The Biblical epistle of 1 Timothy was likely written between AD 63-65 by Paul the Apostle following his imprisonment in the city of Rome (Acts 28:16-31). As the title of this letter suggests, this message was addressed to a young leader named Timothy. Timothy served as an important figure within the early church as evidenced by the fact that his name appears at least two dozen times within the pages of the New Testament. Therefore, it is well worth our time to get to know him better.
The book of Acts tells us that Timothy was the son of a Greek father (Acts 16:1) while the book of 2 Timothy identifies his mother as Jewish woman named Eunice. It also seems that Timothy received a Godly upbringing for 2 Timothy 3:14-15 mentions how he had been instructed in the Scriptures from his youth, undoubtedly through the efforts of his mother and a grandmother named Lois (2 Timothy 1:5).
Based on what we read in Acts 14:5-6 and Acts 16:1-3, it appears that Timothy was a native of a town named Lystra, a place that was located in what is now the modern-day country of Turkey. It’s likely that Timothy became a Christian through Paul’s evangelistic efforts in Lystra and later accompanied him on his second missionary journey.
Even though Timothy held a leadership role within the church at Ephesus at the time of this letter, he also undertook several assignments for Paul at various stages of his ministry. For instance, Paul sent Timothy to work with the church in the town of Corinth with the following affirmation: “…I have sent Timothy to you, who is my dear and faithful son in the Lord. He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:17 NET).
Paul also sent Timothy to minister to the churches in the region of Macedonia (Acts 19:22), the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2), and may have sent him to work with the Philippian church as well (Philippians 2:19). Unfortunately, it also appears that Timothy was someone who was relatively young, inexperienced, and/or fearful (1 Timothy 4:12, 2 Timothy 1:6-7). In addition, 1 Timothy 5:23 reveals that he also suffered from a number of physical infirmities.
These insights may help explain Paul’s cautionary message to the Corinthian church concerning Timothy: “If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to fear from you, because he is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am” (HCSB).
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In reading through the Biblical references to the relationship that existed between Timothy and the Apostle Paul, it’s clear that they enjoyed a friendship characterized by sincerity, love, and mutual respect. For instance, Paul mentioned Timothy in most of his New Testament letters. In fact, the New Testament books of Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon are mutually addressed from Paul and Timothy. Later when Paul was nearing the end of his life, Timothy was one of the people he asked to see (2 Timothy 4:6-9). From Paul’s perspective, Timothy was “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).
Paul’s high regard for Timothy is also reflected in the following comment from his Biblical letter to the Philippian church…
“I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel” (Philippians 2:19-22 ESV).
This tells us that Timothy was “one of a kind” in his commitment to the welfare of the Philippian congregation. Timothy’s genuine interest in the Philippians’ well-being also made him different from others who held competing priorities. Paul went on to explain that difference by saying, “They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (RSV).
It can be rare to find those who follow Timothy’s good example and factor “what concerns Christ Jesus” (CEV) into their decisions. Unfortunately, it’s far more common to encounter others who first decide what’s best for themselves and then ask for God’s blessing upon their pre-determined course of action. Then there are some who look to God’s Word for direction but fail to put it into practice if it seems to involve an excessive degree of risk, sacrifice, conflict, or inconvenience.
Timothy was different- he was interested in knowing and advancing “the business of Jesus Christ” (Phillips). We can follow this good example by seeking God’s direction in prayer, reading His Word daily, and securing Godly counsel from pastoral leaders or other mature, God-honoring men and women in making decisions. Rather than attempting to fit God’s will into a pre-defined agenda, Timothy’s example tells us that it’s better to focus upon what God seeks to do in our lives first and then move forward on that basis.
Paul the Apostle spent many years on the road preaching the gospel and establishing churches throughout the first-century world. Upon returning from his third missionary journey, the New Testament book of Acts tells us Paul was arrested and tried before the Jewish high court and two Roman governors.
Paul’s case dragged on for over two years until he finally exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case to Caesar, the Roman Emperor (Acts 21:26-26:32). The governor presiding over his case told him, “Very well!! You have appealed to Caesar, and to Caesar you shall go!” (Acts 25:12). And so Paul was taken to Rome to appeal his case before the Emperor.
Following that odyssey, Acts 28:16 says this: “Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him.” So even though Paul was confined under house arrest, these pre-trial conditions allowed him to receive visitors and interact with others. That enabled Paul to communicate the message of Christ to everyone who wished to hear it (Acts 28:17-31).
Two commentators pick up Paul’s timeline from that point as it relates to our look at the book of 1 Timothy…
“Paul responded with this letter, in which he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus, and to continue his needed ministry—until Paul could rejoin him there (3:14; 4:13).” (1)
“Since Acts closes at the point of Paul’s rather comfortable incarceration in Rome awaiting his appeal (Acts 28:30), it is almost certain that Paul was later released and was able to continue his missionary ministries for another few years. It was during that time, apparently, that Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to lead the important church there for a time.” (2)
So it seems that Paul left Timothy in the city of Ephesus to lead the church in that area while he left to continue his missionary work. Ephesus was perhaps best known as the home of the pagan Temple of Diana, a monumental structure that was recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Ephesus was also a center for occultic practices that featured the ancient equivalent of fortune tellers, astrologers, tarot card readers, and other, similar types of activity. With these things in mind, we can say that Ephesus represented a difficult and challenging place for Timothy to minister the Word of God and may help to explain why Paul later encouraged him to remain there.
(1) See Charles B. Williams, A Commentary on the Pauline Epistles, p. 433. Referenced in Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition, Dr. Thomas L. Constable https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
(2) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes, Introduction to I Timothy https://www.icr.org/books/defenders/8048
1 Timothy begins a trilogy of New Testament books that are commonly known as the Pastoral Epistles. These books consist of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. They are called “Pastoral Epistles” because they largely focus upon issues that involve pastoral leadership. They also provide the right qualifications for bishops, deacons, elders and those who serve in similar types of leadership positions. In short, these books help those in authority oversee God’s church in a manner that is good and acceptable to Him.
However, the Pastoral Epistles also hold great value for those who do not hold positions of leadership within the church. You see, these books are filled with insights, suggestions, applications, and teachings that can help anyone grow to become a more God-honoring person. For example, these letters address a number of important topics including…
- The right way to interact with others in our personal relationships.
- Spiritual apostasy.
- The dangers associated with a love of money.
- The importance of prayer.
- The role of women within the church.
- The nature and function of God’s Word.
- How to identify and avoid entanglement with spiritual trivialities.
- The characteristics associated with the last days.
Another important subject covered in these epistles involves the need for good, accurate teaching within the church. There were several heresies that had begun to infiltrate the early church and Paul the Apostle will go on to address some of them within this letter. Of course, this unfortunate reality did not come as a surprise to Paul for he had earlier advised the Ephesians to expect such things…
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30).
Finally, one commentator summarizes the various themes that we’ll encounter as we begin our journey through the book of 1 Timothy…
“In relation to Timothy personally, the theme is fighting ‘the good fight’ (1 Tim. 1:18). In relation to the church corporately, the theme is behaving in the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15). Important subjects discussed in the epistle include the law (1 Tim. 1:7-11), prayer (1 Tim. 2:1-8), appearance and activity of women (1 Tim. 2:9-15), qualifications for bishops or elders and for deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13), the last days (1 Tim. 4:1-3), care of widows (1 Tim. 5:3-16), and use of money (1 Tim. 6:6-19).” (1)
(1) Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Ryrie Study Notes, 1 Timothy Introduction © 1986, 1995 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2004 WORDsearch Corp
“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.
(1) Barclay, William. “1 Thessalonians 5:1-11”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible”. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-thessalonians-5.html
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia–remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3).
First century Macedonia was a regional area that was located the northern portion of Greece. This broad geographic territory was home to several New Testament-era churches including Philippi, Berea, and Thessalonica.
While Paul the Apostle’s decision to leave Ephesus to continue his missionary work in that region served to benefit the citizens of Macedonia, it also created a pastoral void within the church at Ephesus. Paul sought to fill that void by urging Timothy to undertake a greater leadership role in shepherding the Ephesian congregation. Thus, the Biblical book we know today as 1 Timothy contains a number of tasks, objectives, and responsibilities related to Timothy’s ministry in the city of Ephesus.
However, we should note that Paul’s trip to Macedonia does not seem to fit with the other missionary journeys that are chronicled for us within the Biblical book of Acts. One source explains this omission and offers a potential timeline for this letter…
“It seems probable that after Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, he visited Ephesus with Timothy. When Paul moved on to Macedonia, he instructed Timothy to stay in Ephesus for a while to teach the word of God and to warn the believers against false teachers. From Macedonia, Paul apparently traveled south to Corinth, and it was perhaps from that city that he wrote this first Letter to Timothy.” (1)
Much like the ancient city of Corinth, the city of Ephesus held an important position within the first-century Roman Empire. It featured a large harbor that was suitable for transporting people and merchandise as well as a prominent theatre mentioned in Acts 19:29. Ephesus also served as a summer retreat for the wealthy and boasted an extensive library for the academically inclined.
This leads us to the first action item on Paul’s list for the Ephesian church: “Some people there are teaching false doctrines, and you must order them to stop” (GNB). As mentioned previously, Paul anticipated the arrival of these heretical teachers and advised the Ephesian church leadership to prepare to meet the challenges they presented (Acts 20:29-30). By arranging for Timothy to remain in Ephesus, Paul made certain to provide the Ephesians with a valuable human resource who could help prevent these false teachers from gaining a foothold and spreading their doctrines within the church.
We’ll consider this reference to “doctrine” and discuss its importance over the next few studies.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, II. Paul’s Charge To Timothy (1:3-11), pg.2137
“When I was going to the province of Macedonia, I encouraged you to stay in the city of Ephesus. That way you could order certain people to stop teaching false doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3 GW).
“Doctrine” is a word that often appears in religious discussions but rarely seems to be defined. In general, we can associate the word “doctrine” with any sort of teaching or instruction. When used in a spiritual sense, doctrine relates to our beliefs concerning God, humanity, Christ, the church, and other related topics. At the risk of oversimplifying an important subject, true doctrine represents a teaching that corresponds to what we read in the Biblical Scriptures. False doctrine corresponds with something else.
Unfortunately, the intrusion of false doctrine upon the first-century church at Ephesus was not unique. In fact, it may be said that the presence of false doctrine is more pervasive today than at any other point in history. Therefore, it is critically important to establish an effective method to identify and reject false teachings.
Perhaps the easiest method of separating true and false doctrine involves reading a portion of the Bible every day. If we prayerfully read God’s Word each day, we are sure to become familiar with Biblical doctrine over time. On the other hand, a person who rarely reads the Scriptures is someone who is likely to encounter difficulty in this area. While devotional readings and Bible studies (including this one) have their place, there is no substitute for dedicating a period of time each day to reading God’s Word.
This is important to modern-day audiences for another reason. You see, the false teachers in Ephesus had to depend on written communication or direct personal interaction to spread their beliefs. However, today’s purveyors of false doctrine have the advantage of 21st century technology to market and package their teachings in a highly effective manner.
For instance, a false and deceptive religious teacher now has the ability to spread his or her beliefs directly into countless homes with high definition quality. Podcasts, streaming media, and other forms of digital content offer unprecedented access to global audiences. Then there are terrestrial and satellite radio broadcasts that continue to provide an ample opportunity to disseminate false teachings.
These technological advantages were unavailable to the false teachers of first-century Ephesus. However, the New Testament book of Titus alerts us to one thing that hasn’t changed: false teachers still “…mislead whole families by teaching for dishonest gain what ought not to be taught” (Titus 1:11 NET).
“As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings” (1 Timothy 1:3 NET).
The following three commentators discuss the importance of sound Biblical doctrine and the danger facing those who fail to separate truth from falsehood in the area of spirituality…
“It is highly significant that the first task the apostle set Timothy to doing in Ephesus was to guard the teaching of the church. ‘Charge certain persons that they must not teach differing doctrines,’ he says. In other words, the teaching is the most important aspect of the ministry of a church. It must be kept pure and unsullied …So when you question a teaching, ask yourself, ‘What does it lead people to do?’” (1)
“…doctrine is important to God and should be important to His people. Today, what one believes – that is, their doctrine – is remarkably unimportant to most people. This spirit of the modern age has also heavily influenced modern Christians. We live in a day where Pilate’s question What is truth? (John 18:38) is answered, ‘Whatever it means to you.’ Yet truth is important to God and should be to His people.” (2)
“The church at Ephesus may have been plagued by the same heresy that was threatening the church at Colosse—the teaching that to be acceptable to God, a person had to discover certain hidden knowledge and had to worship angels (Col_2:8, Col_2:18). The false teachers were motivated by their own interests rather than Christ’s. They embroiled the church in endless and irrelevant questions and controversies, taking precious time away from the study of the truth.” (3)
Doctrine is important because people generally act upon what they believe. To illustrate this reality, let’s take our moral convictions as an example. We can say that every moral belief finds its ultimate source in the doctrines we hold concerning God and other human beings. For instance, a person who…
A.) Believes in the existence of an all-powerful God who has created men and women in His image and
B.) Holds us accountable for our actions towards them
…is someone who is likely to make different moral choices than a person who doesn’t hold those beliefs. This explains why the doctrines we hold are so important, for the things we believe influence the choices we make.
