(1-2) Beloved, Paul wrote 13 letters that make up a significant part of the New Testament. Nine of those letters were written to congregations and four were addressed to specific individuals—two to Timothy, and one each to Titus and Philemon. These letters are also included for your instruction and encouragement. This first one was addressed to Paul’s protégé Timothy. As always, Paul starts with grace, mercy, and peace.
(3-4) As Paul continued to share the good news of the kingdom, he asked Timothy to stay behind in Ephesus and provide leadership in that young church. Because Timothy was young, the thought of leading a growing church was overwhelming, so Paul’s letter was beneficial and even necessary for him to go forward.
Even in this young church, false ideas were already developing about what it meant to be a Christian. The city of Ephesus was large, and its location encouraged the sharing of many diverse ideas. There were many cultic influences, most notably that of the Greek goddess Artemis, whose temple was a prominent feature in the city. The church has always had to deal with various cultural influences.
Paul’s first charge to Timothy was to confront the false teachings, and call the church back to the core of Christianity. The Ephesians were pursuing non-Christian myths and genealogies that had nothing to do with my Son and were passing them along as essential truths. It is no different in the church today. Many people who claim to follow my Son get swept up in fighting over theologies and ideas that are far from the core of faith. Usually, these speculations arise from pride rather than from love and other-centeredness.
(5-6) What then is essential? Your purpose is love, pure and simple. Bind yourself to my Son, follow his ways, and live with integrity. Keep love as your goal. When you find yourself wandering away from love, come back again and again. Be cautious about chasing theological rabbit trails; too often, the motivation behind these discussions is pride. You use a little bit of knowledge to make yourself appear better than others. Instead, remember who you are and who I have called you to be—a vessel of my love.
(7) A good and holy desire to instruct others in the ways of the faith, whether as a pastor, theologian, or evangelist can also be hijacked by self-centeredness. When you lead from self-centeredness or self-promotion, you miss the very heart of the faith. Your confident statements about who I am have nothing to do with me, but with your own pride. Come back to love.
(8-11) The Old Testament law, which I handed down to Moses, is good. I wrote it. But you must understand its purpose, or it will become a bludgeon used to harm people. I gave the Law to reveal sin, lawlessness, and injustice. There is no question, for example, that children who attack their parents, murderers, those who engage in sexual immorality, slaveholders, liars, or any who use others in self-centered ways are acting outside of my creational intent. The Law reveals how far short you are from the standard of love. I have called you to proclaim a message of love, mercy, and forgiveness. When you talk about the Law, I want you to use it to point back to my Son, who is the true focus.
(12-14) Your strength is a gift from me. Though your sinful nature opposes me when you speak poorly of my image bearers and act contrary to love, I have still called you to service in my kingdom as an ambassador of love. Your sinfulness leads you to act with ignorance and unbelief, but I show mercy anyway. My Son’s very life is in you. My grace flows through you. My faith and love envelop you.
(15-17) Many people who read 1 Timothy 1:15 are surprised at Paul’s proclamation that he is the foremost of sinners because of his effectiveness as a missionary. The truth is that encountering my Son filled Paul with an intense self-awareness. My desire, beloved, is for you also to become aware of both your brokenness and belovedness. Like Paul, allow my mercy to overwhelm you. When people witness my patience, it creates an opportunity for them to believe in my Son’s work as the path to eternal life. All of this—my grace, forbearance, and love—glorify me, the everlasting and only God.
(18-20) Do not lose sight of the basics by wandering off into false teachings. In a spiritual battle, stick with the basics; they are your best weapons. When believers wander away from the core ideas of love, mercy, and grace into battles over secondary things, they lead people astray. Paul specifically mentioned two people, Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were speaking poorly about me and those who bear my image, so they were put out of the church.
(1) Commit yourself to prayer. Ask for what you need and give thanks for what you receive. Talk to me on behalf of others.
