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Analysis Of The Chapter
This chapter 1 Timothy 1:0 comprises the following subjects:
(1) The salutation to Timothy, in the usual manner in which Paul introduces his epistles; 1 Timothy 1:1-2.
(2) The purpose for which he had left him at Ephesus; 1 Timothy 1:3-4. It was that he might correct the false instructions of some of the teachers there, and especially, as it would seem, in regard to the true use of the law. They gave undue importance to somethings in the laws of Moses; they did not understand the true nature and design of his laws; and they mingled in their instructions much that was mere fable.
(3) The true use and design of the law; 1 Timothy 1:5-11. It was to produce love not vain jangling. It was not made to fetter the conscience by vain and troublesome austerities and ceremonies; it was to restrain and bind the wicked. The use of the law, according to these teachers, and according to the prevailing Jewish notions, was to prescribe a great number of formalities, and to secure outward conformity in a great variety of cumbrous rites and ceremonies. Paul instructs Timothy to teach them that love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience, was the elementary principle of religion, and that the “law” was primarily designed to restrain and control the wicked, and that the gospel brought to light and enforced this important truth.
(4) The mention of the gospel in this connection, leads Paul to express his thanks to God that he had been entrusted with this message of salvation; 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Once he had the same views as others. But he had obtained mercy, and he was permitted to publish that glorious gospel which had shed such light on the law of God, and which had revealed a plan of salvation that was worthy of universal acceleration.
(5) This solemn duty of preaching the gospel he commits now to Timothy, 1 Timothy 1:18-20. He says that he had been called to the work in accordance with the prophecies which had been uttered of him in anticipation of his future usefulness in the church, and in the expectation that he would not, like some others, make shipwreck of his faith.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ; - see the notes on Romans 1:1.
By the commandment of God - See the notes at 1 Corinthians 1:1.
Our Saviour - The name Saviour is as applicable to God the Father as to the Lord Jesus Christ, since God is the great Author of salvation; see the notes, Luke 1:47; compare 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:10; Jude 1:25.
And Lord Jesus Christ - The apostle Paul had received his commission directly from him; see the notes, Galatians 1:11-12.
Which is our hope - See the notes at Colossians 1:27.
Unto Timothy - For an account of Timothy, see Intro. Section 1.
My own son in the faith - Converted to the Christian faith by my instrumentality, and regarded by me with the affection of a father; see notes, 1 Corinthians 4:15. Paul had no children of his own, and he adopted Timothy as a son, and uniformly regarded and treated him as such. He had the same feeling also toward Titus; Titus 1:4; compare Galatians 4:19 note; 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 2:11 notes; and Philemon 1:10 note.
Grace, mercy, and peace, ... - See the notes, Romans 1:7.
As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus - It is clear from this, that Paul and Timothy had been laboring together at Ephesus, and the language accords with the supposition that Paul had been compelled to leave before he had completed what he had designed to do there. See the Intro. Section 2.
When I went into Macedonia - Having been driven away by the excitement caused by Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen; Acts 20:1. See the Intro. Section 2, 3.
That thou mightest charge some - The word charge here - παραγγειλης parangeilēs - seems to mean more than is commonly implied by the word as used by us. If it had been a single direction or command, it might have been given by Paul himself before he left, but it seems rather to refer to that continuous instruction which would convince these various errorists and lead them to inculcate only the true doctrine. As they may have been numerous - as they may have embraced various forms of error, and as they might have had plausible grounds for their belief, this was evidently a work requiring time, and hence Timothy was left to effect this at leisure. It would seem that the wrath which had been excited against Paul had not affected Timothy, but that he was permitted to remain and labor without molestation. It is not certainly known who these teachers were, but they appear to have been of Jewish origin, and to have inculcated the special sentiments of the Jews respecting the law.
That they teach no other doctrine - That is, no other doctrine than that taught by the apostles. The Greek word here used is not found in the classic writers, and does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament, except in 1 Timothy 6:3 of this Epistle, where it is rendered “teach otherwise.” We may learn here what was the design for which Timothy was left at Ephesus.
(1) It was for a temporary purpose, and not as a permanent arrangement. It was to correct certain errors prevailing there which Paul would have been able himself soon to correct if he had been suffered to remain. Paul expected soon to return to him again, and then they would proceed unitedly with their work; 1 Timothy 4:13; 1 Timothy 3:15.
(2) It was not that he might be the “Bishop” of Ephesus. There is no evidence that he was “ordained” there at all, as the subscription to the Second Epistle declares (see the notes on that subscription), nor were the functions which he was to perform, those of a prelatical bishop. He was not to take the charge of a “diocese,” or to ordain ministers of the “second rank,” or to administer the rite of confirmation, or to perform acts of discipline. He was left there for a purpose which is specified, and that is as far as possible from what are now regarded as the appropriate functions of a prelatical bishop. Perhaps no claim which has ever been set up has had less semblance of argument than that which asserts that Timothy was the “Bishop of Ephesus.” See this clause examined in my “Inquiry into the Organization and Government of the Apostolic Church,” pp. 84-107.
Neither give heed to fables - That is, that they should not bestow their attention on fables, or regard such trifles as of importance. The “fables” here referred to were probably the idle and puerile superstitions and conceits of the Jewish rabbies. The word rendered “fable” (μῦθος muthos) means properly “speech” or “discourse,” and then fable or fiction, or a mystic discourse. Such things abounded among the Greeks as well as the Jews, but it is probable that the latter here are particularly intended. These were composed of frivolous and unfounded stories, which they regarded as of great importance, and which they seem to have desired to incorporate with the teachings of Christianity. Paul, who had been brought up amidst these superstitions, saw at once how they would tend to draw off the mind from the truth, and would corrupt the true religion. One of the most successful arts of the adversary of souls has been to mingle fable with truth; and when he cannot overthrow the truth by direct opposition, to neutralize it by mingling with it much that is false and frivolous.
And endless genealogies - This also refers to Jewish teaching. The Hebrews kept careful genealogical records, for this was necessary in order that the distinction of their tribes might be kept up. Of course, in the lapse of centuries these tables would become very numerous, complicated, and extended - so that they might without much exaggeration be called “endless.” The Jews attached great importance to them, and insisted on their being carefully preserved. As the Messiah, however, had now come - as the Jewish polity was to cease - as the separation between them and the pagan was no longer necessary, and the distinction of tribes was now useless, there was no propriety that these distinctions should be regarded by Christians. The whole system was, moreover, contrary to the genius of Christianity, for it served to keep up the pride of blood and of birth.
Which minister questions - Which afford matter for troublesome and angry debates. It was often difficult to settle or understand them. They became complicated and perplexing. Nothing is more difficult than to unravel an extensive genealogical table. To do this, therefore, would often give rise to contentions, and when settled, would give rise still further to questions about rank and precedence.
Rather than godly edifying which is in faith - These inquiries do nothing to promote true religion in the soul. They settle no permanent principle of truth; they determine nothing that is really concerned in the salvation of people. They might be pursued through life, and not one soul be converted by them; they might be settled with the greatest accuracy, and yet not one heart be made better. Is not this still true of many controversies and logomachies in the church? No point of controversy is worth much trouble, which, if it were settled one way or the other, would not tend to convert the soul from sin, or to establish some important principle in promoting true religion. “So do.” These words are supplied by our translators, but they are necessary to the sense. The meaning is, that Timothy was to remain at Ephesus, and faithfully perform the duty which he had been left there to discharge.
Now the end of the commandment - see the notes on Romans 10:4. In order that Timothy might fulfil the design of his appointment, it was necessary that he should have a correct view of the design of the law. The teachers to whom he refers insisted much on its obligation and importance; and Paul designs to say that he did not intend to teach that the law was of no consequence, and was not, when properly understood, obligatory. Its nature and use, however, was not correctly understood by them, and hence it was of great importance for Timothy to inculcate correct views of the purpose for which it was given. The word “commandment” here some have understood of the gospel (Doddridge), others of the particular command which the apostle here gives to Timothy (Benson, Clarke, and Macknight); but it seems more naturally to refer to all that God had commanded - his whole law. As the error of these teachers arose from improper views of the nature and design of law, Paul says that that design should be understood. It was not to produce distinctions and angry contentions, and was not to fetter the minds of Christians with minute and burdensome observances, but it was to produce love.
Is charity - On the meaning of this word, see notes on 1 Corinthians 13:1.
Out of a pure heart - The love which is genuine must proceed from a holy heart. The commandment was not designed to secure merely the outward expressions of love, but that which had its seat in the heart.
And of a good conscience - A conscience free from guilt. Of course there can be no genuine love to God where the dictates of conscience are constantly violated, or where a man knows that he is continually doing wrong. If a man wishes to have the evidence of love to God, he must keep a good conscience. All pretended love, where a man knows that he is living in sin, is mere hypocrisy.
And of faith unfeigned - Undissembled confidence in God. This does seem to be intended specifically of faith in the Lord Jesus, but it means that all true love to God, such as this law would produce, must be based on confidence in him. How can anyone have love to him who has no confidence in him? Can we exercise love to a professed friend in whom we have no confidence? Faith, then, is as necessary under the law as it is under the gospel.
From which some having swerved - Margin, “not aiming at.” The word here used - ἀστοχέω astocheō - means properly, to miss the mark; to err; and then, to swerve from compare 1Ti 6:21; 2 Timothy 2:18. It does not mean that they had ever had that from which they are said to have swerved - for it does not follow that a man who misses a mark had ever hit it - but merely that they failed of the things referred to, and had turned to vain talk. The word “which” ὧν hōn, in the plural, refers not to the law, but to the things enumerated - a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith.
Have turned aside unto vain jangling - Vain talk, empty declamation, discourses without sense. The word here used does not mean contention or strife, but that kind of discourse which is not founded in good sense. They were discourses on their pretended distinctions in the law; on their traditions and ceremonies; on their useless genealogies, and on the fabulous statements which they had appended to the law of Moses.
Desiring to be teachers of the law - That is, to have the credit and reputation of being well versed in the law of Moses, and qualified to explain it to others. This was a high honor among the Jews, and these teachers laid claim to the same distinction.
Understanding neither what they say - That is, they do not understand the true nature and design of that law which they attempt to explain to others. This was true of the Jewish teachers, and equally so of those in the church at Ephesus, who attempted to explain it. They appear to have explained the law on the principles which commonly prevailed among the Jews, and hence their instructions tended greatly to corrupt the faith of the gospel. They made affirmations of what they knew nothing of, and though they made confident observations, yet they often pertained to things about which they had no knowledge. One needs only a slight acquaintance with the manner of teaching among Jewish rabbies, or with the things found in their traditions, to see the accuracy of this statement of the apostle. A sufficient illustration of this may be found in Allen’s “Modern Judaism.”
But we know that the law is good - We admit this; it is that which we all concede. This declaration is evidently made by the apostle to guard against the supposition that he was an enemy of the law. Doubtless this charge would be brought against him, or against anyone who maintained the sentiments which he had just expressed. By speaking thus of what those teachers regarded as so important in the law, it would be natural for them to declare that he was an enemy of the law itself, and would be glad to see all its claims abrogated. Paul says that he designs no such thing. He admitted that the law was good. He was never disposed for one moment to call it in question. He only asked that it should be rightly understood and properly explained. Paul was never disposed to call in question the excellency and the utility of the law, however it might bear on him or on others; compare Romans 7:12 note, and Acts 21:21-26 notes.
If a man use it lawfully - In a proper manner; for the purposes for which it was designed. It is intended to occupy a most important place, but it should not be perverted. Paul asked only that it should be used aright, and in order to this, he proceeds to state what is its true design.
Knowing this - That is, “If anyone knows, or admits this, he has the prover view of the design of the law.” The apostle does not refer particularly to himself as knowing or conceding this, for then he would have uses the plural form of the participle (see the Greek), but he means that anyone who had just views of the law would see that that which he proceeds to specify was its real purpose.
The law is not made for a righteous man - There has been great variety in the interpretation of this passage. Some suppose that the law here refers to the ceremonial laws of Moses (Clarke, Rosenmuller, Abbot); others to the denunciatory part of the law (Doddridge and Bloomfield); and others that it means that the chief purpose of the law was to restrain the wicked. It seems clear, however, that the apostle does not refer merely to the ceremonial law, for he specifies that which condemns the unholy and profane; the murderers of fathers and mothers; liars and perjured persons. It was not the ceremonial law which condemned these things, but the moral law. It cannot be supposed, moreover, that the apostle meant to say that the law was not binding on a righteous man, or that he was under no obligation to obey it - for he everywhere teaches that the moral law is obligatory on all mankind.
To suppose also that a righteous man is released from the obligation to obey the law, that is, to do right, is an absurdity. Nor does he seem to mean, as Macknight supposes, that the law was not given for the purpose of justifying a righteous man - for this was originally one of its designs. Had man always obeyed it, he would have been justified by it. The meaning seems to be, that the purpose of the law was not to fetter and perplex those who were righteous, and who aimed to do their duty and to please God. It was not intended to produce a spirit of servitude and bondage. As the Jews interpreted it, it did this, and this interpretation appears to have been adopted by the teachers at Ephesus, to whom Paul refers. The whole tendency of their teaching was to bring the soul into a state of bondage, and to make religion a condition, of servitude. Paul teaches, on the other hand, that religion was a condition of freedom, and that the main purpose of the law was not to fetter the minds of the righteous by numberless observances and minute regulations, but that it was to restrain the wicked from sin. This is the case with all law. No good man feels himself lettered and manacled by wholesome laws, nor does he feel that the purpose of law is to reduce him to a state of servitude. It is only the wicked who have this feeling - and in this sense the law is made for a man who intends to do wrong.
For the lawless - To bind and restrain them. The word here used means, properly, those who have no law, and then those who are transgressors - the wicked. It is rendered transgressors in Matthew 15:28; Luke 22:37, and wicked, Act 2:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
And disobedient - Those who are insubordinate, lawless, refractory. The word properly means those who are under no subjection or authority. It occurs in the New Testament only here, and Titus 1:6, Titus 1:10, where it is rendered unruly, and Hebrews 2:8, where it is translated not put under; that is, under Christ.
For the ungodly - Those who have no religion; who do not worship or honor God. The Greek word occurs in the following places, in all of which it is rendered ungodly; Romans 4:5; Romans 5:6; 1Ti 1:9; 1 Peter 4:18; 2Pe 2:5; 2 Peter 3:7; Jude 1:15. The meaning is, that the law is against all who do not worship or honor God.
And for sinners - The word used here is the common word to denote sinners. It is general, and includes sins of all kinds.
For unholy - “Those who are regardless of duty to God or man,” Robinson, Lexicon. The word occurs in the New Testament only here, and in 2 Timothy 3:2. It has particular reference to those who fail of their duty toward God, and means those who have no piety; who are irreligious.
And profane - This does not necessarily mean that they were profane in the sense that blasphemed the name of God, or were profane swearers - though the word would include that - but it means properly those who are impious, or who are scoffers; notes, Hebrews 12:16. The word occurs only in the following places, in all of which it is rendered profane: 1Ti 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:7; 1Ti 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16; Hebrews 12:16. A man who treats religion with contempt. mockery, or scorn, would correspond with the meaning of the word.
For murderers of fathers - The Greek properly means a “smiter of a father” (Robinson), though here it undoubtedly means a parricide. This was expressly forbidden by the law of Moses, and was a crime punishable by death; Exodus 21:15. It is said to have been a crime which the Roman law did not contemplate as possible, and hence that there was no enactment against it. It is, indeed, a crime of the highest order; but facts have shown that if the Romans supposed it would never be committed, they did not judge aright of human nature. There is no sin which man will not commit if unrestrained, and there is in fact no conceivable form of crime of which he has not been guilty.
Murderers of mothers - A still more atrocious and monstrous crime, if possible, than the former. We can conceive nothing superior to this in atrocity, and yet it has been committed. Nero caused his mother to be murdered, and the annals of crime disclose the names of not a few who have imbrued their own hands in the blood of those who bare them. This was also expressly forbidden by the law of Moses; Exodus 21:15.
For manslayers - This word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It means a homicide - a murderer. The crime is expressly forbidden by the law; Exodus 20:13; Genesis 9:6.
For whoremongers - Leviticus 19:29; Leviticus 20:5.
For them that defile themselves with mankind - Sodomites. See the evidence that this crime abounded in ancient times, in the notes on Romans 1:27. It was forbidden by the law of Moses, and was punishable with death; Leviticus 20:13.
For menstealers - The word here used - ἀνδρᾶποδιστής andrapodistēs - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It properly means one who steals another for the purpose of making him a slave - a kidnapper. This is the common way in which people are made slaves. Some, indeed, are taken in war and sold as slaves, but the mass of those who have been reduced to servitude have become slaves by being kidnapped. Children are stolen from their parents, or wives from their husbands, or husbands from their wives, or parents from their children, or whole families are stolen together. None become slaves voluntarily, and consequently the whole process of making slaves partakes of the nature of theft of the worst kind. What theft is like that of stealing a man’s children, or his wife, or his father or mother? The guilt of manstealing is incurred essentially by those who purchase those who are thus stolen - as the purchaser of a stolen horse, knowing it to be so, participates in the crime. A measure of that criminality also adheres to all who own slaves, and who thus maintain the system - for it is a system known to have been originated by theft. This crime was expressly forbidden by the law of God, and was made punishable with death; Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7.
For liars - Leviticus 6:2-4; Leviticus 19:11.
For perjured persons - Those who swear falsely; Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 6:3; Exodus 20:7.
And if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine - To sound or correct teaching - for so the word doctrine means. The meaning is, if there is anything else that is opposed to the instruction which the law of God gives.
According to the glorious gospel - The gospel is a system of divine revelation. It makes known the will of God. It states what is duty, and accords in its great principles with the law, or is in harmony with it. The law, in principle, forbids all which the gospel forbids, and in publishing the requirements of the gospel, therefore, Paul says that the law really forbade all which was prohibited in the gospel, and was designed to restrain all who would act contrary to that gospel. There is no contradiction between the law and the gospel. They forbid the same things, and in regard to morals and true piety, the clearer revelations of the gospel are but carrying out the principles stated in the law. They who preach the gospel, then, should not be regarded as arrayed against the law, and Paul says that they who preached the gospel aright really stated the true principles of the law. This he evidently intends should bear against the false teachers who professed to explain the law of Moses. He means here that if a man wished to explain the law, the best explanation would be found in that gospel which it was his office to publish; compare Romans 3:31.
Of the blessed God - Revealed by the blessed God - the same God who was the Author of the law.
Which was committed to my trust - Not to him alone, but to him in common with others. He had received it directly from the Lord; 1 Corinthians 9:17; notes, Galatians 1:1.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord - The mention of the gospel 1 Timothy 1:11, and of the fact that it was committed to him, leads the apostle to express his gratitude to him who had called him to the work of preaching it. The Lord Jesus had called him when he was a blasphemer and a persecutor. He had constrained him to leave his career of persecution and blasphemy, and to consecrate himself to the defense and the propagation of the gospel. For all this, though it had required him to give up his favorite projects in life, and all the flattering schemes of ambition, he now felt that praise was due to the Redeemer. If there is anything for which a good man will be thankful, and should be thankful, it is that he has been so directed by the Spirit and providence of God as to be put into the ministry. It is indeed a work of toil, and of self-denial, and demanding many sacrifices of personal ease and comfort. It requires a man to give up his splendid prospects of worldly distinction, and of wealth and ease. It is often identified with want, and poverty, and neglect, and persecution. But it is an office so honorable, so excellent, so noble, and ennobling; it is attended with so many precious comforts here, and is so useful to the world, and it has such promises of blessedness and happiness in the world to come, that no matter what a man is required to give up in order to become a minister of the gospel, he should be thankful to Christ for putting him into the office. A minister, when he comes to die, feels that the highest favor which Heaven has conferred on him has been in turning his feet away from the paths of ambition, and the pursuits of ease or gain, and leading him to that holy work to which he has been enabled to consecrate his life.
Who hath enabled me - Who has given me ability or strength for this service. The apostle traced to the Lord Jesus the fact that he was in the ministry at all, and all the ability which he had to perform the duties of that holy office. It is not necessary here to suppose, as many have done, that he refers to miraculous power conferred on him, but he makes the acknowledgment which any faithful minister would do, that all the strength which he has to perform the duties of his office is derived from Christ; compare John 15:5 note; 1 Corinthians 15:10 note.
For that he counted me faithful - This is equivalent to saying that he reposed confidence in me. It means that there was something in the character of Paul, and in his attachment to the Saviour, on which reliance could be placed, or that there was that which gave the assurance that he would be faithful. A sovereign, when he sends an ambassador to a foreign court, reposes confidence in him, and would not commission him unless he had reason to believe that he would be faithful. So it is in reference to all who are called by the Redeemer into the ministry. They are his ambassadors to a lost world. His putting them into the ministry is an act expressive of great confidence in them - for he commits to them great and important interests. Hence, learn:
(1) That no one ought to regard himself as called to the ministry who will not be “faithful” to his Master; and,
(2) That the office of the ministry is most honorable and responsible. Nowhere else are there so great interests entrusted to man.
Who was before a blasphemer - This does not mean that Paul before his conversion was what would now be regarded as an open blasphemer - that he was one who abused and reviled sacred things, or one who was in the habit of profane swearing. His character appears to have been just the reverse of this, for he was remarkable for treating what he regarded as sacred with the utmost respect; see the notes on Philippians 3:4-6. The meaning is, that he had reviled the name of Christ, and opposed him and his cause - not believing that he was the Messiah; and in thus opposing he had really been guilty of blasphemy. The true Messiah he had in fact treated with contempt and reproaches, and he now looked back upon that fact with the deepest mortification, and with wonder that one who had been so treated by him should have been willing to put him into the ministry. On the meaning of the word blaspheme, see the notes on Matthew 9:3; compare Acts 26:11. In his conduct here referred to, Paul elsewhere says, that he thought at the time that he was doing what he ought to do Acts 26:9; here he says that he now regarded it as blasphemy. Hence, learn that people may have very different views of their conduct when they come to look at it in subsequent life. What they now regard as harmless, or even as right and proper, may hereafter overwhelm them with shame and remorse. The sinner will yet feel the deepest self-reproaches for that which now gives us no uneasiness.
And a persecutor - Acts 9:1 ff; Acts 22:4; Acts 26:11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13, Galatians 1:23.
And injurious - The word here used (ὑβριστής hubristēs), occurs only in one other place in the New Testament, Romans 1:30, where it is rendered “despiteful.” The word injurious does not quite express its force. It does not mean merely doing injury, but refers rather to the manner or spirit in which it is done. It is a word of intenser signification than either the word “blasphemer,” or “persecutor,” and means that what he did was done with a proud, haughty, insolent spirit. There was wicked and malicious violence, an arrogance and spirit of tyranny in what he did, which greatly aggravated the wrong that was done; compare the Greek in Matthew 22:6; Luke 11:45; Luke 18:32; Acts 14:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 12:10, for illustrations of the meaning of the word. Tyndale and Coverdale render it here “tyrant.”
But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief - compare notes on Luke 23:34. The ignorance and unbelief of Paul were not such excuses for what he did that they would wholly free him from blame, nor did he regard them as such - for what he did was with a violent and wicked spirit - but they were mitigating circumstances. They served to modify his guilt, and were among the reasons why God had mercy on him. What is said here, therefore, accords with what the Saviour said in his prayer for his murderers; “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” It is undoubtedly true that persons who sin ignorantly, and who regard themselves as right in what they do, are much more likely to obtain mercy than those who do wrong designedly.
Yet we cannot but regard - Paul’s “ignorance in unbelief” as, in itself, a grievous sin, He had abundant means of knowing the truth had he been disposed to inquire with patience and candor. His great abilities and excellent education are a further aggravation of the crime. It is, therefore, impossible to acquiesce in any solution of this clause which seems to make criminal ignorance a ground of mercy. The author, however, intends nothing of this kind, nor would it be fair to put such construction on his words. Yet, a little more fullness had been desirable on a subject of this nature. It is certain, that, independent of the nature of the ignorance, whether willful or otherwise, the character of crime is affected by it. He who should oppose truth, knowing it to be such, is more guilty than he who opposes it in ignorance, or under the conviction that it is not truth, but falsehood. In a certain sense, too, this ignorance, may be regarded as a reason why mercy is bestowed on such as sin desperately or blasphemously under it. Rather, it is a reason why they are not excluded from mercy. It shows why persons so guilty are not beyond its pale. This is, we think, the true key both to the passage, and that in Luke 23:34. The ignorance is not a reason why God should bestow mercy on such persons, rather than on others left to perish, but a reason why they obtain mercy at all, who, by their blasphemies had been supposed to have reached the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Now consider the passage in this view. The apostle had just been showing how great a sinner he had formerly been. His criminality had been so great that it went near to shutting him out from mercy altogether. Had he maliciously persecuted and blasphemed Christ, knowing him to be the Messiah, his had been the unpardonable sin, and his lot that of judicial, final obduracy. But he had not got that length. He was saved from that gulph, and obtained mercy, because, sinning ignorantly and in unbelief, he was not beyond its range.
That Paul should set himself to excuse his guilt is altogether impossible. He does the very reverse. He has but escaped the unpardonable sin. He is chief of sinners. He owes his salvation to exceeding abundant grace. All long-suffering has been exercised toward him. He affirms, that mercy was extended to him, that, to the end of time, there might be a proof or pattern of mercy to the guiltiest. Had he been assigning a reason why he obtained mercy, rather than others left to perish, doubtless that had been what he has elsewhere assigned and defended, “God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion;” Romans 9:15.
And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant - That is, in his conversion under these circumstances and in the aid which was afterward imparted to him in his work.
With faith and love which is in Christ Jesus - Accompanied with the exercise of faith and love; or producing faith and love. The grace which was imparted to him was seen in the faith and love which it produced; see the notes, 1 Corinthians 15:10.
This is a faithful saying - Greek, “Faithful is the word,” or doctrine - ὁ λογος ho logos. This verse has somewhat the character of a parenthesis, and seems to have been thrown into the midst of the narrative because the mind of the apostle was full of the subject. He had said that he, a great sinner, had obtained mercy. This naturally led him to think of the purpose for which Christ came into the world - to save sinners - and to think how strikingly that truth had been illustrated in his own case, and how that case had shown that it was worthy the attention of all. The word rendered “saying,” means in this place doctrine, position, or declaration. The word “faithful,” means assuredly true; it was that which might be depended on, or on which reliance might be placed. The meaning is, that the doctrine that Christ came to save sinners might be depended on as certainly true; compare 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8.
And worthy of all acceptation - Worthy to be embraced or believed by all. This is so, because:
(1) All are sinners and need a Saviour. All, therefore ought to welcome a doctrine which shows them how they may be saved.
(2) Because Christ died for all. If he had died for only a part of the race, and could save only a part, it could not be said with any propriety that the doctrine was worthy of the acceptance of all. If that were so, what had it to do with all? How could all be interested in it or benefited by it If medicine had been provided for only a part of the patients in a hospital, it could not be said that the announcement of such a fact was worthy the attention of all. It would be highly worthy the attention of those for whom it was designed, but there would be a part who would have nothing to do with it; and why should they concern themselves about it? But if it was provided for each one, then each one would have the highest interest in it. So, if salvation has been provided for me, it is a matter claiming my profoundest attention; and the same is true of every human being. If not provided for me, I have nothing to do with it. It does not concern me at all.
See this subject discussed at length in the supplementary note on 2 Corinthians 5:14.
(3) The manner in which the provision of salvation has been made in the gospel is such as to make it worthy of universal acceptation. It provides for the complete pardon of sin, and the restoration of the soul to God. This is done in a way that is honorable to God - maintaining his law and his justice; and, at the same time, it is in a way that is honorable to man. He is treated afterward as a friend of God and an heir of life. He is raised up from his degradation, and restored to the favor of his Maker. If man were himself to suggest a way of salvation, he could think of none that would be more honorable to God and to himself; none that would do so much to maintain the law and to elevate him from all that now degrades him. What higher honor can be conferred on man than to have his salvation sought as an object of intense and earnest desire by one so great and glorious as the Son of God?
(4) It is worthy of all acceptance, from the nature of the salvation itself. Heaven is offered, with all its everlasting glories, through the blood of Christ - and is not this worthy of universal acceptation? People would accept of a coronet or crown; a splendid mansion, or a rich estate; a present of jewels and gold, if freely tendered to them - but what trifles are these compared with heaven! If there is anything that is worthy of universal acceptation, it is heaven - for all will be miserable unless they enter there.
That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - The great and unique doctrine of the gospel. He “came into the world.” He therefore had a previous existence. He came. He had, therefore, an object in coming. It makes his gospel more worthy of acceptation that he had an intention, a plan, a wish, in thus coming into the world. He came when he was under no necessity of coming; he came to save, not to destroy; to reveal mercy, not to denounce judgment; to save sinners - the poor, the lost, the wandering, not to condemn them; he came to restore them to the favor of God, to raise them up from their degradation, and to bring them to heaven.
Of whom I am chief - Greek, “first.” The word is used to denote eminence - and it means that he occupied the first rank among sinners. There were none who surpassed him. This does not mean that he had been the greatest of sinners in all respects, but that in some respects he had been so great a sinner, that on the whole there were none who had surpassed him. That to which he particularly refers was doubtless the part which he had taken in putting the saints to death; but in connection with this, he felt, undoubtedly, that he had by nature a heart eminently prone to sin; see Romans 7:0. Except in the matter of persecuting the saints, the youthful Saul of Tarsus appears to have been eminently moral, and his outward conduct was framed in accordance with the strictest rules of the law; Philippians 3:6; Acts 26:4-5. After his conversion, he never attempted to extenuate his conduct, or excuse himself. He was always ready, in all circles, and in all places, to admit to its fullest extent the fact that he was a sinner. So deeply convinced was he of the truth of this, that he bore about with him the constant impression that he was eminently unworthy; and hence he does not say merely that he had been a sinner of most aggravated character, but he speaks of it as something that always pertained to him - “of whom I am chief.” We may remark:
(1)That a true Christian will always be ready to admit that his past life has been evil;
(2)That this will become the abiding and steady conviction of the soul; and,
(3)That an acknowledgment that we are sinners is not inconsistent with evidence of piety, and with high attainments in it. The most eminent Christian has the deepest sense of the depravity of his own heart and of the evil of his past life.
Howbeit for this cause - That is, this was one of the causes, or this was a leading reason. We are not to suppose that this was the only one. God had other ends to answer by his conversion than this, but this was one of the designs why he was pardoned - that there might be for all ages a permanent proof that sins of the deepest dye might be forgiven. It was well to have one such example at the outset, that a doubt might never arise about the possibility of forgiving great transgressors. The question thus would be settled for ever.
That in me first - Not first in the order of time, as our translation would seem to imply, but that in me the first or chief of sinners (ἐν ἐμοὶ ποώτῳ en emoi poōtō) he might show an example. The idea is, that he sustained the first rank as a sinner, and that Jesus Christ designed to show mercy to him as such, in order that the possibility of pardoning the greatest sinners might be evinced, and that no one might afterward despair of salvation on account of the greatness of his crimes.
Might shew forth all long-suffering - The highest possible degree of forbearance, in order that a case might never occur about which there could be any doubt. It was shown by his example that the Lord Jesus could evince any possible degree of patience, and could have mercy on the greatest imaginable offenders.
For a pattern - ὑποτύπωσιν hupotupōsin. This word occurs no where else in the New Testament, except in 2 Timothy 1:13, where it is rendered “form.” It properly means a form, sketch, or imperfect delineation. Then it denotes a pattern or example, and here it means that the case of Paul was an example for the encouragement of sinners in all subsequent times. It was that to which they might look when they desired forgiveness and salvation. It furnished all the illustration and argument which they would need to show that they might be forgiven. It settled the question forever that the greatest sinners might be pardoned; for as he was “the chief of sinners,” it proved that a case could not occur which was beyond the possibility of mercy.
Which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting - All might learn from the mercy shown to him that salvation could be obtained. From this verse we may learn:
(1) That no sinner should despair of mercy. No one should say that he is so great a sinner that he cannot be forgiven. One who regarded himself as the “chief” of sinners was pardoned, and pardoned for the very purpose of illustrating this truth, that any sinner might be saved. His example stands as the illustration of this to all ages; and were there no other, any sinner might now come and hope for mercy. But there are other examples. Sinners of all ranks and descriptions have been pardoned. Indeed, there is no form of depravity of which people can be guilty, in respect to which there are not instances where just such offenders have been forgiven. The persecutor may reflect that great enemies of the cross like him have been pardoned; the profane man and the blasphemer, that many such have been forgiven; the murderer, the thief, the sensualist, that many of the same character have found mercy, and have been admitted to heaven.
(2) The fact that great sinners have been pardoned, is a proof that others of the same description may be also. The same mercy that saved them can save us - for mercy is not exhausted by being frequently exercised. The blood of atonement which has cleansed so many can cleanse us - for its efficacy is not destroyed by being once applied to the guilty soul. Let no one then despair of obtaining mercy because he feels that his sins are too great to be forgiven. Let him look to the past, and remember what God has done. Let him remember the case of Saul of Tarsus; let him think of David and Peter; let him recall the names of Augustine, and Colonel Gardiner, and the Earl of Rochester, and John Newton, and John Bunyan - and thousands like them, who have found mercy; and in their examples let him see a full proof that God is willing to save any sinner, no matter how vile, provided he is penitent and believing.
Now unto the king eternal - This ascription of praise is offered to God in view of the mercy which he had shown to so great a sinner. It is the outbreak of that grateful emotion which swelled his bosom, and which would not be denied expression, when Paul recalled his former life and the mercy of God to his soul. It somewhat interrupts indeed the train of his remarks, but the heart was so full that it demanded utterance. It is just an instance of the joy and gratitude which fill the soul of a Christian when he is led along in a train of reflections which conduct him to the recollections of his former sin and danger, and to the fact that he has obtained mercy and has now the hope of heaven. The apostle Paul not unfrequently, in accordance with a mode of writing that was common among the Hebrews, interposes an expression of praise in the midst of his reasonings; compare Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 11:31. God is called King here, as he is often in the Scriptures, to denote that he rules over the universe. A literal translation of the passage would be, “To the King of ages, who is immortal,” etc. The meaning of this expression - “the King of ages” - βασιλει τὼν αἰώνων basilei tōn aiōnōn - is, that he is a king who rules throughout all ages. This does not mean that he himself lives for ever, but that his dominion extends over all ages or generations. The rule of earthly monarchs does not extend into successive ages; his does. Their reign is temporary; his is enduring, and continues as one generation after another passes on, and thus embraces them all.
Immortal - This refers to God himself, not to his reign. It means that he does not die, and it is given to him to distinguish him from other sovereigns. All other monarchs but God expire - and are just as liable to die at any moment as any other people.
Invisible - 1 Timothy 6:16; see the notes on John 1:18.
The only wise God - notes, Romans 16:27. The word “wise” is missing in many mss., and in some editions of the New Testament. It is omitted by Griesbach; marked as doubtful by Tittman, and rejected in the valuable edition of Hahn. Erasmus conjectures that it was added against the Arians, who maintained that the Father only was God, and that as he is here mentioned as such, the word wise was interpolated to denote merely that the attribute of perfect wisdom belonged only to him. Wetstein regards the reading as genuine, and suspects that in some of the early manuscripts where it is missing it was omitted by the transcriber, because it was regarded as inelegant for two adjectives to be united in this manner. It is not easy to determine as to the genuineness of the reading. The sense is not materially affected, whichever view be adopted. It is true that Yahweh is the only God; it is also true that he is the only wise God. The gods of the pagan are “vanity and a lie,” and they are wholly destitute of wisdom; see Psalms 115:3-8; Psalms 135:15-18; Isaiah 40:18-20; Isaiah 44:10-17.
Be honour - Let there be all the respect and veneration shown to him which is his due.
And glory - Praise. Let him be praised by all for ever.
Amen - So be it; an expression of strong affirmation; John 3:3. Here it is used to denote the solemn assent of the heart to the sentiment conveyed by the words used; see the Matthew 6:13 note; 1 Corinthians 14:16 note.
This charge - This command or injunction. It does not refer to any “charge,” or “cure,” which he had as bishop or minister, as the word is sometimes used now, but to the commands or injunctions which he was delivering to him. The command particularly referred to is that in 1 Timothy 1:8.
According to the prophecies which went before on thee - The general meaning of this is plain. It is, that Paul was committing to him an important trust, and one that required great wisdom and fidelity; and that in doing it he was acting in conformity with the hopes which had been cherished respecting Timothy, and with certain expressed anticipations about his influence in the church. From early life the hope had been entertained that he would be a man to whom important trusts might be committed; and it had been predicted that he would be distinguished as a friend of religion. These hopes seem to have been cherished in consequence of the careful training in religion which he had had 2Ti 2:1; 2 Timothy 3:15, and probably from the early indications of seriousness, prudence, and piety, which he manifested. It was natural to entertain such hopes, and it seems, from this place, that such hopes had even assumed the form of predictions.
It is not absolutely necessary to suppose that these predictions referred to by the word prophecies were inspired, for the word may be used in a popular sense, as it is often now. We speak now familiarly of predicting or foretelling the future usefulness of a serious, prudent, studious, and pious youth. We argue from what he is, to what he will be, and we do not deem it unsafe or improper to hazard the prediction that, if he lives, he will be a man to whom important interests may be entrusted. As there were, however. prophets in the Christian church (Acts 11:27 note; 1 Corinthians 14:0 notes), and as it is possible that in some cases they were inspired to foretell future events, it cannot be regarded as improper to suppose that some of them had foretold the future usefulness of this religiously educated youth. Whatever may be meant by the expression, this general observation may be made, that when a young man enters on the active duties of life, and when great interests are entrusted to him, it is not improper to remind him of the hopes which had been cherished of him; of the anticipations which had been formed of his future usefulness; and of the expressions which have been used by the pious and the discerning respecting his future character. This is a kind of reminiscence which will rather increase his sense of responsibility than flatter his vanity; and it may be made a means of exciting him to diligence and fidelity. A virtuous young man will not willingly disappoint the long-cherished hopes of his friends. He will be likely to be made more diligent by the remembrance of all their fond anticipations of his future success.
That thou by them - By those prophecies. That is, that being stimulated and excited by those predictions and hopes, you might be led to fidelity and usefulness.
Mightest war a good warfare - The Christian life is often compared to a warfare or struggle for victory (compare Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 4:4), and the services of the Christian ministry especially are likened to those of a soldier; 2Ti 2:3-4; 2 Timothy 4:7. The meaning here is, that he should contend with earnestness as a Christian and a minister in that holy service in which he was engaged, and endeavor to secure the victory. He “wars a good warfare” who is engaged in a righteous cause; who is faithful to his commander and to his post; who is unslumbering in observing the motions of the enemy, and fearless in courage in meeting them; who never forsakes his standard, and who continues thus faithful until the period of his enlistment has expired, or until death. Such a soldier the Christian minister should be.
Holding faith - Fidelity to the cause in which you are enlisted - as a good soldier should do. This does not mean, as it seems to me, that Timothy should hold to the system of doctrines revealed in the gospel, but that he should have that fidelity which a good soldier should have. He should not betray his trust. He should adhere to the cause of his master with unwavering steadfastness. This would include, of course, a belief of the truth, but this is not the leading idea in the phrase.
And a good conscience - see the notes, Acts 23:1. A good conscience, as well as fidelity, is necessary in the service of the Redeemer. A good conscience is that which is well informed in regard to what is right, and where its dictates are honestly followed.
Which some having put away - That is, which good conscience some have put from them, or in other words, have not followed its dictates. The truth thus taught is, that people make shipwreck of their faith by not keeping a good conscience. They love sin. They follow the leadings of passion. They choose to indulge in carnal propensities. As a matter of course, they must, if they will do this, reject and renounce the gospel. People become infidels because they wish to indulge in sin. No man can be a sensualist, and yet love that gospel which enjoins purity of life. If people would keep a good conscience, the way to a steady belief in the gospel would be easy. If people will not, they must expect sooner or later to be landed in infidelity.
Concerning faith - In respect to the whole subject of faith. They are unfaithful to God, and they reject the whole system of the gospel. “Faith” is sometimes used to denote the gospel - as faith is the principal thing in the gospel.
Have made shipwreck - There is an entire destruction of faith - as a ship is wholly ruined that strikes on a rock and sinks.
Of whom is Hymeneus and Alexander - Hymeneus is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament, except in 2 Timothy 2:17, where he is mentioned in connection with Philetus as a very dangerous man. An Alexander is mentioned in Acts 19:33, which some have supposed to be the same as the one referred to here. It is not certain, however, that the same person is intended; see the notes on that verse. In 2 Timothy 4:14, Alexander the coppersmith is mentioned as one who had done the apostle “much evil,” and there can be little doubt that he is the same person who is referred to here. One of the doctrines which Hymeneus held was, that the “resurrection was past already” 2 Timothy 2:18; but what doctrine Alexander held is unknown, It is not improbable, as he is mentioned here in connection with Hymeneus, that he maintained the same opinion, and in addition to that he appears to have been guilty of some personal injury to the apostle. Both also were guilty of blasphemy.
Whom I have delivered unto Satan - On the meaning of this expression, see the notes on 1 Corinthians 5:5.
That they may learn not to blaspheme - It cannot be supposed that Satan would undertake to teach them not to blaspheme, or that Paul put them under him as an instructor on that subject. The instructions of Satan tend rather to teach his followers to blaspheme, and none in his school fail to be apt scholars. The meaning here is, that Paul excommunicated them, and not improbably brought upon them, by giving them over to Satan, some physical maladies, that they might be reformed; compare notes on 1 Corinthians 5:5. It is not entirely clear what is meant by blaspheme in this place; compare notes on 1 Timothy 1:13. It cannot be supposed that they were open and bold blasphemers, for such could not have maintained a place in the church, but rather that they held doctrines which the apostle regarded as amounting to blasphemy; that is, doctrines which were in fact a reproach on the divine character. There are many doctrines held by people which are in fact a reflection on the divine character, and which amount to the same thing as blasphemy. A blasphemer openly expresses views of the divine character which are a reproach to God; an errorist expresses the same thing in another way - by teaching as true about God that which represents him in a false light, and, to suppose which, in fact, is a reproach. The spirit with which this is done in the two cases may be different; the thing itself may be the same. Let us be careful that we hold no views about God which are reproachful to him, and which, though we do not express it in words, may lead us to blaspheme him in our hearts.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30