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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New TestamentSchaff's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Timothy 1:1. According to the commandment. Characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles (Titus 1:3, and in another connexion Titus 2:15, but also in Romans 16:26). Stronger and more emphatic than the simple reference to ‘the Will of God’ in the earlier Epistles.

God our Saviour. This also is a distinctive note of this group. Though the name of Saviour is still given to the Lord Jesus (Titus 1:4; Titus 2:13; Titus 3:6), it is not limited to Him. The new feature in St. Paul’s later language is that he thinks of the Father as essentially a Saviour, in all senses of the word, as the Preserver and Deliverer of mankind (comp. 1 Timothy 2:3, 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 1:3; Titus 2:10; Titus 3:4). Probably we may trace in this the influence of the language of the Magnificat (Luke 1:47), with which we may well believe him to have become acquainted through his intimacy with St. Luke.

Christ Jesus our hope. At once the ground of hope in the apostle’s consciousness of His presence, and the object of hope in his anticipations of the future. The phrase is not a common one, but once before St. Paul had spoken of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27), and in both passages has used the language of the LXX. Version of Psalms 65:6: ‘God our Saviour, Thou that art the hope of all the ends of the earth. ‘

My own son in the faith. Better ‘ true child’ The word (more affectionate than ‘son’) is one which St. Paul, in advanced life, was fond of using of the young disciples, such as Timothy (Philippians 2:20) and Titus (Titus 1:4), in whom he saw a genuine likeness of character to himself. The addition ‘in the faith’ distinguishes the relation from that of actual sonship.

Verse 2

1 Timothy 1:2. ‘ Grace, mercy, peace. ’ The addition of ‘mercy’ to the ‘grace and peace’ of St. Paul’s earlier Epistles is another characteristic of this group (2 Timothy 1:0; and in some MSS. Titus 1:4). As with the title ‘Saviour,’ it is as though advancing years only led him to dwell more and more on that attribute of which he found so striking an example in God’s treatment of himself (1 Timothy 1:16). ‘Mercy’ and ‘peace’ are found together in Galatians 6:16.

From God the Father. Not peculiar to these Epistles, and yet characterizing all of them (2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4 ).

Verse 3

1 Timothy 1:3. As I besought thee to abide at Ephesus. See Introduction as to the occasion thus referred to. On the assumption of the conclusion there arrived at, it would be at the close of St. Paul’s last visit to Ephesus, after his first imprisonment at Rome. He had seen, as the Epistle shews, much that made him anxious there, and eager as Timothy was to accompany him, bitter as were his tears at parting (2 Timothy 1:4), he ‘besought’ him to abide there. There was, as the word implies, probably some reluctance on the part of the young disciple to leave the apostle whom he loved so devotedly, and with whom he had for so many years travelled in the closest companionship.

To teach no other doctrine. Better ‘ no different (or strange) doctrine.’ The first part of the word implies (as in 2 Corinthians 6:14) ‘unequally yoked,’ something discordant and out of harmony. Found only here and in 1 Timothy 6:3, it is probably a word coined by St. Paul.

That thou shouldest charge some. The undefined way in which St. Paul usually speaks of his Judaizing opponents and others whom he condemns (Galatians 1:7; Galatians 2:12; 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Timothy 4:1, 1 Timothy 5:15, 1 Timothy 6:10). Timothy would know whom he had in view. Hymenæus, Alexander, Philetus, are afterwards singled out for special mention.

Verse 4

1 Timothy 1:4. Fables and endless genealogies. In the absence of contemporary information as to the state of the Ephesian Church at this period, the exact meaning of these words must remain doubtful. It is fair to assume, as the ‘fables’ are called ‘Jewish’ in Titus 1:4, that they were more or less like those of which the Talmud is so full, legends that had been engrafted on the history of the Old Testament. Whether the ‘genealogies’ were pedigrees in the strict sense of the term, by means of which Judaizing teachers claimed the authority of illustrious ancestry (as e.g. Sceva and his sons may have done, Acts 19:14), or lists such as those of the later Gnostics (Basilides and Valentinus) of the successive emanations of æons, male and female, with names such as Depth, Silence, Wisdom, and Fulness, from the primal abyss of Deity, we cannot now decide. It was natural that writers like Irenæus, living in the second century, and surrounded by these forms of error, should take the latter view, and it is, of course, possible that the germs of those theories appeared even in the Apostolic Age. The way in which Philo treats the actual genealogies of Genesis, as though each name represented a mystic truth, may have found imitators at Ephesus, and may have been the link between the purely Jewish and the purely Gnostic use of them. From St. Paul’s point of view, these studies, whatever they were, were altogether profitless. They were ‘interminable.’ Once enter on such a line of teaching, and there was no knowing when to stop. The ‘questions’ they raised admitted of no answer. There is, indeed, nothing improbable in the thought that each of these forms of error may have had its representatives in the Apostolic Age, and that St. Paul condemned them all alike in one epithet of indignant scorn.

