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Bible Commentaries
1 Timothy 1

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

Apostolic Salutation, 1 Timothy 1:1-2 .

1. Paul The full array of his apostolic title, though writing to an individual, indicates that this is an official charge, not a mere friendly letter. Compare the Introduction to Philemon.

Commandment of God Not as the other apostles, by the regular choice of Jesus, but by a special call from heaven on his way to Damascus, and a special commandment from the Spirit at Antioch. Acts 13:1. This commandment is more explicit than the will of God, of which it is the announcement. It requires the absolute obedience of Timothy to the charge of the apostle, and the absolute obedience of the heretics and other persons to Timothy’s rightful orders in obedience to that charge.

God our Saviour Not merely as our deliverer, as in Psalms 24:5, and Isaiah 12:2; but as the background and fountain of our salvation through Christ by faith. Ephesians 2:4-8.

Lord Jesus Christ As the conduit of the salvation flowing from the fountain, God.

Our hope Without whom all is despair; with whom there is a sure result of “glory.” Colossians 1:27.

Verse 2

2. Own son Literally, genuine son. Who has by his life of filial faithfulness attested the genuineness of his regeneration under Paul’s ministry. Though investing himself with his own full title, Paul gives no title to Timothy; such as, to the Lord Bishop of Ephesus. For Timothy’s present position in Ephesus there does not seem to have been any title. He was shortly afterwards requested to leave Ephesus and visit the apostle at Rome. Yet,

1. It is clear that he was placed over the entire Christian body, whether one congregation or more, in Ephesus, as Titus was over the entire Christian body in Crete. It is altogether certain that this was a supervision over a number of Churches, with their elders and deacons.

2. The entire epistle implies a permanent position. The opposers he has to encounter are described; described as having been predicted, 1 Timothy 4:1-3; and most solemn charges are given to do this work faithfully, persistently, and through an extended future, 1 Timothy 1:18-20; 1 Timothy 4:13-16 and 1 Timothy 6:14.

3. He possessed exclusive jurisdiction over the elders, and over the laying on of hands, 1 Timothy 5:19-22. All this is far from proving that such an arrangement is obligatory in all ages and all countries; but it does show that it is lawful when expedient. Episcopacy is permitted and exemplified, but not enjoined.

Grace, mercy, and peace The old dual grace and peace of former epistles has here become a triad by the insertion of mercy. Long years of trial and sadness have impressed upon our venerable apostle our need of the tender attribute of divine mercy. Grace is the fountain; mercy is the outflow; and peace is in us the blessed result.

God our Father Primal and parental source of all.

Jesus Christ our Lord The embodiment of God’s mercy, to whom committing ourselves we are safe.

Verse 3


THE APOSTOLIC CHARGE, 1 Timothy 1:1-20.

1. Safe-keeping of a pure gospel doctrine, 1 Timothy 1:3-11.

3. As More fully, according as; to which our translators have inserted so do, in Italics, in order to make a completed statement. Some, as Fairbairn, insert after Macedonia “so I do now;” but that would simply make Paul charge Timothy still to stay at Ephesus. Our so do is preferable, applying it to the charge of this verse. Paul’s meaning is, Do now as I charged thee when I left Ephesus. His verbal charge he would now make a recorded charge.

Went into Macedonia This going from Ephesus into Macedonia cannot be identified with that mentioned in Acts 20:1; for, as appears from Acts 19:22, he had before that going into Macedonia sent Timothy to Corinth. And, as there appears no going to Macedonia and leaving Timothy at Ephesus apparently possible before Paul’s first imprisonment, so this passage requires a second imprisonment. See Introduction.

Some A reprehensive word, implying that these teachers were a certain few, not to be named here, but too well known to Timothy. Note on 1 Timothy 1:20.

Teach no other doctrine In Paul’s Greek a newly coined and very expressive single Greek word, to-be-otherwise-teachers. It expresses the idea that the original gospel of Jesus, as purely and genuinely transmitted through the apostles, must be retained unmixed with any other elements, and without variation.

Verse 4

4. Fables The “Jewish fables” of Titus 1:14; in 1 Timothy 4:7, they are termed “profane and old wives’ fables;” and in 2 Timothy 4:4, simply “fables.” These innovators, verging into heresy and apostasy, and leading a part of the Church after them, are Jews. Of these fables the Talmud was a great repository. Says Clarke: “I will give one instance from the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 1:15: ‘And God made two great lights, and they were equal in splendour twenty-one years, the six hundred and seventy-second part of an hour excepted: and afterwards the moon brought a false accusation against the sun, and therefore she was lessened; and God made the sun the greater light to superintend the day,’ etc. I could produce a thousand of a similar complexion.” Commentary. 1 Timothy 1:7.

The Targums were very liberal translations or paraphrases of the Old Testament books, prepared for the people after the captivity, who had forgotten their pure Hebrew dialect. The Talmud was a collection of the teachings and traditions of the Rabbies, filled with a mixture of noble moralities and most extravagant inventions. “Such,” says Grotius, “were with the Jews the fables concerning what God did before the world was created; concerning man, created at first hermaphrodite; concerning his concubitus with beasts, and with Lilith; concerning demons and those born from them; concerning behemoth and leviathan; concerning the existence of souls before the body; concerning the angels distributed into the stars and aerial regions.” Tertullian says that Valentinus, the Gnostic, “introduced many fables.” “Such worthless stories,” says Schaff, “are still found, as is well known, in the Talmud and in the Cabala, ( Cabala-tradition,) the elements of which confessedly existed in the first century, probably even before the destruction of Jerusalem.” For a good account of the Cabala, see M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia.

Endless genealogies As to what these genealogies were, Alford adduces six different suppositions. It is clear that we must look for these genealogies, as for the forementioned fables, among the Jews. And this excludes the Gnostic emanations, by which existing things were traced back to their origin through a series of generative developments from the original Pleroma. For an account of these see Pressense’s Heresy and Christian Doctrine, book 1. We must also reject the Old Testament genealogies, and the Jewish family genealogies; for these could form no part of a heresy in Christianity. These genealogies were, rather, allegorical theories and phantasies, based upon mystical interpretations of the Old Testament genealogical registers. Of these we have specimens in Philo, who finds plenty of Platonic and Oriental philosophy in the Old Testament mystically interpreted. “Genealogical” is a term which he himself applies to his allegories. They were fresh inventions of liberalizing Jews, who endeavoured to find all the wisdom of “modern thought” wrapped up in the letter of the Old Testament books, and to be unfolded by drawing out a concealed sense. In Ephesus and Crete, this doctrine would substitute for Christianity a mystical blend of the Jewish letter with Oriental philosophy. These genealogies are called endless, as they could be spun out at will by the imaginative allegorizer; and every new allegorizer could add a new spin; so that the whole system was interminable. Still more truly interminable because they led to no satisfactory conclusions, but induced questions for ever and ever, without solid or saving answers, as to the true system or constitution of things.

Rather than godly edifying Better, rather than the (actual) system of God. This true system is given in a true interpretation of the Old Testament, and results in Jesus the Messiah and the gospel. Here we have solid reality; there nothing but endless questions.

In faith With the Greek article before it, the system of God which is embraced in our faith, and consequently results not in questions, but in divine composure of mind.

Verse 5

5. The end, or purpose, of the commandment, or injunction contained in the law, and presupposed in the gospel. Is Not an imaginary wisdom made up from these fables and allegories, but charity.

Charity Love. See Introductory Note to 1 Corinthians 13:0. The commandment prohibits sins and enjoins duties; but its intrinsic purpose is to reach deep into the heart and find its complete fulfilment in love.

Out of a pure heart From a heart instructed by the gospel and sanctified by the divine Spirit would flow the outgoings of love. Omitting the of inserted by the translators, the good conscience and the faith are second and third elements of the end of the commandment. Love not only produces goodness in action, but guards against wrong, and so preserves a good conscience. And by establishing a sympathy between the heart and Christ it results in relying faith; a faith not feigned, like that of the teachers of other doctrines, in order to win the Church to error, but unfeigned and true to Christ.

Verse 6

6. Having swerved The Greek, missing the mark, as an archer. They undertook to hit the mark, the end, but were induced by the seductions of the fables and genealogies to waver and miss.

Jangling This word, in which the sense is indicated by the sound, is suitably selected by our translators for a word not belonging to classic Greek, used by St. Paul to express contempt of the fables and genealogies with which the errorists were befooling themselves.

Verse 7

7. Teachers of the law The Mosaic law; the Old Testament. These teachers wanted to transform the Churches into rabbinical schools, in which themselves should be the rabbies, and the teachings should be the new fangled fantasies of which Grotius gives us specimens above.

What they say Their words and phrases really often express no meaning, because they have no understanding of the subject whereof they affirm. That is, they explained an unintelligible subject by unmeaning words.

Verse 8

8. The law The Old Testament, upon which these errorists base their jangling.

Is good Its centre is the decalogue, which embodies all righteousness; and all else in the old canon is but a circumference and area enclosing and sustaining this centre. “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12.

Use it lawfully As these errorists were using it unlawfully, illegitimately, and contrary to its right end as law. The play upon the words law and lawfully is very significant. Use the law unlawfully, and it leads to vain jangling; use it lawfully, and it brings us to the glorious gospel, 1 Timothy 1:11.

Verse 9

9. Not made for Literally, does not lie for, does not exist for. The term lies does not express a penal effect upon the just man, though the severe strain of the following verses indicates that such is the implication. Legal penalty is not for the good, but for the criminal.

A righteous man As the subtle teacher of the fables and genealogies claimed to be. The law did not exist for the purpose of making him wise in his own conceit. Law, here, means not the absolute rule of right, for that exists for, and is binding on, all beings; but it means the vocal or written expression of that rule; the commandment in words. For beings who do absolutely and continually right, no such verbal commandment would be needed. It would be intrinsically good, but relatively superfluous. In practical daily morals this truth has been recognized among the best pagan writers. From many passages in Wetstein we select the following: Antiphon says, “The man doing no wrong needs no law.” “Aristippus, being asked what was the superiority of the philosophers, replied, in the fact that if the laws were abrogated we should live the same.” AElian says, “Solon did not legislate for lions, when he enacted that it was obligatory to support one’s parents.” See our note on Matthew 11:30. But Paul’s righteous man is the gospel ideal; the made righteous, not by nature, but by grace purifying and exalting nature. To him Christ, by faith embraced, is the substitute for law, being a living law, and the Spirit is the quickener to a conformity with Christ. As the man sinks below Christ, he sinks into law, and feels its enslaving and condemning power until he rises again into Christ.

The objects of law are now first described in three severe antitheses. The lawless are those who ignore law, and act as if it had no existence; the disobedient recognise law and consciously rebel against it. The ungodly neither recognize nor reverence God, and think and live as if no God existed; sinners know God, yet consciously disregard his authority as God, and transgress his commandments. Unholy are those whose hearts and lives possess no inward purity or conformity to the divine ideal; the profane are those who regard nothing and nobody as sacred or holy.

The above three antitheses specify qualities of character; the following epithets characterize classes of evil men according to their evil actions. The apostle’s mind evidently runs along the prohibitions of the second table of the decalogue, from the fifth to the ninth commandment, selecting what he deems the most flagrant transgressions of each. The transgressors against the fifth commandment are parricides and matricides; and against the sixth are manslayers.

Verse 10

10. Perjured Who either break a sworn engagement, or swear to a falsehood in point of fact.

Any other Stopping with the ninth commandment, the apostle generalizes against all that contradicts sound doctrine. Sound is literally healthful in opposition to diseased. So sound doctrine, 2 Timothy 4:3; and Titus 2:1. This is one of the phrases peculiar to the pastoral epistles. This arises from the fact that in Paul’s most truthful view the Jewish fables and genealogies and heresies, which were invading the Church, were mental imbecilities, arising from and resulting in a sickly state of mind. And against these brain diseases the healthful doctrine, the faithful saying, of the gospel were the corrective.

Verse 11

11. This entire charge against the errorists is according to the… gospel. The issue is between the vain jangling and that sound doctrine which is committed to my trust.

Glorious gospel Literally, gospel of the glory of the blessed God; that is, the blessed announcement of that glory as a heavenly attainment.

Verse 12

12. I thank Christ To be honoured and blest with so divine a charge called forth all his gratitude to the bestower, Christ.

Faithful Trustworthy; one who would never betray his trust.

Verses 12-17

2. God’s commitment of this charge to Paul by him gratefully recognised, 12-17.

St. Paul is well authorized to commit this charge to Timothy; for it was his unparalleled lot to receive it fresh and pure from God himself.

Verse 13

13. The gift was wonderfully enhanced by the character of the receiver.

A blasphemer One who vilifies; but, in its most direful sense, one who vilifies God.

Persecutor Long years had passed since the martyrdom of Stephen, the fierce dispersion of the Jerusalem Church, and the wild raid upon Damascus: but to the perpetual penitence of Paul the memory is still fresh. He is now “Paul, the aged;” but he realizes his historical identity with that “young man whose name was Saul.” Acts 7:58. Christ has forgiven him; but how can he forgive himself? He will remember the whole as an incitement of gratitude to the pardoning Jesus.

Injurious An insulter.

Ignorantly in unbelief Not that this rendered him innocent, but it was cause why, when the truth was revealed to him, that he yielded that faith and obedience on which mercy depended. See note on Luke 23:34.

Verse 14

14. Grace… exceeding abundant Or it could not have pardoned a guilt like mine.

With faith and love The blessed response in the forgiven heart to the forgiving grace.

In Christ And are in our hearts the overflow from him. We love him because he loved us; we are faithful to him because he is “the faithful and true.”

Verse 15

15. Faithful saying A full trustworthy proposition. This is one of the phrases peculiar to the pastoral epistles. See 1 Timothy 3:1; 1 Timothy 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 1:9; Titus 3:8.

All acceptation Acceptation entire, and by all. This comprehensive and glorious saying lies in the apostle’s train of thought; for he had found it faithful and true in his own experience.

Save sinners So that it is our sins that give us a claim upon this Saviour. If we are no sinners, then for us Christ is no Saviour.

I am chief Literally, I am πρωτος , first; not, of course, in the order of time, but of eminence. Dr. Clarke seems to think it necessary to maintain that Paul was literally and accurately the greatest sinner that ever lived. But compare the similar hyperboles at 1 Corinthians 15:9, and Ephesians 3:8. Yet we coincide with Flatt (quoted by Huther) in noting the want of the Greek article before the word πρωτος , and translating it not the first, or the chief; but a chief, a first, one of the first. We agree with Huther that Paul’s words need no softening; and we may add, no hardening either. No one can doubt that the article would have increased the emphasis, and the due import of its omission must be acknowledged.

Note the present tense: not was, but am chief. For though forgiven, saved, apostled, he is still that same Saul; he is the man who sinned; the past can never be undone. Even though saved, he is forever a saved sinner.

Yet in what sense could the dying Wesley affirm:

“I the chief of sinners am,

But Jesus died for me?”

Not certainly as a literal fact, but as a profound assumption before God. He renounced all claims, and freely and fully consented to be saved at God’s estimate, even if it be as the greatest of sinners, by Christ’s atonement.

Verse 16

16. St. Paul now gives the divine side of his wonderful experience. What could God mean by granting mercy to so unparalleled a sinner? Be sure God knew that the very prominence of the sinner rendered his salvation a pre-eminent specimen and type that no sinner hereafter need despair, or be despaired of. Who may not be converted if Saul the persecutor became an apostle?

Longsuffering For, although the period of his heinous sin was comparatively brief, yet that God did not smite him down in wrath was a wonderful patience.

To, unto, everlasting life The glorious aim and result of that believe. And now St. Paul, having attained this lofty climax, everlasting life, seems to make an upward spring into the coming doxology.

Verse 17

17. Now But; as rising from himself, the finite, to God, the infinite, and tracing his salvation to Him.

Unto the King eternal Literally, King of the aeons, or ages. Ellicott says that this phrase should not be diluted into eternal. God is sovereign of the aeons and all they embrace. Yet as they are endless, the idea of eternity is included.

Immortal Rather, incorruptible. All things decay and fade from one aeon into another; the sole, essentially undecaying, One, through the ever-rolling waves of aeons, is the King of aeons.

Invisible The unseen, behind the vail of the seen.

Wise Omitted as a false reading, leaving only God; excluding all polytheism, and recognising one God as one universe.

For ever and ever Εις τους αιωνας των αιωνων , into and throughout the ages of ages. Note, Ephesians 1:10. This, as the other doxologies of St. Paul, marks the terminus of a climax of thought.

Verse 18

3. Solemn formula committing this charge to Timothy, 18-20.

18. Prophecies… before… thee Of directive and predictive prophecies we find instances in Acts 13:1-2; Acts 21:10; Acts 21:12. By comparison with the parallel passage (1 Timothy 4:14) we learn that prophecies attended his ordination concurrently with a divine charism imparted within him. These prophecies are here said to be, literal Greek, going before upon thee. On thee, affirms that the prophecies rested down upon him as their subject. Went before implies that they preceded and predicted his future, and were now pointing his path of duty, and inciting him to an energetic prosecution.

That Depending on going before.

War For the errors, heresies, and sins of the day indicated that his life was to be a warfare. With the Greek article, the good warfare.

Verse 19

19. Holding Emphatic, in no case surrendering.

Faith, and a good conscience Which at start (1 Timothy 1:5) Paul had declared to be the end of the charge, the test of the true doctrine; and, therefore, the detection of the errorists against whom his warfare was to be waged.

Some The some of 1 Timothy 1:3.

Put away After having once possessed.

Shipwreck They were in the ship and wrecked it, by putting away faith and taking up falsehood.

Verse 20

20. Two of the mysterious some of 1 Timothy 1:3 seem here to be named, and a third in 2 Timothy 2:17, Philetus. Unquestionably the Hymeneus here and there are the same. Alexander as unquestionably is the coppersmith of 2 Timothy 4:14.

Delivered unto Satan See note on 1 Corinthians 5:5. The consigning to Satan did not prevent Hymeneus from persisting in sin, as appears from the mention in the second epistle.

May learn May be disciplined by punishment.

Not to blaspheme For apostates are very apt to become blasphemers. And this phrase serves to show that the adoption of the fables and genealogies of 1 Timothy 1:4 was no mere speculative error, but led not only to folly, but to gross apostasy.

Creeds may be limitations to liberty, but they are also safeguards of the soul. When they are made simply a means of ecclesiastical despotism or bitter contention, great injury no doubt results. Yet the forms of doctrine adopted by the holy of past years, after the most intense study of the Scriptures, are to be treated with solemn respect and not discarded with levity. Our apostle here gives us one of the best brief tests of their excellence. Is their end, their purpose, their effect, faith and a good conscience? that is, a sound mind and a holy life?

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Timothy 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-timothy-1.html. 1874-1909.
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