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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

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Verses 1-2


1 Timothy 1:1. By the commandment.—The usual expression has been “by the will of God.” There is a perceptible ring of austerity about the word for “commandment.” Paul is an apostle in accordance with the behest of God. God our Saviour.—A designation not often found outside the Pastoral epistles in the New Testament, but frequent in the Old Testament. Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.—R.V. “Christ Jesus our hope.” Not only the object of it, nor the author of it, but its very substance and foundation; “in eo solo residet tota salutis nostræ materia” (Ellicott).

1 Timothy 1:2. Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith.—R.V. “my true child in faith.” Every part of the appositional member has its complete significance. “Son” denotes the affectionate as well as spiritual nature of the connection. “Own” specifies the genuineness and reality of it. “In faith” marks the sphere in which such a connection is alone felt and realised (Ellicott).


Apostolic Greeting.

I. Asserts the Divine source and authority of the apostleship of the writer.—“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). It was not necessary to assure Timothy of his apostleship; but Paul had others in view to whom this epistle might be read, and for his own sake and Timothy’s he set forth His Divine call. No man can make himself an apostle or a minister of the gospel. This is God’s work, and whom He calls He charges with full authority to proclaim the truth. The responsibilities of the preacher are so great, and the difficulties of his work so perplexing and oppressive, that nothing short of a profound consciousness of his Divine commission can sustain him. The apostle recognises the united action of God the Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ in his appointment; and without any argument—for the fact to him was beyond the necessity of argument—he states the Divinity of Christ and His equality of nature with the Father. Both were as one in the work of salvation, and in a beautiful and suggestive expression he designates Christ as “our hope.” The hope of salvation which dawned upon men by the manifestation of Christ becomes a blessed reality to all who believe in Him.

II. Addressed to one standing in a special relation to the writer.—“Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). It was through the instrumentality of Paul that Timothy was brought to accept the gospel, and a friendship between the two then began which deepened in affection as the years rolled on, notwithstanding their disparity in age. It was a friendship as intimate and as dear as that which mutually exists between father and son. In this case, so different in other friendships, it was the aged one who had the enthusiasm and enterprise, and the younger one the timidity and reflective reserve: yet the one was the complement and true helpmeet of the other. It is not easy to say which gained most from the affection and devotion of the other. Timothy’s indebtedness to Paul was great; but few men could have supplied the apostle’s needs as Timothy did. The craving for sympathy so often disclosed in the writings of Paul found a loving response in the sensitive and thoughtful nature of Timothy. The young and capable evangelist entered appreciatively into the ideas and plans of the apostle, and with willing obedience and heroic fortitude helped to carry them out.

III. Supplicates the bestowment of Divine blessings.—“Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Timothy 1:2). From the same source as salvation come the blessings of grace, mercy, and peace—the results and evidences of salvation. To the accustomed formula of the apostle, “grace and peace,” he now adds “mercy”—an internal evidence of the genuineness of the epistle. “Grace, mercy, and peace illustrate the character of the gospel as essentially different not only from the law, but from every merely human and philosophic system of religion. All grace, mercy, and peace which God can bestow come to us only through and in communion with His Son. We may call grace the highest good for the godly, mercy for the suffering, and peace for the struggling disciple. In its harmony this ravishing threefold chord expresses all the spiritual gifts which the Christian should ask for himself and his brethren” (Lange).


1. Ministerial qualification and authority are from God.

2. The minister has a tender regard for those he brought to Christ.

3. The work of the ministry is beset with difficulties.

Verses 3-4


1 Timothy 1:3. Charge some that they teach no other doctrine.—R.V. “charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine.” It is doctrine that differs in quality that was not to be taught. In his impassioned address to the Galatians St. Paul would anathematise “even an angel from heaven” who should dare to proclaim another gospel, “ ‘different,’ from its commixture with an unedifying, vain, and morbid theosophy.”

1 Timothy 1:4. Fables and endless genealogies.—Rabbinical fables and fabrications, whether in history or doctrine—these, according to Ellicott, are the fables, and the genealogies are to be taken in the proper sense with which, however, these wilder speculations were very probably combined. Most modern commentators refer the terms to the spiritual myths and emanations of Gnosticism. The which minister questions.—The wordy wars in which the Christian community would be involved by these genealogies would be as long as they themselves, and as vacuous. Godly edifying.—R.V. “a dispensation of God.” The A.V. is an impossible rendering of the word from which our “economy” comes. The translators followed another reading, and the Vulgate “ædificationem.”


A Difficult Pastoral Charge.

