Addresses on the First and Second epistles of Timothy
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. (vv. 1-4)
There are three letters of Paul that we generally speak of as Pastoral Epistles: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. They are so-called because they were written to servants of Christ who, in a very special sense, had the care of God’s people in different places. These two young men had been converted through the instrumentality of the apostle Paul and had gone out to preach the Word in association with him. From time to time he left one or the other to help in various newly formed churches in order that the young converts might be established in the truth. Both of these young men had shepherds’ hearts and delighted to care for the sheep and lambs of Christ’s flock. In these three letters Paul writes to them regarding certain things which, as pastors, or shepherds of the flock, they needed to keep in mind. Of course, these letters are not only for those who have special gifts along these lines, but they also contain instruction for all God’s people.
The great outstanding theme of the two epistles to Timothy is “the truth according to godliness,” while that of the letter to Titus is “godliness according to truth,” thus giving us the two sides of the subject. In the letters to Timothy, Paul emphasizes the importance of holding fast the faithful Word; in that to Titus he stresses the necessity of godly living in accordance with the Word of truth.
The first letter to Timothy was evidently written after Paul’s release from his first imprisonment; therefore, it is a later letter than the Prison Epistles, such as Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and some others. First Timothy was written after Paul had appeared before Caesar. Because the charges against him were not found sufficient to warrant his execution, Paul was set free. If we can trust the records that have come down from the early days, Paul then went as far west as Spain, preaching the Word. He returned later to the East and ministered throughout Asia Minor, different parts of Greece, and Macedonia. After several years he was rearrested and taken back to Rome, and on this second occasion was condemned to death. First Timothy fits in between his liberation and the second arrest, while the second letter to Timothy was written from Paul’s death cell.
This first letter seems to divide into five parts: chapter 1 is the first division, and the outstanding theme is grace contrasted with law. Chapter 2, the second division, stresses the importance of prayer, both public and private. Chapter 3 is the third division and gives the divine order in the church of God. Chapter 4, the fourth division, is a prophecy of conditions that will prevail in the latter times, and the importance of holding fast to the truth as apostasy rolls on. Chapters 5 and 6 together give the fifth division of the book in which we have various admonitions not only for Timothy but also for all of us.
We notice at this time just the four opening verses of the first chapter. In the first two verses we have the apostolic salutation: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” An apostle is a “sent one.” The meaning is almost the same as that of our word missionary, but the word missionary does not necessarily carry with it a sense of authority. The apostles were appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ, specially commissioned and sent forth to proclaim His gospel throughout the world. We have twelve apostles in the Gospels. Judas forfeited his place by his treachery. In the first chapter of Acts we have Matthias elected to fill the place of Judas, and that makes the Twelve complete.
The apostleship of Paul was of an altogether different order. The Lord Jesus said to the Twelve that in the regeneration, that is, in the coming glorious kingdom, “Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Paul could not be included in that list because he did not know the Lord during His life on earth. But Matthias was one who had kept company with the apostles from the days of John the Baptist until the time of his election to fill the place of Judas (Acts 1:21-22). Evidently it was by the Spirit’s guidance that he was elected to fill that place.
God had a special ministry for the apostle Paul: he was to make known the truth of the mystery of the body of Christ, and was commissioned to go unto the Gentiles and proclaim the glorious message of the gospel in all its power and fullness. He had special authority committed unto him as an apostle of Jesus Christ, “By the commandment,” he says, “of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.”
I like that expression: “God our Savior.” Many are inclined to think of God as a Judge rather than as a Savior; but remember, it was God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross did not enable God to love men. It was the expression of the love of God toward men. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And so now we who are saved can look up to Him and say, “God our Savior!” Ordinarily we think of applying this expression to our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course it is more often used in connection with Him than with any other Person of the Godhead, but it is blessedly true that God the Father is our Savior as truly as God the Son. So Paul here links the two together: “God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.” He gives Him His full title.
I wonder if you have ever noticed that when our blessed Lord was here on earth no friend of His is ever said to have addressed Him by His given name, Jesus. That is a lovely name. It is so significant. To many of us it is the sweetest name we have ever heard. It means “Jehovah the Savior.” It was the name given to Him in His humanity. But we never read of anyone going up to Him and saying, “Jesus.” He was always addressed as Lord or Master, and He approved of that, for He said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13). After His death, and inspired by the Spirit of God, the apostles used the simple name “Jesus” very frequently in telling of events that had taken place. But when they wanted to give Him special honor they used His full title—the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Lord because He should have absolute authority over the hearts of men. He is Jesus because He was Jehovah come down to earth, taking our humanity upon Himself in order that He might save us. As to His office, He is Christ, which means the “Anointed,” the “Messiah.” Peter said, “God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
“God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.” Christianity has a message of hope. As we look around over the world today we see so many things that have a tendency to make one utterly hopeless and pessimistic. But when we turn to the Word of God we find what He has revealed concerning the present age and the final blessing of this world, and the heart is filled with hope, joy, and comfort. The apostle Paul delighted in that word hope. I think you will find it forty times in his epistles. Here it is “the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope.” In Titus 2:13 we read of “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” In 1 Thessalonians 1:3 it is “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father,” and in many other places and ways the apostle uses this word hope. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our hope. We are looking for Him to return. We are looking for Him to transform these bodies of our humiliation and make them like unto His glorious body. Our hope is to see Him as He is and to become like Him. What a blessed hope it is!
