Introduction to I Timothy
This is the first of Paul’s three pastoral epistles. Timothy was Paul’s stalwart young disciple, to whom he gave many responsibilities. Paul first met him at Lystra, probably while on his first missionary journey. Paul invited him to join with him in his ministry on his second missionary journey when he again came to Lystra (Acts 16:1-3), the same city where he had once been stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:1,19). Timothy had been diligently trained in the Scriptures by his mother and grandmother (II Timothy 1:5), and then was evidently led to Christ by Paul himself, for Paul regarded him as his son in the faith (I Timothy 1:2).
Timothy served Paul in numerous ways throughout Paul’s travels. He was with Paul and Silas when Paul wrote his two letters to the Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:1) from Corinth, where Timothy had joined Paul after ministering in Berea while Paul was in Athens (Acts 17:16; 18:5).
He was also with Paul in Macedonia when II Corinthians was written and in Corinth when Romans was written (Romans 16:21). However, when Paul wrote to Timothy himself, Timothy was apparently serving in Ephesus (I Timothy 1:3), while Paul had gone back into Macedonia. There is no indication of this particular situation in the narrative of Acts, so it is likely that this was written after Paul’s release from his first imprisonment in Rome. Since Acts closes at the point of Paul’s rather comfortable incarceration in Rome awaiting his appeal (Acts 28:30), it is almost certain that Paul was later released and was able to continue his missionary ministries for another few years.
It was during that time, apparently, that Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to lead the important church there for a time. In his letter to Timothy, presumably written from Philippi about A.D. 63, Paul is instructing Timothy concerning church structure, order and teachings. In particular, he wanted to guide Timothy in ordaining bishops and deacons for the church (I Timothy 3:1-13), who were then to lead the church on an ongoing basis.
Paul also warned Timothy of the dangers to the church from occultic teachings and from pseudo-scientific philosophy (I Timothy 4:1-5; 6:19-20). These warnings are as appropriate today as they were in the first century, with New Age practices and evolutionary philosophies abounding today in liberal churches and even affecting great numbers of evangelical churches.
Like most of the Pauline epistles, the Pastoral Epistles (I and II Timothy and Titus) were unanimously accepted as genuine Pauline writings by all the early church fathers. The personal references in I Timothy are so many and so clear that they could not have been forged by someone using Paul’s name (I Timothy 1:1), even though a few modern critics have argued weakly for such an idea. There is surely no reason to question either the Pauline authorship or the divine inspiration of this first epistle of Paul to young Timothy.