Timothy is about to assume authority as he becomes the undershepherd in the church at Ephesus. This is going to be a grave responsibility. He will face dangers and difficulties that are both moral and spiritual. At the opening of this epistle, Paul is forewarning him. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Paul, would encourage him as he takes up his new task.
Paul is aware of the problems he faces. Paul is awake to the perils he faces. Paul is alive to the possibilities before him. Paul is alert to the privileges around him. Paul is advising him in the position he is taking. Paul would guide him along the path to victory.
This chapter could be studied along these lines:
We have already looked at the first two verses, dealing with the writer and the reader.
In this epistle, Paul is emphasizing sound doctrine. He would have the church at Ephesus to be sound in doctrine. Sound doctrine makes strong pulpits, and strong pulpits make spiritual saints. Weak churches are usually weak doctrinally.
The Bible is a book of doctrine. It speaks about good doctrine, vain doctrine, doctrine of men, doctrine of demons, doctrine of Pharisees, divers' doctrines, doctrine according to godliness and apostles' doctrine. We have false doctrines advancing because sound doctrine is not emphasized sufficiently. See how "sound doctrine" is set forth in First Timothy. Paul tells Timothy to be:
I. Particular about Doctrine, 1:3—"That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine."
What teachers teach is what people believe.
Teachers have a great Responsibility, James 3:1-2. What is it? To teach and to be sure it is "truth."
Teachers have a great Necessity. They need to know the truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.
Teachers have an unusual Priority—To make known the content of Scripture.
II. Protest against False Doctrine, 1:3b—"That they teach no other doctrine."
Warn people against "things contrary to sound sound doctrine." We should recognize false doctrine. We should reprove false teachers. We should resign from them. We should receive them not, 2 John 10.
III. Purpose of Sound Doctrine, 4:6—"Nourished up in... good doctrine."
Preaching sound doctrine edifies the saints. Preaching sound doctrine gives endorsement to the teachers, 4:6. Preaching sound doctrine enlightens the saints.
IV. Prominence of Sound Doctrine, 4:13—"Till I come give attendance to doctrine."
This was his public relation to doctrine.
Doctrine was not to be neglected. Doctrine was to be preached nevertheless. Doctrine is prominent in the Scriptures.
V. Pay Attention to Sound Doctrine, 4:16—"Take heed... the doctrine."
This is his personal relation to the subject of doctrine.
VI. Persevere in "the Doctrine."—"Labor in... doctrine." 5:17
The word "labour" here means "to work at it." Spend time studying it. He was to study sound doctrine. He was to stress sound doctrine.
Some say it doesn't matter what you believe. That is not true. He was to stand for sound doctrine. He was to support sound doctrine.
VII. See the Purity of Sound Doctrine, 6:3—"Doctrine according to godliness."
Sound doctrine leads to sound living, which is godliness.
In the church at Ephesus where Timothy would minister, certain people were spreading teaching of their own that were far from the truth of Scripture. There are always people, and some weak saints, who will listen to these smooth talkers, without checking up on what they say to see if it is scriptural. Timothy is to watch carefully and to teach wholesome Christian truth.
Now let us look at the Apostolic injunctions that will direct this young preacher, Timothy, in what is likely his first pastorate.
It will help us in our study of verses 3 to 20 if we divide this portion into three divisions related to this young man's ministry:
I. THE APOSTOLIC DEMANDS FOR THE MINISTRY, vss. 3-11
Let us look at the material dealt with in these verses along four suggestive headings:
A. See the Outbreak of Heresy at Ephesus, vss. 3-4
B. The Outcome of Sound Doctrine, vs. 5
Paul has just warned about "certain persons" who were "off-target" in their doctrine. They were misleading their hearers with speculative teaching about non-essentials. They led people into vain discussions. Satan loves to sidetrack people this way. In this way he makes sure the truth never reaches those who need it.
Now Timothy is to charge the false teachers. The word "commandment" here means charge. Paul is not referring to the Mosaic law. In verse 3 it says that Timothy is to "charge some." The result of Timothy's charge is to produce love in the hearts of these false teachers. Timothy's charge is made up of "sound doctrine." The outcome of sound doctrine is love—a Divine love shed in the heart by the Holy Ghost. That love is fully expressed and evidenced in—
In this fifth verse we see three conditional qualities of love:—
C. The Outlook of False Teaching, vss. 6-10.
This portion has to do with wrong teaching and wrong living—"Wrong Doctrine and Wrong Doing." (Guy H. King).
