1 Timothy

Chapter 1

1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,

The author's name ("Paul," Παῦλος) is the first word encountered, as is the case in all thirteen of Paul's NT epistles. Paul was born to the son of a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) and was given both a Roman name ("Paul," Παῦλος) and a Hebrew name ("Saul," Σαῦλος). Early in the biblical record he is referred to by his Hebrew name (e.g., Acts 7:58; 8:1, 3; 13:1, 2, 7, 9), for he was still primarily associated with the Jewish people. When he was called and sent as a missionary to the Gentiles his Roman name became the normal way in which he was designated.

He is designated here as "an apostle" (ἀπόστολος), something he does in the opening verse of every one of his letters except Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Philemon. The word refers to one sent with a message and endowed with the full authority of the sender in delivering it. Frequently Paul seems to employ it in the opening of a letter to make clear his authority in writing. That appears not to be the case in 2 Timothy (see comments on 2 Tim. 1:1). But that last of Paul's letters appears to contain a good deal more intimate and personal detail than does 1 Timothy and, despite the fact that this letter is addressed to an individual instead of a church, its contents were likely intended to be shared with the church (note the plural "you" in 1 Tim. 6:21). Paul, then, may note his apostolic credentials here in order to bring strength to the sometimes difficult instructions he will give in this letter concerning life in the local church. He is, of course, an apostle "of Christ Jesus" (Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ). That combination in that order occurs eleven times in the letter, while the reverse order ("Jesus Christ") occurs but three times (1:16; 6:3, 14). In 2 Timothy the order "Christ Jesus" is found twelve of thirteen times. In Titus it is evenly split, two cases each. The precise phrase "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus" (Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ) also opens the letters of 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians and 2 Timothy. If there is any significance to be found in the order of the words, "Christ Jesus" may emphasize the heavenly position of Christ as the Messiah of God, while "Jesus Christ" may emphasize the earthly personage of Jesus.

He addresses Timothy (and others who will be exposed to the contents of the letter) "according to the commandment of God our Savior" (κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν θεοῦ σωτῆρος ὑμῶν). The expression is quite similar to that with which Paul opens his letter to Titus (1:3). The expression "according to the commandment" (κατʼ ἐπιταγὴν) adds solemnity and authority to what the Apostle will say. The precise expression is used four other times in the NT, all by Paul (Rom. 16:26; 1 Cor. 7:6; 2 Cor. 8:8; Titus 1:3). It describes the epochal nature of God's revelation in Christ (Rom. 16:26) and the Apostle's charge in making that revelation known (Titus 1:3). It comes, then, also to be used to differentiate when the Apostle is not speaking with that same sense of authority (1 Cor. 7:6; 2 Cor. 8:8). The word "commandment" (ἐπιταγὴν) speaks of an injunction, mandate or command. It bespeaks authority. It is used seven times by Paul and nowhere else in Scripture (Rom. 16:26; 1 Cor. 7:6, 25; 2 Cor. 8:8; 1 Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:3; 2:15). The preposition "according to" (κατʼ) combines both the notion of a standard by which something is determined and the reason for which something is done. Paul does not hesitate to speak of "God our Savior" (θεοῦ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν), though he never does so again in this precise form (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3; 4:10; Titus 1:3; 2:10; 3:4). God is designated as Savior throughout the LXX (e.g., Deut. 31:15; 1 Chron. 16:35; Isa. 12:2) and Paul's usage demonstrates again his deep roots in the OT Scriptures. Additionally, Nero was demanding the confession that he was the savior and Paul's usage here may be a subtle rebuttal to that assertion being pressed upon citizens of the Roman Empire. He does not use the word "Savior" of Jesus in this letter, though he will in 2 Timothy (1:10) and Titus (1:4; 2:13; 3:6).

Ministry Maxim

Only one who lives under authority is ready to exercise authority.

The Apostle does go on ("and," καὶ) to speak of "Christ Jesus, who is our hope" (Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν). The genitive form "of Christ Jesus" (Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ) links this to the genitive "of God" (θεοῦ) and indicates that the commandment is viewed as coming from both God the Father and God the Son. He is designated as "our hope" (τῆς ἐλπίδος ἡμῶν) or, more literally, "the hope of us." The NASU translators have added "who is" for smoother English. While Christ is often connected to our hope by Paul (e.g., Eph. 2:12; 1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 2:16; Titus 2:13), He is never again specifically called "our hope" as He is here. The presence of the definite article with the noun (lit., "the hope") speaks to the unique nature of the hope which Jesus Christ brings. This hope is the foundation of all Paul's labors, as we see in 1 Timothy 4:10: "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers."

Paul, as he opens this letter, presents himself as a man with authority ("apostle"), under authority ("according to the commandment of God") and taken up in anticipation ("our hope"). Jesus Christ is Paul's Master (the One who sent him as an "apostle"), Commander ("according to the commandment of... Christ Jesus") and Hope ("who is our hope").

Digging Deeper:

  1. In addressing a letter to a personal friend and ministry partner, why do you think Paul emphasized his authority?
  2. Why is being under authority and filled with hope a logically necessary combination for the Christian? How might the two seem contradictory to someone steeped in a modern worldview?
  3. What may have been going on in the experience of Paul and/or Timothy that called for the emphasis on Christ as "our hope"?

