《Pett’s Commentary on the Bible – 1 Timothy》(Peter Pett)
Dr. Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD is a retired Baptist minister and college lecturer. He holds a BD (good honours) from King's College London and was trained at what is now the London School of Theology (formerly London Bible College).
In this modernly written verse-by-verse commentary of the Bible (see book exclusions below), Dr. Peter Pett leads the reader through the Scriptures with accuracy and insight. Students and scholars alike will delight at Pett's clear and direct style, concisely examining the original text, its writers, translations and above all, the God who inspired it. Study the bible online.
Commentary excludes 1 and 2 Chronicles, Esther, Job, and Psalms 67-150 because the material has not yet been written.
00 Introduction Introduction
In this letter Paul is writing to his younger co-missionary and lieutenant Timothy in order to encourage him and guide him in the responsibility that he had given him to keep the Ephesian church going forward on the right lines. Paul had learned, whether by a visit, or by information otherwise received, that all was not well there, for some of the teachers and elders had become caught up in some funny ideas (inevitable where there was no New Testament, and even common now that there is). Timothy was there to put things right, and Paul calls on him to see his responsibility through to the end. It was a huge task for an inexperienced and shy young man, but one of which Paul clearly thought that he was capable.
We must remember that the ‘church in Ephesus’ was not just one huge gathering, but was composed of smaller groups spread around the city, all however overseen by group of ‘elders’ (presbuteroi) or ‘overseers (episkopoi - bishops) who were the unifying factor that kept the church there ‘as one’ (see Acts 20:17). These groups met together for worship throughout the city, and many Christians (who would often be slaves) had limited time available to move far from their own locality, so as to join a wider or larger group. Thus there would be many elders, and even more teachers needed in order to cover their needs. And if some of those teachers in a local group strayed from true doctrine they could well take their group with them. It was therefore important to keep them all on the right lines.
There had been organisation in the Christian church from the beginning, arranged as the need arose. First there was the unique Apostolate. Then there was the appointment of men to ‘serve’ (diakoneo), and these not only performed good works and watched over the young church’s charitable work, but also went around preaching and performing miracles (Acts 6), with no one demurring. This was then followed by the appointment of ‘elders’ over the different churches (Acts 11:30; Acts 14:23; Acts 15; Acts 20:17; Acts 21:18; 1 Timothy 5:17; 1 Timothy 5:19; Titus 1:5).
Those who were familiar with synagogue worship would inevitably, in a general sort of way, pattern their organisation on them, but, as they had no buildings, it would be without the specific functionaries that were required there. Thus a group of elders (presbuteroi) or overseers/bishops (episkopoi) would be responsible for the ‘congregation’ in each town or city.
This accepted organisation would be one reason why earlier letters did not say so much about organisation, although such organisation is clearly implied in, for example, the constant mention of elders. The organisation was simple but effective. But expansion and growth would require modification, and in accordance with the example first given by the Apostles, it would appear that two tiers of officials came into being, (although not necessarily in exactly the same way everywhere), the overseers (episkopoi - ‘bishops’), of whom there were a number in each church, and who as a group had overall charge, and the deacons (diakonoi - servants). This is first apparent in Philippians 1:1, where the offices there were clearly fixed, but compare Syrian Antioch where things were in the hands of ‘prophets and teachers’. How different the one were from the other we cannot be sure, but certainly one of the things which Paul was concerned about when writing to his lieutenants was to give advice on the selection of overseers and deacons.
The need for this kind of approach would have occurred fairly early on as the churches rapidly expanded. Such modifications must to some extent have occurred almost from the commencement of the wider church outside Palestine, especially as groups were formed which had had no connection with synagogues, but the larger ‘the church’ grew the more such ‘organisation’ would inevitably need to grow, for the numerous house churches would require oversight and assistance, possibly the smaller ones by diakonoi, as they would not want to multiply elders beyond a reasonable number. The ‘elders’ would therefore have oversight in each city, often in the form of episkopoi assisted by the diakonoi, certainly in some cities as early as Philippians 1:1. There is no reason therefore on these grounds for seeing these letters as ‘late’. And, apart from Philippians 1:1, where the two levels seem to be seen as a settled thing, we only know of the situation because Timothy and Titus, as Paul’s lieutenants, had a responsibility for ensuring the continuation of a good ‘church order’. It would, however, in one way or another, be occurring in churches ‘worldwide’.
