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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy 1

 

 

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Verse 1

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus”: The term “apostle” means literally “one sent forth”. Although Timothy already respects Paul’s authority as an apostle, this authority is asserted because Paul is not just writing for Timothy’s benefit, but for Christians in every age. His authority as an apostle is also stressed because of the presence of false teachers as Ephesus (1:3). Paul often started his letters stressing the above qualification (Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1).

“According to the commandment”: The term “commandment” means “injunction, order”. “Paul means to say that he is an apostle under orders” (Robertson p. 560). “Could well mean, ‘in obedience to the command’” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 89). 1. Paul was called by Jesus Christ Himself and given the definite command to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:4-6; Acts 9:20; Acts 22:10-21; Acts 26:16-19; Acts 13:2). 2. He is writing this letter to Timothy by the commandment of God and Christ as well. Paul was an apostle by order of God and Jesus and thus writes and preaches by their authority. He regarded himself as a messenger under orders and one who had definite authority (1 Corinthians 14:37).

“God our Savior”: The Father planned our salvation (John 3:16).

“And of Christ Jesus, who is our hope”: “The co-ordination of Father and Son as sources of his apostolic authority indicated that Paul held that Jesus Christ is divine, and this is shown by his paralleling Christ with God in this opening phrase” (Reese p. 3). Everything that is part of our hope is bound up with a relationship to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 6:18-20; Colossians 1:27). God is our Savior, but only those who come to Jesus have any hope of this salvation (Acts 4:12). “The word ‘hope’ used in its Biblical sense conveys an element of absolute certainty, an element that often is lacking in the modern usage of the word, where ‘hope’ is often not much more than just ‘wishful thinking’” (Reese p. 3).


Verse 2

“To Timothy, my true child in the faith”: There is a definite personal warmth as Paul addresses Timothy. Paul was not Timothy’s physical father (Acts 16:3); rather Paul had begotten Timothy spiritually through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:14-16; Philemon 1:10). The term “true” means “genuine, legitimately born, sincere”, Timothy was a genuine Christian and he was truly holding to the faith.

“In the faith”: This could mean that Timothy’s conversion was genuine, his motives were pure, and that he presently was truly following the sound doctrine, unlike others who had abandoned the faith (1:19; 1 Timothy 4:1-3). “When Timothy taught, his message was the same as his teacher’s” (Reese p. 4). Compare with Philippians 2:20.

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”: Paul’s usual greeting is “grace and peace” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2); in the letters to Timothy and Titus the term “mercy” is added. It may mean merciful deliverance from dangers and enemies and a knowledge of such mercy can make a man a better servant of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13-16; 1 Corinthians 7:25; 2 Corinthians 4:1). “Grace seems to emphasize the unworthiness of the recipients, whereas mercy brings to mind the helpless state of those receiving the blessing” (L.A. Foster). “Not a few writers have noted that ‘grace’ was the usual greeting when Greeks met, while ‘peace’ was the usual greeting among Hebrews. Paul takes both terms, pours a new, spiritual content into them, and uses them side-by-side because in the church there is no longer distinctions between Jew and Greek-we are one in Christ” (Reese p. 5).

“From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”: Grace, mercy and peace come from both; Jesus and the Father are co-bestowers of these divine blessings.


Verse 3

The Charge

“As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia”: The congregations in Macedonia would have included Philippi and Thessalonica; these congregations had been in existence for over 15 years when Paul makes this trip. “Timothy either had been traveling with Paul up until their stop at Ephesus, or else Timothy was the evangelist with the church in Ephesus before Paul arrived” (Reese p. 7). The term “urged” means to “exhort” and “admonish”.

“Remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines”: “Paul had to urge Timothy to remain behind at Ephesus suggests that Timothy had wanted instead to continue to travel together with Paul. The needs of the church there, however, made it imperative that Timothy stay there” (Reese p. 7).

“Instruct”: The term here means to “command, order, direct” (Arndt p. 613).

“Certain men”: He does not name the specific individuals here, but he will name individuals in 1:20 and 2 Timothy 2:17.

