1 Timothy 1:1-20

As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul had been commissioned to make known the message about him. Paul’s coming to be an apostle, or one who had been sent forth as a messenger, proved to be “according to the command [promise (fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus)] of God” and “of Christ Jesus,” indicating that both God and Christ had decreed that he would serve in this capacity and under their direction. (1:1)

God is called the “Savior,” for he sent his Son to the earth to surrender his life for sinful humans, making it possible for all who responded in faith to be saved or liberated from sin and condemnation. Jesus Christ is the “hope” of believers, for through him all the promises of his Father will be fulfilled. Apart from Jesus, believers would have no hope of coming to be sinless children of God and enjoying all the blessings associated therewith. (1:1)

The apostle addressed Timothy as a “genuine” or “true child in the faith.” A number of translations represent this to mean that Timothy was a true child to the apostle (“a true child to me because you believe” [NCV]; “his [Paul’s] true-born son in the faith” [REB]; “because of our faith, you are like a son to me” [CEV]; “my true child in faith” [NAB]). In 2 Timothy 2:1, the apostle specifically referred to Timothy as “my child,” for he was like a father to the young man and had taught him by word and example. The absence of the personal pronoun “my” in the Greek text of 1 Timothy 1:2, however, could indicate that Paul affectionately spoke of his younger fellow worker as a “true child in the faith,” that is, a genuine and dearly beloved fellow believer. (1:2)

The apostle’s prayerful desire for Timothy was that he might have “favor, mercy [and] peace from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The gracious “favor” or unmerited kindness would include the aid and guidance God and the Lord Jesus Christ would provide. “Mercy” would involve continuing to be a recipient of their compassionate care, Christ’s intercession, and his Father’s forgiveness. “Peace” would be the sense of well-being and security arising from being fully aware of the love of God and Christ. (1:2; see the Notes section.)

On an earlier occasion, Paul had appealed to Timothy to remain in Ephesus while he was on his way to Macedonia. No mention is made of this in the book of Acts. This may be an indication that the reference is to an incident after Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome ended, as the Acts account closes with the apostle’s still being in confinement. At the time the apostle wrote the letter, he again requested that Timothy stay in Ephesus. Problems had arisen in the community of believers there, and Paul wanted him to assist the congregation to take corrective action. Certain ones in Ephesus taught things that did not accord with the truth Christ had revealed. Therefore, Paul instructed Timothy that he should command them not to teach other doctrines and not to focus on myths and endless genealogies. The context does not provide any indication about these myths or the lengthy genealogies. In view of the later mention of the law, the reference is likely to Jewish fables and genealogies. (1:3, 4)

While myths and genealogies gave rise to “searching,” debating, or controversy, they were no part of the “stewardship of God [pertaining to] faith.” Nothing associated with myths and genealogies promoted faith in God and Christ. They were distracting elements, dispensing nothing beneficial as does the sound teaching that had been divinely entrusted to Paul as a stewardship. (1:4; see the Notes section on verse 4 regarding myths and genealogies.)

The apostle’s command to stop wrong teaching and preoccupation with myths and genealogies served to promote “love out of a clean heart,” “a good conscience, and unhypocritical faith.” This would be a genuine love for God and fellow humans that had its source in a pure or undefiled “heart” or inner self. Such love would include a willingness to forego personal rights out of regard for the interests of others. The individual would be living uprightly and thus preserve a good conscience. An unhypocritical faith would be a trust in God and Christ that prompted a caring response to the needs of others. This faith would not be a mere expression of belief. (1:5)

Certain ones in the community of believers had not pursued the right course, having deviated from showing genuine love and failed to maintain a good conscience and a living faith productive of praiseworthy deeds. As a consequence, they had turned aside from wholesome teaching and engaged in empty, valueless, idle, or speculative talk. (1:6)

They wanted to be teachers of the law that God had given to the Israelites but misunderstood its purpose. Lacking a proper view of the law, they had no understanding of the subject matter and so did not know what they were talking about. Yet they made dogmatic assertions about things they did not rightly comprehend. (1:7)

Referring to himself and Timothy (if not using the first person editorial plural), Paul continued, “But we know that the law [is] good, if one uses it lawfully.” The provisions contained in the law were good and served to protect obedient ones from harm and promoted their well-being. Those who understood the purpose of the law could use it lawfully or legitimately. (1:8)

God did not give the law to the Israelites because they were righteous. Laws are not formulated for upright persons but for those who violate standards of propriety. Intended to restrain wayward conduct, law is for the lawless ones— unruly or defiant persons, the godless and sinners, the unholy and profane or the morally corrupt, persons who would murder a father or a mother, manslayers, practicers of sexual immorality, men who have sexual relations with other men, kidnappers or those who seize others to sell them as slaves, liars, perjurers, and persons who act contrary to the “healthy” or sound teaching that is in harmony with “the evangel of the glory of the happy [makários] God.” (1:9-11)

In being linked to the words “of the glory,” the “evangel” (or the good news about Jesus Christ) may be designated as glorious or magnificent because of its incomparably great value. The Greek word makários can be rendered “happy,” “fortunate,” or “blessed.” With reference to God, the term may be understood to denote a state of matchless well-being, contentment, and satisfaction. Paul had been entrusted with this good news, which called for him to proclaim the message that had God as the ultimate source. (1:11)

The apostle was grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for having empowered him to carry out his commission, having considered him faithful or trustworthy to be granted a service or ministry. Paul deeply appreciated that Jesus Christ had the confidence in him that he would faithfully discharge the commission that had been given to him. (1:12) This was especially the case because of his former course of life. Paul had been a “blasphemer,” for he had looked upon Jesus as an impostor or a false Messiah. His failure to honor Jesus as the Son of God meant that he had dishonored the Father who had sent him. In attitude and action, Paul had reproached Christ and so was guilty of blaspheming him and his Father. He had persecuted Jesus Christ’s disciples and sided with those who wanted to impose the death penalty upon them. (Acts 8:1; 9:1, 2; 22:19, 20; 26:9-11) In his vicious campaign of persecution, Paul had acted in an insolent or haughty manner. But he was shown mercy or granted forgiveness upon repenting. He had not defiantly set himself in opposition to what he knew to be true but had been in a state of ignorance or blindness when conducting himself like a person without faith in God and Christ. (1:13)

To Paul, Christ’s gracious favor or unmerited kindness had overflowed or been superabundantly bestowed, for he had been forgiven for his wrong course and commissioned as an apostle. He had come to have faith and love. Formerly, as a persecutor, he did not have the faith that centered in Christ and had shown hatred, not love, for Christ’s followers. “Faith and love in Christ Jesus” may mean the faith and love of which Christ is the source or the faith and love that Paul came to have by coming to be at one with Christ. (1:14)

The apostle identified the “word” or statement he next made as being trustworthy or reliable and deserving of “all” or full acceptance. This “word” is, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” providing the basis through his sacrificial death for deliverance from sin and condemnation. Because of his past as a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a haughty man, Paul spoke of himself as “first” or foremost among sinners. (1:15)

The reason he was shown mercy, however, was that in him “first,” or foremost in his case, Christ Jesus might show “all,” or the superlative extent, of his patience or forbearance as an example to those believing on him for eternal life. Christ’s forbearance in Paul’s case would assure all other believers that they, too, would be forgiven upon putting faith in the Son of God and would come to have eternal life, the real life of an enduring approved relationship with the Son and his Father. (1:16)

The Father is the source of the gracious favor or incomprehensibly great kindness Paul had been shown. This is the apparent reason for the prayerful words, “But to the King of the ages, incorruptible [and] invisible, the only God, [be] honor and glory for the ages of the ages. Amen.” For the “ages” or for all eternity, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the King or Sovereign, with everyone being subject to him. He is the living God, incorruptible or deathless and invisible to human eyes. While there are those whom humans may call “god,” he alone is such in the ultimate sense, for only he is the Most High. Honor or dignity and glory, splendor, or magnificence belong to him and are rightly ascribed to him and that for all the ages to come or for eternity. Appropriately, the apostle ended with “Amen” (so be it; truly; surely). (1:17; see the Notes section.)

Based on the context, Paul’s charge to Timothy (whom he affectionately called “child”) related to his correcting the situation that had developed on account of those who taught falsehoods in Ephesus. When discharging the directive the apostle had given him, he was to do so according to earlier prophecies about him, so that he might, on the basis of these prophecies, “fight the good fight.” Seemingly, at the time Paul chose him to be his travel companion and, with elders from the community of believers, laid hands upon him, either he or one or more of the elders then present spoke prophetically about the service Timothy would render. (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; compare Acts 13:1-3.) The “good fight” would be the firm stand he was to take against error, remembering that, as the previous prophetic words about him revealed, he had divine backing when discharging his responsibilities. (1:18)

In carrying out his assignment, Timothy needed to maintain “faith,” an unbreakable trust in God and Christ, and a “good conscience” by upholding and defending what was right and fair. Certain ones had shoved a good conscience aside, refusing to be guided by it. This resulted in their experiencing shipwreck respecting their faith. They deviated from living the kind of exemplary life that an active faith prompts, thus revealing that their faith or trust in God and Christ had been wrecked. (1:19)

Among those with a ruined faith were Hymenaeus and Alexander. According to 2 Timothy 2:17, 18, Hymenaeus maintained that the resurrection had already occurred. This may have been a denial about a future resurrection and judgment, which might then have been presented as a basis for the claim that the manner in which one lived really did not matter.

Paul handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, expelling them from the community of believers and exposing them to the world where the adversary exercises authority. This placed them outside the realm where God’s spirit is at work. Finding themselves in the realm where people lived without any knowledge of God and were primarily guided by their sensual desires, they would learn from the severe discipline not to blaspheme if they wanted to be part of the congregation again. (1:20)


In verse 2, numerous manuscripts read “our Father.”

Verse 4 mentions “myths and genealogies.” The Babylonian Talmud contains numerous rabbinic fables or myths. One of these involves Rabbah bar Bar Hannah. He said that on one occasion an Arab told him, “Come, I will show you those swallowed up with Korah.” Then, at a place where there were two cracks in the ground and from which steam ascended, the Arab soaked a ball of wool in water and “placed it on the point of a spear,” singeing the wool when he passed it there. “He said to me: ‘Listen to what you hear.’ And I heard them saying thus: ‘Moses and his Torah are true, and [we] are liars.’” The Arab said to Rabbah bar Bar Hannah, “Every thirty days Gehinom returns them like meat in a pot, and they say thus: ‘Moses and his Torah are true, and [we] are liars.’” (Babylonian Talmud, Steinsaltz Edition, Sanhedrin 110a, b)

According to the Babylonian Talmud (Pesahim, 62b), the daughter of Hanina ben Teradion studied 300 laws from 300 teachers in one day (which is probably an exaggeration) but could not complete the “Book of Genealogies” (likely designating a commentary on Chronicles, specifically its many genealogical lists) in three years. Regarding the passage beginning with the words “And Azel had six sons” (1 Chronicles 8:38) and ending with “these were the sons of Azel” (1 Chronicles 9:44), the many different interpretations are referred to as being the loads of “four hundred camels.” Although doubtless to be regarded as hyperbole, the comments illustrate that preoccupation with genealogies would have been a time-consuming effort that gave rise to questions and debates.

Many manuscripts (in verse 17) read, “only wise God,” and a number of manuscripts either include the word “deathless” (“incorruptible, invisible, deathless”) or say “deathless” instead of “incorruptible.”