But there is no hint anywhere of one person being in overall charge of a ‘church’. The nearest we come to it is James, but even he was one of a number of elders (Acts 15:4; Acts 15:6; Acts 15:22-23; Acts 21:18), although having a special kind of personal authority because of who and what he was. Men like Timothy and Titus, as emissaries of Paul, and of course the Apostles themselves, had a special function in maintaining Apostolic oversight until the churches were established. But we have no reason to think that they had direct, permanent authority over individual churches. Their purpose was to ensure that the local church was properly organised and running, and then move on. And as far as we know, once the Apostles died, their authority died with them. Direct, permanent authority was in the hands of the local elders, and while Paul might exhort strongly, he never indicates that they must obey him because of his position, even though he strongly urges that they should because God had directly appointed him for their good. Nor do we ever have any suggestion that the Apostles were replaced as they died off. (The replacement of Judas was a special case. He was not replaced because he died but because he was a traitor who left an unholy gap, and the replacement had to be one who had followed Jesus from the beginning and was a witness to the resurrection).
It was in order to advise Timothy in respect of these things that Paul wrote to him, but the letters were clearly intended to be made public (1 Timothy 5:21 - ‘grace be to you all’). Indeed it was necessary for them to be so, so that the churches would realise that what these young men were requiring was in fact something that was required by Paul himself. And they may thus gradually have become ‘manuals of church order’. But they were not really so, nor intended to be so. They were simply intended to contain advice with regard to who should serve in different offices, but along with other requirements. It was simply that they became useful for the purpose.
Following the usual pattern for letter writing at that time the letter commences with the name and authority of the sender, followed by a greeting to the recipient, coming prior to the main body of the message.
01 Chapter 1 Verse 1
Introductory Greeting (1 Timothy 1:1-2).
‘Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by order of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope,’
As he does regularly Paul here establishes his Apostleship. He asserts that it was a position given to him as a result of the commands of both ‘God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope’ setting him on a par with the twelve. It thus had the strongest possible backing. And he points out that he was appointed, as it were, directly ‘by order of (kat’ epitagen)’ the divine Board (a use of kat’ epitagen found in inscriptions). See Galatians 1:15-17; Galatians 2:8-9.
The definitions are significant in the light of the warnings that he will give to Timothy about false teaching. He wants it recognised that the salvation of which he has been speaking is the work ofGod Himselfas ‘the Saviour’ (this is emphasised again in 1 Timothy 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:10), in accordance with Old Testament teaching (Deuteronomy 32:15 LXX 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 106:21; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 45:15; Isaiah 45:21; Hosea 13:4, see also Luke 1:47; Jude 1:25), and that their hope lies in ‘the Messiah’, Jesus, Who is the Old Testament solution to man’s needs (Psalms 2:2; Psalms 18:50; Daniel 9:25). Both ideas are rooted in the Old Testament as expanded in later Jewish tradition. There may well here be a deliberate response to those who tried to portray Jesus as a kind of ‘Hellenistic saviour and intermediary’ as portrayed by an incipient Gnosticism. Paul is emphasising that any salvation connected with Jesus is to be seen as directly the work of God, and not of an intermediary, but that nevertheless our hope for this salvation and in the final consummation is in Jesus, whothrough His manhoodis able to act as mediator between man and God our Saviour (1 Timothy 2:5). But as he will immediately point out, God is ‘the Father’, and the Messiah Jesus is ‘our Lord’ (in LXX kurios = YHWH). They are responsible for our salvation together, while Jesus is fully man and fully God, not a half and half intermediary.
