1 Timothy 1 Commentary


False and true (1:1-11)

The letter begins with a reminder to Timothy of the reason Paul urged him to stay at Ephesus.

Timothy has to stop people wasting time and confusing others with senseless discussions that lead only to conflict and argument. Those responsible for this confusing teaching must learn to control their imagination. Instead of inventing fanciful stories based on Old Testament genealogies, they should concentrate on the kind of teaching that produces a sincere faith, a clear conscience and a pure heart (1:1- 5).

Because these so-called teachers do not aim at building people up in faith and love, they are really false teachers. They want to have authority and prestige like the Jewish scribes, but they have no understanding of the Scriptures they so confidently try to explain. They only lead people away from the truth (6-7).

The false teachers, by using their imagination to interpret the law, try to establish a set of regulations by which Christians should live. The law, however, was not given for that purpose. It was given to sinful people to show them God’s righteous standards. As a result it showed people their sinfulness, and in this way led them to God to ask his mercy. This is the way Paul uses the law in preaching the gospel (8-11; cf. Rom 3:19-20; 7:7-12).

Reminders from past experiences (1:12-20)

As soon as Paul mentions the gospel, he is reminded of the power and grace of God that he has experienced in his own life. God changed Paul, and turned the greatest of sinners into his special representative to take the gospel to the Gentiles. If God can do that, there must be no limit to his mercy, grace and love (12-15). No person is beyond hope. Christ’s patience in dealing with the persecutor Paul should be an assurance to others that he will be merciful to them too. When repentant sinners are thankful for all that the Almighty God has done for them, they will respond by giving him honour and glory (16- 17).

Paul recalls the prophecy, given at the outset of Timothy’s ministry, that indicated the kind of ministry to which he was called. He trusts that as Timothy thinks over the words of that prophecy, he will find renewed courage to stand firm for what he knows to be right. A firm faith must be linked to a clear conscience (18-19a).

Hymenaeus and Alexander were two who had been guilty of serious wrongdoing because they separated their beliefs from their behaviour. They refused to change their ways and in the end were put out of the church. They were, so to speak, put out of the sphere where God’s rule was acknowledged into the sphere where they were open to the attacks of Satan. But Paul hoped that the punishment would lead to correction, so that as they realized their wrongdoing they would turn from it (19b-20).

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