1 Timothy 1 Commentary

1 Timothy Chapter 1 Commentary

Tod Kennedy


This study of 1 Timothy will be a brief verse by verse commentary with selected Greek words, doctrines that relate to the text, and applications for our lives. See Paul’s missionary trips and imprisonments and Timothy Biography .

Chapter Titles for 1 Timothy

  1. Paul’s philosophy of ministry
  2. Pray for others; godly women
  3. Overseers, deacons, and conduct in the church
  4. Departure from the faith; train for godliness
  5. Respectfully challenge; widows; elders
  6. Slaves and masters, godliness, money

Argument of Chapter one

Chapter 1, Paul’s philosophy of ministry

Paul gives his biblical philosophy for ministry as it applies to Timothy in Ephesus and the problems there (1 Timothy 1:1-5). The problems stemmed from the failed on-site leadership (1 Timothy 1:6-11). Paul then gives his own brief biographical sketch that emphasizes God’s grace, strength, mercy, and appointment to the ministry (1 Timothy 1:12-17). He concludes by instructing Timothy to faithfully carry out his ministry and specifically fight the good fight, keep his faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:18-20).

Exposition and Commentary

Chapter 1, Paul’s philosophy of ministry

  1. 1 Timothy 1:1-2. Paul writes to Timothy, whom he met years before in Lystra (a town in south central Asia Minor) when Timothy was a young man (Acts 16:1-2). Paul built up Timothy in the faith and eventually delegated ministry and authority to him so he would serve Jesus Christ.
    1. The church in Ephesus was a new part of God’s program. That church, as all churches, needed authority, instruction, and leadership. God gave apostles (ἀπόστολος apostolos) for this purpose. They and New Testament prophets were the foundation of the church and Jesus was the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:11-16). Timothy, Titus, and others were subordinate to the apostles. Pastors and teachers followed them. They and we build upon the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Apostles were the highest ranking men in the newly begun church. God gifted them, gave specific revelation to be written down and circulated, and sent them to minister. Not everything God revealed to the apostles was written in the Bible. What we have is what God wanted in the Bible. They did much teaching to many people in many locations over many years. See the doctrine of special revelation (revelation -> inspiration -> illumination -> communication. The gift of apostleship stopped when the last apostle died. Paul gives his common opening of wishing grace and peace (dative of possession with understood optative of obtainable wish; and see 1 Peter 1:2) which he does in 10 of his epistles. Here Paul adds mercy as he does in 2 Timothy and Titus. Doctrines include Paul, Apostleship, Timothy, Ministry, Christology, Timothy, Paterology (God the Father), Grace, Mercy, Peace, Temporary Spiritual Gifts.
  2. 1 Timothy 1:3-11. We need to look closely at this section because it marks out why Paul urged Timothy to stay on in Ephesus (1:3) and details the source of the trouble that Timothy must stop—useless and misleading teaching (1 Timothy 1:3,4,6.7). The issue is, stay with the Bible text: what does it say, what does it mean, and what to do with what it means. Gifted men prepare believers for service. This requires the Bible, the Holy Spirit, faith, teachable people, and within the local church.
    1. Verses 3-4a. The fundamental problem that Paul addresses is that there are some teachers in Ephesus, believers, who have strayed (1 Timothy 1:5, straying ἐκτρέπω to turn away, be dislocated, aorist passive indicative, third plural) from their purpose. Note that Timothy is to teach, correct, and train “certain men.” These men are those who should be leading, teaching, and responsibly serving God and the church. Communicators of God’s word must stay with the Bible text. Verse, 1 Timothy 1:4, summarizes their ministry as “the administration of God which is by faith.” Instead of serving God they now teach different doctrine (ἑτεροδιδασκαλέω heterodidaskaleo, present active infinitive, 1 Timothy 1:3), pay attention to myths (μῦθος muthos; a popular tradition or legend that has grown up which may or may not have some source in history) and endless (ἀπέραντος aperantos) genealogies (γενεαλογία genealogia; list of characters going on and on) which offer (προσέχω prosecho) useless speculation (ἐκζήτησις ekzetesis, useless speculation, only in Christian writings and only here in the Greek NT; 1 Timothy 1:4; something assumed as possible, something sought out as possible, a theory without evidence). These topics had been substituted in place of revealed doctrine. They are not equipping the saints and not providing the food for spiritual growth and service. Compare 2 Timothy 2:23, 4:3-4. The church needs spiritual leaders who will teach God’s word to the congregation (see 2 Timothy 2:15). Doctrines include False Doctrine, Preparation of Believers (through gifted men, word of God, Holy Spirit, faith, tests and service within the sphere of the local church), Importance of the Bible.
