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Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK) with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

1 Timothy 1:1-2


Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope,

To Timothy, my true child in the faith:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.


Last week’s post concluded my study of 2 Thessalonians.

Today’s post begins a study of 1 Timothy, Paul’s letter to his true spiritual child, his successor.

Matthew Henry died before he completed his commentary on this letter, and the preacher Benjamin Andrews Atkinson completed it.

I could not find anything on the Revd Mr Atkinson other than a listing for a set of four of his sermons from 1737 with the splendid title, The decay of practical religion lamented, and the Scripture method for reviving it considered, available on Amazon.

We could do with a book like that today.

His or Henry’s introduction to 1 Timothy is concise (emphases mine):

Hitherto Paul’s epistles were directed to churches; now follow some to particular persons: two to Timothy, one to Titus, and another to Philemon—all three ministers. Timothy and Titus were evangelists, an inferior order to the apostles, as appears by Eph 4 11, Some prophets, some apostles, some evangelists. Their commission and work was much the same with that of the apostles, to plant churches, and water the churches that were planted; and accordingly they were itinerants, as we find Timothy was. Timothy was first converted by Paul, and therefore he calls him his own son in the faith: we read of his conversion, Acts 16 3.

The scope of these two epistles is to direct Timothy how to discharge his duty as an evangelist at Ephesus, where he now was, and where Paul ordered him for some time to reside, to perfect the good work which he had begun there. As for the ordinary pastoral charge of that church, he had very solemnly committed it to the presbytery, as appears from Acts 20 28, where he charges the presbyters to feed the flock of God, which he had purchased with his own blood.

Henry’s commentary says that Paul wrote this letter in AD 64.

The church in Ephesus was having problems, even after Paul had spent three years planting and nurturing it. Paul knew this would happen, because false teachers came in to his churches after he left.

Paul believed that Timothy was the person best suited to undertaking the difficult task of resolving doctrinal issues and apostasy in that church.

John MacArthur says:

Just as you would hope as a Christian, as a Christ-exalting, God-honoring Spirit-filled Christian parent that your child would be all that a physical child could be in the fullness of physical and mental and emotional and social stature, so it is that spiritually all of us would desire to raise one who would be truly a genuine child in the faith that is a real reflection of our spiritual life and values.

And for Paul to so designate Timothy sets Timothy aside in a very special way. He was Paul’s very genuine reflection. He was a true child of the apostle in terms of his spiritual life. He was all that any discipler could ever hope for, could ever pray for. He was what Paul would have wished him to be in every sense. He is the child of Paul’s ministry. He is the protégé; he is the offspring; he is the spiritual son which Paul has raised, and he is reflective of all that Paul would desire that he should be. And it is to this marvelous man that this and the second epistle is written.

Paul’s two letters to Timothy were about the ministry:

For us it is the beginning of a new adventure, an adventure with the Word of God, an in-depth study of rich and profound truth that are going to come to us, first of all, in 1 Timothy. The epistle itself deals with many great subjects, subjects which were needful for Timothy to know in his ministry to the church. It deals with, for example, error in the church and how that error is to be confronted, the proper pattern for church leadership. The importance of sound theology and the centrality of teaching is a major theme. The call for godliness and holiness in living and ministry, the proper attitudes and roles of men and women in the church, how to deal with discipline in the church, how to confront issues in the church, how to deal with a sinning leader in the church, the correction of problems that threaten the church, these are themes dealt with in 1 Timothy, also in 2 Timothy and also in Titus.

As such, Paul begins the letter by stating that he is an Apostle of Christ Jesus and is writing it by command of God our Saviour and Jesus Christ our hope (verse 1).

MacArthur gives us information about the name and the Apostle Paul:

A familiar name to any student of the New Testament, Paulus in Latin, a favorite name among Cilicians, and Paul was from Tarsus a city in Cilicia. It means little or small, and it may have been an indication that at his birth he was small, and it may be an indication that even then when the letter was written he was small – man not of particularly striking stature nor of particularly marked appearance.

In fact he was criticized. If you read 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verses 1 and 10 – read that section there in between if you will – but particularly verse 1 and 10, it indicates to us that Paul did not have anything about him that was particularly striking. And the sort of athletic-minded bodily preoccupied Greeks would have looked down on his rather groveling slavish common low stature. They use the word tapeinos in 2 Corinthians 10:1 to refer to him and it would be an indication of his weak, unimpressive, rather sickly and small stature. So it may be that he was small from the very beginning.

