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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy 1

 

 

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Verse 1

Introductory Greeting (1 Timothy 1:1-2).

‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by order of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope,’

As he does regularly Paul here establishes his Apostleship. He asserts that it was a position given to him as a result of the commands of both ‘God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope’ setting him on a par with the twelve. It thus had the strongest possible backing. And he points out that he was appointed, as it were, directly ‘by order of (kat’ epitagen)’ the divine Board (a use of kat’ epitagen found in inscriptions). See Galatians 1:15-17; Galatians 2:8-9.

The definitions are significant in the light of the warnings that he will give to Timothy about false teaching. He wants it recognised that the salvation of which he has been speaking is the work ofGod Himselfas ‘the Saviour’ (this is emphasised again in 1 Timothy 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:10), in accordance with Old Testament teaching (Deuteronomy 32:15 LXX 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 106:21; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 45:21; Hosea 13:4, see also Luke 1:47; Jude 1:25), and that their hope lies in ‘the Messiah’, Jesus, Who is the Old Testament solution to man’s needs (Psalms 2:2; Psalms 18:50; Daniel 9:25). Both ideas are rooted in the Old Testament as expanded in later Jewish tradition. There may well here be a deliberate response to those who tried to portray Jesus as a kind of ‘Hellenistic saviour and intermediary’ as portrayed by an incipient Gnosticism. Paul is emphasising that any salvation connected with Jesus is to be seen as directly the work of God, and not of an intermediary, but that nevertheless our hope for this salvation and in the final consummation is in Jesus, whothrough His manhoodis able to act as mediator between man and God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:5). But as he will immediately point out, God is ‘the Father’, and the Messiah Jesus is ‘our Lord’ (in LXX kurios = YHWH). They are responsible for our salvation together, while Jesus is fully man and fully God, not a half and half intermediary.

‘Christ Jesus our hope.’ In Psalms 65:5 God is ‘our salvation’ and ‘the hope of all the ends of the earth’, thus ‘God our Saviour’ and ‘Christ Jesus our hope’ echoes this Psalmist’s words and places God and Christ Jesus on a parallel. In the same way God is said to be ‘the hope of Israel’ in Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13, compare Acts 28:20. Now to Paul and the early church the church was Israel (Galatians 3:19; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:13-22), and thus Jesus as ‘our hope’ is here being thought of as ‘the hope of the new Israel’, that is, He is the hope of God’s people. As in Psalms 65:5 the idea of hope here includes both present salvation and final deliverance. He is both our daily hope and our future hope. In Colossians 1:27 also, Christ is our hope of glory, both now (2 Corinthians 3:18) and in the future (Romans 8:24-25), for Paul constantly speaks of our ‘hope’, and it is something that is certain of attainment. It is a ‘certain hope’.

Many see this ‘hope’ as simply referring to the second coming, but while that is certainly an important aspect of it, we cannot restrict it simply to that. Indeed the second coming is our hope precisely because what will happen then, will be the final result of this ‘hope’. Then, having been experiencing constant change (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52), and will become like Him for we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We will be presented holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight (Colossians 1:22). But we will have many ‘hopes’ fulfilled before then. When the Psalmist in Psalms 43 was cast down in soul, he looked with hope to the God of hope, who would strengthen him to face the future and be his God. And he was expecting God to act in the near future. Our present and our future are thus both in His hands, and we can hope in Him for both, and with regard to this we must again remember that this Scriptural hope is a confident hope. The question in Scripture with regard to hope is not ‘will He?’ but When?’.

These ideas, which are firmly rooted in the Old Testament, were especially useful to Christian teachers in view of the fact that the terms ‘Saviour’ and ‘Hope’ were also prominent in pagan religion, for Nero was spoke of as ‘the (divine) Saviour’ and there were many Temples which were dedicated to ‘Hope’. Gentile Christians would thus see in this use of ‘Saviour’ and ‘hope’ that the church had a greater Saviour and a greater hope than their fellow-Gentiles. (Indeed it may well have been the emphasis being placed at the time on Nero as mankind’s ‘saviour’ that prompted Paul to refer to God as ‘our Saviour’, emphasising God’s overallness, and putting such Neronic ideas firmly in their place without actually saying so).

So the reason that Paul is what he is, (‘the Apostle, the one sent forth’), is because of the Old Testament salvation that God the Father, Who is Himself the Saviour, is bringing about through the Messiah, Jesus ‘our Lord’, and the result is that he, as an Apostle, (that is, as one ‘sent forth’ by God and by Jesus), has been given as a charge the establishing of the people of God, and the preservation of the truth, and it is for that purpose that he is writing to Timothy.

His calling on the fact of his Apostleship in what appears to be a personal letter demonstrates that he is giving not just advice, but instruction. The point is that his instructions to Timothy are to be seen as carrying the full weight of his authority behind them. Timothy would thus be able to present the letter as confirming his own authority in his dealings with the churches.

‘By order of, by command of.’ A thought typical of Paul. See 1 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:8; Romans 16:26; Titus 1:3.


Verse 2

‘To Timothy, my true child in faith. Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’

He is writing to Timothy as his ‘true’ that is, his genuine ‘child in faith’. The final phrase may indicate that ‘by faith’, having assessed him carefully and discussed the matter with the Lord, he senses a genuine oneness with him, and has adopted him ‘by faith’ for the purpose of his carrying on with Paul’s own ministry as one of his successors. Or we may read in the article, and see it as signifying ‘my child in the faith’, that is, the one who Paul, like a father, has nurtured and nourished, and now looks on as one of his successors on a roving brief (although never as an Apostle). Either way it brings out Paul’s affection for Timothy and his confidence in him. We can compare here, "I have sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:17), and "I have no one like him.... As a son with a father he has served with me in the Gospel" (Philippians 2:20; Philippians 2:22). Timothy was someone whom he knew that he could trust utterly, and whom he loved dearly.

He wishes for him ‘grace, mercy and peace’, three words which sum up the Gospel. Grace signifies God’s undeserved love and compassion reaching out and active towards men. In the end all that is of God is of grace. Mercy indicates that a way has been made back to Himself through forgiveness, and that He continues unceasingly to look compassionately on His people. Peace indicates the reconciliation that Timothy is enjoying through Christ and the resulting peace of heart that he can enjoy. The introduction of ‘mercy’ between ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ is an advance on the usual ‘grace and peace’ but is paralleled in 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 John 1:3. Here it reflects the ageing Paul’s recognition of the wonder of God’s mercy towards himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). In his old age he cannot get over the amazing fact of God’s mercy towards him, and recognises that Timothy needs it too.

