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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary
1 Timothy 1



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Verse 5


‘Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.’

1 Timothy 1:5

What is meant here by ‘the commandment’? In the Greek, the word for ‘commandment’ is the same as that translated ‘charge’ in the third verse, and the meaning is, ‘the end, the point, of the charge you must give is charity.’ Now ‘charity’ is only another word for ‘love.’ There is only one word in the Greek for both of our English words, and the authors of the Revised Version rightly substituted the more comprehensive word ‘love’ for ‘charity.’ The Apostle Paul is here exhorting Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, how to deal with certain persons who were disputing about unimportant things instead of with the all-important principles of the Christiaa faith. ‘You have among you,’ the Apostle would say, ‘teachers, perhaps clergy, who need instructing in the things they should teach; they are making the people take up foolish questions, and neglecting the all-important things. Their teaching is “vain jangling.” Now the point of your charge that I am so anxious you should press upon them is love, “out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.”’ In a word, the great subject which St. Paul urges Christian teachers to inculcate is love and its sources.

St. Paul tells us there are three sources of the true and blessed love which God asks for.

I. It must flow out of ‘a pure heart.’—There is a sort of love which can flow out of an impure heart. That is a mockery of love—a low, mean, contemptible thing. A pure heart! it is a priceless possession. Guard the treasure, for it is easy to lose, and hard to regain it.

II. Love must issue out of a ‘good conscience.’—Let us understand clearly what conscience is. It is the power or faculty within us which tells us when we do right or wrong, approving the right and condemning the wrong. Conscience needs to be well instructed and guided by right principles. But it is our best guide, and it is better to err with conscience than to go right against it.

III. Love is the outgrowth of ‘faith unfeigned.’—Faith is the power in the soul which makes real the unseen, which lives for another world; it is the realising faculty. Surely this faith in the unseen lies at the root of all religion. But it must be ‘unfeigned.’ It must be real—no mere words, no mere profession. It must set the soul in the presence of God. Above all, it must make real to the soul the living Saviour.

—Bishop Walsham How.


‘What do you think of Father Damien, who, knowing perfectly well what it meant, went and lived in Leper Island, till he took the complaint and died? I could name men of high promise and prospects in this world who have, for pure love, given up all to live and labour among the poor and outcasts. Such characters may be rare, but they are not impossible; but, even were they rarer, remember there is God’s ideal given us.’



The end of commandment is not love all at once; it requires no small amount of soil-forming and foundation-laying first. The true love of which the Apostle was thinking involves no little preparatory culture and accomplishing; it is emphatically the commandment’s end—the end of seed sown and work done.

I. True love is not by any means the very simple and easy thing which it is frequently assumed to be.—You cannot resolve to begin at once to be loving; you must become much that you are not, perhaps, to be so. True, it is not much to be for the most part gracious and kind and tender, to give away things, and indulge people, and think only of making them instantly comfortable; it is not much, especially for some persons—no straight gate, but a very broad, smooth way; it is their instinct, their nature—they cannot help it. One might say of them often, that they have not purity, conscience, or faith enough to be otherwise; for there is a love very pretty and pleasant, the influence and exercise of which is owing to the absence of these. But this is not ‘the end of the commandment,’ or ‘the fulfilment of the law.’

II. The love which St. Paul intends and desires is love

(a) Rooted in purity.

(b) Rooted in conscience, and

(c) Rooted in faith, one of the highest and ripest attainments of the Christian life.


‘There is the love of unbelief, of which the present day affords us some examples. A love which, recognising in man nothing but an outcome and development of matter, nothing but a perishing transient child of the dust, with no immortal future before him and no invisible Father belonging to him, says, “Let us at least try to minister to him while he remains.” This is the love, the cheerless, melancholy love of unbelief. And it is kind and generous enough; its drear eyes weep with them that weep; its pale hands are stretched forth to heal; but very different is the love which St. Paul contemplated, and to which the commandment leads. The commandment, with its declaration of the Divine Fatherhood, and the human Brotherhood of redemption and immortality, and the call to eternal glory—it teaches us the sublime worth and dignity, the awful greatness and sacredness, of man; shows us upon him, under all his dirt and disfigurement, the image and superscription of heaven; presents us to him at his lowest estate, in his deepest debasement, as a child of the Highest whom the Highest has come seeking through sacrifice.’