But his name Paul sort of loses that initial significance and he becomes to us a man of tremendous stature, a man of comprehensive capability, a man uniquely used by God in the history of redemption, a man who stands head and shoulders above all men. No matter what he was physically, spiritually he is to us a giant, and the very name Paul when you say it sort of belongs in massive granite block letters.

And so it is Paul who also was named Saul. And it was not uncommon for people in that particular culture to have both a Greek name – Paul, and a Jewish name – Saul, especially because he was a Jew. His father was a Jew. And though he was born in a Greek-Roman environment outside of the land of Israel – born in Tarsus, born in a city which was a part of the Roman Empire – he became, when he was born, a citizen of Rome by birth, his father being a Roman citizen. So it was natural for him to have a Jewish name, because he was of the tribe of Benjamin and the most prominent person in the tribe of Benjamin was Saul, so he was given that name. But it was also Paul and that was the name to identify him with the Greek-Roman culture into which he was born. He is called Saul, by the way, in the book of Acts until the thirteenth chapter and the ninth verse, where he first begins to embark on his ministry to the Gentiles, and from them on he is never called Saul again. He was Saul in a Jewish context until he became the apostle to the Gentiles, from then on he is known as Paul.

Paul was a well trained Pharisee and is likely to have been one of Gamaliel’s students in Jerusalem. He had no time for Christianity and was instrumental in allowing the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr.

MacArthur takes up the story:

Chapter 8 of Acts, verse 1, goes on, “Saul was consenting unto his death.” He was not an innocent bystander. He was a part of it. “And also at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria except the apostles.” Then in verse 3 it says, “Saul made havoc of the church, entering into every house and haling men and women, committing them to prison.” And that’s what scattered them abroad. So here was a Jew of the Jews, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a man committed to a Pharisaic interpretation of the law, a man so zealous of his Judaism that he was slaughtering people who were not following properly in the path that he thought was the path of righteousness. He was breathing out threatenings and slaughters against the church, the Scripture says, and making havoc.

He was on his way to Damascus to see that Christians were persecuted there, when Christ blinded him for three days and began teaching him before restoring his sight. Afterwards:

He was then sent out to Nabatean Arabia, where for several years, he wandered in the wilderness receiving from the Lord preparation for ministry. He came back. The church was afraid of him, because they remembered his reputation. He was introduced to the church by Barnabas and he was accepted, and then became a pastor of a church in Antioch along with other men listed in chapter 13 of Acts verse 1. He was one of those pastors in Antioch. As you read further into the chapter, he along with Barnabas, another of those five pastors in Antioch, was separated for mission work. And in Acts 13 he then is sent to reach the world, the Gentile world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A remarkable man who in Galatians chapter 1 affirms that he did not receive his revelations, he did not receive his gospel, he did not receive his teaching from men. Nobody taught it to him, not even the apostles, but it was given him directly by Jesus Christ. Christ saved him; Christ called him into the ministry; and Christ gave him His revelation. It is this man who is writing the letter. This man with a strong Jewish heritage, a strong Pharisaic background, a zealot for the law, who is now an apostle of Christ Jesus by the commandment of God our Savior in Christ Jesus our hope. He is the one who writes.

MacArthur explains the word ‘apostle’, which is similar to emissary or ambassador:

It means one who is sent – one who is sent. In fact, Kenneth Wuest says the verb apostellō from which this noun comes means to send off one on a commission, to do something as one’s personal representative with credentials furnished. The simplest way to translate it would be envoy or ambassador, someone who goes on a mission bearing the credentials of the one who sent him. In its widest sense, an apostle could be anybody sent – anybody. It could be even a person sent as an ambassador or an envoy in a secular environment, in a political environment. In the widest sense it’s just a general word, meaning someone sent under commission with a mission to carry out.

In the New Testament sense, it is used of one who was an ambassador for Christ carrying the gospel.

MacArthur explains the difference between an Apostle of Christ, of which Paul was the thirteenth, and apostles of the church:

There are apostles in the New Testament beyond the Twelve who were sent with the message of the gospel. In 2 Corinthians 8:23 they are called apostles of the churches, a very important term. In Philippians 2:25 Epaphroditus is called an apostle of the Philippians. So there are apostles in the very general sense of preachers who are articulate the gospel …

