Salutation, 1-2

1:1 From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 1:2 to Timothy, my genuine child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus – Thus Paul addresses himself in an ‘official’ letter. In a ‘personal’ letter, he would call himself, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, Phile 1. ‘The distinguishing features of an apostle were, a commission directly from Christ: being a witness of the resurrection: special inspiration: supreme authority: accrediting by miracles: unlimited commission to preach and to found churches’ (Marvin Vincent)

By the command – Paul is an apostle under orders. It was not optional for him. He was not a self-appointed teacher of his own opinions, but is send by divine command.

God our Saviour – The Roman emperor enjoyed the title “Saviour God.” Apart from Lk 1:47, this expression occurs only in the Pastorals. (1 Tim 1:1; 2:3; 4:10; Tit 1:3; 2:10,13; 3:4)

And of Christ Jesus – This linking of ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ not only adds weight to Paul’s assertion of his own apostleship, but also leaves no doubt as to the full deity of Christ.

Our hope – Not just the source and object of hope, but its very substance. All that we hope for is bound up in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Timothy my true son in the faith – True = legitimate, not spurious. Timothy came to faith through Paul’s ministry at Lystra, and later became a close companion of the apostle, Acts 16:1-3.

Grace, mercy and peace – Grace deals with our guilt; whereas mercy addresses our misery. Peace is that condition which arises from the experience of grace and mercy.

Timothy’s Task in Ephesus, 3-20

1:3 As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 1:4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith. 1:5 But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 1:6 Some have strayed from these and turned away to empty discussion. 1:7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently.

When Paul and Timothy returned to Ephesus, they found false teaching to be widespread. Paul had earlier warned the Ephesian elders to be on their guard against false teaching, Acts 20:17-31. Paul sent Timothy to lead the Ephesian church while he travelled into Macedonia, where where he wrote this letter.

Given his timid nature, Timothy may have been reluctant to remain in Ephesus to deal with such an onerous task. But he has a responsibility to keep the false teachers in check.

False doctrine must be vigorously opposed

Command – A military term. False doctrine is not a matter for academic debate, or misled tolerance.

False doctrines – Gk ‘heterodidaskaleo‘. Suggesting that there already was, and continues to be, a recognised standard of orthodoxy. The false doctrine appear to have been around some form of Gnosticism, leading in this case to antinomianism. These teachers discoursed on the law, but left immorality uncorrected.

For the emphasis on sound doctrine in the Pastorals, see 1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Tit 1:9,13; 2:1-2.

The heresy which had cropped up at Ephesus may have been similar to that at Colosse. It may have been around some form of Gnosticism, teaching that the spiritual life involved the discovery of special secret knowledge and the worship of angels. To support their teaching, the false teachers invented mythical stories and genealogies based on OT history. They discoursed with apparent expertise about the law. But they were serving their own interests, not Christ’s. They engaged believers in pointless discussions and irrelevant questions. The practical outcome was not godliness, but its opposite.

Today, we can divert precious time and energy away from the service of God by pointless theological speculation and irrelevant debate. Learn to love Christian doctrine. But treat with great suspicion any teaching that does not lead to godliness, or which does not help in our witness to a needy world.

False teaching can be dressed up very attractively and presented very plausibly. How can we recognise it? (a) It promotes controversy; (b) it serves the interests of those who wish to exalt themselves, rather than Christ; (c) it will be contrary to Scripture.

Sound teaching, on the other hand: (a) builds up the people of God; (b) honours Christ; (c) is true to God’s word.

Myths and endless genealogies – Cf. Tit 3:9. In these passages the word ‘genealogies’ ‘is used in a depreciatory sense, in Timothy in conjunction with the word mythos, ‘fable’, and in Titus together with ‘foolish questions’. It is possible that in speaking of these Paul had in mind either the sort of mythical histories based on the OT which are found in Jewish apocryphal books such as the book of Jubilees, or else the family-trees of aeons found in Gnostic literature. They obviously do not refer to the genealogies of the OT.’ (NBD)

False doctrine leads to pointless controversies

God’s work – parallels ‘love’, v5; and ‘the good fight’, v18.