I. A sphere of active and distracting heresies.—“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:4). The Gnostic problem was now beginning to manifest itself, and to mingle with the development of the gospel. The heresy spread with marvellous rapidity between A.D. 70 and 220; and Eusebius tells us that “as soon as the apostles and those who had listened to them with their own ears had passed away, the conspiracy of godless error took its rise through the deceit of false teachers, who endeavoured with brazen face to preach their knowledge falsely so called in opposition to the preaching of the truth.” The Gnostic theory was that matter is eternal and that evil resides inherently in matter, so that there were two coeternal existences—God and matter. This theory afterwards developed the creed that there are two coeternal and coequal powers—good and evil; and the doctrine of emanations from the supreme God of a series of inferior deities, the last being regarded as the creator of the world. Here was scope for the “fables and endless genealogies” which the apostle condemns and against which he warns Timothy. The existence of these confusing errors, which were rife in Ephesus, rendered the position of the young pastor both delicate and difficult. Not less difficult and anxious is the relation of the minister to modern speculations and doubts. The activity of the propagators of false ethics, of scepticism, theosophy, agnosticism, materialism, and a crude unformed socialism in the present day, creates concern in the breast of the earnest preacher of the gospel.

II. Requiring caution and fidelity in enforcing the true doctrine.—“As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus … that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine … so do” (1 Timothy 1:3-4). The apostle’s specific for the errors of that day was not to advertise and spread them by injudicious controversy, but to teach with the more care and faithfulness “no other doctrine” than the gospel of Christ. Error must be slain by a clearer and more emphatic statement of the truth, of which it is a distortion and caricature. The same method is applicable to the times in which we live. The modern preacher must know and therefore study the theories of unbelief, however wild and extravagant they may seem, and much as he may recoil from the disagreeable and dangerous task. He must fight his own way through the wicked antagonisms of the truth to faith and certainty; but he must not introduce into his pulpit ministrations the details of the errors he seeks to refute. He need not expose the progressive steps by which he reaches his conclusions, but should use those conclusions in the most condensed and concrete form. Error is most effectually quenched by a faithful preaching of the truth as it is in Jesus, and insisting upon a holy and consistent life. Unbelief is more an obliquity of the heart than the head; and if the heart is to be reached and changed, we must “teach no other doctrine” than that which Timothy was exhorted to expound and enforce.

III. Retained with evident reluctance.—“As I besought thee” (1 Timothy 1:3). Timothy shrank from the formidable task proposed to him. He saw its vital importance and its difficulties too, and perhaps his natural timidity tempted him to exaggerate these. He was subject to moods of discouragement (compare 2 Timothy 1:7-8; 2 Timothy 2:1-13; 2 Timothy 4:5). It was only after earnest and affectionate persuasion on the part of Paul that he at length consented to undertake the difficult work. It was impossible for him to resist the pleading of his father in the gospel; and, fearful and hesitating, his instinctive obedience led him to comply. When he parted from Paul—probably at Miletus, where he first received this charge—Timothy was in tears (Acts 20:36-38). Duty is not always easy: the more difficult it is, the greater the honour and the more distinguished the reward. St. Ambrose relates a legend that, when persecution arose in Rome, the Christians, anxious to preserve the life of Peter, advised him to flee. He was in the act of leaving the city when he met our Lord. “Lord, whither goest Thou?” asked the apostle. “I go to Rome,” was the answer, “there once more to be crucified.” Peter understood the rebuke, returned at once, and was crucified. Duty must be done whatever the result. We may safely leave that with God.


1. The minister should be awake to the tendency of modern error.

2. Faithful preaching of the truth is the best antidote to error.

3. The work of the ministry is beset with difficulties.


1 Timothy 1:4. “Godly edifying which is in faith.” Moral-building.

I. The soul is edified only as it advances in godliness.

II. The materials for moral-building are supplied by the gospel.

III. Moral-building is hindered by the discussion of frivolous questions.

Verses 5-7


1 Timothy 1:5. The end of the commandment.—The end is not the same thing as the fulfilment of the law. It is the goal towards which, with strenuous endeavour, each Christian must press on. “Commandment” (R.V. “charge”) is the monitory teaching—a touch of severity clings to the word from the old “economy.” Unfeigned.—So of “love” (Romans 12:9); of “wisdom from above” (James 3:17) (without hypocrisy).

1 Timothy 1:6. Some having swerved.—Margin, “not aiming at.” R.V. margin, “Gr. missed the mark.” This metaphor was suggested, probably, by the word for “end” in 1 Timothy 1:5. Compare St. Paul’s graphic word to the Galatians, “You were running gallantly: what sudden spell has been laid upon you?” Have turned aside.—The figure is that of the racer who breaks away from the prescribed course. Unto vain jangling.—R.V. “vain talking.” The Pastoral epistles more than once warn against this fault (Titus 1:10; Titus 3:9).

