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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-5

Warning against errorists, and exhortation to bear himself against them as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.—Description and in part confutation of the errorists

1 Timothy 4:1-5

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; [,] 2Speaking lies in1 hypocrisy; [,] having their [own] conscience seared with a hot iron; [,] 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received [for participation] with thanksgiving of them [in or upon the part of them] which believe and know [acknowledge] the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God, and prayer.


1 Timothy 4:1. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly. The Spirit of prophecy is denoted, which under the new covenant also continues to speak and to work. The question whether this means a revelation of the Spirit in the mind of Paul, or an announcement received by him from others—in other words, whether a direct or an indirect prophecy should here be understood—can only be left to conjecture. From Acts 16:6; Acts 20:23, it appears that the one as well as the other existed in the first age of Christianity; besides, the writings of the Old Testament, as well as many words of our Lord Himself, gave sufficient ground to the Apostle to predict, in the tone of firm conviction, a coming apostasy. To the inquiry why he clothes this warning in the form of a prophetic oracle, Calvin gives the correct answer: “Quo majore attentione excipiant omnes, quod dicturns est, præfatur certum esse at minime obscurum oraculum Spiritus Sancti. Non est quidem dubium, quia reliqua ex eodem Spiritu hauserit, verum utcumque semper audiendus sit tanquam Christi organum, tamen in causa magni ponderis, voluit hoc testatum, nihil se proferre, nisi ex spiritu prophetiæ. Solemni itaque præconio nobis hanc prophetiam commendat, nec eo contentus, addit, esse claram nec ullo ænigmate implicitam.”—In the latter times. Altogether undetermined; ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς; not, ἐν ἐσχάτοις καιρ. (2 Timothy 3:1). Not the period which immediately precedes the advent of the Lord, but the advent in general, is here denoted, whose first development the Apostle already discerned in the circle around him.—Some. The heretics themselves are not designated (Matthies, Heinrichs), but members of the church who might be misled by the heretics, as appears from the following.—Depart from the faith (comp. Luke 8:13; 2 Timothy 2:18). “Vera negando, falsa addendo;” Bengel.—Giving heed to seducing spirits. Here, as frequently, the cause of the phenomenon is indicated by a participial connective. The whole discussion in the beginning of this chapter forms, too, a formal antithesis to 1 Timothy 3:15-16, as is shown in 1 Timothy 4:1 of this chapter by the diminutive δέ.—Seducing spirits, πνεύμασι πλάνοις, are not the heretics themselves, but the evil spirits or powers which inspire them, and which are counted tools of the devil himself (comp. Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12). This is evident, too, from what immediately follows: and doctrines of devils. This latter expresses still more exactly the conception generally denoted by the preceding πνεύματι. These heresies have sprung from such demons—were inspired and spread by them. From 1 Corinthians 10:20 it appears that the Apostle considered these demons as personal powers ruling in heathendom, and hostile to Christ.

1 Timothy 4:2. In hypocrisy, ἐν ὑποκρίσει. This verse has been connected with the preceding in various ways (see De Wette on this passage). It seems best to refer the words directly back to προσέχοντες (Wiesinger, Huther). Just as this προσέχειν was the cause of the apostasy, so the ὑποκρίσις was the cause of the προσέχειν; here, therefore, the error of the understanding had a psychological ground in the state of the corrupt heart. “The hypocrisy of the heretics lay in this, that, giving allegiance to such a spiritualism (1 Timothy 4:3), they had the appearance of a real spiritual life” (Huther).—Speaking lies, ψευδολόγοι (ἁπ. λεγόμ.), ψευδοπροφήτης (2 Peter 2:1), and thus still more severe than the ματαιολόγοι (1 Timothy 1:6).—Having their conscience seared, κεκαυτηριασμένων τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν; that is, those who, like criminals branded for crime, bore in their own consciousness the mark of their guilt. Others with less probability explain it thus; their conduct has been such, that their consciences have by degrees become seared against all moral and holy influences. Καυτηρίαζειν (cauteris notare) was done not only to slaves, but to criminals, who were known to be such by the brand on the forehead. It was thus with the heretics, qui sauciam scelerum conscientia habent mentem (Wahl). This insensibility was, without doubt, a natural consequence; yet this is not exactly the meaning of the Apostle. While they profess to lead others to a true holiness, they bear in their own conscience (ἰδίαν) the brand of guilt and shame.

1 Timothy 4:3. Forbidding to marry. As the Essenes and Therapeutæ had before done (comp. Joseph., A. J., 14, 2, and Philo, De vita contemplativa). According to later Gnostic principles, also, marriage and begetting children were wrong, because the condition of marriage was looked upon as an institution of the Demiurge; and because, in this way, souls pure and innocent in a former state were imprisoned in impure bodies, and, by union with corrupt matter, became sinful and wretched. The germs of this tendency existed already in the day of Paul, as is clear from the Epistle to the Colossians. The Apostle continued even to the end of his life in conflict with this error.—And [commanding] to abstain from meats. See other examples of an ellipse, such as occurs here, in 1 Corinthians 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:12. How strongly the earliest Gnosticism insisted on this, is plain from Colossians 2:16. Later, Manichæus held that wine sprang from the blood and gall of the devil. Perhaps the food here designated is only meat (comp. Romans 14:2; Romans 14:21). The command probably arose from the Gnostic fancy, that the materials which nourished the body were not the work of the Most High God, but of the Demiurgus, and thus from the evil principle, the ὕλη of Satan. The absurdity of this notion Paul clearly shows in what follows.