‘From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’ As regularly in Paul ‘God’ and ‘the Lord’ are seen as of equal status. What God the Father does, Christ Jesus our Lord does. What God the Father is, Christ Jesus our Lord is (compare 1 Corinthians 8:6).


Verses 3-5

‘As I exhorted you to stay awhile at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, so that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a household management of God which is in faith; so do I now. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned,’

‘As I exhorted you to stay awhile at Ephesus.’ Timothy had been ministering in Ephesus, and Paul had exhorted (or ‘requested’) him to stay there for the good of the church. It would appear that Timothy felt that it was time that he left there, for he would be well aware that he was young and inexperienced, but Paul was asking him to remain there in order, among other things, to combat this foolish teaching in so important and influential a church. And when Paul made a request to a godly young man like Timothy it was in the nature of a command, for he would be seen as speaking in God’s name.

‘When I was going into Macedonia.’ All this tells us is that Timothy knew that Paul was going into Macedonia. It does not tell us what his starting point had been. There is therefore no reason for assuming that Paul had been in Ephesus just prior to the letter. (Its force depended simply on the information that Timothy had. There is no ‘natural’ way of reading it apart from that, and we do not know what Timothy’s information was). So Paul reminds Timothy how he (Timothy) had been in Ephesus, while Paul was going to Macedonia, and how he had exhorted him to remain there for a while. Timothy had clearly wanted to leave Ephesus, finding the going a little hard for one who was sensitive, as well as being young and relatively inexperienced, and feeling insufficient in himself. But Paul asked him to remain there in order to combat foolish teaching, and he did so. It is a reminder that the pathway of our choosing is not necessarily the one that will be the best for the work of God.

It should be stressed that Paul does not say that he himself had been at Ephesus. He simply states his destination. Paul’s previous exhortation might have been by letter or through messengers as he was organising the activities of his missionary band throughout Asia Minor and Greece. By means of messengers he kept in close touch with his ‘assistants’, and indeed sometimes they were his messengers.

Some, reading into it that Paul is saying that he had been at Ephesus with Timothy, have pointed out that Paul had told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:22 that they would see his face no more. But that statement may in fact simply have meant ‘not in the near future’ simply because he knew of the trials that lay ahead of him. For that time at least, and for the foreseeable future, he wanted them to know that he would not be travelling again through Asia Minor, with the consequence being that they must not depend on his coming to them again. But that was not to close the door on him ever coming again to them. Paul knew only too well that his life was being directed for him. It was not therefore for him to determine the distant future. He knew only of what lay close at hand, and wanted the elders to become God-sufficient.

Besides Paul would not be the first person to have said, ‘you won’t be seeing me again’, only for circumstances to change. Such a statement can only ever mean, ‘not this time around’. But however that might be Paul may not even have been at Ephesus this time. He may simply have sent Timothy there to give encouragement and teaching, and to pass on his love and concern for their welfare while he was active elsewhere. With a rapidly extending church he could not be everywhere, and the world was a large place and the Christian resources spread thinly.

‘So that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings.’ One reason that Paul had wanted Timothy to remain at Ephesus was in order to counter some spurious teaching that was in vogue there. He had wanted him to put straight some of the elders and teachers who were straying into false ideas (in a young church with no New Testament it was inevitable that some would begin to speculate, especially in view of a tendency among some to interpret Scripture symbolically and the kind of ideas that were constantly floating around in the wider world). Thus Timothy was to put their doctrine straight, and ensure that they stuck firmly with the main essentials and did not stray into speculative and unimportant lines of thinking. It was important rather that the church be solidly based on a foundation of the central truths.

‘Certain men.’ That the erring teachers were probably elders of the house-churches in Ephesus comes out in that they saw themselves as 'teachers of the law' (1 Timothy 1:7. See also 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:17). Also by the fact that it was Paul himself and not the church leadership who dealt with the main offenders (1 Timothy 1:20 - it would appear that it required his authority). Note too the repeated concern shown about the leadership in this letter, both in regard to their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13), and to their behaviour (1 Timothy 5:20) and original appointment (1 Timothy 5:22).

‘Not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings.’ He especially wanted to persuade them not to get involved in ‘fables and endless genealogies which minister questions’, that is, ideas which were based on the inventiveness of the human mind and were speculative (compare 1 Timothy 4:7), and led to further questionings which would lead nowhere. They were ‘endless’ because there is no limit to the fertility of the human mind when unrestrained. Furthermore the word ‘genealogies’ is a word which may well include family histories as a similar word does in Genesis (compare its use in Genesis 37:2 where it is not strictly connected with a genealogy and RSV translates as ‘family history’). 1 Timothy 1:7 suggests that these were in some way connected with teaching the Law. Such speculations were very prevalent in Judaism, especially Hellenistic Judaism.

Genealogies were indeed especially important to the orthodox Jews, whose leaders considered that good descent was everything. A number of Christian Jews may well thus have been emphasising the need for those of ‘pure descent’ to remain ‘true’ to Jewish practises, and by the use of invented or exaggerated genealogical thinking have been ‘proving’ how many were included in that definition (see Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9 which specifically connects these things against which Paul is speaking with the Jews, while 1 Timothy 1:6-7 below confirm a connection with ‘the Law’).

Or they may have become involved in some of the fantasies about genealogies found in those who had been influenced by Philo’s more extravagant teaching issuing from among the Jews of Alexandria. Among other things with him the names in the genealogies represented the various conditions of the soul. Others built up stories around them, and then speculated on them. We all know of those today who can use and interpret names in genealogies and build stories around them in order to build up a picture which is simply an invention of their own minds, and pure speculation, but can sound convincing until it is examined by someone who knows what they are talking about. There is no need to see incipient Gnostic speculation here, although such may well have been going on at the time, for the seeds of Gnosticism were clearly around when Paul wrote Colossians. So it is probably with a view to countering such uses of ‘genealogies’ as are described above that Paul was writing. For one example of how genealogies were used among Jews in the wider sense see the Book of Jubilees with its mythical fables and histories. But the problem was that the use of genealogies in this way limited the truth in men’s minds rather than expanding it, and made it dependent on useless inventions which came from small minds. Whichever way it was it had to be stopped, for it was leading into the kind of questioning and speculation that was distinctively unhelpful, and was diverting men from the truth. (Those with a scholastic bent were clearly equally as inventive then as they are now, and with less restraints. But the problem that Paul had with it there was that it was being fed to the ordinary people as though it was the Gospel). The impression being given is not of a dangerous heresy, but of things which were a foolish waste of time, simply diverting people from the central truths. They may often have appeared more interesting than sound doctrine, but they gave no genuine basis for faith, which if it was to be genuine had to be founded on reasonably rational ideas and related to true life situations. Sound doctrine always has a good rational and historical basis.

