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

3 I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, 4 and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. 5 But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. 6 Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. 9 This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.  Version: New Revised Standard Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • 1 Timothy was written by Paul to a dear son in the faith (vv.2,18). See Acts 16 for the beginning of their relationship. Timothy is in Ephesus, put there by God (and Paul) in the midst of a very serious situation.
  • The letter was written in the face of a crisis.
    • Certain elders of the Ephesian church community had turned away from the faith and were recruiting others to join them. See Acts 20:30.
    • Hymenaeus and Alexander (1:20) may well be names of two of these men. In Acts 20:29 Paul may also be referring to false teachers from outside the community. Either way, the church is under attack.
    • They had embraced Gnosticism. If you are unfamiliar with this religion, click here and here. It is the backdrop of 1 Timothy, and without an understanding of Gnosticism, much of this epistle will be obscure.
    • Paul is urging Timothy to put a stop to the false teaching (1:3). This will require considerable conviction, courage and clarity of thought.
    • It is especially important that the church leaders (the elders) be men of faith, integrity, and conviction (3:1-7), since they are shepherds of the flock (Acts 20:28).
  • The false teachers fixated on:
    • "Christian" mythology (v.4). The nature of these myths is not specified, though it is well known the Gnostic mythology was highly developed.
    • Genealogies (v.4). Because of their concern for ethnic purity (keeping Israel separate from the nations) and levitical purity (for priestly service), genealogies were important for the Jews.
    • Novel interpretations of the O.T. law (v.7).
      • Yet they'd missed the moral purpose of the law (vv.8-11).
      • As with the New Age movement, bits of Bible were being cited without regard to context or the big picture of scripture.
    • "Knowledge" (6:20), as opposed to morality/conscience (vv.5,19). In other words, salvation was the intellectual "freedom" of enlightenment, instead of the moral freedom of forgiveness of sins.
    • Thus it seems their religion combined elements of Christianity and Judaism in a Gnostic manner.

Advanced:

  • 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles.
    • Pastor is the Latin word for shepherd. In these letters we see the pastoral concern of Paul, working through his associates Timothy and Titus, for Christian communities established in western Asia Minor and the on the island of Crete.
    • Although the letters appear to be written privately, to individuals, the second person plural personal pronoun appears in 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 4:22; Titus 3:15.
    • 1 Timothy was written late in Paul's career, likely between about 63 AD and his death (64-68 AD). Titus was written next, and 2 Timothy last (see 2 Timothy 4:6ff), no later than 68 AD. That is the terminus ad quem because of the strong tradition that Paul was executed in the time of Nero (d.68 AD).
  • The Colossian heresy also combined Gnosticism with Judaism (Colossians 2:13-23).
  • Notice the specificity of the chapter in regard to various sins:
    • Murder, including matricide and parricide (v.9).
    • Sexually promiscuity, including homosexuality (v.10).
    • The slave trade (v.10). Although slave-owning was not forbidden, trafficking in slaves was. (See also Revelation 18:13.) On the other hand, early Christians were known for their just treatment of their servants, and (at times) for manumitting them.
    • Perjury (v.10). Disciples are to be men and women of their word.
  • For a complete study of the three pastoral epistles, click here.

Thought questions:

  • Do I have a clear conscience?
  • Have I ever come close to "shipwrecking" my faith?
  • Do I see how pernicious and insidious sin is?