Godly edifying. The better reading gives ‘the dispensation (or steward-ship) of God.’ St. Paul falls back on the thought so prominent in the Epistle to the Ephesians, that the truth of which he was the preacher was a system, an organized and compact whole, a ‘dispensation’ of means to ends (1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10; Ephesians 3:2; Colossians 1:25), the ministers of which had received their stewardship from God, and so in strongest contrast with the rambling endlessness of the false teachers.

So do. The sentence in the Greek is with characteristic abruptness left unfinished, and St. Paul passes at once to that of which his mind is full.

Verse 5

1 Timothy 1:5. The end of the commandment. The statement would of course be true of the commandment, or law, of God, as in Romans 13:10. But the word so translated is not used elsewhere in the New Testament in that higher sense, and is used in 1 Timothy 1:3; 1 Timothy 1:18 of the ‘charge’ or ‘instruction’ which the apostle had given Timothy. It would seem better, therefore, so to take it here. The sum and substance so which all that ‘charge’ converged was not ‘questioning’ but love. Here as elsewhere ‘ love ‘ is preferable to ‘charity.’

Out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned. We have here, as it were, the genesis of love, the three elements out of which it springs (1) the heart, or seat of the affections, purified (by God, working through faith, Acts 15:9) from the selfish sensual life which shuts out love; (2) the ‘conscience,’ which never knowingly allows the will to be swayed by that lower life, and so becomes a law unto itself; (3) the faith, which is not the hypocritical assent to a dogma, the unreal profession of a religion, but true trust in God as loving all men, and which therefore leads us in our turn to love all because He loves them.

Verse 6

1 Timothy 1:6. Having swerved. The missing of the mark, the losing of the way, that comes, not from taking aim and failing, but from making no effort to reach the mark the temper, i.e., which is the exact opposite of that which St. Paul describes as his own in 1 Corinthians 9:26; Philippians 3:13. In such cases heresy had its root in ethical evil rather than in intellectual error.

Vain jangling. The Greek word was possibly a word coined for the occasion. The history of the English word is not without interest. From the Latin joculator, the teller of jests and good stories, came the French jongleur, and the English ‘juggler’ or ‘jangler.’ The word is defined by Chaucer in the Parson’s Tale: ‘Jangelying is when a man speketh to moche beforn folk, and clappeth as a mille, and taketh no keep what he saith.’ Its application to ‘sweet bells jangled out of tune’ was of later date.

Verse 7

1 Timothy 1:7. Desiring (i.e. pretending) to be teachers of the law. The compound word used by St. Paul suggests (as in Luke 5:17; Acts 5:34) a more official title than the English. They claimed to be Rabbis or doctors of the law, such as Gamaliel. The word shews clearly that it was still the Jewish element of which St. Paul was most in dread, though the context indicates that it was a Judaism of a less strict and more corrupt kind than that against which he reasons in the Epistles to the Galatians and Romans. Elymas (Acts 13:8) or Sceva and his sons (Acts 19:14) may stand as the type of this newer form of error. They talked much, with a braggart confidence, of the law, and yet never dreamt of applying it as a rule of life in their own practice.

Verse 8

1 Timothy 1:8. If a man use it lawfully. ‘We know,’ the apostle seems to say, ‘we who have been taught, through personal experience, by the Spirit of God, what is the nature and office of the law, that it is good and noble. To use it law-fully is to feel that it no longer touches us, that we are not under its condemnation, to press its observance not on those who are “just” as having the new life in Christ, but on those who still live in sin. That, with perhaps a slight play upon the word, is the legitimate use of law.’

Verse 9

1 Timothy 1:9. The law. There is no article in the Greek, but St. Paul’s use of the words elsewhere (e.g. Romans 6:14; Galatians 5:18) justifies the translation. The law would not be needed but for the lawless element in men which needs correction.

Disobedient. Better ‘ insubordinate,’ the state of the ‘carnal mind ‘which is not subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7). The next four words, while expressing different shades of evil, have this in common, that they all speak of evil in its relation to God, of sins against the First Table the ungodly, who have no reverence; the sinners, who, apart from special offences, are without God in the world; the unholy, in whom there is no inward purity; the profane, in whom there is not even any show of consecration to His service. The words that follow, as describing sins against the Second Table, begin naturally with those against the fifth commandment. In the strong words chosen to indicate the sins of deepest dye in each case, we may probably trace a righteous indignation at the sins of the Heathen world, like that in Romans 1:24-32; possibly also as in Romans 2:21-24, to the vices which stained the lives even of these boasters of the law. ‘ Murderers of fathers,’ The Greek is more generic, ‘ smilers,’ without necessarily implying death as resulting from the blow. It is distinguished here from ‘man-slayers,’ and so sins against the fifth and sixth commandments come in their natural order.

Verse 10

1 Timothy 1:10. Sins against the seventh commandment, recognising the true division of natural and unnatural vices (‘defilers of themselves with males ’), came first; then the worst form of offence against the eighth, the kidnapping and man-stealing to which the prevalence of slavery naturally gave rise, and in the guilt of which Jews were probably known to be sharers; lastly, the two forms of evil forbidden by the ninth, falsehood, with, or without, the added guilt of perjury. It is significant that no reference is made (as in Romans 13:9) to the tenth commandment. The apostle prefers resting his case upon concrete evil acts, and does not enter on the less tangible region of desires.

Contrary to sound doctrine. Here for the first time we come across the word that more than any other is characteristic of the Pastoral Epistles ( 1Ti 6:3 ; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; Titus 1:13; Titus 2:1-2), occurring in this figurative sense in them and in them only. What it marks out is the tendency of the true doctrine to a healthy spiritual state, of all departure from the truth to a state morbid and unhealthy. The idea of health presupposed is that of clear perception, calm feeling, a will strong and stedfast the mens sana, even though the corpus sanum be absent. Looking to the fact that when these Epistles were written St. Paul had been for years in intimate companionship with St. Luke, the beloved physician, it is not rash to conjecture that both the thought and term had been derived from him. The word, it may be noted, occurs three times in his Gospel (Luke 5:31; Luke 7:10; Luke 15:27), and not at all in the other three.

Verse 11

1 Timothy 1:11. According to the glorious gospel. Better, ‘ the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God.’ The translation of the characterizing genitive, as though it were simply equivalent to an adjective, is for the most part misleading. St. Paul had used the phrase before, 2 Corinthians 4:4; there also with the meaning that the Gospel is a Gospel because it proclaims the glory, i.e. the power, and yet more the love, of God in Christ.

The blessed God. The adjective, elsewhere in the New Testament used of men only, is here and in 1 Timothy 6:15 applied to God.

Which was committed to my trust. Literally, in a construction peculiarly Pauline (1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7 et al.), ‘with which I was entrusted.’ The force of the ‘I,’ which in the Greek is emphatic, is lost in the English Version, and with it the subtle links of thought that lead on to what follows. First contrasting the Gospel which he preached with the morbid imaginations of false teachers, his mind is led to dwell on the succession of events by which he came to have the honour of so high a trust, and in which he traced the working of that Divine mercy in which he saw, more than in all other attributes, the glory of God revealed.

Verse 12

1 Timothy 1:12. Who hath enabled me. The order of the Greek is more emphatic. ‘I give thanks to Him who gave me power, to Christ Jesus our Lord.’ It is significant that the same word is used by Luke in his account of St. Paul’s conversion, ‘he was strengthened’ (Acts 9:19). The tense points rather to what was done at that time than to a continuous action.

Faithful. In the sense of ‘trustworthy.’ So, with the same thought of this recognition of his faithfulness being an act of mercy, in 1 Corinthians 7:25. Christ in His pity saw, through the rage and fury of the persecutor, the germ of that thoroughness in action, and loyalty to conscience, which was capable of being developed into the higher faithfulness.

Putting. Better, when used of a Divine act, ‘ appointing,’ as in 1 Thessalonians 5:9.

Verse 13

1 Timothy 1:13. A blasphemer . . . Probably in both senses of the word, as implying (1) violent and railing speech against men, (2) actual blasphemy against the Name which be now recognised as above every name. His own words in Acts 26:11 give prominence to the latter meaning. Comp. James 2:7.

Injurious. Adding wanton outrage to the inevitable severity of persecution, the ‘haling’ men and women (Acts 9:2), punishing them, probably by scourging, in the synagogues (Acts 26:10).

Because I did it ignorantly. From one point of view St. Paul looked upon his past state as one in which he had been as ‘the chief of sinners.’ He had been ‘kicking against the pricks,’ resisting warnings, misgivings, the teaching of events, which might have opened his eyes to see the light. Yet, on the other band, his eyes had not been opened, he had not sinned wilfully against a light clearly seen, and so the sin was one of ignorance leading to unbelief; and thus mercy, though he could not claim it as deserved, was still possible. He came within the range of the prayer, of which (recorded, as it is, by St. Luke) he may well have heard, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:54). And the view which he thus took of God’s dealings with himself enlarged his sympathies and made him more hopeful for others. We cannot fail to hear the echoes of his own experience when he speaks of ‘the times of ignorance which God winked at’ (Acts 17:30). There had been a time when he, too, had been, in some sense, the worshipper of an Unknown God.

Verse 14

1 Timothy 1:14. Our Lord. In the earlier Epistles we have the forms ‘the Lord,’ ‘the Lord Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus Christ our Lord.’ The use of this shortened form belongs to St. Paul’s later language (2 Timothy 1:8).

With faith and love. ‘Grace’ came as the result of ‘mercy,’ bringing with it the new trust which contrasted with his former unbelief, the new love which replaced the bitter hatred of the persecutor. And these were not simply human feelings. They had their life, their home, ‘in Christ’

Verse 15

1 Timothy 1:15. This is a faithful saying. Better, ‘ Faithful is the saying.’ The formula of citation is peculiar to the Pastoral Epistles, and in them occurs frequently (1 Timothy 3:1; 1Ti 4:9 ; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). It obviously indicates a stage of Christian thought in which certain truths had passed in a half proverbial form into common use and were received as axioms. Who first uttered them, and how they came to be so received, we do not know. What seems probable is that they were first spoken by prophets or teachers in the Church, approved themselves to its judgment, testing what it heard and ‘holding fast that which was good,’ and then became the basis of catechetical teaching for children and converts. St. Paul clearly cites them as already known to Timothy.

Came into the world to save sinners. Here, for the first time, we find St. Paul using the phrase which was afterwards so characteristic of St. John’s Gospel (John 1:9, John 3:19, John 6:14, John 11:27). It implies with him, as with St. John, a belief in the mystery of the Incarnation, and it defines the purpose of that Incarnation as being to save all who came under the category of ‘sinners’ (Romans 5:8 ).

Of whom I am chief. Every word is emphatic. ‘I’ more than any other, ‘am’ as speaking not of a past state only, but of the present

first not in order of time, but as chief in degree. Compare the cry of the publican in the parable, ‘God be merciful to me the sinner,’ Luke 18:13. Such is ever the cry of the conscience, when, ceasing to compare itself with others, it sees itself as in the sight of God.

Verse 16

1 Timothy 1:16. For this cause. Besides the ignorance that made mercy possible, there was a Divine wisdom working out a purpose of love. In him ‘first,’ or ‘chief (as a greater, more typical instance than any other), Christ Jesus would snow forth all the long-suffering which marked God’s dealings with the world. That word, also, St. Paul had been thus taught to place high in the catalogue of Divine attributes (Romans 2:4; Romans 9:22), in that of the human excellences which were after the pattern of the Divine (2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:12; 2 Timothy 3:10; 2 Timothy 4:2), the characteristic of love in man (1 Corinthians 13:4) as in God.

Pattern. The outline sketch which served as a pattern for others to fill up with the colouring or shadows which made it, as it were, in harmony with their own experience.

Hereafter. Strictly speaking, ‘thereafter,’ starting from the moment of his conversion . . . We cannot doubt that’ it was then that St. Paul began to encourage others by pointing to himself.

Life everlasting. Better perhaps ‘eternal’ Here also, as with coming into the world,’ we note St. Paul’s use of a word which, though not peculiar to St. John, is yet eminently characteristic of him, occurring seventeen times in his Gospel, and six times in his First Epistle.

Verse 17

1 Timothy 1:17. As in Romans 11:36; Romans 16:27, the thought of God’s great mercy leads the apostle to break out into a jubilant doxology.

The King eternal. Literally ‘the king of the ages,’ of all the æons or periods which man’s thought can apprehend in the remotest past, or future. The phrase is taken from the LXX. of Tob 13:6 and Psalms 145:13, and occurs here only in the New Testament. It is obvious, as in the parallel passages, that the doxology is offered to the Father.

Immortal. Better, as in Rom 1:23 ; 1 Corinthians 15:52, ‘ incorruptible.’

The only wise God. ‘Wise’ is wanting in the later MSS., and has probably been inserted from Romans 16:27. The word ‘only,’ as applied to God, is not uncommon in the New Testament, but is especially characteristic of this Epistle (1 Timothy 6:15-16) and St. John (John 5:44; John 17:3; Revelation 15:4).

For ever and ever. Lit. ‘for the ages of the ages,’ periods in which each moment is an æon.

Verse 18

1 Timothy 1:18. Here, in writing or dictating, there must have been a pause. After the ecstasy of praise is over, the writer returns to the ‘charge’ or ‘commandment’ from which he had diverged, and which he now solemnly committed to Timothy as a trust for the use of which he was responsible (2 Timothy 1:15).

According to the prophecies that went before on thee. The words point to some unrecorded event in the life of Timothy. At Lystra, probably on St. Paul’s second visit, from the lips of Silas or other prophets, had come the intimation that he was called to the work of an evangelist (comp. Acts 13:2), and this had been followed by the laying on of the hands of the apostle and of the elders of the Church (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).

By them mightest war a good warfare. Better ‘the good warfare’ (as in 2 Timothy 4:7, ‘ the good fight’), the campaign of truth against falsehood, of good against evil, and ‘in them,’ as though he were to think of them, and of the spiritual gifts that followed on them, as weapons and resources.

Verse 19

1 Timothy 1:19. Faith. The personal subjective trust in God, as coupled with the ‘good conscience.’

Having put away. The Greek implies violence, ‘ thrusting from them.’

Concerning faith have made shipwreck. The article in the Greek before ‘faith’ implies that (as in 1 Timothy 3:9, 1 Timothy 4:6, 1 Timothy 5:8, 1 Timothy 6:21; 2 Timothy 3:8; Jude 1:3) it is taken in the objective sense as ‘the faith which men believe.’ Casting from them the protection of a good conscience, without which real trust or belief was impossible, they drifted on the sea of error, and made shipwreck concerning the faith. The metaphor was common enough, yet we may think of St. Paul’s fourfold experience of shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:25; Acts 27:0) as giving it a new vividness and power.

Verse 20

1 Timothy 1:20. Hymenæus and Alexander. The first probably identical with the false teacher named with Philetus in 2 Timothy 2:17, as teaching that the resurrection was past already,’ i.e. that it was simply ethical and ideal, as a rising to newness of life. From St. Paul’s point of view, this was to overturn the faith. Those who held it, like shipwrecked sailors, had no hope of reaching the haven where they would be. The Alexander is probably the same as ‘the coppersmith, who wrought St. Paul much evil,’ of 2 Timothy 4:14, possibly also the same as the man put forward by the Jews in Acts 19:33. One who was a worker in copper, or rather bronze, would be likely to have influence with the workmen of Demetrius. One who was put forward by the Jews was not unlikely to identify himself with one form of Jewish error, i.e. an idealized Sadduceism, and as such to oppose himself to St. Paul, as preaching the doctrine, held by him in common with the Pharisees, of the resurrection of the dead.

Whom I have delivered to Satan. Better ‘whom I delivered,’ the tense pointing to a definite time, probably on the occasion of his last visit to Ephesus. The act so spoken of involves (as in 1 Corinthians 5:5) the thought that Satan, when permitted, exercises a power to inflict disease and pain on the bodies of men analogous to that of which we read in the Book of Job. That power is, indeed, recognised by our Lord (Luke 13:16) and by St. Paul in reference to himself (2 Corinthians 12:7, and probably 1 Thessalonians 2:18) . It might be connected, as in the case at Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:2), with excommunication, but was not necessarily identical with it. And in both the cases referred to, and therefore probably in all others, it was thought of as remedial. The ‘spirit was to be saved by the ‘destruction of the flesh;’ men were to be ‘chastened’ and ‘disciplined’ (this rather than ‘ taught’ is the meaning of the word) as those who, though offending grievously, were not as yet shut out from love and from the hope of pardon.

Not to blaspheme. The word is used probably to express the horror felt at the association of the name of God or Christ with a doctrine which overthrew the faith and led to impurity of life. Comp. Romans 2:24.

Bibliographical Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/scn/1-timothy-1.html. 1879-90.
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