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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

1 Timothy 1:1 . Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ. Beza cites here the reading of the Complute polyglot bible, made under the patronage of cardinal Ximenes of Spain, in 1517, which reads, Θεου Πατρος , of God the Father, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, our hope. Montanus has followed this reading.

But what need to say to Timothy, that Paul was an apostle? Answer: because he would honour him as a great minister, as well as love him as a son. He says it also, because he knew that his epistle would be read in all the churches. Yet why does he vary his form of speaking to Timothy, in saying, “by the commandment of God our Saviour?” Probably in reference to the promise, that Jehovah would save them by Jehovah Elohim, as in Hosea 1:7.

1 Timothy 1:2 . Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith, begotten by the ministry of Paul. In his new charge at Ephesus, and extensive sphere in the provinces, he confers due honour on this hopeful survivor in the work.

1 Timothy 1:3 . I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, then the capital of proconsular Asia. It does not appear that Timothy was fixed here for life, nor can we possibly suppose that he presided over St. John; such an idea would be altogether absurd.

1 Timothy 1:4 . Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies. This is a strong caution against the rabbinical mode of teaching, as is intimated to Titus in 1 Timothy 1:14, where they are called jewish fables; a dry and often ridiculous mode of teaching. Paul does not allude here to the Platonic philosophy, nor yet to the Egyptian mythology, which many admired. See on Genesis 43:23. The caution is equally a stroke at judaical instructions, building up the mind with wood, hay, and stubble.

1 Timothy 1:5 . The end of the commandment is charity. Moses defined the end of the law to be, that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart. Deuteronomy 6:4. Our Lord also confirmed it in answer to the lawyer’s question, which was the great commandment? God is love, and all his laws are emanations of his nature. The love of God is to study his perfections, to trace his wisdom, his goodness and power in his works, and to delight in doing all his pleasure. The gospel is here called a commandment, but in Greek, parangelias, “a declaration” of all that Jesus Christ began both to do and to teach for our salvation; it is the unfolding of all the riches both of grace and glory. It is the gospel law, or new commandment, requiring all men everywhere to repent, and to believe on him whom the Father hath sent, there being no other name given by which we can be saved.

It must be charity which makes us like its Author, pure in heart by regeneration, spotless and untainted in conscience, walking with God in uprightness of heart, and before men irreproachably. As faith works by love, so our faith must be unfeigned, not only in the belief of the truth, and in all the acts of justifying and sanctifying grace, but a faith which casts our souls on the Redeemer as our hope, our only hope, whose glorious appearing is expected by the church.

1 Timothy 1:6-10 . From which some have swerved, and turned aside to vain jangling. The whole legation of Moses, how diversified soever its precepts may be, is concentrated in Christ. It is a shame, says Erasmus, for a man to profess to be a doctor of the law, and give interpretations contrary to those of the Saviour. We do not speak this in derogation of Moses, for the law is good, unless it be unlawfully interpreted. The grand object of the law is to conduct men to the Redeemer. He who expounds it otherwise, wrests the scriptures to his own destruction. He is blind who does not distinguish what part of the law must give way to the gospel, and what part must remain. The shadows were only for a time, but the moral precepts are immutable as the divine nature. God is abhorrent of all concupiscence, and all the enmity and workings of the carnal mind, as stated on Galatians 5:19; and which are contrary to

1 Timothy 1:11 . The glorious gospel of the blessed God. St. Paul’s argument could not have closed with a happier or a brighter thought. The gospel, in regard of its mediatorial glory, its sacrifice on Calvary, its fountain open for sin and uncleanness, the washing of regeneration, the beauty of the church, the purity of her moral code, the excellence of her temple, the magnitude of her hope, eclipses all the glory of the law. I, a persecutor and a blasphemer, can boast of being the first trophy of redeeming love.

1 Timothy 1:13 . But I did it ignorantly in unbelief. When Paul, in the heat of pharisaical zeal, gave his plaudits to the death of Stephen, he having been sometime out of Judea and had not seen Christ in the flesh, was not aware that the fury of the jews would massacre two thousand christians in Jerusalem, and in Judea, as stated on Acts 8:4. The recollection of those cruelties were goads in his conscience, and palliations of his future sufferings, to the day of his death. Those words came from his heart: “Because I persecuted and wasted the church of God.” He could never forgive himself, though Christ had fully forgiven him.