Verse 11


‘The gospel … which was committed to my trust.’

1 Timothy 1:11

The gospel of the glory of the Blessed God, says St. Paul, was committed to my trust. Nothing moved the Apostle more deeply than this. Whenever he alludes to it, it seems to bring him to the very dust. It is in connection with this he speaks of himself as the least of the Apostles; and a few years later, with deepening humility, as less than the least of all saints; and later still, not long before he finished his course, as the chief of sinners.

I. You admit this in the great Apostle of the Gentiles.—But you say he was a chosen vessel, unlike every other. You admire, and justly, his manifold education for the work he was called to fulfil. You point to the fact that he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews and yet a Roman citizen of Tarsus, to the culture of his learning, to the religiousness of his Pharisaic youth, to the fiery zeal of his manhood, and when it pleased God to reveal His Son in Him to the overmastering love of Christ, which made him count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord if only he might finish his course with joy. Then you urge that St. Paul was clothed, like Israel’s warriors of old, with the Spirit of the living God. And, lastly, you remind us that the legions of Rome had prepared a highway for the gospel into almost every land, and that the weary world was unconsciously craving for that wonderful ambassador of the Cross.

II. But is it too much to say that England, and pre-eminently England’s Church, have been trained by God for a like embassy, an embassy of the same promise and of the same hopefulness, in these last days? How marvellous has been God’s education of the Church of our fathers—the early planting of the Gospel among us from Apostolic days; then lessons learned under the iron bondage of Rome, which perhaps nothing else could have so deeply graven on our hearts, hunger for freedom, thirst for light, a craving for the pure Word of God; then after the long winter the fresh springtide of the Reformation; then amid sultry calm and wildering storms the consecration of noble intellectual powers to the defence and furtherance of the gospel; and then coming nearer to our own times the revival of Evangelical life, followed by the renaissance of Church order; and now year by year the closer intermingling of these two great streams of thought, so that Evangelical life has largely indoctrinated the lovers of Church order, and the love of Church order has directed into the best channels the zeal of Evangelical life. We ponder these things and ask ourselves, Has not God, Who trained the Apostle of the Gentiles in the first century, been training the Church of this Anglo-Saxon race for His missionary work among the heathen in these last days?

III. From among and from beyond our colonial dependencies the cry of heathen and Mohammedan lands, sometimes an inarticulate cry of anguish and unrest, sometimes a cry of distincter entreaty, ‘Come over and help us,’ is borne to our ears by every wind that blows.

—Bishop E. H. Bickersteth.


‘St. Paul gloried only in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our missionaries have known nothing among men but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. St. Paul was a vigilant pastor, as when at Ephesus for three years he ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears; and there are pastorates in our missionary fields, many of them now under native clergymen, which would vie with the most favoured parishes of England. St. Paul, though free from all men, yet made himself servant unto all that he might gain the more; and a Society like the C.M.S., which has adapted itself to the haughty Moslem, and the cultured Brahmin, and the simple aborigines of India, and the born-warrior Afghan, and the refined Persian, and the patient Chinese, and the broad-minded peoples of Japan, and the hot-hearted children of Africa, and the generous New Zealanders, and the thoughtful, pensive tribes of North-West America—a Society which has done this and won souls for Christ in every field of labour, may take up the Apostle’s words and say, “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” But St. Paul counted not his life dear unto him so that he might finish his course with joy: this, too, has not been wanting; for long years the coast of Africa was known as the white man’s grave, but the soldiers of the Cross never failed, others pressed forward,

Each standing where his comrade stood,

The moment that he fell.

When Bishop Hannington was martyred, some twenty-seven volunteers in England offered themselves for the same post of danger.’

Verse 15


‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.’

