The first Epistle to Timothy was written during the Apostle Paul’s later journeys between his two imprisonments at Rome (probably early in 66 A.D.), as was also the Epistle to Titus. There is a time indication in regard to the former in I Tim. 1. 3, and to the latter in Titus 1. 5. He exhorts Timothy to stay at Ephesus, as he had been doing before the occasion mentioned in that verse. The fact that he exhorted him to tarry at Ephesus when the Apostle himself was going into Macedonia, may suggest that Paul was then with him at Ephesus. But that is not necessarily the case. They may have met somewhere else, e g. at Miletus.
In view of the condition of the assembly in Ephesus the Apostle gave instructions to his fellow-worker as to his service there, and probably promised to write later In that case this first Epistle would be the fulfilment of his promise.
The main purpose of the Epistle is stated in 3. 14, 15: “These things write I unto thee – that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the House of God” (R.V.) The Apostle was not simply instructing Timothy how to behave himself (as in the A.V., which is not really a right translation of the original). Nor indeed, is there any word for “men”. Literally the sentence is “How it is necessary to behave in the House of God,” and the contents of the Epistle as a whole make clear that the intention was to give instructions as to the conduct requisite for all members of the assembly as constituting the local church of God, the bishops and deacons, the men and the women, whether elder or younger, fathers and their households, masters and servants, those who were rich, and so on. For the local church is “the pillar and ground of the truth,” a testimony in the world as to the revealed will of God.
The way in which this purpose is stated marks the informal character of the Epistle as in the Apostle’s other letters. At the same time it does not consist of a miscellaneous list of instructions. There is an orderly progression of detail, with the interweaving of foundation truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole bearing the impress of the Holy Spirit in every word and phrase.
There is a deep significance in the fact that while writing upon the main subject of the Epistle, the Person of the Lord is revealed throughout the testimony. It contains no mention of the relationship of believers as children of God. The subject throughout is their witness in the world, individual and collective, as a local church.
This chapter has four parts as follows:
Verse 1. Paul, an apostle – The word “apostle,” taken direct from the Greek apostolos, signifies one who is sent. Though not among those who companied with the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry, Paul’s commission was received direct from the ascended Lord, see, 2 . 7; Acts 26. 17: Rom 11 : 13; Gal. 2. 7-8. The term “apostle” expresses his relation to Christ in respect of the object for which he was sent. It is used of the Lord Jesus in Heb. 3. 1. and similarly describes His relation to God.
Of Jesus Christ – The order of the titles is significant. The R.V. always gives the accurate order according to the original. The order “Jesus Christ” directs us from the days when He was on earth to His exaltation. It describes Him as the One Who was rejected of men, but afterwards glorified by the Father. It is thus a testimony to His Resurrection, Phil. 2: 11. The order “Christ Jesus,” points to Him as the One Who had been in the glory with the Father, but Who emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and endured the sufferings and death of the Cross. This order testifies to His pre-existence, Phil. 2. 5.
According to the commandment of God our Saviour – This expresses his call to the service of his apostleship as being given him with Divine authority. It also intimates the obedience of his response. In the Epistles to the Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians, he uses the phrase “through the will of God,” indicating the Divine source and power from whence his call was derived.
The title “God our Saviour” appears for the first time in the pastoral Epistles. The title “Saviour” is indeed characteristic of these closing Epistles, whether it is applied to God the Father or to the Lord Jesus Christ. Its application to both marks the Divine unity of all that is involved in the title. The Apostle had by this time enjoyed a long experience of the delivering and preserving power of the Lord. The title “Saviour,” then, points not only to the Lord’s redemptive work, but to the fact of His gracious care of His servants.
And Christ Jesus our hope – The repeated order “Christ Jesus,” as in the R.V. is in accordance with the most authoritative and ancient texts The Apostle stresses the decision and authority of Christ as Lord at the end of v. 2. As “our Hope,” Christ is presented as the Object of the assured expectation of believers; cp. Acts 28. 20; and see Col. 1. 27. The uncertainty and possible disappointment which characterize the hope of the unregenerate, are conspicuous by their absence from the hope of the Christian. This must be so, as Christ Himself is the Personal Embodiment of his hope. Hope has to do with that which is not yet seen, Rom. 8. 24-25. Though we see not the Lord Jesus except by faith’s vision yet believing we rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” 1 Pet. 1. 8. In Him is centred our expectation of coming deliverance and glory. (see 1. Thess. 1. 10., R.V.)