(2-4) Pray for your political leaders. They carry a heavy burden and their choices and actions can have significant effects on many people. Even if they do not agree with your worldview, pray that they do not make it difficult for you to follow me as you wish. I have called you to live with peace and dignity, confidently settled in your salvation. It is good for you and for culture. It is my desire that all people would come to know my Son for the sake of their own souls and for society. My kingdom is the way things are supposed to be.
(5-7) True shalom is only realized through life in my Son. He is the only way to wholeness both within and between people. Jesus willingly went to the cross to set everyone free from the penalty of sin. I have given everyone who is gripped by my love the privilege of telling others.
(8) Live a life of prayer. Pray not only with words, but with your whole being—your attitude, your body, and your emotion. Allow your soul to be an offering of thanksgiving to me. Set aside your bickering about who is right and who is wrong.
(9-12) Do not get overtaken by cultural or religious trends that draw attention to your appearance. It is not the externals, but the contents of your heart that matter. Practice godliness, peace, and self-control, loving me and loving others. In Ephesus in Paul’s day, the influence of Artemis was strong and the women would offer sacrifices to protect their fertility because they believed she demanded it, but they were mixing false religion with their worship of me, the only true God. The voices of those who worshipped Artemis were influential in the young church and I cautioned Timothy to not let their voices reign, because it is my Son alone, and not Artemis, who is the way to life.
(13-15) In creation, I formed Adam first and then Eve, but it was Eve who first transgressed my rule by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve did not gain some superior knowledge because she had broken my command; rather, the effect was catastrophic. At the time Paul wrote this letter, women were seeking safety by appealing to Artemis, but safety is found in me alone.
(1-3) The desire to be a minister is noble, but not for the faint of heart. Overseers must pursue a holy life, seeking to model the life and love of my Son in thought and deed. Marriage should be to only one spouse. They should be clear-thinking, self-controlled, respectable and respectful, generous, temperate, gentle, and not pursuing wealth as their driving passion. They should be able to explain my words, showing others what the Bible says and what it means in day to day life.
(4-5) Do you want a glimpse of one’s ability to lead with love and humility? Look at their household and the people they spend the most time with. Do they treat their spouse and children with dignity and respect? Do they appear to be flourishing in their growth in part because of his leadership? If someone does not see the hearts of their children or rules with an iron fist, how do you think they will lead in other settings?
(6) Do not throw new believers into leadership prematurely. It is too much pressure and leaves one susceptible to arrogance and pride, which feeds right into evil’s intent.
(7) It is also good to ask, “What is this person’s reputation among those outside of the church?” If an overseer is rejected in the community, let it be because of a commitment to living a life of love and not for poor character. How can people possibly see the goodness and beauty of my Son when the ones who are supposed to represent him are inhospitable or haughty? Too often, leaders double down on their own sense of rightness and end up serving the devil rather than me.
(8-13) Pay attention also to the character of other servants in the church, because they also represent me. I want them to be consistent in what they say and how they live. They should be temperate, not given to excess, nor slaves to addiction. Their motivation should not be to get ahead, which often leads to ethical compromise. Let their lives and words be consistent and integrated. Do not rush to appoint someone to leadership. Look at their manner of life. Are they open, honest, and blameless? Also consider their family. Is my Spirit’s presence evident in the members of the household treat one another? Stepping into the role of deacon moves one into a more visible role; let them be in good standing with me and with others. They should have confidence that following my Son is the path to true life and wholeness.
(14-15) Paul wrote these things to Timothy because he wanted to provide some guidance regarding life in the church, which is supposed to be a stronghold of truth and grace.
(16) In thinking about all these things, it is okay to acknowledge what you understand and what you do not. Remember these things:
My Son came in the flesh,
was testified to by the Spirit
and witnessed by the angels.
His name was proclaimed far and wide
and many believed in him
before he returned to me in glory.
(1-3) Beloved, my Spirit has revealed that in time, there will be many who will teach evil instead of love. They will openly distort the message of the cross and the freedom that it brings without batting an eye. They will forbid marriage. They will insist that to be truly saved, you will need to abstain from certain foods—things that I created! Do not listen to this but rather, with a thankful heart and belief in my Son, live in the freedom he purchased for you.