Paul addresses himself to Timothy and speaks of him as “my own son.” He really uses the more intimate term in the original, “my own child in the faith.” In what sense was Timothy his child in the faith? Well, you remember that when the apostle Paul went to Lystra, as recorded in the book of Acts (chap. 14), he was first welcomed as a god and then stoned, as the people thought, to death. But as a result of his ministry at Lystra, a young man, half-Jew and half-Gentile (his mother was Jewish, and his father was a Greek), was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ—this young man was Timothy. He had been well-instructed in the Old Testament, and when Paul came to Lystra and preached the gospel Timothy was ready to receive Christ. When Paul went to Lystra the second time some years afterward, the brethren recommended Timothy as one suitable to be set apart for the gospel. Paul had an interview with young Timothy and decided to take him along with him. There were no theological seminaries where people could go for a quick training in spiritual truths and practical work, but the older took the younger with him. Barnabas took Mark with him in early days, and later Mark became the companion of Peter. Paul took different ones with him on various occasions, Timothy, Titus, Silas, and others. In this way the younger men gained experience and confidence until they were able to launch out independently for the Lord.
Paul had a deep affection for Timothy. There is always a close bond between a servant of Christ and those whom he has led to the Lord as their Savior. I cannot tell you what a joy it is to know that one has been used to bring many to know the Lord Jesus Christ. It just thrills one’s heart to think that God has given the privilege of bringing so many with the Spirit’s leading to accept Him as their own Redeemer. Oh, there is no joy like this! If you have never led anyone to Christ, and yet you are a Christian, you have missed something that would do your soul good. Try to win someone else to Christ or tell somebody else about the Lord Jesus, and if you have the joy of hearing that person confess Christ as Savior for the first time, you will count it one of the greatest thrills you can have!
Paul’s love for Timothy is shown in his words, “My own [child] in the faith.” And he wishes him “grace, mercy, and peace.” Notice that when he addresses churches or groups of people as such he speaks of “grace and peace,” but when addressing an individual he puts in another word, “grace, mercy, and peace.” Individuals need mercy. Individuals are conscious of their failures; they are conscious of their need of special divine help. In each instance, when Paul speaks to individuals particularly, he gives them this threefold greeting: “Grace, mercy, and peace.” It is not the grace that saves in the beginning that he has in view, but the grace that keeps, the grace that sustains: “He giveth more grace” as we go along our pilgrim way. It is not the mercy as a result of which our sins are forgiven in the first place, but that mercy which we need from day to day when conscious of failure and shortcoming, when we come to God and confess our sins: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It is not the peace with God which every believer has—”Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1), we should all enjoy that peace from the very beginning—but here it is the peace o/God, that peace which keeps our hearts in confidence and restful quietness in the midst of adverse circumstances.
As we read in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Did you know that was in the Bible? You have heard it quoted often. You have read it often. But do you practice it? When you get into trouble, what do you do? Do you worry, fret, and say, “Dear me! I do not know how I am going to get through this, or how I shall face that?” Or do you say to yourself, “God has told me to be anxious about nothing but to tell Him about it”? So you go to Him, spread the whole thing before Him, and say, “It is all right. I know He will undertake. I know He will do what is best.”
“Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” God is the Father of all who believe; He is the Creator of all men. But man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, has turned away from Him. Sin came in, and the image was marred and the likeness lost, so men have to be born again. Jesus emphasized that when He said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). When men trust Him as Savior, when they believe the message of the gospel, they receive this new life. They are born again. They have a right to look up to God and say, “Father!” Do you know Him as your Father? He is a loving Father. He is deeply interested in every detail of your life. There are many people who have trusted Christ as Savior who, I fear, have never yet realized His Lordship. Beware of calling Jesus “Lord,” and slighting His command. There is a little ditty that goes something like this:
If He is not Lord of all,
Then He is not Lord at all.
He should have absolute authority over our lives, for we have been bought with a price, even His precious blood. If you have trusted Him as Savior, then recognize His lordship and give Him the right-of-way in your heart and life.
Now it is evident that the apostle, acting with apostolic authority, commended a special ministry to Timothy, and yet he did not put it on the ground of a command. He said, “I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus.” You see, when grace controls the heart, I command becomes I beseech, so Paul says, “I besought”—I pleaded with you. The Christians in Ephesus needed help and special ministry, and Paul urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus and lead the saints on and give them pastoral care while Paul, himself, went on to Macedonia.
He gave a special commission to Timothy, “That thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” It is interesting to trace that little word some through this epistle. You will find it frequently: “Some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling” (1:6); “Some having put away [a good conscience] concerning faith have made shipwreck” (1:19); “Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (4:1); “Some are already turned aside after Satan” (5:15); and so on.
There were those who were teaching things contrary to the truth of God; so Paul says to Timothy, “Stay there if you will and help the saints, and warn those teachers of false things, and charge them that they teach no other doctrine than that which has been delivered unto the saints.” Just what that false doctrine was we are not told here, but as we read on it seems evident that it is a mixture of Jewish legality and Oriental mysticism, probably that which eventually resulted in that esoteric religious system which had a large influence for the next one hundred years. It was called Gnosticism. Do not misunderstand the word, it is not agnosticism but Gnosticism.
“Neither give heed to fables [Oriental fables] and endless genealogies [that refers particularly to certain Jewish genealogies], which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.” Today we still need to beware of systems that do not build up our souls, but instead only serve to get Christians occupied with unprofitable questions. There are some people who delight to argue. John Bunyan has said, “Some love the meat; some love to pick the bones.” And you will find people who delight in picking the bones of vital doctrines but get very little nourishment from the truth of God’s Word, because, instead of being occupied with Christ, they are occupied with various side issues. Now Timothy was to warn the saints to beware of things like that. That which builds up the people of God is heart occupation with Christ. If we are taken up with Him we will become increasingly like Him.