Verse 2. Unto Timothy, my true child in faith – The word gnesios rendered “true” in the R.V., signifies genuine, the opposite to that which is spurious. The Apostle uses the same word in addressing Titus (1. 4). In 2 Cor. 8. 8., it is translated “sincerity,” the adjective there being used as a noun. In Phil 4. 3, the only other place where it is found in the N.T., both the A.V. and the R.V. translate it “true.” As the word is connected with that for “birth,” it might here be rendered “true-born.” Timothy became a child of God by faith, Gal. 3. 26; Paul was the human instrument in his conversion, probably on the occasion of his first visit to Lystra, as recorded in Acts 14.
The phrase by which he addresses him here is indicative of the tender care and affection he had shown him from the first. There is no article before “faith” in the original, and probably the en, translated “in,” signifies “by.”
Grace, mercy, peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord – Grace is God’s free, unmerited favour towards man despite his sin and its effects. “Mercy” is not added to “grace” in any salutation to an assembly. It is added in both the Epistles to Timothy and the one to Titus, and by the Apostle John in his second Epistle. Jude uses the order “Mercy, peace and love.” Cp. 6. 16.
Mercy implies need on the part of the one to whom it is shown, and especially need resulting from sin and its character Mercy is the manifest expression of pity. The Scripture declares that God is rich in mercy. Eph 2. 4, and consequently has provided salvation for all men. Believers are exhorted to “draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that they may receive mercy,” Heb. 4. 16 and consistently with that they pray for mercy for their fellow-believers, as the Apostle does here. They are likewise to show mercy to one another, Matt. 9. 13; Luke 10. 33: Jude 23, R.V. They are moreover to show it cheerfully. Rom. 12. 8.
Mercy and peace are found together always in that order in the N.T., except in Gal. 6. 16; see 2 Tim. 1. 2; Titus 1. 4; 2 John 3; Jude 2. In the Old Testament “truth” is most frequently coupled with “mercy.” e.g. 2 Sam. 15. 20; Psa. 85. 10; 86. 15; 89. 14; 115. 1; Prov. 3. 3; 14. 22; 16. 6; 20. 28. Notice the opposite order in Hos. 4. 1.
The R.V. of Psa. 25 10; 61. 7, and 98. 3, has loving kindness and truth. In 101. 1. judgment is associated with “mercy;” in Zech. 7. 9, “mercy” and “compassion” are associated.
When grace and mercy are realized in the soul, peace is sure to abound. The title “God the Father” is mentioned in relation only to those who through faith in Christ have been born anew, Gal. 3. 26, and see 1 John 3. 1; 5. 1. The phrases “God the Son,” and “God the Holy Spirit” are not found in Holy Scripture. Indeed they are unscriptural, for they carry the suggestion that there are two other Gods besides God the Father. In speaking of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, it is advisable always to adhere to the language of Scripture. In regard to the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures speak of “the Son of God,” and the “Spirit of God.” The essential and eternal Deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Trinity of the Three in the One Godhead, are clearly taught in the Word of God. That the bestowment of grace, mercy and peace is by both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, is a testimony to the Deity of Christ.
For the order of title “Christ Jesus,” and for the stress on the title “Lord.” see notes on verse 1. The title “Lord,” in its full significance, as applied to Christ, is based upon the fact of His Resurrection. Psa. 110. 1; Acts 2. 36; Rom. 10. 9; 14. 9. Confession of Jesus as Lord is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers, 1 Cor. 12. 3. Hereafter, every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Verse 3. As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia – This would probably be some time after Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, and after what is recorded in the Acts. It is to be noticed that in such a circumstance he did not “command” his younger fellow-missionary, he “exhorted” him (a better meaning than the A V., “besought.”)
That thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine – Timothy had the task of checking the spread of evil doctrine. What Paul had foretold in Acts. 20, 29-30, was now coming to pass. The verb heterodidaskaleo, to teach something different, is used only here and at 6. 3, in the Greek Bible. Cp. the word “different” heteros) in Gal. 1. 6, followed by allos, “another of the same sort,” in verse 7; see also 2 Cor. 11 4.
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