1 Timothy 1


1 Timothy 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,

(a) Paul. The Apostle Paul wrote three pastoral letters. The first two were sent to Timothy and the third was sent to Titus. These letters were probably written from a Roman prison around A.D. 64.

(b) An apostle; see entry for 1 Cor. 1:1.

(c) According to the commandment of God our Savior. Paul was called into apostolic ministry by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2).


1 Timothy 1:2

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

(a) Timothy was Paul’s spiritual son and co-worker.

Paul met Timothy on his second visit to Lystra (Acts 16:1). On his first visit to Lystra, Paul had been stoned to death and raised from the dead (Acts 14:19-20). Perhaps the young Timothy had witnessed this and became a believer as a result. By the time Paul returned to Lystra a second time, Timothy had matured into a well-regarded Christian. Paul asked Timothy to join him and Silas on their travels (Acts 16:2-3).

Paul mentored Timothy and the young man took an active role in the planting and strengthening of churches. When Paul left Asia to travel to Macedonia, he left Timothy in charge of the church he had planted at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). Later Paul wrote to him with instructions on how to deal with the sorts of issues that pastors face, such as how to deal with false teachers and appoint church leaders.

(b) My true child in the faith. Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy (Php. 2:22).

(c) Grace, mercy and peace. The apostle of grace began all of his letters with this gracious salutation. See entry for Rom. 1:7.

(d) Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul introduces the Lord Jesus Christ at the start of all his letters, and he encourages his readers to confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9, Php. 2:12). True preachers reveal Jesus as Lord of all.

Jesus is not merely a teacher or historical figure. He is the exalted Son of God and his Name is above all names (Php. 2:9). Before the cross, Jesus was known as the Christ or anointed one. But after the cross, Jesus is the Lord or kyrios or “the One who is supreme above all.”


1 Timothy 1:3

As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

(a) Ephesus. The church in Ephesus had an impressive heritage. The Apostle Paul planted the church and led it for a while (Acts 20:31). After him, it was possibly led by Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:19, 1 Cor. 16:19), and when they went to Rome it was taken over by Timothy.

(b) Certain men, known to Timothy, were teaching strange doctrines when they should have been preaching the gospel of grace. They had neglected to keep the main thing the main thing and as a result, the church was being distracted from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3). Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that this might happen (Acts 20:29-31).

(c) Strange doctrines means they were teaching different doctrines or other gospels. Some were distracted by Jewish myths and genealogies (1 Tim. 1:4), while others were preaching an unholy concoction of law and grace (1 Tim. 1:7).


1 Timothy 1:4

nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

(a) Myths include rabbinical fables and Jewish legends that gave rise to fanciful speculation (Tit. 1:14). Who were the Nephilim? Did Adam have other wives? Where did demons come from? Where is Sheol? And that sort of thing.

(b) Endless genealogies. With a long and rich history, the Jews were understandably fascinated by genealogies and family trees. However, Paul thought such discussions were irrelevant to the faith. In Christ, your pedigree is peerless.

(c) Speculation. Fables and fabrications may tickle the intellect but they do nothing to strengthen our faith in God.


1 Timothy 1:5

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

(a) The goal of our instruction is love. Why preach and teach? So that all may know the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus his Son.

(b) A pure heart is a heart unstained by sin and selfish desires. Paul didn’t plant churches to make a name for himself but to draw people to the Lord.

(c) A good conscience is one that has been washed by the blood of Christ and cleansed from dead works. A good conscience is a guilt-less conscience. It’s a mindset that says, “Because of Jesus, I am free from sin and its effects.”

(d) A sincere faith is an unwavering faith grounded in the righteousness of Christ.


1 Timothy 1:6

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,

(a) Some men. Paul is talking about those who are obsessed with myths and endless genealogies (1 Tim. 1:3). Time-wasters, in other words.

(b) Straying from these things. The gospel is simple, but religion makes it complicated. “Did God really say?” An excessive interest in controversy is a sign one has wandered from the uncontroversial gospel (1 Tim. 6:4). It’s healthy to ask questions, but when it comes to the gospel, Jesus provides emphatic answers. At some point you have to stop doubting his love and start believing.

(c) Turned aside to fruitless discussion. Paul does not say that certain people had strayed from salvation. He says that they have turned aside to idle talk or “vain jangling” to quote the KJV. They’re wasting time in conversations that are going nowhere.


1 Timothy 1:7

wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

(a) Wanting to be teachers of the Law. The goal of the gospel is love (1 Tim. 1:5), but some prefer law. They prefer rules to relationship. They’d rather have principles for living than get to know the Author of Life.

(b) They do not understand that we are not under law but grace (Rom. 6:14). They do not understand that the Christian’s proper relationship to the law is that of a widow to her deceased husband (Rom. 7:3). They do not understand that law-teaching has no place in the new covenant.

(c) Make confident assertions. The ministry written in letters of stone gives rise to confident assertions but this confidence comes from the flesh rather than from God (1 John 3:21). The fruit of this message is either self-righteousness (“I kept the rules”) or condemnation (“I didn’t”).


1 Timothy 1:8

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

(a) The law is good. The law’s purpose is to reveal our captivity to sin and our need for a Savior.

Further reading: “What is the purpose of the law?

(b) If one uses it lawfully. Like a tool, the law can be used for both good and bad purposes. When the law is used to enslave or condemn people, it is not being used in a good or lawful way. The law should never be applied to Christians (it’s for the ungodly and sinners; see next verse). Nor should it be used as a guide for life (the Holy Spirit is your guide; see John 16:13).


1 Timothy 1:9

realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers

(a) The law is not made for a righteous person but it is perfectly suited for the self-righteous person. The law is for those who trust in themselves and their own works rather than in Christ and his.

To those who are confident of their own righteousness, the law says, “You are not good enough. If you have broken even one command, you are guilty of breaking all.” The mirror of the law reveals our sins and silences boasting mouths (Rom. 3:19).

(b) A righteous person is someone who has been made righteous by believing in Jesus. Christ is the end of the law for all who believe (Rom. 10:4).

(c) For the ungodly and sinners. The law condemns sinners as guilty and under the sentence of death. See entry for Romans 7:9-11.


1 Timothy 1:13

even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;

(a) A blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. In his former life Paul, or Saul the Pharisee, said shameful things about Jesus and he persecuted the church vigorously (Acts 8:3, 9:1).

(b) I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly. The grace of God has appeared to all people (Tit. 2:11), and not just those who sin in ignorance. So why does Paul say he was shown mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief? It would be more accurate to say that Paul found or obtained mercy (1 Tim. 1:16). But why did Paul find mercy when others have not? A key reason has to do with the word ignorance.

There are two kinds of unbelievers. There are ignorant unbelievers who do not know they are opposing the Lord, and there are hardened unbelievers who do. Paul’s first words to Jesus were, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:5). Paul thought he was doing God’s work, but on the road to Damascus he learned he didn’t know the Lord at all.

Paul had never rejected Jesus because he had never met Jesus. But those who reject the Lord and harden their hearts to his grace put themselves in a bad place. They cannot receive his mercy because they have already rejected it.

Further reading: “What is the greater condemnation?


1 Timothy 1:14

and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.

(a) Grace… abundant. The original word for abundant is a compound word (huperpleonazō) that is made up of the words huper, meaning over, above, and beyond, and pleonazō, which means to increase or super-abound. The Amplified Bible provides an excellent translation: “The grace (unmerited favor and blessing) of our Lord [actually] flowed out superabundantly and beyond measure for me…” See entry for Rom. 5:20.

(b) Faith and love. It’s the unfailing love of God that inspires us to trust him (see entry for 1 John 4:16). Since the love of God is revealed in Jesus Christ (John 17:26), both faith and love are found in Christ Jesus. Faith comes from hearing the good news of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:17).

(c) In Christ Jesus. The grace, faith, and love of our Lord are found in Christ Jesus, which is to say they are experienced in our union with the Lord. See entry for Union.


1 Timothy 1:15

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

I am foremost of all. Paul saw himself as the foremost or chief of sinners on account of his sinful past. Once upon a time, he was a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man (1 Tim. 1:13). Then he encountered the grace of God and the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 1:14), and he became a new man and a faithful minister (1 Tim. 1:12).

When Paul says, “I am the chief of sinners,” he’s alluding to an evil title he earned as a blasphemer and persecutor of Christians. He is not saying “I still blaspheme and persecute Christians.” The moment Paul became a Christian, he stopped being the chief of sinners. No matter what you’ve done, the moment you were placed into Christ you became just as righteous and holy as he is (1 John 4:17).

Further reading: “The chief of sinners


1 Timothy 1:16

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

(a) I found mercy. We find mercy at the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Mercy is how God’s grace appears to the needy. Mercy is God forgiving all our sins for no other reason than he loves us (Heb. 8:12). Truly he is the Father of all mercies (2 Cor. 1:3).

(b) An example. If God’s mercy extends to the worst of the worst, even the chief of sinners, it extends to you and me. No one is beyond the reach of his love and grace.

(c) Believe in Him for eternal life. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and eternal life, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.

(d) Eternal life is living forever in union with Jesus; see entry for John 3:15.


1 Timothy 1:17

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Paul expresses the praise that spontaneously springs from the heart of a saved sinner. “Glory to God, the all-time King of kings!”


1 Timothy 1:18

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight,

Fight the good fight. The Christian is equipped for warfare because we are in a spiritual war (2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:11-17).

We fight the good fight by refusing to give ground to anything that might distract us from Jesus. For leaders like Timothy, that means confronting those who teach strange doctrines and different gospels. For individual believers, it means refuting lies that say “You are not good enough for God” or “You must work to make yourself acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.” We fight the good fight by keeping the faith and keeping ourselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21).


1 Timothy 1:19

keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.

(a) Keeping faith and a good conscience. Condemnation is a faith-killer. If your conscience condemns you, perhaps because you have fallen from grace back under law, you will have trouble believing what God says is true about you.

When Paul exhorts us to hold onto faith and a good conscience (1 Tim 3:9, Acts 24:16), he’s not saying, “Avoid sin to keep your conscience clear.” He’s saying, “Treasure what Christ has done for you lest you shipwreck your faith.”

(b) Shipwreck in regard to their faith. If your conscience is constantly telling you that you’re unworthy and you don’t deserve to be in the kingdom, you will be in danger of shipwrecking your faith. You won’t have lost your salvation, which is eternally secure and guaranteed by the Spirit. But you’ll be a miserable Christian, stranded and going nowhere.

Further reading: “How to shipwreck your faith


1 Timothy 1:20

Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.

(a) Among these. Paul has been warning Timothy of certain men who teach strange or different doctrines (1 Tim. 1:3) or who try to teach law (1 Tim. 1:7). Here he names two of the worst offenders.

(b) Hymenaeus and Alexander were blasphemers. To blaspheme is to slander or speak falsely of someone. It’s saying, “The blood of Jesus doesn’t avail for me.” (It does.) It’s saying, “Jesus needs my help.” (He doesn’t.) “The Holy Spirit is convicting me of sin.” (He isn’t.) “God will not finish what he begun.” (He will.) “I can sin my way out of his grace.” (You can’t.) This sort of teaching promotes controversy and undermines the faith.

Hymenaeus and Alexander were among those preaching Jewish myths or law (1 Tim. 1:7). In addition, Hymenaeus also taught that the resurrection of the saints had already taken place (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Their influence was toxic and gangrenous, said Paul (2 Tim. 2:17). They had to go.

(c) I have handed over to Satan. In other words, “Tell everyone I said to remove them from the church.”

To be handed over to Satan is to let them learn the hard way that sin (and sinful teaching) has consequences all of its own. “Let them drink their toxic swill and maybe they will come to see their need for Jesus.” See entry for 1 Cor. 5:5.


The Grace Commentary is a work in progress with new content added regularly. Sign up for occasional updates below. Got something to say? Please use the Feedback page. To report typos or broken links on this page, please use the comment form below.

Leave a Reply