Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy

It is apparent from Paul’s pastoral letters, the two to Timothy and his letter to Titus, that Paul was released from his imprisonment in Rome, apparently acquitted of the charges against him. During this time of freedom he commissioned Titus to remain at Crete (see Paul’s letter to Titus) and Timothy to remain at Ephesus. Paul then moved on to Philippi and was later arrested, imprisoned and tried again, this time to be convicted and executed. This first letter to Timothy was written while Paul still had his freedom.

The problem at Ephesus

[1] Paul greets Timothy as his ‘child in faith’ who was left in charge of the church at Ephesus while Paul went to Macedonia. Timothy’s purpose for remaining there was to correct the false teaching of some, particularly with regard to the law of which they had insufficient understanding. The law was not made for righteous man but for sinners, those whose acts are contrary to the teaching of the gospel. This gospel Paul received by grace from Christ, despite his earlier persecution of Christians. Timothy is charged with this role at Ephesus for which he will need to be strong and true to the faith.

Public worship: Prayer and advice to women

[2] Paul now gives some general advice concerning administration of the church. Emphasis is placed on the need for prayer at all times and for all people, for God wants everyone to be saved. His guidance concerning women is that they should dress modestly and should not interrupt during teaching, nor usurp authority over man, referring to creation and the fall for scriptural support.

Church leaders

[3] There are two categories given for church leaders: overseers (bishops) and deacons. Paul gives the qualities required for those aspiring to be leaders in the church: bishops must be blameless in all aspects of Christian teaching, including at home, be mature in faith and have the respect of others; deacons must similarly be blameless, showing they are ready for service in the church by holding in all conscience to the truth in the gospel.

Dealing with asceticism

[4] There is a heresy growing that is gnosticism, of which asceticism is an essential part, claiming all things physical to be evil. Paul mentions two aspects of this heresy, forbidding to marry and abstaining from meats, both of which are sanctified by the word of God and by prayer. Timothy is to counter these heresies, which are ungodly and foolish, by reminding the brethren of the truth in God’s word and by being an example to all believers in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith and in purity. Until Paul returns, Timothy is to focus his life on reading and teaching, which is central to his own salvation as well as to those he pastors.

Dealing with different groups in the church

[5] A brief mention is made of the approach Timothy should take when having to rebuke older and younger men and women: older men as a father; younger men as a brother; older women as a mother; and younger women as a sister and with all purity. Paul then gives detailed instructions on the proper treatment of widows in the church. They are to be treated with honour and respect, due to them if they had shown all the good characteristics of Christian motherhood. But they have to be over sixty, as younger widows might stray from a goodly character. In any event, it is the duty of family to care for widows before they become the responsibility of the church. Next Paul turns to elders, beginning with the need to support those who have served well in the church. However, if an accusation is received against an elder, it must be supported by two or three witnesses. If guilty, he must be rebuked as an example before the whole church. Timothy is charged to follow these instructions given him, to deal impartially with people and not to ordain anyone rashly. It is also suggested he should take a little wine for his own health’s sake.

Slaves, the rich, and a final appeal

[6] Paul now speaks of the correct attitude a slave should have towards his master, witnessing to the gospel. This Timothy should teach and exhort, as any opposing teaching is not of Christ and will only create problems. A warning is given against the desire to be rich, for that desire will become a snare leading men away from a righteous path. Paul charges Timothy to rise above these things and live a godly life to which he has been called. Those who are rich should not trust in their riches, but in God, doing the good their riches allow them to do. Paul ends with a final plea from the heart to his adopted son he loves: O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called… Grace be with thee.
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