[Much light is yet to be thrown by Oriental researches on the heresies alluded to in the Epistles of the New Testament. Yet, so far as these Pastoral Epistles are concerned, there is nothing to sustain the view of Baur, who would disprove their Pauline origin by referring these passages to the later Gnostics; but it seems clear that they describe the earlier Jewish errorists of the church. A collation of passages will prove this. 1 Timothy 1:7, they are teachers of the law. Titus 1:10, deceivers of the circumcision. Id. 1 Timothy 4:14, Jewish fables. Id.1 Timothy 3:9, genealogies are classed with strivings about the law. If, again, we study the errors themselves, we shall find them connected with notions of the Jewish schools. Our author has cited from Josephus and Philo the peculiar tenets of the Essenes. We must, however, correct one of his references. The book of Philo, Omnis probus liber, gives a sketch of the practical Essenes, who are nearer to the type than the Therapeutæ of the “Vita contemplativa.” Abstinence from marriage and meats formed the distinctive marks of this and kindred ascetic sects; 1 Timothy 4:1-3. The genealogies, 1 Timothy 1:4; Titus 3:10, are as fully explained by the Jewish fables of angelic hierarchies, as by the Æons of the later Gnostics.—See Nicolas, Doctr. relig. d. Juifs, c. 2, p. 88; 100:3, p. 234. The translation of the Avesta by Spiegel has cast fresh light on the Persian origin of the Jewish angelology. Einleitung, c. 2. Lastly, the doctrine ascribed to Hymeneus, 2 Timothy 2:18, has its root in the Essenian idea of the resurrection of the soul from carnal ignorance to the life of the spiritual man. Nicolas, c. 2, p. 88. See also, for an admirable summary of the whole argument, Schaff, “Apost. Church,” B. 5, c. 3, and the account of Gnosticism in general, in his “Church History,” vol. i. p. 221. It is true, as was said by older scholars like Prideaux, long before Baur and Reuss, that no direct trace of the Essene school is visible in the age of the New Testament. Yet it is not of Essenism as a distinct sect, but of its ideas and tendencies we speak, and these unquestionably had largely leavened the Hebrew mind. All the strange mixtures of Eastern and Greek theosophy had their influence on the later Jewish culture, and the Christian Gnosticism was only the ripening of the germs then planted in the church.—W.]

1 Timothy 4:3. Which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving, εἰς μετάληψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας = ἵνα οἱ π., κ.τ.λ., μεταλαβῶσιν αὐτῶν. For the participation, the acceptance, and enjoyment of His own creatures, God in the beginning ordained food, and human prohibition is thus purely wilful.—With thanksgiving. This added clause meets the conceit, that the Apostle gives an unbridled freedom—a freedom that so easily leads to excess. Enjoyment with thanksgiving must eo ipso be moderate and seemly, as befits those who believe and know the truth. The πιστοί are, in the Apostle’s view, the true γνωστικοί. As to the main thought expressed in this restriction, we recall the words of Calvin: “Paulum de usu licito hic agere, cujus ratio coram Deo nobis constat. Hujus minime compotes sunt impii, propter impuram conscientiam, quæ omnia contaminat, quemadmodum habetur ad Titum1:15. Et sane proprie loquendo, solis filiis suis Deus totum mundum et quidquid in mundo est destinavit, qua ratione etiam vocantur mundi hæredes.

1 Timothy 4:4. For every creature of God is good. As the previous verse has shown us Paul’s fidelity to the position of genuine Christian freedom, which he holds also in the Epistles to the Romans and the Corinthians, so here, according to his usual custom in the discussion of a special case, he utters a universal principle. This is an internal evidence of the genuineness of the Pastoral Epistles, which should not be overlooked.—Κτίσμα, creature, a created thing; while elsewhere, with Paul, κτίσις occurs in a passive sense. Naturally the word is to be understood here of those κτίσματα which are specially made for our nourishment. Comp. Romans 4:14; Romans 4:20; Acts 10:15.—Καλὸν, good, suited to its end, healthful. In and for itself, no food is objectionable, yet on condition that it be used with thanksgiving to God.

1 Timothy 4:5. For it is sanctified, Ἁγιάζεται γὰρ. The ground of the preceding. The sense is: it is set apart as food holy and well-pleasing to God (comp. Leviticus 19:24). In itself, the food is not holy, nor is it at all unholy, but mere matter. Yet it can be raised to a higher rank, to that of things consecrated to God; and it really becomes such by the word of God, and prayer. By the word of God is meant not a special passage of Scripture, e.g., Genesis 1:29 (Mack), nor a Divine command in the general sense (Matthies), nor the prayer itself, which is offered to God (Leo, Wahl), since this would be tautological; but most probably the word of God uttered in and with the ἔντευξις named in addition. The customary prayer at the table probably consisted of words of holy Scripture; or the person praying should be regarded as speaking by the Spirit, and thus with the word of God. For an example of such a prayer at table, see Huther on this passage. [One of the most beautiful models of the primitive “Grace before meat” is cited by Conybeare from the Apost. Constitut., 7, 49. We translate it here: “Blessed be Thou, O Lord, who hast fed me from my youth, who givest food to all flesh. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that, having always what sufficeth, we may abound unto all good works, in Christ Jesus our Lord, through whom be unto Thee honor, glory, and power, forever and ever. Amen.”—W.]


