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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

The apostleship of Paul is shown here to be no light matter. His was a call totally independent of the other apostles, but "according to the command of God." We have, therefore, no liberty to regard his epistles as merely his personal convictions, but must recognize them as being that which God required him to write, having in them the supreme authority of God. Yet God is here called "our Savior." Titus also uses this expression, both in regard to God and in regard to the Lord Jesus Christ. This certainly involved the revelation of God's saving grace in the person of the Lord Jesus and in His atoning sacrifice. But if His authority is first affirmed, yet it is not merely authority, but that of Him who is Savior, in matchless goodness, grace, and compassion. Similarly, Christ Jesus, though risen, exalted, and supreme in glory, is "our Hope": we shall not always be in the place of lowly humiliation: in His person is all that the heart of the believer longs for, so that it is but a little while that we are called to endure.

Timothy was Paul's "true child in the faith," a genuine convert of Paul's, in whom he therefore had such confidence as to speak his heart with no evident reservation. The word here is "child" rather than "son," for it speaks of actual spiritual birth rather than the dignity of position. It is not simply that Timothy's character was patterned after that of Paul, but that "in Christ Jesus" Paul had "begotten" him through the gospel. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:14-15, where "sons" is properly translated "children."

Paul wishes Timothy "grace," which is the divine favor sufficient to lift one above whatever the circumstances may 'be; and "mercy," God's showing compassion in the midst of circumstances; and "peace," the tranquility of soul given of God to calmly pass through all circumstances in unbroken, unruffled communion with the Lord Jesus. Such blessing too is based upon the unity of the Father and the Son: it is found from no other source, but perfectly there.

Verse 3. Though Paul had spent three years in Ephesus (Acts 20:31), in ardent labors, teaching, testifying, and warning; and though to the Ephesians he was able to communicate in his epistle the truths of highest Christian blessing and position; yet he was persuaded that their souls' condition needed the ministry of Timothy to labor with the sad tendencies of departure that were present. There were "some" at least who were inclined to teach doctrine other than the truth of God. It did not need superior intellect to counteract this, but the faithfulness that honors God; not the communication of new truth, but applying to heart and conscience the truth which had been before communicated.

Timothy then was to charge or to command them that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies. Even those who had been taught a good deal of truth could be affected by a show of superior knowledge. Truth is solid and real, not fantastic, not appealing to man's love for sensationalism, but precious, vital, practical. Those things that merely impress the intellect or the imagination are not those which feed the soul. To trace one's genealogy back to some illustrious ancestor may be exciting, but only to the flesh. It is mere hollow vanity, for "all flesh is as grass." Occupation with such things will raise questions of no profit, and serve to destroy rather than to edify or build up. There is no power of faith in it, as there is in godly edifying.

"The commandment" in verse 5 refers to verse 3, speaking of that which is charged or enjoined. It is the solemn charge which Christianity rightly lays upon the shoulders of the saints, not a legal commandment, but that which is consistent with the grace of Christianity. Certainly on this account it is no less solemn and important to the heart renewed by grace through faith, but claims our willing, wholehearted obedience.

The charge has in view an end of purest moral blessing - "love out of a pure heart" first. The law actually required this, but furnished no power for it. In Christ that love is perfectly seen, and has been shed abroad in the believer's heart by the Spirit of God so that, being so blessed, he has no excuse for failing to manifest this love in his ways. "Out of a pure heart" too surely requires that we should not allow the intrusion of impure motives.

Secondly, a good conscience. This of course, is very personal, while the first is inclusive of others. To maintain a good conscience we must be obedient to what we have learned from God. "Faith unfeigned" completes this triplet, and, of course, connects the soul directly with God: it is the bringing of God into everything, in simple, unaffected confidence that He is supreme and at the same time vitally interested in all that concerns my path, His will perfect and good and acceptable. If these three things were always in vital, active exercise, how precious would be the testimony to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

But some had turned aside from these ends of true soul--prosperity, to "vain jangling." This is simply idle, empty talk that ministers no good to the hearers. Their desire was to be teachers of the law, yet Scripture solemnly declares that they understood neither what they said, nor "concerning what they so strenuously affirm" (New Trans. of J. N. Darby). Bold, arrogant, dogmatic language does not necessarily indicate honest persuasion as to the truth of what one asserts: it may instead imply a pathetic ignorance of the entire subject with which he deals. And there is nothing more ignorantly used than the law, by many who suppose themselves authorities on the subject. For they would fain be in the place of judge, rather than to have the law judge and expose their own hearts, which is the purpose for which it was primarily given. Having not submitted to the law's judgment concerning themselves, they use it rather as though it were their own personal property, a weapon with which to force others into subjection to their conceptions.

But the law itself is good, and its lessons valuable indeed if it is used lawfully, that is, for the purpose for which God gave it. Too many use it only to bolster their own self-righteousness, a thoroughly false use, for it was not even given for a righteous man, but for the lawless, disobedient, ungodly, and sinners. It will unsparingly expose and condemn sin, and leaves the sinner (that is, all mankind) under condemnation. It has no power whatever to forgive nor to justify, nor to take away the sin it exposes.

