1 Timothy 1 – Fighting for the Faith
1. (1) The identity of the author, Paul.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.
a. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ: Paul, in his self-description, emphasized his credentials (apostle) and authority (by the commandment of God). He did this both as a personal encouragement to Timothy and so the letter could be used as a letter of reference before any erring Ephesian Christians.
i. It seems that 1 Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul to Timothy sometime after his release from Roman imprisonment as described at the end of the Book of Acts, and was written from Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3).
ii. Apparently, after his release (hoped for in Philemon 22 and Philippians 1:25-26 and 2:24), Paul returned to the city of Ephesus. There he discovered that during his absence Ephesus had become a storm center of false teaching (a sad fulfillment of the prediction he had made to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29-30).
iii. Paul probably dealt with the leaders of the heresy personally, but soon found it necessary to leave for Macedonia. He then left Timothy in charge of affairs at Ephesus, as his own personal representative. He knew that Timothy had a tough job to carry out, so he hoped that this letter would both equip and encourage him in the task.
iv. “The use of this official title is an indication that the Pastoral Epistles were not merely private letters, but were intended to be read to the Churches committed to the charge of Timothy.” (White)
b. Our Savior: At that very time, the title Savior was used in the worship of the Roman Emperor. People called, and were forced to call Caesar Nero “savior.” Paul made the identity of real Savior clear: The Lord Jesus Christ.
i. White on by the commandment of God: “Here it is to be noted that the command proceeds equally from God and Christ Jesus. This language could hardly have been used if St. Paul conceived of Christ Jesus as a creature.”
2. (2) The identity of the recipient, Timothy.
To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
a. A true son in the faith: Paul could consider Timothy a true son in the faith because he probably led him and his mother to faith in Jesus on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14:8-20 and 16:1).
i. Timothy was a resident of Lystra, a city in the province of Galatia (Acts 16:1-3). He was the son of a Greek father (Acts 16:2) and a Jewish mother named Eunice (2 Timothy 2:5). His mother and grandmother taught him the Scriptures from the time of Timothy’s youth (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).
b. Grace, mercy, and peace: This is a familiar greeting of Paul in his letters to congregations. Here, he also applied it to an individual. God grants His grace, mercy, and peace not only to churches, but also to the individuals who make up the churches.
i. Yet there is a difference. When Paul wrote to churches, he just greeted them with grace and peace. To both Timothy and Titus he added mercy to the greeting.
ii. “Not only grace and peace, as to others. When we pray for ministers, we must be more than ordinarily earnest for them with God. These three are joined together only in the Epistles of Timothy and Titus.” (Trapp)
B. Paul urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus.
1. (3-4) Stay in Ephesus and stay with the Scriptures.
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia; remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
a. Remain in Ephesus: Though Timothy had a difficult task, Paul wanted him to remain in Ephesus and continue the work. Paul urged Timothy to do this when the apostle left Ephesus.
i. Paul told Timothy to remain in Ephesus because it seemed that Timothy wanted to give up and run away. Most everyone in ministry deals with this at some time; for a few it is a constant affliction. There was probably both external pressure and internal pressure for him to leave.
ii. God will allow us to be in difficult situations. We must set our minds to meet the challenge, or we will surely give up. Many years ago a famous Arctic explorer put this ad in a London newspaper: “Men wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” Thousands of men responded to the appeal because they were willing to embrace a difficult job when called to do so by a great leader.
b. That you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine: Paul left Timothy with an important job to do, making it all the more important that he remain in Ephesus. The job was to make sure that correct doctrine was taught in Ephesus.
i. No other doctrine: Paul left the Ephesian Christians with a particular set of teachings (which he had received from Jesus and the Old Testament). He was concerned that Timothy did everything he could to make sure the Ephesians continue in that doctrine.
ii. Paul did this because doctrine is vitally important to God. Today, what one believes – that is, their doctrine – is staggeringly unimportant to most people. This spirit of the modern age has also heavily influenced modern Christians. We live in a day where Pilate’s question What is truth? (John 18:38) is answered today, “Whatever it means to you.” But truth is important to God, and should be important to us.
c. That you may charge some: Paul’s concern was not primarily that Timothy himself would begin to teach wrong doctrine. His concern was that Timothy would allow others to spread these other doctrines. Timothy had to stand firm against difficult people and charge some that they teach no other doctrine. No wonder Timothy felt like leaving Ephesus.
