1 Timothy

Directions for church order

The writer and date. Paul is the writer (1:1). The epistle is one of the pastoral letters and dated later in Paul's life; how late depends upon the question of whether the apostle had one or two imprisonments. If there were two, it was apparently written during the interval between the two, not later than a.d. 66. If there was but one, the letter was penned not long before the apostle's last trip to Jerusalem, probably a.d. 64.

The theme. The central thought of 1 Timothy is on church order, soundness of faith, and ecclesiastical discipline (ch. 1-3). This was natural after numerous churches were established and the government of local assemblies came to the fore. It was also inevitable that instruction to settled pastors should be given after the churches were founded (ch. 4-6).

1:1-7. The pastor and sound doctrine

1-4. The pastor and unsound teachers. Paul greets Timothy as a pastor and as 'my true son in the faith,' 1-2. In such a capacity he urges the younger man to assume responsibility against unsound teachers, 3-4. A pastor must first be sound himself before he can assume such responsibility. Timothy was urged to remain at Ephesus (cf. Acts 20:1-3) that he might instruct the leaders that they not 'teach false doctrines,' i.e., 'false' in the sense of different from and at variance with sound Christian truth, 3; and that they not 'devote themselves to myths,' i.e., religious fictions, such as the myths that honeycomb paganism, nor 'endless [interminable] genealogies,' in which Judaism prided itself. Why? These unprofitable exercises offer only fruitless questionings rather than the acceptance of God's stewardship, i.e., the discharge of His plan and purpose as seen in the gospel. Their stewardship is known by faith, 4.

5-7. The pastor and legalists. In contrast to the unsound teachers' empty legalism, the goal of Christ's commandment (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12; Gal 6:2) is love, born out of a pure (clean) heart, out of a good conscience, and out of sincere faith, 5. Those who have missed the mark through legalism have turned aside to 'meaningless talk' – discussion of meaningless words, 6. Desiring to be law-teachers, they are characterized by ignorance of true knowledge or genuine experience, 7.

Pic: Inscription from the floor of the Double Church, Ephesus

1:8-11. The law and the gospel of Christ

8-10. The purpose of the law. The law itself is good, 8a (cf. Rom 7:12), but it must be employed (made use of) lawfully, i.e., properly or legitimately, in line with the glorious gospel committed to Paul's trust, 11. Its purpose is to convict the sinner (the unrighteous) and to lead him to the Saviour that he might be declared righteous by faith (Rom 3:21-28; Eph 2:8-10). In no sense is the law to be used for the righteous (justified) man, either to justify him or to sanctify him. It is intended to reveal to the sinner his sin and its penalty apart from Christ, 9-10.

11. The purpose of the gospel. It is 'the glorious gospel of the blessed God,' 11a. It is the good news which heralds God's excellence in manifesting His gracious love for sinners by providing for their salvation (Jn 3:16). What the law could never do, grace does (Jn 1:17; Tit 3:4-5).

1:12-17. The gospel of Christ and the sinner

12-15. Salvation and commission of Paul the sinner. The apostle's ministry of salvation was the result of God's saving grace, 12, manifested toward a great sinner, a blasphemer, a persecutor of God's people and 'violent man' 13a (Acts 8:3; 1 Cor 15:9). He received God's mercy because he committed his sin in ignorance and unbelief, 13b, the abundance of God's grace being shown toward him, 14. Paul was an illustration of the great truth that the incarnation of God in Christ was for the purpose of saving sinners, in which category he placed himself first, 15. This grand fact is a 'trustworthy saying' i.e. true and indubitably sure, worthy of hearty reception and universal cordial assent.

16-17. Paul's salvation an example for all believing sinners. The apostle was to be a pattern of God's gracious patience and love toward sinners in Christ, 16. God is 'the King eternal, immortal, invisible [Jn 1:18], the only God' to whom all honor and glory are to be given forever, 17, because of the salvation He has provided in Christ.


