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Bible Commentaries

Hamilton Smith's Writings

1 Timothy 1

Verses 1-20

2 The Charge and its End

( 1 Timothy 1 )

The Epistle opens with the insistence of the doctrines of grace (v. 3), as well as a right spiritual condition (v. 5), in order that the people of God may be a witness to God as the Saviour.

(a) The Greeting (verses 1, 2)

(V. 1). Having in view the house of God as a witness to the Saviour God, the apostle presents himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus, our hope. Thus he presents God as the Saviour of the world and Christ as the only hope of the soul. Apart from Christ we are without hope ( Eph_2:12 ; Rom_15:12 ).

(V. 2). Turning to Timothy, as his own child in the faith, the apostle desires for him grace, mercy, and peace; but, thinking of him as a believer, he now says, “from God our Father” and Christ Jesus “our Lord”.

(b) The Charge and its End (verses 3-5)

Following upon the greeting, the apostle at once sets forth the special purpose for which he writes to Timothy. In the first place he writes to insist upon the presentation of the doctrines of grace; secondly, he exhorts to a right spiritual condition in order to be a true witness to grace.

(V. 3). As to the doctrine, the apostle having laboured at Ephesus for two years and three months, declaring to the saints all the counsel of God, it might be thought that there would be little danger of false doctrines being taught in their midst. It was not so, however, for the apostle realised that there were “some” who were ready to teach “other doctrines” even amongst those who had the greatest light. The natural pride of the heart may think that much light is a safeguard against error. It is well for us to learn, by the example of the Ephesian assembly, that the fact of a company being enriched with truth, and enjoying the highest ministry, is no guarantee against false doctrine. Timothy, then, was to charge some that they teach no other doctrine than the great doctrines of the grace of God.

(V. 4). Letting go the truth, we become occupied with fables and interminable genealogies which may appeal to reason, but only occupy the mind with questions and do not lead to godly edifying which is in faith. “Endless genealogies” are as pleasing to the natural mind as to religious flesh, for they shut out God and make much of man. “Interminable genealogies” assume that all blessing is a process of development handed down from one generation to another. For this reason, the religious Jew made a great deal of his genealogy. So, too, the man of the world, with his science falsely so-called, seeks to shut out faith in a Creator by speculative theories which view everything in creation as a gradual and genealogical development of one thing from another. Human speculations, appealing to reason, can only raise “questions” which leave the soul in darkness and doubt. Divine truth, appealing to conscience and faith, can alone give certainty and godly edification.

(V. 5). Having warned against false doctrine, the apostle passes on to speak of the end of the charge. The end he has in view is a right spiritual condition which alone will enable us to maintain the truth and escape error. We shall only be kept as we hold the truth in conjunction with “love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned”. Sound doctrine can only be maintained with a right moral condition.

Speculative questions can be raised and discussed by the human mind apart from a right moral condition of soul, for they leave the conscience and affections untouched, and therefore do not bring the soul into the presence of God. In contrast with man's speculations, the truth of God can only be apprehended by faith. Acting upon the conscience and the heart, the truth leads to the strengthening of the moral relations of the soul with God. Thus the truth edifies by leading to love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. To exhort to these practical results was the great end of the charge to the Ephesian believers. The charge was not to do some great service or make some great sacrifice. It was not doing great things before men, but being in a right condition before God. Love in the heart, “a good conscience”, and “faith unfeigned” are qualities which God alone can see, though others may see the effect they produce in the life.

Thus, in these opening verses, the apostle brings before us the charge to teach no other doctrines than the doctrines of grace, and the necessity of a right spiritual condition in order to maintain the truth and be preserved from error.

(c) Warnings against neglecting the charge (verses 6, 7)

(Vv. 6, 7). Having pressed upon us the deep importance of a right spiritual condition, the apostle, before continuing his instruction, warns us in a parenthesis against the solemn results of lacking these moral qualities.

There were some in the Christian circle who had missed these great spiritual qualities of Christianity. Lacking them, they turned aside from the truth to vain discourse. Christianity, based upon the grace of God, brings the soul in heart and conscience into the presence of God. When this grace is “missed”, religious flesh turns aside to vain words, leading men to become “law-teachers”. Such neither realise the bearing of their false teaching, nor do they understand the true use of the law which they so strenuously affirm.

What a solemn condemnation is the apostle's warning of the greater part of the teaching that flows from the pulpits of Christendom. Having missed the true grace of Christianity and its effects, the Christian profession has turned aside to vain discourse and the teaching of the law, with the result that the pure gospel of the grace of God is seldom proclaimed.