1. As the gospel is the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Old Testament, it contains also predictions of those great events which precede the second coming of the Lord. The Lord Himself had already declared that false prophets also should then arise (Matthew 24:11): “Etsi omnia sæcula inde usque ab initio generis humani multas magnas confusiones religionum, bella et vastationes habuerunt, tamen vox divina sæpe testatur in ultima senecta mundi majores futuras esse confusiones, quam fuerunt antea. Et crescunt mala propter tres causas. Prima, quia cumulatis malis sequuntur majores pœnæ. Secunda, in his ipsis peccatis et pœnis natura fit languidior et disciplina dissolutior. Tertia, quia rabies diabolorum crescit, qui jam scientes instare diem judicii, odio filii Dei magis sæviunt in Ecclesiam;” Melanchthon.

2. While the heretics, opposed by Paul in the Epistle to Titus, are regarded as then present, he speaks of them in both the Epistles to Timothy in a more prophetic tone. Even then his prediction, though rooted in the present, reaches on to the far future. The errors here opposed are only the germs of those which in the course of centuries reveal themselves continually in new and varied forms; and which, though not at all exclusively, appear in the papacy. The Reformers consequently asserted the truth, but not the whole truth, when they found in 1 Timothy 4:3 a distinct description of the erring mother-church. Such phenomena may be regarded as among the many signs, although not the highest reach of Anti-christ. Already in the second century the heresies, here opposed, appeared in their first strength, and the whole sickly asceticism of the middle ages is only a variation of the theme here treated by the Apostle. [Thus Latimer, “Sermons,” ed. Parker Soc., p. 1Tim 162: “Here learn to abhor the abominable opinion of the Papists, who hold that marriage is not an holy thing, and that the minister of the word of God be defiled through marriage, which is clean against God and His Word. Therefore, seeing beforehand in the Spirit, St. Paul saith, 1 Timothy 4:3, which prophecy is verified in this our time.” The stout old Reformer had no nice criticism of the text; but he saw the real identity of the false principle in the Jewish-Christian asceticism, and that of the later Latin monkery.—W.]

3. Between the two cliffs of spiritualism and materialism we see the bark of the Church continually tossed hither and thither in the course of the centuries. It has scarcely escaped the one, when it runs into peril of being stranded on the other. In our time, with the prevailing love of pleasure and luxury, there seems little danger of such severe morality as Paul here describes. But will there not be, sooner or later, a necessary reaction? and does not history clearly show that one extreme leads to the opposite?
4. It is a sad evidence of the blindness and pride of the sinner, that, when God has freed him by grace from a law that can only condemn him, he will not rest until he has again put himself under the yoke of a law fashioned by himself. So eager are we to build up a righteousness of our own before God, so loth simply to be blessed by free grace. Self-righteousness always remains the fond idol of the natural man; nor does he perceive that he must thus fall into new and worse unrighteousness.

5. The perfect law of liberty (James 1:26) has annulled the letter of the Mosaic command in regard to meats and drinks for the Christian man, and he needs no longer agree with those who say, “Thou shalt not handle that, thou shalt not taste that, thou Shalt not touch that” (Colossians 2:21). But this very emancipation from the letter of the law is the best fulfilment of its spirit and substance; for when the Christian sanctifies all God’s gifts through prayer and thanksgiving, all food becomes pure, even that which under the old Levitical code was unclean. Thus Christian freedom is not a passport for license, but the best bulwark against it.

6. “The special design of every outward gift of God is to lead to the knowledge and praise of the Giver; to lead from the earthly and temporal to the heavenly and eternal. As this design of God is not fulfilled in the unbelieving, if they continue in unbelief, He has in this view made all these things not for them, but for His children who know the truth;” Von Gerlach.
7. The dark visions which Paul opens to us of the future, directly conflict with the optimistic and sanguine hopes of those who believe that, from the unceasing growth of knowledge, all on earth and in the Church of Christ is becoming always better, more harmonious, more peaceful. The same Scripture which gives the promise of the last glorious day for the Christian, utters its ever-increasing lamentations over the last times which are to precede that day. Yet without the pains of travail, and σκάνδαλα in the ὑστέροις καιροῖς, the full glory of the ἐσχάτη ὥρα cannot break forth.


The prophecy of the New Testament the continuation and crown of the Old.—The prophetic character of the New Testament.—When God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel hard by.—The weeds in the Lord’s garden do not grow slower than the wheat.—The diabolical feature in the heresies of the Church.—False spirituality not rarely the cloak of immorality.—A forced celibacy the devil’s mask.—“Is this the fast which I have chosen?” (Isaiah 58:5).—True and false asceticism.—True Christian freedom likewise the highest restraint.—The high purpose for which God created food.—Passing enjoyment a chosen aid to lead us to the abiding good.—“All things are yours, but ye are Christ’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).—The sanctity and worth of grace at table.—To glorify God even in the little things of domestic life, the Christian’s honor, duty, and blessing.

