I look forward to returning to preaching in 1 Timothy on Sunday at the Red Brick Church in Stillman Valley, IL! Below are some of my introductory thoughts on 1 Timothy. It would be great for our church family (or anyone else interested in 1 Timothy) to scan these thoughts.
In our world of moral relativism – – -at a time when so many are unwilling to stand for the Truth – – 1 Timothy is a wonderful call for pastors and local churches to be protectors and supporters of the Gospel of the Living God (1 Timothy 3:14-16).
Author of 1 Timothy
The Apostle Paul (See the miracle that was Paul) wrote 1 Timothy, likely in the period from 62-64. The letter does not fit into the chronology of the book of Acts. It is believed that after a first Roman imprisonment, Paul was free to travel. First Timothy was written during this time frame.
Recipients of 1 Timothy
Timothy was the direct recipient of 1 Timothy. Paul first met Timothy a number of years earlier when Paul and Silas were in his area (Acts 16):
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. (Acts 16:1-5)
While Paul addressed the letter to Timothy, he did so expecting that the letter would be read aloud to the entire congregation at Ephesus. This is evident from the way Paul concludes 1 Timothy with the plural, “grace to you all,” though this does not come out in our English translations. It is also evident from the fact that the letter to Timothy became a part of the Bible!
Along with the church at Antioch and Jerusalem, Ephesus would be on everyone’s short list of the most important churches in history. Consider these facts:
- Paul spent more time in Ephesus than at any other church.
- Scholars argue that as many as 8 New Testament books were written to an Ephesians context.
- Paul’s probably wrote his Corinthians correspondence while at Ephesus.
- The Colossians were evangelized from an Ephesus base.
- It was probably in Ephesus that Priscilla and Acquilla risked their lives for Paul (Romans 16:4).
- The church at Ephesus is the first church addressed in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (Revelation 2:1).
Geographically, Ephesus was on a key port and from it a network of roads fanned out that made other churches accessible. Ephesus was the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire and the largest one in Asia Minor. It was a center of idol worship and industry. In fact, there was a temple there that was one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was 425 long and 225 feet wide. A king donated each of its 120 columns. Prostitution thrived here and was actually part of the religious service. The idol temple at Ephesus and all its decadence were firmly entrenched in the culture at Ephesus. To oppose that temple with a message would be like telling Americans to get rid of their televisions. It was part and parcel of their lives.
We know from the book of Acts that Paul first evangelized Ephesus with Priscilla and Acquilla. He spent more time there than in any other church. He wrote in Romans 16:4, They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.
In Acts we can review high-level Paul’s history with the Ephesians. When Paul arrived he began by teaching in the synagogues. Then he went to a lecture hall for a couple of years. Everywhere they saw great demonstrations of the Spirit’s power. Industry was threatened and a riot broke out. So Paul wrote that he fought against “wild beasts” in Ephesus(1 Corinthians 15:32)
Finally, Paul moved on after a very traumatic and difficult good-bye. He was able to summarize his message to the Ephesians in Acts 20:21 (a very important verse).
Of course, the importance of the church at Ephesus stands out in 1 Timothy, because Paul records that he left his trusted partner Timothy there to address problems in the local church.
There were a number of issues to address at Ephesus:
- False teachers were active.
- Women were dressing immodestly and there was controversy about the role of women in the local church.
- There was a lack of thorough understanding about the role and qualifications of elders and deacons.
- The church had Ephesus had to be taught about how to honor and take care of their pastors.
- Some struggled with an arrogant attitude because of prosperity and materialism.
Pre-Gnosticism – There were the beginnings of Gnosticism which was a heretical teaching that a kind of knowledge would release one from bondage to the material (See Dictionary of Paul, 353). See 1 Timothy 6:20. Some prohibited marriage and eating meats (1 Timothy 4:1-5). But Knight thinks one can easily go too far and saying this is Gnosticism. Perhaps, we should say it is the “seeds of Gnosticism.” Kelly says it is a gnosticizing form of Jewish Christianity.
“One point is clear. The opponents’ teaching was not developed Gnosticism and was much closer to the errors at Colossae and Corinth, mixed with portions of aberrant Judaism, speculative superstition, and possibly magic. The nature of the opponent’ teaching does not require dating the PE later than Paul.” . . . “and his assumption that its officers form a succession of trustees charged with safeguarding and handing down the authorized doctrine (e.g. 2 Tim. ii. 2).”
There were also Judaizers who taught that Christians needed to be under the Old Testament Law. Christians could not be full believers if they did not conform to the requirements of the Torah (Dictionary, 512). The reference to the “circumcision group” in Titus also evidences the problem.
Kostenberger’s excellent article effectively makes the point that the book of 1 Timothy need not be seen as simply an ad hoc response to a particular issue. While there were particular issues, Paul was seeking to provide general help to the early church and especially to the development of leaders within the early church.