1. The Wrong Doctrine, vss. 6-9a
All this false teaching is described as "empty argument or vain clatter." They had been teaching some "other doctrine." This "other doctrine" had to do with the "law." Some had turned away from the fruits of love in verse 5 and were not sincere in their motives, and had a conscience that was seared by a false faith. They talked about the law but they understood not its content or its purpose. Their lives did not, in their actions, correspond to any kind of sincerity that was related to truth. They claimed to be teachers of the law, with a measure of pride and a lot of conceit, but they knew not the law nor the gospel, verses 6 and 7. Paul sets forth the purpose of the law in verse 8. He says "the law is good" when it is used in its rightful place. This was contrary to the teaching of these false teachers.
The law has a purpose (when used lawfully) designed by God. It convicts of sin in the unconverted. The law is for the lawless. The saved man or woman is freed from the curse of the law by the blood of Christ. "Christ is the end of the law to them that believe." (Rom. 10:4)
Paul names the class of people for whom the law was given in verse 9b-10. What an unholy list of sins are presented here to man apart from the grace of God. The Apostle spells out in detail, word by word, in the clearest of terms, the awful condition of mankind under the law. The Apostle deals with, and names the worst examples of human sin that the law declares vile. And he hasn't named the full category of the sins of the human race—fallen man that the law condemns—"And if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine." God's law judges any sin that is contrary to sound doctrine. All the above practices are the outcome when men submit to false teaching.
D. The Outline of Sound Doctrine, vs. 11
Paul was deeply concerned about conditions in the church at Ephesus. There was an emergency in that church, and Paul sent Timothy to cope with it as his deputy. Some folks were obscuring the gospel with professedly secret legalistic speculations and philosophies that were in opposition to "love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith." verse 5. They didn't understand the true purpose of the law, yet wanted to be teachers of it. Bluntly, Paul describes the people and the deed the law condemns, stating that the terrible things named in verses 9 and 10 are contrary to sound doctrine in accordance with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, verse 11.
Observe the essential relation of sound doctrine to life. False teaching is not just an intellectual matter; it leads to the kind of action that contradicts the gospel Paul preached, and therefore can not be trifled with. Paul knew that for that church (or any other), soundness in the faith was a life or death matter. It is the same for the church today.
In this 11th verse there is mentioned "the gospel of the blessed God." Note three things said here:
1. THE GRAND PROVISION—"The Glorious Gospel."
All of the virtues of the Christian life find their source in, and are according to the gospel. The gospel is good seed, and when sown in a human heart, and yielded to, will produce godly living. There can be no godliness of life apart from an inward experience of the power of the gospel. It transforms the life into Christ-likeness. It does a "glorious" work. It always works when it is received.
2. THE GODLY PARENT—"The Blessed God."
God is the fountain and source of the gospel.
The gospel that Paul preached was "not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:11-12). The gospel was born in the heart and mind of God. It is not a code of ethics that finds its source in the reasoning of men. It is the gospel of God. Someone has said "it was distilled in the glory, and was sent down here to be sin's double cure." It not only comes down from glory but it takes us up to glory. It fits us for glory. God is the divine Author and source of the gospel of our salvation.
God is called "the blessed God." The word "blessed" here means happy. In Psalm 1 where we read "Blessed is the man," you can read it literally "Happy is the man." Our God is a happy God. Happiness has to do with deep-seated joy. The Lord said, "My joy I give unto you." In Zephaniah 3:17 we read, "He will rejoice over thee with joy." Our gospel comes out of the happy heart of the eternal God.
3. THE GRAVE POSITION—"Which was committed to my trust."
Paul's is a great responsibility. He has been put in trust with the content of the gospel. What an assignment for mortal man. He is responsible for its purity. He is to see that it is kept free from the reasonings and traditions of men. He is responsible for its protection from the "cunning craftiness" of fallen, scholarly men. He is responsible for its propagation. He is to see that it is made known. It is to benefit all mankind. At the end of his ministry he said "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7).
II. THE APOSTOLIC DEDICATION TO THE MINISTRY, vss. 12-17
In verses 12 to 17 we have Paul's personal testimony. As he conies to the close of his life his heart overflows with gratitude and praise. At the heart of all of this is the fact "that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." Paul wishes to show the superiority and sufficiency of the gospel of the grace of God, which is "sound doctrine." He is now negating the spurious teaching of those who would pervert the gospel. Paul's conversion and call to the ministry is a clear cut evidence of the truth and power of the gospel. None could refute his testimony as to the effect of sound doctrine (the gospel) in his own life.
