Bible Book Number 54—1 Timothy
Place Written: Macedonia
Writing Completed: c. 61–64 C.E.
1, 2. (a) What contrast is seen between the descriptions of Paul’s imprisonment in Acts and Second Timothy? (b) When does it appear that First Timothy was written, and why?
LUKE’S account of Paul’s life in the book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar. Paul is shown as dwelling in his own hired house, preaching the Kingdom of God to all who came to him, and doing so “with the greatest freeness of speech, without hindrance.” (Acts 28:30, 31) But in his second letter to Timothy, Paul writes: “I am suffering evil to the point of prison bonds as an evildoer,” and he speaks of his death as imminent. (2 Tim. 2:9; 4:6-8) What a change! In the first instance, he was treated as an honorable prisoner, in the second, as a felon. What had happened between the time of Luke’s comment on Paul’s situation in 61 C.E., at the end of two years in Rome, and Paul’s own writing of his condition to Timothy, which appears to have been written shortly before his death?
2 The difficulty of fitting the writing of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus into the period covered by the book of Acts has led some Bible commentators to the conclusion that Paul was successful in his appeal to Caesar and was released about 61 C.E. Says The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible: “The closing verse of The Acts accords better with this view [that Paul was released after two years’ confinement] than with the supposition that the imprisonment which has been described ended in the apostle’s condemnation and death. Luke emphasizes the fact that no one hindered his work, thus certainly giving the impression that the end of his activity was not near.”a It is, then, to the period between his release from his first imprisonment in Rome and his final imprisonment there, or about 61-64 C.E., that the writing of First Timothy belongs.
3, 4. (a) On his release from prison, what did Paul evidently do? (b) From where did he write First Timothy?
3 On his release from prison, Paul evidently resumed his missionary activity in association with Timothy and Titus. Whether Paul ever reached Spain, as some suppose, is not certain. Clement of Rome wrote (c. 95 C.E.) that Paul came “to the extreme limit of the W[est],” which could have included Spain.b
4 From where did Paul write his first letter to Timothy? First Timothy 1:3 indicates that Paul arranged for Timothy to attend to certain congregation matters in Ephesus while he himself went his way to Macedonia. From here, it appears, he wrote the letter back to Timothy in Ephesus.
5. What testimony is there to the authenticity of the letters to Timothy?
5 The two letters to Timothy have been accepted from the earliest times as written by Paul and as being part of the inspired Scriptures. The early Christian writers, including Polycarp, Ignatius, and Clement of Rome, all agree on this, and the letters are included in the catalogs of the first few centuries as Paul’s writings. One authority writes: “There are few N[ew] T[estament] writings which have stronger attestation . . . Objections to authenticity must therefore be regarded as modern innovations contrary to the strong evidence from the early church.”c
6. (a) For what several reasons did Paul write First Timothy? (b) What was Timothy’s background, and what indicates that he was a mature worker?
6 Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy to set out clearly certain organizational procedures in the congregation. There was also a need for him to warn Timothy to be on guard against false teachings and to strengthen the brothers to resist such ‘false knowledge.’ (1 Tim. 6:20) The commercial city of Ephesus would also provide the temptations of materialism and “love of money,” and so it would be timely to give some advice on this also. (6:10) Timothy certainly had a fine background of experience and training to be used for this work. He was born of a Greek father and a God-fearing Jewish mother. It is not known exactly when Timothy had his first contact with Christianity. When Paul visited Lystra on his second missionary tour, likely in late 49 C.E. or early 50 C.E., Timothy (perhaps in his late teens or early 20’s) was already “well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium.” So Paul arranged for Timothy to travel with Silas and himself. (Acts 16:1-3) Timothy is mentioned by name in 11 of Paul’s 14 letters as well as in the book of Acts. Paul always took a fatherly interest in him and on several occasions assigned him to visit and serve different congregations—an evidence Timothy had done good work in the missionary field and was qualified to handle weighty responsibilities.—1 Tim. 1:2; 5:23; 1 Thess. 3:2; Phil. 2:19.