Starke: Great comfort, that God has revealed to His poor Church what is to come, that it may have the less cause to complain.—Cramer: The devil always finds his followers; and it is vain to hope that in this world all religious strife shall cease.—Anton: Whoso will shun false spirits, must first beware of his own spirit.—False teachers use for their craft hypocrisy, and the appearance of sanctity; they go about in sheep’s clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 23:28).—If every creature of God be good, it is godless for the Papist exorcists to pretend to cast out the devil from water, salt, and oil, and, by certain passes with the cross, and conjurations, drive him away.—Hedinger: If food should be received with thanksgiving, then man must not seek his bread by extortion. cheat, theft, and the like; for no one can give thanks for these.—Luther (in his “Larger Catechism”) teaches that “marriage is not to be esteemed lightly or scornfully, as the blind world and our false spiritual guides do, but is to be regarded according to God’s word, whereby it is made fair and holy; so that it is not only set on a level with all other estates, but is honored before and above them all; wherefore both spiritual and secular estates must humble themselves, and all accept this estate.”—Heubner: The devout spirit, enlightened by God, may often have glimpses of the future, so far as it is of importance for the present.—The corruptions and discords of Christianity are allowed by God for manifold reasons.—All that God made is in itself good; only through man’s distrust it becomes evil. The Christian knows how to sanctify even his own pleasures.—The unholy and the holy enjoyment of the gifts of God.—Lisco: The contradiction of all mere outward restraints imposed by man, to the witness of the revelation of God in Christ.


1 Timothy 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:2.—[Whitby translates ἐν, instrumentally=διά. “Through the hypocrisy of liars.” He appears to connect the phrase with προσέχοντες; so Wiesinger and Huther. The construction is difficult, several words being in apparent apposition with δαιμονίων, as if the devils were liars, seared in their conscience, and the rest. He would he a bold commentator who would maintain that the Apostle here calls heretics devils. Yet, in Philippians 3:2, he writes, “Beware of dogs.”—E. H.]

Verses 6-16

Stirring exhortation for Timothy to genuine steadfastness in his Christian calling, and to continuous growth in it

1 Timothy 4:6-16

6If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ2 [Christ Jesus], nourished up in the words of [the] faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained [which thou hast followed]. 7But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8For bodily exercise profiteth little:3 but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 9This is a faithful saying [Faithful is the word], and worthy of all4 10acceptation. For therefore [To this end] we both labor and suffer reproach5 [strive = ἀγωνιζόμεθα], because we trust in the living God who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe. 11These things command and teach. 12Let no man despise thy youth; [,] but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit,6; in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine [instruction]. 14Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. 15Meditate upon these things [Care for, &c.]; [,] give thyself wholly to them;7 [,] that thy profiting may appear to all.8 16Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine [instruction];9 continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.


1 Timothy 4:6. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things. These things, ταῦτα, that is, the same which he has spoken of in 1 Timothy 4:3-5, in refutation of the heretics, whose errors, at least in germ, had already sprung up here and there in the neighborhood of Timothy. It is, however, possible that the word looks back to the whole pericope (1 Timothy 3:14; 1 Timothy 4:5); for the error here is the entire opposite of the main truths of the gospel which Paul had stated in the preceding verses.—Putting in remembrance, ὑποτιθέμενος. Literally, to put under foot; hence, to suggest, to recommend, or (Luther) to hold before. If Timothy does this, he will be a good minister of Jesus Christ; he will fulfil rightly the διακονία (2 Timothy 4:5) entrusted to him. The more exact description follows of the character of a deacon, which Timothy would thus manifest; nourished in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. The λόγοι τῆς πίστεως are here represented as the constant means of growth and nurture for the inward life of Timothy (comp. 1 Peter 2:2); and the present, as Bengel here rightly remarked, is used “cum respectu præteriti.” The Christian education of Timothy is not here represented as incomplete (De Wette), but as still capable of development. The Christian, or the Christian teacher, may be complete so far as his present point of view extends; yet he may be called to strive after a higher one (comp. 2 Timothy 2:15).—Good doctrine, ὑγιαίνουσα διδασκαλία (1 Timothy 1:10), in contrast to the μῦθοι, γενεαλογίαι, &c., of the heretics.

1 Timothy 4:7. Refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Timothy is thus alike bound to a conflict with the heretics, and to the maintenance of the truth. Paul calls the opinions of these heretics μύθους, mere abstract speculations, without any connection with the historical realities and practical tendencies of Christianity, for the origin of which see 1 Timothy 4:1. Timothy must reject all these, and not only in his public capacity as a teacher, but, as is clear from what follows, in his personal conduct. The exact description of these fables is noticeable; Paul calls them βεβήλους (unspiritual; Luther), profanos, the opposite of ὁσίους (comp. 2 Timothy 2:16) and γραώδεις (ἅπαξ λεγόμ.), from γραῦς, vetula s. anus; the custom of old women; silly, foolish (comp. 2 Timothy 2:23). The first epithet denotes the character of the μῦθοι as to their matter, the latter as to their formal statement.—Exercise thyself rather unto godliness, πρὸς εὐσέβειαν; that is, that thou mayest become truly godly. Without doubt Timothy had been such already from his youth (2 Timothy 1:5); but the development of the Christian life is, according to the words and example of Paul, unending (Philippians 3:12-14). As regards the subject itself, we have here a similar exhortation to that literally expressed in the last chapter of this Epistle (1 Timothy 6:11), and figuratively in 1 Timothy 4:12. As to its form, it should, however, be observed, that the figure, γυμνάζειν, forcibly denoted the effort which is necessary to the exercise of godliness. The Apostle was perhaps led by the preceding ἐντρέφεσθαι to the use of imagery drawn from the gymnasium: “Paulus coram solitus erat Timotheum exercere, nunc jubet, ut Timotheus sibi ipse Paulus sit;” Bengel.

