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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament BooksLipscomb's Commentary on Selected NT Books

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Verse 1

1 Timothy 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus—Paul begins this Epistle as usual by declaring his apostleship. This Epistle was an affectionate reminder from Paul, "the aged,” to Timothy to be steadfast in the faith in the midst of the many dangers to which he would be exposed in the city of Ephesus.

according to the commandment of God our Saviour,—It was a commandment from God to resist the powerful school of false teaching which had arisen in the Ephesian church. So Paul prefaces the Epistle by designating himself as an apostle according to the Holy Spirit who said: “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2.) The designation "God our Saviour” fitly describes him in reference to his redeeming love through his Son Jesus Christ.

and Christ Jesus our hope;—Christ Jesus gave hope to man. He died for him, opened the way for him to return to God, and gave him hope of life beyond the grave. (Ephesians 2:12.)

Verse 2

1 Timothy 1:2

unto Timothy, my true child in faith:—No fleshly rela­tionship existed between the two, but a closer and far dearer connection. Paul had taken him while yet a very young man to be his companion and fellow laborer. (Acts 16:3.) Of him, in the Epistle to the Philippian church, he said: “I have no man like-minded, who will care truly for your state.” (Philippians 2:20.) On another occasion he said: “Now if Timothy come, see that he be with you without fear; for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do: let no man therefore despise him.” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11.) Paul taught him as a son, and Timothy looked to him as a father in the gospel. The rela­tionship of father and son was restricted to faith.

Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.—Grace is the highest good for the guilty; mercy for the suffering is grace in action; and peace comes from God through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

Verse 3

1 Timothy 1:3

As I exhorted thee to tarry at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia,—When Paul left Ephesus, he left there to restrain certain teachers who taught differently from Paul.

that thou mightest charge certain men not to teach a dif­ferent doctrine,—The teachers were doubtless the Judaizers who insisted that the Gentiles could not be saved unless they were circumcised and kept the law of Moses.

Verse 4

1 Timothy 1:4

neither to give heed to fables—As a part of this Judaizing spirit they gave much attention to Jewish fables, imaginary occurrences, that constituted a part of the traditions of the elders handed down from generation to generation. The Targums, the Jewish sacred books written by the rabbis, are largely composed of these.

and endless genealogies,—The Jews laid much stress upon their ability to trace a distinct and unbroken genealogical line to Abraham. This care on this point was instilled by Moses and others of the prophets. This was done (1) so that the possessions of the different tribes might be kept in the fam­ilies; (2) that the Levites might be kept separate who alone were to minister to sacred things; (3) that the lineage of the Messiah might be kept clear and distinct. Down to the coming of Jesus these genealogies were correctly kept. Since that time they seem to be so involved in confusion that no Jew is able to tell to which tribe he belongs. It is said that all genealogical tables that had hitherto been preserved so carefully were destroyed by Herod the Great because he was an Idumaean, seeking to establish a hereditary rule over the Jews, could not establish a line back to Abraham; and as he could not, he destroyed the advantages that these tables gave the children of Abraham over him.

Whatever personal motives may have actuated him, the destruction of the tables, when the divine purposes of their establishment had ended, must be regarded as providential. They had ended because the land of Canaan would no longer be the home of the children of Israel, the Levitical priesthood had served its purpose in bringing forward its nation to Jesus Christ, the end of the law had come.

The Jewish family as a distinct people of God, the Levitical priesthood, and the genealogy of Jesus, all like the law, were added because of transgression till the promised Messiah should come.

Were the Messiah to come now, as the Jews claim he is yet to come, his lineage could not be set forth. The rabbis say these tables of genealogy are to be restored by the Messiah when he comes. But any table restored by a person who is himself the chief beneficiary of the table would rest under suspicion. The Jews among the Christians, especially among the Judaizers of Paul’s day, were given to seeking out these genealogies, as though they were to receive great good from them.

which minister questionings,—These genealogies and fables are held in great aversion because they cause much disputing, wrangling, and strife.

rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith; so do I now.—[In the dispensation of God’s love as manifested through faith in Christ is the only way of approach to the mercies of God, while these genealogies were uncertain and produced no faith: it was necessary, therefore, to impress upon all who were seeking salvation in any way other than through faith in Christ that it was vain.]

