12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

18 I am giving you these instructions, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies made earlier about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19 having faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have suffered shipwreck in the faith; 20 among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have turned over to Satan, so that they may learn not to blaspheme.  Version: New Revised Standard Version

COMMENTS

General:

  • Paul shares his gratitude for his salvation (v.12ff). In some senses his former life was no better than that of the false teachers. He glorifies Christ (vv.16-17), knowing that in him alone will Timothy and the Ephesians find the wherewithal to deal with the present crisis. Yet the false teachers, over-reliant on the law, have misunderstood the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Their system is definitely not superior to the salvation Christ brought, which is for all people -- not just the Jews or the elite.
  • Finally, Paul reminds Timothy of certain prophecies made about him (v.18). He is to live up to these messages, and if he does he will be able to handle the current crisis. In order to do so, he must stay righteous. A clear conscience (v.19) is a valuable asset. Here are just a few reasons this is true:
    • When we have a good conscience, we are free from guilt, which is debilitating for the man or woman of God.
    • It allows us to put our trust and confidence in God.
    • It enables us better to hear God's voice in his word.
    • It makes it easier to believe in the power of God.
    • It enables us to love others, truly connecting with them as subjects, not objects.
  • Paul had disfellowshipped two leaders (quite likely Ephesian elders), Hymenaeus and Alexander.
    • They had not acted righteously; they had violated conscience (v.5) and the will of God, shipwrecking their faith (v.19).
    • There was little prospect of their changing as long as they were still in the Christian community. But having been excommunicated (cut off from communion, the Lord's Supper) they were in a position more easily to learn (re-learn) the necessary lessons.
    • Sometimes church discipline is in order, especially when:
      • Grievous sin has been committed.
      • High-profile members are involved.
      • False teaching is destroying the faith of the faithful.

Advanced:

  • In regard to verse 12, if the act of blasphemy were an unforgivable sin, then Paul could not have become a Christian. Rather, in my view the blasphemy against the Spirit (Mark 3) is a state of hardheartedness from which there is no repentance.
  • Once again, we find the noted progression in Paul's humility over time, from 1 Corinthians 15:9 (53 AD) to Ephesians 3:8 (60 AD) to 1 Timothy 1:15 (63 AD).
  • Verse 17 has been made into a beautiful Christian chorus.
  • 1:20 is similar to 1 Corinthians 5:5. The idea is that outside the body of Christ, sin will chasten the offender and bring him to his senses. See also Jeremiah 2:19.
  • For a complete study of the three pastoral epistles, click here.

Thought questions:

  • Do I view myself as a fundamentally good person, or a sinner? If the latter, do I pride myself in my former way of life, or in how much I have changed, or do I share hesitantly and modestly about the time I lived in the darkness?
  • When people are teaching error, do I possess conviction, courage, and clarity of thought? Do I take a stand and confront the error? Do I have a laissez-faire approach to false doctrine?