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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

1 Timothy 1

Verses 1-20

Christian Love

1 Timothy 1:5

It is quite a popular thing to glorify love. A great many people say, 'Love is the one thing needful; what does it matter what a man believes, or where he worships, so long as he loves God and his brother man?' Well, that seems to be going a good deal too far the other way. It is quite true love is most precious, but it is not the only precious thing, and there are plenty of texts telling us that the truth is also a most precious thing. If religion has its emotional side, it has no less its intellectual and its practical side. Guard against the mistake of making love everything. Yet, if love be not everything, it is a great deal. The Bible speaks of love to God and love to man; and there are terribly high standards of love given us. To love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbour as thyself is a sufficiently high standard to daunt any one; and we can fancy many a plain, sensible, honest man saying, 'Impossible; no one can reach that height'. Yes, it is nearly impossible; but not quite I have read of holy men and women who have seemed to love God with all their hearts. What do you think of Father Damien, who, knowing perfectly well what it meant, went and lived in Leper Island, till he took the complaint and died? I could name men of high promise and prospects in this world who have, for pure love, given up all to live and labour among the poor and outcasts. Such characters may be rare, but they are not impossible; but, even were they rarer, remember there is God's ideal given us. The standard is high, that we all may have something to work up to. No one can rightly complain of love being unpractical; 'love is the fulfilling of the law'. If we love God with all our hearts, we shall certainly do all we can to please and obey Him; and if we love our neighbour as ourselves, we shall certainly never injure or wrong him. Moreover, God asks for love; He makes it a part, a large part, of religion; and certainly a religion without love would be a terribly dry, cold, dreary sort of thing.

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

1. It must flow out of 'a pure heart'.

2. Love must issue out of 'a good conscience'.

3. Love is the outgrowth of 'faith unfeigned'.

Faith is the power in the soul which makes real the unseen, which lives for another world; it is the realising faculty. Surely this faith in the unseen lies at the root of all religion. But it must be 'unfeigned'. It must be real no mere words, no mere profession. It must set the soul in the presence of God. Above all it must make real to the soul the living Saviour. It must be faith in Jesus Christ. It must realise Him as the Atonement for sin, as the example of the Perfect Man, as the living Intercessor. Faith shows us One infinitely lovable, and the sight kindles love 'We love Him, because He first loved us.' It is thus that faith worketh by love. Well may we take up the anxious cry, 'Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!

Bishop Walsham How.

References. I. 5. J. Keble, Sermons for Septuagesima to Ash Wednesday, p. 54. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 176. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 285. J. H. Jowett, British Congregationalist, 19th September, 1907, p. 238. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 31. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 298. I. 5-7. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 1. I. 6. Expositor (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 373. 1. 8. L. D. Bevan, Sermons to Students, p. 65. Expositor (5th Series), vol. vi. p. 69. I. 9. T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv. p. 69.

The Gospel of the Glory

1 Timothy 1:11

We define the Gospel as 'good news,' and the etymology is, doubtless, correct. But 'good news' of whom and of what? We must get a larger definition in the sweep of this word 'glory'.

I. The Source of the Gospel. It is certainly the most wonderful thing on earth and the most fascinating. I compare it with the other religions, and, while they are silent, it tells me things about God which I long to know things which answer and satisfy the clamorous voices within. Paul says the source of the Gospel is the 'blessed God'. God! Then that is to claim a supernatural origin for the Gospel. Precisely. God alone can account for the Christian ethic. The effects in human character are supernatural, and as the effect must partake of the nature of its cause, the cause must be supernatural. The Christian Gospel was not born on earth of flesh and of blood, but in heaven of spirit and of life. There are many religions, and they are all the evolutions of man; but there is only one Gospel, and it is the speech of God in Christ. The proof of its Divine origin lies in its perfect adaptation to the complex life of man. The Gospel is more than a 'body of truth' it is a spirit, a life.

II. The Nature of the Gospel. The 'glory of the blessed God' is the goodness of His Fatherhood, and the Gospel is the showing of such a Father. Its glory lies in the new face of God the goodness of the Father which it reveals. The essential feature of the Gospel is the Fatherhood of God. It includes, and it makes possible, all the facts and the truths of historic Christianity.

III. The Medium of the Gospel. Christ was the medium for the showing of the Father to us. Now in this lies the fascination of the Gospel in a person. The other religions are all ethical frames; but the 'Gospel of the glory' puts a face into the frame, and it is Jesus the face of God revealed! The personality of Christ is the portrait of God. 'I have swept the heavens with my telescope, and have not seen God!' said Lalande. Precisely. Because he was looking only for stars; he saw what he searched for.