1:2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

The letter is addressed "To Timothy" (Τιμοθέῳ). Paul met Timothy and found him to be a disciple upon his return to Lystra (Acts 16:1-2). During the Apostle's first visit to Lystra he had been taken initially for a god after healing a lame man, and then nearly stoned to death at the hands of the Jews (Acts 14:8-20). He spent only a short time there before moving on. We have no definite word of Timothy's conversion at that time. Perhaps he had been one listening on the fringes of the crowd as Paul preached. It is possible that his heart was moved and then, when he saw Paul's resolve in the face of death (2 Tim. 3:11), he put his faith in Christ. Whenever the exact starting point and whatever the final encouragement to trust in Christ, he was no secret disciple upon Paul's return. He was known throughout his hometown (the same hometown where the Jews had stoned Paul to the point of death!) and the region as an effective disciple of Christ, advancing the cause of the Gospel for miles around (Acts 16:2). Paul wanted this young man to travel at his side in the cause of the Gospel, that he might further train and equip him for ministry (Acts 16:3).

Timothy is designated "my true child in the faith" (γνησίῳ τέκνῳ ἐν πίστει). He was not Paul's biological offspring. Timothy's mother and grandmother were Jewish (2 Tim. 1:5); his father was a Gentile (Acts 16:1). During the years and miles of travel and ministry together the bonds of love between the two grew. Paul became the spiritual father Timothy never had. It should be noted that the pronoun "my" is added by the translators, as is the definite article ("the") before "faith." Thus the phrase more literally is, "a true child in faith." This might be taken as a signal merely of the genuineness of Timothy's faith or of his relative maturity in the faith, if it were not for its position here at the opening of the letter. Paul is clearly marking out the nature of Timothy's relationship to himself. Calling Timothy "my true child in the faith" differs from 2 Timothy 1:2 where he is designated as "my beloved son." This designation here in 1 Timothy 1:2 speaks more to the character of Timothy's relationship to Paul. He was genuinely and truly Paul's child in the faith. The reference in 2 Timothy 1:2 ("beloved") is more emotional, speaking of Paul's feelings toward Timothy and befits the dire straights Paul was in as he anticipated his impending martyrdom. Here it is Timothy's standing before Paul that is in view; in 2 Timothy it is his standing within Paul's heart (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17). Here Paul, having established his authority (v. 1), is now positioning Timothy to act confidently on that authority by carrying out the instructions of this letter.

The adjective "true" (γνησίῳ) generally means something genuine or sincere (2 Cor. 8:8; Phil. 4:3), but when used literally of children it means that they are legitimate, lawful or born in wedlock. The figurative extension, which applies here, is that Timothy is spiritually a genuine child of the Apostle. Paul used nearly the same expression of Titus (Titus 1:4), only here he uses the preposition ἐν instead of κατὰ (apparently for stylistic reasons only) and there he adds the adjective "common" (κοινὴν). That Timothy was designated a "child" (τέκνῳ) means not that he was immature, but rather it signals the kind and quality of relationship he enjoyed with the Apostle.

Ministry Maxim

Grace forgives sin's debt, mercy feels sin's devastation, and peace restores sin's disorder.

Paul sends a threefold blessing to Timothy: "grace, mercy and peace" (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη). This trinity of blessings begins with "grace" (χάρις; cf. 1:12, 14; 6:21). It points to the unmerited favor of God that is extended to sinners through Jesus Christ. It is both the initial grace by which one is saved from the penalty of sin and the ongoing daily grace for life and service above the power of sin. This "grace" forms an inclusion for this intimate letter (1:2; 6:21). The second of these extended blessings is "mercy." The word (ἔλεος) is an emotional one, pointing to the compassion of God toward those who suffer, particularly because of sin. It is the LXX's translation of the Hebrew word hesed), which is the OT term to designate God's faithful, loyal covenant love. It points, therefore, both to the firm objective commitment of a covenant relationship and the subjective emotional response when one so loved is faced with adversity. Paul no doubt could sense Timothy's particular need (in his challenging ministry as pastor in Ephesus) for such faithful, compassionate love from God and extended it to him as one who had imbibed deeply of it himself. Similarly "peace" (εἰρήνη) is a reflection of Paul's Hebrew life, now fulfilled and reoriented by Christ. It is the NT equivalent of the Hebrew shalom. It points to the wholeness and completeness of life as it should be. Christ has brought believers objective peace with God the Father (Rom. 5:1) and also brings to believers the more subjective peace of God which results from such a standing (Phil. 4:7). In this trinity of blessings "grace" points to God's dealing with sin and guilt itself, "mercy" points to God's concern for the misery and pain that sin creates, and "peace" points to the reordering of the chaos sin leaves behind.

This threefold blessing is found nowhere else in Paul's writing except 2 Timothy 1:2. The more common combination is simply "grace" and "peace" (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 3). The addition of "mercy" is reserved for Timothy. It proves to us that the relationship between Paul and Timothy was unique, and thus these two letters are unique among all others in the NT.

