New Defender's Study Bible Notes
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.
1:1 our hope Our “hope” is not in this world; it is Christ, not some vague wish but a “confident expectation,” which is the meaning of the Greek word. It is a “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), a living hope (I Peter 1:3), a saving hope (Romans 8:24), a glorious hope (Colossians 1:27), a joyful hope (Romans 5:2), a reasonable hope (I Peter 3:15), a purifying hope (I John 3:3), a stabilizing hope (Hebrews 6:19), and an everlasting hope (II Thessalonians 2:16).
1:2 Timothy. Timothy (meaning “honor to God”) was the son of a Greek father and a devout Jewish mother (Acts 16:1). His mother and grandmother had instructed him in the Scriptures in childhood. Apparently they had come to believe in Christ as a result of Paul’s message and testimony at Lystra on his first missionary journey (II Timothy 1:5; 3:15). On Paul’s second trip to Lystra, he was so impressed with young Timothy and his Christian character that Paul urged Timothy to accompany him on the rest of his journey, first arranging for Timothy to be circumcised in order not to offend the Jews in the cities where they would be witnessing (Acts 16:3). From then on, Timothy worked closely with Paul right up to the end of Paul’s life, though often being sent away on special assignments.
1:3 abide still at Ephesus. There is no record of this assignment in the book of Acts, and the same is true of other personal references in this epistle. This is one of the reasons most New Testament scholars believe that Paul was released after his first incarceration at Rome, although the book of Acts closes with his imprisonment. He then, presumably, continued to travel and preach at many places throughout the Roman empire. Eventually, he was again arrested, this time under the severe waves of persecution by the emperor Nero, and was finally executed. I Timothy, it is believed, was written between the two imprisonments; II Timothy was written from prison, shortly before he was put to death by Nero’s order.
1:3 doctrine. Doctrine (i.e., teaching) is often downgraded today in the church in favor of an emphasis on love. Nevertheless, sound doctrine must come first; true Christian love is the natural product of sound doctrine (I Timothy 1:5).
1:4 fables and endless genealogies. These “fables and endless genealogies” are generally thought to be rabbinical traditions, since the Ephesian church where Timothy was pastoring (I Timothy 1:3) had been plagued from the start by Jewish opponents of Paul (Acts 19:8-9). However, Gentile converts were also numerous (Acts 19:10), and these had come from a background of pagan evolutionary philosophy, featuring the worship of the nature goddess Diana (Acts 19:35). Like other forms of evolutionism, Greek paganism was a nest of fables and a great chain of genealogical relationships extending back into eternity. All such compromises with either legalism or evolutionism, ancient or modern, are utterly bereft of spiritual edification.
1:10 defile themselves with mankind. In contrast to the modern rush to make homosexuality an approved life style, it is noteworthy that the Apostle Paul classifies homosexuals right along with murderers and pimps.
1:10 menstealers. These are “kidnappers” or “slave-catchers.”
1:15 a faithful saying. There are three other “faithful sayings” noted by the Apostle Paul (I Timothy 4:9; II Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8), all in the pastoral epistles.
1:15 I am chief. Right near the end of a uniquely fruitful Christian life, Paul still considered himself chief of sinners. Earlier he had called himself “least of the apostles” (I Corinthians 15:9), then later “less than the least of all saints” (Ephesians 3:8).
1:17 only wise God. Some manuscripts do not include the word “wise” in this doxology, but it is clearly appropriate and certainly should be retained. God is not only eternal, incorruptible and omnipresent, but also omniscient.
1:19 good conscience. Note I Timothy 1:5. Holding the true faith is naturally compatible with a good conscience. If one lapses into moral sin, it is a short step to explaining away the faith, and vice versa.
1:20 Hymenaeus. The blasphemy of Hymenaeus, and presumably that of Alexander, was denial of the future bodily resurrection (II Timothy 2:17-18), evidently holding that the resurrection was simply the spiritual change when a person is born again. This was called blasphemy, because it denied not only the teachings of Paul (e.g., I Thessalonians 4:16-17), but also of Christ Himself (e.g., John 5:25-29).
1:20 delivered unto Satan. The action of “[delivering] unto Satan” probably includes more than excommunication from the church. The same action mentioned in I Corinthians 5:5 speaks of “destruction of the flesh” as a possible chastisement, not carried out by the church, but by the Lord.