Interestingly Rabbi Benjamin echoes Paul’s description (admittedly in 11th century AD) when he refers to some Jews in his time, who were Rechabites, and were very numerous, and had a prince over them of the house of David; and, adds that they have a genealogical book "and extracts of questions" (Massaoth, p. 83). Compare Paul’s ‘genealogies which minister questions’. Such throwbacks to the past might well have preserved very ancient tradition so that this may be seen as helping to confirm that the phrase itself has a Jewish background.

‘Rather than a household management (oikonomia) of God which is in faith.’ He wanted rather to ensure that their teaching was more positive and that it established the ‘household’ of the people of God in their faith, and kept them looking to and trusting in God. It was the responsibility of the elders and teachers to ‘manage the household and dispense truth’. And they must do so on the foundation of what all true Christians saw as ‘the faith’, the basic central doctrines which the Apostles had taught. Or alternately he was suggesting that the people’s faith in Christ must be what was emphasised and encouraged. What they were not to be involved with were speculations into irrelevancies invented by men, not based on genuine history and on Apostolic teaching.

‘So do I now.’ This phrase is actually not there in the Greek text. Paul had tailed off without finishing his sentence, as he often did (something which sticks out more in a translation than in the original Greek). So the sense has to be read in. It is clear that Paul saw the charge as still effective.

‘But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned.’ He then makes clear what the purpose behind his ‘charge’ is (‘charge’ is a military term indicating ‘command’ and refers to the responsibility that he was putting on Timothy which he had to pass on to the elders and teachers). It was in order that first Timothy, and then the elders and teachers, and then the whole congregation, might maintain love from ‘a pure heart, a good conscience and a faith that was genuine (and not simply a show)’. Philosophical speculation does not on the whole tend to result in practical love, but Christian doctrine was supposed to do precisely that. Paul was concerned that true and genuine love, love towards God, towards each other, and towards the world, which was central to the Gospel, was being set aside because of these speculations.

‘Love from a pure heart --.’ This meant love towards God Himself (not towards mythical ideas), love to all men, and love for one another, each of which was central to the Gospel (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 5:42-48; Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34-35). The purity of heart included sound doctrine which would result in sound living. If the eye was full of light then so would their ways be (Matthew 6:22). Those whose hearts were sound in that way would then live in full purity of life which was the second aspect of a pure heart (Psalms 15). Let the heart but be stayed on Christ, and the life would fall into place. But let the vision of Christ be dimmed, and then anything could happen. True morals rested on true faith, and that was the source of love.

‘A good conscience.’ That is a conscience that was satisfied that it was not straying from the truth, and one that could be satisfied that it was abiding by Christ’s teaching as depicted, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount. It was the conscience of a person whose heart was fixed on Christ, and who ‘walked in the light’ by following Him. The word means literally ‘a knowing along with’. It may thus mean ‘knowing that one’s behaviour is in line with that of their fellows’ or ‘a knowing of oneself’, an inner knowledge with the mind thinking along with the spirit. But its connection with ‘the truth’ in Paul’s eyes comes out in 1 Timothy 4:2, where the speaking of lies acts as a brand on the conscience, demonstrating that it is false. To be valid conscience has to be satiated in truth.

‘A genuine faith (faith unfeigned).’ Faith had to be properly and rightly fed if it was to remain genuine. And it was necessary to ensure that it really was faith in Christ Himself, and what He had taught, and not in endless speculations built up around His Name. For a similar use of ‘unfeigned’ see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Romans 12:9.

‘Oikonomia.’ A typical Pauline word which, apart from its use in Luke 16:2-4, is found only in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9; and here.


Verses 3-17

Paul’s Initial Charge To Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3-17).

Timothy is first reminded why he is in Ephesus and what his task is.

a He has been called on to charge the church leaders to be faithful to the truth and not to heed false teachers, some of whose teachings are indicated as being connected with ‘fables and endless genealogies which raise questions’ (1 Timothy 1:3-5).

b Paul then gives his verdict on those false teachers. They desire to be ‘Teachers Of The Law’ but in fact lack the understanding necessary for the task with the result that they are going astray along false paths and missing the target (1 Timothy 1:6-7).

c With this in mind he describes the true purpose of the Law and explains Whom it is aimed at. It is for sinners (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

d He then gives thanks for God’s grace and mercy shown towards himself, pointing out that God has appointed him to His service and how as a sinner he had been graciously taken up by His grace in spite of what he had been and fully enabled for the task (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

c This leads him on to describe what the true Gospel is, it is that Christ Jesus to save sinners like himself, for he is the very chief of them (1 Timothy 1:15).

b He then explains that God had raised him up in order that he might be a true illustration of the active grace and longsuffering compassion of Jesus Christ even to the chief of sinners, and thus a pointer given to all who believe in Jesus Christ with eternal life in mind (1 Timothy 1:16).

a He finally closes the section with a paean of praise to the ‘King of the ages’, stressing His ‘otherness’, that is, His unlikeness and utter superiority to anything connected with the world (1 Timothy 1:17).

It will be noted that this follows a kind of chiastic pattern. In ‘a’ he commences with the fantastic speculations of false teachers, and in the parallel reveals what is the real truth about God. In ‘b’ he demonstrates that these false teachers desire to be Teachers of the Law but are going astray, while in the parallel they are in contrast to him, for he has been raised up as a true representation of what the Gospel really is. In ‘c’ he defines the purpose and significance of the Law, and in the parallel he defines the essential foundation of the Gospel. Centrally in ‘d’ he gives thanks for what God had done for him, and explains that he had been appointed by God for His service in spite of what he had been, and that it was through His abundant grace that he had been enabled and made what he was (the Apostle of Jesus Christ).

It will be noted from this analysis that, at least at this point, the main contrast is between false speculations based on the Old Testament (the Law), and the central message of God’s present action in the word through Jesus Christ as the One Who has come to save men from their sins, the one based on men’s interpretations and inventions (fables and genealogies) the other based on the grace and activity of the infinite but historical God, the King of the ages, through Christ Jesus.