These blessings are seen as being extended "from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord" (ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ κυρίο ἡμῶν). The close combination of "Christ Jesus our Lord" with "God the Father" is a powerful testimony to Paul's view of Christ's divinity.

Digging Deeper:

  1. To whom are you a "true child in the faith"? And who is such to you?
  2. Why does Paul add "mercy" to "grace" and "peace" when he opens his two letters to Timothy?

1:3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

The sentence that runs through v. 4 opens with the clause "As I urged you" (Καθὼς παρεκάλεσά σε). The verb "I urged" (παρεκάλεσα) is a compound word, coming from the verb καλέω (to call) and the prepositional prefix παρὰ (beside). Strictly speaking it means "to call alongside." It appears in all of the Apostle's letters (except Galatians) and is found frequently in the PE (1 Tim. 1:3; 2:1; 5:1; 6:2; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:9; 2:6, 15). It has a range of meaning that can swing from the softer sense of "comfort" to the sharper edge of "exhort." It is translated variously according to context by words such as "appeal" (Philem. 9, 10), "comfort" (2 Cor. 1:4, 6), "encourage" (1 Cor. 16:12), "exhort" (1 Cor. 1:10), "implore" (2 Cor. 12:8), and "urge" (Rom. 12:1). The masculine singular noun form became a title for the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) and the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). Here the aorist tense points to a moment in the past when in a very personal ("you," σε) encounter Paul laid this task upon Timothy. That Paul launched into specific exhortation without some word of thanksgiving (as he also did in Galatians and Titus) is a departure from his normal writing style and bespeaks the seriousness of the problems confronting Timothy and the Ephesian church.

The next clause in the original word order of the sentence is "remain on at Ephesus" (προσμεῖναι ἐν Ἐφέσῳ). A more literal rendering might be "to remain in Ephesus." The word "remain" (προσμεῖναι) is an infinitive used as the object of the verb "I urged" (παρεκάλεσά). Paul's only use of the word is here and in 1 Timothy 5:5. It is a compound composed of "to" (πρός) and "remain" (μένω). The aorist tense points to Timothy's obedience at the moment the Apostle instructed him to remain at Ephesus. The preposition strengthens the idea of remaining with someone (Matt. 15:32; Mark 8:2) or in a place (Acts 18:18; 1 Tim. 1:3). It can also, then, mean figuratively to abide or continue in something like faithfulness to the Lord (Acts 11:23), the grace of God (Acts 13:43), or prayer (1 Tim. 5:5). In this case the dative "in Ephesus" marks out the location in which Timothy is to abide, but also implies the circumstances of that location in which he must remain faithful to the Lord's purposes and the Apostle's instructions.

This was to take place "upon my departure for Macedonia" (πορευόμενος εἰς Μακεδονίαν). The words "upon my departure" translate the present middle participle πορευόμενος. It seems reasonable to understand the participle temporally and thus translate it as "upon my departure" (NASU) or "when I was going" (cf. NIV, NKJV, NRSV). The present tense underscores the notion that Paul was likely already on his way to Macedonia when he urged Timothy's continuance in Ephesus. Or it is possible that he charged him as he was leaving and expected him to continue there during the journeys that awaited the Apostle on that ministry trip. A more specific historical reconstruction is a venture further down the path of speculation. Though awkward in English, the sentence thus far could simply be rendered "As I urged you to remain in Ephesus when I was going to Macedonia." We do not know more about the purpose behind Paul's journey into Macedonia. Perhaps it was his intention to travel through Macedonia on his way to Dalmatia, and perhaps he had asked Titus (whom he had previously "left... in Crete," Titus 1:5) to catch up with him in Nicopolis (2 Tim. 4:10; Titus 3:12). Subsequent to the writing of this letter, he may have been arrested en route (perhaps in Troas, 2 Tim. 4:13) and taken to Rome, from which he would write the letter of 2 Timothy. This historical reconstruction, however, must also be considered speculative.

The purpose ("so that," ἵνα plus subjunctive) in the Apostle's assigning Timothy to remain in Ephesus is not uncertain: "you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines" (παραγγείλῃς τισὶν μὴ ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν). The verb "you may instruct" (παραγγείλῃς) is used twelve times by the Apostle (1 Cor. 7:10; 11:17; 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:4, 6, 10, 12), five of them here in 1 Timothy (1:3; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17). It is a compound word from "along" (παρά) and "announce" (ἀγγέλλω). Thus its root meaning is to pass along a message to someone. It came, however, to be used of an authoritative announcement or command. Here its use signals the apostolic authority with which Timothy was to issue the appropriate instructions. The word was used in military contexts and there is strength in it. When, as here, it is followed by μὴ and an infinitive (ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν) it can have the sense of "forbid."

Ministry Maxim

Both forging ahead and remaining behind are essential ministry assignments.