i. In the ancient Greek, charge is a military word. It means “To give strict orders from a commanding officer.” (Wiersbe) Timothy wasn’t to present the option of correct doctrine to these some in Ephesus. He was to command it like a military officer.
d. Nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies: It seems that the great danger of these teachings (fables and endless genealogies) was that they were silly distractions. Timothy had to remain in Ephesus so that he could command others to ignore these speculative and silly distractions.
i. It wasn’t that there was an elaborate anti-Jesus theology rising in Ephesus. It was more that they tended to get carried away by emphasizing the wrong things. Paul wanted to prevent the corruption that came when people gave authority to fables and endless genealogies instead of true doctrine. Silly distractions were also dangerous, because they took the place of godly edification which is in faith.
ii. Perhaps the endless genealogies had to do with Gnostic-type theories of “emanations” from God. Perhaps they were connected with Jewish-type legalism that sought righteousness by virtue of one’s ancestry. Or perhaps he had in mind doctrinal systems based on mystic readings of Old Testament genealogies.
iii. Ancient Jewish writings have been discovered which delve into the most complex genealogies, connecting them with wild speculations about spiritual mysteries. A consuming interest in these kinds of things will crowd out godly edification which is in faith.
e. Cause disputes rather than godly edification: The eventual fruit of these man-made diversions is evident. Though they may be popular and fascinating in the short term, in the long run they don’t build up the body of Christ in faith.
i. “Discourses that turn to no profit; a great many words and little sense; and that sense not worth the pains of hearing.” (Clarke)
2. (5-7) The purpose of the commandment.
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
a. The purpose of the commandment: The purpose of the law is found in its inward work upon the heart, not in mere outward observance. Without this understanding, it is easy to become shallow legalists who are only concerned with outward performance and appearance.
b. Love from a pure heart: This suggests the idea that the problem in Ephesus was along Jewish-type legalistic lines. They misunderstood the commandment and the law.
i. If spending time in God’s word does not produce love from a pure heart, a good conscience, or sincere faith in us, something is wrong. Legalism may make us twist God’s word, so that instead of showing love we are harsh and judgmental; instead of having a good conscience we always feel condemned knowing we don’t measure up; and instead of sincere faith we practically trust in our own ability to please God.
c. Idle talk: This probably has in mind vain speculations about the Scriptures, which may have had analytical and entertainment value but were never meant to be our spiritual diet.
i. In the King James Version, idle talk is translated vain jangling – the idea is of meaningless babble.
d. Understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm: The problem people in Ephesus did not even understand the implications of their own teaching.
3. (8-11) Paul’s condemnation of legalists is not a condemnation of the law itself.
But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.
a. But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully: The purpose of the law is to show us our sin, not to lead us to righteousness (as in Galatians 3:24-25). It wasn’t made for the righteous person (who walks by faith according to Galatians 3:11) but for the lawless and insubordinate, to show them their sin.
i. The idea isn’t that the law has nothing to say to the righteous person, but that it especially speaks to the ungodly. On the phrase, The law is not made for a righteous person, Clarke observes that the word for made “Refers to the custom of writing laws on boards, and hanging them up in public places within reach of every man, that they might be read by all; thus all would see against whom the law lay.”
b. For the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners: In Paul’s mind sound doctrine and right conduct are vitally connected. These sinful actions are contrary to sound doctrine.
i. Many people will condemn anyone with standards – especially higher standards – as being a legalist. Having standards and keeping them does not make us legalists and obedience doesn’t make us legalists. We are legalists when we think what we do is what makes us right before God.
c. If there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine: The implication is that in Ephesus, the church existed in a culture marked by these sins here listed and the those teaching false doctrine in some way allowed or promoted this sinful lifestyle.
i. If there is any other thing: “For the apostle took no delight to mention more of this cursed crew; but leaves them to the law to handle and hamper them, as unruly beasts, dogs, lions, leopards, are chained and caged up that they may not do mischief.” (Clarke)
ii. The apparently sinful environment of Ephesus shows us another reason why it was important for Timothy to remain in Ephesus. He should remain there because it was a difficult place to serve God and further the kingdom. He had to break up the fallow ground there, instead of running to an easier place to plow.
d. According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God: Though the law cannot bring righteousness, the glorious gospel of the blessed God can – a gospel that, in the words of Paul, was committed to his trust. He sensed his responsibility to preserve and guard the gospel.
C. Paul’s personal experience of the gospel.
1. (12-14) Why was Paul entrusted with the gospel?
