The First Epistle to Timothy.

By H. R. Reynold

Taken from The Expositor Volume 2.1 - 1875


St. Paul, when addressing individuals as well as Churches, was accustomed to describe himself as an "Apostle of Christ Jesus." The only exception to the rule was in the private letter to Philemon. Timothy was placed in difficult circumstances; and, though he was an intimate friend, he was being called to discharge functions which needed moral and official support. We need not be surprised, therefore, to find that Paul at the outset claimed the title which gave all its significance to his own life-work. He fortified the claim by declaring that he was an ''apostle according to the commandment of God." such "commandment" as he felt and knew some; times to be given to him, and. sometimes to be withheld.1 The event to which he referred was described in Acts xiii. 2when "the Holy Ghost said, Separate to me Barnabas and Saul unto the work whereunto I have called them." Elsewhere Paul speaks of his apostolate as "by the will of God."2 God's "will" was the source of the "commandment." In the Pastoral Epistles, and in this place, he attributes to God a designation not elsewhere found in his writings, viz., "our Saviour." This need not surprise us, for he was accustomed to speak of Christ as the Saviour,3 and he refers "salvation" to God;4 and the phrases, "God, the Saviour," and the "God who saveth thee," are found in the LXX. and Apocrypha,5 and in the New Testament,6 as well. The expression is full of wealth, and shews how the great heart of the Apostle had warmed to the thought of God as the fontal source of all the blessedness and hope of man.7 Thec appointment of Paul to the apostolate was mediated or ministered to him by "Christ Jesus, our hope."8 It is because God is our Saviour that Christ becomes the ground of all our hope; while, as a matter of revelation, when " Christ Jesus " is seen and felt to be " our hope," then we learn the deeper mystery of the Divine Fatherhood and the pulsations of the Eternal Love. He is our hope, (1) because he is the organ and manifestation of the method of our salvation; (2) because his indwelling within us and our mystic union to Him constitute the hope of glory; (3) because the desire and expectation of being like Him (i.e., our "hope in [ἐπὶ] Him) purifies us, even as He is pure; (4) because our final and full communion with Him will be the fruition of all we hope for in the heavens.

"Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus," dignified with such living and ennobling relationships, addressed Timothy, as his "very own son in the faith." This word (γνησίῳ) is used in contradistinction to the " adopted son " or the " bastard child," and figuratively expresses the closest intimacy and the most endearing affection. Paul was his spiritual father, and Timothy had caught many of his lineaments. In writing to the Philippians, Paul had said, " I have no one (no ministerial companion) like-minded (with him) who will, by spiritual birthright (γνησίως)be solicitously anxious concerning your affairs;''9 and he told the Corinthians10  that Timothy was "his beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who would put them in remembrance of his ways in Christ, as he was teaching everywhere in every Church." Timothy was, therefore, intimately acquainted with the standpoint of Paul, with the controversy between him and the impugners of his Divine commission, with the general method of his teaching; and with the quality of his practical advice on disputed questions of ethical and ecclesiastical importance. Many commentators, Huther, Leo, Winer, and others, agree that the phrase "in faith," or, "in (the) faith" [Alford] should be attached to the whole compound expression,-" my very own son."11

In giving the apostolic benediction Paul differed slightly from his usual phraseology. On addressing Timothy and Titus he adopted the additional word which John also used in his beautiful letter to Kyria.12 Between grace and peace he introduces mercy. The speciality is no mark of a forger, but precisely the reverse. If a falsarius had been striving to imitate the Apostle's style for a purpose, he would surely have avoided such a deviation. The late Dr. Fairbairn has made the best suggestion in explanation of its introduction here. "He knew how much he needed mercy for himself, not merely at the outset of his spiritual career, but when engaged in his work as an ambassador of Christ." None are more conscious of their need of mercy than those who try to represent their Master's claims and to plead his cause with their fellow-men. Huther says that these' three expressions refer to one and the same thing viewed under different aspects. This is true so far as Love is the generic central thought of each expression. Each term is a predicate of love. Grace is the most comprehensive expression of the three, denoting all the effluence of love, in favour shewn and strength bestowed. Mercy is "love" when it is shewn, or grace when it is imported to the undeserving and guilty. Peace is the "love of God" when "shed abroad in the heart," inducing reconciliation and rest. The two former denote the active sources; the latter, the blessed results of heavenly love.

St. Paul having thus analysed with the prism of holy sympathy the eternal Beam into its three constituent elements, now proclaims the living origin of all the love. " Grace, mercy, and peace [are] from God the Father and Christ Jesus the Lord." This is a combination of ideas frequently occurring in the Pauline writings; and what a conception it gives of the supreme dignity and superlative rank in the universe attributed by Paul to Christ Jesus! "Jesus Christ" is here associated with " God the Father" in bestowing gifts which can only take their origin in the very depths of the Godhead.13

Verse 3.-The sentence which the Apostle then commences with the particle "Even as" is never completed. Some have found the apodosis in verse 8, and others in verse 12. But such suppositions create ponderous and useless difficulties and produce no satisfactory result. We may reasonably suppose that Timothy was left to supply a simple repetition of the verb, and thus to effect a passage from remembered advice given on a previous occasion, to the obvious intention of the present injunction: Even as I besought thee to abide in Ephesus, when I was on my journey into Macedonia [so I beseech thee still].14 We need not revert any further to the difficulty of finding place in the narrative of the Acts for the event here described. Expositors from Chrysostom downwards have called attention to Paul's use of the words; " I besought," or " I exhorted," when, a!; in writing to Titus,15 he might have said, "I ordered," or "commanded," or "appointed." In writing to Philemon, Paul drew a contrast between the two words which is worthy of notice.16 Ellicott thinks if the present instead of aorist infinitive (προςμεῖναι) had been used, the duration of Timothy's residence in Ephesus would have been more marked; but I am inclined, with Winer, to regard the use of the aorist in this sentence as determined simply by the aorist of the previous and governing verb.

The purport of Paul's entreaty is now revealed. The Apostle and his "very own son in the faith" had found Ephesus distracted with crotchets, quivering with new excitements. Eager partizans of special  interpretations of the older Scriptures had come to the front; Jewish allegories and Oriental theosophy, fables and genealogies, had twined themselves into a system of dubious teaching. The work of the Church was being. paralysed by the unhealthy prominence given. to a multitude of unimportant questions. A buzz of restless inquiries, which led to perilous controversy and unhealthy thought, was confusing the intelligence and obscuring the mind and worship of the Ephesian community. And so, though Paul had gone to Macedonia, he reiterated the request that Timothy should use the official authority with which he was invested to put these teachers of another doctrine to silence. As on a previous occasion when rebuking the Judaizers in Galatia he warned them against "another gospel, which was not another," so now, with analogous phrase, those who are introducing as fundamental truths what were novel fancies are to be sharply warned. Then, as now, St. Paul condemned all personal additions to the teaching of which he had been the inspired organ. There is no need to look on into the second century in order to understand these references. The same kind of poisonous addition to the Gospel had infected the Churches in Crete.17 '' Jewish. myths," " endless genealogies," " disputes about the law,"" antitheses of a falsely-named gnosis," had made their appearance, and led to foolish and fruitless discussions, and, as the Apostle said, they were "of a kind to produce controversy rather than to minister to God's way of salvation by faith." The case of Timothy's genealogy was one in point. His mother was a Jewess, his father was a Greek; and great discussion had prevailed as to the wisdom or necessity of his submitting to the ordinance of circumcision.

The text and the construction of the sentence require a word. The. weight of authority18 is in favour of the word οἰκονομίαν rather than οἰκοδομίαν, which was found in some manuscripts and Latin translations, and was accepted by the A. V. The change may have been suggested by the difficulty of finding a suitable translation of παρέχουσι, when governing the two ideas involved in" controversies" and " the dispensation of God," or ''the economy cf grace," or "God's way of salvation by faith."

The lesson we may gather is, that whatever novel teachings and methods of illustration simply lead to vain conflict and barren controversy, and have no healthy bearing upon the labours of a steward in God's house, ought not to be pursued. St. Paul says, " Hush them, discourage them, boldly and firmly repress them, son Timothy."

Verse 5.-But. The adversative force of the particle is not to be overlooked: it is as though the inquiry might arise whether there was a clearly defined system of preceptive teaching or not in the Gospel of Christ, whether it could be trifled with, or could be over-pressed.; and the suggestion is thus made to Timothy that, though he was to charge and command with all boldness and firmness, he must not personally forget that "the end of the commandment," or "the scope and purport of the practical teaching and [of the] preceptive character of the Gospel is LOVE." The article before the word translated " commandment " makes it probable that the Apostle is dealing, not with the specific charge he had just given to Timothy, but with some well understood body of solemn and sounr1 injunctions.19

The "end," the "purport," of the new law of life is Love. Huther and Ellicott dispute Leo's statement that the love here spoken of is love to God as well as man. They do so on the principle that when love is thus used absolutely in the New Testament it has this limited reference. But the love referred to in the epistles both of Paul and John describes the right relation of the whole of human nature to God and man, and is' closely identified with the Divine life wrought within man by the Holy Spirit. The powers of "love" detailed by St. Paul in 1 Coriathians xiii. correspond almost verbally with "the fruits of the Spirit" which are enumerated in Galatians v. 22. Love to man in its highest sense is a consequent of love to God, and flows from it. The Apostle specifies three conditions of this love, and they apply with equal force to each of the great spheres of its operation. The first condition is, a pure heart. " With the heart, or in the heart, faith is exercised unto righteousness." "If thou believe in thy heart," says Paul (Romans x. 9), shewing there, as well as elsewhere, that καρδία denotes the region and the organ of mental operations (if. 1 Cor. ii. 9; iv. 5; Matt. xv. 19, &c.) as well as of the emotional nature. With " the pure heart" (Matt. v. 8) it is alone possible to have the beatific vision of God; for, unless the whole interior man be purified, the power of love will fasten on selfish or ignoble objects. It is not a sentimental love which turns back upon self in the mere enjoyment of its own exercise, but the love which springs from clear insight and noble sacrificial self-forgetfulness, from a nature sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and duly responsive to the Eternal Love.

The Apostle shews the breadth of his conception of it in the second condition which he supplies-viz., a good conscience. Conscience, "self-consciousness," we learn from the New Testament may be "evil " as well as "good" and "pure." It may be "defiled" and "hardened" and "cauterized," even as tender flesh may be by heated iron. It may be burdened with "guilt" or " void of offence.". Conscience (συνείδησις) may be regarded as a distinct faculty of the mind, or a name for that principle of reflection and self-consciousness which takes account of the whole inner and outer life, and represents the action of the whole mind, especially upon the matter o: good and evil, the activity of the ego towards the ethical aspects of things. In either case conscience may be spoken of as'' good," if its operations are free and unbiassed, if it is active as opposed to dormant, if its perceptions of the standard of rectitude are vigorous, and its applications stimulate, direct, and, if necessary, scourge and goad the will into activity. It is, moreover, " good " in another sense if the conclusions at which it arrives are satisfactory, if it reveals a consciousness of inner honesty and rectitude, and is opposed to a sense of shame, of guilt, and of exposure to the Divine wrath. There can be no love to God or man that answers the Divine ideal unless it proceeds from a clear conscience. The mystery of the faith must be thus held (1 Tim. iii. 9) in the pure conscience. Until the conscience is healed and purified, and ceases to condemn, until we have confidence towards God, there is no love.

The third condition of love is unfeigned faith. This epithet-"unfeigned"-is applied to faith in 2 Tim. i. 5; to "love" in Rom. xii. 9; to heavenly wisdom in James iii. 17. The "faith" of which Paul here speaks must be free from all "dissembling," all pretence of a confidence that is not felt. It must not be the mask of unbelief or of contradictory sentiments. It is strange that Paul should mention it last of all; yet this may be explained, because here he penetrates to the deep principle, to the living source of both the clear conscience and the pure heart. " Conscience" and "heart" describe the sphere of the operation of the Divine Life and special departments of the human constitution. Faith, on the other hand, is the seed-principle, which, taking root in a purified heart and an active and peaceful conscience, will put forth therein the flowers and fruit of holy love. Now, in view of this ideal, some men utterly fail. At these conditions of love, at these virtues, at these indispensable methods of securing the true "end" of the sacred standard of the Gospel, "certain persons have [taken but] missed their aim." The word ἀστόχεω is often used by the-later classical writers with a genitive of that from which the departure takes place. Alford quotes in proof of this two passages from Polybius. Plutarch also used the word in the same sense. Those who thus miss the true aim have, as a consequence, deflected their course, "having swerved20 to vain empty talking," instead of Divine love.

This "foolish babble" led to cantroversies, un1 wise speculations, "disputes about the law" (Tit. iii-9), discussions about "myths and genealogies," which were barren of all practical advantage and hurtful to souls. Paul scorned and loathed all windy words and vain speculations that had no direct bearing upon holy living. These talkers without love arc (verse 7) nevertheless wishing to be regarded as teachers of the law.

We cannot see any justice in Baur's speculation, that the writer is referring to the Gnostic enemies of the Law, who did in fact despise and contemn the Law as evil. Yet Plancke and Leo go too far in the opposite direction when they find here the Judaizers of an earlier age. It appears to me that it cannot be made out finally whether those to whom Paul refers were laying emphasis on legal observance as a whole, or were merely deducing from the Law, by forced exegesis and dubious methods of interpretation, the unevangelical counsels and profitless  quibbles which were beginning to starve or poison the Church. The doctrine of the Judaizers could hardly be described as a "vain babble;" nor were those who harassed Paul's earlier ministry ignorant of the Law "concerning which they made asseverations."

The statement (verse 8) is that their understandings as well as their hearts were at fault. There is a certain antithetic force (Ellicott) about the participle. determinable by the context. Although they are ignorant both of those things of which they speak-i.e., of their own myths, and genealogies, arid texts, and traditions, and allegorical meanings; and if those things concerning which they make affirmations-i.e., "THE LAW of which they profess to be the teachers. Leo, Wiesinger, Ellicott, take this view, but De Wette regards it as a mistake to distinguish two objects to the two verbs. So Luther translates, was sie sagen oder was sie setzen. De Wette's reason is that in Tit. iii. 8, διαβεβαιοῦσθαι is followed with περὶ of the matter affirmed. But there also the translation adopted here would be perfectly justifiable. These teachers struck at the root of all law, and therefore of all love, of the commandment which was ordained unto life, and therefore at all the ethical grandeur of the Gospel of Christ. They said. they were Jews, but were not, being the synagogue of Satan. The Lord from his glory compared them to Balaam, to Jezebel and her lovers. They professed by licentious freedom to sound the depths of God and scale heights sublimer than those of virtue, purity, and love. They infested the early Church, and well merited the condemnations of those who had entered into fellowship with the living Christ. One of the fond excesses of modern speculation has been an attempt to identify these enemies of righteousness with the believers in Pauline theology, and to suppose that Paul himself is the "vain man" condemned by St. James (ii. 20). The passage before us ought to be the refutation of the whole theory.



1) 1 Cor. vii. 6, 25; 2 Cor. viii. 8; cf. Tit. i. 1.

2) 1 Cor. i. 1; 2 Cor. i. 1; 2 Tim. i. 1.

3) Eph. v. 23; Phil.. iii. 20.

4) 2 Thess. ii. 13; 1 Cor. i. 21.

5) Psa. CV. 21; Isa. xliii. 3. 11; xlv. 15; Hos. xiii. 4; Eccles. li. 1.

6) Luke i. 47; Jude 25.

7) A variety of readings prevent our attaching much importance to the presence or absence of the article before σωτῆρος.

8) All the modern editors omit the κυριου before χριστοῦ.

9) Philo. ii. 20.

10) 1 Cor. iv. 17.

11) Cf. Tit. i. 4.

12) 3 John 1.

13) Bengel, on Romans i. 7, says, " Una eademque gratia, una eademque pax, a Deo et Christo."

14) The interesting Sections lxiii., lxiv., of Winer's Grammar, on "the ellipses of the simple sentence" may be referred to with advantage. Cf. Rom. v. 12; xi. 21,; Matt. xvi. 7; John v. 6, 7; 2 Pet. ii. 4.

15) Tit i. 5.

16) Phil. 8-10.

17) Tit. i. 4; iii. 9.

18) Chrysostom and Damianus read οἰκονομίαν, and אAFG, &c.

19) Here Leo has been too hastily condemned by Huther. Ellicott comes nearly to the conclusion stated above as to the meaning of παραγγελίας; so also Fairbairn.

20) Wettstein gives a whole column of quotations to explain the usage of the verb ἐκτρέπεσθαι (if. Heb. xiii. 9). Bengel translates the word here, by aversi sunt.