Verse 5

1 Timothy 1:5

But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned:—The purpose and end of God’s law is that man may be led to do Gods will out of a pure heart and with a good conscience and faith unfeigned. 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 services 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 mans 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.

Of the same nature is the expression “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23.) This Scripture is usually applied in a sense differing from the meaning of the apostle. Its use is not one hurtful in its nature, or out of harmony with the Scriptures, and it grows out of the true meaning of the apostle in this text. The meaning clearly is that of doing a thing as an act of worship, in reference to which we have doubts, we condemn ourselves. That is, we cannot violate conscience; if it has doubts, they must be respected. The convictions of our hearts must be honored.

God accepts nothing as worship that is not done heartily with full faith. The inference is clear that one who habitually violates his convictions of right soon loses all sense of right, hardens his heart, and makes his reformation impossible. The old philosopher who averred his ability to move the world, if he only had a fulcrum on which to rest his lever, expressed a universal, necessary truth. In the material world the lightest particle of matter cannot be moved without a fulcrum on which to rest the lever that moves it. It is equally true in morals. No movement of our moral sense or action can take place without a moral fulcrum on which to rest the lever of truth which moves it. That fulcrum is the sense of right in human nature. If it is destroyed, there is no starting point to correct man’s moral and spiritual errors. Hence, Paul found mercy because he did his evil in ignorant unbelief; his con­science was good, pure, active; his sense of right was keen and sensitive. There is always hope of such men; God has respect for them. But when a man trifles with his convictions, does violence to his conscience, holds the truth in unright­eousnessthat is, does not practice what he knows to be right, especially if he practices what he knows to be wronghe corrupts his own moral nature, destroys his sense of right, and cuts off all possibility of his turning. In many evil ways is this protesting against wrong, yet encouraging the wrong, manifested.

Verse 6

1 Timothy 1:6

from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking;—These words teach that those teachers had once been in the right way, but had not remained in it; indeed, it is clear that these persons, not only had been, but were still reckoned among the members of the Ephesian church, and were engaged in disputations that brought no good to anyone.

Verse 7

1 Timothy 1:7

desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm.—[They coveted the respect and influence which was ever paid to the acknowledged teachers of the law of Moses: but they utterly failed to understand the real meaning of that law. This same class of teachers was in the church at Smyrna, of whom it is said: “I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty (but thou art rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9.)]

These persons aspired to be teachers of the law of Moses, but they did not see that the law of Moses ended in Christ and was taken out of the way by him.

Verse 8

1 Timothy 1:8

But we know that the law is good,—Paul, while affirming this of those who aspired to teach the law, showed his respect for the law.

if a man use it lawfully,—Those who did not see that the law ended in Christ and was taken out of the way by him understood neither the law nor its aim and end.

Verse 9

1 Timothy 1:9

as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man,—The righteous man is one made righteous, by faith in Jesus Christ, and does not need the Mosaic law with its earthly penalties to govern him.

but for the lawless and unruly,—These refuse to be bound by any law, and submit to no higher authority.

for the ungodly and sinners,—[These have no reverence for God, and are such as God disapproves; are marred or pol­luted by sin, separated from God, so as to be openly hostile to him.]

for the unholy and profane,—Those who do not regard that which is sanctified or made holy by God, but profane his most sacred institutions. [Those who are impious or scoffers. One who treats the will of the Lord with contempt, mockery, or scorn.]

for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers,—Often when the parents become old and burdensome they are killed by their children to be free from the trouble that the care of them imposes on them. [We can conceive nothing superior to this in enormity, and yet such crimes have been committed.]

for manslayers,—Those who commit murder. [A crime against which all nature revolts. This sanctity of human life is founded on the fact that man was made in the image of God.]

Verse 10

1 Timothy 1:10

for fornicators,—Illicit intercourse of unmarried per­sons; also such intercourse of an unmarried person with a person of the opposite sex, whether married or unmarried.

for abusers of themselves with men,—“Carnal copulation be­tween male persons.”Sodomy.

for men-stealers,—Those who carry on a traffic in human flesh, or those who steal a person in order to sell him into bondage, or those who buy such stolen men or women, no matter of what color or what country. All these were men-stealers, and God classed them with the most flagrant mortals. The guilt of man-stealing was incurred essentially by those who purchased those who were thus stolen.

for liars,—They who speak for truth what they know to be false.

for false swearers,—Those who deliberately swear to that which is false, and then prove false to their oath.

and if there be any other thing contrary, to the sound doc­trine;—The law of Moses with its penalties was given to re­strain, check, and punish those guilty of these sins, and not to rule those delivered from sin by faith in Christ Jesus. [Sound admirably describes the teaching as Paul conceived it in its complete freedom from any doubt as to right and wrong according to the instruction given to them as he was moved by the Holy Spirit.]

Verse 11

1 Timothy 1:11

according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.—The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the standard by which everything is to be tested, and the law of Moses was made for those who do not obey the teachings of the gospel which was committed to Paul, which he had preached.

Verse 12

1 Timothy 1:12

I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord,—Christ Jesus selected Paul for fidelity to his conscience, his sincere desire to obey God, and his willingness to die for what he believed to be right. God always respects the man who keeps a good conscience and is true to his convictions.

for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his serv­ice;—God honored Paul’s faithfulness to his convictions and readiness to die for what he believed to be the will of God, though in error, rather than the man who believed on him, yet did not confess him because he feared the Pharisees. God knows the man who is true to his own conscience, and for this reason Christ Jesus counted Paul worthy and placed him in the ministry of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.

Verse 13

1 Timothy 1:13

though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious:—There was no disposition with Paul to conceal his wrongs—he was open and free to confess themthat he might thereby magnify the mercy and goodness of God. So he says he was a blasphemer. To blaspheme is to speak reproach­fully, rail at, revile, and calumniate. Paul sought the destruc­tion of the whole church of God. Luke says: “But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2.) When they were placed on trial, he gave his voice for their death.

howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief;—This clearly implies that had he persecuted the church as he did knowing it was the church of God, no pardon for him could be found. This accords exactly with the cases of Judas and Pilate and the mob that crucified Jesus. To com­mit these sins consciously was to forever bar the gates of mercy to them. To them believing they were serving God or with a good conscience left the way open for repentance and pardon to them. But certainly being true to conscience did not secure salvation, else those who crucified the Lord were in a saved state when they were crucifying him, else Paul was in a saved state while breathing out the threatenings and slaughter against all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus. But Paul, because he “did it ignorantly in unbelief,” believing that Jesus was not the Son of God, but that he was an impostor, obtained mercy.

Verse 14

1 Timothy 1:14

and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.—He here expresses his gratitude and joy for the exceeding abundant mercy and grace of God that saved him, which was brought through the faith and love which he had in Christ.

Verse 15

1 Timothy 1:15

Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;—To believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, who came into the world to save sinners, is a faithful and true saying, and is worthy of being confessed by all.

of whom I am chief:—Paul speaks of himself as the chief of sinners before God. He had been in captivity, and is showing that the grace of God is sufficient to save the worst of sinners who would accept it in faith and love. He held himself as a sample of mercy as the chief of sinners. He was the chief of sinners not because he had been guilty of con­scious, willful sin, but because he had been more active and fierce in his determination to destroy the church of God, believing that by so doing he was rendering service to God.

Verse 16

1 Timothy 1:16

howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy,—Notwithstand­ing the intensity of his bitterness, and his active zeal in destroying Christians, he had obtained mercy. God had for­given him, that in him Christ should show forth all his long- suffering. Christ in him led him to bear the persecutions and the suffering he had inflicted on others.

that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his long-suffering,—Paul had been chief of sinners in persecuting Christ. He now must be chief or first among those who suffer for him. He labored and suffered for Christ more than all the other apostles. Of himself he says: “Are they min­isters of Christ? (I speak as one beside himself) I more; in labors more abundantly, in prisons more abundantly, in stripes above measure, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day have I been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of rivers, in perils of robbers, in perils from my countrymen, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in labor and travail, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27.) Paul was of an intense temperament and of the heroic mold that fitted him to inflict suffering on others, and bear it himself for what he believed to be right. He had inflicted it on others.

for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life.—Jesus chose Paul that in him he might bear sufferings for him and others. In him God desired to set forth the pattern of sufferings that men, who should there­after believe in him to everlasting life, should be willing to bear. The future world will be peopled with those of the true heroic spirit, who counted it all joy to suffer for right and uphold the truth.

Verse 17

1 Timothy 1:17

Now unto the King—Paul esteemed it an honor and a glory to him to be chosen to suffer as Jesus had suffered, thus to be made like Jesus in his sufferings, for it brought the assurance that he would be made like him in immortal glory. So he bursts forth in this ascription of praise to God. God

is the King, Ruler of the universe, eternal,—There is no end to his reign and glory, immortal,—God is immortal in contrast with the beings of this earth.

invisible,—He is invisible in contrast with visible things of creation.

the only God,—The only true and real God. be honor and glory for ever and ever.—Let him be hon­ored and glorified unto the age of the ages.

Amen.—This denotes the solemn ascent of the heart to the sentiment conveyed by the foregoing words.

Verse 18

1 Timothy 1:18

This charge I commit unto thee, my child Timothy,—The charge is to withstand and correct the errors of the false teachers. (Verse 3.) The sum of the charge was that men should put their whole trust in Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners, and who alone was able to lead them into everlasting life. The charge was the last heritage, the priceless treasure which Paul, feeling that for him the end was not far distant, would leave to Timothy. Anxious above measure for the churches in Asia, of which Ephesus was the center, foreseeing that the perils and dangers from within and without would rapidly close round the congrega­tions, and placing his greatest earthly hope on the steadfast­ness and knowledge of Timothy, he charged him, by the memory of the prophetic utterances which years before had been made concerning him (Acts 17:1-2), to hold fast the doctrine which taught men to put their trust in Jesus Christ.

according to the prophecies which led the way to thee,—This was done in accordance with the prophecies which had gone before concerning him. Timothy had a spiritual gift imparted to him by the laying on of the hands of the pres­bytery. (4:14.) Paul was doubtless of this presbytery. (2 Timothy 1:6.)

that by them thou mayest war the good warfare;—Accord­ing to these prophecies, and through the spiritual gifts be­stowed when the prophecies were made, Timothy was to be enabled to war the good warfare for Christ. Paul seems to have been presenting his own sins, his trials, his joy in trials to Timothy, as a means of stirring him up to a true spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion to God.

Verse 19

1 Timothy 1:19

holding faith and a good conscience;—As a means to this warfare, he was to hold faith and an abiding trust and confidence in God through Jesus Christ. The faith must be held in a good conscience. Conscience is the faculty within man that demands he should do what he believes to be right. His conscience is good, clear, pure when he does what he believes to be right. He must do this to please God. Not to do what conscience demands is to hold the truth in unright­eousness.

which some having thrust from them—This is to believe one thing and practice another. To do so is to act hypo­critically.

made shipwreck concerning the faith:—Some had violated their consciences for worldly ends, and in this way had made shipwreck of their faith. Faith cannot live unless the soul obeys the conscience in doing the thing to which faith leads. Conscience demands that a person do the things which faith approves. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren?” (James 2:20.)

Verse 20

1 Timothy 1:20

of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander;—Among those who had put away from them a good conscience and had made shipwreck of their faith were Alexander and Hymenaeus, thought to have been among the Judaizing teachers of Eph­esus, who, from worldly motives, did violence to their con­sciences and, their faith miscarried, blasted all their hopes as when a ship driven by contrary winds is cast upon the breakers and all perish.

whom I delivered unto Satan,—This is generally supposed to mean he had excluded them from the church, but it has always seemed to me to mean more than this. The church at Corinth was commanded to deliver the incestuous person to Satan. (1 Corinthians 5:5.) Many of the early critics, and some of the later ones, James Macknight among them, hold that Satan inflicted bodily punishments in the days of the apostles. Sometimes they cast out demons and delivered from the afflictions of the body. That was to deliver from Satan. To deliver to Satan was to turn the person over to him that he might inflict bodily disease or punishment upon him. If such was the case, it ceased with the age of miracles. During that age both God and Satan exerted wonderful working power. They both ceased at the same time. One used his power to bless, the other to afflict and punish.

that they might be taught not to blaspheme.—The design was reformation that they might be taught not to blaspheme God, Christ, and his cause by their erroneous and unholy teaching. The discipline at Corinth appears to have proved successful in bringing good results. (2 Corinthians 2:5-8,) In this case it seems to have been otherwise. (2 Timothy 2:16-18.)

Bibliographical Information
Lipscomb, David. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Lipscomb's Commentary on Selected New Testament Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dlc/1-timothy-1.html.
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