But there were twelve, with the addition of Matthias when Judas was disqualified, and then there was one other named Paul who are not apostles of the churches, but they are Apostles of Christ Jesus. And that is a unique designation which sets apart the Twelve plus Paul as unique apostles. We might say with a capital A. These men were different than the apostles of the churches. That is they were not sent by the churches. They were sent by Christ Himself. They were taught by Christ Himself, as Paul says of himself in Galatians 1:12. And that’s why here he says, “I am an apostle of Christ Jesus.” These men were called and chosen and sent personally by Jesus Christ. You’ll remember that the Twelve were chosen by Christ, that Paul was chosen by Christ. “A chosen vessel,” the Lord said to him, to bring light to the Gentiles. They not only were chosen and sent by Christ, but these apostles were witnesses of Christ personally, witnesses of His words and His deeds and His resurrection. You could not be an Apostle, with a capital A, unless you had seen the risen Christ. You say, did Paul see the risen Christ? Yes, he saw Him in glory on the Damascus Road, and he saw him two other times in exalted visions that God gave him. They were eye witnesses of the risen Christ.

Thirdly, these Apostles, with a capital A, were gifted uniquely by the Holy Spirit to impart divine truth. It was to them that Jesus said, “When the Spirit comes He will lead you into all truth . . . and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said unto you,” John 14:26 and John 15:26. So they were apostles who called, commissioned and sent by Christ, apostles who saw Christ, heard His words and saw Him after His resurrection, apostles uniquely gifted by Christ for the proclamation of divine truth through direct revelation.

And then finally, they were apostles who had the ability to cast out demons and heal the sick. They had the ability to do signs and wonders and mighty deeds which are called in 2 Corinthians 12 “the marks of an apostle.” And in Hebrews 2:3 and 4 they were able to do signs and wonders and manifest gifts of the Spirit as confirmation of the message they preached. In Ephesians 2:20 it calls them foundation. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. So Paul then, in simply giving this title – an apostle, would not tell us as much as we need to know, and so he adds an apostle not of the church but of Christ Jesus.

MacArthur points out that Paul refers to Christ Jesus rather than Jesus Christ:

Only in the ministry and teaching and writing of Paul do we find them in this order, Christ Jesus. Usually it’s the other way around. And there, I believe, is a reason for that. May I suggest to you that whenever you read James or Peter or John, it is always Jesus Christ. And it may well reflect the fact that for them their first acquaintance with Jesus was indeed as Jesus the man. It wasn’t until later that it became apparent to them that He was also the living incarnate Son of God. And the word Jesus is His earthly name – rom the Old Testament Joshua or Jehoshua which means Jehovah saves – but still it was His human name.

Then came Christ which is the name that is His name of Messiahship. It’s the word anointed. It speaks of Him as sovereign, as King, as Lord. It was not until later that the disciples who first knew Him as Jesus came to understand that He was Christ. But for Paul, the first time Paul ever met Him he met Him in His glorified state in a post-resurrection vision of glory, and so for Paul it is Christ and then it is to understand that that Christ whom he met was none other than the human Jesus. I don’t want to read too much into it, but it’s a nice demonstration of Paul’s perspective, and we find it only characteristic of Paul to reverse those.

Timothy already knew that Paul was an Apostle. However, Paul identifies himself as such and uses the words ‘by command’ in order to impress upon his protegé that he will have a lot of serious issues to resolve and that he must do so in a certain way:

And so to strengthen Timothy’s hand he affirms that this comes authoritatively from one who was commissioned not by a church but by Christ Jesus Himself – Christ Jesus Himself.

Now he’s not through with this affirmation. “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus” – now he gives us another strong statement about why he’s writing – “by the commandment of God our Savior and Christ Jesus our hope unto Timothy.” Now he is not only an apostle by the commandment of God our Savior and Christ our hope, but he is writing by the commandment of God our Savior and Christ our hope. What he is really saying here is not only is my commission based upon God’s purpose, but my letter is also, so you better listen to what it said. It’s a strong word – a strong word. It’s as if he said, “I have a direct command from God and Christ to write this letter, Timothy. Now carry this out.” It puts a great burden on Timothy, it puts a great burden on the church who no doubt would have heard that letter read to them.

Now just a couple of notes. The word commandment here is epitagē and it refers to a royal commandment. It refers to the commandment from a monarch or a king which is not negotiable. It’s not an object for discussion. He is under orders from the sovereign of the universe. And now Timothy is under orders from the sovereign of the universe and so is the congregation to which Timothy carries out the ministry. Usually, and I think for many people who have studied 1 Timothy, this somehow gets overlooked. But usually Paul would refer to himself as Paul an apostle by the will of God. Doesn’t that sound familiar? By the will of God. And that’s true. Such as in 2 Timothy where that’s exactly what he says, “An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God according to the promise of life,” and so forth. But here he doesn’t talk about the will of God and the promise of God. He talks about the commandment of God because there are some things that are in great disarray in this church. This church has been around long enough to have problems, false teaching, sin. And so he comes on very strong, speaking from commandments.

