1 - 4 Blessing and Exhortation
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, [who is] our hope, 2 to Timothy, [my] true child in [the] faith: Grace, mercy [and] peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than [furthering] the administration of God which is by faith.
V1. Paul is the sender. He points at his apostleship. “Apostle” means one who is sent. He is sent by “Christ Jesus”. The name of his Sender makes clear Who the Lord Jesus is as He is now in heaven (‘Christ’) and as He once was in humiliation on earth (‘Jesus’). The Lord Jesus is made ‘Christ’ by God, after He had been despised as ‘Jesus’ by men, and fulfilled the work on the cross (Acts 2:36). What surely will happen someday, is that every being in the universe will bow his knee to Jesus and confess Him to be Lord (Phil 2:10-11).
Paul has already bowed his knees. He submitted himself to the Lord Jesus. Paul’s apostleship is not something he himself chose. He didn’t apply for it. He is an apostle, because he received a “commandment”, an order for it from authoritative Persons. It is not possible to avoid such an order. He neither desires to do that (cf. 1Cor 9:17b). He pursued with tenacity and strength to accomplish his task (cf. 1Cor 9:19-21).
His Commanders are two Divine Persons. The names of these Persons are most telling. They indicate that God’s people are in degradation. God called Himself “Savior” in Isaiah 45 (Isa 45:15) when the end of Israel is near. A Savior or Redeemer is needed when the end of the existence of a nation or a man has come into view. How great is God that He right then is also willing to present Himself like that (Lk 1:47; 1Tim 2:3; 4:10; Tit 1:3; 2:10; 3:4; Jude 1:25).
Paul also draws Timothy’s attention to “Christ Jesus, [who is] our hope”. When all hope seems to be gone for God’s people in general that everything will turn out well, you may know that for you personally the situation is really not hopeless. When the Person of Christ Jesus is your only hope in this time of degradation, you will surely be able to manage in a special way to the honor of God and the Lord Jesus in the midst of degradation.
Summarizing you could say that when everything has failed, the faithful believers will not put their trust in churches, elders or whosoever, but will be occupied with God their Savior and with Christ Jesus their Hope. Such faithful believers you come across for example in the book of Malachi (Mal 3:16) and in Luke 1 and 2. There you find a situation that God’s people do not think of God anymore, but only of themselves. There are just a few who take account of God and expect their redemption from Him and who put their hope on Him.
V2. The letter is addressed to Timothy. I already said some things about him in the introduction. Paul calls him his “true son in the faith”. Timothy is his spiritual son. He has conceived him through the gospel (cf. 1Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19). But also in his life as a believer Timothy is his son. Timothy has seen and learnt so much of ‘father’ Paul (2Tim 3:10) that Paul sees a lot of himself in Timothy. He has the same mind (Phil 2:20) and his ministry is fully in line with the ministry of Paul (1Cor 4:17; Phil 2:19-22).
Then the blessing follows. In the salutation of all the letters to the churches it is always ‘grace and peace’, but here the blessing is “grace, mercy [and] peace”. “Mercy” is added to the common blessing. That’s actually very characteristic for a letter to a person. You also see that in the second letter to Timothy, in the letter to Titus and in the second letter of John, which are all addressed to a person.
‘Grace’ makes clear that you are totally dependent on God, in order to live to His honor. There is nothing present in you that could be pleasing to God. It is important to be aware of that, for only then you are in the right attitude to make use of the grace that God wants to give you abundantly.
You can expect ‘mercy’ from God with a view to the miserable situation you find yourself in. He wants to help you when you are in need and to get up when you have stumbled.
‘Peace’ is the inner rest you have when you trust on God (Isa 26:3-4).
For receiving these three blessings Paul draws Timothy’s attention to the source of them. They come “from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. In verse 1 God is presented as Savior. Now you hear about God the Father. This is to encourage you while you have to fight against so many things around you. You are always welcome to the Father to tell Him about your difficulties, worries, struggles and desires.
In verse 1 you read about Christ Jesus as your Hope. Now you hear that He is ‘Lord’. He has authority over your life. If you want to live up to that you go to Him for grace, mercy and peace.
V3. Timothy receives from Paul the order to stay in Ephesus, while he himself travels further to Macedonia. The way Paul is saying this to Timothy makes clear that he has to insist softly to keep him there. The order was not quite that simple after all for a timid young man like Timothy. The reason for this order is that the enemy is trying to introduce several forms of evil in the church of Ephesus. And let me warn you that the enemy knows how to use cunning speakers, people who are not easily brought to order. Against those speakers Timothy had to act.
You might think: ‘Ephesus was such a great church where nothing was wrong, wasn’t it? They knew the teachings, didn’t they? Had not Paul taught the highest truths of Christendom there?’ Nevertheless, you see here that having the knowledge of the highest truths is no guarantee to be kept from false doctrines. If you don’t remain in the grace of God, you will go astray. Only by being aware of the grace of God for knowing what you know you are kept from that.
Therefore Timothy has to stop the wrong doctrines that “certain men” are teaching in Ephesus. He was not to ask those ‘some’ kindly to stop their unedifying occupations. There should absolutely be no tolerance towards another doctrine that is contrary “to sound teaching” (verse 10). People who are guilty of such things are to be ordered “not to teach strange doctrines”.
V4. You can see the effects of that ‘other doctrine’ in several ways. The ways these effects appear are described in verses 4-11. In all cases it is about a doctrine that is contrary the doctrine of the Scripture (cf. Gal 1:7; Acts 20:30). There is mention of “myths”, “endless genealogies” and “the law”. The teachings that are related to these issues subsequently have their origins in human fantasy, human curiosity and human religiosity. They all stand against the truth that has only one purpose: to present Christ to us.
In verse 4 Paul first deals with the myths and genealogies. ‘Myths’ come forth from the corrupted spirit of man. They are products from human fantasy (2Pet 1:16). They are ideas from the world of pagans, although they may contain nice theories from Greek philosophy schools. There should absolutely be no room for that in the church. The command sounds simply: ‘Do not give heed to that.’
The ‘endless genealogies’ is another product of the corrupt spirit of man. Regarding this the command is also: not to give heed to it. Those are teachings of Jews about the descendants of different powers and idols. They serve to make man great and to exclude God. The man who takes heed to that, arrogates himself to be able to explain that all blessing we have received is the result of a process (consider the evolution theory).
By the way, you should not connect this kind of genealogies with the genealogies you find in the Word of God (e.g. 1Chr 1-9; Mt 1:1-17). Those are inspired by God’s Spirit and they therefore serve God’s purpose.
You are to judge a doctrine by its result, the fruits it produces. When disputes are the result the doctrine is corrupt (Tit 3:9). The religious arena is full of doubters and it echoes only hot air. Sound teachings do not cause disputes, but a sound spiritual growth. Disputes leave the soul in darkness and doubt. They do not give security to the searching soul.
Disputes stand against “the administration of God”. This means: commandments and responsibilities given by God and which are to be fulfilled (Lk 16:2-13; 1Cor 4:1-2; 1Pet 4:10; 1Cor 9:17; Eph 3:2,9; Col 1:25). Each child of God, so you too, has a commandment and is responsible to carry that out. And that should happen “by faith”, which means in complete trust in Him.
Now read 1 Timothy 1:1-4 again.
Reflection: Do you know your commandment?
5 - 7 The Purpose of the Commandment
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
V5. Paul gives a detailed explanation on the commandment that Timothy should give to ‘certain men’ (verse 3). When God commands something it always has a purpose. The commandment here is to stop the wrong. The wrong holds up God’s blessing and when it is taken away the blessing can freely flow again. That also includes your personal life. This explanation shows Timothy why he had to directly silence those ‘certain men’ and without any hesitation. Then the way of love is made free again.
Love is the great feature of God. “God is love” (1Jn 4:8,16). The love of God is poured out in our hearts (Rom 5:5). Wrong teachings block the outflow of that love, while it should freely outflow to God, to the fellow believers and to the fellow men. A wrong teaching always causes corruption, while the love of God always seeks the good for the other person. This love has three sources in the believer. Only when love comes from those sources the purpose of the commandment will be achieved.
The first source is “a pure heart”. Out of your heart spring the issues of life (Pro 4:23). Your heart is supposed to be pure. When your heart is not pure, pure love cannot come out of it. If you desire for worldly pleasure, if you enjoy sin, if you are after your own honor, your heart is not pure. In a pure heart there is no place for sin. A pure heart is a heart that lives in communion with God. The ones with a pure heart will see God (Mt 5:8).
The second source is important for the right effectiveness of love and that is “a good conscience”. A good conscience is not a conscience that is not aware of any evil, but more a conscience that functions well. It is a conscience that is trained to make known what is good and what is evil, according to how God judges that, so that you may live up to that. You do not get a bad conscience because of the fact that sin still is in you, but only when the flesh is active in you and you don’t want to judge it.
Through baptism you receive a good conscience (1Pet 3:21). After all, you yourself have been baptized because you acknowledge the judgment of God about everything that doesn’t agree with Him, including yourself in your old nature. By being baptized you admit that you chose the side of the rejected Jesus. You want to follow Him. That is only possible from a good conscience that is connected to your baptism. Then it cannot be the case that you still want to have anything to do with sin (Rom 6:2-3). In that case you would deny what you have confessed with your baptism and by doing so you would defile your conscience (Tit 1:15).
Besides, your conscience is in itself not a measure of good and evil. It should be formed by the Word of God. Just look at Paul. He was not accused in his conscience when he persecuted the church (Acts 23:1). But what he did made him the chief of the sinners (1Tim 1:15).
The third source where love should freely flow from is “a sincere faith”. ‘Sincere’ means upright, without feigning. The point is that regarding your faith you should not pretend, that your faith is not an empty confession, but that you trust in God about everything.
V6. When your heart and conscience do not remain in the light of God and when your faith is only keeping up appearances you will deviate from the way of love. Here it is still limited to “some men” (see also verse 3). With those the sources, just mentioned, are not to be found. Love is missing and God’s work is not being done. Then the contrary will happen: you hear only “idle talk”. This is how you should value all gibberish and empty talk. That’s quite different from being impressed by it.
V7. And mind you that these folks will try to impress you. They come with nice reasoning and they emphatically appeal to the Bible. Their purpose is not less than to be “the teachers of the Law”. That is what they ‘want’. They act as if they know God’s law and declare themselves to be the only ones who are allowed to teach that. These false teachers consciously take that attitude and have a firm purpose, to which all other things has to be brought into subjection.
He who deviates from love, because the condition of his heart, conscience and faith is not right anymore, becomes liberal or legalistic. The liberal Christian believes only what he can see or reason. In the days of the Lord Jesus the sadducees were like that (Mt 22:23; Acts 23:8). Liberal Christians lead their lives entirely according to their own view. Those who fall into legalism regulate for themselves and especially for others all kinds of laws that are supposed to guide their lives. In the days of the Lord Jesus the pharisees were like that (Mt 23:4). Legalistic people have regulated a standard of outward characteristics to measure the life of faith for everyone.
By saying these things in this way we run the risk to put ourselves out of firing line. We must be careful not to look at others only to see if they have either of these evil features in their faith lives. We all have something of both principles in ourselves, for we still have the flesh in ourselves. It would be well for us to consider that.
These teachers must have felt very insulted when they heard how Paul described their qualifications as teachers. Just imagine if that happened to you: highly esteeming yourself and boasting about your qualities and then someone comes and wipes that out without any respect. He disqualifies them before Timothy to prevent that he would carefully listen to them even for just a minute. Don’t waste your precious time on people who “do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions”, and want to entertain you with the imaginations of their own mind.
Such people who want to reintroduce the law do not know Who God really is. They are also ignorant about the real condition of man. They do not know the purpose of the law and even less the true character of Christendom. Those are people who support their self-assured notions with a lot of hot air and recommend them as truth. Their rich use of words only publicly exposes their ignorance to everyone who wants to be taught by the Spirit on the basis of the Word.
Each use of the law as an addition to faith, in order to be saved, is a false use of it. This form of misuse is to be found in the roman catholic church. Through the reformation God brought liberation from that false doctrine. God has shown that only by faith a man can be justified. But due to the unfaithfulness of man the devil succeeded to introduce another error within the reformation, namely to make the law a rule of life for the believer. They say it then very beautifully: to do that out of gratitude.
But in both cases people ignore totally the purpose of the law. It is a serious error to assume that some work of man has to be added to the faith in the Lord Jesus, in order to be saved. Just as serious is the error to assume that a child of God is called to keep the law. In both cases the working of the law is being ignored.
I would suggest you to read the letter to the Galatians once more. That letter is a unique explanation about the meaning of the law. The incompatibility of the law and faith and the gospel is shown crystal clear. It is clearly written in that letter that he who puts himself on the foundation of the works of the law puts himself under the curse (Gal 3:10). That is a general valid rule that doesn’t allow any exception. It makes no difference whether you misuse the law as a supplement to be saved or as a supplement for your faith to express your gratitude in such a way. In both cases you ignore that you cannot keep the law and that the inevitable result is the curse of the law.
How the law should be used in the right way we shall see in the following section.
Now read 1 Timothy 1:5-7 again.
Reflection: Is your heart pure, your conscience good and your faith sincere?
8 - 11 The Law and the Gospel
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.
V8. Opposite to the ignorance of the so-called ‘teachers of the law’ Paul puts the “we know” of the Christian faith. This is the Christian knowledge that you may possess through good teaching, in contradiction to the false teachers. Only a person who is informed of the truth of God can put everything in the right place.
You do not need to have any doubt regarding the law and the use of it. From verse 8 Paul impressively explains how to understand the law. These verses are of huge importance for the Christian. In general terms, the reformed part of Christianity holds on to the law ‘out of gratitude’. But also regarding the evangelic part of Christianity the stream that makes a plea to reinstate the law, or some parts of it, by keeping them again, is getting broader.
Paul judges both those who engage themselves with fables and genealogies and the teachers of the law. Though there is a huge distinction. The fables and genealogies come forth from the imagination of man, while the law comes from God. Therefore the law is also good (Rom 7:12). The point in this is how you use the law.
You ought to use the law “lawfully” which means in accordance with the intention of it. So you should know the intention. It is important to bear in mind that the law is given:
1. at Mount Sinai, approximately 2500 years after Adam or 1500 years before Christ, so it was not from creation (Rom 5:20; Gal 3:19);
2. to Israel, that is to only one nation (Rom 9:4);
3. in order to separate this nation from the other nations (Eph 2:14-15);
4. as a tutor until Christ (Gal 3:24), which indicates its temporal character.
Furthermore, the power of the law lies in the judgment. The law brings about wrath (Rom 4:15) and is the ministry of death (2Cor 3:7,9). The law cannot give the power to fulfill God’s holy demands. It clearly puts sin as a transgression in the light (Rom 3:20) and judges without mercy though righteously (Heb 10:28).
V9. Therefore Paul wants you to realize first “that law is not made for a righteous person”. Just like in the previous verse this ‘knowing’ is the knowing of the Christian truth in contradiction to Judaism. It is the ‘knowing’ that all possess who live by faith and who live in the era of faith.
A righteous person is somebody who by faith in Christ is declared righteous before God (Rom 4:5; 5:1,9). The law of God cannot possibly be applied to such a person anymore, because Christ has already freed him from all his sins by bearing the judgment Himself over these sins. The demand of the law has had its full effect. Christ went into death. He who believes in Him has gone into death with Him. It is foolishness to apply the law to somebody who is dead.
In addition to that, it is so that the law cannot possibly be fulfilled by anyone. The law is not to blame for that, but man. Every man, whether he is a Christian or not, who puts himself under the law, even if it is out of gratitude, puts himself under the curse by doing that (Gal 3:10). The believer is not under the law (Rom 6:14; 7:4,6; Gal 3:23,25), for he is in Christ (2Cor 5:17) and Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Rom 10:4).
I hope that this is enough to convince you that you, ‘a righteous person’, have got nothing to do with the law as a means to put your relationship with God in order. Whom are you supposed to apply the law to? The law is from God and can be used lawfully (in contradiction to the ‘fables’ of verse 4) as a sword for the conscience of the sinner. In that way the sinner can be convinced that he is a sinner. Paul highlights a number of categories, in order to conclude with an all comprehending category.
He starts with some categories which he combines with the word “and”. The first couple consists of the “lawless and rebellious”. A ‘lawless’ person is somebody who refuses to recognize any form of authority. A ‘rebellious’ person refuses to obey a command. The law should be presented to such people to make clear to them that they bring God’s wrath upon themselves.
“The ungodly and sinners” form the second couple. An ‘ungodly man’ doesn’t consider God; he doesn’t care about God at all. A ‘sinner’ misses the purpose of God for his life.
With the next couple, the “unholy and profane”, not only is something missing, but it has a negative meaning. An ‘unholy person’ lives in connection with corruption. A ‘profane person’ is not only ungodly, but treats God disrespectfully; he provokes Him by his life style.
The previous couples clearly show the inner corruptness of man and his alienation from God. In the next categories it is about the deeds that come forth from the man who lives in such a condition. These deeds form a direct violation of a command.
“Liars” and “perjurers” violate the ninth commandment (Exo 20:16).
After this summary Paul doesn’t conclude the list with ‘every other thing that contradicts the law’. That is important to notice. Instead of that he concludes with a higher measure to determine what sin is. It is “whatever else is contrary to sound teaching”, that is the healthy making doctrine. In that doctrine the holiness of God is fully maintained. That doctrine is pure and without the fusion of strange, human thoughts.
The sins mentioned in the previous verses are not only judged by the law. They are also in contrast with the sound doctrine of the New Testament.
V11. That sound doctrine is fully in accordance with “the glorious gospel of the blessed God”. God is the blessed God Who finds all blessing in Himself, but Who also wants men to partake of His blessing through the gospel.
This gospel goes far beyond the law. In the gospel God doesn’t speak by thunder and lightning from Mount Sinai, but therein He speaks in the fullness of His grace and truth in Christ, in order to show mercy to lost sinners. At Mount Sinai His fullness was not seen. There God revealed Himself in His demands, that means in what suits His holiness and righteousness. The ‘glory of God’ on the contrary is the totality of all His perfections that above all became visible in Christ on the cross.
In ‘the glorious gospel’ the glory of God is revealed in Christ (2Cor 4:4). Your eyes have been opened for the glory of God. The sublime effect of this gospel is that you can be more and more changed according to Christ. Therefore you should be occupied with the glory of Christ (2Cor 3:18).
This gospel has been “entrusted” to Paul. He met that gospel when he was on his way to Damascus (Acts 22:6,11). The glory that he then saw is the starting point of his ministry. When Paul speaks about the gospel he mentions full of vivacity that it was entrusted to him. He takes it as a matter of honor that he can proclaim the gospel. Is that also the case with you?
Now read 1 Timothy 1:8-11 again.
Reflection: Mention some differences between the gospel and the law.
12 - 14 The Past and Now
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are [found] in Christ Jesus.
V12. The section of verses 12-17 shows the contrast between what is entrusted to Paul and the law. Paul had already said in verse 11 what was entrusted to him and it impresses him again. Therefore he turns to the Source, the Origin of his service and thanks “Christ Jesus our Lord” for the service that He had entrusted to him. He doesn’t thank Him for the redemption here, but for what the Lord wants to do with him on that basis. Do you also do that?
For that service you are – as Paul is – not dependent on your own strength. If you try that you will surely fail in your service. But the Lord gives strength. Paul is aware of that and it is important that you too are aware. On the one hand you should not work in your own strength. On the other hand there is one thing that indeed has to be present in you, in order to do your service rightly, and that is “faithfulness”.
Because the Lord knew that Paul would be faithful He entrusted him with that service. In his life before his conversion Paul had already shown a high degree of faithfulness and zeal. His deeds were condemnable, but his faithfulness and zeal were exemplary. His conversion has caused that those qualities could be used by the Lord in the service for Him. With what he formerly served to his own honor he now glorifies his Lord.
Therefore you should not wait for an official confirmation by people before you start to do something for the Lord. Older and more mature believers could indeed encourage and advise you in your service. It would be a proof of willfulness if you do not care about that. Nevertheless, the Lord remains your Commanding Officer. He has employed you and you owe responsibility to Him for what you do and for the way you do it.
V13. When Paul remembers his past he becomes more grateful that the Lord wants to use him in His service. According to human standards he is the most inappropriate person for a ministry as the one of verse 11, but according to God’s standards there is no one suitable for that ministry except him (see verse 16). He remembers very well that he “formerly was a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (cf. Gal 1:13).
Do you remember who you were before your conversion? Or if you haven’t experienced such a radical conversion, have you discovered how much sinfulness is hidden in your heart? If you think about your past or about the malice of the thoughts that you can have, doesn’t the grace of God amaze you from time to time? Doesn’t that impress you deeply that He saved you and now wants to use you?
Without pride or loftiness Paul mentions that he was formerly ‘a blasphemer’, which means that he spoke out curses. His deeds were in line with that. He was ‘a persecutor’ of the saints, he chased them and hunted for them. His whole attitude was that of a brutal and criminal man, ‘an insolent man’. He rampaged as a lunatic. From several quotes of Luke or of himself regarding that in Acts you can understand that nothing would give him more pleasure than exterminating all Christians (e.g. Acts 7:58; 8:3; 9:1,13-14,21; 22:20; 26:9-11).
Then, initiated by the word “yet”, the big contrast appears between what he deserved and what he received. Paul acknowledges the mercy that was shown to him, while he rampaged like a mad man against the Lord Jesus. To him “was shown mercy”. He was not familiar to this word formerly. Without any mercy he persecuted the Christians. At that time he was a minister of the law and the law knows no mercy (Heb 10:28). Now he had obtained it he wishes others to obtain it also (1Tim 1:2; 2Tim 1:2,16,18; Tit 1:4).
God could show mercy to Paul, because he didn’t know what he was doing when he persecuted the church (cf. Lk 23:34; Acts 3:17). He did it “ignorantly”. That doesn’t mean that he was not guilty. He surely was. He had sinned, but with ignorance. He had not willfully resisted against God’s will. He had sinned ‘unintentionally’ and not ‘defiantly’ (Lev 22:14; Num 15:22-31). What he did was done with a good conscience (Acts 23:1; 2Tim 1:3).
He intended to serve God by that, he thought that he had to do ‘many things’ contrary to the Name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 26:9; Jn 16:2). His opinion was formed according to the religion of his fathers. Through them he had learnt to know the true God. Therefore the only conclusion could be that the Christian faith and the Old Testament faith in the Lord (Yahweh) were opposites. By killing Christians he intended to defend the honor of God. He showed zeal, but without knowledge (Rom 10:2; Acts 22:3). His intensions made him blind for God’s revelation in Christ and it made him the chief of sinners.
Isn’t it perplexing that a man who was taught in the Scriptures in such a way and who had received the best education (at the feet of Gamaliel, Acts 22:3), has to say that he did something ‘ignorantly’? Here you have a proof that the best theological education is no guarantee to understand the sound doctrine (cf. 1Cor 2:14). On the contrary, it may lead to a practice that fully contrasts the Word of God.
He was acting “in unbelief”. In his former deeds there was no trust in God. They were all performances of the sinful flesh, the own ‘I’. Just like God’s stewardship moves within the realm of faith (‘in faith’, verse 4), just like that the former life of Paul happened in the realm of unbelief. “And whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).
V14. Deeply impressed by the mercy he obtained Paul then speaks about a “grace” that “was more than abundant” (see also Rom 5:20). He does that, because that grace was given to him as the chief of all sinners. By showing grace to him, it exceeded beyond each limitation a man could think of. His conversion is the proof that the grace of the Lord is greater than the greatest sin. He is the prime example to prove that the patience of God is bigger than the perseverance of His most embittered enemy.
And it is “our Lord” Who gave that grace to him. He doesn’t say ‘my’ Lord, but “our Lord”. In that way he puts Timothy, to whom he addresses in this letter, in the same relation with the Lord like he has, and in the same grace which has become his part. Grace always stands against wage (Rom 4:4). Grace means fully undeserved merit. A right consciousness of the grace granted will make us dedicated servants.
Together with the grace the Lord gave to him he also gave “faith and love”. That ‘faith’ and that ‘love’ become visible in his life. He lives in full confidence of faith in the Lord and serves Him with all the love from his heart. “In Christ Jesus” his life finds its object and purpose. Ever since Christ Jesus has shown Paul His more than abundant grace, He is the whole atmosphere of his life. Everything that expresses his faith and his love happens from the fellowship with Him.
Now read 1 Timothy 1:12-14 again.
Reflection: Consider what you were formerly and what you have become through the grace of God. In what way is the difference seen in your case?
15 - 17 Honor and Glory To God
15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost [of all]. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, [be] honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
V15. “It is a trustworthy statement.” This beautiful and encouraging expression only appears in the pastoral letters (1Tim 3:1; 4:9; 2Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8). When every support has fallen away and you seem to stand alone, the statement of the Word of God will never fail you. You can always count on it. Whether it is about the salvation of sinners (here) or about the ministry in the house of God (1Tim 3:1) or about Godliness (1Tim 4:9) or about our future (2Tim 2:11) or about our inheritance (Tit 3:8), the statement of the Word of God always gives security and something to hold on to.
Because the Word of God is that faithful it is therefore “deserving full acceptance”. This addition is also to be found in 1 Timothy 4 (1Tim 4:9). And why is it worthy of all acceptance here? Because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (cf. Lk 19:10). This truth has not the slightest effect when it is not accepted in faith. There is salvation only for him who believes this undeniable truth (Rom 1:16).
“The world” indicates the atmosphere the Lord Jesus entered as Man. He not only exchanged heaven for a place on earth, but He entered a world where sin and death rule, the territory where sinners dwell. He came from the wonderful realm of heaven into a realm of darkness, hatred and death, in order to save sinners from that world.
Sinners feel at home in the world as fish in the water. But where the world lies in evil and is ripening for the judgment, the love that God our Savior has for man in Christ Jesus has appeared in the world to save men from this judgment. Before the Lord Jesus came into the world God used all means to enable man to come into connection with Him. However, man failed hopelessly. Then God gave His Son. This is what exactly fully revealed the desperate situation of man, for then his hatred towards God became apparent. At the same time on the contrary, God’s love was also fully revealed.
Paul is better than anyone aware of that. When he thinks of himself as a sinner he could only say “among whom I am foremost [of all]” (cf. 1Cor 15:9; Eph 3:8). He wanted to be the active enemy of the faith everywhere, in order to eradicate the Name of the Lord Jesus. He even went to foreign cities to do that (Acts 26:11). He stood at the front of the line of those who were filled with hatred towards Christ.
When Paul says that it is without exaggeration, but it is a profoundly conscious experience of his own unworthiness. He neither says ‘of whom I was chief’, but “am”. This consciousness becomes bigger the more he sees the grace of the Lord Jesus.
You see his consciousness grow bigger when he tells about his conversion history. In his conversion there is mention of “a light from heaven” (Acts 9:3). The first time that he testifies to this he tells that “a very bright light … from heaven” shone around him (Acts 22:6). The second time he speaks about “a light from heaven, brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13). Are you more and more impressed daily by what God has done with you in your conversion?
V16. In verse 13 Paul mentions the cause of God’s mercy towards him: he did it ignorantly. Here Paul explains what the purpose is of the mercy shown to him: God wanted to make him a pattern of the expression of grace to all. That is embedded in the words “so that”, which indicates the purpose. The mercy he obtained was therefore not for himself alone, but it also has a meaning to others.
When there is salvation for the chief of sinners there is salvation for everyone. You can compare it to a sluice gate. When the largest ship can go through the sluice gate every other ship is able to go through it also. In his former life Paul is, as it were, the embodiment of all enemies of Christ. Now he has converted to God and believes in the Lord Jesus he is also the representative of those “who would believe in Him”.
God has shown him “perfect patience”. ‘Patience’ indicates how God responds to the kicking and bashing of the rebellious man whom Paul was. God tolerated him when he was fiercely bashing the disciples of the Lord Jesus. The conversion of Paul is the proof that in the battle for the salvation of a sinner God has the longest breath. His patience is perfect.
The salvation of Paul as the chief of sinners is a pattern for every other salvation. Was God’s patience shown to him? Then God’s patience is there for everyone. Paul was the chief, the most zealous and most embittered enemy. And he was saved. Then he is the best and most powerful witness that grace is abundant over sin and that the work of Christ is perfectly capable to remove that sin.
The example of what happened to Paul is not intended to indicate that each conversion should be like that. It is intended to show what God can do. Each conversion happens differently, because the life course of each person is different. God will not judge a person earlier than when His patience is fully shown to that person and because that person doesn’t respond to that. Concerning Paul, His patience has the desired result, a result that God wishes for every sinner (2Pet 3:9).
The eternal life is the part of everyone who believes (Jn 3:16). That regards to what a person inwardly receives. The Lord Jesus is the eternal life. He who believes, receives Him as his life. But there is also a future aspect. Paul’s view of the eternal life here is something that lies in the future (cf. Tit 3:7). When the believer will be with the Lord Jesus in glory he will fully enjoy the eternal life till eternity: the uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and the Son (Jn 17:3).
V17. The gratitude of verse 12 swells in a praise in verse 17. Paul is overwhelmed by everything that the Lord has done for him as a sinner and what He did to him by putting him into the service. Praise arises from him for the grace of God. In Romans 11 the wisdom of God is the cause of a praise (Rom 11:33-35) and in Ephesians 3 he shouts out because of the love of God (Eph 3:14-21).
He praises God as “the King eternal”. As ‘King eternal’ God will achieve His aim with all things through the ages. In that way he directs the course of the world history, but also the history of every man. In His great majesty and sovereignty He is exalted above the time and turbulence of the world and people. He has the ages at His disposal. He accomplishes His plan of salvation with creation and with men. Paul has personally experienced that God is ‘the King eternal’.
He honors Him as the “immortal, invisible, … only God”. Immortal means not to be decreased by death and stands against all things that are mortal and corruptible, especially the idols (Rom 1:23). The same word is used for the bodies of the saints in the resurrection (1Cor 15:52), for the inheritance of the saints (1Pet 1:4) and for the gentle and quiet spirit of the Godly woman (1Pet 3:4).
God is also “invisible”, which means not to be observed by the eye of man (1Tim 6:16; Rom 1:20; Col 1:15; Heb 11:27). In Christ He has revealed Himself. That means He made Himself visible (Jn 1:18; 14:9; Col 1:15). He also is “the only God” (Jn 5:44; 17:3; Jude 1:25). All other gods are idols, the work of men’s hands. God is absolutely unique in His Being and worthiness.
He is worthy of all “honor and glory forever and ever”. All His dignities that He has revealed, His glory that became visible, are a reason to sing Him praises forever and ever. We are allowed to start with that now already and continue that endlessly.
With a wholehearted “amen”, which means ‘so be it’, Paul concludes his praise. Of course we heartily agree to that.
Now read 1 Timothy 1:15-17 again.
Reflection: Praise God for Who He is, for what He has done for you and what He has made of you. Use the names of God that you have been made familiar with. Tell Him what these names mean to you.
18 - 20 Prophecies and the Good Fight
18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, [my] son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, 19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
V18. You may say that verses 6-17 are an interruption in the argument of Paul. He clearly showed the difference between law and grace in that section. The command he is speaking of in verse 18 therefore connects to what he said about that in verse 5. Now to Timothy he explains what the basis is of the command. Besides, he initiates that explanation with the words out of which confidence and fatherly love appear: “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, [my] son.”
It must have been an encouragement for the young Timothy from the elder Paul to be entrusted with a command. Paul doesn’t do that out of favoritism or sentimentality, but because he ‘believes’ in Timothy and he tells him that too. That is very meaningful for Timothy. The Lord has called him, but it is also nice that Paul underlines that. Older believers who are spiritually minded may declare themselves united with the calling and the ministry of a younger believer.
Timothy is reminded of “the prophecies previously made concerning” him for the execution of the command. The command that Paul is giving him is in accordance to that. The issue here is not about exceptional revelations of others concerning Timothy. It is simply about prophecies concerning Timothy by believers who recognize a work of God’s Spirit in him. Timothy has a good testimony for miles around (Acts 16:2). When something like that is being noticed then it can be prophesied that he will certainly be used by the Lord.
When you look at the preparation of Timothy regarding his ministry then you can discover four aspects that have played a role:
1. The prophecies previously made (1Tim 1:18).
2. The gift of God (1Tim 4:14; 2Tim 1:6).
3. The laying on of the hands of Paul (2Tim 1:6).
4. The laying on of the hands of the eldership (1Tim 4:14).
We shall pay attention to the aspects 2, 3 and 4 when we will be studying the verses regarding to those aspects. Here Timothy is reminded by Paul of the ‘prophecies previously made’ in order to encourage him again. It is an exceptional support in the fulfillment of the responsibility that goes together with the ministry he has to achieve.
He did not accidentally run into this position. Therefore it doesn’t have to be a surprise to others that he is carrying out a command of the apostle. Everyone who knows him has noticed his spiritual growth. Some already saw that in an early stage and must have said: ‘That boy will be very useful to the Lord.’ Others may have only noticed it when his ministry touched them personally. Do you have any idea of what the case is concerning yourself?
With the support of what others have seen in him he can start “the good fight”. Considering the command of verse 3 the good fight (or: struggle) Paul is appealing for here will happen particularly in the house of God with a view to false teachings. The fight against it is a good, honorable and a God pleasing fight.
There are more kinds of struggle you are appealed for after a struggle you have already fought. The latter struggle is that of a sinner to be saved (Lk 13:24; Mt 7:13-14). It was particularly a warfare against yourself, against everything that wanted to keep you from confessing your sins to God and to accept the Lord Jesus in faith.
Your fight or struggle as a believer is against things outside yourself. This warfare has different aspects. In this sense you read about
1. the struggle in the gospel (Phil 4:3);
2. the struggle against the evil powers etc. (Eph 6:12-18);
3. the striving against sin as a power outside us (Heb 12:4-5);
4. the content for the faith which is the truth of the faith (Jude 1:3-4);
5. the strive in prayers (Rom 15:30);
6 the good fight (that includes all the several kinds of struggles or fights previously mentioned (1Tim 1:18; 6:12; 2Tim 4:7).
You have to do with fight because you find yourself in a hostile area. You are standing before the Lord and you defend His interests and those of your fellow believers. It should never be a fight for your own interests. Another danger is that you avoid the fight. But that is really inappropriate for someone who owes everything to the Lord. I want to believe that you, like I do, want to look like Timothy and that you therefore will not avoid the fight. Therefore you should care about everything that Paul says to Timothy as an encouragement in this context.
V19. In this fight your personal “faith” is absolutely essential. The point here is your inner confidence of faith, the perseverance in God’s faithfulness, even when the fight is very fierce. Hold on to your confidence of faith in the fight. Don’t give up on your perseverance in God, how great the pressure may be that the enemy is exerting on you.
An equally important condition to fight the good fight is the possession and preservation of “a good conscience”. The conscience works like a compass that indicates every deviation from the right course. But it is therefore necessary that the needle of the compass points to the Word of God. If the conscience is not pure it will influence the ministry, the fight. The essential power is not fully there and therefore the Holy Spirit cannot work freely.
There is also the possibility that you ‘reject’ a good conscience. That is when you ignore the warnings of the Spirit. These are the warnings that He gives when you want to go or are going the wrong way, or when you make plans according to your own will. This ‘rejecting’ of these warnings is a conscious action; you are doing it yourself. Therefore you yourself are to blame for the “shipwreck”.
When you, despite the warnings you received through your conscience, persevere in your own will it will damage your view upon the content of the truth of the faith. This is what is meant here by “the faith”. It refers to what you believe: the content of your faith, the truth of the faith that is handed to you in God’s Word. ‘Faith’ here actually has a different meaning than ‘faith’ at the beginning of this verse. There it means ‘confidence of faith’ and here it means ‘the truth of the faith’ or ‘the content of the faith’.
When you do not judge the first wrong step before God you will deviate further. The enemy has an easy entrance when there is mention of a bad conscience, because you have allowed evil to enter and you have not judged it. The result is that you will also fail concerning the doctrine of the Scripture. You will distort Scripture quotes and explain and maneuver them in such a way, in order to ease your conscience and to continue your misguided path.
V20. Paul gives names of those, whose faith has suffered shipwreck, in particular “Hymenaeus and Alexander”. These people must have been familiar in Ephesus, otherwise naming them wouldn’t be that meaningful. Paul “handed” them “over to Satan”. He was able to do this as an apostle. This he does also at Corinth (1Cor 5:5). Because the issue there was a matter of discipline and chastisement that the church at Corinth had to exert, he expects that the church will agree to that. The obligation of the church is mentioned there (1Cor 5:13b).
The persons mentioned by name have listened to satan. They have been his instruments and they had let themselves to be used by him. They now have to feel who he is whom they had listened to. In this way God makes use of satan himself as a stick to chasten His rebellious children for their own good. Satan becomes their teacher by the means of the pains that he makes them suffer. He gets free reign with such a person, although it is within the limits determined by God (cf. Job 1:12; 2:6).
Satan is always seeking someone’s destruction, while God always seeks salvation for a person. God uses satan to accomplish His plan. The purpose of each chastisement is the restoration of the soul that has deviated.
These people “blasphemed”, something that Paul did before his conversion (verse 13). ‘Blaspheming’ is to speak despicably about God, His Word and His people. They must learn not to do that by the chastisement Paul brought upon them by handing them over to satan.
Now read again 1 Timothy 1:18-20.
Reflection: How can you prevent suffering shipwreck concerning the faith?