Let us look at the truths set before us along six definite lines:
A. Paul's Service in Sin, vs. 13a.
He gives a description of some of his former sins. He doesn't mention them all. He opposed Christianity with every ounce of strength that filled his wicked heart. Here he presents three areas of activity of his former godless life. We see him in his:
B. Paul's Separation to the Ministry, vs. 12
After thinking of what he had been, his heart is filled with gratitude for what God has wrought in him. Paul is telling us of his call to the ministry. This verse is full of the grace of God. Three things happened in this experience of Paul that can only be the operation of God's grace. He is thankful for three things that are related to his entrance into the ministry—
C. Paul's Salvation by Grace, vss. 13b-14
Over against his life of sin and shame, he refers to the wonders that God did for him by His grace. Grace is "God taking upon Himself the responsibility for the punishment of our guilt and sin for all of time and eternity." A simple definition is "Grace is God's unmerited favour toward us." Paul mentions three things here about God's goodness toward him—
D. Paul's Summary of the Gospel, vs. 15
This verse contains the very soul of the gospel—Sound Doctrine. In this verse God is speaking to the hour in which we live. We had better hear and heed what God says. God is speaking, and what God says is Authentic. It is reliable and trustworthy. There are no doubts about it.
What God says is Acceptable. "It is worthy of all acceptation." It is God's word to mankind. It is the best news a man ever heard.
What God says is Adaptable. It meets the needs of the people—nothing else does.
What he says is "sound doctrine." This is a faithful saying, or "faithful is the word" or doctrine about Christ. The word "saying" here means doctrine or declaration. The doctrine—that Christ came into the world to save sinners can be depended on. You can cast your whole weight on it. It will prove itself true.
In the pastoral Epistles there are five of these "faithful sayings."
In this portion, verses 12 to 17, Paul is giving his testimony. Have you ever noticed that the older Paul grew, and the more famous and successful he became, there is a corresponding increase in his humility? In 1st Corinthians 15:9 he describes himself as "unfit" to be called an Apostle. A few years later, writing to the Ephesians, he calls himself "the very least of all the saints," (Eph. 3:8). Here, in almost his last letter, he has become the "foremost of sinners." This is not hyperbole, but a sign of real spiritual progress. The closer we live to Christ, the more we become aware of our weakness and sin.
E. Paul Shows His Pattern Conversion, v. 16
Paul opens the verse, setting forth the reason why God showed mercy toward him. In saving Saul of Tarsus, there is placed before the children of men the very limit of the longsuffering of God. "That in me, Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering." The conversion of this man shows just how longsuffering God is. "God is not willing that any should perish." But how long will God put up with the vile sinfulness of a sinner before he comes to the place of repentance? A long time! Evidently God's patience is not easily exhausted. Peter says, "And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." (2 Peter 3:15). With Paul, it seems as though God went the full limit of His longsuffering. God could not have shown His longsuffering to a sinner who was less wicked.
Paul's conversion was to be a pattern example of conversion to the whole world. In his conversion there is seen the salvation of the vilest of sinners—"the chief of sinners." Here is a conversion that is a picture of all conversions. We see here that no man is too bad for the redeeming grace of God to transform.
But how was Paul's conversion a "pattern to all them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting"?
F. Paul Surges into a Doxology, v. 17
Paul here sets forth the character of the One who worked such a wonder in his life, as set forth in the preceding verses. Paul's heart is so filled with gratitude that he bursts forth in a doxology of praise to God. It is the outbreak of the great emotions swelling in his bosom which couldn't be denied expression. When he thought of his sinful past and what the mercy of God did for him, he is elated to the place where he must express his feelings in words. What words they are! His heart demands utterance. He doesn't voice the praise for any experience he had met with. He reserves his doxology directly and reservedly for the King of Kings. Look at this doxology—
Every conversion should be followed by a doxology.
III. THE APOSTOLIC DIRECTION IN THE MINISTRY, vss. 18-20
Paul has just given us his testimony in verses 11 to 17 of this chapter, and now we look at the testimony that Paul charges Timothy to maintain during his ministry. This is an important lesson to all of God's people. It is, of course, directed to the ministry.
Let us look at the content of these verses along the three lines of teaching set forth in them:
A. The Pastoral Duty, vss. 18-19a
Paul is about to charge and warn this young pastor. Notice how he does it.
1. The Preparation for the Warning, vs. 18a—"Son Timothy."
Paul calls him "son Timothy."
It is a Fatherly Warning—"My son." It is as a father speaks to his son. Timothy must listen to fatherly advice and accept it. He must obey his father in the faith.
It is a Faithful Warning. Paul is being faithful as a father in the faith and as an Apostle. Let us all be as faithful to our spiritual children.
It was a Fitting Warning. Timothy needed it. False teachers were entering in and not sparing the flock. He needed to protect his personal life and guard the flock from all that was not "sound doctrine." Timothy was young in the ministry and he needed all the help he could get from the Apostle.
