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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.

Analytical Greek Lexicon. Wilmington, Delaware: AP & A, n.d.

Barnes, Albert. Barnes Notes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1972.

Hervey, A.C. The Pulpit Commentary. XXI. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1962.

Lipscomb, David. New Testament Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1942.

MacKnight, James, D.D. MacKnight on the Epistles. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1949.

Marshall, Alfred, D. Litt. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973.

Thayer, Joseph H., D.D. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids, Michigan: AP & A, n.d.

Vincent, M.R. Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament. McLean, Virginia: MacDonald’s: Publishing Company, n.d.

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin, Inc., n.d.

Johnson, B.W. The People’s New Testament with Notes. Vol. 2. Delight, Arkansas: Gospel Light Publishing Company, n.d.

Lipscomb, David. New Testament Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1942.

Thayer, Joseph H., D.D. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. Grand Rapids, Michigan: AP&A, n.d.

Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1956.

Verse 1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ: Paul begins this epistle by declaring his apostleship. Although this formality seems somewhat peculiar in a private letter, Paul deems it important to assert his apostleship in the salutations of several of his epistles, including Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians.

by the commandment of God our Saviour: This phrase does not refer to the means of Paul’s apostleship but to the fact that he was writing this epistle to Timothy by the commandment of God. MacKnight explains the importance of the phrase:

Because when Timothy charged the teachers, and exhorted the people, and ordered the whole affairs of the church of Ephesus, it was of great importance that the Ephesians should know, that in all these matters he followed the commandment of God and Christ delivered to him by the apostle (MacKnight 182).

our Saviour: This expression is used both of God and Christ. M.R. Vincent says, "The saving of men appears as God’s direct will and act, 1 Timothy 2:4; Titus 3:5; 2 Timothy 1:9; as Christ’s work, 1 Timothy 1:15. Compare 2 Timothy 2:10" (1013).

Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope: Hope for salvation is invested in Jesus Christ, not the sacrifices of the law as was taught by the Judaizers. Jesus Christ was sacrificed for man and gave man hope of life beyond the grave (Ephesians 2:12; Colossians 1:27).

Verse 2

Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: The word "own" is translated from the word gnesio. The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines this word as "lawful, legitimate, genuine" (79). Timothy was not Paul’s genuine son in the flesh. He had been begotten of the gospel of Christ that Paul preached; hence, he was Paul’s "son in the faith" because Paul had converted him.

In addition, while Timothy was a young man, Paul had taken him to be his companion and fellow laborer (Acts 16:3). He mentioned Timothy with fatherly pride and affection in his epistles. Their personal relationship was one of such mutual love and respect that it was similar to the loving relationship of an actual father and son.

Grace, mercy, and peace: According to The Pulpit Commentary, the insertion of "’mercy’ in the salutation is a peculiarity of the epistles to Timothy. There is invoked grace on him as unworthy, mercy on him as exposed to suffering, peace on him as a result of his being graciously and mercifully dealt with" (Hervey XXI: 22).

from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord: Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, we appeal to God for the blessings of salvation for ourselves and our friends. The two words "Father" and "Lord" express the relation of the Persons of the Godhead, not to each other but to the church.

Verse 3

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,

When Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia, he left Timothy there to restrain the false teachers and to set the church in order. The word "besought" (parekalesa) means "to call upon, exhort, admonish, persuade" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 303). This word seems to imply that Timothy wanted very much to accompany Paul to Macedonia, but Paul persuaded him to remain in Ephesus.

that thou mightest charge some: The word "charge" (paraggeiles) means to "command, order, charge" (Thayer 479). This expression is used five times in Timothy alone. Albert Barnes suggests added importance to the term:

Here it 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 (1127).

The word "some" (tisin) is an indefinite designation of the errorists. Vincent states that the use of this reference shows the contempt the apostle had for the false teachers (1013). Obviously, Timothy knew who they were.

that they teach no other doctrine: They were not to teach any other doctrine than that taught by the apostles.

Verse 4

Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

The expression "give heed to" means not only to give attention to, but to give assent to (Vincent 1013).