1 Timothy 4:8. For bodily exercise, σωματικὴ γυμνασία. According to many, the physical abstinence from certain food, from marriage, &c.—a discipline which the heretics (see 1 Timothy 4:1-3) commended, but Paul condemned. According to others, he means the gymnastic exercises so much in vogue with the Greeks, especially the Olympic games. The latter view seems preferable, since the Apostle surely would not attach the slightest use to the first named, which he had declared a doctrine of the devil; he had, besides, said nothing further of it in the verses just before, and probably used this substantive simply on account of the preceding γυμνάζειν. It is possible, indeed (Bengel), that Timothy had practised some bodily asceticism (1 Timothy 5:23), which Paul did not condemn in itself, but regarded as merely outward, far below the εὐσέβεια. The first had indeed its use, yet only πρὸς οʼλίγον; i. e., not, for a short time, as James 4:14, but, as follows from the antithesis to πρὸς πἁντα, in a slight degree. It might serve for the increase of bodily strength, for rescue from danger, for gaining a crown of honor; yet these were in any case temporal. It is otherwise with the εὐσέβεια; it is profitable for all things, in the full force of the word; even for that ὀλίγον toward which the σωματικὴ γυμνασία serves, but beyond this, for an infinitely higher end. It has the promise of life, both present and future; that is, God has given promises to a godly life, which concern as well this world as that which is to come. Salvianus, De gubernatione Dei:Religion et sancti viri et præsentis fidei oblectamenta capiunt et beatitudinis futuræ præmia consequuntur.” Calvin: “Qui pietatem habet, illi nihil deest, etiamsi careat istis adminiculis. Nam pietas se sola contenta est ad solidam perfectionem.”—[Perhaps a prominent idea of St. Paul, in drawing his imagery from the Greek gymnastic, is the contrast of a manly, Christian athlete to the false ascetic. The true exercise begins with the inner man, with the εὐσέβεια, not with the σῶμα.—W.]—Promise of the life. Genitiv. objecti, so that the present and the future life are contained in the promise. The life on earth (comp. Ephesians 6:2) and the life hereafter is promised to the godly, as the natural result of grace.

1 Timothy 4:9. Faithful is the saying. See 1 Timothy 1:15; where, however, this expression refers to what immediately follows, as here to what immediately precedes. Paul here removes possible objections, which perhaps might arise with Timothy against this statement (1 Timothy 4:8).

1 Timothy 4:10. For therefore we both labor, &c. Εἰς τοῦτο, sc., ad hoc consequendum. This promise, especially that of eternal life, rises before the soul of the Apostle as the end for which he gladly undergoes the severest toil and suffering (comp. Colossians 1:29). Instead of the ὀνειδιζόμεθα of the Recepta, A. C. F. G. and others have ἀγωνιζόμεθα, which is accepted by Lachmann, but rejected by Tischendorf as not fully authenticated. Κοπιάω, a fit phrase for the toilsome labor of the Apostle, as well in action as in suffering.—Because we trust in the living God. This clause is not to be referred to both the preceding verbs, but only to the last ὀνειδ. There rises now to the view of the Apostle, with the image of his work, the image of the trials inseparably connected with it. Perhaps while writing this letter, he had in his own experience a special motive, unknown to us, which leads him so expressly to speak of this trust. He will not say that his enemies designedly reviled him because he trusted in the living God; but he only names the real ground of all their hostility. Yet at the same time this is his comfort, for he has trusted in the living God; no dead abstraction, as so many spun from the brains of these Ephesian heretics, but a God who Himself lives, and will bestow the hoped-for life on us (1 Timothy 4:8).—Who is the Saviour of all men. Not a relative clause without any connection (De Wette), but of this logical force, that God could not fulfil the hope resting upon Him if He were not likewise σωτήρ in the full sense of the word. And, again, in so unconstrained a letter as this, it was a necessity for the heart of the Apostle to give this chief place to the sound and precious doctrine to which he had already alluded (1 Timothy 2:4). In respect to God as the σωτήρ, see 1 Timothy 1:1. The abuse of this universal proposition is easily met, if we only draw the just distinction between those who are the object of the yearning love of God, and those who through faith already enjoy its fruits. The example of a true gospel tenderness, without a surrender of its right principle, is given by Calvin on this passage: “Intelligit, Dei beneficentiam ad omnes homines pervinire. Quod si nemo est mortalium, qui non sentiat Dei erga se bonitatem ejusque sit particeps, quanta magis eam experientur pii, qui in eum sperant? An non peculiarem ipsorum gerat curam, an non multo liberalius se in eos effundet? An non denique omni ex parte salvos ad finem præstabit?

1 Timothy 4:11. These things command and teach. Ταῦτα. “Hæc, missis cæteris;” Bengel. The Apostle here refers directly to all that he has said in 1 Timothy 4:8-10, not exclusively to the representation of God as σωτήρ. Between command and teach (gebieten und lehren, German), this distinction may perhaps be drawn, that the one regards rather the practical, the other the theoretical side of the subjects of which Timothy is to remind his hearers.

