I Timothy 1. Job One For Timothy.
Key Notes: A picture of Timothy. People who need the Law. False teachers are Timothy's assignment.
Unlike the other letters of Paul, the two letters to Timothy and the one to Titus are personal. They are instructions from a senior Christian leader to his active workers. I,II Timothy also get us in touch with Paul at the end of his own life and time of service. They are his last will and testament.
I Tim.1:1–2 "to Timothy, my true son in the faith."
Timothy was a disciple whom Paul found on his second missionary journey . He was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, living in Asia Minor . Paul recruited him for missionary work, and had him circumcised in deference to the Jews. (Acts.16:1–3). Both his mother and grandmother were devout believers. (IITim.1:5). He had been taught the Scriptures (OT) by his mother (IITim.3:15) since childhood and therefore had greater depth than Paul's other workers.
Timothy was singled out by the church for ministry:
"in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you...." (1:18).
"...the gift you have which was given you by prophetic utterance when the council of elders laid their hands upon you." (4:14)
"...the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (6:12)
Paul loved and trusted Timothy:
"I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ." (ICor.4:17)
"I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare." (Phil.2:20)
"But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel." (Phil.2:22)
However, Timothy was in need to support and encouragement.
•He was young.
“...my true child in the faith." (ITim.1:2)."...beloved and faithful child...." (ICor.4:17)
"Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity." (ITim.4:12).
"Flee also youthful lusts...." (IITim.2:22)
•He was timid.
"When Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you, for he is doing the work of the Lord, as I am." (ICor.16:10).
"I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hand; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self- control." (IITim.1:6)
•He was not physically strong.
"...use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." (ITim.5:23).
"...bodily training is of some value...." (ITim.4:8)
Commentators speculate that Timothy was in his early 30's. In some ways he was not a promising candidate for the strenuous life of the missionary. But then, "...not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are...." (ICor.1:26–28)
1;1 Paul's introduction is more orientation than Timothy needs, and suggests that Paul intended to have this letter available to the Church at large. But grace, mercy and peace are blessings he, and we all, need.
1:3–7 Timothy's assignment was to stay in Ephesus and fight against false teachers. One wonders if Timothy was up to such a task. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that after he was gone, "...fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock". (Acts 20:29). Whether these was a current crop of false teachers or not, the Ephesian church was in a struggle. They had members who desired to be teachers of the Law (1:7) but were off on tangents--myths, genealogies, and strange doctrine. One current source of myths and endless genealogies was an apocryphal book called "The Book of Jubilees". It was a Jewish reworking of Genesis with great attention to the genealogies, elaborate use of the number 7, fanciful tales and some obvious nonsense. Paul was not interested in promoting speculation but divine order.
1:5–7 On the contrary, the Christian's aim is love, the center-piece of the faith. "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'". This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matt.22:37–38)
Love springs from a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. A good conscience sounds similar to a pure heart. However, the meaning of the Greek word for conscience implies the approval of the group, rather than one's internal judge. So one's personal reference point reflects that of the group.
In contrast, the false prophets were not interested in godly love but attracting attention to themselves. The problem with speculation, myths, endless genealogies, and vain discussion is not so much that they are wrong in themselves as that they distract from the truth, both theological and practical. The more time we waste on trash, the less time we have for things of enduring value.
1:8–10 When Paul says the Law is not laid down for the just, but for the unjust, who is included? He is. "And I am the foremost of sinners;" (1:15). And therefore we all are. He may be speaking ironically of the false teachers as well.
The list of those who need the Law is a list of violators of the Ten Commandments (I-X):
*"ungodly and sinners ",
I: You shall have no other gods before me.
II: You shall not make any graven image.
IV: Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
III: Do not take His Name in vain.
* murderers of parents and manslayers
IV: Honor your father and mother.
VI: You shall not kill.
*"immoral persons and homosexuals"
VII: You shall not commit adultery.
VIII: You shall not steal.
*" liars, perjurers"
IX: You shall not bear false witness.
" and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine...."
He does not mention X: "You shall not covet", perhaps because it includes all the others--the reason why people kill, commit adultery, lie and steal. It is also the most subtle, existing mainly in the mind.
Paul teaches us that "doctrine" and "Gospel" and the "Law" are parts of the whole. Plainly the Ten Commandments have enduring value for the Christian.
1:12–17 Now Paul turns to an example of grace, God's mercy on him. He says he received mercy
a) because he blasphemed, persecuted and insulted Him ignorantly, in unbelief, and "the grace of our Lord overflowed for me...."
God's mercy was also given to him so
b) "that Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him."
If God could save this despicable soul who hated and murdered the believers (Acts 26:9–11) God can save anyone.
1:15 contains a sermonette:
"The saying is sure...." The Gospel can be trusted.
"and worthy of full acceptance...." It is intended for everyone.
"that Christ Jesus came into the world...." He was made flesh and lived among us.
"to save sinners." He was not merely a prophet or moral teacher.
"And I am the foremost of sinners." The Gospel is received individually and is available to the worst people.
1:18–20 Lastly, Timothy is warned not to go the way of Hymenaeus and Alexander who let their consciences go and made spiritual shipwreck. "Delivered to Satan" means excommunication, at least. (ICor.5:5,13). It was intended to produce spiritual change, not retribution.
Applications from the passage:
What frivolous teachings are we exposed to? Remember "The Bible Code" or The DaVinci Code"? Do we pay attention to the "National Enquirer" which often has religious nonsense to attract our attention? Bible numerology lays a strange template on the Scripture.
If Paul received mercy because he acted against the Christians in ignorance and unbelief, the same can be said for Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus today. As we heard recently from Indonesia, Muslims have heard Jesus say "Why are you persecuting me?"
There is a tendency for some Christians to neglect the moral aspects of the Gospel. Some think there are no moral aspects to the Gospel. Being under grace exempts one from having to think about sin and the Law?
Sin? No problem? That is false teaching.
Timothy is warned against ignoring his conscience. Doesn't that sound like strange advice for a dedicated servant of Christ? We are all vulnerable.
"Lord, with what care hast thou begurt us round!
Parents first season us; then schoolmasters
Deliver us to law; they send us bound
To rules of reason, holy messengers,
Pulpits and Sundayes, sorrow dogging sinne,
Afflictions sorted, anguish of all sizes,
Fine nets and stratagems to catch us in,
Bible laid open, million of surprises,
Blessing beforehand, tyes of gratefulness,
The sound of glorie ringing in our eares:
Without, our shame; within, our consciences;
Angels and grace, eternall hopes and fears.
Yet all these fences and their whole aray
One cunning bosome-sinne blows quite away."
The Poems of George Herbert. Oxford; London, (1593) ;1961. pg.38–9.