False doctrine violates the principle of love. The false teaching arises from a desire for status and power, and leads to controversy and confusion. The goal of the command which Timothy is to give is love, arising from a heart which is right with God.

Christian love is not a vague feeling, devoid or content. It is principled, and the three principles are mentioned here: a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Good conscience – What should I do to have a good conscience?

Sincere – our word originally comes from two latin terms-sine and cere, meaning “without wax.” Years ago, a potter would often put his seal, or stamp, upon a completed vessel with the words sine cere. This meant that to his knowledge there was no flaw in that work. If a potter did crack a vessel, he would carefully patch that flawed vase or bowl by filling in the crack with wax. Then he would glaze it over. But it did not merit the stamp sine cere, “without wax,” because it was not a flawless piece of pottery.

‘The absence of hypocrisy (genuine faith and sincere love from a pure heart) is a mark of godly character (1 Tim 1:5; 2:5,7; cf. Ps 15:2-5; 24:3-5; 2 Cor 6:6-7).’ (EDBT)

False doctrine leads people astray

Some have wandered away from these – i.e. have wandered away from the pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith mentioned in v5. Cf the ‘wandering stars’, Jude 13. False teachers, for all their plausibility, lead us away, rather than towards, the things of God. True teachers, on the other hand, will focus on the central truths of the gospel; they will urge us to know biblical truth, to apply it to our lives, and to teach it to others.

This verse teaches us that the end of all true Christian teaching must be love, arising from that triad of graces mentioned in v5. False teaching, on the other hand, misses this goal and is meaningless and unprofitable. Since they had missed out on the heart of the matter, ‘they naturally fell to discoursing about vain questions, the debateable and speculative points about which they could find themselves at home…If the heart is not in the great things of the gospel, if it is out of accord with their deep spiritual tone, it cannot delight to speak of them, and will be only too glad to turn aside to inferior topics’ (Fairbairn)

False doctrine makes people arrogant

They want to be teachers of the law – They wanted to be eminent teachers. (cf Lk 5:17 Acts 5:34) Yet, as Paul is about to assert, they fail to understand what the law of Moses is all about.

1:8 But we know that the law is good if someone uses it legitimately, 1:9 realizing that law is not intended for a righteous person, but for lawless and rebellious people, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 1:10 sexually immoral people, practicing homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers—in fact, for any who live contrary to sound teaching. 1:11 This accords with the glorious gospel of the blessed God that was entrusted to me.

False doctrine misuses God’s law

We know that the law is good – Those whom Paul opposes taught that the law was good, but were using it for the wrong purpose.

If one uses it properly – Lit. ‘if one uses it lawfully’ – a deliberate play on words. This implies that the false teachers were using it improperly – making it the springboard for their fanciful interpretations, confusing it with the gospel, failing to see that its prime purpose is to show unbelievers their sin and to bring them to God. We know, says Paul, how to use the law properly, ‘not in Jewish fashion as a yoke for the saint, but as a whip for the sinner’ (Findlay). Paul takes up this use of the law in Rom 7:7-25: the law brings the knowledge of sin, with a view to bringing a person to Christ.

v9-10. This characteristically Pauline list follows the order of the Ten Commandments. ‘In each case extreme forms of the sin are chosen to emphasize the strength of evil in the heathen world and the real need of law for those who have not heard of the gospel: cf Rom 1:21-32′ (Walter Lock). It could be that this list also reflects special problems at Ephesus.

Is the Fourth Commandment included here?

Sinclair Ferguson (Following George W. Knight III) thinks so.  Consider the flow:-

The unholy and profane
Those who strike fathers and mothers (commandment 5)
Murderers (commandment 6)
Sexually immoral (commandment 7)
Enslavers (commandment 8)
Liars, perjurers (commandment 9)
Whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

It would seem that ‘the unholy and profane’ are those who break the Fourth Commandment.

Law is made not for the righteous – This does not mean that the law is irrelevant to the righteous: it still has a place as a guide to holy living. But the law does not condemn the righteous.