As implied by a commentator quoted above, we can uncover the doctrines we hold by tracing our actions back to our core beliefs. We can then identify what those beliefs led us to do. This simple exercise in “reverse engineering” can help us determine if our doctrines are Biblically-based or if they originate somewhere else.
(1) Excerpted with permission from Guard the Teaching © 1981 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected]
(2) Guzik, Dave 2 Thessalonians 2 – 1 Timothy 1 – Fighting For The Faith https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/1-timothy-1/
(3) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [ 1 Timothy 1:3-4] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4 ESV).
1 Timothy 1:3-4 identifies two examples of false doctrine: myths (or fables) and endless genealogies. In the context of this passage, a “myth” or “fable” refers to a legendary account or a fabricated religious story. One such example involves the claim that Jesus traveled to India as a young boy and later taught what He learned there. Another claims that Jesus fashioned small birds out of clay when He was a child and brought them to life.
These mythical accounts have no Biblical support; in fact, the latter account stands in direct contradiction to testimony of Scripture. Yet these fables command the time and attention of those who would be better served by studying the genuine gospel accounts of Jesus’ life.
We might also expand the definition of a myth to include Biblical interpretations that have no basis in the text or context of the Scriptures. As one commentator observes, “…There are various ways to use the word of God deceitfully, or to tamper with it. Using a Bible text to preach a ‘sermon’ that has little or nothing to do with the Bible is one of the common ways of doing it.” (1)
This must have been an ongoing issue in the early church, for Paul the Apostle addressed this topic in another Pastoral epistle…
“…you must be severe when you rebuke those who have followed this false teaching, so that they will come to be sound in their trust and no longer pay attention to Judaistic myths or to the commands of people who reject the truth” (Titus 1:13-14 CJB).
Another source draws our attention to the difference between legitimate Biblical inquiries and myths…
“There is a real difference between ‘myths,’ ‘genealogies,’ ‘speculations,’ and faith. Faith is based on the historical truth of the gospel, not theories. Faith comes from the promises of God (cf. Gal. 3:14,16,17,18,21,22,29), not the philosophical preponderance of humans (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-31). One is based on revelation, the other on human speculation. One honors God and the other magnifies the human thinker.
This is not meant to depreciate godly scholarship, but to differentiate divine revelation from human reason, speculation, and discovery. Believers are called to love God with their ‘minds’ (cf. Jesus’ quote of Deut. 6:5 in Matt. 22:36-37; Mark 12:28-30; Luke 10:27) and to pass these truths on to their children (cf. Deut. 6:7,20-25).” (2)
(1) Paul T. Butler. The Bible Study Textbook Series, Studies In Second Corinthians (College Press) [p. 93] Copyright © 1988 College Press Publishing Company https://archive.org/stream/BibleStudyTextbookSeriesSecondCorinthians/132Corinthians-Butler_djvu.txt
(2) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, [1 Timothy 1:4] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL09/VOL09_01.html
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work–which is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4 NIV).
While modern-day genealogical research often represents a fun and interesting study of one’s family origin, the genealogies referenced here in 1 Timothy 1:3-4 probably refer to something else. These genealogies were likely produced by those who sought to dramatize, embellish, and re-imagine the lives of various Old Testament personalities and their descendants.
These genealogies presumably began with an actual historic figure and built upon the account of his or her life with speculations, theories, and conjectures that were impossible to prove or disprove. One source comments on this view by observing, “…extrabiblical elaborations of biblical accounts were common, and Paul probably has them in view here.” (1) Another commentary addresses these “…never-ending genealogies” (CJB) with the following insight…
“These ‘fables and endless genealogies’ are generally thought to be rabbinical traditions, since the Ephesian church where Timothy was pastoring (I Timothy 1:3) had been plagued from the start by Jewish opponents of Paul (Acts 19:8-9).
However, Gentile converts were also numerous (Acts 19:10), and these had come from a background of pagan evolutionary philosophy, featuring the worship of the nature goddess Diana (Acts 19:35). Like other forms of evolutionism, Greek paganism was a nest of fables and a great chain of genealogical relationships extending back into eternity. All such compromises with either legalism or evolutionism, ancient or modern, are utterly bereft of spiritual edification.” (2)
While this subject may seem to offer little practical benefit for modern-day readers, it might be said that “controversial speculations” still continue today. The difference is that they have largely moved from the realm of the past into the realm of the future.
For instance, it is not unusual to encounter those whose spiritual lives are largely devoted to the pursuit of speculations and conjectures involving prophetic theories and opinions about the future that are impossible to prove or disprove. These conjectures often devolve into arguments, debates, and online “flame wars” that “…don’t help people live a life of faith in God” (NLT).
A person who can articulate and critique the nuances of various eschatological viewpoints but struggles to define foundational Biblical doctrines like salvation, holiness, righteousness, grace, the nature of God, and the Person and work of Christ may wish to consider if he or she is making the right kind of spiritual investment.
(1) Craig S. Keener The IVP Bible Background Commentary [1 Timothy 1:4]
(2) Institute for Creation Research, New Defender’s Study Bible Notes, 1 Timothy 1:4 https://www.icr.org/bible/1Tim/1/4/
“Have them stop devoting their attention to myths and never-ending genealogies; these divert people to speculating instead of doing God’s work, which requires trust” (1 Timothy 1:4 CJB).
The phrase “what if…” is one of the most useful expressions in our language. For example, “what if” enables us to develop creative solutions to complex problems. It allows us to simulate potential outcomes, weigh our options, and choose the best solutions. But just as is true with many things, this two-word phrase can benefit us or harm us depending on how it is used.
For instance, the phrase “what if…” offers an opportunity to engage in spiritual theories and opinions that may have little or nothing to do with God’s Word or His character. These things often fail to help us “…walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
As we close our look at this portion of Scripture, three sources offer several recommendations that can help us identify and avoid such diversions and devote ourselves to spiritual pursuits that are far more profitable…
“It is possible to get so involved in the study of Christianity academically that we forget why we are studying God’s word (cf. Titus 3:8; Matt. 28:19-20). Just because a text could mean this or that does not mean that it does mean that. Check the historical setting and larger context.” (1)
“Stay away from religious speculation and pointless theological arguments. Such exercises may seem harmless at first, but they have a way of sidetracking us from the central message of the Good News—the person and work of Jesus Christ. They expend time we should use to share the Good News with others, and they don’t help people grow in the faith. Avoid anything that keeps you from doing God’s work.” (2)
“Examples of similar errors in teaching today, would be the overemphases on typology, numerology, or the details of exegesis, along with a failure to emphasize the point of the passage being expounded. This failure to emphasize what the writer of Scripture emphasized, and to emphasize something else, seems to be at the heart of the problem Paul addressed here. [a] ‘I am personally of the opinion that one of the causes of weakness in the churches today is the virtual disappearance from our pulpits of sound, steady, Scriptural, expository teaching, and that a widespread return to that desirable practice is essential to the solid building-up of our members in the faith.’” [b] (3)
(1) Dr. Bob Utley. Free Bible Commentary, [1 Timothy 1:4] Copyright © 2014 Bible Lessons International http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/new_testament_studies/VOL09/VOL09_01.html
(2) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [ 1 Timothy 1:3-4] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
(3) [a] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, p.7, [b] Guy H. King, A Leader Led, p. 19, Referenced in Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition, Dr. Thomas L. Constable https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm
“Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).