The designation "certain men" (τισὶν), being the indefinite plural pronoun, is vague as to what individuals it identities, though soon enough Paul will get specific (v. 20). It seems reasonable, as Fee suggests, that those in view may well have been elders in the Ephesian church. Paul had warned the elders of the Ephesian church that "from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:30, emphasis mine). This also might explain the extensive coverage the ministry of elders receives in this first letter—their character (3:1-7), their responsibility (5:17), and their discipline (5:19-20). Also the fact that Paul himself excommunicated two men (1:20) rather than calling on the church to take any such action (cf. 2 Thess. 3:14; 1 Cor. 5:1-5) may suggest as much. This would in no way restrict the application of these words should a non-elder undertake any similar teaching. At this juncture all we need to know about these folk is that they "teach strange doctrines" (ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν). The word is found only here and 6:3. The Apostle may well have coined the word himself for this context. The compound word is comprised of "different" (ἕτερος) and "to teach" (διδάσκω). The word ἕτερος describes that which is another of a different kind. The word ἄλλος would have referred to another of a similar kind. Paul used the other in compound to indicate that this teaching had no affinity or connection to the Gospel. What is "different" about this doctrine is that it "does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness" (6:3). Clearly there had already developed an unambiguous set of doctrines that defined the substance of Christianity.

Digging Deeper:

  1. How might the ministry assignment of remaining behind while another travels to take on new ministry frontiers emotionally affect a person?
  2. Why do you think Paul described Timothy's ministry assignment in Ephesus in negative terms (instructing men what not to teach, rather than what to teach)?
  3. Which seems more attractive to you, opening new ministry territory or working with an existing ministry to refine and mature the people involved in it?

1:4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

Paul continues to expound upon the purpose statement he began in v. 3. To the present tense infinitive of v. 3 ("not to teach strange doctrines," ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν) he connects ("nor," μηδὲ) another here: "to pay attention" ("to pay attention," προσέχειν). The negative particle μηδέ corresponds to the one in v. 3 (μὴ). The root of the infinitive "to pay attention" (προσέχειν) is used twenty-four times in the NT, only five of which are by Paul. All of these appear in the PE, with four of those here in 1 Timothy (1:4; 3:8; 4:1, 13; Titus 1:14). It is a compound word comprised of "to" (πρός) and "hold" (ἔχω). When used with a dative it means to hold oneself to something (Acts 8:6) or someone (Acts 8:10). First, one should not hold himself "to myths" (μύθοις). The word appears five times in the NT, four of them by Paul in the PE (1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:14; cf. 2 Pet. 1:16) and always in a negative sense. The word refers to fanciful and fictitious stories that are passed off as the truth. It has been suggested that it refers to various pre-Gnostic theories that were beginning to seize upon Christian teaching and to redefine and rework it to their own perverted ends. Whether or not such elements were a part of the mix, it was primarily Jewish in nature, possessing elements that made it more appealing to those still struggling with the relationship of the Law to Christ (1 Tim. 1:7-9; Titus 1:14). Thus Paul adds ("and," καὶ) the warning about "endless genealogies" (γενεαλογίαις ἀπεράντοις). The word is used elsewhere only in Titus 3:9 where Titus is warned about "foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law" (emphasis mine). Utilizing the text of the OT, these teachers searched for connections never meant to be made and speculated about various personages, drawing ethical implications from their esoteric speculations. The process became "endless" (ἀπεράντοις), with there always being some new place to search for a signal of some secret message. This adjective is used only here in the NT. It points to the exhausting and wearisome nature of the constant conjecture. Such pursuits are worthless for those things which "have no end also have no result." Those who pursue such things are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:7).

Ministry Maxim

God's Word is to bring us to a specific end by a specific means, not to incite us to endless theological tail-chasing.

Such pursuits are of no benefit, but are only those "which give rise to mere speculation" (αἵτινες ἐκζητήσεις παρέχουσιν). The plural form of the relative pronoun "which" (αἵτινες) signals the multitudinous ways such thought finds expression. The verb means to cause, to bring about or to give rise to.The present tense points to the unceasing stream of thought such pursuits bring. Those thoughts are, however, "mere speculation" (ἐκζητήσεις). The word is used only here in the NT and literally means a "seeking out." It has been variously defined as "aimless arguing,""a subject of subtle inquiry and dispute," and "useless speculation."

Such guesswork stands in contrast ("rather than," μᾶλλον ἢ) to "the administration of God" (οἰκονομίαν θεοῦ τὴν). The noun "administration" (οἰκονομίαν) is a favorite Pauline word (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2, 9; Col. 1:25; elsewhere only in Luke 16:2-4). It refers to the administration of a household or the one charged with carrying out that management. Paul then used it by extension to speak of God's administration of salvation through Christ (Eph. 1:10; 3:9) or the stewardship of service laid upon an individual to further that plan (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25). It is in the first sense that Paul uses the word here. The KJV's "godly edifying" is based upon an inferior reading of the text (οἰκοδομήν, which is better attested). The genitive "of God" (θεοῦ) reveals that it is God's plan that is in view. He is the Author and ultimate Administrator of this salvation.