(4-5) Everything that I created is good. You have no need to reject anything; instead, give thanks for my holy provision.
(6) Tell others about goodness, truth, and beauty. Tell them about the wholeness available in my Son. You know the truth about who he is; follow him on the path of love.
(7) Do not get sucked into petty disagreements or battles over peripheral matters. Too often, people make mountains from molehills. Instead, focus on growing in godliness. Learn to love like my Son loves.
(8-9) When I look at the world today, I see people spending a lot of time and money on their physical health. They follow the latest diet trends and spend hours at the gym. Taking care of your body is a good thing, yet people often fail to give the same level of commitment to nurturing their souls. Do not neglect your spiritual life; the work pays eternal dividends. Having normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels may have temporal consequences, but eternally, their impact is infinitesimal when compared with your soul.
(10) Do you want a healthy diet? Regularly feed on my word. Do you want to practice meditation? Meditate upon my Spirit in you. Do you want to exercise? Run toward the wholeness found in my Son. He is the redeemer of everyone and everything, but those who believe are quicker to realize the blessings of his love.
(11-13) Tell others to practice love, to pursue godliness, and to seek after wholeness. Some will presume you have no idea what you are talking about because you are too old or too young, too undereducated or overeducated. Stick with my message and put it into practice. As you talk with others and as you live your daily life, live with love, faith, and purity. Show people how much my word reveals about my loving nature. When people get off track, call them back to the Center.
(14-16) Timothy was commissioned for ministry by a council of elders in the early church who laid their hands on him. The same message of love that was given to Timothy has been revealed to you as well; share it. Practice loving well, but always remember, how others respond is about my Spirit within you and not about your power or ability. Keep a close watch on yourself so that neither you nor those who hear you are victims of your self-centeredness or pride.
(1-2) Rebuke should not be your first instinct with others. Encouragement will get you much farther. Treat older people as you would your parents and younger people as brothers and sisters, honoring the goodness in them.
(3-4) Give honor to widows too. Paul distinguished between those who were truly widows and those who were not, suggesting that those who still had family should be cared for by them. It is good for children to offer the return of service to the parents who raised them.
(5-7) True widows are those left alone, whose only hope and prayer is that I might intervene. I do through local church bodies. Yet widows should not manipulate the system of charity, for that is self-centered and destructive. Help others to understand the true need for charity, but also its abuses. Let charity be an extension of love to those in need.
(8) Families should also understand their roles toward one another. If they have the means, providing for one another is crucial to faithfulness. Refusing the true needs of one’s family is faithless cruelty.
(9-10) Back to widows: Paul stipulated that the church’s assistance was for those who are over 60 years old and who only had one husband. If there was another husband to provide for her needs, he should do so. Paul also drew attention to their record of service as a clue to their faithfulness. Did she raise a family, open her home to others, care for the sick, and commit herself to following my Son? These were all marks that she was someone who would truly benefit from the church’s support in her later years.
(11-13) Paul cautioned Timothy about including younger widows in this charitable service because their passions could be divided. They often longed to remarry and sometimes would leave their faith altogether. You should also pay attention to their manner of being. Are they prone to gossip or talking poorly about others?
(14-16) If younger people desire marriage, certainly they should remarry, have children, and love their families. Living a good and loving life takes away opportunities for believers to be slandered. Some people will leave the faith. Pray for them. Let those who need help be cared for by their families, but let the church take care of those who have no one.
(17-18) Let those who give their lives to faithful teaching and preaching receive double honor—the honor of preaching my word and the honor of being paid for their labors. Do not underestimate the burden most preachers face. You hear them talk for an hour or two during the week, but they labor for hours to understand and communicate my word. Do not dishonor their efforts by expecting them to do it for free.