Paul’s central strategy in 1 Timothy
Paul’s central strategy for both Timothy and Titus was that qualified leaders must teach God’s people to have sound doctrine and then live in a way consistent with that sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Kelly writes,
“First, we should notice a feature which strikes every reader of the Pastorals, their strong bias in favour of orthodoxy, and their exaggerated concern for the transmission of correct doctrine and loyalty to the inherited faith . . . since the correspondence is directed against dangerous doctrinal errors, it is only natural that it should lay special stress on orthodoxy and the carefully preserved deposit of doctrine.” J.N.D. Kelly
The verb for false teaching that Paul uses in both Titus 1:3 and 6:3 was ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω / heterodidaskaleō. It is a compand word: hetero – teaching or a different teaching.
In the Pastoral epistles, Paul refers to the sound doctrine which must be taught with various labels:
the faith: 1 Tim 1:3, 19; 3:9; 4:1, 6:10, 12, 21; 2 Tim 3:8; 4:7; Titus 3:15
the truth: 1 Tim 2:4, 7; 3:15; 4:3; 6:3, 5; 2 Tim 2:18, 25; 3:7-8; 4:4; Tit 1:1, 14
the sound doctrine: 1 Tim 1:10; 6:3; 2 Tim 1:13; 4:3; Titus 1:9, 2:1
the teaching: Titus 1:9; 1 Tim 6:1
the good deposit: 1 Tiim 6:20, 2 Tim 1:4 (literally)
“In nearly every one of these expressions, the noun is preceded by the definite article, indicating that already a body of doctrine existed which was an agreed standard by which all teaching could be tested and judged. It was the teaching of Christ and his apostles.”
Hendrickson outlines the following reasons for studying the Pastorals:
- Because they shed much needed light on the important problem of church-administration.
- Because they stress sound doctrine.
- Because they demand consecrated living.
- Because they answer the question, “Are creeds of any value?”
- Because they tell us about the closing activities in the life of the great apostle Paul.
- Because they are a valuable source for the understanding of the history of the church in the third quarter of the first century A.D.
- Because in these epistles as well as in the others God speaks to us.
My reasons for being excited are very similar to Hendriksen’s. But I would probably mention Paul’s clear teaching on leadership more explicitly. Hendriksen obviously meant it as a part of “church-administration.”
The reason I am most enthused is because Paul’s purpose in writing 1 Timothy was to remind Timothy and the church at Ephesus that pastors and local churches are called to be protectors and supporters of the Truth. I am tempted to beginning exposition of 1 Timothy 3:14-16 right here . . . but it will need to wait until I am into the series.
Key Verses for 1 Timothy Introduction
3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 1 Timothy 1:3-7
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:14-16
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:28-32
8 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9 for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9
Bibliography for Pastoral Epistles
Arnold, C.E. “Ephesus.” In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, 249–253. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Bridges, Jerry. The Practice of Godliness. Colorado Springs: Nav, 1983.
Bruce, F.F. Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.
Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. Edited by W. Ward Gasque. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1988. http://www.loc.gov/catdir/description/hend021/89159457.html.
Hendriksen, William. Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990.
Johnson, Luke Timothy. Letters to Paul’s Delegates: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus. 1st ed. T&T Clark, 1996.
Kelly, J. N. D. A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Thornapple Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1963.
Knight, George W. The Faithful Sayings in the Pastoral Letters. Kampen: J. H. Kok, 1969.
———. The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992.
Kostenberger, Andreas J., and Terry L. Wilder, eds. Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles. Original. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010.
Liddon, H.P. Explanatory Analysis of St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy. Minneapolis: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1897.
Liefeld, Walter L. 1 and 2 Timothy/Titus : the New International Version Application Commentary from Biblical Text–to Contemporary Life. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Marshall, I. Howard, and Philip Towner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999.
Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville: T. Nelson, 2000.
Quinn, Jerome D. The Letter to Titus: a New Translation with Notes and Commentary and an Introduction to Titus, I and II Timothy, the Pastoral Epistles. Vol. 1st. New York: Doubleday, 1990.
Stott, John R.W. The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus. Edited by John R.W. Stott. The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2001.
Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Edited by Gordon D. Fee. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.
 The introductory issues for the Pastoral Epistles is incredibly complex. Dating 1 Timothy requires an incredible reconstruction of events. Further, critical theologians have long questioned Pauline authorship. Mounce has a very helpful and incredibly detailed reconstruction of how the history may have unfolded which includes a missions trip to Spain.
 George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 6.
 Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody, 1992), 130. John, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, 1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation. Besides, Paul was ministering at Ephesus at the time he wrote 1 Corinthians.
 F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 298.
 An unstudied thought on my part is that, given the content of the exhortation to the church at Ephesus in Revelation, they probably heeded Paul’s admonition by way of Timothy at the time of First Timothy. Later, however, they “lost their first love.”
 Thomas, Revelation 1-7: An Exegetical Commentary, 129.
 Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 27.
 Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 12.
 William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson, 2000), lxxv.
 Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, 17.
 Andreas J. Kostenberger, “Hermeneutical and Exegetical Challenges in Interpreting the Pastoral Epistles,” in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, ed. Andreas J. Kostenberger and Terry L. Wilder (Nashville: B&H, 2010), 27.
 J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, Thornapple Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1963), 17, 19.
 John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, ed. John R.W. Stott, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2001), 42.
 Ibid., 42–43.
 William Hendriksen, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 3.