“Not to teach strange doctrines”: These doctrines are termed “strange doctrines”, that is teaching that was different than sound doctrine, it was a doctrine other than the truth (Galatians 1:6). The Greek term here is heterodidaskaleo, that is different, to be distinguished from another the same kind. Not another doctrine of the same quality, but a doctrine, teaching of another quality, that is, false doctrine (2 Corinthians 11:4). Could this be the beginning of what Paul had predicted in Acts 20:29-30? Apparently Timothy has the right to address these strange doctrines both in private and in public. Evangelists still have a responsibility similar to Timothy when it comes to false doctrine. Any doctrine that deviates from the teachings of the apostles (Acts 2:42) is “strange”.


Verse 4

“Nor to pay attention to myths”: To give attention to something involves an attending to and giving oneself up to. These “myths” are termed “Jewish” in Titus 1:14 and “old wives fables” in 1 Timothy 4:7.

1. The traditions of the Jews contained many fables and myths. The traditions of the Jews, handed down from generation to generation, the Targums, the books written by the rabbis are filled with legends and fables.

2. Others interpreted the Old Testament allegorically and were looking for hidden meanings, just like some today are looking for some secret code in the Bible.

3. The Cabbala is the designation for a mystical system of philosophy that arose among the Jews during the intertestamental period. It signifies a secret system of theology, metaphysics, and magic along the lines of pantheism. Certain esoteric doctrines were said to have been first recorded by Solomon, and then passed on by word of mouth to the present. Many of these have to do with formulas and incantations that can be used for healing purposes.

4. A tremendous number of myths equally were found in paganism and Gnosticism. Yet this above verse would forbid the pursuing of any myths and fables. Notice how the Holy Spirit contrasts sound doctrine with myth. Nothing in the Scriptures is mythical, rather the Scriptures are historical accurate (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

5.

“Endless genealogies”: There is nothing wrong with genealogies per se for the Bible contains various genealogies. Note the word “endless”, “having no useful end or purpose” (P.P. Comm. p. 2). “Having no useful end or purpose” (Reese p. 11). “The Old Testament genealogical lists were often amplified by the Jews. Names were invented and whole tales were woven about them. The Jewish Book of Jubilees provides examples of this…Paul terms such handling of genealogies as endless, for there can be no terminus to such allegorizing. The only restriction would be the amount of ingenuity possessed by the expositor” (Kent pp. 81-82). “From these lists (or from those in Genesis, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, or Nehemiah) the Jews would take name (indeed, they even invented new names) and make up a nice story about the person who otherwise (as far as the Biblical record is concerned) is only a name” (Reese p. 11).

“Which give rise to mere speculation”: Here are the results of paying attention to such teachings and allowing them to be taught. The term “speculation” is translated in the KJV by the term “questions” which means, “Disputes, questions over controversial matters, troublesome and angry debates”. That is, such false doctrine only leads to further speculations and “interpretations based upon the inventiveness of men can never reach the settled state of God’s truth” (Kent p. 82). In addition, such speculating only produces division. “The myths and endless genealogies have little bearing on practical living. Interpretations and allegories based on the inventiveness of men can never help a man know God’s will, a knowledge of which comes only by divine revelation!” (Reese p. 12).

“Rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith”: The term “administration” means “an arrangement or administration of affairs” (Vine pp. 320-321). “Training (in the way of salvation) they promote useless speculations rather than divine training that is in faith” (Arndt p. 560). “God has a method for administering or managing the salvation of the world. The false teachers were not furthering the administration or management policies of God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17), not from hearing human speculations and endless genealogies. After all, Jesus and the apostles have proclaimed the eternal purpose of God. No human additions or added speculations are needed” (Reese pp. 12,13).


Verse 5

“But the goal of our instruction”: The aim, purpose, and outcome of the charge given in 1:3-4, and the goal of all Biblical teaching. The term “instruction” in this verse means “order, command, precept” (Arndt p. 613). The root word here for “instruction” is the same as the word “instruct” in verse 3.

“Love from a pure heart”: Love coming from a heart that is genuine and sincere. “A pure heart is one whose motives and affections are noble and unselfish” (Reese p. 14). Jesus noted that the “pure in heart” shall see God (Matthew 5:8). We need to be impressed that such a goal is realistic; we can become genuine in our motives. Human beings can demonstrate a true and genuine love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Matthew 22:37-40).