1 Timothy 1:7. Desiring to be teachers of the law.—The R.V. also gives the same rendering. Perhaps we might note that it is not so much a wish as a determination. They would be legalists. Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.—They neither see the significance of the words they use, nor do they know anything of the subjects they profess to teach. St. Paul knew too much of Judaism to be imposed on by a parade of phrases. Here, as so often, loud and positive assertion makes up for the lack of profounder knowledge.


The Grand Moral Aim of the Gospel

I. Is to elicit the exercise of Christian love.—“Now the end of the commandment is charity”—love (1 Timothy 1:5).

1. This love emanates from a purified heart. “Charity out of a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5). The word “commandment” may here be taken in the larger sense as comprehending the gospel—the latest expression of the will and commandment of God. The great burden of the gospel theme is love, which is the sum and end of the law and of the gospel alike. The gospel is a development and fulfilment of the law in all its essential demands, and expresses its spirit in gentler and more winning terms. Love springs from the heart as from a fountain, but it is a fountain cleansed and purified by faith. There is little taste for jangling and the strife of words when the heart is sanctified. When Archbishop Ussher was urged by a friend to write on sanctification, and had begun to do so, he confessed he could not proceed, as he found so little of that grace in himself; and when his friend expressed amazement to hear such an admission from so grave and holy a person, the prelate added: “I must tell you we do not well understand what sanctification and the new creature are. It is no less than for a man to be brought to an entire resignation of his own will to the will of God, and to live in the offering up of his soul continually in the flames of love, as a whole burnt offering to Christ. And oh! how many who profess Christianity are unacquainted experimentally with this work upon their souls!” Love is rare, but a truly sanctified nature is rarer.

2. This love is regulated by a good conscience. “And of a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:5). A pure heart and good conscience go together. Bengel says: “In Paul the understanding is the seat of conscience, the heart the seat of love.” In the work of sanctification the conscience benefits with every other faculty of our nature. A Christianised and sanctified conscience governs the exercise of love, and saves it from degenerating into a mere sensual passion or weak sentimentality.

3. The exercise of a love like this is made possible by a genuine faith. “And of faith unfeigned” (1 Timothy 1:5). Not a hypocritical, dead, and unfruitful faith, but faith working by love. The false teachers drew men off from such a loving, working, real faith, to profitless speculative questions and jangling. A good conscience is joined with sound faith, a bad conscience with unsoundness in the faith (Fausset). To be a power in the Christian life, stimulating the growth of every Christian grace, faith must be active and sincere. Conscience is warped and love is feeble when faith is feigned and a mere make-believe.

II. Is utterly missed by pretentious teachers.—“From which some having swerved … desiring to be teachers of the law” (1 Timothy 1:6-7). They would fain be teachers of the law, but were utterly incompetent for the task. They swerved from or missed the mark at which even an honest teacher of the law aimed—to produce uprightness of conduct and life.

1. They are foolish talkers. “Have turned aside to vain jangling” (1 Timothy 1:6)—silly, empty talk. Their utterances were waste words, containing no rational sense, no unity of reasoning, no depth and reality of conviction. A friend admiring the eloquence of a certain preacher said to Archbishop Whately, “What a fine command of language!” “Nay,” said the prelate, “the language has the command of him.”

2. They are grossly ignorant. “Understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:7). Says the old proverb, “Ignorance is rash.” Some men speak with the greater confidence of that which they know least about. Ignorance is both coarse and dogmatic. The more a man knows he is not the less certain about truth, but he is the more circumspect in dogmatising about it. “The Judaisers here meant seem to be distinct from those impugned in the epistles to the Galatians and Romans, who made the works of the law necessary to justification in opposition to gospel grace. The Judaisers here referred to corrupted the law with fables which they pretended to found on it, subversive of morals as well as of truth. Their error was not in maintaining the obligation of the law, but in abusing it by fabulous and immoral interpretations of and additions to it. They neither understood their own assertions nor the object itself about which they made them. They understood as little about the one as the other” (Fausset, Alford).


1. The gospel is a message of love.

2. Christian love is based on the righteousness of faith.

3. False teachers are unloving and unlovable.


1 Timothy 1:5. The Genuine Sources of Christian Charity.

I. The apostle’s declaration of the excellence of charity as the end of the commandment.

1. The commandment may signify the moral law.

2. May also signify the gospel of Christ, or in general the whole of God’s revealed will.

3. May mean the charge the apostle gave to Timothy as a Christian minister (1 Timothy 1:18). That the great design of the gospel Timothy was to preach as worthy of men’s acceptation and of the law he was to inculcate as the rule of their duty was simply and supremely this: “Charity, or love, out of a pure heart.”