‘Christ Jesus our hope.’ In Psalms 65:5 God is ‘our salvation’ and ‘the hope of all the ends of the earth’, thus ‘God our Saviour’ and ‘Christ Jesus our hope’ echoes this Psalmist’s words and places God and Christ Jesus on a parallel. In the same way God is said to be ‘the hope of Israel’ in Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13, compare Acts 28:20. Now to Paul and the early church the church was Israel (Galatians 3:19; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:13-22), and thus Jesus as ‘our hope’ is here being thought of as ‘the hope of the new Israel’, that is, He is the hope of God’s people. As in Psalms 65:5 the idea of hope here includes both present salvation and final deliverance. He is both our daily hope and our future hope. In Colossians 1:27 also, Christ is our hope of glory, both now (2 Corinthians 3:18) and in the future (Romans 8:24-25), for Paul constantly speaks of our ‘hope’, and it is something that is certain of attainment. It is a ‘certain hope’.
Many see this ‘hope’ as simply referring to the second coming, but while that is certainly an important aspect of it, we cannot restrict it simply to that. Indeed the second coming is our hope precisely because what will happen then, will be the final result of this ‘hope’. Then, having been experiencing constant change (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13), we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52), and will become like Him for we will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). We will be presented holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight (Colossians 1:22). But we will have many ‘hopes’ fulfilled before then. When the Psalmist in Psalms 43 was cast down in soul, he looked with hope to the God of hope, who would strengthen him to face the future and be his God. And he was expecting God to act in the near future. Our present and our future are thus both in His hands, and we can hope in Him for both, and with regard to this we must again remember that this Scriptural hope is a confident hope. The question in Scripture with regard to hope is not ‘will He?’ but When?’.
These ideas, which are firmly rooted in the Old Testament, were especially useful to Christian teachers in view of the fact that the terms ‘Saviour’ and ‘Hope’ were also prominent in pagan religion, for Nero was spoke of as ‘the (divine) Saviour’ and there were many Temples which were dedicated to ‘Hope’. Gentile Christians would thus see in this use of ‘Saviour’ and ‘hope’ that the church had a greater Saviour and a greater hope than their fellow-Gentiles. (Indeed it may well have been the emphasis being placed at the time on Nero as mankind’s ‘saviour’ that prompted Paul to refer to God as ‘our Saviour’, emphasising God’s overallness, and putting such Neronic ideas firmly in their place without actually saying so).
So the reason that Paul is what he is, (‘the Apostle, the one sent forth’), is because of the Old Testament salvation that God the Father, Who is Himself the Saviour, is bringing about through the Messiah, Jesus ‘our Lord’, and the result is that he, as an Apostle, (that is, as one ‘sent forth’ by God and by Jesus), has been given as a charge the establishing of the people of God, and the preservation of the truth, and it is for that purpose that he is writing to Timothy.
His calling on the fact of his Apostleship in what appears to be a personal letter demonstrates that he is giving not just advice, but instruction. The point is that his instructions to Timothy are to be seen as carrying the full weight of his authority behind them. Timothy would thus be able to present the letter as confirming his own authority in his dealings with the churches.
‘By order of, by command of.’ A thought typical of Paul. See 1 Corinthians 7:6; 2 Corinthians 8:8; Romans 16:26; Titus 1:3.
‘To Timothy, my true child in faith. Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’
He is writing to Timothy as his ‘true’ that is, his genuine ‘child in faith’. The final phrase may indicate that ‘by faith’, having assessed him carefully and discussed the matter with the Lord, he senses a genuine oneness with him, and has adopted him ‘by faith’ for the purpose of his carrying on with Paul’s own ministry as one of his successors. Or we may read in the article, and see it as signifying ‘my child in the faith’, that is, the one who Paul, like a father, has nurtured and nourished, and now looks on as one of his successors on a roving brief (although never as an Apostle). Either way it brings out Paul’s affection for Timothy and his confidence in him. We can compare here, "I have sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:17), and "I have no one like him.... As a son with a father he has served with me in the Gospel" (Philippians 2:20; Philippians 2:22). Timothy was someone whom he knew that he could trust utterly, and whom he loved dearly.
