Timothy was one of the Apostle Paul’s long-time associates. He had joined Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:2), having become a believer of good standing in his home city of Lystra (modern day Turkey) possibly when Paul had preached there. His mother was a Jewess, his father a Greek , and he was well schooled in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:14-16). Timothy was with Paul toward the end of the apostle’s first Roman imprisonment (Philippians 2:19-24). When Paul was released, he took Timothy and Titus back to Asia Minor, and left Titus on the island of Crete.
They travel to Macedonia, and stop in Ephesus on the way. But they discover false teachers who had seemingly taken over the church. Paul had predicted this (Acts 20:29-30). It was necessary for two of these men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, to be told to leave the church by Paul (1:19-20).
Paul needed to travel to Macedonia (Philippians 2:24), but felt that the church needed help. So he left Timothy to deal with those who were leaders but preaching a false message (1:3-4).
Some have called Timothy a pastor, but he is probably best seen as an ‘apostolic delegate’ sent to provide temporary help until the church is able to thrive.
The letter is written to Timothy, but also intended for the wider audience of the Ephesian church. It is intended to support Timothy as he exerts his authority within the church.
It must have been written sometime after Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment (c.61AD) and probably before his re-arrest and final imprisonment, and subsequent execution, so maybe around AD62-64.
In view of the background, 1 Timothy 1:3 contains the purpose of this epistle: ‘As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer…’
The letter underlines what these false doctrines are, and outlines how Timothy needs to act and preach as a leader in the church. It includes instruction on how the church should organise its services and practices, ahead of the time when Paul said he hoped to visit them (2:14-15) though we have no evidence that he ever did. It would also encourage Timothy to live in a godly way at a time of pressure from those inside the church (6:11-12).
Why read it?
The letter gives us direction on the character qualities of a church leader, and some of the elements for public worship. It reminds us that although church is a place for love and welcome, false teaching will destroy the church. Those who refuse to adjust their approach need to leave, or they will harm the church.
Stick to the Truth
The letter reminds us that there are alternatives to living the Christian life. Some may even seem to have biblical backing, but they ultimately undermine the pure Gospel, that we are saved by grace through faith, which frees us to live a godly life.
Timothy was a younger man, and the exhortations for him to focus on what’s important come to us all as a fresh reminder not to be distracted, but focus on using what God has gifted us to do for the benefit of all (4:12-16).
|1:3-3:16||Warning against false teaching|
|Elders and Deacons qualities|
|4:1-6:21||Look after yourself|
|Relations with others|
|Beware of false teachers|
|Keep true to the Gospel|