II. The principles from which true charity must spring and by which it must be upheld.

1. From a pure heart. A heart purified by the power of Divine truth from the love of sin and the dominion of evil passions. In proportion as the heart is purified it is filled with charity; and charity is genuine in proportion only as it springs from the heart thus made pure by the Spirit and truth of God

2. From a good conscience. A conscience well informed as to the will of God, purged from guilty fears by the blood of Christ, and preserved tender by the influence of Divine grace.

3. From faith unfeigned. A sincere belief of the truths revealed in sacred Scripture; a reliance on the Son of God and the promises of God through Him for salvation.


1. Search earnestly how far you have this Divine principle of charity dwelling in your hearts.

2. Examine and prove the nature of those inward principles from which your love of God and man proceeds. Look to the state of your heart—consult your conscience—examine your faith.—J. Brewster.

1 Timothy 1:6-7. A Corrupt Conscience

I. Is a prey to useless controversy.

II. Is ambitious to pose as a teacher and guardian of consciences.

III. Is misled and confused by utter ignorance.

Verses 8-11


1 Timothy 1:8. We know that the law is good.—The “grace and truth” which “came by Jesus Christ” did not abrogate the law. That law had a moral excellence, was indeed an admirable thing, provided that it was used legitimately.

1 Timothy 1:9. The law is not made for.—As we say “is not laid down.” The vices which follow are enumerated first under terms more general, and then more specific. Lawless and disobedient.—R.V. “lawless and unruly.” Both imply opposition to law—the former a more passive disregard of it, the latter a more active violation of it arising from a refractory will (Ellicott). For the ungodly and for sinners.—This second pair of terms points to want of reverence for God, the third to want of inner purity and holiness, the fourth to want of even the commonest feeling (ibid.). Murderers of fathers … mothers.—So R.V., but margin, “smiters.” This seems to soften the word; but if the blow should prove fatal, the crime of manslaughter is aggravated by a parent’s death.

1 Timothy 1:10. If there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.—St. Paul has followed the order of the commandments, making them all bear on human relationships.

1 Timothy 1:11. According to the gospel.—The gospel is more stern than the law against such deeds.


The Function of the Law.

I. The law is good in itself.—“We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8). The law is blameless: the blame is in the improper use of the law. The law is the standard and guardian of right, and has no quarrel with the man who obeys its enactments. We spoil the law when we try to improve it. In the Jewish Talmud we read that there was a flute in the Temple preserved from the days of Moses: it was smooth, thin, and formed of a reed. At the command of the king it was overlaid with gold, which ruined its sweetness of tone until the gold was taken away. There were also a cymbal and a mortar, which had become injured in course of time, and were mended by men of Alexandria summoned by the wise men; but their usefulness was so completely destroyed by this process that it was necessary to restore them to their former condition. So when we try to improve the law by overlaying it with what we call the gold of rationalism, but which in truth is the dross and tinsel of human conceits, we injure and divert both its beauty and its usefulness.

II. The law does not avail in producing personal righteousness.—“Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man” (1 Timothy 1:9). The law regulates the outward life, but it does not touch the heart, until it is planted there as the law of love. But it has in itself no power thus to transform itself: this is done only by the soul being made righteous by faith in Christ. Then the law is not destroyed, but it is rendered powerless by being obeyed. The righteous man is “not forensically amenable to the law,” though he still needs it to show him his lapses and shortcomings, and the requirements of a holy God.

III. The function of the law is to convict the sinner of his manifold transgressions.—“But for the lawless and disobedient … and any other thing contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:9-10). The catalogue of sins contained in these verses includes every kind of transgression. They differ in baseness and violence; but they are all violations of the law; and the root of these evils is in the obstinacy and rebellion of the human heart. The law not only reveals the enormity of these transgressions, but inflicts pains and penalties upon their perpetrators. The gospel is not placed so high above the law as to favour sin: it denounces all sin as “contrary to sound doctrine.” The doctrine that deals with meaningless questions and false interpretations of the law is diseased.