(d) The right use of law and the superiority of grace (verses 8-17)

(V. 8). The apostle equally condemns those who turn aside to fables of the human imagination and those who desire to be teachers of the law. Nevertheless, there is a great difference between human fables and the divinely given law. Therefore, while condemning the law teachers, the apostle is careful to maintain the holiness of the law. Fables are wholly bad, but the law is good if used lawfully.

(Vv. 9-11). The apostle proceeds to explain the right use of the law. He asserts that the law is not made for a righteous man. It is neither a means of blessing for a sinner, nor a rule of life for the believer. Its lawful use is to convict sinners of their sins, by witnessing to the holy judgment of God against every kind of sin.

Moreover, the sins enumerated by the apostle, as indeed all other sins, are not only condemned by the law, but are contrary to the “sound teaching” of the gospel of the glory of God. The law is, in this respect, entirely in accord with the gospel. Both witness to the holiness of God, and for this reason both are intolerant of sin.

Nevertheless, the glad tidings of the glory of God, in the blessing that is proclaimed to man, far surpass any good that the law could accomplish. For the gospel, entrusted to the apostle, reveals the grace of God that can bless the chief of sinners.

(V. 12). This leads the apostle to declare the grace of the glad tidings as illustrated in his own history. Sovereign grace had not only saved the apostle, but, having done so, counted him faithful and appointed him to the ministry of the truth.

(V. 13). To show the surpassing greatness of this grace, the apostle refers to his character as an unconverted man. In those days he was “a blasphemer and persecutor, and an insolent overbearing man”. He not only linked himself with Jewish high priests in resisting the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem, but he was their active agent in carrying this opposition to foreign cities. He blasphemed the Name of Christ, persecuted the saints of Christ, and, being zealous of the law, was insolently overbearing in his attitude towards grace.

Such was the man in whom God was pleased to set forth His mercy (v. 13), His grace (v. 14) and His long-suffering (v. 16). As an individual he was the object of God's mercy because, however intense his opposition to Christ, he had acted in ignorance and unbelief. So ignorant was he of the truth and of Christ, that he honestly thought he was doing God's service in seeking to stamp out the Name of Christ. He was not as one who, having been made acquainted with the truth of the gospel, willingly and deliberately opposes and rejects it.

(V. 14). Thus, in the mercy of God, the grace of our Lord was revealed to him as that which “surpassingly over-abounded” above all his sin. The discovery of the sin of his heart, and the grace of the heart of Christ to such a sinner, was accompanied with “faith and love” that had their object in Christ.

(Vv. 15, 16). Having been blessed, the apostle becomes a herald of the grace of God to a world of sinners, and a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Christ to life everlasting.

(V. 17). The recital of this surpassing grace leads the apostle to break out in praise to “the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God”. To Him he would render “honour and glory to the ages of ages”. Paul, when zealous for the law, was simply a man of the present age, seeking to maintain the age of the law. God is the “King of the ages” Who is acting in sovereign grace for His own glory throughout the ages of ages.

(e) The special charge to Timothy (verses 18-20)

Having shown the right use of the law, and the over-abounding character of grace, the apostle resumes the thread of his discourse from verse 5.

(Vv. 18-20). To Timothy his child he commits this charge of which he had already spoken in verses 3 and 5. Timothy was to act with all the authority conferred by the apostle, according to prophecies as to the service that had been marked out for him. To carry out this service would involve warfare. This conflict to be successful would require that the faith be tenaciously held. Faith in this passage is, as one has said, “the doctrine of Christianity '85 that which God had revealed, received with certainty as such - as the truth” (J.N.D.).

Moreover, the truth must be held with a good conscience, so that the soul is kept in communion with God. How often the heresies into which believers fall have their secret root in some indulged and unjudged sin which defiles the conscience, robs the soul of communion with God, and leaves it a prey to the influences of Satan.

Some, indeed, in the apostle's day, had put away a good conscience and so fallen into errors that made shipwreck of the faith. Two men are named, Hymen'e6us and Alexander, who had listened to Satan and made blasphemous statements. By apostolic power they had been delivered to Satan. Inside the house of God there was the protection of the Holy Spirit. Outside the assembly there is the world under the power of Satan. These men were allowed to come under the power of Satan, that, through suffering and anguish of soul, they might learn the true character of the flesh and turn to God in humbleness and brokenness of spirit.

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Bibliographical Information
Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hsw/1-timothy-1.html. 1832.