1 Timothy 1:5 offers three important spiritual motives: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. We can begin our look at this motivational trilogy with the word “heart.”
“Heart” is represented by the word kardia in the original language of this passage and forms the basis for our modern-day word “cardiac.” It refers to our innermost being in a physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual sense. Internal purity of heart (or lack thereof) is certain to affect our relationships with others.
“Conscience” can be defined as “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.” (1) Much like an umpire, judge, or referee, the conscience arbitrates between right and wrong. The real question involves the “rule book” that our consciences depend upon.
You see, it is possible for two people to act in good conscience while pursuing very different courses of action. With this in mind, here are a few foundational principles that should guide our consciences…
- First, we should recognize that Jesus validated His teachings through His miracles (Mark 2:1-12) and His resurrection from the dead (John 20).
- Therefore, Christ should stand as the final authority that governs our consciences.
- Jesus identified the Scriptures as the Word of God (John 10:34-35) and the command of God (Matthew 15:3-4). Jesus also taught that the Bible was truth (John 17:17).
- In light of this, we can say that the Word of God should lead and inform our consciences based upon the authority of Christ.
However, it’s important to remember that our consciences are not infallible. As Paul the Apostle said to the Corinthian church, “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3 NIV). Nevertheless, the conscience can be an excellent guide when it is guided by the Scriptures.
Finally, “faith” represents “a belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.” (2) The New Testament book of Hebrews tells us that “… faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is a critical element in our relationship with God for as we’re told in Hebrews 11:6…
“…without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
(1) G4893 syneidesis https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4893
(2) “Faith” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers
“from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:6-7).
1 Timothy 1:6-7 contains far more than just a general observation. Instead, it describes a serious condition that required immediate attention within the Ephesian church. You see, the false teachers of Ephesus had twisted genuine doctrinal truth from its rightful position in favor of other subjects that were useless and unprofitable. (1)
One commentary offers a useful analysis of this passage…
“Many leaders and authorities today demand allegiance, some of whom would even have us turn from Christ to follow them. When they seem to know the Bible, their influence can be dangerously subtle. They are modern-day false teachers. How can you recognize false teachers?
(1) They teach what is contrary to the truth found in Scripture (1Ti_1:3; 1Ti_1:6-7; 1Ti_4:1-3).
(2) They promote trivial and divisive controversies instead of helping people come to Jesus (1Ti_1:4).
(3) They aren’t concerned about personal evidence of God’s presence in their lives, spending their time on ‘meaningless discussions’ instead (1Ti_1:6).
(4) Their motivation is to make a name for themselves (1Ti_1:7).
To protect yourself from the deception of false teachers, learn what the Bible teaches and remain steadfast in your faith in Christ alone.” (2)
While two people of good conscience may respectfully disagree on a non-essential element of the Christian faith, it’s important to exercise discernment in order to avoid the contentious exchanges that often arise from “empty talk” (CEV), “senseless babble” (Mounce), and/or “endless words” (Phillips).
For instance, a mutually beneficial discussion involves a two-way exchange of ideas between those who are united in their search for truth and understanding. This remains true even among those who hold contrary opinions. However, a fruitless discussion often involves a one-way exchange with someone who is only interested in expressing what he or she thinks.
One pastoral commentator describes his own experience in this regard…
“There are honest questions and there are dishonest questions. There are some people who ask questions only because they want an argument; they don’t want to know the truth. They have a position that they want to espouse, so they want to get you embroiled in an argument. And so they will ask a question, not really seeking an answer but seeking an argument. They want you to state your position so that they can then begin to attack your position; that I call a dishonest question. An honest question [comes from] the man who asks, desiring to know the answer.” (3)
(1) See Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 1:5-7) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(2) Life Application Study Bible NKJV [ 1 Timothy 1:3-7] Copyright © 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1996, 2004 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc., all rights reserved.
(3) Chuck Smith, “Through The Bible C2000 Series” [1 Timothy 1:1-20]
“Some people have turned away from these and have lost their way in foolish discussions. They want to be teachers of God’s law, but they do not understand their own words or the matters about which they speak with so much confidence”(1 Timothy 1:6-7 GNB).
A Biblical teacher’s greatest privilege is to be used of God to help others grasp the meaning and application of His Word. For the teacher, it is both humbling and rewarding to experience the satisfaction of knowing that God has positively impacted others through his or her ministry. However, a teacher must also be diligent to maintain the proper motivation for his or her work. That represents one of the issues Paul the Apostle addressed here in 1 Timothy chapter one.
The right foundation for a teaching ministry was given to us earlier in 1 Timothy 1:5: “…a pure heart, …a good conscience, and …sincere faith.” A teacher who truly wishes to honor God will be careful to maintain this foundation.
Unfortunately, the teachers referenced here in 1 Timothy 1:6-7 seemed primarily interested in developing their reputations. As one paraphrase renders this passage, “They want a reputation as teachers of the Law, yet they fail to realise the meaning of their own words, still less of the subject they are so dogmatic about” (Phillips). Since their teachings were guided by this questionable motive, it appears they failed to discern the negative implications associated with them.
This is important, for teachers like those described here in 1 Timothy 1:6-7 can produce great spiritual and/or emotional injury in others. Lives may be ruined, churches may split, and cultic organizations may emerge whenever someone begins teaching the Scriptures with an inappropriate motive. Given the overwhelming availability of modern-day spiritual teachings, it is crucial to recognize and avoid such individuals. Therefore, we should prayerfully seek God’s wisdom and choose our teachers judiciously.
While the position of “teacher” may seem attractive, a person who makes the commitment to teach the Scriptures must also accept the accountability that goes along with it. That accountability is in found in the New Testament book of James: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
1 Timothy 1:6-7 reminds us that alternative motives may hide behind a veneer of spirituality, even among those who project an air of confidence and assurance . Therefore, this passage should serve as a cautionary message for anyone who may wish to pursue the office of a teacher in its various forms.
“But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person…” (1 Timothy 1:8-9).
There are rules that govern the conduct of each participant in an athletic competition. When those rules are broken, there are penalties that must be enforced. For instance, a basketball player is assessed a foul. A hockey player is dismissed to the penalty box. A football (or soccer) player receives a red or yellow card. In these instances, the rules of the game are not there for those who don’t break them- the rules are there for those who do.