CONTENTS OF FIRST TIMOTHY
7. Why is Paul encouraging Timothy to stay in Ephesus?
7 Exhortation to faith with a good conscience (1:1-20). After greeting Timothy as “a genuine child in the faith,” Paul encourages him to remain in Ephesus. He is to correct those teaching a “different doctrine,” which is leading to useless questions rather than to a dispensing of faith. Paul says the objective of this mandate is “love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.” He adds: “By deviating from these things certain ones have been turned aside into idle talk.”—1:2, 3, 5, 6.
8. What did Paul’s being shown mercy emphasize, and what fine warfare does he encourage Timothy to wage?
8 Though Paul was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, nevertheless, the undeserved kindness of the Lord “abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus,” so that he was shown mercy. He had been the foremost of sinners; and thus he became a demonstration of the long-suffering of Christ Jesus, who “came into the world to save sinners.” How worthy is the King of eternity to receive honor and glory forever! Paul charges Timothy to wage a fine warfare, “holding faith and a good conscience.” He must not be like those who have “experienced shipwreck concerning their faith,” such as Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom Paul has disciplined on account of blasphemy.—1:14, 15, 19.
9. (a) What prayers are to be made, and why? (b) What is said as to women in the congregation?
9 Instructions regarding worship and organization in the congregation (2:1–6:2). Prayers are to be made concerning all sorts of men, including those in high station, to the end that Christians may live peaceably in godly devotion. It is the will of God, the Savior, that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (2:4-6) Paul was appointed an apostle and teacher of these things. So he calls on the men to pray in loyalty and the women to dress modestly and sensibly, as befits those who reverence God. A woman must learn in silence and not exercise authority over a man, “for Adam was formed first, then Eve.”—2:13.
10. What are the qualifications for overseers and ministerial servants, and why does Paul write these things?
10 The man who reaches out to be an overseer is desirous of a fine work. Paul then lists the qualifications for overseers and ministerial servants. An overseer must be “irreprehensible, a husband of one wife, moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, not a drunken brawler, not a smiter, but reasonable, not belligerent, not a lover of money, a man presiding over his own household in a fine manner, having children in subjection with all seriousness . . . , not a newly converted man . . . He should also have a fine testimony from people on the outside.” (3:2-7) There are similar requirements for ministerial servants, and they should be tested as to fitness before serving. Paul writes these things in order that Timothy may know how he ought to conduct himself in the congregation of God, which is “a pillar and support of the truth.”—3:15.
11. (a) What problems will appear later? (b) To what should Timothy give attention, and why?
11 In later times some will fall away from the faith through the teachings of demons. Hypocritical men speaking lies will forbid marriage and command to abstain from foods that God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving. As a fine minister, Timothy must turn down false stories and ‘old women’s tales.’ On the other hand, he should be training himself with godly devotion as his aim. “To this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves,” says Paul, “because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.” Therefore Timothy must keep on giving these commands and teaching them. He is to let no man look down on his youth but, on the contrary, become an example in conduct and godly service. He is to be absorbed in these things and to pay constant attention to himself and to his teaching, for in staying by these things, he will ‘save both himself and those listening to him.’—4:7, 10, 16.
12. What counsel is given as to dealing with widows and others in the congregation?
12 Paul counsels Timothy on how to deal with individuals: older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters. Suitable provision is to be made for those who are really widows. However, a widow’s family should care for her if possible. To fail in this would be to disown the faith. When at least 60 years of age, a widow may be put on the list if there is “a witness borne to her for fine works.” (5:10) On the other hand, younger widows, who let their sexual impulses control them, should be turned down. Rather than gadding about and gossiping, let them marry and bear children, so as to give no inducement to the opposer.
13. What consideration should be shown to older men, how are persons who practice sin to be handled, and what responsibility falls upon slaves?