Perverts – It is likely that homosexuality is meant here. Homosexual behaviour is specifically condemned in Scripture, Lev 18:22; Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11. However, such people are as open to the love and forgiveness of God as other sinners. They should not be feared, ridiculed, or hated. The church should welcome and care for repentant homosexuals.

‘Sexual laxity, especially as this is manifested in the perverted practice of sodomy, always heralds the decline of a civilization and is a certain mark of the wrath of God. (Rom 1:18,27) Notwithstanding the modern churchmen who condone and even advocate homosexuality, Paul categorically states that none who indulge in such a vile sin shall inherit the kingdom of God’ (1 Cor 6:9) (Wilson).

Slave traders – ‘By the use of this word Paul deals a blow at the slave-trade (cf. Philemon)’ (Robertson).

Sound doctrine – Paul is not referring to teaching that is merely correct or orthodox, but which is healthy and promotes godliness. Such ‘soundness’ is referred to several times in the Pastorals. (1 Tim 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Tit 1:9; 2:1f)

The glorious gospel of the blessed God – lit. ‘the gospel of the glory of the blessed God’.

‘The word blessed is applied to God only here and in 6:15, but the usage is frequent in Philo. It describes God not as the object of blessing, but as experiencing within himself the perfection of bliss.’ (Guthrie)

The word ‘blessed’ here ‘does not so much mean that we ascribe blessedness to God, but that all blessedness resides in him and proceeds from him.’ (Fee)

1:12 I am grateful to the one who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me faithful in putting me into ministry, 1:13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I was treated with mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, 1:14 and our Lord’s grace was abundant, bringing faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Paul shows how he has followed the way of the gospel, in contrast to those who were peddling their version of the law. ‘In a word, the law was for the condemnation of sinners, the gospel was for the saving of sinners and the ministration of forgiveness’ (Ellicott).

‘Here speaks the very soul of Paul. Here is doctrine turned into life. Past experience burns undimmed, confession of sin, confession of faith, gratefulness, burst into praise and doxology’ (Lenski).

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord… – This is the only example we have of a thanksgiving of Paul’s which is addressed directly to Christ. ‘As Paul can never forget the encounter on the way to Damascus which turned him into a preacher of the Faith he once persecuted, so he never ceases to be grateful to Christ who then enabled him, counted him trustworthy, and appointed him to his service’ (Wilson).

Blasphemer – Gk ‘blasphemon’ = stupid or unjurious speech. He denied Christ, and forced others to do the same, Acts 26:11.

Persecutor – By persecuting the Lord’s people, he persecuted the Lord himself, Acts 22:4,7.

I was shown mercy – It is possible for people to be so troubled by guilt about the past that they cannot really believe that God’s mercy is for them. The example of Paul gives great encouragement at this point. God forgave him and used him despite his shameful past. No matter what you have done, God can forgive and use you as well.

I acted in ignorance and unbelief – he acted with a zeal which was not according to knowledge, Acts 26:9; Rom 10:2. His ignorance was deeply culpable, but not unpardonable. He fell within the scope of our Lord’s prayer, when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.

1:15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them! 1:16 But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. 1:17 Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen.

‘This is one of the “little Bibles,” as Luther used to call them, the gospel in a verse, the essence of the whole Bible is here.’ (The Best of Spurgeon, 346)

A trustworthy saying – Probably a definite saying which was in current use. This expression also occurs in 1 Tim 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8.

Christ Jesus came into the world – This has a Johanine flavour to it, cf Jn 9:37; 11:27; 16:28; 18:37. John’s writings were not in circulation at this time, but sayings like this would have been disseminated by the disciples.  As Fee says, this expression ‘does not in itself necessarily imply pre-existence, but such an understanding would almost certainly have been intended.’

To save sinners – ‘Between that word “save” and the next word, “sinners,” there is no adjective. It does not say, “penitent sinners,” “sensible sinners,” “grieving sinners,” or “alarmed sinners.” No, it only says, “sinners.” (The Best of Spurgeon, 346)

‘The only qualification a physician seeks in his patient is that he is sick. The qualification for pardon from Christ is guilt. The qualification for imparting his fulness is your emptiness. That is all. And if you feel youself to be so empty that you do not even feel your emptiness, if you feel yourself to be so hard that you do not even think you feel your hardness, then you are just the kind of man that Jesus Christ came to save.’ (The Best of Spurgeon, 346f)

“The repeated promises in the Qur’an of the forgiveness of a compassionate and merciful Allah are all made to the meritorious, whose merits have been weighed in Allah’s scales, whereas the gospel is good news of mercy to the undeserving. The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales.’ (John Stott, Authentic Christianity, 50)

‘The late venerable and godly Dr Archibald Alexander, of Princeton, United States, had been a preacher of Christ for sixty years, and a professor of divinity for forty. He died on 22nd of October, 1851. On his death-bed, he was heard to say to a friend, “All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass – Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.”‘ (Spurgeon)

‘Some Reformed preachers went to great lengths to express this fact that every human being, no matter how sinful, has the right to come and take Christ as his Saviour. They were predestinarians of the deepest dye (men like Thomas Boston, John Duncan and Martin Luther) but they believed equally firmly in the free, universal offer of the gospel. John Duncan put it most succinctly: ‘Sin is the handle by which I get Christ.’ ‘I don’t read anywhere in God’s Word that Christ came to save John Duncan,’ he said, ‘but I read this: he came to save sinners and John Duncan is a sinner and that means he came to save John Duncan.’ Luther argued in the same way. He said to the devil, ‘Thou sayest I am a sinner and I will take thine own weapon and with it I will slay thee and with thine own sword I will cut thy throat because sin ought to drive us not away from Christ but towards Christ.’ The Bible and Reformed theology have taught us to come – just as we are.’ (Donald MacLeod, A Faith to Live By)

Of whom I am the worst – It is difficult to imagine anyone except Paul himself writing this. ‘It is incredible that any disciple would put into Paul’s mouth a claim to be the chief of sinners; (1 Tim 1:15) his tendency would be to stress Paul’s holiness, not to talk about his sin.’ (Daily Study Bible)

This saying correlates to 1 Cor 15:9 and Eph 3:8. It is not inconsistent with his regarding himself as equal to the twelve apostles, Gal 2:6-11, and superior to his opponents at Corinth, 2 Cor 11:5f; 12:11. What he says here does not come from mock humility, but from a deep awareness of his sinful past, Rom 7:24; Gal 1:13; Acts 22:4f; 26:11. Although he has experiences grace beyond measure, he does not forget, or treat lightly, what he has been.

J.I. Packer says that this is ‘a natural judgment for any Christian to pass on himself.’  Why? ‘Just because he knows the inside story of his own life—the moral defeats, hypocrisies, lapses into meanness, pride, dishonesty, envy, lust, exploitative thinking, and cowardice at motivational level, and all the rest of his private shame—in a way that he does not know the inside story of anyone else. Increase in holiness means, among other things, an increased sensitivity to what God is, and hence a clearer estimate of one’s own sinfulness and particular shortcomings, and hence an intensified realization of one’s constant need of God’s pardoning and cleansing mercy. All growth in grace is growth downward in this respect.’  (Keep In Step With The Spirit)

‘A few years ago a TV commercial showed a car in which a jeweller in the back seat made a precise cut in a diamond as the car was being driven along a rough road. What was to be our reaction to the commercial? We were supposed to think, “Since I will never need to cut a diamond in my car, this car will be more than sufficient.”

‘In the same way, Paul in this passage is an advertisement for the grace of God. When Paul says he is the worst of sinners, we are supposed to think, “I am not as sinful as he is, so the grace will be more than sufficient for me.” (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 430)

The worst of sinners – In context, the word translated ‘worst’ (protos) may well imply ‘first in time’.

His unlimited patience – Or, ‘the full extent of his forbearance’ (Fee).  Cf. Rom. 2:4; 3:25–26; 9:22–23; and also 2 Pet. 3:9, 15.  It is by virtue of this patience that ‘wrath is withheld, the sinner is spared, and mercy is shown’ (Hendriksen).