“And a good conscience”: 1 Peter 3:20-21; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 1:22. “What Timothy is to seek in believer’s lives is a loving life-style that is not just the result of a guilty conscience” (Reese p. 14). “With a conscience which is not condemning, the believer can have an unhypocritical faith. This faith that needs no mask to hide its insincerity” (Kent pp. 84-85). A good conscience would also be the result of doing what a person knows is right. The Christian does not have to feel like a hypocrite, God does not give us commands that are beyond us, rather we can live up to God’s expectations.

“And a sincere faith”: A genuine faith that is developed by following the sound doctrine (Romans 10:17). This is not a lip-service type of faith, but an entire and sincere trust from the heart. The full counsel of God will produce such a faith, as well as a good conscience and genuine love (1 Corinthians 13:1 ff; Acts 15:9; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 3:21).


Verse 6

“For some men”: (1:3).

“Straying from these things”: The language here indicates that these persons had once been on the right path. To “stray” is to “deviate, depart”. See 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:18. “These things” is the goal mentioned in 1:5. Every false doctrine will miss the previous goals.

“Have turned aside”: “Is a word used of a traveler who loses his bearings and turns off onto the wrong road, and then fails to reach the intended destination” (Reese p. 15).

“To fruitless discussion”: “Empty talk” (Thayer p. 392). “The wrong path which these people have taken is not even a good detour” (Reese p. 15). Note that when people depart from God’s truth the result will be discussion that leads nowhere, does not edify the listeners, and does not result in their salvation.


Verse 7

“Wanting to be teachers of the Law”: That is, they want to be viewed as experts concerning the Law of Moses (Luke 5:17; Acts 5:34). They desired and coveted the respect that was given to the official teachers of the Law of Moses and this desire indicates that his apostasy came from Christians of a Jewish background. In the First Century there were various groups that tried to cling to the Law of Moses and argue that it was still binding upon Christians (Acts 15:1-5).

“Even though they do not understand either what they are saying”: “The most jarring accusation that can be brought against one who claims to be a scholar is to call him ignorant” (Reese p. 16). See Matthew 12:7; Matthew 22:29; Mark 12:27.

“Or the matters about which they make confident assertions”: The “matters” in this verse would include the strange doctrines in 1:3. These false teachers were very confident in what they were saying, they were forceful, positive, and presented their position strongly, yet they were dead wrong. Confidence is no substitute for the truth, and being confident about something does not make it right or true. “The false teachers announce their errors with assurance” (Vincent p. 206).


Verse 8

“But we know”: Paul, Timothy, and other faithful Christians are not ignorant as the false teachers, rather they “know” the following.

“That the Law is good”: The origin of these errors is not found in the Law itself, but in the wrong use of the Law. Paul did not condemn the Law just because some were seeking to pervert its use or design. The purpose of the Law was good, that is, to point men to Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). Compare with Romans 7:7; Romans 7:12. In addition, Paul was not an enemy of the Law of Moses, even though God revealed through Him that the Law of Moses ended at the cross (Colossians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:15 ff).

The above passage is not saying that we are still under the Law of Moses, rather the Law is still good. It still leads people to Christ (Galatians 3:24). It still teaches us valuable lessons about sin and the character of God (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 11:11).

“If one uses it lawfully”: There are wrong uses of the Law of Moses:

1. Idle speculation. 2. The attempt to use it to teach an ascetic lifestyle. 3. Arguing that the Law of Moses is binding today and that we are still under the first covenant (Hebrews 8:13 ff). “When the Law is used as God intended for it to be used, then truth and benefits result. But when the Law is used only as a springboard into hopeless speculation, fanciful legends, and erroneous instruction, then the law is being abused to become an introducer of evil rather than the foundation of truth” (Reese p. 18). “Those who did not see that the law ended in Christ and was taken out of the way by Him understood neither the law nor its aim and end” (Lipscomb p. 128).


Verse 9

“Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person”: It would appear that this principle of truth applies to the Law of Moses as well as law in general. The righteous man is of course the Christian, the person justified by his obedient faith in God and the person who keeps God’s commands. Laws are not enacted to control good men, and neither are laws enacted because men are good and are behaving themselves (Galatians 3:19 “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions”). “Law is not intended for a law-abiding man” (Arndt p. 195).

There may be another thought here: These false teachers may have been attempting to bind the Law of Moses upon Christians and Paul reminds Timothy and his brethren that the Law of Moses was not designed to make a man righteous, rather a man can only become righteous by coming to Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 10:4-10). The Christian is not under the Law of Moses (Romans 7:1 ff), yet the Law was designed among other things to expose the following sins, keep the following sinners in check, and keep the following sinners from corrupting His people and offer punishment.