This leads us to a discussion of the “lawful use” of Biblical Law as referenced in the passage quoted above. In this context, “the law” is associated with the first five books of the Old Testament Scriptures and the Ten Commandments in particular.
The New Testament book of Romans offers some insight into the appropriate use of the Law when it tells us, “For the more we know of God’s laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners” (Romans 3:20 TLB). Another version of that passage says, “…No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law’s demands—indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are” (Phillips).
Much like the rules of an athletic competition, these Biblical laws are not there for a righteous person who does not break them; they are there for those who do. With this in mind, we can say that the lawful use of the Law involves showing us how we have fallen from God’s standards. The following verses of 1 Timothy chapter one will go on to illustrate this idea with several graphic examples.
When imperfect human beings are faced with the responsibility of living up to the standards of a God who is unmatched in His perfection, we can then appreciate our need for a Savior. This is where Jesus comes in, for as we’re told in Galatians 3:24 “…the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
Thus, “…the law is good if someone uses it legitimately” (NET). Much like a signpost that points us in the right direction, the legitimate use of the Law points us to our need for a Savior who can deliver us from our failure to fulfill God’s Law.
“…knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
1 Timothy 1:9-10 offers a sample list of attitudes and behaviors that illustrate the proper function of the Old Testament Law. That function serves to identify appropriate and inappropriate conduct. We can look to the portion of the Law that contains the Ten Commandments for greater insight into this important role.
For instance, the Ten Commandments follow a distinct pattern. The first four Commandments are vertical in nature- they concern our responsibility toward God. The following six commandments involve our horizontal relationships with others. That division is important for if our vertical relationship with God is not what it should be, our horizontal relationships with others are not likely to be what they should be either.
Jesus also identified the foundation of the Law in response to the following question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36). Jesus addressed that question in the following manner…
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 22:37-40).
With this in mind, it’s not surprising to find that the first two sample violations of the Law from 1 Timothy 1:9 involve lawlessness and disobedience. Since we can associate the lawless with those who refuse to adhere to authority, disobedience is the inevitable result. The same can be said of the ungodly, for it is impossible to emulate the character of a Being we refuse to recognize.
Next comes “the unholy.” The word “holiness” means “set apart” and expresses the idea of complete moral purity. Since God is completely separate from anything that is wrong, dirty, or corrupt, those who are “unholy” are likely to exhibit such ungodly characteristics.
Finally, we have “the profane.” This phrase describes an irreligious person who tramples the things of God without interest or concern for his or her Creator. While “profanity” is often associated with coarse or inappropriate language, we might associate the “profane” in this context with those who choose to live as if God did not exist and conduct their lives accordingly.
“…that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, sexually immoral people, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers — in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:9-10 NET).
This passage continues a list of sample violations of the Law with “…those who kill their fathers or mothers.” Murder (or the unlawful killing of one human being by another) is an act that disregards the inherent value of human beings who are made in the image of God. Because of this, the murder of a father or mother represents the ultimate demonstration of disrespect towards those we are instructed to honor.
Next comes the sexually immoral. This phrase is associated with our modern-day concept of “pornography” when it appears within the New Testament. The Biblical use of this term identifies various forms of inappropriate sexual conduct including adulterous relationships, sexual relationships between unmarried couples, and polyamorous relationships, among others. Jesus also expanded this definition to include internal expressions of sexual immorality as well. Thus, “sexual immorality” generally encompasses any kind of sexual activity that goes beyond God’s original design for marital relationships.
This is followed by practicing homosexuals, a reference to sexual activity between persons of the same gender. Much like the prohibition against heterosexual adultery, the admonition against this type of sexual activity finds its origin in the Old Testament book of Leviticus: “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (20:13 NIV, see also Romans 1:26-27).
As is true within many 21st century cultures, homosexual engagements were common among some members of first-century Roman society. In fact, many sources note that over one dozen of the first fifteen Roman Emperors were involved in homosexual or bisexual relationships. Nevertheless, it is important to observe that homosexual behavior does not serve as the focal point of this passage.
Much like the other attitudes and behaviors identified within these verses, this practice reveals an internal mindset that misses the mark of God’s will for His creation. In the words of one commentator, “Christians err when they excuse homosexuality, and deny that it is sin. But they also err just as badly when they single it out as a sin God is uniquely angry with.” (1)
(1) David Guzik, 1 Corinthians 6 – Lawsuits and Loose Living [4. (8-11)] https://enduringword.com/commentary/1-corinthians-6/
“…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10 ESV).
We might associate the kidnappers (NIV) or slave traders (CSB) referenced in this passage with those who engage in human trafficking today. These verses speak to a condition in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited, often through the use of force or coercion. (1)
One scholar expands upon this definition with the following insight: “It refers to a slave-dealer, a kidnapper, a man-stealer, as well as to one who unjustly reduces free men to slavery, also to one who steals the slaves of others and sells them. The word includes all who exploit men and women for their own selfish ends.” (2)
This is followed by a reference to “liars and perjurers.” These characteristics represent a direct allusion to the Ninth Commandment as found in Exodus chapter 20: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16 KJV). While lying is typically associated with blatant dishonesty and/or falsehood, it may be more difficult to recognize the subtle differences between a lie and a viewpoint, opinion, or interpretation of the truth.
We can cut through this ambiguity with the following definition of a liar: “one who breaks faith.” (3) If a statement breaks faith with the truth in a casual conversation, a workplace environment, at home, under oath (in the case of perjury), or anywhere else, it serves to represent a lie.
This discussion also recalls something Jesus once said regarding to the devil and his character: “When he lies, it is perfectly normal; for he is the father of liars” (John 8:44). This helps explain why lying is wrong- it has its source in the nature of the evil one, not God.
It’s important to remember that the Scriptures identify God as a God of truth (Psalm 31:5) who does not lie (Titus 1:2). We should also recognize that those who are untruthful in small matters are likely to be untruthful in larger affairs as well. As Jesus also noted, “Anyone who can be trusted in little matters can also be trusted in important matters. But anyone who is dishonest in little matters will be dishonest in important matters” (Luke 16:10 CEV).
(1) See “human trafficking” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary Retrieved 01 September, 2020 from merriam-webster.com website https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human%20trafficking
(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (1 Timothy 1:8-11) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
(3) G5583 Pseustes Thayer’s Greek Lexicon https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5583
“…and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10).
The importance of “sound doctrine” is a recurrent theme within Paul’s New Testament letters to Titus and Timothy. When used in this context, the word “sound” means, “to be uncorrupted” (1) while “doctrine” refers to “a body of beliefs about God, man, Christ, the church, and other related concepts considered authoritative and thus worthy of acceptance by all members of the community of faith.” (2)
As mentioned earlier, we can associate “sound doctrine” with an assertion or belief that corresponds with genuine Biblical teaching. Thus, this reference to “… any other thing” is important to the context of this passage for it extends the Law’s reach beyond the list of behaviors given to us here in 1 Timothy 1:9-10.