Knight says, "With the definite article τὴν Paul ties οἰκονομίαν with ἐν πίστει and indicates the realm in which the administration is accomplished." This redemptive plan of God is worked out, not by the unending "speculation" espoused by the false teachers, but "by faith" (ἐν πίστει). This exact phrase is used eleven times in the NT, nine of which are by Paul. Eight of Paul's are in the PE, with six of those being found in 1 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2, 4; 2:7, 15; 3:13; 4:12; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 3:15). The frequency of the expression in the PE underscores the fundamental danger presented by the false teaching and the threat it made to the very work of God. The preposition "by" (ἐν) probably here points to the sphere in which individuals must operate if they are to enter into and carry out the redemptive plan of God.

Digging Deeper:

  1. What did people hope to discover or prove by their "endless genealogies"? And why would this have seemed important to them?
  2. While the false teaching confronting Timothy was unique to his first-century context in Ephesus, how does the temptation to useless speculation confront the contemporary church today?
  3. Can you state with precision and brevity just what "the administration of God" is?

1:5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

In contrast ("But," δὲ) to the teaching of the false teachers (vv. 3-4), Paul unveils that which he is after in his ministry. His purpose in leaving Timothy in Ephesus was so Timothy could "instruct" (παραγγείλῃς) the opponents not to teach falsehoods (v. 3). Now he uses the cognate noun "instruction" (τῆς παραγγελίας) to demonstrate what the appropriate teaching should produce. The noun, like the verb, is a strong word with clear undertones of authority (see on v. 3; cf. Acts 5:28; 1 Thess. 4:2). The definite article sets it out as distinct and unique from the things being so freely thrown about by the false teachers. It marks this "instruction" as that which Timothy has just been charged with delivering (vv. 3-4). Paul wants to set forth clearly "the goal" (τὸ... τέλος) of a truly Christian teaching ministry. The word describes the appointed end toward which all activity and effort is directed, the arrival at which signals all previous output has achieved its goal. The singular form and the definite article underscore that there is only one appropriate goal for a teaching ministry.

True doctrine and genuine ministry aim at and find their fulfillment in the production of "love" (ἀγάπη). This is clearly the Apostle's favorite word for "love," being his choice seventy-five times in his letters (compared to one use of the verb φιλέω in 1 Corinthians 16:2). While the word ἀγάπη existed prior to the time of Christ, His followers infused it with new meaning. (Consult Paul's discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13.) Paul uses the word ten times in the PE, nine of which are in combination with "faith" (πίστις) (1 Tim. 1:5, 14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:22; 3:10; Titus 2:2).

This love springs forth from a three-pronged base. First, it comes "from a pure heart" (ἐκ καθαρᾶς καρδίας). The preposition ἐκ governs all three phrases and describes that out of which love arises. Paul uses the same expression, "pure heart" (καθαρᾶς καρδίας), in 2 Timothy 2:22. Seven of Paul's eight usages of "pure" (καθαρός) are found in the PE (1 Tim. 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3; 2:22; Titus 1:15 [3x]). He links it not only to "heart" (καρδίας), but "conscience" (συνείδησις) as well (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3). When used literally it describes that which is devoid of any defiling elements like dirt or debris. It is used here in a moral sense. In the NT "heart" (καρδίας) describes the seat of the mind (2 Cor. 4:6), emotions (Eph. 6:22), and will (2 Cor. 9:7). The "heart" is the core and center of the individual.

Ministry Maxim

Teaching that does not produce active, genuine, Christian love is misguided at some level.

Second ("and," καὶ), love comes from "a good conscience" (συνειδήσεως ἀγαθῆς). The word "conscience" is a compound word (συνείδησις), combining "with" (σὺν) and "knowledge" (εῖδον). This is a joint-knowledge, shared with oneself. It points to self-awareness. Thus Paul speaks of "the testimony of our conscience" (2 Cor. 1:12). It is a testimony given to oneself, and then passed on to others. Paul speaks again of a "good conscience" in v. 19. He can speak of "a perfectly good conscience" (Acts 23:1), "a clear conscience" (1 Tim. 3:9; 2 Tim. 1:3), and "a blameless conscience" (Acts 24:16). The conscience is a gift from God, but has been distorted through sin. It can be "weak" through immaturity (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded through wrong (1 Cor. 8:12), "defiled" by sin (Titus 1:15), and "seared" to the point of insensitivity by repeated rebellion (1 Tim. 4:2). Only God is "good" (Mark 10:18). The conscience is, therefore, "good" (ἀγαθῆς) when it is in accord with the thoughts of God. It is thus in tune with reality; it sees as God sees. Paul would confess, "I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Cor. 4:3b-4). Our conscience is a helpful guide only as it is conformed to the written revelation of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Third ("and," καὶ), love arises out of "a sincere faith" (πίστεως ἀνυποκρίτου). Timothy's mother and grandmother possessed this kind of sincere faith, and Paul was certain Timothy did as well (2 Tim. 1:5). The noun "faith" (πίστεως) refers here not to the body of accepted Christian doctrine, but to the personal trust of the individual in that truth and the God who revealed it. The adjective "sincere" (ἀνυποκρίτου) refers to that which is without hypocrisy. The negation (ἀν) is added to the already compounded word (ὑπό, "under" and κρίσις, "judgment"). The noun "hypocrite" (ὑποκριτής) was commonly used to designate an actor, one playing a part that did not represent reality. A "sincere" faith is thus genuine, authentic, and without pretense. A "sincere faith" is never put on display. It functions from internal, not external, motivations.