13 The older men who preside in a fine way should be reckoned worthy of double honor, “especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” (5:17) An accusation is not to be admitted against an older man except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. Persons who practice sin are to be reproved before all onlookers, but there is to be no prejudgment or bias in these things. Slaves should respect their owners, giving good service, especially to brothers, who are “believers and beloved.”—6:2.
14. What does Paul have to say about pride and the love of money in connection with “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency”?
14 Counsel on “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency” (6:3-21). The man that does not assent to healthful words is puffed up with pride and is mentally diseased over questionings, leading to violent disputes over trifles. On the other hand, “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency” is a means of great gain. One should be content with sustenance and covering. The determination to be rich is a snare leading to destruction, and the love of money is “a root of all sorts of injurious things.” Paul urges Timothy, as a man of God, to flee from these things, to pursue Christian virtues, to fight the fine fight of the faith, and to “get a firm hold on the everlasting life.” (6:6, 10, 12) He must observe the commandment “in a spotless and irreprehensible way” until the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are rich should “rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God,” in order to get a firm hold on the real life. Paul, in closing, encourages Timothy to guard his doctrinal trust and to turn away from defiling speeches and from “the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’”—6:14, 17, 20.
15. What warning is given against speculations and arguments?
15 This letter provides a stern warning for those who dabble in vain speculations and philosophical arguments. “Debates about words” are allied to pride and are to be avoided, for Paul tells us that they obstruct Christian growth, furnishing only “questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith.” (6:3-6; 1:4) Along with the works of the flesh, these disputings are “in opposition to the healthful teaching according to the glorious good news of the happy God.”—1:10, 11.
16. What counsel did Paul give on materialism?
16 The Christians in money-greedy Ephesus apparently needed counsel on fighting materialism and its distractions. Paul gave that counsel. The world has freely quoted him in saying, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil,’ but how few pay heed to his words! On the contrary, true Christians need to heed this advice all the time. It means life to them. They need to flee from the hurtful snare of materialism, resting their hope, “not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment.”—6:6-12, 17-19.
17. What advice to Timothy is timely for all zealous young ministers today?
17 Paul’s letter shows that Timothy himself was a fine example of what a young Christian should be. Though relatively young in years, he was mature in spiritual growth. He had reached out to qualify as an overseer and was richly blessed in the privileges he enjoyed. But like all zealous young ministers today, he needed to keep pondering over these things and to be absorbed in them so as to make continued advancement. Timely is Paul’s advice to all who seek continued joy in making Christian progress: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—4:15, 16.
18. What orderly arrangements in the congregation are clearly defined, and how does Paul use the Hebrew Scriptures as an authority?
18 This inspired letter instills appreciation for God’s orderly arrangements. It shows how both men and women may do their part in maintaining theocratic harmony in the congregation. (2:8-15) Then it goes on to discuss the qualifications for overseers and ministerial servants. Thus holy spirit indicates the requirements to be met by those who serve in special capacities. The letter also encourages all dedicated ministers to meet these standards, saying: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (3:1-13) The overseer’s proper attitude toward the age-groups and sexes in the congregation is appropriately discussed as is the handling of accusations before witnesses. In emphasizing that the older men who work hard in speaking and teaching are worthy of double honor, Paul calls twice on the Hebrew Scriptures as an authority: “For the scripture says: ‘You must not muzzle a bull when it threshes out the grain’; also: ‘The workman is worthy of his wages.’”—1 Tim. 5:1-3, 9, 10, 19-21, 17, 18; Deut. 25:4; Lev. 19:13.
19. How is the Kingdom hope brought to the fore, and what exhortation is given on this basis?
19 After giving all this fine counsel, Paul adds that the commandment should be observed in a spotless and irreprehensible way ‘until the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords.’ On the basis of this Kingdom hope, the letter closes with a powerful exhortation for Christians “to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:14, 15, 18, 19) Beneficial indeed is all the fine instruction of First Timothy!
a 1970, edited by H. S. Gehman, page 721.
c New Bible Dictionary, second edition, 1986, edited by J. D. Douglas, page 1203.