IV. The function of the law is in harmony with the teaching of the gospel.—“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11). “The glorious gospel of the blessed God” is a striking and suggestive phrase, as though the arrival of the time when the glorious news of salvation was announced to man was an occasion of Divine joy. We say it with profound reverence—the gospel was proclaimed with Divine hilarity. God was happy that man should be at length told of the reality of the Divine blessedness. The law represented God as a rigid, unbending Magistrate—the gospel as a loving, forgiving, joyous Father. In the presence of this glorious evangel, how paltry the distorted, emasculated gospel of the false teachers would appear! There is no real antagonism between the law and the gospel: the law is a preparation for and introduction to the gospel. Both are included in God’s method for saving men. An old divine writes: “It is ordinary with the prophets first to discover the sins of the people and to denounce judgments; and then to promise Christ upon their coming in to enlighten and make them lightsome with raising their thoughts to a fruitful contemplation of the glory, excellency, and sweetness of His blessed kingdom. Isaiah in his first chapter, from the mouth of God, doth in the first place behave himself like a son of thunder, pressing upon the conscience of those to whom he was sent many heinous sins, horrible ingratitude, fearful falling away, formality in God’s worship, cruelty, and the like. Afterwards he invites to repentance, and assures them of God’s willingness to forgive and cleanse—‘Come now, and let us reason together.’ Nathan, to recover even a regenerate man, first convinces him soundly of his sin, with much aggravation and terror, and then upon remorse assures him of pardon (2 Samuel 12:13).”


1. The law is terrible to the disobedient.

2. The law convinces of sin, but cannot remove it.

3. The gospel as a remedy for sin is a glorious revelation of God.


1 Timothy 1:8. The Lawful Use of the Law.

I. It is lawful to employ it as a schoolmaster to lead the sinner to Christ.

II. It is lawful to use the law as a rule of life.

1. The gospel dissolves no relation to God.

2. Obedience is the object of the gospel.

3. The law shall be eternally obeyed.

III. It is lawful to use the law as a test of our spiritual state.

1. God uses the law for this end, in judging.

2. We may anticipate the judgment.

3. The law the standard by which the believer’s progress is ascertained.—Stewart.

1 Timothy 1:11. A Noble Eulogy of the Gospel.

I. The gospel of the glory of God.

II. This God the blessed God.

III. Through this blessed God the ministry of the gospel is entrusted to a man like Paul.J. P. Lange, D.D.

The Gospel Glorious.

I. As it is a splendid revelation of the Divine felicity.

II. In the sublime themes it declares.

III. In the grandeur of the moral benefits it confers on man.

IV. In the dignity and power with which it invests its messengers.

The Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God.

I. It contains a bright display of the perfections of God.—His wisdom, His power, His justice, His holiness, and His love are all exhibited, and the exhibition is striking and harmonious.

II. It is admirably adapted to the moral and spiritual necessities of man.—Man is ignorant, guilty, polluted, miserable, immoral, impotent.

III. It exerts, wherever it is believed, a mighty influence.—It civilises, reforms, exalts, strengthens.

IV. It has already won signal triumphs.—Contrast the infant Church in Jerusalem with Christendom as it is.

V. It secures eternal happiness.

VI. It combines with the utmost grandeur of result the utmost simplicity of requirement.—It is of faith that it might be by grace.—G. Brooks.

The Blessed God.

I. Let us contemplate the happiness of God.

1. Its nature is beyond our comprehension, because it is beyond our comprehension, because it is beyond our experience.

2. It consists of many elements. Infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.

3. It is communicated to sentient creatures.

4. It furnishes a lofty and delightful subject of thought.

II. Let us collect some of the practical lessons which the contemplation of the happiness of God suggests.

1. It teaches us how great God is. He is all-sufficient.

2. It teaches us how great man is. He is capable of friendly relations with Him who is blessed for ever.

3. It teaches us the evil of sin. It has alienated man from the source of all bliss.

4. It teaches us the grandeur of the gospel, whose aim is to make believers partakers of God’s happiness.—Ibid.

Verses 12-17


1 Timothy 1:12. He counted me faithful.—For the very reason that he had been “a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious,” the Jerusalem Christians looked askance at him when he was introduced as a brother; Ananias at Damascus thought his penitence a ruse, and Paul himself does not complain of the mistrust (Acts 22:19); but the grace of God that treats him as trustworthy fills him with thankfulness.

1 Timothy 1:13. A blasphemer.—In the general acceptation of the word. He was one who would say vehemently, “Jesus anathema!” (1 Corinthians 12:3). To revile the name of Christ—as the martyrs were asked to do—was to blaspheme. A persecutor.—Lit. one who pursues another. And injurious.—One who does not content himself with an anathema, but proceeds to personal violence. I did it ignorantly in unbelief.—The Saviour had intimated that blind rage would confuse the murder of men whose only crime was belief in Christ with a sacrifice to God. Our Lord does not regard ignorance as sufficient excuse, but asks that the ignorant be forgiven (Luke 23:34). So St. Paul says he obtained mercy—was dealt with leniently.

1 Timothy 1:14. And the grace … and love.—The full sense is: “[And not only was I pardoned,] but the grace of our Lord so superabounded [beyond my deserts] that I was also brought to believe in and love Jesus Christ whom I had blasphemed” (Blomfield).

1 Timothy 1:15. This is a faithful saying.—R.V. “Faithful is the word.” This expression, with variations, occurs five times in the Pastoral epistles, and probably was used in a liturgical manner. Compare 1 Kings 10:6; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6. Of all acceptation.—An excellent translation (Ellicott). Came into the world to save sinners.—Not to be limited to the sense—His mission in life was to rescue sinners. Many scriptures remind us that the purpose was not formed when Christ found Himself surrounded by sinners, but before. Of whom I am chief.—To explain away the force of this expression is seriously to miss the strong current of feeling with which even in terms of seeming hyperbole the apostle ever alludes to his conversion and his state preceding it (Ellicott).

1 Timothy 1:16. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy.—The “howbeit” is the same word as “but” in 1 Timothy 1:13, which the R.V. gives as here. It marks the contrast between the apostle’s own judgment on himself and the mercy which God was pleased to show him.

1 Timothy 1:17. Immortal.—R.V. “incorruptible”: an epithet only found in union with God in Romans 1:23, besides this place. The only wise God.—R.V. drops “wise,” on the overwhelming authority of the MSS.


The Distinguished Honour of the Service of God

I. Supplies a ground for devout thankfulness.—“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12). So far from boasting of the honour conferred upon him in being a minister of the gospel, the apostle attributes it all to the goodness of God, and is full of devout gratitude. He would have been in the same position as the false teachers he exposes but for the grace of God. His fidelity in his apostleship he does not regard as of himself, but as the result of the imparted strength of God: if he was faithful in his stewardship, it was God who made him so, and for this he gives thanks.

1. Remembering the mercy shown to the most notorious of sinners. “Who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy” (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul not only himself blasphemed the sacred name of Jesus, but persecuted others, compelling them to do the same, and took a wanton and insolent delight in violence and in outraging the feelings of others. He does not refer to his past sins by way of boast—this is the most besotted form of self-glorying; nor to excuse himself for his ignorance and unbelief; but to exalt the mercy of God, which, notwithstanding his outrageous wickedness, found him out and pardoned him. “In John Bunyan,” writes Guthrie, “God calls the bold leader of village reprobates to preach the gospel—a blaspheming tinker to be one of England’s famous confessors. From the deck of a slave ship he summons John Newton to the pulpit, and by hands defiled with mammon’s foulest and most nefarious traffic brings them that were bound out of darkness, and smites adamantine fetters from the slaves of sin. In Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, He converts Christ’s bitterest enemy into His warmest friend: to the man whom a trembling Church held most in dread she comes to owe, under God, the weightiest obligations. How much better for these three stars to be shining in heaven than quenched in the blackness of darkness—better for the good of mankind, better for the glory of God!”

2. Recognising the abundant outflow of Divine grace. “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:14). The grace of God was so abundant that the remembrance of his past sins was effaced and their guilt forgiven: the unbelief which had blinded his mind was replaced with the bright vision of faith in Christ Jesus, and the hatred which prompted his cruelty towards the Church, with love. “Grace will not be confined, for God’s goodness cannot be exhausted. He is rich enough for all. God’s mercy is both free and rich, both bountiful and plentiful, bursting forth round about, round about all ages, round about all nations, round about all sorts, surrounding all those rounds, and with surplus and advantage overflowing all. Not only an abounding grace, abounding unto all, to the whole world, but a grace superabounding, that, if there were more worlds, grace would bring salvation unto them all” (R. Clerke).

3. Declaring the universal blessedness of Christ’s advent. “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). The advent of Christ into the world means blessing to all in it; and the purpose of His advent to save sinners is so well authenticated by experience as to merit the unreserved acceptance of all. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of either the advent or its purpose. “It is not without good reason,” says Bengel, “that the name Christ is sometimes put before Jesus. From the Old Testament point of view progress is made from the knowledge of Christ to the knowledge of Jesus: from the New Testament point of view the progress is from the knowledge of Jesus to the knowledge of Christ.” As the condemned man believes first the king’s favour to all humble suppliants before he believes it to himself, so the order is, not to look to God’s intention in a personal way, but to His complacency and tenderness to all repentant sinners. This was St. Paul’s method, embracing by all means that great and faithful saying “Jesus came to save sinners” before he ranked himself in front of those sinners.