1 Timothy 1:15

Why should the words ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ be a ‘faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation’?

I. Because the saying is clearly made up of the words of the Lord Himself.—On two different occasions our Lord referred to the purposes of His coming into the world, and that in terms which completely bear out the words of this saying.

II. Because of the light which it throws on the character of God.—The temptation to cherish hard thoughts of God is very old, and it is also very modern. ‘I knew thee, that thou art an austere man.’ This is the language which millions of hearts have secretly held in converse with the infinitely loving Creator. The saying of the text, when it is once received by faith, is a faithful exponent of the truth about God, and worthy of our acceptation.

III. Because it reminds us of the greatness of the work of Christ.—Never can a moral being say, under any circumstances, ‘It is good for me that I have sinned.’ Physical evil, pain, want, disease, may be made to lead to moral good—moral evil or sin, never. This sin is rebellion of the will against God. If our Lord Jesus had left this master-evil untouched, He would not have saved men, in the proper sense of that expression. The salvation I of man is a different thing from an improved condition of society. Our Lord came to save men by doing three things for the human will. He gave it freedom; He gave it a new and true direction; He gave it strength. He has pardoned believing sinners: He has put them by His grace on the true road which man should follow, and He has given them strength to follow it.

—Rev. Canon Liddon.



If in other matters truth is what one needs, in matters of religion it is the supreme necessity. There are no useful mistakes in religion, no happy errors, no falsehoods that help any one to be better.

I. The biggest truth in the world.—Is it true that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners? If it is, it is the biggest of all truths.

(a) St. Paul, living in the light, beautified by the light, walking with God, inspired, illuminated by Him, says, Brethren, I have tried this truth, I have tested it with the weight of my life, ventured all on it, put it to every test; and I come to you and tell you it is a faithful saying, something that will bear your weight, and answer your hopes, and never disappoint your confidence.

(b) It fits in with all that we might expect of God. We have a taste for truth; the sheep hear the voice, and can tell the difference between what is Divine and human. Everything good in us must have had its origin in something better in God, and something answering more nobly to our pity and our compassion, and our delight in saving, and our trouble when we look upon distress; something answering, but more nobly, to all of these must be in the heart of Him that made us.

II. This gospel is worthy of all acceptation.—There is an innumerable multitude who think, and think they believe this statement—think they do, and would be shocked if they were classed amongst sceptics or unbelievers—but who immediately turn aside and think of something eighteen hundred years ago—a fact of history unimportant to them. Now St. Paul, who had seen a good deal of life, says that this gospel is worth all men’s acceptance: that the richest should take it in order to increase his wealth, and the poorest in order to dissipate all his poverty; that the troubled should take it as the cure of every care, and the untroubled should take it as the preservative of all delights; that the guilty should take it as the gleam of hope that will restore them to peace, and the innocent as that which will preserve their integrity. It is worthy of all men’s acceptance: and some accept it, binding it to their heart, making that fact the main starting-point of the plans and purposes of their life; responding to it, adoring Christ, opening the gate to let Him in, helping Him in His effort to save them.



It is of the deepest moment, especially in these anxious days, that our faith in the Incarnation should be distinct and unwavering.

I. We must unhesitatingly believe that our Lord and God did enter into our nature along its wonted pathway, and subject to all its limitations, but, so entering, remained, nevertheless, from the first moment onward of the human life He vouchsafed to live, very and eternal God, His outward glory laid aside but His attributes unchanged. The life of Jesus was thus, to use the expression of a great Christian thinker, always God-human. This is the faith handed down to us unchanged and unchangeable through ages of controversy.

II. The divine purpose of our Lord’s coming into the world was to save sinners.—The great Nicene Creed reiterates the same declaration. ‘For us men and for our salvation,’ the eternal Son laid aside His glory and came down from heaven. It was for us and for our salvation He came down, and was incarnate; for us and for our salvation that He was born as we are born, suffered—albeit in a greater and more transcendent intensity—as we suffer, died as we die.