Verse 6-7

A Description Of The False Teachers Who Desire To Be Teachers Of The Law (1 Timothy 1:6-7).

‘From which things some having swerved have turned aside to vain talking, desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor that of which they confidently affirm.’

Paul then stresses that these false teachers have strayed away from such things as love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned, and have rather replaced them with vain talking. As they desired to be teachers of the Law this would appear to suggest that they were weaving fantastic ideas out of either the Law of Moses, or the Old Testament seen as ‘the Law’, rather than providing good solid teaching which pointed to Christ and encouraged godly living. And the point is that they wanted recognition and admiration for their scholastic ability, instead of being concerned for the truth.

They had ‘swerved’, that is, they were off course, they had ‘missed what they were aiming at’. Even though they thought of themselves as teaching the Law they were talking in vain. (The internet today is full of such vain talking). For, says Paul, they made confident assertions, but they did not know what they were talking about, nor did they fully understand what they were saying. They were fantasising, instead of searching out the truth.

For the word ‘teachers of the Law’ (nomodidaskaloi) compare Acts 5:34, although Paul hastily stresses that they were not really so.


Verses 8-11

The True Purpose Of The Law And Who It Is For (1 Timothy 1:8-11).

But we know that the law (nomos) is good, if a man use it lawfully (nomeows), 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 (or ‘smiters/cudgellers’) of fathers and murderers (or ‘smiters/cudgellers’) of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.’

Paul then describes the true purpose of the Law and defends it. It is not the Law (either the Law of Moses or the Old Testament) that is at fault. Indeed it is good if it is used rightly, for its purpose is to convict the heart of man and act as a mirror to show him what he really is, and is then to show him the way in which he should go (this might suggest that here the Law of Moses was especially in mind, confirming the Jewish connections of these teachers). Had we all been fully righteous the Law would not have been necessary. It is because we are not, and because of what is in our hearts, that it is needed. It is a manual for sinners. It is there to deal with all matters that are contrary to sound teaching, the sins of the flesh and mind. It is there to show us what God requires of us. And this was true of all law. As Romans 1-3 shows us, this task of the Law was very much a part of sound doctrine.

For the ungodly the Law is a pointer to Christ because it draws their attention to their sin. It is not offering them a way of becoming righteous, and they can never be accounted as righteous by God by obeying it, because they are unable to keep it completely. However, by demonstrating that they are unrighteous the Law reveals their need to be saved (Romans 3:19; Galatians 3:23-24). It is like a mirror that they look in and discover how filthy they are. It hammers home to them their true moral situation in order to bring out their sinfulness and in order to convince them that they are condemned. That is the purpose of the Law for the unbeliever. And the more they struggle to keep it, the more it holds them down and condemns them.

But for the believer it is something very different. It is a welcome guide to the will of God. From it he comes to know the mind of God and what God is like. This is revealed especially in the Sermon on the Mount which might be called ‘the Christian Law’, although in it Jesus is in fact bringing out the real meaning of the ancient Law. It shows a Christian how he can fulfil the desire of his heart, and that is to please his Father. So he is ‘under the Law of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 9:21), and delights in it because he wants to please Him. The Christian does not seek to justify himself by the Law, but neither does he fling it aside. He embraces it. He knows that it is the mirror of all that is good. Indeed it shows him the heart of Christ.

For being ‘under the Law’ can signify two different situations. The first is of a man coming to judgment. He is to be judged ‘under the Law’. It reveals what God’s requirement is for him, and what God will demand (Romans 3:19-20). And by it he is revealed as utterly condemned. He is left without hope. For whatever he may do in the future, he cannot erase the past. So the Law leaves him in a hopeless position. It is inconsequential as to what the level is at which he has failed. Having committed one sin he has become guilty of all (James 2:10). He is established as guilty before God (Romans 3:20). But it can then help him no further. His only hope is to turn to Christ for salvation.

But the Christian has been delivered from being ‘under the Law’ in this sense. For him Jesus has taken it out of the way, nailing it to His cross (Colossians 2:14). He is no longer under the Law but under grace (Romans 6:14). No finger any longer points at him. He is free from condemnation (Romans 5:1), because Jesus has delivered him from the curse of the Law by being made a curse for him (Galatians 3:10-13). The Christian is counted as righteous through faith in the redemption of Christ achieved through the shedding of His blood (Romans 3:24-25). He has done for us what the Law could not do, by offering Himself for us once for all (Romans 8:2-3). But this was in order that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us as we ‘walk after the Spirit (Romans 8:4). Thus this does not mean that he casts aside the Law, except in regard to its position as an accuser and a harsh slavemaster. It means that he embraces it. He has begun to walk in the way of life, and he recognises that that was the original purpose of the Law, to be a road map for how he should live. Like the Psalmist he says, ‘O how I love your Law’ (Psalms 119:97). From it he discovers the heart of God. It has now become to him ‘the law of Christ’. He is ‘under the Law of Christ’, the Law as revitalised and renewed and brought back to its proper function by Him (Matthew 5-7; Luke 6:20-49; 1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2; Galatians 5:14). It is there to be his guide. It may often convict him in his heart, but it can never again condemn him. It is rather a help along the way as he delights to do His will.

But let us once stray from the way and it springs immediately into effect. It once again faces us up with what God requires. It is for ‘the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for cudgellers of fathers and cudgellers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers.’ Here is a typical Pauline list (compare Romans 1:24-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:20-21) although here, as in 1 Corinthians, especially stressing the responsibility of those who do such things. Note how it includes both religious and secular behaviour. For to the Law ignoring God and treating Him as irrelevant is as heinous a sin as being a murderer, if not even moreso. And as Paul has said to Christians, ‘such were some of you but you have been washed, you have been made holy, you have been accounted as in the right in the Name of our Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God’ (1 Corinthians 6:11). In other words he says, ‘you were like that, but you are no longer like it, through the work of Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit’.

For the truth is that you cannot be a deliberate Law-breaker and a Christian. The two ideas are incompatible. And once you begin to stray back into those ways the Law acts like a mirror and pulls you up and says, ‘Consider your position. Look at yourself. If you are His this way is not for you, and if you continue in it without a torn conscience it will simply demonstrate that you are not one of His’. Thinking in terms most prevalent today no man can help being filled with sexual desire, it is the way of men, but if he sins sexually outside marriage then the Law will pull him up, and if he is a Christian he will truly repent. And if he does not, and seems to get away with it, it may simply indicate that he has never been a Christian at all (although God often acts in the long term for He has plenty of time. He acts in His own way. It is not for us to finally judge). No man can help being a homosexual, and God loves homosexuals as much as He loves heterosexuals (indeed he does not categorise us in that way at all. Those are our distinctions). But let him stray into being a ‘practising homosexual’, in other words into indulging in sexual sin outside Biblical marriage, then the Law will pull him up, and if he is a Christian he will truly repent. And if he does not, and seems to get away with it, it may simply indicate that he has never been a Christian at all. And the same applies to all who are ‘lawless and unruly’, including ‘liars’. God takes no prisoners. We must either join forces with Him in Christ, and submit to Him, or be lost for ever. And we cannot argue about His terms.

‘For the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers/cudgellers of fathers and murderers/cudgellers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers.’ Note how, having first analysed sinners, the list is very much built around the last six commandments. It begins by analysing sinners, what they are and what they do. They are lawless and thus they refuse to obey the Law and are unruly. They are ungodly and so they offend against God. They are unholy and therefore they behave profanely and treat sacred things in that way. It then continues by turning to specifics in terms of the commandments and the law of the covenant. It is for ‘father-strikers and mother-strikers’, who are those who have no respect for their own parents or for their families (see Exodus 20:12; Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17); it is for ‘murderers’ who have no respect for life see Exodus 20:13; it is for ‘immoral men’ (fornicators) who have no respect for women, see Exodus 20:14; Exodus 22:16; Deuteronomy 22:22-30; it is for ‘practising homosexuals’ (abusers of themselves with men) who have no real respect for other men, otherwise they would not do it, see Leviticus 18:22; Leviticus 20:14; Romans 1:27; it is for ‘men-stealers’ (kidnappers) who have no respect for anyone, see Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7; it is for ‘liars’ and ‘false-swearers’ who consider nobody, see Exodus 20:16; Exodus 23:1; Revelation 21:27. Indeed Revelation 2:2 speaks of false teachers as ‘liars’, an idea which may be in mind here in view of the context.

So we can see plainly that the Law is good. What is at fault is its misuse. And to use it as a source of wild speculation, as these so-called teachers did, is to misuse it, and even degrade it. The preaching ministry of the church is not the place for speculation. And we ourselves need to beware when we study the Bible, that we do not misuse it by fantasising and letting ourselves be carried away with our own ideas. Yet that is precisely what these Teachers were doing.

‘And if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine, according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.’ So the Law is to be a buffer against all unsound teaching and unsound behaviour. And what is sound teaching can be discovered by considering ‘the good news of the glory of the blessed God’, the message committed to Paul’s trust. But what is ‘the good news of the glory of the blessed God? It is that He is holy and without blemish, and calls on us to be so too, wanting to rid us of every spot and stain. It is that He is truly righteous, and offers to bring us within His righteousness and make us righteous. It is that He is hugely compassionate and has revealed His compassion through the cross And we recognise this by beholding His glory. We can consider in this regard Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:6 where the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. The good news of the glory of the blessed God is thus also the ‘good news of the glory of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), that is, of ‘Christ Jesus as Lord’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). Compare 1 Timothy 1:2. But here Paul wants to keep the close association with God lest any separate the Son from the Father, ‘the Lord’ from God, and thus he speaks of the blessed God. Thus sound teaching is found in the Apostolic message concerning God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and in what constitutes their glory, a glory revealed in the requirements of the Law. This last point is what is being emphasised here. The Gospel is the good news that through Christ men can be brought into a position where they are accounted righteous, and then where they begin to live in accordance with the Law, as they walk with Him Who is the supreme example of the Law-keeper. And they do it because Christ now lives in them and through them (Galatians 2:20). They walk in the Spirit. So the Law points all men in that direction, and away from sin and darkness, so that they can be delivered through Christ, and then continues ever to act as a warning sign against hypocrisy, assisting them in their walk with Christ. It is one of God’s tools in men’s redemption, both on behalf of non-Christians and on behalf of Christians, and that is what makes its misuse so heinous.


Verse 12

He Gives Thanks for God’s Grace and Mercy Shown Towards Himself, Pointing Out That God Has Appointed Him To His Service and How As A Gross Sinner He Had Been Graciously Taken Up By His Grace In Spite Of What He Had Been And Fully Enabled For The Task (1 Timothy 1:12-14).

‘I thank him who enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, because he counted me faithful (trustworthy), appointing me to his service, though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and violently arrogant.’

At the thought of the Gospel Paul’s spirit ignites. He could never speak of it without exulting, and especially in view of what he himself had been. He could never forget that he, who had claimed to be an upholder of the Law, had so far gone against it that he had revealed his disobedience to the Law, by being a blasphemer, a persecutor and an arrogant, overbearing blusterer (hubristes). That was how he had ‘loved his neighbour as himself’, and it was something that he could never forget. He had blasphemed because He had spoken against God’s chosen One and had insulted His Name (Acts 26:11), he had been a persecutor because of what he had done to his fellow-Jews who were members of the Jerusalem church (Acts 8:1-3; Acts 9:1-2; Acts 9:4), and he had been a violently arrogant man because that was precisely what he had been. No one had been more arrogant, and few as violent against the new faith, as he was (something in line with what the Old Testament describes as a ‘scorner’).

But in spite of it all ‘Christ Jesus our Lord’, (note the full title in contrast with his own revealed weakness and sinfulness), had enabled/empowered him and had counted him as trustworthy and had appointed him to His service (diakonia). The thought filled him with wonder. The mighty Lord, Christ Jesus, Whom he had blasphemed and insulted had reached out to him and had not only forgiven him and saved him, but had chosen him as His special servant, entrusting to him a task, the importance of which was beyond reckoning, because He had known that he was trustworthy. And He had empowered him to do it.

Note the word ‘enabled, empowered’, which is a typical Pauline word, compare Romans 4:20; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:17. Note also the use of diakonia which is another regular Pauline description, also used of his ministry by his regular companion Luke. Apart from these instances, and Luke’s description of the ministry of the earliest days, it is rarely used otherwise (only in Hebrews 1:14, of angels; and in Revelation 2:19). Here is true Paulinism.


Verse 13-14

‘However that may be I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.’