1 Timothy 4:12. Let no man despise thy youth (comp. Titus 2:15). Not an express exhortation to the church (Huther), that it show due respect to Timothy as its teacher, in spite of his youth; for the following ἀλλὰ τύπος γίνου shows clearly that the exhortation is designed directly and only for Timothy himself. He must not allow any one to despise his youth (σου depends on νεότητος, and not on καταφρονείτω, which would give a hard and forced construction), but must also so conduct himself that no one can rightly despise it. In so far Bengel says rightly: “Talem te gere, quem nemo possit tanquam juvenem contemnere.” It is the negative side of the rules of conduct which are positively given in the following verses. As to the youth of Timothy, we must infer, from Acts 16:1-3, that he was quite young when he first met Paul; and after this period, ten or twelve years at least must have elapsed, so that Timothy now was perhaps a man of thirty-two or thirty-four years. Thus, in comparison with the presbyters, widows, deaconesses, &c., with whom he must so largely associate, he might be called young. Perhaps we may infer from 1 Timothy 5:23, and 1 Corinthians 16:11, that Timothy was not very imposing in his external appearance.—But be thou an example of the believers in purity. A like exhortation is addressed to Titus, 1 Timothy 2:7. The Apostle names five things (not six; see the Critical notes) in which Timothy should give an example. First, in word, ἐν λόγῳ, not exclusively in public teaching, but as well in daily conversation; in behavior, ἐν�̣, which must be in full harmony with his words; in love, in faith—the two chief elements of the inner Christian life of which language and behavior are the outward signs; in purity, last of all; ἐν ἁγνείᾳ, including the chastity becoming the youthful Timothy; but this is not here exclusively denoted. This, like other kindred words, is often used of the moral purity which embraces as a fruit of faith and love the whole outer and inner life. In view of the ascetic rigor of the heretics, Timothy should avoid all that might give even apparent reason for the suspicion that he preached a lax morality.

1 Timothy 4:13. Till I come, give attendance to reading, &c. (comp. 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 3:14). During the absence of the Apostle, no changes should take place in the wonted order of things. All must remain continuous with the old. Πρόσεχε; Da operam et curam.—Give attendance to—Reading, ἀναγνώσει. The public reading of the holy Scriptures, which with the Jews was taken out of the Law and the Prophets (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15); but in following this custom, the Christians read at first from the Old, and afterwards from the New Testament writings (comp. Colossians 4:16; Revelation 1:3). A description of this custom in the early Christian church is found in Justin., Revelation 1:0Revelation 1:0, p. 67, edit. Oberth.—To exhortation, to doctrine. Here, as in Romans 12:7-8, placed together. The former was necessary for special cases, the latter daily for all.

1 Timothy 4:14. Neglect not, &c. The same precept in another form, as in 2 Timothy 1:6. At his entrance on the office of teacher, Timothy received by the Holy Ghost a special gift, of high value in the exercise of his office. The office itself is not here denoted, but his Divine qualification for the office, which was given through (διά) prophecy, with the laying on of hands of the elders. The brevity of this allusion gives large room for conjecture. It is possible that at this solemnity there were Christian prophets, who foretold a specially noble career for Timothy; that these prophets belonged to the fellowship of the elders (πρεσβυτερίου), here regarded as a college; and that Paul himself, or one of his companions in travel, had uttered this prediction. But whatever the fact, this prediction was joined with the laying on, of hands, first by Paul himself (2 Timothy 1:5), and again by the other presbyters.—Laying on of hands. This was of old a symbol of the communication of the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:17; Acts 19:6; Hebrews 6:2). Already in the Old Testament it was usual at the ordination of a priest (Exodus 29:10; Numbers 8:10), or even in case of promotion to a high dignity (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9), and later, in the days of the New Covenant, in the healing of the sick (Matthew 9:18) and the raising of the dead (Mark 5:23). This laying on of hands was without doubt connected with solemn prayer; and it still continued in the Christian Church in the case of ordination to the office of teacher and presbyter. Apart from the supernatural influence which may have been joined with this act in the apostolic age, it is clear that the personal effect must have been very deep and beneficial. To keep alive this impression, Timothy must constantly renew its remembrance, and not allow the gifts entrusted to him to slumber. But in what particular church this act had taken place, remains uncertain. The church tradition names Ephesus as then the sphere of Timothy’s labors; and to this there can be no material objection. [This passage has been often cited as a proof of the power of presbyterial ordination. It doubtless refers to the setting apart of Timothy for the ministry; yet it may be not to his higher office as St. Paul’s successor, but as a presbyter at Lystra. See Ellicott, in loco. In that case, it proves only that the presbytery shared in the laying on of hands—a custom which from the first, till now, has continued in cases of persbyterial ordination. See Bingham, Antiq., B. 2, 1Tim 19. It must be fully admitted, however, that the later hierarchical changes greatly lowered the rank of the presbyter-bishop of the primitive day.—W.]

1 Timothy 4:15. Meditate upon these things. A general concluding exhortation. Ταῦτα specially reverts to 1 Timothy 4:12-16. It must be Timothy’s careful endeavor to learn by heart the Apostle’s precepts.—Give thyself to them. Ἐν τούτοις ἴσθι, lotus in his esto; heart and head, soul and body. It is not enough for Paul that Timothy should follow his calling with the fidelity of a slave; he must live wholly in and for it. Compare the Horatian maxim: Quid verum atque decens, curo et rogo, et omnis in hoc sum.—That thy profiting may appear to all. Progress, προκοπή; a word which only occurs here and in Philippians 1:12; Philippians 1:25, and is in each case genuinely Pauline. This προκοπή would be more and more manifest to all Christians (πᾶσιν), if he truly and heartily obeyed the precepts given in 1 Timothy 4:12-14 Timothy must not be content with the height he had now attained, but always strive after a higher and higher development.