The more we dwell on the purpose—the salvation of mankind—the firmer will be our hold on the truth and reality of the Incarnation.

—Bishop Ellicott.


‘We are at last reverting to the primary belief of the early Christian Church that God is among us, blessing and visiting the children of men. Not a God outside the world, or as for ages has been the prevailing conception of God since the days of Augustine, transcendently above it, but a God within the world, immanent and abiding. To the early writers of Christianity the Incarnation was not a new principle in the development of the world. Firmly believing in the immanence of God in the world which He had vouchsafed to create, and equally believing in Christ, not merely speculatively, but in deepest and most heartfelt reality as very and eternal God, to them it seemed no strange thing that the indwelling God should at length reveal Himself to the world and even enter it under the conditions, and in consonance with the laws of human existence and development.’

Verse 18


‘War a good warfare.’

1 Timothy 1:18

Every true man is a soldier. His path is one of conflict. As Napoleon carried the nations of Europe at the point of the sword, so the Christian soldier must conquer the kingdom. In order to do this he must be a good soldier; and we shall notice some few things which are involved in this.

I. He chooses his profession.—All true soldiers are volunteers. Pressed men do not as a rule make good soldiers; they seldom wear or fight well, and when men are forced into a religious profession from such low motives as slavish fear, or dread of God, they never bring much honour to Christ, and frequently turn back to the world, its praise and pleasures.

II. He exercises implicit faith in his Captain.—This is the life-giving root of his character and service.

III. He exercises himself

(a) In faith.

(b) Meditation.

(c) Prayer.

(d) In the use of his weapons.

IV. He obeys orders.—His religion or soldiership commences and continues in obeying, and his obedience is prompt, minute, and implicit; he obeys, asking no questions, and at all risks.

V. He is true to his Captain.

VI. He endures hardness.

VII. He fights to the last.


(1) ‘It is said of a soldier of the French Guard who had been shot, that when the surgeon was cutting down, searching for the bullet, he said, “An inch lower and you will find the Emperor.” Whether this be fact or not, Christ has the supreme love of every soldier; the language of his heart is, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon the earth that I desire beside Thee?”’

(2) ‘During the last war between France and Germany, it is reported that on one of the battlefields whole rows of men were found shot down, lying on their faces with their fingers on the trigger. So it is with all good soldiers of the Cross. They fight with and for Christ, even unto death, and finally all such shall receive the crown of life.’

Verse 18-19


‘This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience.’

1 Timothy 1:18-19

Such was the commission which St. Paul laid upon his son Timothy when he left him in charge of the Church at Ephesus, in his own stead. He was ‘to war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience.’

I. The image recurs more than once in these Epistles to Timothy.—The Apostle bids him, in the Second Epistle, ‘endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,’ reminding him that ‘no man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,’ and in his parting words he applies the same image to himself. ‘I,’ he says, ‘have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.’ His own office, and that of the disciple whom he appointed to the work of a bishop in his place, was one of warfare—warfare against spiritual, moral, and social evils, which he denounces in detail. ‘I charge thee,’ he says, ‘before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.’

II. Such, in some of the last words of the Apostle Paul, was the type he left for the Church of a true bishop, a true Father in God.—The difference between these Pastoral Epistles, as they are called, and the others of St. Paul is determined by this purpose. In other Epistles he is revealing, explaining, and enforcing the cardinal truths of the Christian faith, bringing them home to the conscience and the understanding of the individual Christian. In these Epistles, to Timothy and to Titus, he is urging on bishops of the Church the use they should make of these truths, the manner in which they should apply and enforce them. He passes in review, accordingly, the whole of society, both in the Church and in the world, with which these bishops would have to deal, and there is scarcely any class of which he does not notice the dangers and the duties. He commences, immediately after the text, by speaking of the duty of the bishop to the whole society of his time. ‘I exhort,’ he says, ‘that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ In this comprehensive spirit he proceeds to speak of the relative duties of men and women, of the various members of the Church, of masters and servants, rich and poor, teachers and taught.