Point to Note:

The person who complains about something the Bible condemns is basically saying by their attitude that such a law was written precisely for them and anyone else with such an attitude.

“But for those who are lawless”: Those who depart from the law or recognize no law. Those who live as if there is no law, have contempt for law. “The Law was made centuries before Jesus of Nazareth walked on earth, as a great protest against the every-day vices which dishonored Israel in common with the rest of mankind” (Reese p. 19). The Law was added because of human rebellion (Galatians 3:19).

“Rebellious”: “That cannot be subjected to control, disobedient” (Thayer p. 52). Those who resist lawful authority.

“For the ungodly”: “Those who have no religion, who do not worship or honor God” (Reese p. 20). “Positive, active irreligion-direction opposition to God” (Berry). One who has no fear of God.

“Sinners”: “Those who have missed the mark of their existence” (Reese p. 21).

“For the unholy”: “Men who are careless of their duties before God” (Hendriksen). People who are impure in life and irreverent towards that which is sacred.

“And profane”: “Who walk over everything and make it as common as dirt” (Lenski). See Hebrews 12:16. The person who treats the things of God with contempt, mockery, and scorn.

“For those who kill their fathers or mothers”: The terms here can also mean besides killing, to abuse, see Exodus 21:15. Literally, father-smiters and mother-smiters.

“For murderers”: Pre-mediated murder, homicide, not accidental death.


Verse 10

“And immoral men”: That is, those involved in sex outside the marriage relationship, including fornication, adultery, and prostitution. The word here is the word rendered “sexual immorality” or “fornicators” in other passages.

“Homosexuals”: “One who lies with a male as with a female” (Thayer p. 75). This would include men who abuse young boys as well. Note, such people are called lawless, godless, profane, unholy, and sinners. God does not view the homosexual as a enlightened and loving person.

“Kidnappers”: “Slave dealer, kidnapper” (Thayer p. 43). It was common in the ancient world to steal boys and girls and sell them into slavery.

“Liars”: God has a deep abhorrence for this too common sin (Revelation 21:8; Acts 5:1 ff).

“And perjurers”: That is someone who swears falsely, those who break oaths, the person who lies under oath.

“And whatever else is contrary to sound teaching”: This is God’s loophole plug. These things are wrong and anything else that contradicts God’s truth. In this section Paul has not mentioned drunkenness, envy, jealousy and other sins. Compare with Galatians 5:21. Note that sound teaching contains all of God’s teaching on morality; in fact, sound teaching includes all our obligations towards God and man.

“Sound”: True and uncorrupt, healthy. Doctrine or teaching that is both accurate and healthy for the hearer, in contrast to false doctrine that is both false and dangerous. The sound doctrine is the teaching revealed through the apostles (2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 2:1). Be impressed that sound teaching can be both obeyed and understood. Anyone who would argue that anything in the above list is lawful or good is opposed to sound teaching.


Verse 11

“According to the glorious gospel”: In the Greek the last phrase is literally “the sound doctrine”, which means that “sound teaching” is another name for the gospel message. This also means that there is not any difference between what composes the gospel and what composes sound doctrine, they are one and the same. Therefore, the gospel contains God’s standard of morality as well as what one must do to be saved. Those who contend for a distinction between “doctrine” and “gospel” are not using the Scriptures lawfully. Paul is saying that this view of the Law and its purpose and what is not lawful is given according to the teaching found in the glorious gospel. Thus this estimate of the Law was not Paul’s own opinion, but part of the glorious gospel that Paul was commissioned to preach

“Glorious”: The gospel reveals the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

“Of the blessed God”: 1 Timothy 6:15. “Perhaps it reminds us that God in His very being contains all happiness and bestows it upon men. Perhaps he means that when people know about His eternal and changeless perfection, and the blessed gift of forgiveness that he offers to all sinners who obey the Gospel, those people out of gratitude offer blessings to God. In this sense He comes to be blessed” (Reese pp. 24-25).

“With which I have been entrusted”: Paul views the gospel message as a precious treasure or deposit that has been given for his safekeeping. Compare with 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7. The gospel that Paul preached came by divine revelation (Galatians 1:11-12). If we know the truth, then we need to feel the obligation of keeping that truth pure and sharing it with others without addition or subtraction.