There is a specific reason why Paul links ‘God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope’. Because of the deleterious influence of false teachers, some of the Ephesians doubted Christ’s deity:

And so what Paul is doing here, by saying God our Savior and Christ our hope, is linking Christ and God to the same essence, therefore articulating the deity of Jesus Christ. And I think that was very important at the outset because apparently it was under question among some of the people to whom Timothy ministered. Chapter 3 verse 16 he says, “And without controversy” – somehow in Ephesus there was some controversy about this. There was some discussion about this. But there shouldn’t be for – “great is the mystery of godliness that God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the nations, believed on the world and received up into glory.” That’s a creedal description of the work of Christ. Apparently there were some who were even attacking the deity of Christ, and there is a necessary reminder that there’s no controversy on that issue. God was manifest in the flesh. And so God our Savior and Christ our hope linked together the Father and the Son in common life. And that’s as it ought to be. As I’ve said, that is a ringing theme throughout the gospel record – those two are one …

And you can always find in false religious systems the denial of the deity of Jesus Christ. There must have been an aberrant Christology. There must have been an attack on the character of Christ.

Paul refers to God as Saviour, because other Ephesians believed false teachings about the Father being remote and permanently angry. They believed that Jesus calmed God’s wrath. The truth is that God always has been mankind’s Saviour from the beginning. It is important to point this out, because some churches today preach that same error:

Liberal theologians have many of them acquiesce to this view – that the God of the Old Testament is an angry, mad, vengeful, furious, wrathful God who wants to destroy everybody, but Jesus Christ came along and appeased Him. The idea that God is a God of anger and judgment and fury, and Christ is the loving gentle Savior who comes and appeases this angry God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is our Savior and salvation began not with Christ but with – whom? – with God. It was God who master planned salvation from the very beginning – God our Savior.

That, by the way, is a very interesting phrase that appears only in the pastoral epistles. It is a unique phrase to the pastoral epistles, but is derived from the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament the designations are very clear that God is a Savior. And I don’t want to belabor the point but just to mention that repeatedly in the Old Testament the text of Scripture speaks about God saving, God reaching out in salvation. For example, were you to look at the Psalms – see if I can mention a couple that come to mind – Psalm 25:5, “Lead me in Thy truth and teach me. For Thou art the God of my salvation.” This is not foreign to God. This is God’s desire. “The Lord,” verse 1 of 27 says in the Psalms, “The Lord is my light and my” – what? – “salvation.” Verse 9 it says, “Thou hast been my help. Leave me not neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.” And Psalm 42, is it, verse 5, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God. For I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” In other words, God is a God of salvation. God is a God of grace. God is a God of deliverance. That the Old Testament makes abundantly clear

Now there may have been some reason among the Ephesians for Paul to say this. There may have been some who were teaching that God was not interested in salvation. That also kind of makes sense, because of chapter 2 verse 3, it says there in 1 Timothy, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be” – what? – “saved.” So there may also have been – it’s very difficult, and I might as well say this at the beginning, it’s very difficult to reconstruct the error in the Ephesian church to which Paul writes. We really can’t – we can’t get a handle on it. It’s very elusive. It has Jewish elements and it also has Hellenistic or Greek elements. Some kind of false religion was moving through that congregation and threatening the church. And of course Ephesus was a flag-ship church, sort of leading all the other churches of Asia Minor, and it was important to keep it corrected. But it must have been that somewhere along the line there was some questioning about whether God was really Savior, because it’s repeated by Paul. The only place he ever uses it, as I said, is in the pastoral epistles. It must have been of some issue. So God is our Savior. By the way, chapter 1 verse 11 emphasizes it in other terminology, “According to the glorious good news from the blessed God.” Again emphasizing that God has given us the good news …

So apparently there were some errorists, some false teachers, some heretics in this church that Timothy was laboring with, and they were wanting to rob the church of salvation. They were defining a God who was not a Savior. Maybe it was an incipient Gnosticism where God was a distant being who started everything and was far off and didn’t care, and there were a series of emanating sub-gods off of Him through which we would try to go and get some appeasement, and Jesus was one who would go to this angry indifferent God and sort of appease Him and make things better for us. Whatever it was, we really can’t label it, there must have been some who were attacking the very essence of God’s redeeming love and some who also were attacking the character and deity and work of Jesus Christ.