III. This was Timothy’s charge, to be always on the watch against the evils by which life was menaced, to fight against them manfully with the weapons supplied by the Christian faith and the organisation of the Christian Church, and so, in faith and a good conscience ‘to war a good warfare.’

—Dean Wace.

Verse 19


‘Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.’

1 Timothy 1:19

St. Paul explains to Timothy his object in writing to him—to encourage and stimulate him in the battle of life. In the responsibilities cast upon him; in the difficulties he will have to meet, let him be true to the high hopes formed of him. He points out—

I. Two conditions of mind and heart which must underlie all true and useful conduct.

(a) Faith. St. Paul speaks of faith in its widest sense, including faith towards God, and faith towards man and in man as made in God’s image and under His moral government.

(b) Conscience obeyed. Conscience is the voice of God within.

II. He states that these conditions may be given up.

(a) One may put away faith in God, doubt His love, give up belief in the perfection and holiness of His government. Men charge God with being partial, unkind, unjust. As a consequence they lose faith in humanity, in the possibilities of life, etc. Such a state leads to despair, antinomianism, rebellion.

(b) Conscience may be stifled, seared with a hot iron, but in the worst and most hardened criminal conscience remains, if as nothing else, as an accuser. But a good conscience may be put away. Oh, what a loss! It involves loss of self-respect, loss of faith in self, loss of power, loss of peace. Rejecting faith in God and disloyal to the voice within. How hard it is to sink so low! St. Paul uses a strong word—‘faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust from them’ (R.V.).

III. He speaks of the result which must inevitably follow.

(a) Shipwreck. In God’s moral government and in His revealed Word He has given us the rules for the voyage of life. But if one gives up faith in the Teacher, the chart is disregarded.

(b) Shipwreck concerning the faith. Though there be outward profession of Christianity, in heart and life it is shipwreck concerning Christ.

Let us be true to God and true to self.


‘Ah, if our souls but poise and swing

Like the compass in its brazen ring,

Ever level and ever true

To the toil and the task we have to do,

We shall sail securely, and safely reach

The Fortunate Isles.’—Longfellow.



In these words St. Paul is warning not only Timothy, but all clergymen after him; and not only these, but through them all Christian people, of a great truth, which was too much forgotten in those days, as it is too much forgotten in these days—that a correct faith and a good and holy life must go together in order to our salvation. ‘Holding faith’; there he speaks of having and keeping the right and true belief. ‘A good conscience’; and there he points to the need of holiness, without which we can have not a good but a bad conscience, because it will accuse us of our bad actions which we have done.

I. Many people see the need of one of these two things, and neglect the other.—There are many persons who approve of honesty and goodness in life, but do not think much of a right faith. They see it is good that a person should not steal, or commit murder, or live impurely. They would have every one live honestly and respectably; but (say they) that is all that is needed. What a man believes doesn’t much matter:

‘He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.’

And there is a great deal that is very enticing and plausible about such teaching. But there is a mistake in it; and the mistake lies in making a right faith of small account. A true faith always tends to bring about good actions; and believing what is false inclines people somehow to do what is wrong. That is why St. Paul was so careful to teach Timothy, and through Timothy, the church over which he was set as a bishop, that they wanted both right faith and good life to keep their souls in the path to heaven.

II. Faith is the root of action.—What we do follows from what we believe, just as surely as a tree springs from its root. You could not get the fruit without the tree; you could not get the right fruit without its coming from the right tree; ‘a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.’ And this people do not always see.

III. There is also a danger in the other direction; and therefore with faith he mentions ‘a good conscience.’ The danger is that, while holding fast the faith, we should be tempted to suppose that to believe is enough; that a holy life is not necessary, or at all events not essential, to salvation. This would be just as bad a mistake as the other, and as dangerous. The Catholic faith is intended to show you God in Christ; to reveal to you the Divine Saviour; and if you do not see Him in the Catholic faith, if your heart does not grow wise by its teaching, you may hold it indeed, but it will do you no good; it is useless through your own fault; and the mere holding it will not save you.


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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