1:18-20. The charge to Timothy the pastor

18-19a. The charge. The solemn exhortation and injunction to Paul's 'son' Timothy, since he was evidently Paul's convert, is that he might wage a successful spiritual conflict, 18b (cf. 2 Tim 4:2; Heb 9:14). Predictions of such a ministry were made earlier in the younger man's life and would not fail to be realized in him.

19b-20. The warning. The case of Hymenaeus and Alexander (2 Tim 2:17-18) offers an example to the contrary. Teaching error concerning the resurrection, Hymenaeus had destroyed the faith of some. By apostolic authority Paul had delivered these false teachers to Satan, 20 (cf. 1 Cor 5:5; 11:30-32; 1 Jn 5:16). This involved serious chastening (Heb 12:6), even to the point in some cases of physical death.

2:1-8. The church and public prayer

1-2a. The general injunction. Prayer both public and private has a primacy. Paul exhorted, therefore, that 'requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone,' 1, especially for civil rulers and authorities, 2a (Rom 13:1).

2b-8. Reasons for prayer. (1) That Christians may lead a tranquil and quiet life in godliness and dignity, 2b, in accord with God's will, 3. (2) Because God's desire is the salvation of men in which prayer has an important place, 4. (3) Because the incarnation and redemptive work of Christ gave new power and outreach in prayer, 5-6 (cf. Jn 16:23-28). Paul was divinely commissioned as a preacher (herald or proclaimer) and an apostle (delegated one) of these truths concerning prayer, 7. He was to instruct believers in the proper prayer attitude and exercise, 7-8.

2:9-15. The order of women in Christian society

9-10. A Christian woman's demeanor and dress. As the Christian man's life is to be adorned by prayer, so the Christian woman is to beautify herself with the proper 'cosmetic.' Positively, this is well-ordered (i.e., proper) dress. Without, there is to be befitting dress; within, proper adornment of heart manifested578 by modesty and a serious attitude toward her place in Christian society, 9a. Negatively, to spell out the positive injunction, Christian women are not to adorn themselves with 'braided' hair (from root pleko, to interweave or plait), or with costly jewelry, 9b. This does not suggest drab dress, but modest adornment, becoming a woman's position as a Christian. That which is worldly or unbefitting these criteria is to be avoided, whether a woman is queen or commoner. Positively again, the real adornment or cosmetic of the godly woman is to be her good works.

11-15. A Christian woman's reaction to men. A Christian woman is to be characterized by a spirit of teachableness and of quiet submission to her husband, 11 (1 Cor 14:34-35; cf. Gen 3:16). The opposite attitude is most unbecoming to a woman professing godliness. Paul himself did not permit women to teach men or usurp authority over them, in the sense of acting in independent power or domineering over them, 12.

The reason for subjection is outlined, 13-15. (1) Adam was created as federal head of the race before Eve was formed, 13. (2) Eve was formed from Adam, not Adam from Eve. (3) The woman, not the man, was deceived, 14, and is still peculiarly subject to doctrinal deception. (4) She will be 'kept safe,' i.e., be rescued and preserved from the dangers of insubordination, deception, and teaching doctrinal error which the apostle hints at, by cultivating her highest call of childbearing. Her real honor is in producing and training godly offspring, 15.

3:1-7. The qualifications of overseers

1. The honor of the office. It is a fact that if anyone earnestly desires, in the sense of setting his heart upon, the office of an overseer (episkopes), he desires 'a noble task' (office, position of watching over the flock of God).