Verse 9. An X-ray will reveal the presence of gallstones in the human body, but it will neither remove the stones nor ease the pain they may cause. And after the X-ray has done its work, who would be inclined to boast that he depended on the X-ray and did his best to go by it entirely, when the gallstones were still doing their damaging work in his body? The remedy for his ailment is not in the X-ray, no more than the remedy for sin is in keeping the law. When the X-ray has revealed disease in the body, then the physician or surgeon is required; and the law, having revealed sin in mankind, then the Divine Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the only resource for the soul.

The X-ray is not used in the case of those who are perfectly healthy, but to discern what may be wrong in the body. So, the law is not made for a righteous man, but rather to expose the many moral ailments that afflict mankind - lawlessness, disobedience, ungodliness, and all these dreadful evils that follow here, of which there is no need to speak in particular, but including everything that is contrary to sound doctrine.

The apostle adds here, "According to the glad tidings of the glory of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted" (J. N. Darby Trans.). The gospel then is no less exclusive of evil than is the law; but the gospel of the glory of the blessed God is the great remedy which brings health and soundness to the sick. And in this God's glory is revealed as it could not be in the law, which indeed declared God's righteous judgment, but could not reveal the love and grace of His heart. Paul too feels deeply the honor of being entrusted with this message of transcendent blessedness, to be dispensed in love for the sake of all mankind.

"The gospel of the glory of the blessed God" is, of course, the same gospel as "the gospel of the grace of God," but regarded in a distinct aspect, for this emphasizes not so much its gracious message for men, but its wondrous revela-tion of God's own glory, in character pure, holy, and precious, a revelation infinitely higher than law.

Verse 12. The apostle's profound thankfulness to God seems only to have increased with the years, as he contemplated the pure grace with which God had dealt with his soul from the time of his miraculous conversion. Power for his ministry had come from Christ Jesus our Lord, for He had counted Paul faithful. His appointment to ministry was in fact immediate upon his conversion, so that in his being abruptly stopped in his course of evil, and brought in true faith to bow at the feet of Jesus, there was such a change that from that moment he could be counted faithful. This was no work of human education or diligent training; but the powerful intervention of the pure grace of God. In fact, he was before a well trained, educated man, set in determined opposition to the very name of Jesus. Only a revelation from heaven made the difference; and the very best the flesh could produce is broken and crumpled before the name of Jesus. From then on, Paul is seen to be simply a broken vessel for the use of One infinitely superior, whose grace and power are strikingly displayed, not only in his conversion, but in his path of lowly, submissive service.

Verse 13. Paul could never forget what he had been before his obtaining mercy - first "a blasphemer," that is, one who brought gross dishonor upon the name of God (cf. Romans 2:24). Secondly, "a persecutor," which involves his cruel actions against the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 9:4). And thirdly, "an insolent, overbearing man," which, of course, was his attitude of antagonism against his fellowman. Certainly, before his conversion, he would never have applied such terms to himself. Far from thinking he was blaspheming God, he was fully certain he was doing God service. And far from considering himself a persecutor, he doubtless felt himself a faithful champion of the cause of truth. His overbearing insolence he no doubt looked at as commendable zeal. Such is the blindness of the unregenerate heart. He "did it ignorantly in unbelief." He was not, therefore, the willful manslayer, guilty of the premeditated, cold-blooded murder of the Lord Jesus; but rather the manslayer, killing "unawares and unwittingly" (Joshua 20:3). For such cases God appointed "cities of refuge." His mercy was available for such. Doubtless, the same blessed truth is evident in the word of the Lord Jesus from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

Let us notice how grace closely follows mercy. Mercy had compassionately dealt with him in his condition and circum-stances of ignorance. Now grace is exceeding abundant, enabling him to triumph over every circumstance, for it is the power that elevates above circumstances. Faith and love in Christ Jesus are here intimately associated with this grace, for faith is that personal confidence in Him (God-given, in fact) by which grace is appropriated; and love is the accom-panying warmth of the very nature of God shed abroad in the heart by the Spirit of God.

The apostle cannot too strongly emphasize the truth and value of such a message as that with which he was entrusted. it is basic to all true Christianity - simple, yet marvellously sublime; "a faithful saying," true to fact, dependable; "worthy of all acceptation," commended to the wholehearted acceptance of all mankind, without reserve. "That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Who can measure the wonder of such a message? How can the preciousness of this ever be exhausted? It is grace supreme and eternal: the Creator stooping to the place of lowly Manhood, not only to show a condescension of sympathetic consideration, but to willingly bear the awful judgment of God in order to save sinners. What matchless kindness! - to those who deserved not the slightest consideration, but who were enemies of God, lost, ruined, guilty, deserving only of judgment.