Verse 12

Paul’s example is a tremendous illustration of the power of the glorious gospel (). The Law of Moses did not produce the great apostle nor his conversion but the gospel of Jesus Christ did! “His thanksgiving for the privilege of ministering the Gospel reminded him of the utter difference of his former life, and he gave all credit to the mercy and grace of God who had provided the Gospel” (Kent p. 89).

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord”: (2 Timothy 1:3; Hebrews 12:28). “The mention of the gospel (1:11), and of the fact that it was committed to him, brings a flood of grateful memories to Paul, and leads him to express his gratitude” (Reese p. 25). “The words ‘I thank’ literally are ‘gratitude I am having’. It is not a passing expression of thanks but the revelation of a constant attitude of gratitude, as the present tense shows” (Hiebert p. 39).

“Who has strengthened me”: The term “strengthened” means, “to make strong, endow with strength” (Thayer p. 214). In this verse this “strengthening” may refer to God giving Him the Holy Spirit for the purpose of inspiration and working miracles. See Acts 9:22. Please note that this strengthening is not some sort of mysterious power that strengthened Paul against his will and neither was it any sort of power than enabled him to believe. “He is referring to that new motivation and spiritual dynamic which was imparted to him by the divine forgiveness” (Hiebert p. 39).

“Because He considered me faithful”: That is, trustworthy, dependable. “Even when Paul was a persecutor of the church, Christ had seen in him the capabilities of what he later became. Jesus putting Paul into the ministry was an act expressive of great confidence in him” (Reese p. 26).

“Putting me into service”: That is, putting him into the service of being an apostle, teacher, and preacher. We should remember that the “service” in which Jesus placed Paul was a very difficult area of service (Acts 9:16; 2 Corinthians 4:5-10; 2 Corinthians 6:4-10; 2 Corinthians 11:22-33), yet he was very grateful for being allowed to serve Christ even when it involved tremendous suffering. See Acts 20:24.


Verse 13

“Even though I was formerly a”: “His description of himself must not be attributed to false humility or exaggeration, but was undoubtedly the way he felt about his past life. Those who live closest to God are usually the most keenly aware of their own faults” (Kent pp. 89-90). The word “formerly” is such a hopeful word, a person can break from the past and does not have to accept an existence in which sin is dominating them (1 Corinthians 6:11).

“Blasphemer”: (Acts 9:1; Acts 26:9; Acts 26:11). Paul had spoken evil, slanderous and reproachful things against Christ and His people. Paul had rejected Jesus’ Messianic claims and had labeled Him an imposter. He not only spoke against the Lord, but also tried to get others to do the same (Acts 26:11).

“Persecutor”: (Acts 9:4-5; Acts 22:4 “I persecuted this Way unto death”; 26:11 “persecuted them even unto foreign cities”; Galatians 1:13 “How that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it”). Paul even traveled from Jerusalem to Damascus, 120 miles to the NE, in the hopes of finding Christians to persecute.

“And a violent aggressor”: “One whose insolence and contempt of others break forth in wanton and outrageous acts. If the term could be allowed, ‘a bully’, one who not only ill-treats others but does so with the insolence of superior strength” (Hiebert p. 40). Paul not only arrested people, but he was violent in so doing (Acts 8:3 “dragging men and women”; 9:13; 26:10-11). He had no mercy on Christians, he acted like a tyrant, he treated them with spite, and he handled them roughly. “Paul sums up the characteristic features of his brilliant career as a young Pharisee leader. Can his readers see the danger at Ephesus if the church members become disciples of those would be ‘Law-teachers’?” (Reese p. 27). Paul is an excellent example of what happens when someone does not use the Law lawfully!

“Yet I was shown mercy”: A mercy that Paul had not shown Christians. Paul realizes that his chance to become a Christian was completely undeserved (1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 1:15; Acts 9:6; Acts 22:10).

‘Because I acted ignorantly in unbelief”: This statement of ignorance was not an excuse for his guilt, for he calls himself a former blasphemer. Sins committed in ignorance are still sins before God. Yet Paul is noting that his opposition to Christ was not a determined opposition to God or His will, for Paul thought he was serving God by persecuting the church (Acts 26:9-11; Acts 23:1; Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:5-6). The “unbelief” was not in God for Paul would have claimed to have been serving God, but unbelief in Jesus and His claims, yet it was still unbelief and would have condemned him if he had never become a Christian.