2-7. The qualifications of the office. The ideal overseer must be: (1) above reproach, not to be laid hold of by some blot on his character; irreprehensible; (2) a one-wife man, not an adulterer, divorced or polygamous, although he may be an unmarried man; (3) vigilant, watchful, circumspect; (4) sober, serious-minded; (5) of good behavior, well-ordered with a life focused on Christ; (6) given to hospitality, literally a stranger-lover; (7) gifted and qualified to teach, 2; (8) not addicted to wine and hence not intemperate and violent; (9) not quarrelsome, that is, not a violent, quick-tempered person apt to give a blow in a fit of anger; (10) not covetous or greedy; (11) patient, mild or gentle; (12) not a brawler, literally a nonfighter; (13) one who controls his own family well, having his children well-disciplined, 4. If a man is defective in the control of his own family how can he be qualified to take care of the house of God (the local church), 5? (14) An elder must not be a novice, one newly planted in the Christian church, a new convert. Such an inexperienced, untested believer is peculiarly exposed to the sin of pride that caused Satan's original fall and still characterizes him, 6 (Isa 14:12-14; Ezek 28:12-19; 1 Tim 6:9; 2 Tim 2:26). (15) He must also be one having a good reputation (testimony) among the unsaved, 7.

3:8-13. The qualifications of deacons

8-12. Their qualifications. The deacons were charged with the financial and temporal administrations of the local church, as the overseers were charged with the more directly spiritual aspects. The deacons' qualifications are largely the same as the overseers, 8-10, 12 (cf.2-7). The qualifications of their wives, 11, doubtless also apply to overseers' wives.

13. Their reward. They who discharge the office well acquire (gain or earn) for themselves an 'excellent standing,' literally a step, or stair, in the sense of dignity of rank. They also attain boldness and freedom of speech which the Spirit gives to those who gain confidence and assurance by virtue of fidelity to a Christ-centered faith.

3:14-16. The church and revealed truth

14-15. The church and its relation to revealed truth. Paul intends Timothy to be instructed in church management and discipline. If the apostle cannot do this orally, he will write, 14-15a. It is important to know how one, particularly a pastor, ought to conduct himself in the house of God (the local church). 'The church of the living God' (the Body of Christ) is the pillar or column in the sense of the support holding up the root of truth. It is also the ground or foundation of truth in that the Holy Spirit teaches the revealed truth of God (the Bible) only to believers, members of the true church.

16. The gist of revealed truth. This verse refers to the basic body of divine revelation made known in Scripture and may well have constituted an early Christian hymn. It is avowedly 'great' because it embraces God's eternal plans and purposes in Christ centering in redeemed man. It involves a 'mystery,' i.e., revealed truth previously hidden but now made known, which still transcends man's full comprehension. This mystery has its goal in godliness, that is, restoring lost mankind to a state of godlikeness where man is united to Christ and enabled to fellowship with and worship his Creator. It centers in Christ: (1) His incarnation – God 'appeared in a body' (Jn 1:1, 18); (2) His resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit vindicating and proving true all His claims (Rom 1:4); (3) His post-resurrection appearances witnessing to the spirit world of580 His person (Mt 28:2- 7); (4) His gospel – 'preached among the nations' (Gal 1:16); (5) His church and Body – constituted by those who 'believed on [Him] in the world'; (6) His ascension – 'taken up in glory' (Acts 1:9-11).

4:1-6. The pastor and doctrinal error

1-2. Demonism the source of doctrinal error. The well-instructed pastor must know the real origin of false teaching to deal with it adequately. Therefore the Holy Spirit speaks plainly on this point. He declares unequivocally that error is instigated not primarily by the false teacher but by the evil spirits or demons energizing the false teacher. This truth is enunciated by the fact that when some depart from the faith (Jude 3), they are said to give heed to (take up with) seducing spirits rather than the false teachers. The result is doctrines of demons – not teachings about demons (demonology) but errors originated by demons. These teachers, teaching falsehoods in hypocrisy, are mere insincere actors or pretenders, whose conscience is cauterized into insensitivity to differentiate good from evil, error from truth.