The face is the face of God in Christ, and 'blessed are the eyes that see'. If you have the Christ you have the Father, and everything in God becomes your property.

J. Oates, The Sorrow of God, p. 28.

The Happiness of God

1 Timothy 1:2

We all recognise that God is 'blessed,' as being the object of praise and adoration; but He is more than this, for Paul means that God is the Possessor of personal happiness, just as truly as of wisdom, power, and love. Nothing is more likely to inspire us with hope than the knowledge of this fact that our God is infinitely happy, and longs that all His creatures should be happy too. Such a Gospel can be found nowhere else.

I. Let us inquire where through Scripture, or apart from it, we are to find revelations of the inmost character of the God we adore? Surely not in the material world, however magnificent its splendour and resistless its forces, but in man, and most clearly of all in the Divine Man. It is a false theology which would lead us to forget that to a certain extent, and in some respects, we bear a likeness to God. Hence what we know of ourselves gives us conceptions of Him which are true as far as they go; although beyond these there are heights of happiness and depths of love in the Infinite nature, which must remain utterly out of our reach. 'The Gospel of the glory of the happy God is in Jesus Christ. '

II. Let us try to discover wherein this Divine happiness consists. What makes our happiness fitful and transient can never limit the bliss of Him whom we adore. (1) For example, we are often troubled by our ignorance. We are liable to mistakes, and are perplexed by uncertainty. But the happy God is 'clothed with light as with a garment,' invested with the radiance of perfect knowledge. (2) Remember how our happiness is marred by inability to do what we gladly would; but what do we read of Him? 'He works all things according to the counsel of His own will.' (3) But the happiness of God consists not only in perfect knowledge, and tireless, faultless activity, but also, and chiefly in this, that He is absolutely good; as our Lord reminded us when He said to the young ruler, 'there is none good but One, that is God'.

III. But, it may be asked, What has all this to do with us? The revelation we have here is not of a God lapped in ease, serenely contemplating from afar the struggles and sorrows of His creatures, but of God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, redeeming it from sin and misery at an infinite cost. Himself supremely happy, because supremely good, He seeks and strives to make us good, that we may be happy too. Sin is the one thing in the universe which affects the happiness of God, and it is this fact which makes credible to some of us the intervention of God to deliver us from it, as seen in the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ

A. Rowland, The Burdens of Life, p. 21.

References. I.11. J. G. Greenhough, Christian World Pulpit, vol. li. p. 305. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 758. W. J. Brock, Sermons, p. 47. C. Perren, Sermon Outlines, p. 318. E. H. Bickersteth, Thoughts in Past Years, p. 171. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons, p. 77. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 13. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 308. I. 12, 13. F. W. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liv. p. 180.

Injurious

1 Timothy 1:13

There is something subtler than blasphemy, less vulgar than persecution; there is injuriousness. This is true of all things.

I. There are quiet, simple-looking, innocent-looking things that are the instruments of death. Some of them are in a bottle, in a very small bottle, in a bottle with a label, in an almost ornamental bottle; but there is death in every drain the bottle holds. These poisons do not kill by axe and fire and vulgar block and chain; these destroyers are very quiet, they are dumb destroyers; the sting has no voice only death. About these things who cares? What we care about is the blasphemy, the persecutor, the wild man who can only understand the gospel of a strait-jacket; there we could get up a demonstration a million and a half strong, if due time for advertisement were given. But who will get up a demonstration against injuriousness, about these quiet little globules in the spiritual or moral bottle? Why, the globules would be astounded if they heard that there was to be a great demonstration against them spicules, globules, atoms, nothings. But they are doing more deadly work in the world than soldiers can do.

II. 'Injurious.' This is true not only of things, but, secondly, it is true of habits. You understand something of the action of the imperceptible? understand it more. We read in the prophet that grey hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not There is an imperceptible decay. Sometimes the old man stretches himself to his full inches, and says, 'I am as strong as ever'. He does not see his own occasional stoop. Who ever saw really and truly his own stoop? Other men see it, and yet, whilst the stooping, kindly old friend says, 'I feel in back and in limb and in brain just as strong as I ever was,' his friends simply turn round and look somewhere else. This is a great gift, and is well meant The young are also subject to this form of injuriousness when they are told, as they always are told by the devil, that there is no harm in it; I can show you the very pick and cream of the land who all do this; there is really no harm; you can have enjoyment, you can spend a very joyous hour, and I will defy the acutest dialectician to prove that there is the slightest harm in this thing: now you try it for yourself and see if my words be not true.

III. This is illustrated, in the third place, by social influences. There are injurious persons about all the time, and they nearly all go to church, and complain of the singing if it is not loud enough to give them an opportunity of showing that they cannot sing. The Apostle called such people, in another passage, 'backbiters'. They never swear; that would be too large an order to make upon their energy; but they can do a world of mischief by dodging behind the back.

IV. Let us beware of mean sins, of spreading social contagion. What but the Gospel can get at that sort of iniquity? You could make a programme of six pages for getting clear of drunkenness and swearing and uncleanness and gambling, but you never have yet produced a programme for getting clear of these inner and apparently smaller things. I have never seen a programme for cleansing the soul, except in the New Testament

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. IV. p. 21.

References. I. 13. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1574. W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience, p. 219. Expositor (5th Series), vol. ix. p. 48; ibid. vol. x. p. 275. I. 14 . Ibid. (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 352.

Salvation for the Chief of Sinners

1 Timothy 1:15

Paul had passed through and lived his own keen and intense human life in them: he had been a point of refuge in the last resort for many a heart-broken and paralysed sinner; creatures with scarce a remnant of human nature discernible in them had come to him and told him their sins, and had shown him in their hopeless soul, their weakened mind, their scarcely living body, the greatness of their sins, and yet he looks at them all and says, 'Sinners, of whom I am chief.

I. What does Paul mean? If it is neither a mere form of speech he uses, nor the utterance of ignorance; if he neither thought it proper to assume a 'graceful humility,' nor spoke in ignorance of the ordinary sins of men, what did he mean? If in good faith he judged himself to be a greater dinner than any of those foul wretches he had seen in Corinth or in Rome, on what did he ground this judgment? Now, it is a commonplace of religion that in proportion as a man is himself good, he is quick and severe in dealing with his own unrighteousness, and charitable towards other men; admitting all conceivable apology for them, 'hoping all things, believing all things 'in their exculpation, but condemning himself without a hearing. And this fact, in the first place, must be taken into account in explaining Paul's words. His own sins were his immediate concern, on them the weight of God's law had first manifested itself in his conscience; and in connection with them, and not with the sins of other men, had God's holiness first revealed to him its reality, its penetrative truth, its power, its relation to human life.

II. To all persons, then, who feel that theirs has been a very shameful career; to all who have taken so little interest in Christ that they cannot conceive what interest He can have in them; to all who know that they are not the kind of people that do much good in the world; to all who are ashamed to hope for much, or to claim boldly to be heirs of God, and attempt a thoroughly Christian life; to all conscious of great sin, Paul says, 'The grace that saved me is sufficient for you'. Your sins are great, greater than you think, but not greater than Paul's. More polluting to the character, more debasing, more selfish and silly, they may be; but certainly not greater in the sense of needing more grace and love in Christ to pardon them. You may have tried every kind of sin that was open to you; you may have yielded to every form of self-indulgence that ever tempted you; you may have continued in shameful sin long after you knew something of God's nearness to you, and love for you; you may have carried your sin far on with you into a would-be Christian life, and mixed in your own soul things holy and profane, Christ's purity and your own impurity, until you are horrified at yourself, and cannot but think that exceptional punishment must fall upon you; but Paul says, and says truly, that you have not sinned as he sinned, and that as he found mercy so may you.

III. To those who have believed on Christ, a very serious difficulty may have arisen about the manner in which this salvation is practically effected. You have believed, you say, for ten or twenty years, and you seem to be yet as much a sinner as ever. It is replied that this is your own fault, that you must remember very many occasions on which, so far from watching against temptation you have courted sin. Well, but, you answer, it was for this very reason I gave myself to Christ, that this instability of mine might be obviated. I knew I could not keep myself from sin, and therefore I gave myself to Him, expecting that He would save me, and it seems I am little better than if I had been in my own hands. If there is any meaning in being saved by another, any reality in this salvation from sin by Christ, must it not mean that He secures that those who believe in Him be not left to themselves? If Christ does not secure that I pray, that I entertain holy thoughts and dispositions, that I watch against temptation; if, in short. He does not take me wholly into His hand, with all my sin, and save me from my own carelessness and folly, can I in any real sense call Him my Saviour?

Every man is conscious that it does in quite a true sense depend on himself whether he become holy or no; not on himself alone, but none the less on himself. And were Christ to give us such help as should not only move and support, but quite supersede our own efforts, He would thereby destroy and not save us; He would keep us for ever weak. And because He truly saves us, He inspires us to work out our own salvation. He might interfere more manifestly in our life, He might take us in His arms at a rough or slippery place, and we might thus arrive cleaner and fresher, but certainly weaker, at our destination. The aid He gives is like life itself, deep and hidden, but the spring of all else; not superseding, but giving energy to all our own feelings and actings.

Marcus Dods, Christ and Man, p. 176.

The Faithful Saying

1 Timothy 1:15

I. Why did St Paul call himself the chief of sinners? It is a mere truism to say that the success of a religion depends to a large extent upon the personal veracity and goodness of its founders. Now, St. Paul was practically the founder of Christianity over a large area of the heathen world. It was he who had told them almost everything they knew of Christ. And he frequently declared that he himself was the style of man a Christian ought to be 'Be ye followers of me,' he said, 'as I also am of Christ.' How, then, were they to understand him when he asserted himself to be the chief of sinners? What did he really mean? The truth is that St Paul had a very rare and exceptional insight into his own heart, and also into the nature of sin. He knew how terrible were the passions that once strove in his own heart, and still slumbered there. And above all his bright vision of the holiness of God, his sublime conception of Christ's purity, threw a white light that beat upon his sin and exposed its every line and feature, and movement. And so Paul the aged, the Apostle of Jesus Christ, still stood, at the end of his warfare, chief of sinners in his own esteem.

II. Let us consider now why St. Paul appended this remark about himself to the statement in the verse The drift of the passage leads us to believe that he meant it to confirm the faithfulness of the saying. It was equivalent to putting his subscription at the foot of it, as one who endorsed it or attested its truth. In proof of the assertion that Christ Jesus had come into the world to save sinners, he appealed to his own case as specially to the point I should say that the most desperate man is he who is neither careless, nor a profligate, nor a formalist, but one who, earnest and correct in conduct, is conscientiously attached to a false or defective creed and bent enthusiastically on pushing its claims. Was not St Paul very much such a character as this? Christ saved the man who of all men in the world seemed the least likely, and the most difficult, to be saved.

III. We come now to the statement that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Sinners were the object of His mission, and sinners without any distinction. He makes the same offer, and promises to do the same thing, for every one of us that thing being to save us. Christ saves us by enabling us to beat our sin in fair fight, by making us so strong and hopeful that whereas before we were overrun at its pleasure, and carried captive at its chariot wheels, now we stand up against it, and bruise Satan under our feet.

C. Moinet, The Great Alternative and other Sermons, p. 35.

The Divine Source of Redemption

1 Timothy 1:15

'Christ Jesus came into the world.' The salvation of man that is, his deliverance from the debasing element, the destroying element is from above; it is directly Divine and supernatural.

I. Man cannot save himself. God never does anything for us that we can do for ourselves. What we are capable of doing God leaves us to do, although we may serve a long apprenticeship of thought and suffering before we attain the necessary proficiency. But we could not save ourselves, and therefore God has stepped in to deliver us by a mighty act of extraordinary grace. The Incarnation was the stoop of God to do for mankind what it could not do for itself.

II. There is no power of redemption within the race. In the street we see an acrobat stand upright, another instantly leaps upon his shoulders, another on his, perhaps a fourth mounts higher still on the human ladder, and one might think that they meant to scale the heavens; but this kind of thing comes to an end long before they touch the morning star. Some think that a similar trick may be tried in another sphere, and accomplish the elevation of the race. The schoolmaster is to mount the sturdy shoulders of the tradesman, the politician is to support himself on both, the scientist is to carry upward the imposing column, and lastly the aesthete must crown it with his light, graceful figure, and together they will raise society into the seventh heaven of perfection. But these admirable combinations go no further in the moral world than they do in physics. If society is to be lifted to high levels, it will be by a hand out of heaven.

III. There is no law of salvation operative in the world. The fact that Christ came into the world proves that there is no natural redemption. Whenever men are saved it is by the intervention of superior strength and goodness. (1) It is so with the individual sinner. He is helpless, often painfully helpless, until directed, encouraged, and assisted by noble friends. (2) It is the same with the debased classes: if they are saved, help must come from without. (3) It is the same with fallen nations they never raise themselves. The higher nations must save the lapsed nations. (4) It is the same with the race. The salvation of humanity depended upon a superior Power coming to its rescue and working out its redemption.

W. L. Watkinson, The Ashes of Roses, p. 15.

A Faithful Saying

1 Timothy 1:15

Here is a wonderful saying. No such wonderful saying was ever heard in the world before or since. The Jew was willing to believe that the God of Israel could admit into His High Presence the holy men to whom He had entrusted some great enterprise, and who had proved themselves worthy of such great honour. The Greeks believed that for the gifted and the great, for splendid heroes who had wrought prodigies of valour in the battlefield or in the games, the gods might stoop to give some token of their favour and protection. But that God should care so much for men who have slighted Him and forgotten Him, and insulted Him, and rebelled against Him! To the Greeks such an idea was a folly, to the Jews an offence. Yet still more wonderful was the saying that the Son of God should come down as a man, taking upon Him not only our nature but our curse the awful load of the world's sin; and that He should bear for us all shame and agony! Surely it is the most wonderful saying that the world ever heard, so wonderful that it could only have come down from heaven.

I. Experience has proved it a faithful saying. There is nothing in the world today that has such testimonies to commend it as this Gospel of our salvation.

II. If this is a faithful saying, then there are three things that do greatly concern us every one. (1) If Jesus Christ has come into the world to save us, then we must be in great danger. (2) Then surely none but Jesus Christ can save me. (3) Then he has come to save me.

M. G. Pearse, The Preacher's Magazine, vol. xi. p. 354

1 Timothy 1:15

I don't think one talks of things that are absolutely part of one. 'This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' Does my heart beat? Do I put one foot in front of another as I walk? I don't talk to you about these things. I suppose yes, I suppose that is why I never talked to you about the other. Just because it is so natural to me.

E. F. Benson, Paul (ch. xix.).

References. I. 15. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No 184. W. Redfern, The Gospel of Redemption, p. 11. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 186. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 530. T. L. Cuyler, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. p. 127. F. B. Woodward, Sermons (2nd Series), p. 92. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiii. No. 1345. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches (2nd Series), p. 148. F. B. Woodward, Selected Sermons, p. 75. Spurgeon, Sermons. vol. xxiv. No. 1416. R. W. Riley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 45. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 119. W. H. Evans, Sermons for the Seasons, p. 88. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons (2nd Series), p. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxix. No. 2300. W. Page Roberts, Reasonable Service, p. 91. Expositor (5th Series, vol. ix. p. 441. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 316; ibid. p. 326. I. 15-17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi. No. 1837. I. 16. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Timothy, p. 335. I. 17. Ibid. p. 344. L. D. Bevan, Sermons to Students, p. 157. I. 18. E. Holyoake, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 58. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 128.

Christian Crusaders

1 Timothy 1:19

In this chapter we are privileged to gaze upon the early stages in the making of a young crusader. The veteran soldier is giving a commission to a young and brave recruit.

I. Let us first look at the nature of the crusade. 'The end of the commandment, which is love.' And so that is the purpose of the commission, the coronation and enshrinement of love in the hearts of men. But of what kind of love does the Apostle speak? It is 'love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned'. The words remind me of the River Leven, which empties its waters on the northern shores of Morecambe Bay. If we trace it back from the open sea we shall come to Lake Windermere, and then Rydal Water, and then Grasmere, and then away up to the springs, and to the mists on the hills. And here is the river of love, and if we trace it back we shall find it flowing through a pure heart, and further back through a good conscience, and further back through faith unfeigned, and away to the high hills of the eternal God.

II. And who are to be the crusaders? Look at the young fellow before us. The Divine hand had been placed upon him in mystic ordination. And this, not because he was an exception, but because he was the type. Prophecies have gone before on all of us, Who are they who are outside the circle of vocation? Everybody is called to the holy warfare.

III. And what is to be the crusader's equipment? (1) 'Holding faith.' And what is faith? Faith is loyalty to a hero, and Christian faith is loyalty to the Christ That kind of faith not only substantiates the eternal but appropriates it. (2) 'And a good conscience.' I am to fight with a clean, sweet life. What is the use of fighting with anything else? What quality of cleaning can we do with a dirty duster? If I myself am impure I shall lose the perception of the crusade.

IV. But my text points out a peril which besets the crusader, to which we shall do well to pay heed. (1) The Apostle warns his young companion that the thrusting aside of a good conscience would make shipwreck of the faith. (2) And it is not only that a defiled conscience paralyses the faith; it works most palpable ravages upon the temperament We lose the fine mood of chivalry, and we become impatient, and irritable, and unfitted for noble crusades.

J. H. Jowett, British Congregationalist, 3rd September, 1908, p. 202.

References. I. 19. W. F. Shaw, Sermon Sketches for the Christian Year, p. 123. G. A. Sowter, From Heart to Heart, p. 202. I. 20. Expositor (4th Series), vol. i. p. 408.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/1-timothy-1.html. 1910.