2. The Promptings for the Warning, vs. 18b—"According to the prophecies which went before on thee."
Certain hopes had been held respecting the future career of Timothy. Certain anticipations were expected of him in the church. From a child it was thought he could be trusted with important matters. Some of the prophets in the early church felt that God had gifted this young man, Timothy. No doubt they "laid hands" on him, showing their endorsement of future ministry. These prophets expected great things of this young man (2 Tim. 3:15). They knew of his careful training. They recognized his prudence, piety and spiritual seriousness. These hopes had assumed the form of predictions. Paul reminds him of the hopes held out for him. This is to increase his sense of responsibility. Paul felt that Timothy would not disappoint the long cherished hopes of his friends. Paul tells him not to let these hopes be dashed to the ground. The Apostle Paul didn't say this to flatter him, but to excite him to a sense of fidelity and diligence.
3. The Purpose of the Warning, vs. 18c—"That thou mightest by them war a good warfare."
He is to be a true soldier and to stand in the day of battle. He is to be standing firm on the battle front when the shelling starts. He is not to retreat when the shelling starts. He is to war a good warfare.
See all the "good" things spoken of in this book:
The purpose of this charge is to stir Timothy up to be true to his trust; to stimulate fidelity. He should contend for "sound doctrine" with earnestness. He is to be victorious over the enemy.
4. The Powerful Weapons for Duty—"Holding faith and a good conscience."
Here Paul directs Timothy to two weapons to use in the "good warfare," namely: An Infallible Faith—"Holding fast." An Instructed Conscience—"A good conscience."
Neither of these will do alone. Not faith without a good conscience, nor a good conscience without faith. Hold both faith in your teaching and a good conscience in your practice. Don't let either one slip. Faith stands with a good conscience and falls with a bad one.
Stand true to the Word of God in preaching and teaching, and always have a clear conscience in all the practices of life. Never depart from a strong faith in the Word, and always have a good conscience void of offense toward God and man.
Paul is telling Timothy how much depends on the truth if the church is to be successful and victorious. He is to be faithful to the cause in which he has been enlisted. He is to believe the truth and never to betray his trust. He is to keep a well instructed conscience. Don't develop a liberal conscience.
B. The Possible Danger, vs. 19b
Paul tells Timothy to always stand by the truth and keep a clear conscience. It is the road to victory. He tells him that some have forsaken the truth and have cared little about the voice of conscience in warning, and as a result have failed. No saint, and especially a preacher, should ever deviate from these two things. If he does, he is in trouble, and also those people to whom he ministers. He will soon be giving his people sermonettes and endorsing church suppers and worldly amusements in the church. They will soon become Christianettes, and will experience church discord.
Let the Pastor be true to the Word, with an enlightened conscience, and God will honor his ministry. Amen.
C. The Pathetic Disaster, vs. 20
Disobedience to the plain injunctions of the Word always leads to failure. Paul would warn young Timothy of the awful dangers of disobedience. Words of warning are good, but examples of shipwreck are much better. Paul would have Timothy learn something from the example of others.
1. Behold the Men—"Hymenaeus and Alexander"
These are dangerous men. They didn't hold to the truth. They didn't keep up a good conscience. All men who do such are dangerous. They turned liberal. They had no conscience about the fact that the Word was truth, and to depart from it would lead to disaster (2 Tim. 2:17-18).
Let us remember that these were saved men. They were Christians. This is the reason why they were disciplined. God doesn't discipline unsaved people. The sad thing about them is that God leaves them alone to continue in sin until they become sick of it, and convicted. These men were not mere professors. They had come to a saving knowledge of Christ. They were led astray by the enemy. This is serious. They had resorted to false teaching—yea, blasphemy.
2. Behold the Misery—"I have delivered unto Satan."
The purpose of this deliverance unto Satan was to teach them a lesson, that they might be restored. Their sin was serious; it had to do with "blasphemy." Their false teaching was a reproach on the Divine character and upon revealed truth. They subverted the Divine order for blessing. False teaching is poison spread among the saints. It eats away healthy tissues in the spiritual lives of God's people. Shun it as you would a snake. These men had a breakdown of faith and their conscience was dulled. They are "handed over to Satan." They were rebuked and handed over to Satan's territory—the world. They can't fellowship with believers where the Lord is in the midst. They are exposed to the attacks of Satanic activity. They will be chastened of the Lord, and they will feel the attacks of Satan through the world. They won't feel happy while away from the fellowship of God's people and under the discipline of the Lord.
Let us keep a true heart toward truth and a tender conscience as we follow the Lord.