“Paul is not seeking to mitigate his guilt. His ignorance did not excuse him. But he had not deliberately acted against better convictions, stubbornly hardened his heart” (Hiebert p. 41). Compare with Numbers 15:27-31. Paul was not of those who believed in Jesus but were afraid to confess Him (John 12:42-43). He followed his conscience, what he had been taught, and understood to be true. He was willing to suffer, die, or oppose all that stood against what he thought to be true. He was a man of conviction, faithful to what he believed. Such a person, if confronted with the truth and convicted, will make a wonderful Christian.


Verse 14

“And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant”: Even sins committed in ignorance by conscientious people need abundant grace. His ignorance did not make his sins any less sinful or any less in need of God’s grace. Compare with Romans 5:20. Grace was extended to Paul when Jesus appeared to him (Galatians 1:15), and by his faith, and his willingness to repent and be baptized, Paul entered into God’s grace (Acts 22:16; Romans 5:1-2). Even though Paul had acted in ignorance, he still had to do what everyone else needs to do to be saved (Acts 9:11; Acts 9:18; Acts 22:16).

“With the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus”: One is not saved by grace alone, rather along with God’s grace, faith, and love on the part of Paul were also needed. “Whereas before his trip to Damascus, Paul had been a blasphemer, now he came to love Jesus Christ” (Reese p. 29). Calvinists seek to argue that faith and love are the miraculous result of God’s grace, that is, apart from God’s grace, Paul could not believe. Rather, faith is the product of hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17), and love is something that man must exercise.

“In Christ Jesus”: Jesus is now the object of Paul’s faith and love, rather than his hatred and opposition.


Verse 15

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance”: See 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8. Hearty and full acceptance is the type of reception such a faithful saying would trigger. “This saying about to be quoted is entitled to wholehearted and universal personal application with no reservations of any kind (with no strings attached)” (Reese p. 31).

“That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”: See John 3:16; Matthew 20:28; Luke 5:32; Luke 19:10; Luke 24:46; Philippians 2:8. The word “came” infers that Jesus had a pre-existence before He came into the world (John 1:1; John 1:14).

“Among whom I am foremost of all”: Compare with 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8. Paul writes “I am” and not, “I was”. “This indicates that even now, years after his conversion, he deeply regrets his past” (Reese p. 32). In addition, Paul is saying that he still needs the blood of Christ to forgive him of sins that he still commits from time to time. Some have accused Paul of exaggerating when he calls himself the chief of sinners. Reese notes, “Be careful to observe that the word translated ‘foremost’ has no article in the Greek. He does not say ‘the foremost sinner’, but that he is one of many great sinners who need forgiveness” (p. 33). Yet, the word “foremost” does mean, “the first, most important, most prominent” (Arndt p. 726), and the argument in 1:16 is based on the fact that Paul is the chief or foremost and all those underneath him can likewise be saved as well.

After reading the previous verses one can see how God allowed Paul to make the above statement. Paul had not merely been guilty of the type of sins that everyone tends to commit, but he had actually persecuted God’s people, both men and women (Acts 22:4). How much of a sinner do we think we were? (Romans 6:21; Ephesians 2:1-3).


Verse 16

“Yet for this reason I found mercy”: Seeing that Paul was the foremost or chief of sinners, God could use him as an example or pattern for all to follow. If the chief sinner can be forgiven then all other sinners can be forgiven, as well, if they only repent. “Paul becomes the ‘specimen’ sinner as an encouragement to all who come after him” (Robertson p. 564). “It must be acknowledged that no example could be more proper, to encourage the greatest sinners in every age to repent, than that pardon which Christ granted to one, who has so furiously persecuted His church” (Macknight p. 191). By forgiving Paul, Jesus made him a prime example of what His grace can do. “No sinner should think he is a hopeless case” (Reese p. 33).

“So that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life”

“Perfect patience”: “Is the divine attribute of God whereby He does not at once punish the sinner but forbears long under provocation and gives him opportunity to repent” (Hiebert p. 43). Instead of striking Paul dead for persecuting Christians, God was patient and gave him time and an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3:9).

“As an example for those who would believe”: “His conversion had world significance. Paul stood before the eyes of all after generations as a witness to the power, the grace, and the love of the Lord, so that the greatest of sinners need not doubt that grace” (pp. 43-44). “If a sinner like Saul of Tarsus could be spared and receive salvation, so may other sinners” (Kent p. 94).

The term “example” means a pattern, outline, sketch and model. In like manner to Paul, all other sinners can be forgiven if they repent and come to Jesus as well, including the need to be baptized (Acts 22:16).


Verse 17

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God”: The term “immortal” means “not liable to corruption or decay”, and is used of God in Romans 1:23. God is called “invisible” in other passages as well (Colossians 1:15). Thus we see the foolishness of the person who will not believe in God because they cannot see Him.

“The only God”: The KJV here as “the only wise God”. See John 17:3; Romans 16:27. To whom is this doxology addressed? The majority of commentators think this doxology is addressed to God the Father. A few think it is addressed to Jesus.

“Be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen”: (Romans 16:27; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 3:21; 1 Timothy 6:16).


Verse 18

Restating the Charge to Timothy:

“This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you”:

“Entrust”: To deposit, entrust, or commit to one’s charge. To entrust something to someone for safekeeping or transmission to others (2 Timothy 2:2). “Aware of what the gospel can do for sinners (remember what it did for Paul, and that is an example of others), Timothy is encouraged to stand for it, and to engage in warfare any false teachers who would teach otherwise” (Reese p. 37). The command given to Timothy (1:3) is a sacred trust, a solemn responsibility.

“Perhaps Paul, the aged, is feeling that it’s getting to be time to turn over the leadership of the churches to a younger generation. Just who do you trust to take over a cause for which you have given the best years of your life? Just who do you ask to face all the hardships and perils and dangers you know are connected with the ministry?” (Reese p. 37).

“In accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you”: It appears that New Testament prophecies had been spoken concerning Timothy’s future. “Prophecies apparently led the way to Timothy’s ministry just as in the case of Saul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2)” (Kent p. 95).

“That by them you fight the good fight”: The memories of these prophecies from the Lord are to strengthen Timothy in the performance of his duty. Timothy must continue to fight the good fight. “The military figure has reference not to a single battle but to the whole campaign. Paul, that doughty veteran in spiritual conflict, well knew that the Christian life is a continuing warfare…Here the special reference is to Timothy’s task of contending with the false teachers” (Hiebert p. 46). “Who is faithful to his commander and to his post; who is unslumbering in observing the motions of the enemy, and fearless in courage in meeting them; who never forsakes his standard, and who continues thus faithful till the period of his enlistment has expired, or till death. Such a soldier the Christian should be” (Barnes Notes). Compare with Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4.


Verse 19

“Keeping faith and a good conscience”: Fighting the good fight includes continuing to trust in God and His revelation. “The evangelist must be uncompromising on the matter of sound doctrine” (Kent p. 96). “Keeping”: Steadfast adherence, holding fast. In fighting error the preacher must make sure that he does not lose his own faith. Faith is our shield (Ephesians 6:16) and it guards us (1 Peter 1:5).

“Good conscience”: Deviations from the true faith are preceded by violations of the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15). “The teacher who knows the truth but teaches falsehood, or allows it to be taught under his jurisdiction, will not have a good conscience” (Reese p. 39). In addition, in fighting error Timothy is not allowed to violate his conscience and fight error in a way that would be sinful and underhanded. When we fight the enemy without, we must always take good care of our inner man.

“Which some have rejected”: Rejecting the faith and violating one’s conscience is a choice. The term “rejected” means “to thrust it away” and implies a willful resistance to the faith and the voice of conscience. “Failing to heed the conscience, when it was prompting guilty feelings because one has failed to ‘keep the faith’ is what these ‘some’ have done” (Reese p. 40).

“And suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith”: The expression “their faith” may mean either their own personal faith, or “the faith”, the body of faith or belief. There is a “the” in the Greek before the word “faith”. In seeking to pervert the gospel message the result was that their own personal faith was destroyed in the process. “The Christian teacher who does not practice what he preaches will find his faith failing him” (Hiebert p. 46).