The term "fables" (muthos) is defined by the Analytical Greek Lexicon as "a word, speech, a tale; a fable, figment" (273). Thayer and Vincent say that the word could refer to stories that are true as well as false. In this case, though, it refers to the Jewish fictions (Titus 1:14) that were made up of fanciful and unfounded stories that these false teachers were trying to include in the teachings of Christianity.

endless genealogies: This reference certainly does not suggest it is wrong to trace one’s ancestry. The problem here, again, was the use the false teachers were making of genealogical records. Barnes explains:

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 heathen 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 birth" (1128).

which minister questions: These genealogies and fables were not to be listened to nor believed because they profited nothing but needless arguments and strife.

rather than godly edifying which is in faith: Paul is saying that they could pursue these fables and genealogies for the entirety of their lives, and it would not profit them anything as far as salvation (godly edifying) is concerned. The fact remains today. No controversy, issue, or question is of much worth if, when settled completely, it has nothing to do with our soul’s salvation.

so do: These words answer the sentence beginning, "As I besought thee ...." Timothy was to remain at Ephesus and faithfully perform the duties that had been enjoined upon him by Paul.

Verse 5

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

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart: Paul is showing here that whereas the end result of fables and genealogies is questions that engender strife and profit nothing, the end result of Timothy’s charge was "charity out of a pure heart." The word charity (agape) means love. Charity "out of a pure heart" is love that is genuine. It is not merely an outward expression of love but one that originates in the heart.

and of a good conscience: When your heart is pure, your thoughts, speech, and actions will be pure also. You will do the right things for the right reasons; the result will be a conscience free of guilt.

and of faith unfeigned: The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines the word "unfeigned" (anupokritou) as, "real, sincere" (34). MacKnight believes that Paul, at this point, was again zeroing in on the Judaizing teachers. He suggests that, in order to gain the unbelieving Jews, these false teachers were teaching doctrines they knew to be false; therefore, their faith in these doctrines was feigned.

David Lipscomb explains the importance of all three of the qualities Paul mentions in verse five.

It takes all three of these conditions to make service acceptable to God. A man without a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith that is unfeigned cannot do acceptable service to God. Men harden their hearts and sear their consciences by doing what their consciences condemn. A man who thus violates and corrupts his conscience cannot do acceptable service to God. While the good conscience may lead men to violate the will of God, run counter to His teaching, it cannot serve God without it is kept pure. A man’s conscience is defiled, blinded, seared by doing what he knows is wrong or refusing to do what he knows is right. There is no more dangerous condition in which a man can place himself than to habitually do what he knows to be wrong or refuse to do what he knows to be right (126).

Verse 6

From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;

Vincent defines the expression "having swerved" (astokesantes) as to "miss the mark" and "vain jangling" (mataiologian) as "empty chatter" (1015). Paul states that these teachers had missed the mark on this very issue and had wandered into vain arguments and discussions of empty chatter.

Verse 7

Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

These false teachers apparently had an insatiable appetite for recognition. They coveted the respect and honor reserved for and bestowed upon the teachers of the law of Moses. But they really did not understand the words and terms they used nor the subjects they dogmatically affirmed.

affirm: This verb is from diabebaiounta, "to emphatically assert" (Marshall 821).

Verse 8

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;

The law of Moses was good, but it was important that it be used in the proper manner and for the purpose it was given. Paul wants it understood that he was not an adversary of the law but that it was no longer applicable. While the law was "a shadow of good things to come" (Hebrews 10:1), it was limited in that it could not bring man to perfection. For one to attempt to find remission of sins through the law would be to use it "unlawfully."

Verse 9

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man: The New American Standard Version renders this phrase, "Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man ...." Paul is showing that if a man knows or understands that fact, he has a proper understanding of the design of the law.

The word "made" (keitai) means "laid down, set, appointed" (Vincent 1016). There is a wide range of ideas concerning the actual meaning of this phrase. MacKnight says that the idea of the law of Moses "not being laid down for a righteous man" means that the righteous man was never intended to be justified by the law (MacKnight 186). But if a righteous man had always obeyed the law, he would have been justified by it. Barnes’ explanation of the phrase seems to capture Paul’s meaning in the verse:

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 it was to restrain the wicked from sin. This is the case with all law. No good man feels himself fettered 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 (1129).

but for the lawless and disobedient: This phrase refers to those who recognize no law and who are unruly--that is, those who will not allow themselves to be placed under subjection.

for the ungodly and for sinners: This reference is to those who have no reverence for God and are polluted by sin.

for unholy: The Amplified Bible translates the word anosiois as "irreverent" (324).

and profane: The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines bebelois as that which "is open and accessible to all; hence profane, not religious, not connected with religious; unholy; a despiser, corner" (68-69).

for murders of fathers and mothers: When parents became old and burdensome, they were sometimes murdered by their children, freeing them of the trouble they caused.

for manslayers: The Analytical Greek Lexicon defines androphonois as "a man-slayer, murderer" (27).

Verse 10

For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;

whoremongers: This word, pornois, refers to "a fornicator, impure person" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 337), a "man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse, a fornicator" (Thayer 75).

them that defile themselves with mankind: This expression from arsenokoites means "one who lies with a male, a sodomite (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10)" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 53), or, as Thayer says, "one who lies with a male as with a female" (75). Also notice Romans 1:27.

menstealers (andrapoiistais): Paul here refers to one who would kidnap and sell a person into slavery, a horrible crime punishable by death under the law of Moses (Exodus 21:16).

liars: Lying is not a fine art to be practiced discreetly, but it is a grievous offense against God and man. It includes not only outright lies but also sly deceptions and half-truths. All types of lies are wrong in the eyes of God and are offensive to our fellowman.

perjured persons: The difference between a "liar" and a "perjured person" is that the perjured person swears he is telling the truth while he lies.

any other thing contrary to sound doctrine: This statement implies that this list is not designed to be completely exhaustive of the various forms of sin in the world but includes any other thing that is opposed to the instruction the word of God gives.

Verse 11

According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God: At this point, Paul shifts emphasis from the teachings of the law to the revelation of the gospel. His point is that the law and the gospel are in perfect harmony in regard to things that are sin. Nine of the original ten commandments have been retaught either specifically or in principle in the New Testament. Even the fourth commandment, "to remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8), is used as a symbol of heavenly rest in Hebrews 4:9. Hence, those things condemned by the ten commandments are also condemned by the gospel. Paul again declares that the false teachers did not really understand the law they claimed to teach; otherwise, they would have seen that the law was not necessary to put the crown of perfection on Christianity.

The gospel is called "glorious" because the light of the true doctrine shines brightly through it. The gospel was now the sole standard by which everything was to be tested.

which was committed to my trust: The emphasis is on "my" trust. Vincent says that this emphasis strongly asserts Paul’s authority against the "teachers of the law" he had referred to in verse 7 (1017). In other words, Paul is saying he is authorized and entrusted with the gospel whereas they are not.

Verse 12

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me: Hervey shows the importance of this statement in the present context:

This outburst of praise for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had called him to the ministry of the Word, is caused by the thought which immediately precedes, of his being entrusted with the gospel. He thus disclaims any notion of merit on his part (4).

Paul acknowledges that the strength he possesses to perform the duties of his office are all derived from Jesus Christ (see also Acts 9:22; Romans 4:20; Ephesians 6:10; Philippians 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:17; and Hebrews 11:34).

for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry: The word "ministry" (diakonian) means "a commission or ministry in the service of the gospel" (Analytical Greek Lexicon 92). Vincent says it is a general term that can be applied to every mode of service, either to God or men (1017). Thayer says that in this particular context, "ministry" has reference to the office of the apostles and its administration (137). In current vernacular, the "ministry" refers specifically to ordained preachers, but Paul does not use the expression in that sense in this passage.

Verse 13

Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Who was before a blasphemer: According to Thayer, the word "blaspheme" (blasphemos) means "speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive" (103). Paul was a blasphemer before his conversion because he spoke evil of Christ. Vincent says that Paul also typified the blasphemer because his insolence and contempt of Christ broke forth in wanton and outrageous acts.

and a persecutor: (See Acts 9:4-5.)

and injurious: According to Marshall, the word "injurious" is better translated "insolent" (Acts 9:1-2). Saul did not just blaspheme and persecute Christians, but he did it with a proud, haughty, and insolent spirit.

but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief: This statement clearly shows that at the time Paul was blaspheming Christ’s name and persecuting and injuring Christians, he thought he was doing God a service. Paul’s ignorance did not excuse him for what he did. It did serve to modify his guilt, however, and was among the reasons God had mercy on him.

Verse 14

And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant: The grace of God was exceeding abundant regarding Paul’s conversion under these circumstances. The assistance He gave Paul so he could carry out his duties as an apostle further exemplifies God’s grace.

with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus: The grace that was given to Paul was seen in the faith and love that it produced in him (1 Corinthians 15:10).

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.

To believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world to save sinners and to confess that fact with the mouth (Romans 10:10) is a faithful saying worthy of all.

of whom I am chief: Paul declares that Christ came to save sinners, of whom he is chief. He uses himself as an example of the mercy of God. The grace of God is sufficient to save the chiefest of sinners if it is accepted in faith and love.

Verse 16

Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

The Amplified Bible renders this scripture in this fashion:

But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life (325).

Paul’s being the "foremost" of sinners was one of the reasons he obtained mercy, but it was not the only reason. God’s mercy toward Paul also would be an example for all ages that the most scarlet of sins could be forgiven (Isaiah 1:18).

Verse 17

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Now unto the King eternal: Paul breaks out in a tribute of praise to a God who extended such mercy to him. God is the "King eternal," the "King of the ages," and He is supreme in this position.

immortal: Paul’s use of this word serves to remind Timothy of the "incorruptible" nature of God.

invisible: The true God is invisible in contrast to the heathen deities of gold, silver, wood, and stone.

the only wise God: Obviously, if Jehovah is the only God, He is the only wise God. The gods of the heathen are void of wisdom. They are a "vanity and a lie."

be honour and glory forever and ever: Let Him be honored and glorified forever and ever throughout the ages.

Amen: Paul uses this expression, meaning "so be it," as a strong affirmation of the truths in this verse.

Verse 18

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;

This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee: The apostle now picks up the train of thought he left at verse four and solemnly commits to Timothy the care of the Ephesian Church. By omitting the long digression in verses 5-17, the sense of the charge is seen clearly.

according to the prophecies which went before on thee: MacKnight contends that in the apostolic age some were pointed out by revelation as persons fit to be invested with particular offices in the church and that Timothy was appointed an evangelist by revelation. It also could have been that the prophecies Paul referred to were the normal predictions made by Timothy’s acquaintances who, in view of his early zeal and dedication to Christ’s cause, predicted that he would eventually attain such an office.

The Revised Standard Version seems to support MacKnight’s position since it translates the phrase, "in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you." The American Standard Version says, "according to the prophecies which led the way to thee."

that thou by them mightest war a good warfare: It was by those prophecies that Timothy was to be stirred up and encouraged to "war a good warfare." Paul often compared the Christian ministry to that of warfare and the Christian to a soldier (Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Corinthians 9:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4; 2 Timothy 2:3-4).

MacKnight shows why the military image seems most appropriate.

Ruling the Church of Ephesus is called warfare, because Timothy had many enemies to fight against, and in the contest was to endure continual labor, watching, and danger. Hence Timothy is called a good soldier of Jesus Christ (192).

Verse 19

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

Holding faith: Vincent says the word "holding" does not mean merely "having" but "holding fast" as in 2 Timothy 1:13. Barnes goes further and adds the following:

This does not mean, that Timothy should hold fast the system of doctrines revealed in the gospel, but that he should have that fidelity 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 in the truth, but this is not the leading idea in the phrase" (Barnes 1132).

a good conscience: Conscience is the part of man that demands he should do what he believes to be right. A good conscience results when a person does what he honestly believes to be right.

which some having put away: This phrase says that some have thrust their good consciences from them. Their consciences tell them to do one thing, and they do something else.

concerning faith have made shipwreck: The American Standard Version translates this phrase as "made shipwreck concerning the faith." In this nautical metaphor, the apostle suggests that a "good conscience" is the pilot that can safely steer us on the sea of life to heaven’s safe harbor.

Verse 20

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander: (Compare with 2 Timothy 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:14.)

whom I have delivered unto Satan: (See 1 Corinthians 5:5.) Vincent offers valuable insight into this difficult passage.

On this very obscure and much controverted passage it may be observed: (1) That it implies excommunication from the church. (2) That it implies something more, the nature of which is not clearly known. (3) That casting the offender out of the Church involved casting him back into the heathen world, which Paul habitually conceives as under the power of Satan. (4) Paul has in view the reformation of the offender "that the spirit may be saved." This reformation is to be through affliction, disease, pain, or loss, which also he is wont to conceive as Satan’s work. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Corinthians 12:7. Compare Luke 13:16.) Hence, in delivering him over to these he uses the phrase "deliver unto Satan" (768).

Many of the early commentators support Vincent’s position. It does seem obvious that to be "delivered unto Satan" means to be excluded from the church. It also seems probable that in the days of the apostles Satan had the ability to inflict bodily punishments. On occasions, the apostles "cast out demons" and delivered people from bodily afflictions. To "deliver to Satan" was to turn the person over to him that he might inflict bodily disease or punishment upon him. This practice was miraculous; consequently, it ceased with the age of miracles.

that they may learn not to blaspheme: The whole design of "delivering unto Satan" was to reform the offender. In this case, these two men were to be punished in hopes that they would learn not to blaspheme. Their blasphemy was not an open and bold slandering of God. They could not have maintained their position in the church had that been the case. But their blasphemy was the false doctrine they taught. One of the things taught by Hymenaeus was that the resurrection was already past (2 Timothy 2:18). The false doctrine of Alexander is not known.

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/1-timothy-1.html. 1993-2022.
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