(19-21) Do not immediately accept charges against leaders if you hear accusations against them, though neither should you ignore them. Too many churches have taken the position that if an accusation arises, they have no duty to do anything about it, but that is not what my word says. Indeed, a careful reading of Deuteronomy 19:15-17 makes it clear that both parties should be heard, and that judges have a duty to seek further evidence. True justice demands neither premature judgment nor ignorance, but careful investigation without prejudice or partiality. If you cannot manage with impartiality, it is better to involve someone who can be impartial. If investigation reveals that the accuser is making it up, rebuke them. Likewise, if an elder is found to be in persistent sin, rebuke is appropriate so that people are not deceived.
(22) Do not rush to appoint someone as an elder, commissioning him or her for service. Ministry is more than passionate desire. Has their life been tempered by the flames of suffering? Do they understand the realities of life in a broken world? Have the come face to face with their sinfulness and has it led to humility? Are they seeking to live a pure and whole life?
(23) Paul included a brief parenthetical note to Timothy here, telling him to drink some wine to help with stomach problems. Some believers think that I condemn alcohol
, but it can serve good, useful, and holy purposes.
(24-25) Some sins are blatant. You can spot them from a mile away, but some are much more insidious. Both obvious and hidden sins are judged unrighteous. The same is true when it comes to goodness. Sometimes it is immediately obvious and sometimes it is subversive. I see everything regardless of what you may see.
(1-2a) Paul encouraged those who were slaves to treat their masters honorably. Highlighting another’s dignity as my image bearer is an important part of loving well. Although it is confusing in your time and culture, there were those at the time who also served under Christian masters. Paul asked them to press even more deeply into service because those who benefitted from the master’s work were often believers.
(2b-8) Whether teaching or encouraging others, stick to the basics of love. Many people will teach things that contradict what my Son said and did. Some will stir up controversy in order to make much of themselves, but that is the precise opposite of life with me. These people fight about definitions and about who is in and who is out of my kingdom. They stir up envy, disagreement, and suspiciousness. They create environments ripe for evil, where depravity and falsehood may flourish. They imagine that their version of godliness is the way to gain status, wealth, and power.
Do you want to succeed? Practice godliness. Be content with what you have rather than longing for what others have. You came into the world with nothing but the skin on your back and you will go out the same way. If you have a set of clothes to wear and food to eat, let that be enough.
(9-10) Chasing after riches will run you headlong into a trap where you will be ensnared by unholy desires. Lust for possessions leads only to ruin. It is not money itself that is the root of evil as some suppose; rather it is loving money, possessions, and wealth that leads in all sorts of unholy directions. In their quest for wealth, many find themselves far from my heart.
(11-12) Get into the practice of turning away from temptations that can ensnare you, temptations to acquire stuff, power, or notoriety. Instead, pursue the wholeness, holiness, faithfulness, love, steadfastness, and gentleness that are already present in you because of my Son. Allow the truth of your belovedness to penetrate your heart.
(13-16) Remember the conversation that Jesus had with Pilate where he acknowledged his work and his power. He is the savior and reconciler of all things. All life comes from the Trinity, beloved. Keep the work of my Son always before you. Let his light fill you with hope and use it to illumine the world around you. When the time is right, my Son—powerful and kind, good and true, King of kings, Lord of lords, immortal, and filled with pure light—will reveal himself once again in the fullness of his glory. He alone is worthy of all honor and prestige.
(17) In your material comforts, do not think of yourself as better than others. Your security is not in your possessions or you bank account. Instead, keep your faith resolutely set upon me, the giver of all good things. I am not a stingy accountant, begrudgingly giving you a coin now and then; I am your Father who loves you beyond measure. I am generous and will always give you what you need.
(18-19) Practice goodness. Live generously. Share eagerly. Love liberally. Every time you give of yourself from a heart of love, you are making deposits in heaven’s account. One day, you shall see with clarity what an investment these things have been as you step into the life and light of heaven.
(20-21) Like Timothy, beloved, guard the truth. Continually seek to love well. Do not get swept up in debates and arguments about some sort of super-spiritual knowledge. Those heady conversations may make you think you are living faithfully, but more often than not, they are leading you astray. Stick with love and never lose sight of my grace.