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1 Timothy 1 - Timothy at Ephesus

INTRODUCTION: There is a separate Bible study that provides some biographical information about Timothy that was prepared before beginning this study on Paul's first letter to Timothy. The first section of this study on chapter one sites various Bible passages from the book of Acts to trace Timothy's interactions with Paul. The letter provides some insights into the relationship between Paul and Timothy, and it also has instruction useful to leaders and lay persons in the body of Christ. The Greek word translated as Timothy means "honoring God." This link is provided if you want to transfer to the biographical Bible study on Timothy.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the World English Bible.


Acts 19 "22 Having sent into Macedonia two of those who served him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 23 About that time there arose no small stir concerning the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen," ... "39 But if you seek anything about other matters, it will be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For indeed we are in danger of being accused concerning this day's riot, there being no cause. Concerning it, we wouldn't be able to give an account of this commotion." 41 When he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."

Acts 20 "1 After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, took leave of them, and departed to go into Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those parts, and had encouraged them with many words, he came into Greece. 3 When he had spent three months there, and a plot was made against him by Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he determined to return through Macedonia. 4 These accompanied him as far as Asia: Sopater of Beroea; Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians; Gaius of Derbe; Timothy; and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. 5 But these had gone ahead, and were waiting for us at Troas."

Acts 20 "15 Sailing from there, we came the following day opposite Chios. The next day we touched at Samos and stayed at Trogyllium, and the day after we came to Miletus. 16 For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. 17 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called to himself the elders of the assembly."

Acts 20 "29 For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, remembering that for a period of three years I didn't cease to admonish everyone night and day with tears. 32 Now, brothers, I entrust you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."

COMMENTS: We do not have any information within the first letter to Timothy to indicate precisely when it was sent, or who delivered it to Ephesus. We do know from Acts chapters 16 through 18 that Timothy had joined with Paul and Silas as they left Asia and entered into Macedonia for their first visit to Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea in that province. During that extended journey, Paul sent Timothy back to Thessalonica from Athens, and then Silas and Timothy rejoined Paul at Corinth where Paul stayed for eighteen months. When Paul left Corinth and arrived at Ephesus, there is no record that Timothy was with him, but the first passage above from chapter 19 states that Paul sent Timothy back into Macedonia from Ephesus while Paul stayed in Asia. After that there was a great uproar in Ephesus started by Demetrius the silversmith who made shrines to Artemis along with other craftsmen. He was concerned about his loss of business if this new religion that Paul taught would displace worship of Artemis.

Then the passage beginning in Acts chapter 20 verse 1 states that Paul left Ephesus to go to Macedonia and Greece, and when he left Greece he went back through Macedonia. Timothy was named as being among those who accompanied him as far as Asia, but that group went ahead of him to Troas. Picking up the journey at Acts 20:15 we find that Paul did not intend to go into Ephesus as he wanted to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. in the last passage above, as Paul met with elders of the church from Ephesus, he reminded them that he had been with them for three years, and without mentioning Timothy, he warns them to be on guard about false teachers who would threaten the stability of the church. Since there is no passage in Acts that describes the time when Paul traveled to Macedonia and left Timothy at Ephesus, I will let the record in Paul's first letter to Timothy stand as a sufficient independent account without speculating on when that occurred in a timeline with other events.


1Timothy 1 "1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope; 2 to Timothy, my true child in faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you when I was going into Macedonia, stay at Ephesus that you might command certain men not to teach a different doctrine, 4 neither to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God's stewardship, which is in faith- 5 but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith; 6 from which things some, having missed the mark, have turned aside to vain talking; 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor about what they strongly affirm."

COMMENTS: The opening from the Apostle Paul may have been intended to be available to others to verify the authority Paul had conferred on Timothy. Timothy had been with Paul over a number of years, had heard him preach the gospel as they traveled to various provinces, and had been mentioned by name in some of Paul's earliest letters. It therefore would seem most unnecessary for Paul to declare to Timothy the authority of his apostleship "according to the commandment of God our Saviour, and Christ Jesus our hope," although it could serve as a reminder that Paul had not assumed this on his own. Paul addressed Timothy as a true son in the faith, and extended grace, mercy, and peace to him from the source of that comfort for both of them with the words "from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."

Paul apparently had talked with Timothy before leaving for Macedonia, and the statement in this letter that Timothy needed to stay at Ephesus to keep the believers there secure in their faith could be a reminder and a documentation of purpose. Paul did not use names at this point, but there were certain men who would do harm in the church by trying to teach a different doctrine, and by using myths and endless genealogies that fostered unnecessary disputes. Paul emphasized that the goal in the church should be to strengthen God's stewardship through love with a pure heart and a good conscience in sincere faith. Some at Ephesus had missed the mark having turned aside to worthless talking. They desired to be teachers of the law, but they did not truly understand what they strongly affirmed.