He wishes for him ‘grace, mercy and peace’, three words which sum up the Gospel. Grace signifies God’s undeserved love and compassion reaching out and active towards men. In the end all that is of God is of grace. Mercy indicates that a way has been made back to Himself through forgiveness, and that He continues unceasingly to look compassionately on His people. Peace indicates the reconciliation that Timothy is enjoying through Christ and the resulting peace of heart that he can enjoy. The introduction of ‘mercy’ between ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ is an advance on the usual ‘grace and peace’ but is paralleled in 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 John 1:3. Here it reflects the ageing Paul’s recognition of the wonder of God’s mercy towards himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). In his old age he cannot get over the amazing fact of God’s mercy towards him, and recognises that Timothy needs it too.
‘From God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.’ As regularly in Paul ‘God’ and ‘the Lord’ are seen as of equal status. What God the Father does, Christ Jesus our Lord does. What God the Father is, Christ Jesus our Lord is (compare 1 Corinthians 8:6).
‘As I exhorted you to stay awhile at Ephesus, when I was going into Macedonia, so that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings, rather than a household management of God which is in faith; so do I now. But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned,’
‘As I exhorted you to stay awhile at Ephesus.’ Timothy had been ministering in Ephesus, and Paul had exhorted (or ‘requested’) him to stay there for the good of the church. It would appear that Timothy felt that it was time that he left there, for he would be well aware that he was young and inexperienced, but Paul was asking him to remain there in order, among other things, to combat this foolish teaching in so important and influential a church. And when Paul made a request to a godly young man like Timothy it was in the nature of a command, for he would be seen as speaking in God’s name.
‘When I was going into Macedonia.’ All this tells us is that Timothy knew that Paul was going into Macedonia. It does not tell us what his starting point had been. There is therefore no reason for assuming that Paul had been in Ephesus just prior to the letter. (Its force depended simply on the information that Timothy had. There is no ‘natural’ way of reading it apart from that, and we do not know what Timothy’s information was). So Paul reminds Timothy how he (Timothy) had been in Ephesus, while Paul was going to Macedonia, and how he had exhorted him to remain there for a while. Timothy had clearly wanted to leave Ephesus, finding the going a little hard for one who was sensitive, as well as being young and relatively inexperienced, and feeling insufficient in himself. But Paul asked him to remain there in order to combat foolish teaching, and he did so. It is a reminder that the pathway of our choosing is not necessarily the one that will be the best for the work of God.
It should be stressed that Paul does not say that he himself had been at Ephesus. He simply states his destination. Paul’s previous exhortation might have been by letter or through messengers as he was organising the activities of his missionary band throughout Asia Minor and Greece. By means of messengers he kept in close touch with his ‘assistants’, and indeed sometimes they were his messengers.
Some, reading into it that Paul is saying that he had been at Ephesus with Timothy, have pointed out that Paul had told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:22 that they would see his face no more. But that statement may in fact simply have meant ‘not in the near future’ simply because he knew of the trials that lay ahead of him. For that time at least, and for the foreseeable future, he wanted them to know that he would not be travelling again through Asia Minor, with the consequence being that they must not depend on his coming to them again. But that was not to close the door on him ever coming again to them. Paul knew only too well that his life was being directed for him. It was not therefore for him to determine the distant future. He knew only of what lay close at hand, and wanted the elders to become God-sufficient.
Besides Paul would not be the first person to have said, ‘you won’t be seeing me again’, only for circumstances to change. Such a statement can only ever mean, ‘not this time around’. But however that might be Paul may not even have been at Ephesus this time. He may simply have sent Timothy there to give encouragement and teaching, and to pass on his love and concern for their welfare while he was active elsewhere. With a rapidly extending church he could not be everywhere, and the world was a large place and the Christian resources spread thinly.