1 Timothy 4:16. Take heed unto thyself. A comprehensive exhortation at the close of this whole chapter, in which Timothy is charged with a twofold duty, each in its order, of watching as well over himself as over the doctrine. Calvin: “Duo sunt curanda bono pastori: ut docendo invigilet, ac se ipsum purum custodiat. Neque enim satis est, si vitam suam componat ad omnem honestatem, sibique caveat, ne quod edat malum exemplum, nisi assiduum quoque docendi studium adjungat sanctæ vitæ. Et parum valebit doctrina, si non respondeat vitæ honestas et sanctitas. Non ergo abs re Paulus Timotheum incitat, ut tam privatim sibi attendat, quam doctrinæ in communem Ecclesiæ usum.”—Continue in them. Ἐπίμενε αὐτοῖς, i. e., in all the duties mentioned. The connection with the following, so as to understand the audientes by αὐτοῖς, is less natural.—For in doing this. The sense of the σωτηρία is positive as well as negative. As to the former, Paul probably meant the saving of Timothy himself, and of those that heard him, from false doctrine and its unhappy effects. But with this is joined the gaining of the salvation promised through the gospel to all that believe, the blessedness of which Timothy and his hearers would thus more and more partake. A twofold and most alluring reward is thus assured to his fidelity.


1. Personal growth in godliness is the chief requisite of the pastor and teacher, not only for his own sake, but for his flock and for the preaching of the gospel. His discourse would be sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, were it not the revelation and the outpouring of the inward spiritual life, which he must cherish with the utmost care. As there is a sickly asceticism, so there is also a sound discipline, which is needed specially for the practical theologian and pastor. The saying of an old Strasburg divine is brief, but full of deep truth: “I would rather make one soul blessed, than a hundred learned” (Lütkemann).
2. That godliness is profitable for all things, and thus the most practical thing in the world, cannot be too strongly enforced against an abstract idealism on one side, and an irreligious materialism on the other. How many there are who know indeed that godliness is good for a peaceful death, but do not hold it necessary for a happy life; how many others who think faith very beautiful for the poor, the weak, the suffering, the dying, but not to make real, able, practical men. It must always, therefore, be remembered that the gospel is a power which grasps the whole man; and the true Christian is not only the happiest person, but the bravest citizen, the best patriot, the most obedient soldier, the greatest chief; in one word, in all relations, a co-worker with God, and an honor to Christ. An excellent example of this is found in the English General Havelock.
3. That this life, as well as the future, may have a great reward, does not at all conflict with the doctrine of God’s free grace, and the justification of the sinner by it (see “Heidelberg Catechism,” Answer 63, and the essay of Weiss, The Christian Doctrine of Reward, Stud. und Krit., 1852).

4. The χαρίσματα of the apostolic age were partly extraordinary, fitted to that early period; partly ordinary, and designed to remain for all ages. To the former belonged the gift of prophecy, which was exercised at the ordination of Timothy, and on other occasions (see, for instance, Acts 21:9); and which, to all who had it, was a μαρτυρία τοῦ Ἰησοῦ (Revelation 19:10)—a witness given by the Lord Himself that they were not only His real, but His best and most approved disciples. If the χάρισμα in this form has now ceased, yet the apostolic counsel of 1 Corinthians 14:1 is as true for all believers; and the New Covenant has no other aim than to realize more and more the ideal of Moses; Numbers 11:29.

5. No office requires so much the whole man, the surrender of all our personal powers, as that of the ministry; the active hand is always with the single and steadfast heart. The man who exercises his office without living entirely for it, is no shepherd, but a hireling. Bengel thus illustrates 1 Timothy 4:15 : “In his qui est, minus erit in sodalitatibus mundanis, in studiis alienis, in colligendis libris, conchis, nummis, in quibus mutti pastores notabilem ætatis partem inscientes conterunt.” Weighty examples of the blessing joined with this conscientious fidelity, may be found, among others, in Tholuck’s excellent book, “Living Witnesses from all ranks in the Lutheran Church;” Berlin, 1839. The name of Chalmers, McCheyne, and other ornaments of British Christianity, may here be cited with high honor. And who will soon forget the noble Adolph Monod? Ave pia anima!

6. On 1 Timothy 4:13 : “Monet etiam Paulus hic, Ecclesiam alligatam esse ad certos libros, sicut sæpe alias præcipitur (Isaiah 8:20). Necesse est igitur, rejici doctrinas et illuminationes pugnantes cum his libris. Item opiniones et cultus extra hos libros;” Melanchthon.

7. “Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine.” Comp. Acts 20:28. An excellent essay on this subject is found in the little golden book of Richard Baxter, “The Reformed Pastor,” translated from the English, Berlin, 1833; which expressly shows that there should be as little defect in the one as in the other, and what belongs to each. “The pastor who takes heed to himself, must take heed that the work of grace be truly accomplished in him; that he grow more and more in it; that his conduct do not stand opposed to his doctrine; that he do not live in any sin which he condemns in another; that none of the qualities requisite for his office be lacking in him. Whoso has to care for his flock, must give heed that no other than pure doctrine is preached; and he will watch, likewise, that greater stress be not laid on true faith than on true faith.”