II. Bestowed upon a notorious sinner as typical of the compassion extended to all.—“Of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy … for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:16). If Paul, the chief of sinners, obtained mercy, so may all others—from the same source and on the same terms. The worst need not despair: the most abandoned may be recovered. “You have heard of stereotype-printing. When the types are set up, they are cast, made a fixed thing, so that from one plate you can strike off hundreds of thousands of pages in succession, without the trouble of setting up the types again. Paul says, ‘That I may be a plate never worn out, never destroyed, from which proof-impressions may be taken to the very end of time.’ What a splendid thought that the apostle Paul, having portrayed himself as the chief of sinners, then portrays himself as having received forgiveness for a grand and specific end—that he might be a standing-plate from which impressions might be taken for ever, that no man might despair who had read his biography!” (Dr. Cumming).

III. Calls forth a fervent ascription of praise and adoration to the bountiful Giver of all good.—“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17). A vehement exclamation of gratitude, of lofty admiration, of adoring awe. God is the King of all the ages, and in the process of time the typical significance of the conversion of a man like Paul can be fully realised. How different his conceptions of the duration of God from the fanciful and misleading æons of the Gnostic heresy, and of the character of God, who alone has immortality in and of Himself, underived from any, and in His very nature is invisible, in opposition to the intermediate deities of the Gnostic dreamer! The Divine wisdom renders foolish and condemns as vanity all the wisdom of men. The thought of eternity, terrible as it is to unbelievers, is delightful to those assured of grace. Calvin well says: “God alone is worthy of all glory; for while He scatters on His creatures in every direction the sparks of His glory, still all glory belongs truly and perfectly to Him alone. There is no glory but that which belongs to God.”


1. It is an unspeakable honour to be a servant of God.

2. It is impossible to estimate the results of the conversion of one sinner.

3. Praise should be offered to God continually.


1 Timothy 1:12-14. Ministerial Responsibility

I. Should be thankfully acknowledged as a proof of the Divine favour (1 Timothy 1:12).

II. Should be contrasted with a former life of disobedience and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).

III. Should be used to magnify the abundant grace of God (1 Timothy 1:14).

1 Timothy 1:15. The Grand Purpose of the Redeemer’s Advent.

I. A most stupendous fact.—“Christ Jesus came into the world.”

II. A most gracious design.—“To save sinners.”

III. A most appropriate estimation.—“A faithful saying … worthy of all acceptation.”—W. T.

The Essential Truth.

I. The saying.—Christ came not to teach, not as an example merely, but to die.

II. What is said of it.

1. A faithful saying.

2. Worthy of all acceptation—Homiletic Monthly.

The Chief of Sinners.—“Of whom I am chief.” Every true Christian should feel that he is the chief of sinners—

I. Because he knows himself better than he knows any other man.

II. Because he judges himself by a different standard than other men.

III. Because conscience is more enlightened and more tender.

IV. Because he labours more earnestly to subdue his native depravity.

V. Because he lives in closer fellow-with God.G. Brooks.

1 Timothy 1:16. St. Paul a Pattern of the Long-suffering of God.

I. The mercy Paul obtained.

II. The cause for which he obtained it.E. Cooper.

Verses 18-20


1 Timothy 1:18. Prophecies which went before on thee.—The prophecies went forward, as it were the heralds and avant-couriers of the actions which they foretold (Ellicott). See 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:16. Thou by them mightest war a good warfare.—A frequent metaphor of St. Paul’s. He would have his young friend to be as loyal

“unto his Captain Christ,

Under whose colours he had fought so long,”

as he had been himself.

1 Timothy 1:19. Holding faith, and a good conscience.—The shield of faith is to cover a pure heart.

“He is but naked, though locked up in steel,
Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.”

Which some having put away.—The apostle means that they have found the protests of conscience so irritating that they have, so to say, taken it up with violence and flung it far out of doors.

1 Timothy 1:20. I have delivered unto Satan.—A form of Christian excommunication declaring the person to be reduced to the state of a heathen, accompanied with the authoritative infliction of bodily disease or death (Ellicott, after Waterland). That they may learn.—R.V. “may be taught,” i.e. by punishment.


Moral Fitness for Special Work

I. Recognised by previous indications of character.—“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee” (1 Timothy 1:18). There were features and tendencies of character in the youthful Timothy, evident from the time of his conversion, that indicated his suitability for the ministerial office. Paul and those who knew Timothy best detected these; and the apostle saw that God had called him to the sacred work. “The prophecies which went before” were no doubt certain sacred utterances that Paul and others were inspired to make on the ordination of Timothy, and which indicated a Divine commission and Divine approbation publicly expressed respecting his choice of the ministry. These prophecies were a means of blessing to the young minister, and would often animate and sustain him in the difficulties and discouragements of his mission. “The gradual cessation or discredit of the function of the Christian prophet is thoroughly intelligible. Possibly the spiritual gift which rendered it possible was withdrawn from the Church. In any case the extravagances of enthusiasts who deluded themselves into the belief that they possessed the gift, or of impostors who deliberately assumed it, would bring the office into suspicion and disrepute. Such things were possible even in apostolic times, for St. Paul and St. John give cautions about it, and directions for dealing with the abuse and the false assumption of prophecy. There will always be those who crave for something more definite and personal than the Scriptures, who long for and perhaps create for themselves and believe in some living authority to whom they can perpetually appeal. If a man will not hear Christ and His apostles, neither will he be persuaded though a prophet was granted to him. If we believe not their writings, how shall we believe his words?” (Plummer).