For instance, a person who has not engaged in any of the inappropriate behaviors discussed here in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 is not necessarily free of guilt. In the words of one source, “The word ‘sound’ implies that true doctrine preserves and promotes spiritual health, unlike false doctrine, which destroys spiritual vitality and spreads infection ‘like gangrene’ (2 Tim. 2:17).” (3)
A strong commitment to sound doctrine is also important in light of a warning given to us in the Biblical book of 2 Timothy…
“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage– with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:2-3 NIV).
So unlike “… legends (fables, myths) and endless genealogies, which foster and promote useless speculations and questionings” (1 Timothy 1:4 AMPC), sound doctrine supports “…godly edification which is in faith.” This is not only important for Biblical speakers, authors, or teachers; it is important for anyone who seeks to accurately represent Christ at school, at home, in the workplace, or anywhere else.
Unfortunately, it can be quite easy to drift away from sound doctrine if we are not diligent to remain close to the Scriptures. As one commentary observes…
“In contrast to foolish controversies, sound teaching stirs God’s people to good works. For this reason, teachers must make sound teaching their focus, knowing that some will oppose it (1 Tim 1:10; 2 Tim 4:3).” (3)
(1) G5198 hugiaino, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5198
(2) Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(3) Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Ti 1:10). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
“according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).
The word “glorious” is an important Biblical concept that is often poorly defined or misunderstood. One author provides us with a brief overview of the word “glory” from a Biblical perspective…
“The word glory in Hebrew, kabod, derives from a root word meaning ‘weight.’ For example, the value of a gold coin was determined by its weight. To have weight, therefore, is to have value or worth.
The Greek word for glory, doxa, originally meant ‘opinion.’ This word refers to the worth or value which we, in our opinion, assign to someone or something. The Hebrew idea speaks of what is inherent in God—His intrinsic value or worth; the Greek idea speaks of the response of intelligent and moral beings to the value or worth they see manifested by God’s Word and works.” (1)
In light of this, we can say that the honorable, valuable, and praiseworthy nature of the gospel is reflective of the blessed God from whom it proceeds. This brings us to the subject of the “gospel,” a word that originally referred to “glad tidings” or “good news.”
In a Scriptural context, the gospel refers to the “good news” regarding Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. That sacrifice atones (or “makes up”) for our sins and enables us to enter a relationship with God by grace through faith in Christ.
We can identify the foundational elements of the gospel message with a look at the following passage from 1 Corinthians 15:1-4…
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (NIV).
The gospel message is something that requires immediate attention, for as Paul the Apostle will later go on to add in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2…
“In our work together with God, then, we beg you who have received God’s grace not to let it be wasted. Hear what God says: ‘When the time came for me to show you favor, I heard you; when the day arrived for me to save you, I helped you.’ Listen! This is the hour to receive God’s favor; today is the day to be saved!” (GW).
(1) Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism © 2008
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13).
“Faithfulness” is an attribute that reflects the qualities of dependability, loyalty, reliability, and trustworthiness. This characteristic played a key role in Paul the Apostle’s call to ministry as noted in the passage quoted above (“He counted me faithful”). Empowerment through Christ followed next (“Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me”). Finally, Paul was given a position of service (“putting me into the ministry”).
These verses thus serve as an important reminder. If we are faithful to honor God, we make ourselves available for Him to enable us to do greater things. But if we are not faithful in the things He has already given us, it hardly seems reasonable to expect Him to entrust us with anything further.
One Pastoral commentator summarizes this idea with the following observation…
“The chief virtue of a Christian at work is faithfulness. In the letter to the Corinthians, the apostle writes that God has called us to be stewards of the mysteries of Christ. He goes on to say, ‘It is required of stewards that they be found faithful.’ That is what God values more than anything else. He does not ask us to be popular, or brilliant, or widely accepted, but he does ask us to be faithful in whatever ministry, task, or assignment he has given us. Faithfulness is what will win high praise at the throne of grace.” (1)
Therefore, we should faithfully serve God in the work He has given regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem. As Jesus Himself said, “…I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40 GW).
In the words of another source…
“Paul had long since discovered that Jesus Christ never gives a man a task to do without also giving him the power to do it. Paul would never have said, ‘See what I have done,’ but always, ‘See what Jesus Christ has enabled me to do.’ No man is good enough, or strong enough, or pure enough, or wise enough to be the servant of Christ. But if he will give himself to Christ, he will go, not in his own strength, but in the strength of his Lord.” (2)
(1) Excerpted with permission from The Early-Day Saints © 1987 by Ray Stedman Ministries. All rights reserved. Visit www.RayStedman.org for the complete library of Ray Stedman material. Please direct any questions to [email protected]
(2) Barclay, William. “Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:2-17”. “William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/1-timothy-1.html. 1956-1959.
“I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry– one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13 HCSB).
This passage offers a highly personal self-assessment of Paul the Apostle’s life prior to his encounter with Christ. This appraisal is especially instructive for those (like Paul) who came to Jesus later in life.
For instance, Paul was an accessory to murder prior to his conversion (Acts 7:54-8:1). The Biblical book of Acts also identifies Paul (then known as Saul) as a person who was so opposed to Christianity that he searched from house to house in an effort to identify Christians and imprison them (Acts 8:1-3).
If that wasn’t enough, the Scriptures tell us that Paul was planning to expand his persecution of Christians in an attempt to lay waste to the church (Acts 8:3). One source reveals the extent of Paul’s malevolence by observing, “The word wasted is very strong. It referred not merely to an attempt to devastate or ravage, but to ruin and destroy. It applied not only to cities and lands, but also to people…” (1)
Despite these things, Paul did not attempt to deny his past in this letter to Timothy. Neither did he dwell upon his prior lifestyle or sensationalize the life he led before he came to Christ. Instead, Paul maintained a sober, realistic view that reflected the truth regarding who he once was. As we’ll soon go on to learn, Paul also viewed his life as an example to others whose pasts seemingly made them unusable by God.
While Paul could have been consumed with regret over the road of life he once traveled, he chose instead to take a far more God-honoring and productive approach that we would do well to emulate…
“I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us” (Philippians 3:12-14 TLB).
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 1:13) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
“I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13 ESV).
1 Timothy 1:13 tells us that Paul the Apostle self-identified as a blasphemer prior to his conversion to Christ. The word “blasphemy” is associated with “…those who speak contemptuously of God or of sacred things.” (1) It may also involve the act of speaking and/or living in a way that shows disrespect for God. Therefore, we can identify a blasphemous person as someone who disdains God in the things he or she says and/or demonstrates contempt for Him through his or her chosen lifestyle.