There is no higher title of honor, than justly to be called a good minister of Jesus Christ.—The word of faith the best food by which the pastor is sustained.—How much must the true minister of the gospel daily learn and teach.—The Christian discipline.—Bodily exercise not to be wholly despised, but far less to be overvalued.—Exercise in godliness must be practised: (1) By every Christian; (2) every pastor; (3) especially every young pastor.—Godliness a business, which (1) requires; (2) deserves; (3) rewards daily exercise.—Not only eternal, but temporal life and success, the blessing of a true devotion.—No preaching of the gospel without work; no work without offence; no work and offence without reward.—To the true preacher all things must preach.—The youthful overseer of the flock must see that he be in advance of his years.—The Lord also says, as does His apostles: “Until I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.”—Spiritual gifts must be most heedfully cherished.—Whoso hath, to him shall be given; Matthew 13:12.—The great expectations which the teacher of a flock has early called forth, impose on him a double duty.—To stand still in the spiritual life, is to go back. “Studiis profici, moribus vero defici, non est profici, sed defici.”—The twofold calling of the minister of the gospel: (1) Take heed to thyself; (2). take heed to the doctrine; (3) take heed to thyself no less than the doctrine, and to the doctrine not without constant heed to thyself.—We must look to it, that, while we preach to others, we ourselves be not castaways (1 Corinthians 9:27).—“The wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).—The minister of Christ may save others, yet himself be lost.—Starke: Froward minds, that always love to dispute and quarrel, and think little of love and godliness, God mend them!—Bodily exercise is only an attendant on spiritual exercise.—Watching, fasting, toiling, self-restraint, help thee in this, that thy flesh rule not over the spirit, and so hinder godliness (1 Corinthians 7:5).—Anton: Godliness is not dead. Hast thou godliness? It matters little whether thou hast bodily exercise. But if thou hast not godliness, thy bodily exercise is only hypocrisy.—Disciplined feelings are found in ripe Christians, old in gifts, wisdom, and strength, not in years (Proverbs 4:9).—Samuel, the youthful, was a faithful prophet before Eli the aged (1 Samuel 3:10). But so also was Samuel, the aged, before his youthful sons (1 Samuel 8:3).—Lange’s Opus: Nothing brings a young man, especially in his official intercourse with others, more respect, than wise, prudent, exemplary action.—God’s grace and our toil must ever go together. For without grace, no toil avails; and without toil, no grace is rightly used and kept unimpaired, far less increased (1 Corinthians 15:10).—Cramer: We should stir up the gift of God which He has enkindled in us, as a man stirs up a fire in the ashes, piles on wood, and increases the flame (2 Timothy 1:6).—The church authorities should care for the preacher, that he be not drawn away from his study (Sir 38:25).—One cannot exist without the other; he who has no care for his own salvation, will have far less for the salvation of his flock (1 Timothy 3:5).

Heubner: Much bodily exercise may cause spiritual harm, may excite a coarse, brutal spirit, the opposite of self-restraint and self-denial.—Religion awakens all our spiritual powers; the same man, formed by religion, will do infinitely more than without religion.—Man can never profit himself save by godliness.—He who searches Scripture aright, can exhort and teach.—It is a fearful sorrow to have had good gifts, and not to have used them.—The pastor who does not grow perceptibly, must, more than all men, become immoral.—Care for our own souls, and the souls of others, is very closely connected.

Lisco: How is a good minister of Jesus Christ formed? (1) By his inner life; (2) by his outward activity.—Godliness is profitable for all things.

Von Gerlach: The capacity for the office of a true pastor, as it proceeds out of a life with God in his heart, must ever draw him back to his own life; his whole attention must be always equally given to himself and to the doctrine, to his own and his hearers’ salvation.—How can a man think to form the kingdom of God in another, if he has not given heed to form it in himself? And, again, how great is the reward of those who, without losing sight of themselves, sacrifice self for the salvation of others.

Baxter: It is the great, widespread evil of the Church, that it has unrenewed and inexperienced pastors; that so many become preachers before they become Christians, and are consecrated as priests at the altar of God before they are made holy to Christ by the offering of the heart to Him; and thus they worship an unknown God, and proclaim an unknown Christ, and pray through an unknown Spirit, and preach of a state of holiness, and fellowship with Christ, and a glory and a blessedness, which are wholly unknown to them, and perhaps will remain unknown through all eternity! He must be indeed a heartless preacher, who has not himself in his own heart the Christ and the grace which he declares. Alas, that all scholars in our universities might well ponder this!

Saurin, “A Sermon on the Profit of Godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8), in his Sermons, vi. p. 1Tim 377: The influence of the fear of God on our health; our good name; our wealth; on the rest of the heart; the peace of conscience; and what concerns the future life: all this becomes manifest in its power, when we consider the devout man in his daily conduct, in his retirement, at the Supper of the Lord, at the approach of death.

Very rich in thought and clear in argument.


1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Timothy 4:6.—The received text has “Jesus Christ;” see Tischendorf. The Sinaiticus also confirms the omission, [I think there is some slip here; the question is of the proper order of the words. The Recepta reads, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ; all the authorities, and modern, critical editors, transpose, and read, Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:8; 1 Timothy 4:8.—[The Sinaiticus omits πρὸς before ὀλίγον.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:9; 1 Timothy 4:9.—[The Sinaiticus omits πάσης before ἀποδοχῆς.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 4:10.—[Recepta, ὀνειδιζόμεθα; Lachmann, on the authority of A. C., has ἀγωνιζόμεθα; so Griesbach; so also Sinaiticus.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Timothy 4:12.—ἐν πνεύματι in the Recepta. Omitted by Lachmann and Tischendorf. [Neither are they in the Sinaiticus.—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:15; 1 Timothy 4:15.—[Vulg. is striking here, “in his esto.”—E. H.]

1 Timothy 4:15; 1 Timothy 4:15.—Ἐν to be left out. See Tischendorf on the place.

1 Timothy 4:16; 1 Timothy 4:16.—[σου. Not in the Sinaiticus.—E. H.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-timothy-4.html. 1857-84.
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