Study 1 A FATHER’S LETTER TO HIS SON
PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: 1 Timothy 1:1-7
In this Series we turn expectantly to a study of Paul’s first letter to Timothy. It is quite literally “a father’s letter to his son”, for the father is Paul the Apostle and his son (in the faith) is Timothy. Notice four things about this letter which was written about AD 63:-
1. THE WRITER
Notice how the writer describes himself in verse 1:-
- (1) He gives his name – “Paul”. In the first century the writer of a letter began with his own name and then followed it with the name of the recipient and with some form of greeting. Thus Paul, who wrote this letter, began it with his name. “Saul” was his Hebrew name (Philippians 3:5), but “Paul” (Latin: Paulus) was his Gentile name (Acts 13:9).
- (2) He states his office – “an apostle of Christ Jesus”. Here, by the use of the word “apostle” (Greek: Apostolos), Paul tells us that he was one who had been sent forth, for an apostle is a “sent one”, an envoy, an ambassador. But Paul was not alone in this, for every Christian is sent (2 Corinthians 5:20). Paul was available to the Lord for whatever He wanted. Are we? But what was Paul’s authority for saying that he was an apostle?
- (3) He declares his authority – “by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus”. Paul was authorised by the Lord Himself. He was an apostle by royal command. Note: he was not an apostle because he chose, or wanted, or felt qualified to be one, but because God had chosen him (Acts 9:15), and had given him a command which he had obeyed – look up Acts 26:19.
Notice, however, that in verse 1 Paul not only describes himself but he also describes his Lord, the One who had commanded him to be an apostle:-
- (1) He gives His titles. What are they? – “Christ…Jesus.” These are significant for they tell us what our Lord is to His own. What is He? He is Jesus, the Saviour who died for His people (Matthew 1:21); He is Christ, the Sanctifier who lives in His people (Colossians 1:27); and He is also Lord, the Sovereign who reigns over His people (Acts 10:36). Does He bear these relationships to you?
- (2) He states His mission. The apostle speaks of the Lord Jesus as “our Saviour”, and this emphasises the supreme reason for His coming into this world – compare 1 Timothy 1:15 with Luke 1:46-47 and Acts 4:12.
- (3) He declares His victory. He describes Him as “our hope”, and this declares the final victory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. No unbeliever has any hope (Ephesians 2:12); but because Christ has conquered sin, death and Hell and has opened the kingdom of Heaven, He becomes the “hope” of every believer.
2. THE RECIPIENT
Verse 2 tells us that Timothy was the recipient of this letter. Notice how Paul describes him:-
- (1) He gives his name – “Timothy”. Timothy was Paul’s greatest friend and companion in his labours, and wherever the apostle speaks of him it is with affection. Paul was about thirty years older than Timothy. What would account for this special affection? See how Paul goes on to speak of him:-
- (2) He states his relationship – “my true son in the faith”. Timothy was Paul’s spiritual son, for he had been converted as a lad when Paul had visited Lystra, his home town (Acts 16:1-3); and later on Timothy accompanied Paul on his visits to Ephesus, Athens, Antioch, Philippi and Rome – what an experience he had! Now Paul refers to a special work he had to do:-
- (3) He declares his task – “stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines.” The Church at Ephesus was in great danger. Error was creeping in, and thus Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to stay on the job and to guard the work of God.
3. THE GREETING
This is contained in the last part of verse 2. Paul always began his letters with a word of affectionate greeting, and here he desired and prayed that young Timothy might enjoy three great blessings:-
- (1) Grace. Grace is “the undeserved favour of God to the guilty sinner, removing the guilt of his past sins and relieving him of deserved punishment” – look up Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 2:11. Here, however, Paul is wishing for Timothy that God will give him all necessary aid for every situation of need – look up 2 Corinthians 12:9 and 2 Corinthians 9:8.
- (2) Mercy. Mercy is “the spontaneous compassion of God for the miserable and distressed, freeing the sinner from the consequent misery of his sins.” Here, however, Paul is praying for Timothy and wishing him that God will secure and protect him in every situation of attack (1 Corinthians 10:13).
- (3) Peace. Peace is “the state of salvation which results from God’s grace and mercy, speaking of the harmony which results from the removal of discord which sin has produced” (Romans 5:1). Here, however, Paul is wanting Timothy to experience Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; and Philippians 4:7.
4. THE PURPOSE
Why did Paul write to Timothy? The letter was intended to help Timothy to discharge his responsibility to the Lord in his work in the Church at Ephesus. Paul gives him three exhortations, mentioned in verses 3,4,18,19 and 20. These are:-
- (1) To Stand Firm. We get this in verse 3, where the apostle says to Timothy, “Stay in Ephesus”. What he means is – stay put! When the way is difficult it is the easiest thing for the servant of God to run away from doing the will of God – as Jonah did (Jonah 1:1-3). Have you ever felt like giving up? – look up Galatians 6:9, and compare 1 Corinthians 15:58.
- (2) To Speak Up. We get this in verse 3, where Paul says, “Command certain men not to teach false doctrines.” This was a most difficult thing for young Timothy to do. It is never easy to expose error or to warn against heresy. When we do so today we are told to be tolerant and not to be critical – but look up Jude 3.
- (3) To Take Care. Verse 4 contains the warning that Timothy needed, for how easy it is for the minister of Christ to get taken up with side issues and dubious teachings – cults, isms, and strange theories – they are endless! We need to preserve the balance of truth, and to take care that we do not substitute the opinions of men for the clear revelation of God.
We conclude this first study with a word of warning – look up 1 Corinthians 10:12; and a gracious word of encouragement – 1 Corinthians 10:13.