The primary goal of our preaching and teaching ministry is not the imparting of information or merely the increase of knowledge, but the production of love. That love looks outward at others with good motives ("a pure heart"), looks inward at self in self-judgment ("a good conscience") and looks upward at God without ulterior motives ("a sincere faith"). Those who speak God's Word must seek to bring people into an authentic encounter with God through His Word. This encounter should lead to an inward examination of self before God, which in turn changes the way they look at themselves. This is the goal of all genuine Christian preaching and teaching.

Digging Deeper:

  1. Why is love the proper outcome by which a teaching and preaching ministry must be evaluated? How does this contrast with the goal of the false teachers Paul has been describing (vv. 3-4)?
  2. How might an impure heart defile any acts of love arising from it?
  3. Why is a "good conscience" a necessary prerequisite for true love?
  4. How would an insincere faith bring forth a failure in Christian love?

1:6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,

Paul's new sentence begins with the plural relative pronoun "these things" (ὧν). Its likely referent is the "pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" of v. 5. Next comes the vague reference to "some men" (τινες). The plural indefinite pronoun enables Paul to provide an indirect description of the false teachers, without yet naming names (cf. v. 20).

The main verb "have turned aside" (ἐξετράπησαν) means to twist, turn or turn aside. In medical contexts it could speak of a joint being dislocated (cf. Heb. 12:13). The aorist tense views this turning aside as history, something that had already been accomplished in the past. The passive form has the middle meaning—they wrenched themselves aside from the right path. Paul uses the verb four times, all in his correspondence with Timothy (1 Tim. 1:6; 5:15; 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:4). He can employ it to speak of turning aside to follow Satan (1 Tim. 5:15) or myths (2 Tim. 4:4). Here it is "to fruitless discussion" (εἰς ματαιολογίαν) that they are turning aside to. The noun is used only here in the NT, but its cognate adjective is found in Titus 1:10. It is a compound word made up of "empty/worthless" (ματαιότης) and "word" (λόγος). It thus refers to worthless words or empty eloquence. It is, as Thayer says, "meaningless talk, empty prattle." Such orations sound intellectual, spiritual and impressive, but they are devoid of meaningful content and helpful truth.

Ministry Maxim

Every conversation costs us something—calculate that cost carefully.

The participle "straying from these things" (ἀστοχήσαντες) represents a verb used only by Paul in the NT and used by him only in communication with Timothy. It means "to miss the mark, to swerve, to fail to aim at." Rienecker says, "The word indicates 'taking no pains to aim at the right path.'" Paul uses it elsewhere to speak of those who "have gone astray from the faith" (1 Tim. 6:21) or who "have gone astray from the truth" (2 Tim. 2:18). Here it is the "pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" of v. 5 that are left behind. The aorist tense, like the main verb, points to what has already transpired in their lives. The participle likely is used to indicate action that is antecedent to the main verb. Thus it appears that some within the Ephesian church had decided that "a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" were no longer worthy goals and turned themselves aside after other ideals ("wanting to be teachers of the Law," v. 7), and in so doing they "turned aside" from God's truth and into "fruitless discussion." They ended up with words aplenty, but entirely missed the goal of the Gospel. They could rattle on with endless esoteric and pious sounding words, but in the final analysis their ramblings produced nothing of any substance or worth.

1:7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

The Jewish nature of the heresy in Ephesus is clear in that the teachers were "wanting to be teachers of the Law" (θέλοντες εἶναι νομοδιδάσκαλοι). The present tense participle "wanting" (θέλοντες) points to a continuing, and as yet not entirely fulfilled, wish of the false teachers in Ephesus. The infinitive also is in the present tense indicating the continuous nature of what they want "to be" (εἶναι). That aim and longing is the status of "teachers of the Law" (νομοδιδάσκαλοι). Paul uses the word only here and Luke enjoins it in Luke 5:17 and Acts 5:34. It is a compound word comprised of "law" (νόμος and "teacher" (διδάσκαλος). It is not known outside of the NT until the writings of the church fathers. This seems to mark out the heresy in Ephesus as primarily Jewish in nature and only peripherally, if at all, pre-Gnostic. The "myths and endless genealogies" (v. 4) were thus most likely of a Jewish nature.

Ministry Maxim

Eloquence can be a mask for ignorance.

The remainder of the sentence represents a contrast to what they want to be. The phrase "even though they do not understand" translates just two words in the Greek (μὴ νοοῦντες). The present tense of the participle, along with the negative particle (μὴ), points to the abiding and unending nature of their ignorance. They continuously long to become teachers of the Law, but existing coterminous with their wish is their abiding ignorance. The verb (νοέω) means to perceive or understand with the mind. They are living in a state of unreality. Wanting to be insightful and to play the part of the experts, they do not know what they are or what they are doing. The participle may have a concessive force, as the NASU translation indicates ("even though").

