commanded him to be an apostle.  You might remember at Paul’s conversion where God commanded him to serve Him and preach His message.  This indeed was a call, but the call came as a command.  Paul felt as if he had no other choice than to be a representative of God as one of His apostles. 


Paul says that God is “our Saviour”.  We often think in terms of Jesus being our Saviour, and that is clearly and technically true.  We must remember that God sent Jesus, and that God was Jesus, so in this we can note that God is our Saviour. 


Paul also says in verse one that Jesus is “our hope”. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have a hope of rising from the dead as well to live with Him.  This is what 1 Cor. 15 is all about, that is the great resurrection  chapter.


Note that Paul links God to Jesus. He always does this.  Many of us miss the point, but it is one of the most fundamental points of the Bible.  The God of the Bible cannot be separated from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Any attempt to make such a separation means that God has been redefined and this redefined God is not really God. 


In verse 2 Paul calls Timothy “his true son in the faith”.  Timothy was not Paul’s biological son, but his spiritual son.  Paul felt like a father to Timothy when it came to things of the faith. 


I'd like to suggest at this point that some have doctrinalized Paul's statement here.  Because Paul viewed himself as a "father in the Lord" to Timothy, some Bible teachers say that all Christians need to find a "father in the Lord to submit to".  I don't see that as being New Testament thinking.  Yes, we do see some Christians having a "father in the Lord in the New Testament, but there is no specific New Testament teaching that says we need to go out and search for one.  It is bad Biblical interpretation to take a relationship that Paul had with Timothy and turn it into a doctrine of the church  


Paul says, “grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ”.  Paul was sent by and from God and Jesus to speak on their behalf.  Therefore Paul could truly say “grace, mercy and peace from God…”.  It was as if God was sending Paul and giving him this letter to pass along to Timothy. 


You might say it this way.  If Robert tells Steve to go and visit Jim and give him a certain message, when Steve comes to Jim’s house he says, “Robert sends his greetings”.  Paul is telling Timothy that God is sending His greetings.


Note once again, as we always note, that Paul connects God and Jesus by putting them in the same sentence.  The God that Paul, and all Christians serve and worship, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other God, although this Scriptural truth has been pretty well lost in the so-called liberal church today.


           Warning Against False Teachers Of The Law  (ch. 1:3 - 11)


In verse 3 Paul states at some point in the past told Timothy to stay in Ephesus to "“command certain men not to teach false doctrine … nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies”. Already in the infant church there were men teaching things that were not right.  Jesus Himself said in parable form to let the wheat grow up with the tares. Jesus must have anticipated false teachers rising up within the church.  We will always have false teachers in the church.  It is the nature of humanity


If you remember in John 8 the Pharisees claimed acceptance by God because Abraham was their ancestral  father.  They were counting on genealogy to find acceptance with God. Paul does not believe that being a Jew makes you a Christian.  The Judaizers that Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians believed that their Jewish heritage was sufficient for the purposes of salvation.   This was not the gospel that Paul preached. Timothy was supposed to try to straighten this matter out.


Note the word "command' here.  Paul is usually quite strong when it comes to false teaching.  He does not beat around the bush. He comes right out with the rebuke, and this is what he wants Timothy to do as well..


In verse 4 Paul says that such thinking does not produce the real work of God “which is by faith”.  Salvation comes by trusting in Jesus, not by being of a certain race as the Judaizers were teaching.


Note the term "endless genealogies" in verse  4.  These genealogies were meant to prove that certain people came from certain Jewish patriarchs in the past.  Again, the Jews were strong on the point that they were God's chosen people.  A good study of the Old Testament will show you where these people are coming from.  It was very easy for Jewish Christians to think the was they did.  Over and over again throughout the Old Testament God reminded His people to follow the Law of Moses, and if they didn't, they would be cut off from Israel .  Even before the Law of Moses came into existence, when God instituted circumcision, he told Israel that all males had to be circumcised or else they would be cut off from Israel .  If you and I were a Jew in Paul's day and understood what God had been telling them for centuries, you'd have the same problem that Jews had when they heard the gospel of Christ from Paul. All that being said, these false teachers were teaching falsely, not just out of conviction for the Old Testament, but for their own gain.          


In verse 5 Paul gives this command to Timothy, that is to address the problem with false teachers.  “The goal of this command is love, which  comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith”.  Paul’s ultimate goal was love, love for your brothers in Christ.  So often teaching separates us from each other.  This should not be the case.  We should have a “pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith”.  Many claim faith, but it is not sincere, not real, as James clearly says.  Much of our activity does not really come from a pure heart and a sincere conscience but from vanity and pride, wanting to promote ourselves above the gospel and the Lord Himself.