But he points out that however badly he had behaved, he had obtained mercy. That was the wonder of it to him. The God and the Lord to Whom he had refused to listen had shown him mercy. But nevertheless notice his caveat. It was because he had done it ignorantly in unbelief. He was insisting that he had not committed open, deliberate sin against what he knew to be right. He had not ‘sinned with a high hand’. He had actually been wanting to serve God, but his mind had been twisted. He had just got it wrong. He is not, however, by that justifying himself. He knew that in trying to serve God he had actually gone against all that God stood for. His own attitude had been in flagrant contrast with what God required. So he recognised only too well the depth of mercy that he had needed, and that he had had to be ‘engulfed in mercy’ (eleethen), for in the end all unbelief results from a rebellious heart which refuses to respond to God’s revelation constantly given to it (see for example Romans 1:19). Note also what ‘unbelief’ meant. It was his ‘not believing in Christ’ that represented unbelief, even though outwardly among his fellows he had a reputation for ‘loving God’. For to Paul any position outside of believing in Christ is ‘unbelief’. It is to reject God’s clear revelation. He is thus saying that it is not enough to have ‘sincere faith’, for he had had that, but that it must be faith in what was true, in ‘Christ Jesus’.

And the result of God’s mercy was that ‘the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.’ Here ‘our Lord’ is Jesus Himself. Paul is numbering himself with God’s true people as seeing Jesus as ‘Lord’. And he is stressing that the free, unmerited love and favour of our Lord, Christ Jesus, abounded towards him, bringing with it both faith and love which is in Him. The recognition of Jesus as Lord had transformed him. Thus the source of all Paul’s faith and love was Christ Jesus Who in wondrous mercy had worked it within him. He had been a man without love. And he was what he was now because of Him. We can almost hear him whispering in a hushed voice, ‘Amazing grace, how deep the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.’


Verse 15

‘The saying is faithful, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’

‘The saying (or word) is faithful (pistos ho logos).’ That is, it comes from a faithful God through faithful men and is worthy of all trust. This solemn phrase, standing in its baldness, is a typical Pauline construction. ‘The word is faithful’ compares with the equally bald ‘God is faithful’ in 1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 Corinthians 10:13, and note ‘God is faithful’ and ‘the Lord is faithful’ in 2 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:3. It stresses that the word has come from the God Who is faithful. It is also found in 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9 (along with ‘and worthy of all acceptance’); 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8, each time introducing an important truth. Compare also Revelation 22:6.

‘Worthy of all acceptance’ (compare 1 Timothy 4:9) is a phrase common in the papyri. It adds further weight to what Paul is saying. It is declaring that it is a deep truth and must be accepted as such. And the deep truth is that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’

‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ This was something stated right from the beginning (Matthew 1:21), and was the foundation stone of the church. Although simple, it is packed full of theology. The Messiah Jesus had come into the world as its Saviour, coming from God the Saviour (1 Timothy 1:1; 1 Timothy 4:10), in order to save sinners. The fact that He had ‘come into the world’ indicates the source from which He came (compare John 9:37; John 11:27; John 16:28; John 18:37). He came from God the Saviour. The fact that He came to ‘save (deliver, make whole) sinners’ makes clear His central purpose. It was true that He had come to reveal love and to teach, but above all it was to save sinners (hamartowlous, those who were not obedient to God’s Law). In other words God was fulfilling the saving purpose that He had had from the beginning, and He was doing it in His Messiah Jesus.

There may also be intended to be a stress on the fact that He came into the world to do it. It was not done from afar. Salvation was not accomplished through a number of intermediaries. Nor was it simply offered from above. It was accomplished by His coming into the world as it is, in all its earthliness, with the saving activity being accomplished by Him on earth.

‘Of whom I am chief (prowtos - ‘first, most prominent, chief’).’ And as Paul spoke of ‘sinners’ he knew that there was one who was lower than all sinners, and that was himself. Even at this present time (‘I am’) he was aware of what a sinner he was. He had stood out as a sinner from the first. Had the Devil been choosing sinners for his team, Paul would have been the first to be selected. For he had persecuted the Lord Himself and had sought to stamp out His infant church (Acts 9:4-5). He was not declaring this out of false humility but out of a deep sense of unworthiness, and of gratitude, and as an encouragement to others. He knew what he had been and in making his ratings he knew in his heart that no one came lower than himself. He was ‘less than the least of all saints’ (Ephesians 3:8), and yet as such, and this was something which continually left him dumbfounded, he had been given the graciously offered opportunity and enablement to ‘proclaim among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ’ (Ephesians 3:8). The persecutor had been given the opportunity to become the proclaimer. Note the ‘I am’. He knew that without Christ His case would still have been hopeless. We can safely say that no one but Paul could have written these words.

‘Christ Jesus.’ An order found regularly in Paul (over 36 times outside the Pastorals and 14 times in the Pastorals), and only elsewhere in Acts 19:4 where it is in words of Paul; and in Hebrews 3:1, and 1 Peter 5:10; 1 Peter 5:14.


Verse 16

‘However that may be it was for this reason that I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of those who would thereafter believe on him to eternal life.’

And it was because he was the very chief of sinners, that he had obtained mercy, so that in him, as the chief, Jesus Christ might show forth all His longsuffering, compassion and mercy by redeeming him. And He had done it in order that all others who believed might see in Paul an example of that longsuffering of Jesus Christ, thus encouraging them when they also believed. None would ever doubt the possibility of acceptance once Paul had been accepted. All would know that if Jesus Christ could accept Paul, He would stoop down to the very lowest of the low.

‘Believe on Him to eternal life.’ This was how Jesus saved sinners. For all who believed on Him received eternal life (e.g. Romans 5:21; Romans 6:23; Acts 13:48; John 3:15-16; John 5:24; 1 John 5:11; 1 John 5:13), the life of the age to come, and became ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) and ‘new creatures in Christ Jesus’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This was what He had come for, and this was what He wanted to give to all who would receive it.

‘An example (hupotupowsis).’ The word is used in external literature of an outline sketch or of a word picture. Paul was a clear portrayal to all others of the grace and compassion of Christ.

‘Believed on Him (epi with the dative).’ This is a rare construction in the New Testament with pisteuow, but is found also in Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11.


Verse 17

‘Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory to the ages of the ages. Amen.