1 Timothy 1:15 . This is a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners from the guilt, the power, and from the indwelling of sin, when the whole deity enters the believing heart; yea, to save them from death and destruction with an everlasting salvation. Some men, in regard to the enormity of their sins, their number, their aggravating circumstances, and the baseness of their backslidings, may justly own the title claimed by Paul; but he claims it to magnify the power of grace in his conversion, and as a pattern to encourage the foulest offenders to return to the open arms of redeeming love.

1 Timothy 1:17 . Now unto the King eternal, immortal, and invisible. This song of praise justly follows the rich mercy of God to the chief of sinners. To the only wise God, in whom the whole deity is comprised, be honour and glory for ever and ever. He needs no councillor to teach him wisdom, seeing he gives to all wisdom and understanding.

1 Timothy 1:18 . This charge I commit to thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee. In Antioch the Holy Ghost said, by the mouth of the christian prophets, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. Acts 13:2. Probably something of this kind happened at the baptism, or at the ordination of Timothy; for that is a hallowing hour, both to the candidate and all the church, who are wanting on such occasions to pray that the full baptism of the Holy Spirit may descend on lovely youths consecrated to the glory of the sanctuary.


The first care of the church must ever be to transmit to posterity divine revelations as delivered by the voice of God, and declared by the Holy Spirit to the prophets. It must be truth unadulterated with the philosophy of the schools, and the uncertain fables of rabbinical traditions. The first charge therefore to Timothy was, to preserve the purity of the christian doctrine, and to preserve it as a command without spot. Paul, wise in his work, begins where he ought, with the sum and substance of vital godliness, which is love; for God is love. Hence the end of the evangelical law, which absorbs the moral code, is charity. The end must correspond with the author. Moses also summed up the design of his law, namely, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Jesus likewise made love the end of his precepts, and the test of his discipleship; for love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides, the law is to feed and nourish the soul, the best mark of parental love; hence questions which minister strife and vain janglings, do not proceed from love. Hence also christians must make love the end of all their conduct, and ministers must make it the spring and soul of all their preaching. Its three grand ornaments are a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.

The true use of preaching the law is to convict the wicked. It is for the lawless and disobedient, for whoremongers, thieves, and hypocrites, and to make manifest the thoughts of the heart. Hence it is good, if a man use it lawfully, and keep it pure from the corruptions of custom, and the relaxed glosses of a carnal age.

Ministers should give an infinite preference to their profession in being made ambassadors of the blessed God, and heralds of his glorious gospel. That God should employ men, is a subject of mysterious condescension. Hence the heart of a minister should never run after riches, but having his simple wants supplied by the flock, he should give himself wholly to the things of God, and scorn the meaner temptations to worldly pursuits. The consideration of what grace has done for man, should impress us with most grateful acknowledgments, and prompt us to an entire devotedness to our high and glorious calling.

But we most admire the mission of Jesus Christ into this lower world, to save sinners, and sinners of the deepest dye. Here every man knowing his own heart, and best acquainted with the provoking circumstances of his sin, has a right to place himself in the foulest class; and it is sanctifying so to do. That harlots, publicans, and thieves should enter into heaven, no one dares to dispute; yet St. Paul would dispute with these his superior claims, though he had sinned in ignorance of the Messiah. The making saints fall by abjuring the name of Christ with execration stuck so fast to his conscience that he could never forgive himself, and truly there is no wickedness like that of persecuting the church. A dispute may here arise, difficult to decide. Are not the gross relapses of regenerate men, and of ministers in particular, fouler than all these? Ah, to sin under the clearest light of the gospel, to sin against the regenerating love of God, and to sin deliberately through the teasing temptations of the flesh, is foul beyond a name. These are the chief of sinners; and it is happy that there is an advocate with the Father, whose merits exceed the atrocity of sin. Well might St. Paul exemplify the glory of grace in his own conversion. Well might he claim a full right to preach mercy to others, seeing his case was a pattern; and well might he ascribe to the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, honour and glory for ever. Henceforth let no one despair of mercy, and let all men fear to despise it.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/1-timothy-1.html. 1835.
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