3-6. An illustration. The apostle selects a current error, a kind of legalistic asceticism, to illustrate the fact that false doctrine is demon-originated. It forbids marriage (as if this God-ordained institution were evil, and thus incriminates God), and the eating of certain foods, which the apostle shows were created by God to be received with thanksgiving and prayer, 3-5. The demonic impress in this doctrine is ap- parent, displaying Satanic pride (Isa 14:12-14), slander of God's goodness (Gen 3:5), and clear falsehood (Gen 3:4). As a good pastor Timothy is to show the source of error and teach truth, 6.

4:7-16. The pastor and self-discipline

7-11. Self-discipline in public ministry. This involves faithfully teaching truth (cf. 6); refusing or rejecting 'godless myths and old wives' tales,' which are profane, not being connected with holiness or godliness; and exercising toward a goal of godliness rather than toward mere physical conditioning, the benefits of which are temporary in contrast to both the temporal and eternal benefits of godliness, 8. This is a completely reliable directive, 9, for the reason given in 10. Our hope is in the 'living God,' who through Christ's sacrifice has made humanity 'savable,' and who actually saves those who believe. Self-discipline also involves the diligent teaching of these things, 11.

12-16. Self-discipline in private ministry. Timothy, the young man, is to give no occasion for anyone to look down upon his youth. He is rather to be an example or model to God's people, 12. In his ministry he is to emphasize reading (scholarly study of the Scripture), exhortation (preaching) and doctrine (teaching). He is not to neglect the spiritual gift he possesses. There is evidently reference here to the charge given him at his ordination, 14. He is to meditate or continually bestow careful thought upon these matters, so that his progress or advancement in spiritual maturity may be apparent to everyone. This means he must pay particular attention to this living as well as to his teaching. In persevering in these matters he will save himself in the sense of deliverance from pastoral pitfalls, and rescue the people to whom he ministers from common snares in the Christian life.

5:1-16. The care of widows

1-2. Conduct toward various Christians. Elders are not to be the objects of verbal violence. The young men are to be treated as 'brothers,' the older women with parental respect and love. Sisterly purity is to mark Timothy's relations with the younger women.

3-16. Treatment of Christian widows. Widows who are really destitute are to be honored and provided for, 3. Those who have children or other relatives ought to be supported by them, 4. Real widows trust God, 5, something which is not true of those who live in voluptuous pleasure and luxury, 6-7. Such are not to be supported by the church. Relatives are under obligation to support widows within their families, 8. No widow under 60 was to be church-supported. Those who are, must fulfill certain conditions, 10. Younger widows are not to be supported for various reasons, 11-13, but are encouraged to marry and bear children, 14-15. Insofar as possible the church is to be responsible only for real widows, 16.

5:17-22. Concerning elders

17-20. Honor due them (cf.5:1). Teaching elders (pastors) are to be considered worthy of 'double honor' – honor of position and honor of financial support, 17-18 (cf. Deut 25:4; 1 Cor 9:7, 11; Lk 10:7). They are not to be irresponsibly accused, 19 (cf. Deut 19:15). However, those who sin are to be publicly rebuked for the sake of others who may be tempted, 20.

21-22. Timothy's responsibility. Like all pastors, Timothy is solemnly warned against partiality and prejudice in dealing with God's people, 21 (cf. Jas 2:1-12). He is also warned against ill-advisedly ordaining young men to the ministry, 22 (cf. Acts 13:3).

5:23-25. Paul's personal advice to Timothy

23. Regarding Timothy's health. Paul suggests that Timothy no longer be a water drinker, i.e., no longer confine himself to drinking water only, but use a little wine for its medicinal value, 23.

24-25. Regarding the question of men's sins and good works. Some men's sins are so plainly manifest and evident that they precede the sinner to judgment. In the case of others, their sins follow after or catch up with them and appear as the sequel to their evildoing, 24. In like manner the good works of some believers are obvious and manifest. However, those good works and deeds of love which are not open to everyone's sight cannot be hid, certainly not from God, and not even altogether from men, 25.