corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

1 Timothy 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

PAUL'S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY

White considered this chapter, aside from the salutation (1 Timothy 1:1,2), as regarding a crisis in the Christian faith (1 Timothy 1:3-20).[1] Historically, Paul was writing at some time subsequent to his release from the imprisonment of Acts 28, following his journey to Spain, and at some place when he was en route to Rome, following the great fire of July 19,64 A.D., and possibly with some purpose of aiding the Christians there who were threatened by the ominous change in the attitude of Nero, whose great persecution against the Christians was not yet in full progress. It cannot be stated whether or not Paul was journeying to Rome of his own accord, or if he had been summoned by Nero. The tradition that both apostles Peter and Paul were martyred by Nero rose at too early a time to be passed off as a fiction of the Roman Catholic Church, and thus being in all probability true. History has left us no clues as to the mechanics of how Paul in this letter was on the way to Rome, and how in 2Timothy, only a little later, he was anticipating execution. In any event, the atmosphere of crisis is plainly in 1Timothy; and Paul in this chapter began laying the groundwork for protecting and extending the beloved faith, no longer by his own prodigious efforts, but in this new situation, by his beloved converts such as Timothy and Titus.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope; unto Timothy, my true child in faith: Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:1-2)

An apostle of Christ Jesus ... Of all the slanders ever directed against the word of God, none is more ridiculous and unfounded than this assertion of Gealy:

"Christ Jesus our Lord" in the genuine Pauline letters is always "our Lord Jesus Christ ... In the pastorals, "Christ Jesus" is used twenty-three times, and "Jesus Christ" three times." In the other Pauline letters, "Jesus Christ" appears sixty-seven times, as against sixty-three times for "Christ Jesus." Thus the appearance of "Christ Jesus" three times in these three verses is not the Pauline proportion: it remains a mystery if it is assumed that Paul wrote these letters (the Pastorals).[2]SIZE>

What has been attempted by such a criticism as this is to make Paul's preference for the expression "Christ Jesus" as exhibited in the Pastorals an excuse for denying that he wrote them at all, despite the fact that he used the same expression exactly sixty-three times in his other letters, their denial being based upon the allegation that "this is not the Pauline proportion"! What kind of arrogance is this that affirms that a man scatters certain words in his vocabulary over his writings in any definite proportion, of so many to the page, or verse? Nothing any more unreasonable and erroneous than this was ever advocated in the name of scholarship. What is really behind it? As Hendriksen suggested, there are some who do not like the Scriptural teaching of these letters, and who will seize upon the flimsiest of pretexts in order to rationalize their denials. The reader will not be troubled by many other such insinuations against these epistles; not one of them is entitled to any credence or respect whatever, as more fully explained in the introduction to the Pastorals, the above example of them standing as a fair representation of all of them.

An apostle ... By this, "Paul claims to have been as truly sent by Christ as were those who were apostles before him."[3] The authority of Paul and the Twelve was plenary, nontransferable and perished from the earth in the death of those genuine apostles who, alone, held the office and exercised its authority. Why did Paul, at the outset of this letter, stress his apostolic office? As Hendriksen said:

Timothy needed to know that this letter was not just a friendly substitute for a confidential chat, a tete-a-tete; even though its tone is naturally cordial, for a friend is indeed writing a friend. The letter rises above the purely human level.[4]SIZE>

The so-called Pastorals are canonical Scripture binding upon the whole church of God on earth, and fittingly, they carry the apostolic seal.

Of Christ Jesus ... There is no difference in this expression from "Jesus Christ," Paul evidently using them synonymously and interchangeably. Such distinctions as making "Christ Jesus" to be indicative of Christian theology, and "Jesus Christ" to be an emphasis upon the historical Jesus, etc., have little or no value.

According to the commandment of God ... This has reference, not merely to the scene on Damascus road, but as Hervey believed, "to the command, Separate me Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2)."[5]

God our Saviour ... While unusual in Paul's letters, the idea is certainly found elsewhere, as in 2 Corinthians 5:19; and, besides that, Paul's close personal friend Luke used the same expression in Luke 1:47.

Christ Jesus our hope ... The absolute unity between the Father and the Son, as in so many New Testament references, shines in this. As dark and evil crises gathered ominously over his head, and as Paul contemplated the threatening evils that would assail the beloved church, he loved to contemplate Jesus Christ as the one glorious hope that made all of the suffering and hardship, all of the trials and sorrows, both worthwhile and bearable.

Unto Timothy, my true child in faith ...

TIMOTHY

The name of Paul's friend Timothy had often been joined to that of the apostle in the salutations of 2 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1, and in Philemon 1:1:1, and also with Silvanus in the salutations of both the Thessalonians; but here he was accorded the high honor of having one of the New Testament books addressed to him personally. As Wesley said, "Of all whom Paul ever converted, Timothy seems to have been to Paul the disciple who was most beloved and most trusted."[6] From the scattered references to him in the New Testament, the following facts appear:

From Acts 14:6 and Acts 16:3, it is clear that Timothy was a native of Lystra, and that he was converted on Paul's first missionary tour. He, in all probability, saw Paul stoned and dragged out of Lystra for dead; and then, on the second missionary journey, in response to the promptings of prophetic utterances (1 Timothy 1:18), and upon the recommendation of the elders in Lystra and Iconium, Timothy was commissioned as the apostle's attendant and helper on the mission field. The letter before us testifies to the faithfulness of Timothy to that charge throughout the apostle's subsequent life.

Timothy's father was a Greek and his mother a devout Jewess, who, despite her marriage, had maintained her faith in the Scriptures. Due to the circumcision controversy, Paul circumcised Timothy, not as in any manner connected with salvation, but as an expedient foil of Jewish criticism (Acts 16:3). Titus who had no racial connection with Judaism, Paul absolutely refused to circumcise (Galatians 2:3).

Timothy was ordained by the eldership of Lystra and Derbe (1 Timothy 4:14) and by the laying on of the hands of the apostle himself.

Timothy followed and aided Paul extensively in all of the labors recorded in Acts; and once, when Paul was necessarily separated from him at Berea, he went on to Corinth alone, but did not rest until Timothy had rejoined him. There seems to have been a very beautiful and wholesome friendship between the two. From Ephesus, Paul sent Timothy on one, perhaps more, corrective missions to Corinth; and he seems to have acted as Paul's deputy whenever the occasion required it. Both during Paul's first imprisonment in Rome and afterward, Timothy continued his faithful attendance upon Paul. During the second imprisonment, including the time immediately prior to it, he once more appeared as the man Paul sent to Ephesus to bolster the Christians of Ephesus against the impending persecutions.

As for the tradition that Timothy became the first metropolitan bishop of Ephesus, there cannot possibly be any value to it. As Rutherford said, "The position which Timothy occupied at Ephesus cannot, without doing the greatest violence to history, be called that of a bishop (in the current sense of that word)."[7] In the New Testament, such terms as elder, bishop, overseer, presbyter, etc., are absolutely synonymous. No competent scholar in these times denies this.

Timothy was, in all probability, at Paul's side when the end came. As the threatening clouds became more and more ominous, and when Paul knew that his execution was at hand, he desired more than ever the companionship of his beloved Timothy; so he sent the somber appeal, "Give diligence to come shortly unto me" (2 Timothy 4:9).

My true child in faith ... As Ward said, "The word TRUE means "born in lawful wedlock,"[8] thus being the most emphatic affirmation of the genuineness of Timothy's conversion.

In faith ... No less a scholar than White affirmed that, as is so frequently the case, the KJV is correct in rendering this "in the faith."[9] In this entire series, the most vigorous protest has been raised against the perversion of "faith," which in the New Testament nearly always means "the faith," and the importation into the word the notion of "subjective trust." Even Hendriksen was diligent to assert, regarding this verse, that "It is best to take it here subjectively";[10] but as White said, " Titus 1:4 proves that FAITH here is THE FAITH as in KJV."[11] Dummelow agreed to this; and many scholars have pointed out that the inclusion of the article before FAITH and, in other cases, the omission of it, does not necessarily determine one meaning or another.

Grace, mercy and peace ... Paul usually concluded his letters with "Grace and peace"; but here the inclusion of "mercy" would seem to be best explained thus, "The nearness of death, the weakness of old age, the ever-increasing dangers which crowded around Paul, seem to have called forth from him deeper expressions of love and tender pity."[12]

From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord ...

This bracketing of Christ Jesus with the Father twice in these opening verses is not without significance, especially in the light of subsequent teaching in the letter concerning Christ as mediator.[13]SIZE>

[1] Newport J. D. White, Expositor's Greek Testament, Vol. IV (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 83.

[2] Fred D. Gealy, The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. VI (New York: Abingdon Press, 1955), p. 376.

[3] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 89.

[4] William Hendriksen, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1957), p. 49.

[5] A. C. Hervey, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 21,1Timothy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1950), p. 61.

[6] John Wesley, One Volume New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), in loco.

[7] John Rutherford, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), p. 2985.

[8] Ronald A. Ward, Commentary on 1,2Timothy and Titus (Waco: Word Books, Publisher, 1974), p. 23.

[9] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 91.

[10] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 54.

[11] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 91.

[12] H. D. M. Spence, Ellicott's Commentary, Vol. VIII, 1Timothy (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959), p. 178.

[13] Alan G. Nute, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 507.


Verse 3

As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine.

It is not improbable that on his last trip to Rome, Paul covered as much ground as he could, warning and encouraging the many churches that he had planted concerning the looming persecutions in Rome. The thing that most concerned Paul was that the doctrine should be maintained absolutely in its purity and fidelity. The situation at Ephesus, where Paul had lately been, was compounded by the appearances of certain departures from the true faith, and this letter was Paul's charge to Timothy relative to making the necessary corrections. It appears that Paul was compelled, from whatever consideration we do not know, to proceed with all dispatch to Rome; hence the reason for his leaving Timothy behind at Ephesus.

Tarry at Ephesus ... In the Greek, this is "stay on,"[14] and, as Hendriksen said, this probably indicates that Paul and Timothy had gone to Ephesus together, Timothy being left behind when Paul could no longer stay.

Certain men ... The indication from this is that not a great number were involved, but that some false teachings were being advocated. Their importance, by these admonitions, is not indicated as a very big thing; but all false teaching should be cut off at the beginning wherever possible.

Not to teach a different doctrine ... The false doctrine in evidence here "seems to have arisen mainly, if not entirely, from Jewish sources."[15] Apparently, some new phases of Jewish error had surfaced at Ephesus, indicating the passage of some time, intervening between this and Paul's earlier letters; but there is absolutely no indication that some remote later period in the late first or early second centuries is in view. The only thing proved by this is that "Paul's forebodings for the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:29,30) were at that time being fulfilled."[16] Wesley's quaint interpretation here is, "Let them put nothing in the place of it (the gospel), and add nothing to it."[17]

[14] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 54.

[15] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 178.

[16] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 91.

[17] John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.


Verse 4

neither to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now.

Of all historical peoples, the Jews, more than any other, were concerned with genealogies; and coupled with this, the sequential mention of the Ten Commandments, one at a time in order, a moment later, emphatically demands that the false teaching here be understood as Jewish improvisations upon the body of Christian truth. All efforts to make this passage a refutation of second-century philosophies should be rejected.

So do I now ... These four words were supplied by the translators, an addition which was made necessary by Paul's breaking off a sentence without finishing it. The particular type of grammatical structure here is called an anacoluthon. Most scholars believe that it would have been better to supply the words "so do," making them imperative for Timothy, rather than as in the ASV.


Verse 5

But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned:

End of the charge ... The meaning here, according to Wesley, is "the end of the whole Christian institution."[18] Thus, as so often in the New Testament, "faith" means "Christianity," not "subjective trust/faith." Wallis also perceived this, saying, "Faith (in this passage) is used in the sense of the faith, sound doctrine."[19]

Love ... good conscience ... faith ... As Hervey said:

These three phrases seem to rebuke by contrast the merely ceremonial cleanness and the defiled conscience and the merely nominal Christianity of those heretical Judaizers.[20]SIZE>

[18] Ibid.

[19] Wilbur B. Wallis, Wycliffe Bible Commentary, New Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 843.

[20] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 3.


Verse 6

from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking;

Hendriksen's description of their teaching as evidenced by this verse is as follows:

It is like useless reasoning, argumentation that gets nowhere, dry as dust disputation, wrangling about fanciful tales anent pedigrees! It has finally landed them in the no-man's-land of ceremonial subtleties, in the dreary marsh of ridiculous hairsplitting. And the owner of that quagmire is Satan, who heads the welcoming committee.[21]SIZE>

It is much easier to talk, using religious phrases and words, than to teach the word of God to the end of converting souls and encouraging the life in Christ.

ENDNOTE:

[21] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 63.


Verse 7

desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm.

Teachers of the law ... This is nothing but the law of Moses affording further indubitable proof that Judaizing heresies are the false doctrine in view here. Their "teaching" had no substance whatever; it was all rant, cant and nonsense.


Verse 8

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully,

It is an error to make this verse some kind of license for binding the Mosaic law upon Christians. Nothing could be clearer in the Pauline writings than the fact of the law of Moses having been "taken out of the way," "fulfilled," "abrogated," "nailed to the cross," etc. Paul flatly declared that Christians are "dead to the law by the body of Christ" (Romans 7:4), this having reference, of course, to all requirements of the law in their totality. Not even the moral code of the Decalogue is the law of Christ, for in the Magna Carta of the Christian Religion (the Sermon on the Mount), our Lord took up, one by one, the great commandments of the Decalogue, replacing each one of them with "but I say unto you," in each case imposing through his own supreme authority a higher and better standard than that of the Decalogue. For extensive discussion of this, see under Matthew 5-7 in my Commentary on Matthew.

However, Paul here said that "the law is good," indicating that there is a legitimate use of it. What are the legitimate uses, for Christians, of the law of Moses?

THE VALUE OF MOSES' LAW

1. Its great prophecies point to the coming of Christ, some 333 of these being the most convincing evidence on earth to the effect that Jesus our Lord is indeed the divine Messiah "whose goings forth are known from of old, even from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).

2. The old Israel is a type of the new; and the study of the history of the old Israel affords many glimpses of what is to be expected in the unfolding history of the new Israel which is the church of the living God. As there was an apostasy in the old Israel, so there is in the new; and there are doubtless many other similarities that shall in time be unfolded.

3. The love, mercy, forgiveness and patience of God in dealing with the saints of the Old Testament are valid and certain pledges of his same dealings with the children of God in the new dispensation. "The things which were written aforetime were written for our comfort" (Romans 15:4).

4. The only logical and intelligent account of the creation of all things is found in the books of Moses (the Pentateuch). Without the revelation of the Old Testament in this sector, people could not with confidence know the story of creation.

5. The course of hardening and rebellion among the pre-Christian Gentile nations is fully evident in the Old Testament, the same being a divinely inspired record, a test case, an authentic example of that which always happens when a nation turns away from God.

6. The psychology of both righteous and wicked minds is abundantly presented throughout the Old Testament, as seen in the compromises proposed by Pharaoh, the proposals to Nehemiah, etc.

7. The richest deposit of devotional material in existence is to be found in the Old Testament; and the things enumerated here are but samplings of the benefits to be derived from knowledge and study of the Old Testament.


Verse 9

as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

Lawless and unruly ... ungodly and sinners ... unholy and profane ... Hendriksen was correct in seeing the persons in view in these phrases as "those who flout the first four commandments of the Decalogue."[22] If there had been any doubt, the composition of the balance of this list would have revealed it unmistakably.

Murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers ... This relates to the fifth commandment, "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother"; but in the writing of the New Testament the more reprehensible nature of any dishonor of parents is plain in Paul's designation here.

For manslayers ... This is a clear reference to the sixth commandment; but here again there is a significant difference in the law of Moses and the law of Christ. Whereas the law of Moses forbids "murder," it is the lesser charge of manslaughter that surfaces here.

ENDNOTE:

[22] Ibid., p. 68.


Verse 10

for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for men-stealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine;

Fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men ... Whereas the seventh commandment condemns "adultery," all forms of sexual vice are equally condemned in the law of Christ.

For men-stealers ... "Thou shalt not steal," the eighth commandment, is in view here; but it is the most reprehensible kind of stealing involved in the crime of kidnapping. Paul evidently meant to stress that even Moses' law was opposed to all forms of wickedness. Now those false teachers at Ephesus against whom Paul here warned and instructed Timothy were not using the law for the purpose of teaching ethical morality at all, but for the purpose of finespun theorizing, hair-splitting nonsense and for empty and vain talking. God's law, whether of the Old Testament or the New Testament, is primarily concerned with human behavior.

Liars, for false swearers ... It is the ninth and possibly also the tenth commandment which prompted this. More than any other point that may be considered mandatory from the teaching in these verses is the fact that it was the Jewish law which was being abused by the false teachers. Philosophical absurdities of the second century are not in the passage at all.

Sound doctrine ... As Spence wrote:

This is an expression peculiar to this group of Epistles; a sharp contrast is suggested to the "sickly and unhealthy" teaching of the false teachers, with their foolish legends and allegories, teaching which suggested controversy and endless disputes, and had no practical influence upon life.[23]SIZE>

Wallis noted that Paul's catalogue of sins here "is not the same as lists given elsewhere";[24] but the probability is that it is related either to peculiar problems in Ephesus, or merely Paul's mentioning what immediately came to mind. Anyone could make out his own list of sins, but no list is exhaustive.

[23] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit, p. 181.

[24] Wilbur B. Wallis, op. cit., p. 844.


Verse 11

according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

Gospel of the glory of the blessed God ... Hervey called this an awkward rendition, suggesting among other possible meanings, "the gospel which tells of the glory of God."[25] The words as rendered, however, are the truth; and the general idea comes through beautifully any way.

Blessed God ... "This with 1 Timothy 6:15 are the only passages in the New Testament where blessed is an epithet of God."[26]

[25] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 4.

[26] Ibid.


Verse 12

I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service;

The thought here was paraphrased thus by Hendriksen: "SUCH mercy! for note well: this very great sinner was not only saved, but was even deemed worthy to be entrusted with the ministry of the apostleship!"[27]

I thank him ... As Nute observed, this earnest word here "reaches its climax in the noble doxology of verse 17."[28]

[27] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 74.

[28] Alan G. Nute, op. cit., p. 508.


Verse 13

though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief;

Blasphemy ... means "speaking against" either God or man; but Paul here means the more serious offense; because, while he did not speak against the Father, he did speak against the Son who is one with the Father.

And a persecutor ... In context this is somewhat of an elaboration upon the preceding word, since it was as "a persecutor" that his speaking against God occurred. New Testament light on Paul's role as a savage persecutor of the church is given in Acts 8:3; 9:1 and Acts 22:19.

And injurious ... "This third word, although the English version obscures the fact, continues the ascending scale of self-condemnation."[29] It indicates a person who takes a savage personal delight and a malicious enjoyment in the afflictions inflicted upon another. Surely no sinner should ever despair of receiving God's mercy if he repents.

Because I did it ignorantly in unbelief ... The fact of Paul's being able to commit so grievous sins against God demonstrates the "pitiable, guilty blindness of sin (Ephesians 4:18; 1 Peter 1:14)."[30] Dummelow perceptively observed on this that "This is an instance of that form of ignorance which excuses acts done through it, ignorance of facts, not of moral principles."[31]

[29] John Wesley, op. cit., in loco.

[30] Wilbur B. Wallis, op. cit., p. 845.

[31] J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 996.


Verse 14

and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

Which is in Christ Jesus ... indicates the theater where the grace, love and faith (all three) are available for sinners. Paul did not receive grace outside of Christ, but inside; and the faith that saves is not a faith exercised independently of the body of Christ, but "in him." The tragedy of our day is that many speak glibly of their "faith in Christ," whereas, due to the fact of their never having been baptized "into Christ," their so-called faith is "out of Christ," not "in Christ."

"The words (abounded exceedingly) occur 158 times in the New Testament, 106 of these in the Pauline letters."[32] Hendriksen classified this as another instance of Paul's "super" words, such as are in Romans 5:20; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 7:4; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; Philippians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 12:7, etc. "It is clear that this super vocabulary is characteristic of Paul."[33]

[32] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 5.

[33] W. H. Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 75.


Verse 15

Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief:

Faithful is the saying... There are five of these expressions in this group of letters, the other four being: 1 Timothy 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8. "These axiomatic truths of Christian faith would be easily memorized; and, being frequently repeated, they soon became almost proverbial in the early church."[34]

Despite the above, however, it is precarious to identify these "faithful sayings" as any form of "proverb" in the early church. Only two of them, here and in 1 Timothy 2:11, have any definite saying in view. "In the other passages, the expression seems to be a short parenthetical formula, affirmative of the truth of the general doctrine with which the writer happens to be dealing."[35]

That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ... is indeed worthy of being considered a proverb. The expression stands as an epitome of the whole Christian religion: (1) The deity of Christ is in it, for of no man could it be said that 'the came into the world." (2) The redeeming, saving purpose of the visitation of the Dayspring from on high is in it. (3) The universal sinfulness of mankind is in it, for his condition was such that only God could save him, and that at awful cost to himself in the sending of the Beloved.

Of whom I am chief ... "The translation should be, `of whom foremost am I.'"[36] Hendriksen based this conclusion upon the emphatic position of the first person pronoun in the original. But the question is, HOW was Paul the chief of sinners?

(1) His sin was chief in the sense of the zeal and avid delight in which he pursued it. (2) It was greatest in the diabolical results that would have been achieved if he had continued in it, possibly that of the total destruction of Christianity; surely that was his purpose. (3) Paul was the chief of sinners because his sin was against Christ himself in the person of his spiritual body on earth. (4) He was the chief of sinners in the matter of his marvelous abilities, super intellectual powers, unswerving zeal and persistent determination which augmented the threat of his operations against God's purpose on earth in Christ. (5) He was the foremost among sinners because of the particular historical position which his persecutions held in the very beginning of Christianity. A million sinners today, operating against Christianity with Pauline zeal and power, would not pose a fraction of the threat inherent in the activities of Paul at that singular period in history.

[34] Alan G. Nute, op. cit., p. 508.

[35] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 98.

[36] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 81.


Verse 16

might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life.

Paul's argument here is that by pardoning the chief of the band of brigands, Jesus Christ had, by implication, extended an invitation to receive forgiveness to all the lesser sinners who made up the company!

For an ensample ... That the blessed apostle does not here overestimate the significance of his conversion is discernible throughout history. Paul's conversion, along with the resurrection of Christ, is part of the incontrovertible evidence of the integrity and authenticity of the Christian faith.

Believe on him unto eternal life ... This strongly suggests Romans 10:10,11; and significantly "believing on" Christ in both passages is "unto" eternal life, and salvation, as is ever the case in the New Testament. The sacred writers were diligent never to leave an impression that merely "believing on" the Lord Jesus Christ surely led to eternal life, but merely in the direction of it, "unto life." The apostle John gave the classical example of a case in which it did not bestow eternal life (John 12:42,43); but in even that instance "believing on" the Lord led in the direction of it.

Eternal life ... Christianity is involved with the supernatural, a fact abundantly clear in such an expression as this. The grand scope and purpose of Christianity is to accomplish the forgiveness of people's sins (salvation), and in the upper and better world usher them into eternal and better life where they may have in utmost joy and tranquillity, fellowship with the Creator forever.


Verse 17

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

This grand doxology is not addressed to "the Father," but to God in his compound unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It has been called "a grand testimony to the monotheism of St. Paul ... to this Eternal, Incorruptible One be glory and honor unto the ages of the ages."[37]

For ever and ever ... This is "the ages of the ages" in the Greek; but all superstitions to the effect that Gnosticism of the second century is implied in these words are unfounded. As White said, "Bengel's suggestion that there is a polemical reference to the aeons of Gnosticism is fanciful and unnecessary."[38]

This marvelous doxology was Paul's response to the glorious fact of his joyous salvation in Christ to which he had just referred.

[37] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 183.

[38] Newport J. D. White, op. cit, p. 100.


Verse 18

This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to thee, that by them thou mayest war the good warfare;

According to the prophecies ... does not refer, as Nute thought, "to a premonition granted to Paul as he approached Lystra,"[39] but to factual prophetic declarations uttered by some of the New Testament prophets mentioned repeatedly in Acts, of whom was Agabus, and also Barnabas, the latter probably being the one who gave the prophecies mentioned here.