MacArthur explains ‘Christ Jesus our hope’:

God our Savior; that’s past tense; that’s the source. Christ our hope; that’s the future promise. God designed the plan, and Christ brought it to pass, and He is our hope. The reason we can hope in the future is because of what Christ has done. Right? Our future hope is tied to Jesus Christ. The salvation that God planned and God designed is realized in Christ Jesus through His death and resurrection. He has become our hope for future glory. In Philippians chapter 3 verse 20, “Our citizenship is in heaven from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” We’re looking for Him to come and change our vile bodies and make it like His glorious body. He’s our hope – He’s our hope. Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” First John 3:2, “When we see Him we’ll be like Him. And whoever has this hope purifies himself.”

MacArthur summarises the verse:

the very issues of salvation are at stake in this letter. So the letter comes then with a heavy emphasis on authority because there has to be an understanding among those people that this letter is coming from one who was commissioned by God and Christ and one who is writing by the direct will of God and Christ to speak to issues which are at stake in that church.

MacArthur gives us a history of the church in Ephesus, a happy story with a sad ending. Satan is never far away:

isn’t it sad to think about the fact that here we are about the middle of the sixties, about 64 A.D., we’re about 30 years away from the death of Jesus Christ, and already inside the church there are those who would deny the loving, redeeming, saving plan of God and the deity of Jesus Christ? This is 30 years after His death, and already that’s not outside the church, that’s in the church. And who do you think brought it in? Take a wild guess. That’s the work of the adversary. And so we learn what Paul learned very early, and especially working with the Ephesian church, which he had warned already earlier before this was ever written, that when I leave you’re going to have problems. Remember that in Acts 20? Perverse men are going to rise from within you. Wolves are going to come in and try to mess you up. “I know it will happen as soon as I leave,” he said. “And I commend you to the Word of His grace which is able to build you up. I know what will happen.” And sure enough, he left and it happened. And it happened so extensively that by the nineties when John wrote the Revelation, the letter to Ephesus was that you for all intents and purposes have left your first – what? – love. The Ephesian church became the victim of error initially, and then apparently it got its act together under Timothy, corrected the error and then became a victim of apathy and indifference.

And it’s an old story, beloved, the enemy will work on the church in whatever way the church will allow it. If the enemy cannot corrupt the theology, the enemy will bring apathy. And here we have a chronolog of this Ephesian church. First this a glowing and exciting and thrilling church in its beginnings. It becomes the church to which Paul gives three years of his life to lay the foundations. The church to which he gives Timothy for oversight and leadership among its already established leaders at this particular time. But in the process of moving from the ministry of Paul till the time that Timothy has come there, in those very few years, maybe ten or twelve years at the most, the church has already reached a place where heresy is filling the place. Timothy apparently was able to set that right. And in a few years after that, the church has become totally apathetic and lost its first love. It’s a frightening thing to think about. But the reason the New Testament gives us these letters is so that we can continually be correcting the same things that will always exist in the life of the church.

Paul addresses his letter to Timothy, ‘my true child in the faith’ (verse 2).

MacArthur discusses Timothy’s early life, having been brought up by two godly Jewish ladies, Lois and Eunice:

Timothy means one who honors God. It’s a beautiful name – one who honors God or he who honors God. No doubt it was given to him by his mother and grandmother who must have been devout Jews, because according to 2 Timothy they taught him the Scriptures from a child. I believe that it’s most likely his father who was a pagan, who was a Greek not a Jew, was not a Christian, not a believer, and may well have been dead at this particular time. But it’s certainly not a factor in Timothy’s spiritual progress. The factors were his mother and grandmother and perhaps they had named him ‘he who honors God’ wishing with all their hearts that he would indeed live up to his name, which in fact he did. His grandmother’s name was Lois, according to 2 Timothy 1:5, and his mother’s name was Eunice, and they had carefully and faithfully taught him the Word of God. In fact in 2 Timothy 3:15, “From a child you have known the holy Scripture.” So they gave him a name of great, great significance.