Part of what Paul is saying here is that love should be  the motivating factor in Christian leadership who care for God's people, but this is not always the case.  As I just stated, pride and arrogance in today's style of churches is often the motivating factor in church leadership.   This should not be.  Leaders are to be humble servants. 


Paul was rightly upset with these false teachers, but beneath being upset, he still loved them, and he still loved the truth.  It broke his heart to see false teachers in the church, but out of a good conscience he could not let truth be laid aside for error.  He had to do something about it.  Love, a good conscience, and a desire for truth drove Paul in his ministry.    


In verse 6  Paul says that some “have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk”.  I wonder how much meaningless talk Paul might find in our modern church.  The whole thing about genealogies and Jewish heritage was meaningless talk to Paul.  This would have disturbed the Jews and Jewish Christians to no end.  Again, if you understand the Old Testament, you can see the problem that Paul and the gospel has created.   


In verse 7 he says, “they want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about…”.  This clues us in to what false teaching is being spread in Ephesus .  The Judaizers of Galatia most likely have a foothold in Ephesus as well.  They promote the law over the cross for means of salvation. 


The fundamental issue here is how one should view the Old Testament as a New Testament Christian.  I believe this is one of the most misunderstood issues in the church today, as it was in Paul's day, even though Paul went to much trouble to explain these things.   The Old Testament still has significance for us today, but much of it, especially the Law of Moses has taken on a new meaning for us today.   The Law of Moses has no more significance for the purpose of salvation.  It still has prophetic meaning though, since it is just as much a book of prophecy as it is a book of rules and regulations.   


In  verse 8 Paul says, “we know that the law is good if one uses it properly”.  Paul in other letters that he has written tells us some good uses of the law.  The law was a schoolmaster, something that told us of our sinful condition that should lead us to Jesus, the one with the answer to our condition.  One thing that the law is not good for is to bring us to salvation.  Paul makes it very clear that the law cannot save us.  In his letter to Timothy, he says that the law is for the sinful person.  He provides a long list of examples of sinful people in verses 6 through 11 that the law is meant for.  He ends this long list by saying “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel…”  The glorious gospel teaches us that salvation comes by trusting in Jesus alone, and nothing else, even God’s law. 


I just point out one particular sin that Paul mentions here.  He only mentions this sin once in his writings, and that is the sin of "slave trading".  Many people think that Paul was for slavery because in 1 Corinthians 7 he states that if you are a slave don't try to be free unless you are granted your freedom.  Paul speaks about slaves in other parts of his writings as well, but here, he certainly states that trading slaves is evil.  I believe that Paul had no real problem with having slaves as long as you treated them with respect and dignity as a human being.  But, when it came to trading of men and women as slaves, Paul felt this was a grave sin.    


Note the use of the word doctrine in verse 10.  Doctrine simply means teaching.  Paul was concerned with right doctrine, or right teaching, something that in our modern church has been lost.  Sometimes I feel we have gone the way of the world and believe in relativism.  That is to say, that truth is relevant and may change from circumstance to circumstance.  Our de-emphasis on right doctrine undermines both the Bible and the very nature of truth itself.  If something is true, if something is truth, then it cannot be relevant in this sense of the word.  It cannot change from place to place or age to age.  Truth remains the same or else it is not truth.  Paul strongly believes in the importance of right thinking


              The Lord’s Grace To Paul  (ch.1:12 - 20)


In verse 12 Paul says that he thanks “Christ Jesus our Lord”.  Notice the word “our”.  He includes Timothy as being one with him as having the same Lord. Paul is thankful to Jesus for “considering him faithful, appointing him to His service”.  God not only called Paul to salvation, He called him to a ministry, a particular task, that is preaching the gospel. As hard of a life Paul had because of this calling, he felt extremely thankful and privileged to be a servant to the Lord of all the universe.   I'd suggest that each and everyone of us are not only called to salvation, but also called to do work in the service of the Lord. This work varies from person to person, but as each part of a human body has a duty to perform, so each of us have a duty to perform in the Body of Christ.


I think we should be as Paul states in this verse.  I think we need to be thankful.  I think we need to view ourselves as servants, and, I think we need to understand we have a job to do in the Kingdom of God , and we should find out what that is and do it.   


In verse 13 Paul felt especially grateful to Jesus because of his past.  Even though Paul said that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor of Christians and even a violent man, God had mercy on him.  Why did God have mercy on him?  Paul says that he “acted in ignorance and unbelief”.  When people are steeped in unbelief they are often ignorant that the things they are doing are wrong.  Telling them that what they are doing is wrong is not necessarily the right approach. You must first confront them about their unbelief in Jesus.  Once that issue is settled then they become less ignorant of what is right and wrong.  Too often as Christians we major on telling people about all the sins they are committing, when we should be telling them of the most important sin, which is unbelief. 


Note the reason why Paul said that God had mercy on him.  It was because he did these things in ignorance.  I think there is something of importance here.  God does have extra mercy on those who are ignorant of the gospel and Biblical truth.  He is harder on those who know the truth and do not obey it.  That  can be seen in Jesus' treatment of the Pharisees.  I'm not sure how God's mercy is shown to the ignorant, only that He has extra mercy for them.  


Paul says in verse 14 that “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly”.  You might say that Paul felt extremely drenched with God’s grace.  By using the word “poured”, you get the idea of the Lord standing over Paul with a big barrel of grace and just dumping it all over Paul.  Then by using the word “abundantly” it suggests that the Lord used more than one big barrel. 


Paul’s use of the words “our Lord” strikes me as  I read this passage.  Paul often uses these words.  Paul saw himself as a servant to the Lord. Paul was a number of things.  He was a Christian, an apostle, a preacher and teacher, and a fellow worker with Jesus Himself.  But the foundational thought that Paul had about himself was that he was a servant of Jesus.  When preaching the gospel to those who aren’t Christians we tend at times to neglect this idea of servant-hood. When people become Christians, they become a servant of Jesus.  We are not merely saved to go to Heaven.  We are saved to become a servant, which implies following Jesus and doing what He wants us to do.  This is something that is often overlooked in the modern gospel we preach.


In verse 15 Paul says to Timothy, “here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance”.  Remember, Paul is speaking to one man here, and what he is doing is teaching him what he needs to know in order to perform his duties in the Lord.  So Paul says that he has something trustworthy to pass along to him, and it is, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”.  We were all sinners.  There were no saints on earth when Jesus was born to Mary.  Jesus came to save sinners, or in another word, to rescue sinners. 


Note the phrase "Christ Jesus came into the world".  The very nature of this phrase tells us that Christ came into the world, and if He came into the world, He must have existed prior to coming into the world.  This shows us that Paul believed in the Deity of Christ, and that He existed before His incarnation.    


Paul goes on to tell Timothy that as far as he was concerned, he himself was the worst sinner.  Now whether he really was the worst sinner in history we don’t know.  We do know that Paul considered himself the worst of sinners.  Maybe he was using this designation  somewhat generically.  Maybe he considered himself to be in that group of real bad sinners.  From what we know of Paul prior to his conversion, we do know that he was a good Pharisee, but a bad sinner. 


Earlier he said that God showed him mercy because what he did was in ignorance because of his unbelief.  Here in verse 16 he says that God showed him mercy because he was the worst sinner.  Paul says that the reason why God chose him was because Jesus being so good and he being so bad could clearly show God’s glory in his life.  If you have a white dot and a black background, the dot can be seen very easily.  If you see a while dot on a off white background, the dot will be hard to see.  This is the way it was with Paul.  He was so bad that people had to see the change in him brought about by Jesus.


Note the words "unlimited patience" in verse 16.  God has "unlimited patience".  That is, He is very patient, but at some point, His sense of justice will rise to the occasion and bring judgment to that which needs to be judged.  This is clear if you read the book of Revelation.     


Paul uses the word "ignorance" here.  He said that he sinned in ignorance.  He did not know what he was doing was wrong.  This was one reason why God called Paul and poured out grace to him.  This tells me that if people are truly living in ignorance, God will do something to help bring them out of this life of ignorance.  That is only the just thing to do, and we know that God is just.  So when we are asked about those who have never heard about Jesus, and are ignorant of these things, we can be sure that God will be just in the way He treats these people. 


In verse 16 Paul says that his life was an example “for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life”.  This point is always in the forefront of Paul’s thinking.  He wanted so much to be a good example for others to follow.  On many occasions he would ask his readers to follow him, as he followed Christ.  The same can be true with us today, assuming we are indeed following Christ as  we should.


Paul being an example was meant for those “who believed”, or really trusted Jesus with their lives, resulting in “eternal life” with Jesus.


We know from other passages that Paul wasn't asking Timothy or others to copy exactly who he was and what he did.  He wanted Timothy and others to follow him in the way he trusted in Jesus.  We are all different, with different personalities.  We aren't to be robots of Christian leadership.  This is important in this day when many Christian leaders are teaching an unhealthy version of submission and authority to leadership.  I've seen abuses in this when people are told to submit to pastors/shepherds, to apostles, and to spiritual fathers.  