It seems that blasphemy has become so prevalent in many modern-day societies that we often fail to recognize it for what it is. For instance, one common form of blasphemy occurs whenever someone uses Jesus’ name as an expletive. Another takes place whenever we refer to God in a thoughtless, flippant, irreverent, or frivolous manner as in “ohmigod” or “OMG.” These expressions are blasphemous because they demonstrate a lack of respect and reverence for God.
As a highly dedicated spiritual leader among the people of Israel, it was unthinkable that Paul could knowingly blaspheme God prior to his conversion. It was not until he came face-to-face with the risen Christ that Paul learned the truth about himself and who he was. In Paul’s case, his ignorance concerning Jesus led him to blaspheme “…the only One who can save people” (Acts 4:12 NCV).
The same could also be said of Paul’s self-description as an insolent person. The root of this word in the original language of this passage serves as the basis for our modern-day word “hubris.” It communicates an underlying sense of pride that ultimately reveals itself in insulting comments or the shameful treatment of others. (2) Another source associates this word with an overbearing, violent person. (3)
In considering Paul’s self-assessment as someone who was once a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent man, one source identifies an important nuance that should not be overlooked…
“Although it is not as obvious from the English words, there is an ascending scale of wickedness in the three words blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent. The first sin is a matter of words only. The second describes suffering inflicted on others for their religious beliefs. The third includes the idea of cruelty and abuse.” (4)
(1) G987 blasphemeo, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/dictionary/viewtopic.cfm?topic=VT0000303
(2) G5197 hybristes, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon. https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g5197
(3) William Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/hybristes
(4) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary 2 Thessalonians 1:6, pg.2141
“I am grateful to the one who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me faithful in putting me into ministry, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and our Lord’s grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:12-14 NET).
Paul the Apostle mistakenly believed he was serving God as he persecuted Christians prior to his conversion. As Paul himself testified, “…I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). But unlike some other religious leaders of his day, Paul repented of his ignorance when he was presented with the truth about Jesus.
You see, Paul was zealous to protect God’s honor. That zealousness served as the catalyst for his subsequent vendetta against the first-century Christian community. On the other hand, many of the religious leaders who interacted with Jesus were zealous to protect their status as spiritual authorities. One commentator expands on this difference in the following manner…
“Paul was neither a Jewish apostate nor a Pharisee who clearly understood Jesus’ teaching and still rejected Him. He was a zealous, fastidious Jew trying to earn his salvation, thus lost and damned (see notes on Php 3:4–7). His plea of ignorance was not a claim to innocence nor an excuse denying his guilt. It was simply a statement indicating that he did not understand the truth of Christ’s gospel and was honestly trying to protect his religion. His willing repentance when confronted by Christ (cf. Ro 7:9; Php 3:8, 9) is evidence that he had not understood the ramifications of his actions—he truly thought he was doing God a service (Ac 26:9).” (1)
The unbelief that arises from a volitional rejection of Christ may lead to more serious consequences than unbelief that stems from ignorance. While ignorance does not excuse sinful behavior, we can count upon God to be fair and impartial in taking the circumstances of our lives into account. As Jesus once said to His disciples…
“…a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:47-48 NLT).
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 1:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).
This passage brings us to the first of five “faithful sayings” that appear within the Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. In this instance, the faithful saying given to us here in 1 Timothy 1:15 points us to Jesus’ primary mission: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (NET).
Much like the directional reference offered by a compass, this statement serves to orient our thinking regarding Christ. For instance, there are those who simply view Jesus as an influential leader, a great teacher, or a great man of God. Others acknowledge Him as a wise man, an advocate for justice, or a person who showed us the way to live a more fulfilling life.
While there is truth in each of those statements, we should not lose focus of Jesus’ principal objective. As Jesus Himself once said, “…the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). We should also note that there is a larger principle behind this salvation message that also merits our attention…
“Here we come to the very heart of the difference between true Christianity and all other teachings. False religions tell man that there is something he can do or be in order to win favor with God. The gospel tells man that he is a sinner, that he is lost, that he cannot save himself, and that the only way he can get to heaven is through the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus on the cross.
The type of law teaching which Paul described earlier in this chapter gives a place to the flesh. It tells man exactly what he wants to hear, namely, that he can somehow contribute to his own salvation. But the gospel insists that all the glory for the work of salvation must go to Christ alone, that man does nothing but the sinning, and that the Lord Jesus does all the saving.” (1)
Thus, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted:—’Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners’” (Phillips). This was more than just an abstract truth for Paul- it was something he understood from personal experience. We’ll take a closer look at Paul’s candid admission in this regard next.
(1) William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary 2 Thessalonians 1:15, pg.2141
“This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’–and I am the worst of them” (1 Timothy 1:15 HCSB).
For Paul the Apostle, the candid admission that “…I’m the biggest sinner of all” (CEB) was no display of sanctimony. Prior to his conversion, Paul aggressively confronted the first-century Christian community to such an extent that Jesus asked the following question of him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (see Acts 9:3-5).
While others have sinned greatly in their lives, the fact that Jesus appeared to Paul in this manner may help to illustrate the depth of his transgression. Therefore, when Paul says, “I am the foremost sinner” (GW), we should take him at his word. But even though Paul may be the most extreme example in this regard, he isn’t the only one.
For instance, we have the account of the Apostle Peter. Just prior to His crucifixion, Jesus said to Peter, “‘I can guarantee this truth: Tonight, before a rooster crows twice, you will say three times that you don’t know me.’ But Peter said very strongly, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never say that I don’t know you’…” (Mark 14:30-31 GW).
Later when Jesus’ prophetic statement came to pass, Mark 4:72 tells us, “Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ And when he thought about it, he wept.” As someone who was personally discipled by Jesus, there are few who can match the gravity of Peter’s sin.
We also have the Old Testament example of King David. God promoted David from his position as an obscure shepherd and established him as a formidable military leader and King of Israel. Yet on one occasion when David encountered an attractive and desirable woman, he exercised his authority as king to engage in sexual relations with her even though she was married to another man. Later, he arranged to have her husband killed when she became pregnant as a result of their encounter.
Each of these men of God had something in common besides the severity of their transgressions: they each repented of their sins and found God’s forgiveness. Their examples thus serve as important reminders to those who may feel as if they are unusable by God in light of their past experiences. Therefore, we would do well to remember God’s promise to us in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NIV).
“However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
Anyone with a cursory grasp of Biblical history is surely aware that God has worked to bring forth many accomplishments through human beings who seemingly had little to offer. Some prominent Old Testament examples include a reluctant public speaker (Moses), a fearful future military leader (Gideon), and a prophet who felt he was too young for the job (Jeremiah).