Verse 20

“Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander”: Which indicates that these two men are not the only ones in this category, “among these are”. This is perhaps the same Hymenaeus as is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17-18, who taught that the resurrection was already past. One way of claiming that the resurrection was past was to argue that the only resurrection mentioned in the Scriptures is when a person rises in newness of life after baptism.

“Whom I have delivered over to Satan”: To deliver one to Satan is to withdraw from those mentioned, that is to exercise the withdrawal mentioned in Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:1 ff.

“What a terrifying phrase is that the man was already in Satan"s possession. Withdrawal is simply the formal declaration by the visible community of what has already taken place in the invisible realm. Withdrawal suggests our stepping back and leaving the man alone” [Note: _ McGuiggan p. 62] “More likely, the language means to turn him back into Satan"s sphere” (Fee p. 209). Withdrawal is the acceptance of the "reality" of the case. This man, because of his selfishness, belongs to Satan"s kingdom, and not God"s.

Some feel that the delivering unto Satan means that God’s protection will be withdrawn and Satan will be allowed to inflict physical suffering upon them, yet this does not harmonize with the Scriptures. Even faithful Christians are not immune from physical suffering. The punishment inflicted upon the man in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 was inflicted by the many (2 Corinthians 2:5-8). The punishment that was inflicted was to have no company with this person.

Side Note: “Destruction of the Flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

Many commentators take this phrase to refer to some physical sickness or disease that Satan is allowed to inflict upon the withdrawn, even to the point of physical death. Job, Ananias and Sapphira and Paul"s thorn in the flesh are all cited as examples, but neither Job nor Paul were the subjects of church discipline, and “that the spirit may be saved”, wasn"t the end result of the punishment visited upon Ananias and Sapphira, not to mention God brought that judgment, not Satan.

Some of the "once saved always saved" school of thinking, believe that this passage is teaching that if a child of God is going to go into sin, God will cause that person to be killed before they have a chance to forfeit their salvation. Problems: (1) How does a person’s own death "save their spirit"? Or, does one"s own blood also atone for one"s own sins? I thought only the blood of Christ could atone for sins (John 1:29). (2) The man in this chapter doesn"t fit the above scenario, for he "hath" his father"s wife (he"s past the stage of merely thinking about it), this man is already "lost". (3) The only path to salvation that I find in the bible, runs directly through repentance. (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4-5; Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9-10) (3) Such would also teach that God saves some people "against their will".

“The further instruction in verse 11, that they are not to associate with this man, not even to eat with him, implies that no immediate death is in purview” (Fee p. 212). In addition, the man was not killed, for he repented (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). "Flesh" here must mean something different from the body. For sin does not originate in the body, but in the heart (Mark 7:20-23). “May”: The "destruction of the flesh" and the "spirit being saved", are hoped for results. This is a key word to understanding the whole verse. Withdrawal can take place without either result. Since the "spirit being saved" depends upon the attitude of the sinner, therefore, the "destruction of the flesh", must be something that the sinner being withdrawn from must allow to happen in their life.

I think Barclay has a good grasp of this verse, “It was to humiliate the man, to bring about the taming and the eradication of his lusts so that in the end his spirit should be saved. It was to bring him to his senses, to make him see the enormity of the thing that he had done”(p. 50).

“So that they will be taught not to blaspheme”: The purpose of such discipline was to teach these men a lesson, the hope is that such action will bring them back to God and His truth. “If the false teachers were allowed to continue in their evil practices unhindered, they would not only lead others astray, but would delude themselves into a false sense of spiritual security” (Reese p. 43).

Hopefully removal from the local congregation will cause these two men to face the fact that teaching false doctrine in this instance amounts to blasphemy, for they are contradicting and opposing what God has said, in effect, calling God a liar. To blaspheme means to “speak reproachfully”, and there are many in the religious world today who do speak reproachfully of the Scriptures.

Closing Thought

The following denominational writer gives us a good insight concerning how the denominational world today seems to ignore the need to practice church discipline:

“In a day when the church tolerates every kind of sin (‘because we who are sinners must not be judgmental’), the need for discipline is perhaps greater than ever. Finally, the great problem with such discipline in most Christian communities in the Western world is that one can simply go down the street to another church. Not only does that say something about the fragmented condition of the church at large, but it also says something about those who would quickly welcome one who is under discipline in another community” (Fee p. 214).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/1-timothy-1.html. 1999-2014.

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