Paul ends this portion of his letter with a doxology before giving Timothy some instructions.  He says in verse 17 “now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever, amen.”  Paul states some of the attributes of God in this verse.  He says that God is eternal, meaning without beginning or ending.  God was never created.  He always was and ever will be.  God is immortal.  The Greek word “aion” is translated as “eternal” in this verse and others.  “Aion” basically means an indefinite period of time.  Greeks did not view this word necessarily in terms of length of time, but characterized it in moral quality of time.  Although our word “age” denotes a specific period of time, with a beginning and ending, Greeks did not necessarily see “aion” in the same way.  You might say that they thought that the beginning and ending of time was not knowable. Thus the beginning and ending of God is not knowable.


The Greek word “aphtharsia” is translated here as “immortal”.  It means “not being destroyed by some corrupting agent”.  Man is mortal because our bodies decay, leading to death.  This is not the case with God.  Corruption is not part of who He is.


God is also invisible, as Paul puts it.  He cannot be seen, at least with human eyesight.  Does this mean He can’t be seen at all, say by angels or spirits?  We don’t really know the answer to this.  There are many things that are invisible to the human eye but non the less can be seen or detected by other means. 


Verse 18 begins with ”Timothy my son”.  Timothy wasn’t Paul’s biological son, but a spiritual son in the Lord.  I've said this before, but it needs to be said again.  In today's church there is a teaching stating that all Christians must go and search out a spiritual father, or fathers, to submit to.  They teach this, partly based on this verse.  I think it is bad Biblical interpretation to take a relationship that Paul had and make a New Testament doctrine out of it and teach it to the church as something that is necessary to follow.  I feel if one has a spiritual father, that is good, but if not, there is no need to search for one, unless the Lord gives you one.  Worse still, I do not see the Scriptural logic in making a doctrine out of this.      


Paul says in verse 18, “I give you this instruction”.  The instruction that Paul is about to give him doesn’t really appear in the letter until chapter 2:1.  Before getting to the instruction he reminds Timothy that there were certain prophecies given to him, or as he puts it, “made about you”. 


The word “prophecy” has a wide range of meaning.  In its simplest form it means speaking forth God’s word.  This could take place in a variety of forms.  It could be a sermon in a Sunday morning church service, although all sermons are not prophetic.  One sharing the gospel on a street corner can be prophesying, or speaking God’s word inspired by the Holy Spirit.  What appeared to happen in this instance with Timothy is what often happens in charismatic style meetings today.  That is a prophetic message is given for a particular person.  It may be an encouraging message, or it could be a message of specific direction for that person to take.  This is what appears to have happened with Timothy.  Paul wants to remind him of these prophecies.  God spoke to Timothy on more than one occasion.


Paul continues by saying,  “by following them (the prophecies) you (Timothy) might fight the good fight of faith.”.  The prophecies were definitely directive.  God told Timothy to do something that should be followed.  By following these prophecies Timothy would be able to stand the test, or fight the fight.  By using the word “fight” Paul tells us that the Christian life is not always easy.  Jesus never promised that it would be easy.


Verse 19 says, “holding on to faith and a good conscience”.  Timothy, and us, need to “hold on” to our faith, or our trust in Jesus, with a “good conscience”.  A good conscience implies that Timothy would live his life the best way he knew in the sight of the Lord.  His conscience would have no need to tell him that he is doing wrong.


Sometimes our conscience can be right and other times it can be wrong.  Part of the Christian life is bringing our conscience in line with the Word of God.


Paul goes on to say in verse 19 that “some have rejected these and have shipwrecked their faith”.  Forsaking your trust in Jesus will obviously shipwreck your faith, or bring your faith to an end.  If then you have lost your faith, that which your salvation is based on, then you have lost your salvation. 


Paul mentions two men in verse 20, “Hymenaeus and Alexander” who have shipwrecked their faith.  Paul says that he has handed these men over to satan “to be taught not to blaspheme”. We are not sure just what these two men have done, but whatever it was, Paul felt to hand them over to satan.  Paul has done this elsewhere.  The man who committed adultery in the Corinthian church with his father’s wife is another example of handing someone over to satan. I believe what Paul is saying here is that he would not try to help these men.  He would let them go on their destructive path where satan could have his way with them. Paul was hoping that the end result would be a lesson learned, and that these men would eventually return to the Lord and real faith.  


In the instance in the Corinthian church where the man was sleeping with his father's wife, Paul gave him over to satan that his body would be lost but his spirit saved.  I believe that means this man would eventually die in his sin, and because of his sin, but in the end, he would be saved.      


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