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
a. I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me: Paul was entrusted with the gospel because Jesus enabled Paul, and Paul thanked Jesus for that enabling. Paul was enabled for this ministry because he was counted . . . faithful for the ministry. Faithfulness made Paul ready to be used by God.
i. We often see our Christian service as a matter of volunteering. Yet as Christians, in regard to Jesus and His church, we are not volunteers. We are slaves. We are duty bound servants of Jesus, and faithfulness is expected of such servants.
ii. You don’t have to be smart to be faithful; you don’t have to be talented or gifted. Faithfulness is something very down-to-earth, and every one of us can be faithful in the sphere God has given us.
iii. Many people wait to be faithful. We tell ourselves, “I’ll be faithful when I’m in such and such a position.” That’s nonsense. We should be faithful right where we are at – our faithfulness is shown in the small things.
b. Putting me into the ministry: Ministry simply means “service.” In the original language of the New Testament, there is nothing “high” or “spiritual” about the word. It just means to work hard and serve. Yet for this former blasphemer and persecutor of God’s people, this was a great honor.
i. “After Paul was saved, he became a foremost saint. The Lord did not allot him a second-class place in the church. He had been the leading sinner, but his Lord did not, therefore, say, ‘I save you, but I shall always remember your wickedness to your disadvantage.’ Not so: he counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry and into the apostleship, so that he was not a whit behind the very chief of the apostles. Brother, there is no reason why, if you have gone very far in sin, you should not go equally far in usefulness.” (Spurgeon)
c. Although I was formerly: Paul’s past did not disqualify him from serving God. God’s mercy and grace were enough to cover his past and enable him to serve God. We should never feel that our past makes us unable to be used by God.
i. With these words, Paul gave Timothy another reason to remain in Ephesus. It is likely that Timothy wanted to leave Ephesus and his ministry there because he felt unworthy or incapable of the work. These words from Paul assured Timothy, “If there is anyone unworthy of disqualified, it should be me. Yet God found a way to use me, and He will use you also as you remain in Ephesus.”
d. Because I did it ignorantly in unbelief: Ignorance and unbelief never excuse our sin, but they do invite God’s mercy, because sin in ignorance and unbelief makes one less guilty than the believer who sins knowingly.
i. Yet it was not Paul’s ignorance that saved him; it was the exceeding abundant grace of God (God’s unmerited favor).
2. (15) Paul summarizes his personal experience of the gospel.
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
a. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: This unusual phrase introduces a statement of special importance. Paul used this phrase 5 times – all in the Pastoral Epistles.
b. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: Jesus came to save sinners, not those living under the illusion of their own righteousness. It is the sick who need a physician (Mark 2:17).
i. Since Jesus came into the world to save sinners, this is the first necessary qualification for being a child of God – being a sinner. Sinners are not disqualified from coming to God, because Jesus came to save them.
ii. We also see the great danger in taking the terms sin and sinner out of our vocabulary. Many preachers deliberately do this today, because they don’t want to offend anyone from the pulpit. But if Jesus came to save sinners, shouldn’t we identify who those sinners are? How else will they come to salvation?
iii. “Even those who recognize that Christ’s work is to save admit that it is more difficult to believe that this salvation belongs to sinners. Our mind is always prone to dwell on our own worthiness and, as soon as our unworthiness becomes apparent, our confidence fails. Thus the more a man feels the burden of his sins, he ought with greater courage to betake himself to Christ, relying on what is here taught, that He came to bring salvation not to the righteous but to sinners.” (Calvin)
b. Of whom I am chief: Paul’s claim to be the chief of sinners was not an expression of some super-pious false humility. He genuinely felt his sins made him more accountable before God than others.
i. Aren’t we all equally sinners? No; “All men are truly sinners, but all men are not equally sinners. They are all in the mire; but they have not all sunk to an equal depth in it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. Paul felt – rightly so – his sins were worse because he was responsible for the death, imprisonment, and suffering of Christians, whom he persecuted before his life was changed by Jesus (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2, 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13, Philippians 3:6).