Two clauses express what it is they do not understand. The two are held side-by-side by use of the repetition μήτε... μήτε ("either... or"). When a previous item has been negated ("they do not understand," μὴ νοοῦντες) the use of more than one μήτε divides the items that follow into component parts. First is "what they are saying" (ἃ λέγουσιν). The neuter plural relative pronoun "what" (ἃ) covers anything and everything that was coming from their mouths. Pick anything they say; they don't know what it is they are espousing. The present tense verb emphasizes the unending flow of verbiage coming from their mouths. Second is "the matters about which they make confident assertions" (περὶ τίνων διαβεβαιοῦνται). The indefinite pronoun τίνων ("the matters") is used as a substantive here. The preposition περὶ ("about which") with the genitive means something like "about," "concerning," or "with reference to." The verb "they make confident assertions about" (διαβεβαιοῦνται) is used only here and Titus 3:8. It is a compound word made up of "through" (διά) and "to confirm/verify/prove true" (βεβαιόομαι). The preposition (διά) in compound implies persistence and thoroughness in the affirmation. The verb, then, comes to mean speaking confidently or strongly about something, to insist upon it. It is a deponent verb—a middle/passive form, but with an active meaning. The present tense again underscores the continuous nature of their assertions. The problem is not that they speak with confidence and authority, but that they apply to error the confidence that should only be applied to truth—the same verb is used by Paul to instruct Titus to speak the truth with bold confidence (Titus 3:8). The ignorance of the false teachers in Ephesus and on Crete is a recurring theme in the PE (1 Tim. 6:4, 20; 2 Tim. 2:23; 3:7; Titus 1:5; 3:9).

Digging Deeper:

  1. In what way did "wanting to be teachers of the Law" put a person in opposition to a "pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith" (v. 5)? Why was achieving both impossible?
  2. Identify an example of when you became involved in "fruitless discussion." What motivated you during that exchange?
  3. How can eloquence mask ignorance? What is a good indicator it has become so?

1:8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

Ministry Maxim

A straight-edge is beneficial, even if all it does is expose the crookedness of my work.

The mention of the false teachers as desiring to be "teachers of the Law" (v. 7) now leads Paul to outline what the role of the Law truly is. He does so in an extended sentence that runs to the end of v. 11. He contrasts ("but," δὲ) the desire of the false teachers (v. 7) with the inherent value and divine purpose of the Law. He says, "We know" (Οἴδαμεν) what the inherent value of the Law is. The perfect tense has an active meaning—it is current, common knowledge. The first person plural form ("we") differentiates Paul and Timothy and those with them from the false teachers. The verb "know" (οἶδα, also used in 1:9; 3:5, 15) originally stressed the completeness of the knowledge, rather than the process of gaining that knowledge through experience or relationship (γινώσκω, not used in 1 Timothy, but employed in 2 Timothy 1:18; 2:19; 3:1). Paul is completely convinced, as is Timothy and all who know the truth, regarding the value and role of the Law. What Paul knows is "that the Law is good" (ὅτι καλὸς ὁ νόμος). There is no verb, thus the more literal reading would be "that good the Law." The question is, Just what does this mean? In what sense is the Law good? The conditional clause which follows helps us answer this question: "if one uses it lawfully" (ἐάν τις αὐτῷ νομίμως χρῆται). The conditional clause (ἐάν + present subjunctive) is a third class condition which indicates the fulfillment of the action is uncertain. One may or may not use the Law lawfully. That is in question in each case and determines whether or not one derives the good benefit God intended in giving His Law. The indefinite pronoun ("one," τις) makes the reference general and sweeping—this applies to whoever might use the Law "lawfully." Paul uses καλὸς, rather than ἀγαθός, for "good." The former emphasizes that which is both intrinsically good and outwardly attractive, while the latter emphasizes that which is beneficial in its effect, though the two words seem to be used interchangeably in the PE (1 Tim. 5:10). Interestingly, both adjectives are used to describe the goodness of the Law in Romans 7:12, 16. The adverb "lawfully" (νομίμως; only here and 2 Tim. 2:5 in the NT) points to the irony (note the play on words) of those who were misusing "the Law" (ὁ νόμος) and yet fancied themselves as "teachers of the Law" (v. 7).

What is the lawful use of the Law? The answer is given in the rest of the sentence (vv. 9-11)—the Law's goodness is found in its restraint of evil. Elsewhere Paul, however, sees the Law not as a restrainer of evil, but as the agent of stirring sin up within himself (Rom. 7:8). Yet, even in that context, Paul would conclude, "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (7:12). Furthermore, he states, "But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good" (7:16). Both passages agree that the Law is good, albeit for slightly different reasons. Thus we may conclude that Paul's statement here is accurate, though it may not expound everything about the Law that is good. The Law is good when it is used according to the purpose for which it was given (2 Tim. 3:16-17)—to reveal to "lawless" (v. 9) sinners their desperate plight before holy God and to bring them to the Savior, Jesus, who can rescue them by God's grace (Gal. 3:15-4:7). The problem in Ephesus was that the false teachers were not using the Law for this purpose; on the contrary, they were using the Law as a source for "myths and endless genealogies" (1 Tim. 1:4) which resulted in "fruitless discussion" (1:6). Clearly "they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions" (v. 7).