This reads more like a prayer from a worshipful heart, as he contemplates what the King has done, rather than a creed (compare Romans 16:25-27 which contains the same sense of timelessness). It may have had a basis in a Jewish prayer, but Paul was surely quite capable of such a flow of thought himself. And it is a description wrung from the heart of someone who has recognised and absorbed the glory of the King. And in the context the idea of the King must surely include Jesus. In the preceding narrative it is He who came into the world for the salvation of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; compare Zechariah 9:9). It is He Who has shown His longsuffering to Paul (1 Timothy 1:16). It is He Who is ‘Christ Jesus our Lord’ Who has made His appointments to His service (1 Timothy 1:12). It is He Whose grace has abounded exceedingly to Paul as from ‘the Lord’ (1 Timothy 1:14, compare 1 Timothy 1:12). And all Paul’s concentration has been on Him. We would thus surely expect Him to be the recipient of Paul’s praise at this point.

Yet in spite of that the majority see it as applying to God the Father, as though having contemplated the glory of Christ Jesus, Paul’s thoughts are turned directly towards God. And certainly in Hebrew thought it was He Who was the One Who was designated as the ‘King of the ages’. For the idea see Psalms 145:13, ‘your Kingship is an everlasting Kingship’, and for the phrase the Jewish work Tobit 13:6; Tobit 13:10.

‘To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory to the ages of the ages.’ Note the stress on the King’s everlastingness (compare Micah 5:2), and the fact that His honour and glory will continue into everlastingness. Also on His invisibility, the concept which was emphasised by the ‘empty’ throne in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. It is this characteristic that might turn the argument in favour of this referring to God Himself, but with the proviso that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, and therefore also included. Here is One Who stretches the mind beyond what it can cope with because no mind can even begin to comprehend Him. Thus He can neither be seen, nor can His eternal Being be comprehended. He is cloaked in invisibility. And yet He became mortal and visible in Jesus Christ so that Jesus could say, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’. Can we then believe that Paul did not include Jesus in the description? For to Paul He certainly was ‘the only God’. Such is the wonder of the incarnation.

‘The King of the ages.’ He is sovereign over all things from beginning to end, and Lord over the ages. His people are those ‘on whomthe end of the ageshas come’ (1 Corinthians 10:11). ‘In the ages to comeHe will show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us’ (Ephesians 2:7). Paul has been appointed ‘to make all men see the outworking of the mystery whichfrom all ageshas been in God Who created all things, to the intent that now to the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Ephesians 3:9-11). Truly He is the King of the ages.

‘Immortal.’ That is, untouchable by death, the very idea of which is foreign to His nature, for He is the source of all life and the very epitome of it. And He alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16). Thus in the end death and all connected with it has to be totally divorced from God, Who is the source of all life, in the same way as light is from darkness. It is foreign to His own nature. It is the opposite of what He is. Thus compared with being with Him death is to be in ‘nothingness’ (Psalms 88:5; Psalms 115:17). It is to be in the ‘outer darkness’ away from the light and glory of God. Indeed, for the opposite of what immortality is, see Ezekiel 32:18-32, where we find a vivid picture of humanity as vague shadows apart from God.

‘Invisible.’ (Compare Colossians 1:15). That is, beyond man’s physical senses and comprehension so that each man can only know Him as He is revealed in the centre of that man’s inner being, his spirit. Thus when He is depicted in action in the world it is by His ‘Spirit’, Whose activity, like that of the wind, is discerned while He Himself is never seen. Speaking physically He is the ultimate unknowable. When He was revealed in flaming fire, and that was His favourite method of manifestation, it was still but a faint representation of what He is, the One Who is all mystery and light, for that was why fire was chosen, it was both magnificent and mysterious at the same time. For He dwells in ‘light unapproachable’ and is the One Whom ‘no man has seen or can see’ (1 Timothy 6:16). Indeed none could see Him as He really is, for He Himself is Spirit (John 4:24).

‘The only God.’ (Compare ‘the eternal God, the God of ages’, Romans 16:26). That is, He is unique in His Godhead, and in His ‘otherness’, the ‘High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, Whose Name is Holy’ (Isaiah 57:15), dwelling in unapproachable light Whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:16), Whom nothing else and no-one else can even begin to approach to, whether in Heaven or on earth, for He is far above all principalities and powers in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 1:20-21). Yet although He is far beyond what man can attain to, He is yet reachable by those with a contrite spirit and a contrite heart (Isaiah 57:15), for He is reachable in the realm of the spirit to those whose hearts are open to Him (see John 4:24), and especially through His Word (John 1:1-3; John 1:14). And as such He is the One to Whom all honour and glory belong for ever and ever (compare Ephesians 3:21), for He alone is worthy of such. To which we can only say, ‘Amen’.


Verse 18

In View Of What Christ Has Done Paul Lays Out The Battle Plan For The Future And Organises God’s Forces In Order To Ensure That His Church Will Be The Mainstay Of All That He Has Accomplished (1 Timothy 1:18 to 1 Timothy 3:16).

Calling on Timothy to prepare for spiritual warfare (1 Timothy 1:18-20), he exhorts prayer for all men, and especially for all in high places, in order that the work of God might go forward peaceably among all men, for that was why He had sent His Mediator as a man among men and as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:1-7). All are to play their part in accordance with what God has revealed. Christian men (including women) are all to participate in this prayer, lifting up holy hands in Christian oneness, while Christian women are also to play their part by godly sobriety, and being careful to maintain their rightful place, lest the error of the Garden of Eden be repeated. Avoidance of this, and fulfilling of their major role in child-bearing, will then turn out for their blessing and salvation (1 Timothy 2:8-15). Meanwhile the principles of leadership are laid out as Paul gives advice to Timothy about the appointment of male ‘bishops/overseers’ and ‘deacons’, and also of ‘women’ (1 Timothy 3:1-13), and he concludes the section by pointing out that his instructions are being sent to him so that he might know how men and women are to behave within the household of God, that is the church of the living God (1 Timothy 3:14-15). Finally he ends by again directing his own and their minds to heavenly things (compare 1 Timothy 1:17), but this time in terms of the coming of the Incarnate One and what He has accomplished (1 Timothy 3:16), a truth of which the church is to be the mainstay in the world (1 Timothy 3:15).

We can summarise this section something like this:

· Warring the good warfare and the collapse of some of the fabric (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

· Rallying the troops both male and female to make use of their spiritual weapons (chapter 2).

· Choosing the officers, both male and female (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

· The responsibility of the Church as the pillar and mainstay of the truth and the description of the One Whose incredible accomplishment guarantees the success of the warfare and provides its incentive (1 Timothy 3:14-16).