    2. Verses 1 Timothy 1:4b-6. Furthermore, because they have strayed from God’s goal (τέλος telos, end, termination, goal, outcome) for the ministry (1 Timothy 1:5), they have turned aside to fruitless speculation (ματαιολογία mataiologia empty, fruitless, idle talk, 1 Timothy 1:6). Not only was Timothy to stay in Ephesus to put a stop to this worthless and wrong teaching, on the positive side he was to instruct these men about the administration or responsible stewardship (οἰκονομία oikonomia, means management of a household, dispensation, stewardship) that God had given to them for the benefit of God’s church. They are to administer the church in Ephesus and do this by faith and according to the standard of God’s revelation (1 Timothy 1:4). Each one has a spiritual gift, various ministries, and God will work the results as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7. These and all communicators of God’s word have a responsibility to God. See Colossians 1:25 for the same word (administration) in a similar context. See also 1 Corinthians 9:17 and Ephesians 3:2 for this word. God’s teaching leaders should carry out their stewardship by faith—that is, believing God and serving by or in faith according to God’s revelation. To further clarify the correct and needed stewardship Paul gives the goal (τέλος telos, end, termination, goal, outcome) of their ministry—the development of love (ἀγάπη agape), a good conscience (συνείδησις suneidesis), and an unhypocritical (ἀνυπόκριτος anupokritos) faith. This they were not doing. Doctrines include include Revelation-Inspiration-Illumination-Communication, Pastor and Teacher, Teacher, Equipping of the Saints, Spiritual Growth, Ministry and Love.
    3. Verses 7-11. In verse 1 Timothy 1:7, these men wanted to be teachers of the Old Testament law (νομοδιδάσκαλος nomodidaskalos; also in Luke 5:17 and Acts 5:34), but they did not understand the law. When they did teach the law they should have put it in its historical context and brought out the many lessons it taught. The law is good (1 Timothy 1:8), it provides moral absolutes to restrain and correct those living contrary to God’s will (1 Timothy 1:10), and is sound and healthy teaching (1 Timothy 1:10). This law followed or fit (kata according to) God’s good news (εὐαγγέλιον euaggelion)—God’s word. All of God’s word, Scripture, is sound healthy teaching. Paul was also entrusted with sound teaching, and Timothy’s job is to bring these men into line with this sound teaching (1 Timothy 1:11). The people in Ephesus needed church age doctrine and correct understand of the Old Testament. The list of sins in 1 Timothy 1:9, 10 (13 are listed) are not only sins according to the Bible but also sins by most cultures. Also see Romans 1:18-32 for sins that people were accepting. One that is promoted as an acceptable lifestyle by many today is homosexual activity (ἀρσενοκοίτης, arsenokoites, ἄρσην ‘male’ + κοίτη ‘bed’ verse 1 Timothy 1:10). Doctrines include Preparation for Ministry, Strange and Petty Doctrines, Ministry, Spiritual Gifts, Mosaic Law, Morality, Sin, God, Gospel.
  3. 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Paul, in this section, reviews his spiritual journey from the time he was motivated by religion to violently oppose Jesus Christ until he believed in Jesus Christ and the changes that happened in his life. He begins with thanks (1 Timothy 1:12) and ends with doxology (1 Timothy 1:17).
    1. Verse 12. Paul thanks Jesus Christ our Lord—who strengthened him for service—for thinking him faithful and putting him into the ministry as an apostle, even though he was a chief sinner—one of the worst because he focused on religious persecution of Christians (1 Timothy 1:13, 15). This was God’s grace in action. The same can be true for us. Paul also expresses this thought of his unworthiness and God’s grace to him in 1 Corinthians 15:9 and Ephesians 3:8. Jesus thought about Paul and knew he would be faithful in ministry (πιστός pistos reliable, trustworthy, dependable). In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 Paul wrote that a steward was required to be trustworthy (πιστός pistos faithful, the same word as 1 Timothy 1:12). Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, used the word steward (οἰκονόμος oikonomos) which is related to the word administration (οἰκονομία oikonomia) in 1 Timothy 1:4. A steward or administrator is one who works in an administration. Paul measured up in all respects. God considered Paul faithful in the administration of his stewardship responsibility. Not only did Jesus put him into ministry, he also strengthened Paul so that he would have the energy and ability to serve (ἐνδυναμόω endunamoo, aorist active participle, to strengthen so one is able to function). It seems that Jesus strengthens those he considers faithful; he does not waste “power” on those who will not serve. This strength is for Christian service. God graciously puts each of us in the ministry, strengthens us for the service, and wants us to be faithful. Doctrines include Christology, Spiritual Gifts, God’s Attributes, and Ministry.
    2. Verses 13-14. Paul was a violent persecutor of Christians; he acted ignorantly in unbelief—he actually thought he was helping God. This did not stop Jesus’ mercy and grace. Faith in Jesus Christ brings forgiveness and a new start (2 Corinthians 5:17). Anyone, regardless of past life, may believe in Jesus for everlasting life and be forgiven and even placed into ministry. In Philippians 2 Paul recounts his life before faith; he was very religious and a persecutor of the church. After he believed in Jesus Christ he had a new purpose, power, and attitude. Paul wrote “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal…” In 1 Timothy 1:14 Paul says that God’s grace (χάρις charis) was more than abundant, more than enough (ὑπερπλεονάζω huperpleonazo,to abound exceedingly, to run over, to overflow, aorist active indicative; only NT use) for Paul to serve correctly. Paul declares that grace provided for him what he needed to serve—faith and love (πίστις pistis and ἀγάπη agape). They are needed for ministry. Faith and love are prominent spiritual life mechanics. Note 1 Corinthians 15:10 for Paul’s story. This can also be our story. These spiritual blessings are found in relationship with Christ Jesus (verse 1 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 1:3). Doctrines include Mercy, Grace, Faith, Love, Ministry, Position in Christ, Spiritual blessings, Basic Techniques of the Christian life (Umbrella Doctrine).
    3. Verses 15-16. Here Paul clearly and concisely states why Jesus Christ came into the world. He came to save sinners (σῴζω sozo in the aorist active infinitive stating purpose). Salvation has three tenses: past, present, and future. There are two kinds of salvation: physical deliverance and everlasting deliverance. Paul here means salvation from the penalty of sin with the result that forgiveness and everlasting life are offered to all people. Paul also probably had in his mind the full range of salvation, but it must start with belief for everlasting life as he writes in verse 16. The gospel, indicated by “trustworthy statement,” means that Jesus successfully gained salvation for all who will take it (πιστὸς ὁ λόγος. trustworthy πιστός pistos reliable, trustworthy, dependable; statement ὁ λόγος ho logos word, statement, assertion, matter) and people ought to accept it. The first clause in verse 1 Timothy 1:15 is exactly the same as in 1 Timothy 3:1 where the subject is the overseer, 1 Timothy 4:9 where the subject is godliness, 2 Timothy 2:11 where the subject is the believer’s security, and Titus 3:8 where the subject is justification by grace. “It is a trustworthy statement” means the subject under discussion is true and very important. Paul also understood his great need of salvation. He was a prominent sinner—because of his pride, his religiousness, and his opposition to Jesus and to believers. In Verse 1 Timothy 1:16 Paul emphasized mercy to him. Mercy is grace in action. Mercy goes to those who are unable to help themselves. Paul and all people are helpless in sin. Ephesians 2:1 says “dead in your trespasses and sins.” Paul also says that he was an example for others: if God would patiently wait for Paul to believe in Jesus Christ, even though he was such a prominent sinner, God will wait for others to come to faith in Christ for everlasting life. Doctrines include Gospel, Tenses and Kinds of Salvation, Christology, Incarnation, Unlimited Atonement.
    4. Verse 17. Paul closes his introduction to Timothy with a doxology—praise and glory to God. Recall that verse 1 Timothy 1:12 began with thanksgiving to God. Now he concludes with praise and glory to God. We, in our personal lives, ought to take this to heart and daily do the same. God is the eternal (αἰών aion long time, without reference to beginning or end, eternal) king (βασιλεύς basileus, highest office and authority, king, also see 1 Timothy 6:15). The king is immortal or not liable to corruption and death (ἄφθαρτος aphthartos, see Romans 1:23). He is invisible (ἀόρατος unseen, invisible, see John 1:18, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 11:27, 1 John 4:12). Paul then states that God is the only God (μόνῳ θεῷ monos + theos; see John 17:3 and Romans 16:27). These are attributes of God; they describe his being. God is king over all. He is eternal. He does not wear out and does not die. He cannot be seen. Paul concludes these attributes by writing that God is the only God—the only one in his class. Anyone or any group who claim there is another God are wrong. The creator, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the human Jesus, the God of Paul, and our God is unique and alone. Honor and glory are the subjects of this verse; king is probably dative of possession. Honor and glory are possessed by the eternal king. This doxology characterizes God and implies our recognition and daily attitude of worship toward God. This reminds me that God in his greatness gave proof of the reality of the Christian faith in Acts 17:31, and then he states in Romans 8:18 that God’s glorious future for us makes present suffering fade in comparison. Paul’s other doxologies are found in Galatians 1:15, Romans 11:36 and 16:27, Philippians 4:20, Ephesians 3:21, 1 Timothy 6:16, and 2 Timothy 4:18. Doctrines include God’s Attributes, Worship.
  4. Verses 18-20. Paul, in this section, concludes his initial instructions for Timothy. Paul’s first chapter centered on the need and foundation for Timothy’s ministry in Ephesus. We could say that in chapter 1 Paul has laid out his biblical philosophy for ministry as it applied to Ephesus and the problems there. We also see that the problems in Ephesus stemmed from the failed on-site leadership—their personal views and their faulty responses to the people. Now Paul instructs Timothy to faithfully carry out his ministry as he has instructed in verses 1 Timothy 1:3-11. Paul specifically names three things for Timothy to keep in mind: fight the good fight, keep his faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:18).
    1. Verse 18. The word “entrust” means set before (παρατίθημι paratithemi, present middle indicative, to place before, point out, give over for keeping, and then to entrust to someone). What have prophecies (προφητεία propheteia) to do with this? This probably refers to the commissioning or ordination of Timothy to the ministry referred to in 1 Timothy 4:14. Ordination is the public recognition of a person’s desire and qualification for ministry. Fight the good fight refers to the spiritual war in which every believer is engaged, and especially every Christian leader. It is a good fight, but a dangerous fight. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 that this is not a physical battle with human weapons, but a spiritual battle with ideas. Paul also wrote of this warfare in Ephesians 6. Peter, in 1 Peter 5:8, warns that the Devil, seeks to destroy believers. Paul used a soldier to illustrate the difficulty of Christian service in 2 Timothy 2:3-4. Doctrines include Spiritual Warfare, Angelic Conflict, Ordination, and Ministry.
    2. Verse 19. Keeping faith means to maintain one’s faith. There is no Greek article here. It goes with good conscience, so it is best to take this as subjective faith. Keep believing what you have; maintain a strong faith. (Some may take this as hold onto “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). In that case the faith is the Christian faith given to us through the biblical revelation. Other Scripture that also relates to this include 1 Timothy 4:6 and 6:12, and 2 Timothy 2:3 and 4:7. This is all true, but not taught here. A good conscience is necessary (1 Timothy 1:5, 3:9). The conscience is like a judge, referee, umpire, or even a street light. When the conscience is informed by Scripture it directs us in or thoughts, words, and activities, and warns us when we go wrong. For the conscience see 1 Timothy 1:5 and 1 Timothy 3:9, 2 Timothy 1:3, 1 Peter 3:16, 1 Corinthians 8:7, and Romans 2:15. Some believers have pushed away (ἀπωθέω apotheo, aorist middle participle, to push away, push aside, reject) their conscience or ignored it and because of that have shipwrecked (ναυαγέω nauageo, aorist active indicative, to go through a shipwreck, to experience disaster or ruin) themselves about what they believe and how they live. Doctrines include Christian Way of Life, Ministry, Conscience, Faith, and Spiritual Shipwreck.
    3. Verse 20. Hymenaeus (2 Timothy 2:16-18) and Alexander were two men who shipwrecked themselves. Paul turned them over to severe discipline. Apparently Satan was allowed to make things very hard for them. Paul also resorted to this with the sinning believer in 1 Corinthians 5:5. This seems to have been a very unusual kind of discipline. The purpose was to teach them not to slander God, apparently by teaching false doctrine that severely affected the faith of others (2 Timothy 2:18). Doctrines include Divine Discipline.
  5. Selected Doctrines to note in 1 Timothy 1
    1. 1 Timothy 1:1-2. Doctrines include Paul, Apostleship, Timothy, Ministry, Christology, Paterology (God the Father), Grace, Mercy, Peace, Temporary Spiritual Gifts.
    2. 1 Timothy 1:3-4a. Doctrines include False Doctrine, Preparation of Believers (through gifted men, word of God, Holy Spirit, faith, tests, and service within the sphere of the local church), Importance of the Bible.
    3. 1 Timothy 1:4b-6. Doctrines include Revelation-Inspiration-Illumination-Communication, Pastor and Teacher, Teacher, Equipping of the Saints, Spiritual Growth, Ministry and Love.
    4. 1 Timothy 1:7-11. Doctrines include Preparation for Ministry, Strange and Petty Doctrines, Ministry, Spiritual Gifts, Mosaic Law, Morality, Sin, God, Gospel.
    5. 1 Timothy 1:12. Doctrines include Christology, Spiritual Gifts, God’s Attributes, Ministry.
    6. 1 Timothy 1:13-14. Doctrines include Mercy, Grace, Faith, Love, Ministry, Position in Christ, Spiritual blessings, Basic Techniques of the Christian life (Umbrella Doctrine).
    7. 1 Timothy 1:15-16. Doctrines include Gospel, Tenses and Kinds of Salvation, Christology, Incarnation, Unlimited Atonement.
    8. 1 Timothy 1:17. Doctrines include God’s Attributes, Worship.
    9. 1 Timothy 1:18-20. Doctrines include Spiritual Warfare, Angelic Conflict, Ordination, and Ministry, Christian Way of Life, Conscience, Faith, and Spiritual Shipwreck, Divine Discipline.