1Timothy 1 "8 But we know that the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully, 9 as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and for any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; 11 according to the Good News of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."

COMMENTS: Though some Gentiles had become proselytes to Judaism before becoming Christians, there were also Gentiles who became Christians without converting to Judaism. Those born as Jews would accept foreigners to convert to the Jewish faith by observing the law, but many Christian Jews had difficulty accepting Gentiles directly into the church without strict observance of the law. Paul was not unaware of the importance of Jewish tradition, and he had even had Timothy become circumcised before he joined Paul and Silas because his mother was a Jew but his father was a Greek. Paul emphasized that the law was made for those who were still conducting their lives in ways directly contrary to the law, whether they were Jews or Gentiles. The sound doctrine of the gospel message that Paul delivered was the glory found only in the blessed God, and he expanded on the truth of how that could satisfy the requirements of the law, as he continued his letter.


1Timothy 1 "12 And I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he counted me faithful, appointing me to service; 13 although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent. However, I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might display all his patience, for an example of those who were going to believe in him for eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."

COMMENTS: Paul applies the gospel directly to himself in humility as he gave thanks to Christ Jesus the Lord for enabling him to be faithful to his appointed service. He explained the dramatic change brought about in his life as he was shown mercy by God because he had acted in ignorance and unbelief while he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man under the condemnation of the law. Paul took no credit to himself as he praised the Lord for the grace that abounded to him exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Paul considered that he was chief among sinners, and wanted Timothy to know that it is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Paul believed that his experience of one who received mercy through the patience of Christ Jesus was an example to benefit those who would also believe in Christ for eternal life. Anyone who receives that mercy should also endeavor to abandon things contrary to the law, having been forgiven through the gift of faith and love by Christ Jesus. As Paul wrote these thoughts it seemed to stir his emotions to a peak of praise as he wrote the next sentence. "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen."


1Timothy 1 "18 This instruction I commit to you, my child Timothy, according to the prophecies which led the way to you, that by them you may wage the good warfare; 19 holding faith and a good conscience; which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith; 20 of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered to Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme."

COMMENTS: Paul does not specify the time or the mode of prophecies about Timothy, but he gave him in this letter instruction in accord with those prophecies. That earlier prophecy must have presented the indication that Timothy would be able to combat the false doctrines and needless arguments that would arise within the church even to the point of being like warfare, while holding fast to the faith with a good conscience. Paul said some at Ephesus had thrust away faith and had thus made a shipwreck concerning the faith. Since a shipwreck affects all who are on board, it would be important to take definitive action to neutralize or remove such an influence. Paul named Hymenaeus and Alexander, and said he had delivered them to Satan that they might be taught not to blaspheme. This wording does not present clarity about the action that was taken by Paul. My inclination is to take the position that Paul had excluded these men from fellowship with the body of believers and thus they would find themselves in the domain of Satan which is this present world apart from Christ. If they were truly children of Satan, being among their own would not be punishment, and would more likely encourage them to blaspheme. Anyone who has strayed from the faith and is removed from the assembly of believers because of a failure to respond to loving correction, would hopefully come to repentance to be restored.

Paul had already written his own testimony that he had been a blasphemer but was shown mercy by the Lord. Whether or not these two men would experience repentance and be redeemed by grace, it was important that Timothy know that they needed to be kept outside of the fellowship of the church while they exhibited such characteristic. The Lord Jesus had set forth a principal of exclusion from the church as he taught. Matthew 18 "15 If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn't listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector." If such a matter is that important between believers, certainly exclusion from the church is deserved for someone who openly blasphemes the name of the Lord.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, I want to take to heart the admonition in this letter that I will not be found as one who turns some details of scripture into points of unnecessary contention within the church. I want to use your word and the guidance of your Holy Spirit through love with a pure heart and a good conscience in sincere faith to strengthen the stewardship by you Lord as chief shepherd. If there are those who pursue vain discussion in the church, allow me to support the proper corrective steps taken by the leadership in the assembly. Help me Lord to understand that the law in scripture is intended to identify the actions contrary to the law, and to be thankful that it has brought much of my own transgression to my attention for correction by your mercy and grace. Give me a measure of the abundant faith and love that is in Christ Jesus to remind me that you came into the world to save sinners. May all honor and glory be forever given to God my eternal, immortal, invisible King who alone is wise. Lord I ask that you give me the strength and wisdom for whatever part I may have in waging the good warfare to combat those who may make a shipwreck of the faith in the assembly of believers wherein I am a member. Amen.

Published 24 April 2013