Digging Deeper:

  1. Summarize in one succinct statement what makes the Law good.
  2. According to this verse, what role should the Law of God have in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ?
  3. In what ways have believers in Christ often misunderstood or misused God's Law? What have been the results?

1:9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers

The Apostle now expounds upon the lawful use of the Law (v. 8) as the sentence continues from v. 8 on through v. 11. The participle "realizing" (εἰδὼς) is the same root as the main verb that opened the sentence ("We know," Οἴδαμεν). The verb originally emphasizes the completeness or thoroughness of the knowledge. Paul is now expounding on what the believing know and hold as an axiom of faith. The words "the fact" translate τοῦτο, which should perhaps yield a translation of simply "knowing this." What is obvious is introduced by "that" (ὅτι), signaling that the object of this knowledge is about to be detailed. In general terms this knowledge is that "law is not made for a righteous person" (δικαίῳ νόμος οὐ κεῖται). More literally it might read "to a just [man] a law is not laid down." The adjective (δικαίῳ) is used substantively to stand for the individual it describes (thus the translation "a righteous person"). The word is used of God Himself as the "righteous Judge" (2 Tim. 4:8) and as descriptive of the qualities that should be true of an overseer in the local church (Titus 1:8). The word "law" (νόμος) is anarthrous, pointing not to a specific law(s) within the revelation given to Moses, but to the whole of that Law. It may designate that which possesses the quality of law. The verb κεῖται, translated "is not made," can be used metaphorically of something being appointed or destined. It could also be used as a legal, technical term for a law that is "laid down," "existing" or "valid."

Many have noted the rough parallel of Paul's list here (vv. 9-10) to the Decalogue handed down by God to Moses. The first table of the Law (Exod. 20:1-11) finds only a rough equivalency with the first six of Paul's terms here (signifying, by pairs, opposition to Law, opposition to God, and opposition to that which is sacred). The second table of the Law (Exod. 20:12-17) finds here a more exact parallel through the ninth commandment: "those who kill their fathers or mothers" (the fifth commandment to honor one's father and mother, Exod. 20:12), "murderers" (the sixth commandment not to murder, Exod. 20:13), "immoral men and homosexuals" (the seventh commandment not to commit adultery, Exod. 20:14), "kidnappers" (the eighth commandment not to steal, Exod. 20:15), and "liars and perjurers" (the ninth commandment not to bear false testimony, Exod. 20:16). The question arises as to why Paul did not include the tenth commandment against coveting (Exod. 20:17). In a similar representative list based on the Decalogue, he also omitted the tenth commandment (Rom. 13:9). Any answer ultimately qualifies as speculation. It is interesting that in one of Paul's key discussions as to the purpose of the Law, he identified the Law's particular effect upon himself as producing covetousness (Rom. 7:7-8).

Rather than ("but," (δὲ) for the righteous person, law is "for those who are lawless and rebellious" (ἀνόμοις δὲ καὶ ἀνυποτάκτοις). There is no additional verb, so it might more literally and simply read, "but to lawless and rebellious persons." Here begins a litany of ungodly people. There are fourteen designations in all running through v. 10. The first eight are paired in twos and connected by the conjunction καὶ, subsequently the terms are simply strung together one word immediately after the previous one. All are plural—the first six are adjectives used as substantives (corresponding roughly to the first table of the Ten Commandments), the next seven are nouns and the final term is another adjective used as a substantive (corresponding more specifically with the second table of the Ten Commandments).

Ministry Maxim

As long as ungodliness exists, God's Law must be preached.

The first term, "lawless" (ἀνόμοις), is a strong one. It is used elsewhere to speak of the people of Sodom in Lot's day (2 Peter 2:8), of the antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8), and of those who crucified Jesus (Acts 2:23). The word is the common term for "law" (νόμος; just used three words prior) with the alpha privative (ἀ) prefixed for negation. The Law is for those who reject and try to throw off any law or restrictions. The second term, "rebellious" (ἀνυποτάκτοις), is used three times in the PE (1 Tim. 1:9; Titus 1:6, 10) and only one other time in the NT (Heb. 2:8). It is a compound word adjoining an alpha privative (ἀ) to negate the common verb ὑποτάσσω, which means "to arrange under" and commonly speaks of being in subjection to authority. It describes those who throw off authority and demand autonomy.

The third term is "the ungodly" (ἀσεβέσι). The adjective refers to one who is irreverent and irreligious. Paul's only other usages are in Romans 4:5; 5:6. The fourth term is "sinners" (ἁμαρτωλοῖς). Paul uses the term again in v. 15 to show that all men are classified as this, even himself, and it is for just such people that Jesus died. Traditionally the Jews applied the term to Gentiles (Gal. 2:15). Paul, in another context, tied the term to the Law and proved that no one can be justified by works of the Law, but only through Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16-17).

The fifth term is "ungodly" (ἀνοσίοις). The adjective is used only here and in 2 Timothy 3:2 in the description of the people of the last days. It refers generally to those "who impiously reject sacred obligations." It has a particular emphasis upon an inward lack of piety.

The sixth item is "profane" (βεβήλοις