Verse 18-19

‘This charge I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to you, that by them you may war the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them made shipwreck concerning the faith,’

It is clear from what is said here that at some time in the past Timothy’s calling had been brought into effect and confirmed by the testimony of ‘prophets’ (see 1 Timothy 4:14), including at some stage Paul himself (2 Timothy 1:6). It had thus been divinely confirmed, and along with this confirmation Timothy had been given the necessary gifts which would render him effective (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). This was one reason why Paul had been led to him and had such confidence in him. Now he was being called on to be inspired by the prophecies and make use of the gifts in this vital work that lay before him. There is no point in having gifts, Paul is saying, if you do not use them. Indeed he might have added that not to use them is dereliction of duty.

So now he was calling on him to war a good warfare in respect of the ‘charge’ now being given to him. The idea of a ‘charge, from a military viewpoint was of an urgent obligation. The one who was ‘charged’ was under a strict responsibility to carry out his orders. With respect to Timothy this necessitated him holding ‘faith and a good conscience’, which he would be able to do through wearing the armour of God, which included right belief and right use of the word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; Romans 13:12; 1 Peter 4:1). ‘Faith’, which indicates both right belief and right response, and a constant looking to Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 12:1-3), would keep him in touch with God and with His truth, and ensure that he persevered on the way, and ‘a good conscience’ (‘good’ (kalos) meaning not only a working conscience and a moral conscience, but also one that is ‘lovely’, that is seemly and loving and moulded by the truth) would act like a road map and signpost, and a light along the way, and if followed and not thrust away, would keep him walking in the truth both in his teaching and in his life. For ‘faith and a good conscience’ see 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 Timothy 3:9; Hebrews 10:22. It was necessary for him, as for us all, to trust and obey, and obedience included being obedient to the truth.

But some, alas, instead of ‘holding’ to a good conscience, had thrust it from them (the verb is forceful), and the result was that they had been shipwrecked as far as true faith was concerned. They had ‘swerved’ away from ‘love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and faith unfeigned’ (1 Timothy 1:5-6). And it had resulted in ‘shipwreck’. For it is in the conscience that backsliding always begins. It is when we begin to relax our spiritually guided moral life, and begin to follow worldly desire that spiritual difficulties soon appear, leading on, if we continue in that way, to total shipwreck. The shipwreck here probably resulted from the desires of the mind. They had so fantasised their beliefs (1 Timothy 1:4), and had been so gripped by the fantasies, that they had lost their way (1 Timothy 1:5), and then, following that, all that they had believed in. And sadly some of them probably did not even yet realise it. Others are similarly shipwrecked by the course of this world, the desires of the flesh, and that evil spirit who works in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2-3). In each case had they listened to their good conscience and looked off to Jesus in faith it would never have happened.


Verses 18-20

The Charge To Prepare For Spiritual Warfare (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

Paul commences this new section by assuring Timothy that he is committing to him the charge which he has just been describing, in accordance with the prophecies that had first led to his appointment. He is reminding him that it was not just he, Paul, who had chosen him, but that his (Timothy’s) appointment had been as a result of such prophecies. The church led by the Spirit had set him aside for God’s service. And it was because of this that he felt able to put on him such a great responsibility.

For, as he was well aware, he was introducing Timothy into a war, a war against falsehood and false teaching, and a war for the truth and for the souls of men (compare 2 Corinthians 10:2-6; Ephesians 6:10-18). And he wanted him to ‘war a good warfare’. And this would include getting the church down to prayer and the regulating of the lives of both men and women (1 Timothy 2:1-15), and especially those who were to take office in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-13). It was essential, therefore, that he held both faith and a good conscience, and not be like some who had thrust faith and conscience from them, ending up as shipwrecks in respect to the faith. And one of his guides in this was to be Paul’s instruction.


Verse 20

‘Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered to Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme.’

Paul then gives two well known example, something that he does not often do. This is probably because they had been prominent members of the church at Ephesus, even possibly elders, although it may also be because of the seriousness of their offence. They were guilty of blasphemy. These men had clearly been a great disappointment to him, and had let him and God down badly.

For Hymenaeus see also 2 Timothy 2:17. He was clearly prominent amongst those who taught foolish things, but had also taught that the resurrection was already past, upsetting the faith of others. We do not know precisely how he did this, but we can see why it was seen as blasphemy. He had rid the cross of its power, replacing it with some psychological or mystical experience. Perhaps his claim was that some had already become ‘divine’ as a result of some spiritual resurrection, which only applied to initiates. He may well have been misrepresenting Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:19 to Ephesians 2:6.

About Alexander we know nothing further. There is no reason for seeing this Alexander at Ephesus as the same Alexander who did much harm to Paul in 2 Timothy 4:14. That was not at Ephesus, and Alexander was a common name. But these two had also thrust their consciences to one side and their behaviour had been so bad that Paul had felt it necessary to act openly against them

Paul then goes on to say that he had "delivered them over to Satan so that they might learn not to blaspheme," and that raises the question as to exactly what this means. A number of suggestions have been made.

1) That he was thinking of the Jewish practise of excommunication. According to synagogue practise, if a man was an evildoer he was first publicly rebuked. If that was ineffective, he was banished from the synagogue for a period of thirty days. And then if he was still stubbornly unrepentant, he was put under ‘the ban’. This put him into a position where he was seen as accursed, and debarred from both the society of good men and the fellowship of God.

2) That he was saying that he has barred them from the fellowship of the church. The world outside the church was seen as being in the arms of the evil one (1 John 5:19). Thus to exclude them from the church may well have been seen as delivering them to Satan. The aim would be to bring about repentance as a result of their exclusion. However, this suggestion does not strictly tie in with the idea of ‘the destruction of the flesh’ in 1 Corinthians 5:5 unless Paul also expected that God’s punishment would follow, which may well be the case (see 1 Corinthians 11:30). It does, however, tie in with Matthew 18:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

3) That he was saying that he has handed them over to Satan in a similar way to that in which Job was handed over to Satan (although in his case it was because he was such a man of faith). The point then is that he has called on God to let Satan have his way with them so that they will become subject to suffering in order that it might make them rethink their position. We can compare here the man in the church at Corinth who was guilty of incest. Paul's advice was that he should be delivered to Satan "for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Corinthians 5:5). The hope would be that, after chastisement, he might finally be saved. We can compare the blindness which fell on Elymas because of his opposition to the gospel (Acts 13:11). It could well be that it was Paul's prayer that these two men should be subjected to some painful experience which would be both a punishment and a warning.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-timothy-1.html. 2013.

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