iii. In Acts 26:11, Paul explained to Agrippa what might have been his worst sin: And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. He compelled others to blaspheme Jesus. “This, indeed, was a very horrible part of Saul’s sinfulness. To destroy their bodies was bad enough, but to destroy their souls too-to compel them to blaspheme, to speak evil of that name which they confessed to be their joy and their hope, surely that was the worst form that even persecution could assume. He forced them under torture to abjure the Christ whom their hearts loved. As it were he was not content to kill them, but he must damn them too.” (Spurgeon)
iv. There are worse kinds of sin; sins that harm God’s people are especially bad in God’s eyes. We must soberly consider if we are guilty, now or in the past, of harming God’s people. “[God] remembers jests and scoffs leveled at his little ones, and he bids those who indulge in them to take heed. You had better offend a king than one of the Lord’s little ones.” (Spurgeon)
v. “Despair’s head is cut off and stuck on a pole by the salvation of ‘the chief of sinners.’ No man can now say that he is too great a sinner to be saved, because the chief of sinners was saved eighteen hundred years ago. If the ringleader, the chief of the gang, has been washed in the precious blood, and is now in heaven, why not I? Why not you?” (Spurgeon)
3. (16) Paul saved as a pattern of mercy to others.
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
a. However, for this reason I obtained mercy: A man as bad as Paul obtained mercy. This means that the door is open to others who are not as bad sinners as Paul was.
i. White expresses the idea of Paul: “Christ’s longsuffering will never undergo a more severe test than it did in my case, so that no sinner need ever despair. Let us glorify God therefore.”
b. As a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him: This explains another reason why God loves to save sinners. They become a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him. God wants others to see what He can do by working in us.
i. This truth – the doctrine – that changed Paul’s life was the truth he commanded Timothy to guard earlier in the chapter.
4. (17) Paul’s praise to the God who saved him.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
a. Now to the King eternal: Paul could not think of how bad he was, and how great the salvation of God was, and how great the love of God was, without simply breaking into spontaneous praise.
b. The King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise: This outburst of praise shows that Paul both knew God and that he loved God.
i. He knew God to be the King eternal, ruling and reigning in complete power and glory.
ii. He knew God to be immortal, existing before anything else existed, and being the Creator of all things.
iii. He knew God to be invisible, not completely knowable by us; we can’t completely figure out God, or know all His secrets.
iv. He knew God alone is wise, that He is God – and we are not. We think our plans and insights are so important, but only God really knows and understands all things.
c. Be honor and glory forever and ever: Knowing all this about God, Paul couldn’t stop praising Him. If we ever have trouble worshipping God, it is because we don’t know Him very well.
i. This description of God gave Timothy still another reason to remain in Ephesus. He could and should stay there when he considered the greatness of the God who he served. This great God is worthy of His service and can empower his service in Ephesus.
D. Paul’s charge to Timothy: carry on the fight.
1. (18) The charge to fight the good fight.
This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare.
a. This charge I commit to you: Again, the Greek word for charge (parangelia) is the same as in 1 Timothy 1:3; it is a military word, referring to an order from a commanding officer.
i. At the same time the words son Timothy express a note of fatherly love. Paul is serious, but full of love. “There is a peculiar affectionate earnestness in this use of the personal name, here and in the conclusion of the letter.” (White)
b. According to the prophecies: Paul wanted Timothy to consider what the Holy Spirit had said to him through others in the past, and receive the courage to remain in Ephesus from those.
i. Apparently, God had spoken to Timothy through others through the gift of prophecy and the words were an encouragement for Timothy to stay strong in the difficulty right in front of him. It may have been a description of Timothy’s future ministry; it may have been a warning against being timid in his work for God. Whatever it was, God wanted Timothy to draw strength from it in his present difficulty.
ii. So, the prophecies Timothy had received before might have been predictive of his future ministry, or may have not been. He who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men (1 Corinthians 14:3). It may or may not be presented in predictive terms.
iii. We shouldn’t think it strange that God would speak to us through others in a prophetic manner; but should take care to test all prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:29) according to both the Word of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit in others.
iv. We must also be on guard against the extravagant prophecy; the one that declares that this person or that is going to have “the most powerful ministry the world has seen” or such. These prophecies are extremely manipulative, because they are awkward to speak against.
v. Today, in some circles, it isn’t unusual to hear someone being declared as greater than Paul, Peter, Moses, or Elijah; declarations like “You will be a prophet like unto Daniel and receive an anointing ten times greater than any of your associates” are obviously extravagant, manipulative (because few will speak against it), and not of God.
iii. Tom Stipe, in the foreword to Counterfeit Revival, speaks powerfully about this phenomenon, having been a leader in it before seeing how wrong it is:
After only a couple of years, the prophets seemed to be speaking to just about everyone on just about everything. Hundreds of . . . members received the ‘gift’ of prophecy and began plying their trade among both leaders and parishioners. People began carrying around little notebooks filled with predictions that had been delivered to them by the prophets and seers. They flocked to the prophecy conferences that had begun to spring up everywhere. The notebook crowd would rush forward in hopes of being selected to receive more prophecies to add to their prophetic diaries . . .