It is likely that Timothy was 15 when he met Paul and 35 when he received this letter:

This marvelous man, Timothy, who was with Paul for up to 20 years from the time of his conversion as a man in his late teens to the time of about 35 years of age when he’s receiving this letter. All of that time he’s been with Paul in some kind of ministry with the exception of the time that he sort of seems to disappear during Paul’s imprisonment. He was left behind at Berea with Silas when Paul escaped to Athens and later joined Paul there. In due time he came to Athens in Acts 18. He was sent as Paul’s emissary to Macedonia in Acts 19. He was there when the collection from the churches was being taken to Jerusalem with Paul in Acts 20. He was with Paul in Corinth when he wrote his letter to Rome. He was Paul’s emissary to Corinth when there was trouble in the church, as I read you in the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians. He was with Paul when he wrote 2 Corinthians. It was Timothy who went to see how things were going in Thessalonica, and he was with Paul when he wrote the letter to that Thessalonian church. He was with Paul in prison when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. He was with Paul when he wrote the Colossians. He was with Paul when he wrote Philemon. He was constantly with him, a beloved disciple. The son of a Jewish mother, a son of a Greek father, he was a perfect companion. He had the Jewish heritage to have access into the synagogue where Paul always began his ministry. He had the Gentile background to understand the culture and be accepted by the Gentiles as well. He was a unique and marvelous tool of God.

MacArthur says that Paul also cherished Titus as an evangelist, but Timothy was even more like him:

out of all this group, the group of those who were the direct products of his evangelism and those who were the indirect products, those who were redeemed before he ever met them, out of all of this group there are only two people that he calls ‘true child in the faith.’ Now that is not necessarily to say there were no others, but there were two that he branded as his true children in the faith, they were true replicas of his life and character and ministry. One is Timothy which we note here in 1 Timothy 1:2, “my true child in the faith.” And the other is Titus. And in Titus chapter 1 and verse 4, Paul writes to Titus, “true child after the common faith.”

Now there’s a reason that there are two epistles written by Paul to these two men; they were key men in Paul’s life. There are reasons why Paul put Timothy in charge of the work at Ephesus. There are reasons why Paul put Titus in charge of the work on the island of Crete. And the reason is because he was greatly concerned about both works, and because he couldn’t be there himself, he wanted one who would be an exact replica of himself in that place. And these two were indeed replicas of Paul.

Now of the two, Timothy and Titus, one stands out uniquely as apparently most reflective of Paul, and that would be Timothy. We learn that from two passages of Scripture. The first is in Philippians chapter 2, and Paul says in verse 19, “I trust” – writing to the church at Philippi – “I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly to you.” I’m going to send you Timothy. Why? Verse 20, “Because I have no man like-minded.” Now what he means to say there is there’s nobody like me like Timothy is like me. I have nobody that is as much like me as he’s like me. And I want to send him because, “He will naturally care for your state.” In other words, he will do for you what I would do for you.

And then in verse 21 that rather sad and pensive statement of Paul, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” What a heartbreak. I’m looking around at the people I’ve invested myself in and I can only find one who is like me and the rest are seeking their own things, not really open to the things of Jesus Christ as they ought to be. “But you know the evidence” – or the proof – “of him” – you know Timothy – “that as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. It’s him therefore that I hope to send.” Isn’t that a marvelous testimony to the character of this young man? Now by the time he writes 1 Timothy, Timothy has been with Paul nearly 20 years, so he really is a product. He really is marked by the Pauline identification.

In 1 Corinthians we have another passagePaul was greatly concerned about the Corinthian church much earlier in his ministry than the writing of 1 Timothy. But even that concern much earlier in his ministry brought him to the place where he wanted to send Timothy. This would be as much as ten years before the writing of 1 Timothy. And even then Timothy was already a product. And so in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul expresses his deep concern and then in verse 17 says, “Because of this” – because I’m so concerned about you – “I have sent you Timothy, who is my beloved son and faithful in the Lord” – and here it comes – “who shall bring you in to remembrance of my ways which are in Christ.” In other words, “He’ll remind you of me.” So the Philippians he says, “I sent Timothy because he’s like me.” To the Corinthians he says, “I’m sending Timothy because he’ll remind you of me.” That is a true child. And that beloved, is what any man of God or woman of God would love to reproduce. You love to have someone who can go and represent you and be you in another place. And so Timothy was more like Paul than anybody else. And he then is addressed as such in this wonderful opening of the epistle.

This is where we are in Paul’s life:

The Apostle Paul has been released from his first imprisonment. The book of Acts ended with him in prison. I believe he was released from that. Upon that release he goes back to some of the key churches and one of them is the church at Ephesus which was such a part of his life, where he for three years had been the pastor himself, the church out of which were founded all the other churches of Asia Minor. He went back to that church, and when he got there he found an unimaginable thing. He found apostates among the elders, heretics among the leaders. And so according to chapter 1 verse 20, he had to throw them out and deliver them over to Satan that they might learn not to blaspheme. So he did a little purging himself. Then he left. And chapter 1 verse 3 says he went to Macedonia, because he had to go on and visit some other churches, but chapter 1 verse 3 says he left Timothy in Ephesus. And so when he writes to Timothy here, his true child in the faith, he is writing to him in Ephesus. And Timothy is there to counteract the effect of these false teachers and false elders and false leaders.

… And consequently it’s not long after Paul, having left Timothy in Ephesus and traveled to Macedonia, stops and writes back to Timothy and writes this letter to strengthen him and encourage him and tell him what he needs to do and give him some clout to do it with. And almost at the same time – he wrote Titus before he wrote 2 Timothy – and gave Titus very similar instruction who was also another child in the faith who was maintaining Paul’s profile in Crete.

And as we all know, these are the pastoral epistles because they are written to men who are setting in order the things in the church and they are the swan-song of the Apostle Paul’s life and ministry. These are the last things he writes. He writes 1 Timothy, then Titus, then back to 2 Timothy, and the Lord takes him to heaven.

Paul was martyred in Rome.

Before returning to Timothy, Paul gives Timothy a special blessing in verse 2, one not only of grace and peace, but one that also includes mercy from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Henry’s commentary says that mercy is essential in ministry:

Some have observed that whereas in all the epistles to the churches the apostolical benediction is grace and peace, in these two epistles to Timothy and that to Titus it is grace, mercy, and peace: as if ministers had more need of God’s mercy than other men. Ministers need more grace than others, to discharge their duty faithfully; and they need more mercy than others, to pardon what is amiss in them: and if Timothy, so eminent a minister, must be indebted to the mercy of God, and needed the increase and continuance of it, how much more do we ministers, in these times, who have so little of his excellent spirit!

MacArthur tells us why Paul addressed Timothy as ‘my true child in the faith’:

he identifies Timothy as gnēsios teknon – true child, genuine child. And I believe he says that in order to point out the contrast between Timothy and some of the other leaders who were not genuine and were not reflective of Paul’s doctrine or character. So true child in the faith is not an arbitrary title but it is one that sets Timothy apart from the less than genuine, less than true, less than legitimate, hypocritical, apostate, false leaders and teachers that were influencing the church.

So Timothy’s genuineness is introduced at the beginning so that the church will know that in the eyes of Paul this is the standard, this is the model, this is the pattern, this is what everyone else is to be measured by, the character and life and teaching and ministry of Timothy, who is reflective of Paul as the child of Paul. So the emphasis is this is a son of Paul more so than an emphasis on the son of God aspect, although of course Timothy is both. He then is the living test of genuineness. And if the people want to know what a leader is, be he true or false, they need only to measure that leader against Timothy.

MacArthur sets out five characteristics of a true child of the faith, which are excerpted below. His sermons have much more detail:

Let’s look at the first one. A true child of the faith is initially identified by saving faith. In other words, we all realize that you can’t be a genuine child of the faith unless you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are redeemed. So salvation is the beginning. Timothy was genuinely saved. And that’s very basic but very important, because this church had people who apparently were not saved …

You say, well how did Paul lead Timothy to Christ? Well, we don’t have a direct word on that, but if you go back to Acts chapter 14 and start reading about verse 6 and read to verse 25you’ll read the story of Paul going in to the area of Galatia. Galatia was a south-central province in Asia Minor. And within Galatia there was a little town under Roman rule called Lystra. It was one of many towns, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, all in the same area of Asia Minor. Today it would be modern Turkey. And when Paul went to Lystra, there was a man there who couldn’t walk. And so this man came and had faith to believe so Paul says to him, “Stand up and walk.” And the guy starts jumping around and running and leaping …

… And all this was going on in the public square. No doubt Timothy and his mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice, were there. And I believe that it was at the preaching of Paul and the wonderful things that happened in that place that they were converted. And most Bible scholars do believe that as well.

I wrote about those verses several years ago here and here. In my description for Acts 14:19-23, I wrote:

The next day, Paul and Barnabas set off for Derbe, which Matthew Henry wrote was the home town of Timothy, although his name did not feature in these verses.

Having made many converts there, Paul and Barnabas (perhaps Timothy, too) returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch to support the respective congregations and appoint elders by congregational election for every local church. They also prayed and fasted over their choices, committing them to the Lord.

MacArthur says:

Timothy then followed on with a baptism in which he gave a marvelous profession of his faith in Christ, and I believe it wasn’t long after that that hands were laid upon him – in chapter 16 no doubt, hands were laid upon him as the Word of God came through a prophet that he was called of God to be in the ministry. Hands were laid on him by the elders that Paul had ordained in Acts 14, and Timothy was commissioned to the ministry, and off he went to serve Christ as a companion of the Apostle Paul. So his faith was real.

You can read more about that event as well as Eunice and Lois here.

MacArthur continues:

The second thing that marks true children of the faith, true disciples, is continuing obedience. Not only saving faith but continuing obedience. It is a given, folks, and I don’t need to belabor the point, that the New Testament outlines the fact that true believers have a pattern of obedience …

Timothy had it. And there were some there that didn’t …

Then very briefly a third thing, we’ll just introduce, humble service – humble service. A true child of the faith, a true product is a servant.

… Timothy was a true child in the faith because he was marked out by humble service.

He was a standard. He was humble. Back in chapter 1 verse 3, we have a little note there that Paul had left him in Ephesus. And he stayed willingly. It’s a small thing but we just are reminded of that. Do you know what happened when Paul took him in Acts 16, gathered him to go with him and travel, what did he do to him first? Remember that? Acts 16:3, he circumcised him. Now that’s a difficult thing for a man just before his twenties to go through, but he did that. He had a humble heart. And Paul felt that he because he had a Jewish mother but a Gentile father and had not been circumcised, he might have some difficulty being accepted by the Jews. And Paul’s strategy was to go to the synagogue and the Jews, and he wanted Timothy to have as much access as possible so he asked that he be circumcised and Timothy was anxious and willing to do that.

And he served the Apostle Paul – I wish we had time to chronicle all of the things that he did for Paul, but he served him – really by the time of the writing of 1 Timothy it’s nearly 20 years that he has served alongside the Apostle Paul. He went on important missions to Thessalonica and Corinth. He accompanied Paul on his last trip to Jerusalem. He was by his side in his imprisonment, and now he’s with him after his imprisonment, humbling serving on his behalf in Ephesus. He was a real servant. In chapter 4 verse 14 he was given a gift, confirmed through prophetic utterance and affirmed by the laying on of the hands of the elders. He was anointed as a servant and he turned out indeed to be a true servant, a true servant, serving faithfully the Apostle Paul. And it wasn’t easy, and he stumbled. And by the time Paul writes 2 Timothy, he’s really going through some struggles, trying to hold his ground. It wasn’t easy. But he was a genuine servant with a humble heart. And in Romans 16:21 Paul calls him, “Timothy, my fellow worker.”

MacArthur has two more characteristics to cover:

There’s a fourth of the marks that mark Timothy, and I think it’s so important throughout this epistle, and that is this: his genuineness was marked by sound doctrine

The mark of a genuine child of Paul would be one who taught sound doctrine, contrasted to the false teachers. So, the true child of faith has saving faith, continued obedience, humble service, and sound doctrine. I don’t believe for a moment that Paul ever would have left Timothy there if he hadn’t have been a teacher of sound doctrine. If anything is representative of Paul, it is that …

And there’s one other, a fifth, that is so vital: courageous conviction. I really believe that the movers and the shakers in the spiritual dimension are those who have great conviction …

Now, many in Ephesus lacked the courage of conviction. They were compromisers …

Timothy was to be that uncompromising, strong man of God. Over in chapter 4, verse 3, he says – verse – chapter 4, verse 13, rather – he says, “Keep reading, keep teaching, keep exhorting. Don’t neglect the gift. Meditate on these things” – verse 15 – “give yourself wholly unto them.” And verse 16: “Take heed to yourself, and the doctrine; continue in them.” In other words, what you teach, and what you are; be an example of the believers; all of that. In chapter 6, verse 20: “Keep what’s committed to your trust, Timothy.”

MacArthur tells us that Timothy died a martyr — in Ephesus, no less:

By the way, tradition says Timothy was killed in Ephesus – later on, 97 A.D. – for opposing the vile perversions of idolatry in the cult of Diana. He was a man of courage, who had great boldness in the faith, which is in Jesus Christ. This is the man to whom Paul writes this great epistle. And may I say to you, this is the man and the woman that God wants us to be? Marked by saving faith, continuing obedience, humble service, sound teaching, courageous conviction.

That would have been around the time John wrote Revelation.

The church in Ephesus is no more and hasn’t existed for centuries.

In next week’s verses, Paul discusses the destructive effect of false teaching on the congregation.

Next time — 1 Timothy 1:3-7

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