II. Shown by the fortitude and fidelity maintained in the midst of conflict.—“That thou by them shouldest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18-19). The Christian life is a conflict, and ministers are standard-bearers and leaders, and must not only believe and preach the truth but defend it. Armed with faith and a good conscience, the gospel champion must maintain the fight with bravery and fidelity to the end of the campaign. Whoever falls or withdraws, he must press forward, though he should stand alone. The true spirit of the pioneers of the gospel should be like that of Edward III., amid the fiery sands of Syria, where his small force of soldiers fainted, died, deserted, and seemed to melt away. But his prowess made light of it, and he said, “I will go on, if I go on with no other follower than my groom.”

III. Conspicuous by the failure and fate of the unworthy.—“Which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom is Hymenæus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:19-20). “If one’s religion better not his morals,” says Archbishop Whately, “his moral deficiencies will corrupt his religion. The rain which falls pure from heaven will not continue pure if it be received in an unclean vessel.” Hymenæus and Alexander had lost both their faith and their good conscience, and had so far retrograded as to blaspheme the name of God and Christ by doings and teachings unworthy of their Christian profession. The personality of Satan was not a question of hesitation and doubt with the apostle. Satan was to him, as he is in the emphatic teaching of the Bible, a real, active, and living embodiment of evil; and for their punishment and reformation he hands over the two delinquents to the great power of darkness. “In the apostolic sentence upon the two blasphemers we have to notice four points.

1. It is almost certainly not identical with excommunication by the congregation, although it very probably was accompanied by this other penalty.
2. It is of a very extraordinary character, being a handing over into the power of the evil one.
3. Its object is the reformation of the offenders, while at the same time—
4. It serves as a warning to others, lest they by similar offences should suffer so awful a punishment. To all alike it brought home the serious nature of such sins. Even at the cost of cutting off the right hand, or plucking out the right eye, the Christian community must be kept pure in doctrine as in life. Satan inflicts suffering from love of inflicting it, and leads into sin from love of sin; but God knows how to bring good out of evil by making the evil one frustrate his own wiles. It is for us to take care that in our case the chastisements which inevitably follow upon sin do not drive us further and further into it, but teach us to sin no more” (Plummer, passim). When we lose our faith in God and truth, we lose our better selves and rush upon defeat and disgrace. What power had the last Brutus at the moment when he abandoned his faith? From the time of his melancholy vision, produced by a diminution of that faith, it might have been predicted that his own destiny and that of the republic were finished. He felt it himself: it was with a presentiment of defeat that he fought at Philippi; and such a presentiment always realises itself.

IV. Commands the confidence of the good.—“This charge I commit unto thee” (1 Timothy 1:18). Paul had many proofs of the eagerness and fidelity of Timothy in prosecuting the work of the ministry; and it is with ingenuous confidence that he commits to him the charge of the truth, as a sacred deposit, to keep and to defend, and to keep and defend it by diligently spreading it. “The remembrance of the hopes of a former teacher is a great stimulus, an earnest call to be and do what others have expected of us” (Heubner).


1. The good in us is found by others.

2. Difficulties test and develop our virtues.

3. The defection of others should stimulate our zeal and fidelity.


1 Timothy 1:18. A Good Warfare.

I. The Christian warfare.

1. Is a struggle of Christ against Satan, holiness against sin.

2. The Christian is a soldier in Christ’s army.

3. The warfare implies numerous foes.

II. The excellency of this warfare.

1. It is good because its object is to destroy that which is evil and promote that which is good.

2. It is under a good Commander.

3. It will issue in complete triumph.

III. Claims of this warfare upon the Christian.

1. He must be sensible of his own incompetence.

2. Must understand the character of his enemies.

3. Have confidence in the skill and power of his General.

4. Must do battle with His foes whenever they oppose him—(Helps).

1 Timothy 1:19. Faith and a Good Conscience.

I. Some try to hold faith without the good conscience.—That soon becomes a hollow and hypocritical thing.

II. Some try the good conscience without faith.—That becomes a superficial, unspiritual, and barren thing.

III. The union of the two.—Faith is the spring and quickener of conscience—conscience gives truthfulness and reality to faith.—Dr. J. Ker.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/1-timothy-1.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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