‘Such was the former persecutor’s pre-eminence in sin that it served to demonstrate the full extent of Christ’s patience.’ (Wilson)

An example – Paul is an example of the kind of sinner that Jesus came to save.  If Christ’s forbearance extended to Paul, ‘the worst of sinners’, then it certainly would extend to all those ‘sinners’ who would come after him.  In this way, Paul is a sketch or prototype of those who believe.

v17 Paul’s writings are replete with doxologies, Gal 1:5; Rom 11:36; 16:27; Php 4:20; Eph 3:21; 1 Tim 6:16.

Immortal – his arms never tire, Deut 32:27; he never grows weary, Isa 40:28; he does not die, Ps 103:15-17; he never changes, Mal 3:6.

1:18 I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight. 1:19 To do this you must hold firmly to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck in regard to the faith. 1:20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

In keeping with the prophecies once made about you – Alluded to when we first meet Timothy, Acts 16:2, when the brothers spoke well of him – they testified to him. He began his ministry with hope, prayer, and prediction.

Do you have these three men in your life?

‘Every man should seek to have three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy.

A Paul is an older man who is willing to mentor you, to build into your life. Not someone who’s smarter or more gifted than you, but somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody willing to share his strengths and weaknesses-everything he’s learned in the laboratory of life. Somebody whose faith you’ll want to imitate.

A Barnabas is a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody to whom you can be accountable. Somebody who’s willing to keep you honest, who’s willing to say, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff!”

A Timothy is a younger man into whose life you are building. For a model, read 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protege-affirming, encouraging, teaching, correcting, directing, praying.

Do you have these three guys in your life?'(Howard Hendricks)

See: 1 Tim 1:18-19; Acts 11:22-29

Holding on to faith – Perhaps as a shield, Eph 6:16, in view of the reference to warfare in v18.

A good conscience – How can hold on to a good conscience? Seek to please Christ in all that you do. When in doubt ask, “What would he do in this situation?” Be guided by the word of God, and especially the great truths of the gospel. Don’t habitually ignore the tugs of conscience, or over time it will become hardened and insensitive. ‘Why do our spiritual lives so quickly become dry? Why do we lose our zeal for the Lord? Why does our love so easily grow cold? The reason is always the same: namely, our conscience has become unclean because of some sin. If we have sinned and not repented, we will lose the desire and the power to love and serve the Lord.’ (The Applied New Testament Commentary)

Calvin, commenting on this verse, wrote, ‘a bad conscience is the mother of all heresies.’

Hymenaeus – Mentioned again in 2 Tim 2:17. Named after the Greek god of marriage.

Alexander – Mentioned again in 2 Tim 4:14.

Whom I have handed over to Satan – The same expression is used in 1 Cor 5:5, which relates to a man in a incestuous relationship. Cf. also 1 Thess 2:18; 1 Cor 5:11; 2 Cor 2:11.

Satan may be seen here as God’s agent, as in Job 2:6.  ‘Whereas congregations would normally have prayed for one another, there were evidently cases where petition would shift from divine protection to divine discipline (with Satan as God’s agent).’ (Yarbrough)

It ‘probably means Paul led the church to dismiss Hymenaeus from the membership to purify the church, remove further temptation from the church, and to lead Hymenaeus to restored faith, repentance, and renewed church membership.’ (Holman)

To be taught not to blaspheme – ‘shows clearly that the purpose was remedial and not merely punitive. However stringent the process the motive was mercy, and whenever ecclesiastical discipline has departed from this purpose of restoration, its harshness has proved a barrier to progress. But this is no reason for dispensing with discipline entirely, a failing which frequently characterizes our modern churches.’ (Guthrie)

‘As odious as their actions are, in a religion that teaches prayer and love for enemies (Matt 5:43), Paul is not resorting to a nuclear option or repaying evil with evil (Rom 12:17; 1 Pet 3:9). By such restraint, Paul will aid Timothy not only by checking these men’s excesses but by giving Timothy an example of how to handle troublemakers in a constructive fashion.’ (Yarbrough)