And Paul adds, "Of whom I am chief," considering him, self the most guilty of all. Not that he had been of a low, debased, repulsive character, but rather religious, self, righteous, proud; and this he knew now to be thoroughly sinful. But certainly, anyone, when he discerns the fact of his own dreadful guilt before the eyes of God, may say the same of himself: he sees himself to be the sinner, as though none others were worse than he. When the bottom is in this way reached, then the perfection and beauty of the grace is God in Christ Jesus is brought home to the soul, and there is peace in. the knowledge of eternal forgiveness, based entirely upon the blessed person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 16. While certainly the personal blessing of pa.., was a good reason for his obtaining mercy, yet divine wisdom had a higher reason than this. Paul is here seen to be an example or pattern in regard to conversion, a most striking illustration of the fact that the grace of God alone saves. He was one zealously pursuing a self-willed course which he thought was right. Naturally speaking, nothing would change him. But he was arrested by the light from heaven, and the voice of the Lord Jesus speaking from heaven. The Lord had borne with him in kindest longsuffer-ing, and his soul was awakened at a time when he found it hard "to kick against the pricks." Others may not appear to be such decidedly "black and white" cases of conversion, yet in every case the same principles are involved, whether clearly seen or not. Conversion is always a work of marvellous grace, and must be directly connected with light from heaven and the Lord Jesus speaking from heaven. Not that this is naturally visible and audible, but nonetheless real. The soul must realize its having to do with the Lord Jesus Himself, for it is He who saves. Every true conversion is just as real as was that of Paul, though it may not be as pronounced in its circumstances. His was the more effective as a pattern through its being so clearly pronounced.

In his own person Paul illustrates the more clearly the great distinction between the principles of law and grace, between earthly religion and heavenly association with Christ. The former he completely gives up for the sake of the latter. Law is nevermore his standard, but Christ in glory the one Object of his soul. Certainly we who have since then "believed to life everlasting" should pay close attention to such a pattern.

Verse 17. It is precious indeed here to be reminded of the sovereign greatness and glory of the King of the ages, who is both infinitely superior to those who desired to be teachers of the law, and whose grace could so marvellously change a zealous law-keeper into a lowly, submissive servant, and give him a spirit of utter adoration and worship of Him whose glory is so great. As King of the ages, He is in absolute authority over all ages. Are we not also reminded here that the Lord Jesus Christ is called in Isaiah 9:1-21 "the Father of eternity"? How stupendous a thought! Again, as "incorruptible," He is an infinite contrast to those whom Timothy must withstand. "Invisible" implies certainly the inscrutable nature of the eternal God, He whose glory is beyond the highest conception of our own hearts or minds. "Only God." "Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts, 'I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God"' (Isaiah 44:6). This chapter and the next two (Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13) are full of such precious declarations. Power and glory Paul ascribes altogether to Him interminably, to the ages of ages. This surely puts us in our own place, yet is unspeakably blessed in giving us a completely satisfying Object and a spirit of deepest adoration and worship, so necessary for the creature.

"This charge" of verse 18, refers again to verse 3. For the precious revelation of the grace of God must not be kept in men's hands to trifle with as they desire. Those who regard grace as mere indulgence will soon turn it into lasciviousness, and God supplied guards against this from the beginning. Timothy had been marked out by prophecy beforehand as one who should maintain a true warfare against such abuse. God chooses His servants long before they are aware of it, but it is important that they fulfill the purpose for which they are chosen. What form these prophecies took it is not essential to know: no doubt Timothy knew what it was to which Paul referred. They may have been given through other saints of God before ever Timothy was called to the work. But they were not to be forgotten.

Faith is imperative to be maintained, as that which objectively connects the soul directly with God. It is personal and vital. This is true of conscience also, which, having to do with the subjective state of the individual, is necessarily, properly speaking, of a sensitive character, necessarily to be held in delicate adjustment. Faith must ever have the Word of God as its food, for it is a vital belief of the revelation of God. Conscience is secondary, but must be governed by the Word, or may lead us badly astray. For conscience involves a sense of responsibility as to what is right or wrong, and the only reliable judge of this is Scripture. But some had let conscience slip, and with it faith. This is, no doubt, the secret of many tragic falls, that conscience is not good, and being ignored, leaves the soul exposed to ruin. Confidence in God suffers along with it, of course, and shipwreck is the result.

Two men are here mentioned of whom this was true, and whom Paul had delivered unto Satan, that they may learn "not to blaspheme." There was apostolic authority in this.

No mention is even made of any assembly action in excom-municating these men. But their doctrinal evil had progressed far enough that discipline was required. Today no man individually can take the authority for putting another away: we are not apostles. In fact, an assembly cannot even claim the authority to "deliver to Satan"; but it is responsible to put away one who is guilty of a course of evil, whether doctrinal or moral. Hymenaeus means "a wedding song," and would perhaps indicate the subtle evil that would merrily wed Christianity with corruption. In2 Timothy 2:17; 2 Timothy 2:17 we see that, though excommunicated, he still advanced in evil, his doctrine being wicked, and another man, Philetus, being also linked with him. Alexander means, "man defender," and would seem to imply opposition to the truth Paul taught as to the thorough judgment of man in the flesh. He too had not been restored by discipline later on, for Paul speaks of his doing him "much evil" (2 Timothy 4:14). How solemn to think of these men's names being recorded in Scripture in so dreadful a way! Proper discipline had not yet arrested their blasphemous rebellion, though this was the object in view. Sad indeed that an object so honorable may yet fail of its purpose!

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/1-timothy-1.html. 1897-1910.
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