Not long after ‘prophecy du jour’ became the primary source of direction, a trail of devastated believers began to line up outside our pastoral counseling offices. Young people promised teen success and stardom through prophecy were left picking up the pieces of their shattered hopes because God had apparently gone back on His promises. Leaders were deluged by angry church members who had received prophecies about the great ministries they would have but had been frustrated by local church leaders who failed to recognize and ‘facilitate’ their ‘new anointing.’
After a steady diet of the prophetic, some people were rapidly becoming biblically illiterate, choosing a ‘dial-a-prophet’ style of Christian living rather than studying God’s Word. Many were left to continually live from one prophetic ‘fix’ to the next, their hope always in danger of failing because God’s voice was so specific in pronouncement, yet so elusive in fulfillment. Possessing a prophet’s phone number was like having a storehouse of treasured guidance. Little clutched notebooks replaced Bibles as the preferred reading material during church services.
c. That by them you may wage the good warfare: The focus is not the prophetic word Timothy heard in the past. The focus is on battle right in front of him now, where he must wage the good warfare – that is, “fight the good fight.” (KJV)
i. Timothy had a job in front of him, and it was going to be a battle. It wasn’t going to be easy, or comfortable, or carefree. He had to approach the job Paul left him to do in Ephesus as a soldier approaches battle.
ii. This gave Timothy still another reason to remain in Ephesus. He should sense a responsibility to stay when he felt like leaving because he was like a soldier in a battle, who could not desert his post.
2. (19) Tools for the warfare: faith and a good conscience.
Having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.
a. Faith and a good conscience: These are essential when battling for the Lord. They protect against the spiritual attacks of doubt and condemnation.
i. Timothy had to have the faith that God was in control, and would guide him as Timothy continued to seek him.
ii. He had to have a good conscience, because his enemies would be attacking him, and if Timothy had not conducted himself rightly, they would have good reason to attack. A good conscience isn’t just a conscience that approves us, but one that approves us because we’ve been doing what is right – it is connected with good conduct.
b. Which some having rejected: Some have rejected these weapons; specifically, Paul speaks of rejecting the faith; those who reject what Jesus and the apostles taught are headed for ruin (shipwreck).
i. Which some having rejected: “Having thrust away; as a fool-hardy soldier might his shield and his breastplate or a made sailor pilot, helm, and compass.” (Clarke)
ii. “We are not justified in interpreting suffered shipwreck as though it meant that they were lost beyond hope of recovery. St. Paul himself had suffered shipwreck at least four times (2 Corinthians 11:25) when he wrote this epistle. He had on each occasion lost everything except himself.” (White)
3. (20) Two people that rejected the tools for warfare.
Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
a. Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander: We know nothing of Hymenaeus and Alexander other than what Paul said of them here. Paul apparently disciplined them for their disobedience to God in heresy, in conduct, or in both.
i. We see that Paul was not afraid to point out opponents of the truth by name, as he said to do in Romans 16:17. This was not a contradiction of Jesus’ command not to judge (Matthew 7:1-5) “While Christians are not to judge one another’s motives or ministries, we are certainly expected to be honest about each other’s conduct.” (Wiersbe)
b. Whom I delivered to Satan: From other New Testament passages we can surmise that he did this by putting them outside the church, into the world, which is the devil’s domain. The punishment was a removal of protection, not an infliction of evil.
i. The Lord protects us from many attacks from Satan (Job 1:10; Luke 22:31-32), and much of this protection comes to us in what we receive as we gather together as Christians.
ii. In this, Paul gave Timothy one more reason to remain in Ephesus. He should do it because not everyone else does. We can’t simply act as if every Christian does what God wants them to and stays faithful to the gospel. The fact that some do not should give us more incentive to not give up.
iii. In this we see six different reasons why we should follow the pattern of Paul’s command to Timothy to remain in Ephesus and not give up in difficult times.
We should “Remain in Ephesus” . . .
· Because they need the truth (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
· Because you minister in a hard place (1 Timothy 1:8-11).
· Because God uses unworthy people (1 Timothy 1:12-16).
· Because you serve a great God (1 Timothy 1:17).
· Because you are in a battle and cannot surrender (1 Timothy 1:18).
· Because not everyone else does (1 Timothy 1:19-20).
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission