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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

1 Timothy

- 1 Timothy

by Mark Dunagan

“’Letters to Young Preachers’ would be a good way to designate the New Testament writings known as 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. The churches where these young preachers were ministering were of different ages (the church at Ephesus was about a dozen years old, while those on the island of Crete were more recently planted), but both faced certain similar needs if they were to continue to grow. In these letters are timeless instructions to young preachers about what to emphasize in their ministry to the churches they serve and to whom they preach will be what Christ wants them to be” (The New Testament Epistles, Timothy and Titus, Gareth L. Reese, preface).

In the denominational world, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are often called “Pastoral Epistles”, because of what the denominational world considers to be a “pastor” and “pastoral duties”, yet neither Timothy nor Titus were “pastors”, that is elders ( Act_20:28 ), rather they were evangelists ( 2Ti_4:5 ). It has only been a little over 250 years that they have been known as such. P. Anton, at Halle, in his work Exegetische Abhandlung der Pastoralbriefe, first suggested the term in 1726 A.D.


Paul is clearly the author of 1 Timothy as well as 2 Timothy and Titus ( 1Ti_1:1 ; 2Ti_1:1 ; Tit_1:1 ). In addition to this the biographical notes in the letters speak of the writer as having been a blasphemer and persecutor ( 1Ti_1:12-17 ), as now being a preacher and apostle to the Gentiles ( 1Ti_1:1 ; 1Ti_1:11 ; 1Ti_2:7 ; 2Ti_1:1 ; 2Ti_1:11 ; Tit_1:1 ), and speak of the journey through Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, which fits Paul’s first missionary journey ( 2Ti_1:12-13 ; 2Ti_3:10-11 ).

A number of the same workers associated with Paul in Acts and his other letters are found in these three books, including Timothy, Titus, Luke, Apollos, Tychicus, Trophimus, Demas, Mark, Priscilla and Aquila.


Timothy was from the region of Lystra in Asia Minor ( Act_16:1-2 ; Act_20:4 ). His mother Eunice and grandmother Lois were devout Jewish women ( Act_16:1 ; 2Ti_1:5 ), and Act_16:1 reveals that his mother had become a Christian. His father was a Greek and apparently an unbelieving Gentile at that. One would suppose that he was not a believer in any sense, since his son had not been circumcised ( Act_16:2-3 ). Timothy was probably converted on Paul’s first journey ( Act_14:6-7 ), seeing that on Paul’s second visit through this region Timothy was chosen as one of his traveling companions. Paul also speaks of Timothy as “his child” ( 2Ti_2:1 ), indicating that Paul may have personally taught Timothy the gospel message ( 1Co_4:17 ). Even before his conversion, Timothy had been raised by two godly women who had prepared him for a receptive hearing of God’s truth and had given him a strong grounding in the Old Testament Scriptures ( 2Ti_3:14-15 ).

At some point Timothy had been given a spiritual gift through Paul’s hands and this was accompanied by the elders setting Timothy apart for the work of an evangelist ( 1Ti_4:14 ; 2Ti_1:6 ).

Timothy was present with Paul on his second journey ( Act_16:2-4 ; Act_17:14-15 ; Act_18:5 ; 1Th_1:1 ; 1Th_3:2 ; 1Th_3:6 ; 2Th_1:1 ). On this trip he was sent back to Thessalonica to assist the new congregation in that town.

He was with Paul on his third missionary journey ( Act_19:22 ; Act_2:4 ; 2Co_1:1 ; 2Co_1:19 ). During this trip Paul sent him to the Corinthians to give them additional instruction ( 1Co_4:17 ; 1Co_16:10 ). He was also with Paul in Corinth when the letter to the Romans was written ( Rom_16:21 ).

During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, Timothy was a close companion ( Php_1:1 ; Col_1:1 ; Phm_1:1 ). Paul was preparing to send him on a special mission to Philippi ( Php_2:19-23 ). Sometime in his life Timothy was imprisoned but the time and place are not recorded ( Heb_13:23 ).

Paul’s estimate of Timothy:

“Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” ( 1Co_4:17 ).

“For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father” ( Php_2:20-22 ).

“Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance” ( 2Ti_3:10 ).

Timothy’s Life:

48 A.D. Act_14:20 at his conversion probably around 15-18?

51 A.D. Act_16:3 joins Paul and his companions, 18-21?

66-67 A.D. 1Ti_1:3 at Ephesus. This is 15-16 years later. He is still referred to as a young man ( 1Ti_4:12 ). The Romans divided life into: 1. Childhood: Birth to age 18. Youth: Age 18 to age 44. Old Age: Age 44 to death.

Personal Information:

Besides his childhood and godly mother and grandmother, we learn from these letters that Timothy had some health problems ( 1Ti_5:23 ), and was admonished not to be timid ( 2Ti_1:7 ).

According to tradition, around 97 A.D. as the pagans were about to celebrate a feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days after (See Fox’s Book of Martyrs, p. 7).


When Paul wrote this letter he was going from Ephesus into Macedonia ( 1Ti_1:3 ), the exact opposite of this we find in the book of Acts ( Act_19:22 ). The traveling plans in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus do not fit without the framework of Paul’s travels in the book of Acts, therefore we must conclude that Paul’s imprisonment in Act_28:30-31 ended in this release and that these three books provide information on Paul’s travels between his first and second imprisonment. We should not be surprised to learn that Paul’s imprisonment in Act_28:1-31 ended in his release, for Paul appears to anticipate this in Php_2:23-24 and Phm_1:22 .

It would appear that after his release:

1. Paul sailed from Rome to Crete ( Tit_1:5 ).

2. Stops at Miletus ( 2Ti_4:20 ).

3. Leaves Timothy in Ephesus ( 1Ti_1:3 ).

4. Stops at Troas ( 2Ti_4:13 ).

5. Writes this letter from somewhere in Macedonia ( 1Ti_1:3 ).

6. Stops at Corinth ( 2Ti_4:20 ).

7. Appears he wrote the letter to Titus from Corinth before he came to winter at Nicopolis ( Tit_3:12 ).

8. Nicopolis ( Tit_3:12 ).

9. At Nicopolis or sometime later he is arrested and taken back to Rome, from where he will write 2 Timothy ( 2 Timothy 1:17; 4:6-8; 16-17,21 ).

10. It could be that Paul was planning to return to Ephesus after the winter in Nicopolis ( 1Ti_3:14-15 ).

Many date 1 Timothy around 66 A.D. the same time as the letter to Titus and 2 Timothy a year later in 67 A.D. There is traditional evidence that Paul suffered martyrdom in the last year of Nero’s reign. The last year of his reign began in October A.D. 67 and stretched to July 9, A.D. 68, when he committed suicide.

Lenski feels that Paul wrote 1 Timothy about 63 A.D. and then was able to complete his desires of traveling west and preaching in Spain ( Rom_15:28 ). When Clement of Rome wrote his letter to the church at Corinth (90 A.D.), he indicated that Paul had preached to the extreme limits of the west (1 Clement 5:7).

Purpose of this Letter:

1. To instruct certain men in Ephesus not to teach false doctrines ( 1Ti_1:3 ). The danger of people being lead astray because of error is a prominent theme in this letter (1:3-4, 6-7, 19-20; 4:1-3; 5:8,12; 6:3, 20-21). Years prior to this Paul had warned the Ephesian elders at that time of a coming apostasy ( Act_20:28-31 ).

2. The importance of Timothy’s own example and personal conduct: (4:12-14, 15-16; 5:1-2, 21-23; 6:11-14, 20).

3. The importance of following God’s instructions concerning the local church ( 1Ti_3:15 ). This letter contains instructions concerning the qualifications of elders and deacons (chapter 3), the role and men and women in worship (chapter 2), caring for widows (chapter 5), the relationships between the various age groups in the congregation (5:1-2), the support of elders, and rebuking elders that sin (5:18ff).

4. The book also has a tremendous amount of exhortation and encouragement for Timothy. He was given a tough assignment in Ephesus and there were many adversaries and problems.

Obviously in all their travels together and imprisonment, Paul had already told Timothy about all of the above, but now Paul is writing these things down, so that the elders, deacons and the members can know that Paul is behind what Timothy has been preaching. It was not just the young preacher who was saying these things.

“The question might be raised why Timothy should need information concerning the qualifications of elders and deacons, the warning against false teaching, as well as other material concerning Christian conduct and church organization….This is not evidence of Timothy’s ignorance, but rather of the deeper significance of these epistles. They were sent not just for the instruction of Timothy, nor to grant him written assurance of his authority and the content of his message. They were sent with the whole church in mind, that they might know that what the young evangelist was teaching had apostolic authority behind it. This epistle is important not only to the church at Ephesus, but also to all the churches throughout the generations of time. Paul was presenting the duties of Christian leadership, the duties of the church, the duties of the followers of Christ that are to be observed until the end of time” (1964 Standard Lesson Commentary, Lewis A. Foster, p. 344).

The New Testament Church:

Contrary to the claims to those who contend that Christianity “evolved”, in these letters we find fully functioning New Testament congregations. We find elders and deacons with specific qualifications. We even find paid elders and a definite way of dealing with wayward elders. We find a precise system of taking care of widows both individually and congregationally.

False Doctrines and Problems:

From the letter it appears that Timothy and the congregation in Ephesus were facing:

1. Speculative intellectualism: 1Ti_1:4 ; 1Ti_6:4 .

2. Asceticism: 1Ti_4:1-4

3. Materialism and the love of money: 1Ti_6:6-9 ; 1Ti_6:17

4. Jewish myths and genealogies: 1Ti_1:4 .

5. Pseudo-knowledge: 6:20; 4:7.

6. Misuse of the Old Testament: 1Ti_1:7

7. Claiming that the resurrection had already happened: 2Ti_2:18 .

8. Arguments that lead to ungodly living: 2Ti_2:16 .

9. Members living worldly lives: 1Ti_5:6 ; 1Ti_5:11 .

10. A false pride that leads to false doctrines: 1Ti_6:3-4

11. Failing to provide for one’s family: 1Ti_5:8 .

12. People who have lost their faith: 1Ti_1:19-20



I. Introductory Material: 1:1-20

A. Salutation: 1:1-2

B. Purpose for leaving Timothy: 1:3-11

C. Expressing gratitude to Christ and God: 1:12-17

D. Restating the charge to Timothy: 1:18-20

II. Instructions concerning the Church in general: 2:1-3:16

A. Public prayer: 2:1-7

B. Proper relationship and conduct of men and women in public: 2:8-15

C. Qualifications of elders and deacons: 3:1-13

D. The Church and Christ: 3:14-16


III. Personal instructions to Timothy regarding his role as an Evangelist: 4:1-6:21

A. Apostasy foretold: 4:1-5

B. Instructions concerning his own teaching and conduct: 4:6-15

C. Instructions concerning classes of people in the Church: 5:1-6:2

1. Widows: 5:1-6

2. Elders: 5:17-25

3. Servants: 6:1-2

D. Concluding instructions:

1. Concerning false teachers: 6:3-5

2. Concerning greed: 6:6-10

3. Fighting the good fight: 6:11-16

4. The rich: 6:17-19

5. Final charges: 6:20-21