“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:1-2).
When it comes to modern forms of written correspondence, most authors customarily place their names near the end of a letter or message. However, first-century authors generally took the opposite approach. Thus, in keeping with that custom, Paul the Apostle identified himself as the author of this letter beginning with the first word of the first sentence of this epistle.
Although this letter is more personal than some of Paul’s other New Testament letters, it’s also interesting to note that he made certain to state his credentials as an Apostle right from the start. Since Timothy was undoubtedly aware of Paul’s status as “…an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God…” (HCSB), we might question why he felt it necessary to mention his calling.
The most likely answer is that this statement was not for Timothy’s benefit but for the benefit of others who might read this message. Since Paul will go on to address many important and controversial subjects within this letter, it’s easy to imagine that others might challenge Timothy as he acted upon the directives in this message. If the need arose to defend his actions, Timothy could appeal to Paul’s authority as an apostle of Christ by the command of God.
This brings us to the word “apostle.” An apostle is a “commissioned representative,” much like an ambassador or spokesperson. This title served to introduce several of Paul’s New Testament letters including his epistles to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, and the region of Galatia. While every follower of Jesus is an “apostle” in the sense that he or she is an ambassador for Christ, it’s crucial to recognize that the Biblical apostles held several important qualifications that set them apart from all who followed. For example…
- They were first-century eyewitnesses of Jesus following His resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:1).
- They were personally selected by Jesus to serve as apostles (Matthew 10:1-4, Acts 9:10-16).
- They possessed the God-given ability to perform miracles (Acts 2:43).
These qualifications are important to remember if we should encounter someone who identifies as an apostle today. For instance, consider the following message from Jesus to the church at Ephesus: “…you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). If counterfeit apostles were active in the Biblical era, then we should be equally alert to their presence today.