Some of the more famous New Testament examples include Jesus’ own disciples. That group comprised four fishermen, a tax collector, a skeptic, a political extremist, and four nobodies. We can also look to Paul the Apostle’s experience as another case in point. For instance, consider Paul’s testimony to a secular court of his day…
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:9-11 ESV).
Paul might have allowed these sins to derail the future God planned for him. However, God also inspired Paul to record an important spiritual truth in his second letter to the Corinthian church: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Once again, Paul’s experience reminds us that we need not allow the past to undermine God’s plan for our future. For those who are in Christ, such things have passed away and all things have become new. Therefore, Paul’s life points the way to an important truth: it is never too late to begin living a life that honors God regardless of what we may have done in the past.
Even if we (like Paul) have done things that we now regret, God’s grace can allow us to move forward and become all that He created us to be. It is in this manner that we can prevent something in the past from allowing us to enjoy God’s best in the present.
“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:17-18).
1 Timothy 1:17 offers a reverent expression of praise to God in the form of a “doxology.” A doxology is a brief hymn or verse that honors and glorifies God. One familiar Biblical doxology is the Gloria in Excelsis or Greater Doxology from Luke 2:14. The New Testament book of Romans offers another example: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36 NIV).
The Biblical book of Jude also contains a doxology that may be sung or spoken in praise of God…
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25 KJV).
The doxology given to us here in the closing verses of 1 Timothy chapter one signals a brief pause in Paul the Apostle’s discourse on the subject of sound doctrine. Paul began that discussion by identifying the presence of false teachers within the city of Ephesus (verses three and four) as well as their inappropriate motives (verses five to seven).
That led to an examination of the Old Testament law and its function in verses eight to eleven. Finally, Paul highlighted his pre-conversion violations of the law by emphasizing the grace that God extended to him through Christ (verses twelve to sixteen).
Paul considered the need for sound doctrine to be so important that he returned to it again here in verse eighteen through the use of military terminology. You see, the charge given to Timothy within this passage referred to an order or command. (1) That was followed by a reference to “waging the good warfare,” a phrase that communicated the image of a soldier serving on active military duty. (2)
Lest we think such terminology is unbefitting of a spiritual teaching, Paul will go on to direct our attention to the cost of unsound doctrine in the final verses of this chapter. That portion of Scripture will offer two personal examples that remind us that there is a price to pay when we fail to observe the Word of God.
(1) G3852 parangelia https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/parangelia
(2) G4754 Strateuomai https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4754
“having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck” (1 Timothy 1:19).
1 Timothy 1:19 presents us with the second appearance of the word “conscience” within this chapter. Since there will be two additional references to the conscience later within the book of 1 Timothy, it is important to maintain a good understanding of this idea.
As mentioned earlier, the word “conscience” can be defined as “the soul as distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.” (1) Much like an umpire, judge, or referee, the conscience arbitrates between right and wrong. This passage thus highlights the damage that may occur whenever we refuse to allow the Spirit of God to lead and inform our consciences.
To help communicate this danger, Paul the Apostle used the visual image associated with the wreckage of a seafaring vessel. Having lived through at least three literal shipwrecks (see 2 Corinthians 11:25), Paul’s use of this word picture was hardly accidental. As one commentator from an earlier generation observed, “May all who are tempted to put away a good conscience, and to abuse the gospel, remember that this is the way to make shipwreck of faith also.” (2)
We should also note that this was no mere theoretical danger, for Paul had two specific examples in mind: “of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20). The use of the term delivered is both informative and instructive. You see, the fact that these two individuals were “delivered” in this manner likely indicates that there was a progression involved in this disciplinary action.
For instance, Paul undoubtedly applied Jesus’ teaching from Matthew chapter eighteen in dealing with this issue. With this in mind, it seems probable that Paul took several steps to address their inappropriate behavior before turning to this last resort: “I’ve handed them over to Satan so that they can be taught not to speak against God” (CEB).
In modern day parlance, we might say that Hymenaeus and Alexander had two options in regard to changing their inappropriate conduct. They could choose the easy way or the hard way. The easy way involved repentance and a sincere request for God to help them live and act in a manner that was honorable to Him. Unfortunately, these men chose the hard way. We’ll discuss what that entailed next.
(1) G4893 syneidesis https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g4893
(2) Henry, Matthew. “Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible” [vv 18-20] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/1-timothy-1.html. 1706.
“among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20 ESV).
As mentioned earlier, Hymenaeus and Alexander exemplified the type of men that Paul the Apostle warned against at the time of his departure from the city of Ephesus (Acts 20:29-30). One author offers a helpful synopsis of what it meant to be “handed over to Satan” in this context…
“Paul put both men out of the church, thus ending their influence and removing them from the protection and insulation of God’s people. They were no longer in the environment of God’s blessing but under Satan’s control.
In some instances God has turned believers over to Satan for positive purposes, such as revealing the genuineness of saving faith, keeping them humble and dependent on Him, enabling them to strengthen others, or offering God praise (cf. Job. 1:1–22; Mt 4:1–11; Lk 22:31–33; 2Co 12:1–10; Rev 7:9–15). God hands some people over to Satan for judgment, such as King Saul (1Sa 16:12–16; 28:4–20), Judas (Jn 13:27), and the sinning member in the Corinthian church…” (1)
So if Hymenaeus and Alexander were truly intent on blaspheming God, then some time spent with the ultimate blasphemer might provide them with a different perspective and motivate them to change their behavior. In light of this, we can say that Satan may sometimes function as a tool in the hand of God. Here in 1 Timothy 1:20, he served God’s purpose in spurring two stubborn and rebellious individuals towards repentance.
We can thus associate this act of discipline “…with a remedial goal, not a punitive one. The Greek word translated taught in this verse is used of ‘discipline, training of children’ to lead them to correct behavior.” (2)
That brings us to the end of 1 Timothy chapter one and offers an opportunity to consider a useful summary of this chapter from the following commentator…
“This first chapter deals with matters of vital importance to every Christian, since we are all ministers of Jesus Christ. These matters are especially relevant to church leaders. In the communication of God’s Word, our primary responsibility (2 Tim. 4:2), we should avoid speculation and seek to represent God’s intention accurately (vv. 3-11).
We can face our task optimistically, since God has the power to transform even the worst of sinners into the greatest of saints (vv. 12-17). Nevertheless we should be careful not to go against the warnings of our consciences, having them programmed with God’s Word as we carry out our ministry.” (3)
See related study beginning here: https://traed.net/1corinthians/the-book-of-1-corinthians-1-corinthians-chapter-five/#07
(1) MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Ti 1:20). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(2) NET Bible notes on 1 Timothy 1:20 http://classic.net.bible.org/passage.php?passage=1Timothy%201:20&mode=print
(3) Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes on 1 Timothy 2020 Edition [1:20] https://www.planobiblechapel.org/tcon/notes/html/nt/1timothy/1timothy.htm