My child Timothy ... It was to Timothy, the beloved young man, whom Paul had converted and whose faithfulness never wavered, that Paul turned as he contemplated the dreadful historical situation then closing in upon the Christians. "The charge" to him was the total precious treasure of Christian truth which together they had done so much to advance. Those awful dangers which Paul saw in the future would soon be closing around the beloved Christians in Asia; there would be many who could not stand the test; the blessed apostle sensed that he would not survive to be of any help; and therefore his whole hope was rested in the fidelity of that glorious companion, Timothy, who had so long suffered and toiled with the apostle. It would appear also that, prophetically, Timothy had been designated as a man who would persevere to the end; and thus the prophecies corroborated Paul's own personal evaluation of Timothy as one capable of being left in charge of the fortunes of God's church on earth.

War the good warfare ... These were appropriate words for Christians living in the age of the great persecution under Nero, soon to break upon the defenseless church. The metaphor of a man at war was employed again and again by Paul.

ENDNOTE:

[39] Alan G. Nute, op. cit., p. 508.


Verse 19

holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith:

Faith and a good conscience ... The obedience of faith is meant by this as in this quotation from Wallis:

The whole gospel message embraces both doctrine and obedience. The faith is what we believe about Christ; good conscience is not allowing the conscience to be defiled by sinful practices contrary to the doctrine.[40]SIZE>

Made shipwreck ... Scholars are very tender with regard to interpretations of this, as in the following:

We are not justified in interpreting "suffered shipwreck" as though it meant they were lost beyond hope of recovery. St. Paul himself had suffered shipwreck at least four times when he wrote this, and had on each occasion lost everything except himself.[41]SIZE>

While true enough that Paul did survive four shipwrecks, the fact is that shipwrecks are usually fatal to some and frequently to all who may be aboard; and there is certainly nothing in the passage that denies shipwrecks as equivalent to "spiritual death" in a passage like this. To be sure, this does not deny hope to any who might DESIRE to recover themselves out of the snare of the evil one. See under 2 Timothy 2:24f.

[40] Wilbur B. Wallis, op. cit., p. 846.

[41] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 101.


Verse 20

of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered to Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme.

Hymenaeus ... Many scholars, along with Spence, agree that "Hymenaeus is probably identical with the heretic of this name, charged in the second Epistle as teaching that the resurrection was passed already!"[42]

Alexander ... Although some have done so, it would appear to be precarious to identify this character with "Alexander the coppersmith" (2 Timothy 4:14), or with another Alexander mentioned in Acts 19:33.

Whom I delivered to Satan ... Another glimpse of this same apostolic power is found in the case of the incestuous person (1 Corinthians 5:5), and this is a power no longer on earth. From this and other passages it is clear that the apostles had such power; but it came to an end with the cessation of miracles. Hendriksen also was of the opinion that the exercise of it meant excommunication from the church, but that it also included "even more than this, bodily suffering or disease."[43]

This may strike us as unbelievable, but is it after all so strange that added to the charismatic gift of bodily healing was the power to inflict bodily suffering? If we deny the latter, should we not also deny the former?[44]SIZE>

The wisdom of the venerable Adam Clarke supplied the following observation upon this apostolic gift:

No such power as this remains in the church of God, and none should be assumed; and the pretensions to it are as wicked as they are vain. It was the same power by which Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead, and Elymas the sorcerer struck blind. Apostles alone were entrusted with it.[45]SIZE>

That such views as those of Clarke are correct would appear to be implicit in the fact of the stated purpose of the infliction, namely, that these two heretics may "be taught not to blaspheme."

Not to blaspheme ... Such evil teaching as that of denying the resurrection was equivalent in every way to "speaking against God." It is absurd to suppose that St. Paul here refers to a railing disparagement of his own apostolic claims."[46] We are not told here of the exact nature of their "blasphemy," but something far more serious than opposition to Paul is indicated. The two sinners singled out in this verse were gross offenders whom Paul punished for the sake of checking the damage which their example might otherwise have wrought in the church. If the denial of any future resurrection was involved in their behavior, along with the teaching that "the resurrection was passed already," this would have led to the exercise of all kinds of sins in the church. "That suggests that they were antinomians, teaching that believers should continue in sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1).[47]

[42] H. D. M. Spence, op. cit., p. 183.

[43] William Hendriksen, op. cit., p. 87.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Vol. VI (London: Carlton and Porter, 1829), p. 213.

[46] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 102.

[47] F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972), p. 113.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/1-timothy-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology