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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-8

Teaching only the doctrine of Christ

1 Timothy 1:1-8

Timothy, to whom this epistle is written, was known for his early interest in and acquaintance with the scriptures. His mother was a Jewess and his father a Greek, which is the reason why he was not circumcised in his infancy. Mention is made in the second epistle of his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, as believers, and of his knowledge of the scriptures from a child. Paul met him at Lystra and chose him to be his companion to assist him in the spread of the gospel. Knowing that it would be disagreeable to many Jews to hear the gospel from the lips of an uncircumcised person, Paul circumcised him, becoming all things to all, that he might gain some. Paul sent Timothy to several places; and now he was at Ephesus, where he was to abide for a while. In these epistles, Paul instructs both Timothy and the church in many important matters.

1 Timothy 1:1 . If Paul had been writing to Timothy only, it would have been unnecessary to call attention to his apostolic office. Timothy knew that, but Paul had his eye chiefly on others who were not so ready to listen to him or who did not so readily believe his words. These are the words of an apostle of Christ, whose office is by the commandment of God our Saviour. No man makes himself an apostle. Paul owes his apostleship to the Father and the Son. The title ‘God our Saviour’ belongs both to the Father and to the Son, for the Father loved us and gave the Son to redeem us. The Father does nothing except through the Son.

He calls Christ our hope. He is not only the author of a good hope for salvation and eternal life, his righteousness and sacrifice are not only the means of a good hope and his promise the foundation of a good hope, but Christ himself is our hope! He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 1:27). We do not trust a plan but a Person! We do not merely give mental assent to facts, but we receive a Person (John 1:12).

1 Timothy 1:2 . Timothy was not related to Paul according to the flesh, but the relationship was spiritual. He calls him his son because of his age, because of his deep affection for him, because he instructed Timothy in the doctrine of faith, and because, as a faithful son, Timothy served with Paul in the ministry of the gospel.

Here is Paul's usual salutation: ‘May you have a fresh discovery of his love and free favor and an increase of grace and the gifts of his Spirit. May you have a fresh application of the pardoning mercy of God through Christ. May you have peace of heart and conscience through the blood of Christ.’

1 Timothy 1:3 . Paul reminds Timothy why he was asked to remain in Ephesus. He left him there to oppose the false teachers who corrupted the doctrine of Christ. There were some teachers in this place as in other places who taught justification by the works of the law, but the reference is to charge these teachers that they teach nothing that was not taught by Christ and his apostles! Nothing is to be introduced as doctrine which is not according to revelation!

1 Timothy 1:4 . Paul is not only condemning doctrines which are altogether fake, but also those useless speculations, theories, and inquiries into matters which do not edify but only turn believers aside from the gospel and the simplicity of our Lord Jesus Christ. These speculations (endless inquiries into heritage and theories concerning what is to be) are but a fleshly show, do not promote either the salvation or the comfort of the people, and only serve to confuse and distress the mind. They only serve to raise questions, not to answer them.

1 Timothy 1:5-7 . These false teachers boasted of having the law on their side and were teachers and guardians of the law. Paul says the law gives them no support, but rather opposes them; for the end and design, the sum and substance of the law is love to God and love to one another (Matthew 22:36-39; Galatians 5:13-14). This love is not possible from a natural man, but springs from a pure heart (regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit of God), from a good or a clear conscience (purged from dead works, void of ill feelings, vengeance, and pride), and sincere faith. Sincere faith, with which a man really believes what he professes, always is attended with good works and love.

1 Timothy 1:8 . The law is not the ceremonial law, which is disannulled, but the moral law, which is good because God is the author of it; and it contains good and excellent things. It is good if a man uses it for the purpose for which it was designed. But if it be used to obtain life, righteousness, salvation, or acceptance with God, it will only serve to condemn. A lawful use of the law for unbelievers is for the knowledge of sin, the conviction of sin, and to shut them up to Christ. A lawful use for the believer is to obey it in the hands of Christ from a principle of love to him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Verses 9-14

I obtained mercy

1 Timothy 1:9-14

1 Timothy 1:9-10 . No man is righteous in himself; the righteous man here intended is the man who believes in Christ with the heart unto righteousness and who lays hold on Christ's righteousness by faith, in consequence of which he lives soberly, righteously, and godly, though not without sin. The law of God does not lie as a weight and a burden on him.

1. He delights in the law of God, and God's commandments are not grievous to him.

2. Its curse and penalty do not lie on him as a punishment to be borne.

3. It is not to him a terrifying law, bringing him into bondage and fear.

4. It is not a despised law, forcing him into a way of life he detests.

The law is enacted for the ungodly, the evil, and the profane; for it is against such persons and their deeds as an accusing, condemning, and terrifying law. Locks on doors are not made for honest men, but for crooks. Do not steal, kill, lie, etc. are not rules needed by righteous men, but laws enacted to control and convict ungodly men.

The law lies against anything that is contrary to the doctrine of Christ, takes notice of it, and condemns it. We observe the harmony between God's law and his gospel, rightly understood and used. What is contrary to the one is contrary to the other. The gospel no more excuses sin than the law does. What is repugnant to the moral law of God is also contrary to the gospel of Christ, who said, ‘I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.’

1 Timothy 1:11 . The gospel with which we have been entrusted is the gospel of the glory of God! Paul sharply rebuked those who labored to degrade the gospel, who suggested it might lead to a life of sin, or who tried to mix it with obedience to laws and ceremonies (Romans 11:5-6). The gospel of Christ reveals the glory of God's wisdom, his love, his righteousness, his holiness, and his grace. It is all-sufficient in this regard, and we have been entrusted with this precious treasure. We must faithfully preach and preserve it. We do not need to hedge it about with laws, rules, and ceremonies. Righteousness is by faith, not by obedience to laws (Romans 4:20-25).

1 Timothy 1:12 . Paul, like David, was always praising and thanking the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20). Here he thanks the Lord Jesus for making him a minister of the gospel. He did not take this office to and of himself, but Christ called him to it. Christ enabled him by giving him abilities, gifts, knowledge, and grace. Christ counted him faithful, having made him so by his grace; for faithfulness is a necessary requisite and qualification for a gospel minister. We are not always successful, but we must be faithful! (1 Corinthians 9:16.)

1 Timothy 1:13 . ‘I obtained mercy,’ though I was a blasphemer, calling Christ an imposter. I was a persecutor; not content to blaspheme Christ, I put his people in prison and consented to their deaths. I was injurious, making havoc of the church, using force and violence to blot out the gospel. Yet, God had mercy on me, mercy unasked, unsought, and unmerited (Ephesians 2:3-8). The fact that Paul did these things in ignorance and unbelief was not the reason he obtained mercy, but he is saying that that is indeed mercy that pardons and justifies such an ignorant and unbelieving creature (Romans 5:6-9).

1 Timothy 1:14 . The grace of God flowed out abundantly and beyond measure for me. God is rich and plenteous in mercy toward me. ‘Where sin did overflow, grace did much more overflow.’ This grace of God toward me was accomplished by the grace of God in me, which begat the grace of faith and the grace of love. Instead of unbelief, I now had faith in Christ. Instead of rage and madness, I now loved Christ and his people.

Let our attention be directed to these two graces, which are inseparable! He who believes on Christ loves Christ and others. He who loves Christ with a sincere heart is certainly born of God and has saving faith.

Verses 15-20

A faithful saying

1 Timothy 1:15-20

After exhorting Timothy to oppose the false teachers and charging the Ephesians to teach ‘no other doctrine than that which was taught by Christ and the apostles,’ after defending his ministry from slander and unjust accusations, declaring that though he was a blasphemer he ‘obtained mercy’ and was put into the ministry by the Lord Jesus, Paul proceeds to give the sum and substance of his gospel ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’

1 Timothy 1:15 . ‘This is a faithful saying;’ it is a true saying, not to be doubted, argued, nor debated, but to be received and believed (1 Timothy 3:16). Men are always disputing among themselves about how God saves sinners. They often are in doubt about their own salvation. Therefore, when questions and doubts arise, let us repel them with this certain and sure truth, ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ He alone is the Saviour, the only Saviour.

This gospel is faithful to God's law, which is magnified and honored; it is faithful to God's justice, which is satisfied; it is faithful to God's promises; and therein is the faithfulness of Christ revealed. This gospel is ‘worthy of acceptation’ by all persons because it is the word of God, not of man. It is entirely true, suitable to the need of all, glorifies God (1 Timothy 1:11), and is the gospel preached from the beginning (Romans 1:13).

‘Christ Jesus came into the world;’ (John 1:10; John 1:14; Galatians 4:4; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6). The second person of the blessed Trinity (Very God of Very God, the express image of his person) has come into this world in human flesh (Romans 8:3; John 10:30; John 14:9).

‘To save sinners.’ The word ‘sinners’ is emphatic and conclusive! Many who acknowledge that it is the office and work of Christ to save have difficulty admitting that such salvation actually belongs to sinners. The natural mind is always compelled to look for some worthiness in the creature. But the message of the gospel is ‘Christ lived and died and rose again for sinners!’ Read Matthew 9:10-13; Romans 5:6-10.

‘Of whom I am the chief,’ the first, the greatest. Paul does not say this out of false modesty nor for vain glory, but from a real sense of his sins, which were exceedingly sinful to him (Acts 8:3; Acts 9:13).

1 Timothy 1:16 . ‘I obtained mercy’ (1 Timothy 1:13). Twice Paul uses this phrase; he says that though he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, the greatest sinner against Christ, God had mercy mercy unasked, unsought, and unmerited. God was long-suffering toward me in the midst of all my sins and rebellion, as he is to all his elect. God held out such a pattern that no one should doubt that he would obtain pardon, provided he received Christ by faith. Paul is an example of the patience and grace of God for the encouragement of the faith and hope of others in Christ, though ever so great sinners! Upon being told by William Jay that he was encouraged by the conversion of a certain rebel, John Newton replied, ‘Since the Lord saved ME, I have despaired of no man living!’

1 Timothy 1:17 . The apostle breaks forth in a doxology of praise to Christ for his sovereign mercy and abundant grace. He is the eternal King of nature, providence, and grace. His throne is forever, and of his kingdom and government, there is no end. He is immortal, for Christ is the living God, the living Redeemer; and though he died as man, he will die no more, but ever lives. He is invisible in his divine nature until manifest in flesh. He dwells in light that is inaccessible (1 Timothy 6:14-16). He is the only wise God (in opposition to all false deities); he is wisdom itself and the fountain of wisdom. To him be all honor and glory forever! (Jude 1:24-25).

1 Timothy 1:18 . Paul renews the charge he gave to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:3, which was not only an order to charge others to teach no other doctrine than that of the gospel, but includes the charge of preaching it himself. He tells Timothy to be true to Christ as a good soldier in the midst of a war with Satan, evil men, and false teachers (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Timothy 6:12), according to the prophecies of the Holy Spirit regarding Timothy and also the prophecies of prophets of the church concerning him (2 Timothy 4:5-7).

1 Timothy 1:19 . ‘Holding faith and good conscience.’ Faith here is a general term denoting sound doctrine (1 Timothy 3:9). There are two imperatives for a preacher or teacher. He must hold to the pure truth of the gospel and he must administer that gospel with sincerity, honesty toward God and men, and a holy conversation and conduct.

Some preachers and teachers have failed in one or both, thereby making shipwreck of themselves and others. The term ‘shipwreck’ is appropriate; for it suggests that if we wish to arrive safely to harbor, we must continue on the course of faith and obedience and not wreck on the rocks of works, covetousness, compromise, etc. (1 Timothy 6:8-11).

1 Timothy 1:20 . We find additional reference to Hymenaeus in 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and to Alexander in 2 Timothy 4:14. By apostolic power, Paul delivered these men into the hands of Satan as a token of God's displeasure (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/1-timothy-1.html. 2013.
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