‘So that you might charge certain men not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings.’ One reason that Paul had wanted Timothy to remain at Ephesus was in order to counter some spurious teaching that was in vogue there. He had wanted him to put straight some of the elders and teachers who were straying into false ideas (in a young church with no New Testament it was inevitable that some would begin to speculate, especially in view of a tendency among some to interpret Scripture symbolically and the kind of ideas that were constantly floating around in the wider world). Thus Timothy was to put their doctrine straight, and ensure that they stuck firmly with the main essentials and did not stray into speculative and unimportant lines of thinking. It was important rather that the church be solidly based on a foundation of the central truths.
‘Certain men.’ That the erring teachers were probably elders of the house-churches in Ephesus comes out in that they saw themselves as 'teachers of the law' (1 Timothy 1:7. See also 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Timothy 5:17). Also by the fact that it was Paul himself and not the church leadership who dealt with the main offenders (1 Timothy 1:20 - it would appear that it required his authority). Note too the repeated concern shown about the leadership in this letter, both in regard to their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13), and to their behaviour (1 Timothy 5:20) and original appointment (1 Timothy 5:22).
‘Not to teach a different doctrine, nor to give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questionings.’ He especially wanted to persuade them not to get involved in ‘fables and endless genealogies which minister questions’, that is, ideas which were based on the inventiveness of the human mind and were speculative (compare 1 Timothy 4:7), and led to further questionings which would lead nowhere. They were ‘endless’ because there is no limit to the fertility of the human mind when unrestrained. Furthermore the word ‘genealogies’ is a word which may well include family histories as a similar word does in Genesis (compare its use in Genesis 37:2 where it is not strictly connected with a genealogy and RSV translates as ‘family history’). 1 Timothy 1:7 suggests that these were in some way connected with teaching the Law. Such speculations were very prevalent in Judaism, especially Hellenistic Judaism.
Genealogies were indeed especially important to the orthodox Jews, whose leaders considered that good descent was everything. A number of Christian Jews may well thus have been emphasising the need for those of ‘pure descent’ to remain ‘true’ to Jewish practises, and by the use of invented or exaggerated genealogical thinking have been ‘proving’ how many were included in that definition (see Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9 which specifically connects these things against which Paul is speaking with the Jews, while 1 Timothy 1:6-7 below confirm a connection with ‘the Law’).
Or they may have become involved in some of the fantasies about genealogies found in those who had been influenced by Philo’s more extravagant teaching issuing from among the Jews of Alexandria. Among other things with him the names in the genealogies represented the various conditions of the soul. Others built up stories around them, and then speculated on them. We all know of those today who can use and interpret names in genealogies and build stories around them in order to build up a picture which is simply an invention of their own minds, and pure speculation, but can sound convincing until it is examined by someone who knows what they are talking about. There is no need to see incipient Gnostic speculation here, although such may well have been going on at the time, for the seeds of Gnosticism were clearly around when Paul wrote Colossians. So it is probably with a view to countering such uses of ‘genealogies’ as are described above that Paul was writing. For one example of how genealogies were used among Jews in the wider sense see the Book of Jubilees with its mythical fables and histories. But the problem was that the use of genealogies in this way limited the truth in men’s minds rather than expanding it, and made it dependent on useless inventions which came from small minds. Whichever way it was it had to be stopped, for it was leading into the kind of questioning and speculation that was distinctively unhelpful, and was diverting men from the truth. (Those with a scholastic bent were clearly equally as inventive then as they are now, and with less restraints. But the problem that Paul had with it there was that it was being fed to the ordinary people as though it was the Gospel). The impression being given is not of a dangerous heresy, but of things which were a foolish waste of time, simply diverting people from the central truths. They may often have appeared more interesting than sound doctrine, but they gave no genuine basis for faith, which if it was to be genuine had to be founded on reasonably rational ideas and related to true life situations. Sound doctrine always has a good rational and historical basis.
Interestingly Rabbi Benjamin echoes Paul’s description (admittedly in 11th century AD) when he refers to some Jews in his time, who were Rechabites, and were very numerous, and had a prince over them of the house of David; and, adds that they have a genealogical book "and extracts of questions" (Massaoth, p. 83). Compare Paul’s ‘genealogies which minister questions’. Such throwbacks to the past might well have preserved very ancient tradition so that this may be seen as helping to confirm that the phrase itself has a Jewish background.
‘Rather than a household management (oikonomia) of God which is in faith.’ He wanted rather to ensure that their teaching was more positive and that it established the ‘household’ of the people of God in their faith, and kept them looking to and trusting in God. It was the responsibility of the elders and teachers to ‘manage the household and dispense truth’. And they must do so on the foundation of what all true Christians saw as ‘the faith’, the basic central doctrines which the Apostles had taught. Or alternately he was suggesting that the people’s faith in Christ must be what was emphasised and encouraged. What they were not to be involved with were speculations into irrelevancies invented by men, not based on genuine history and on Apostolic teaching.
‘So do I now.’ This phrase is actually not there in the Greek text. Paul had tailed off without finishing his sentence, as he often did (something which sticks out more in a translation than in the original Greek). So the sense has to be read in. It is clear that Paul saw the charge as still effective.
‘But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned.’ He then makes clear what the purpose behind his ‘charge’ is (‘charge’ is a military term indicating ‘command’ and refers to the responsibility that he was putting on Timothy which he had to pass on to the elders and teachers). It was in order that first Timothy, and then the elders and teachers, and then the whole congregation, might maintain love from ‘a pure heart, a good conscience and a faith that was genuine (and not simply a show)’. Philosophical speculation does not on the whole tend to result in practical love, but Christian doctrine was supposed to do precisely that. Paul was concerned that true and genuine love, love towards God, towards each other, and towards the world, which was central to the Gospel, was being set aside because of these speculations.
‘Love from a pure heart --.’ This meant love towards God Himself (not towards mythical ideas), love to all men, and love for one another, each of which was central to the Gospel (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 5:42-48; Matthew 22:37-39; John 13:34-35). The purity of heart included sound doctrine which would result in sound living. If the eye was full of light then so would their ways be (Matthew 6:22). Those whose hearts were sound in that way would then live in full purity of life which was the second aspect of a pure heart (Psalms 15). Let the heart but be stayed on Christ, and the life would fall into place. But let the vision of Christ be dimmed, and then anything could happen. True morals rested on true faith, and that was the source of love.
‘A good conscience.’ That is a conscience that was satisfied that it was not straying from the truth, and one that could be satisfied that it was abiding by Christ’s teaching as depicted, for example, in the Sermon on the Mount. It was the conscience of a person whose heart was fixed on Christ, and who ‘walked in the light’ by following Him. The word means literally ‘a knowing along with’. It may thus mean ‘knowing that one’s behaviour is in line with that of their fellows’ or ‘a knowing of oneself’, an inner knowledge with the mind thinking along with the spirit. But its connection with ‘the truth’ in Paul’s eyes comes out in 1 Timothy 4:2, where the speaking of lies acts as a brand on the conscience, demonstrating that it is false. To be valid conscience has to be satiated in truth.
‘A genuine faith (faith unfeigned).’ Faith had to be properly and rightly fed if it was to remain genuine. And it was necessary to ensure that it really was faith in Christ Himself, and what He had taught, and not in endless speculations built up around His Name. For a similar use of ‘unfeigned’ see 2 Corinthians 6:6; Romans 12:9.
‘Oikonomia.’ A typical Pauline word which, apart from its use in Luke 16:2-4, is found only in 1 Corinthians 9:17; Colossians 1:25; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 3:9; and here.