Paul wrote this letter to Timothy after he had left him in Ephesus and went on to Macedonia. You will recall that this took place between the two imprisonments of Paul at Rome. The occasion was the special needs that Timothy had while he continued to minister to the church at Ephesus. That congregation had been the object of much labor on the part of the apostle Paul. During his third missionary journey, Paul had labored there for some three years. On his way to Jerusalem, he bid farewell to the elders of Ephesus and told them that they would see his face no more. From prison he wrote Ephesians, his letter to the church, exhorting them to be one in Christ and to live according to the unity of the Spirit. Paul was released from prison, so he was able to visit the church at Ephesus and see for himself the progress made there. All during this time, the church continued to grow. Even persecution did not hinder the work of the Spirit in the gathering of the church. Since they did not have a church building, the formal life of the church was limited. The congregation was made up of many groups that met in members’ homes. This required leadership; the office bearers who functioned in these groups needed to know what .their duties were and how to conduct themselves. Paul recognized this need when he visited the church. Since Timothy was responsible to give the congregation this leadership, Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, and through him gave instruction to the whole church. The results are beneficial for us as we study this letter.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF THIS LETTER
1.Salutation and blessing (I Tim. 1:1, 2). He identifies himself as the author and addresses Timothy as “my own son.” He bestows upon him the usual apostolic blessing.
2. Paul explains that the occasion for Timothy remaining behind was the presence of false teachers (I Tim. 1:3-11). It was necessary because Timothy had to deal with those who had given heed to fables, endless geneologies, rather than to godly edifying (I Tim. 1:3, 4). These false teachers pretended to be teachers of the law, but did so wrongfully. They taught work righteousness rather than using the law for the knowledge of sin and seeing the need for righteousness in Christ (I Tim. 1:5-11).
3. Paul expresses to Timothy and the church his thanksgiving for being called as an apostle (I Tim. 1:12-17). He is humble in confessing his unworthiness, a persecutor, yet one who received mercy (I Tim. 1:12-14). He leads the church in acknowledging that Christ came to save sinners of whom he is chief (I Tim. 1:15). The purpose was to give encouragement to all sinners who follow Him (I Tim. 1:16). He gives glory to God for this (I Tim. 1:17).
4. Paul charges Timothy to be faithful (I Tim. 1:18-20). He is to war a good warfare (I Tim. 1:18). He’s to be faithful and not act as Hymenaeus and Alexander whom the Apostle delivered unto Satan (I Tim. 1:19, 20).
5. Rules governing public worship (I Tim. 2:1-15). Prayers are important in worship. These prayers are to be for those in all walks of life, especially for rulers, to the end that the people may live a quiet life (I Tim. 2:1, 2). There is another reason, however, for our prayers must be directed to God with a view to the salvation of the church in Christ Jesus. He will have all men to be saved, men from all walks of life, even rulers, (I Tim. 2:3-6). Once again he emphasizes his ordination which gives him authority to teach. That instruction now is that men everywhere lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting (I Tim. 2:7, 8). When the women come to church they must be properly dressed in clothes that reveal godliness (I Tim. 2:9, 10). In the church they must not assume to themselves authority, but be in subjection to the men and learn in silence. The reason is twofold. First, Adam was created first, Eve was created after; and secondly, Eve was deceived just because she did not live in subjection to Adam. There is .hope for the woman: she shall be saved in childbearing (I Tim. 2:11-15).
6. Instruction given concerning the office of elder (I Tim. 3:1-7). It is a good thing to desire the office of elder (I Tim. 3:1). The qualifications for this office are listed: blameless, husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of money, patient, not a brawler, not covetous, rules his family well, not a novice (newly converted, one not tested in faith), and one who is of good report from the community (I Tim. 3:2-7).
7. The qualification for deacons is given (I Tim. 3:8-13). These include gravity, not double-tongued; not given to much wine, not greedy of money, holding the mystery of faith in good conscience, first tested (not a novice), the husband of one wife, ruling his family well, his wife grave and not a slanderer (I Tim. 3:8-12). There is spiritual benefit for the office bearers themselves, for they purchase to themselves boldness in faith (I Tim. 3:13).
8. Paul interjects a personal note to Timothy (I Tim. 3:14-16). He reminds him that this letter is to help him know how to behave in the church (I Tim. 3:14). The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). The mystery of godliness is manifest in the fruits of the gospel by the saving of souls (I Tim. 3:16).
9. Warning concerning apostasy and heresy (I Tim. 4:1-5). This heresy also assumed a form of asceticism, to abstain from marriage and certain foods. Paul designates this a doctrine of devils which denies God’s people the use of good things which God intends to be used with thanksgiving (I Tim. 4:1-5).
10. Paul instructs Timothy in how to deal with various needs of the members of the Ephesian church (I Tim. 4:6-6:19).
a. As a minister, he is to look after himself first, he must exercise unto godliness, and nourish himself in faith and doctrine in order to impart this to the congregation (I Tim. 4:6-11). He must let no man despise his youth, but be an example in word and conversation (I Tim. 4:12). This requires reading, study, and meditation (I Tim. 4:13, 15). He must gladly use the gifts God gave him and thus save himself and the church (I Tim. 4:14, 16).
b. In dealing with older men and women who err, Timothy must deal with them as he would his own father and mother. Likewise the younger women of the church he must approach as he would his sister (I Tim. 5:1, 2).
c. Care of widows. They must be provided for by their children and relatives (if the latter can but won’t they are worse than unbelievers).
d. Advice regarding women who assist in the church (I Tim. 5:9-16). There were widows in the church who were wealthy and had money and time to help others. No widow younger than sixty years should be included in this group. The reason is that God wills that the younger ones marry and fulfill their calling in the home. Besides, younger widows will not be satisfied and instead give in to their sinful inclinations to gossip and cause strife (I Tim. 5:9, 11-15). The widows who qualify should be God-fearing, have experience in hospitality, and be humble, full of good works (I Tim. 5:10).
e. Advice concerning elders (I Tim. 5:17-20). The church should be instructed to honor them for their works’ sake—even double honor, once for the office and once for the work they do in the office (I Tim. 5:17). This includes paying a minister proper income (I Tim. 5:18). They may not receive a charge against them without two witnesses (I Tim. 5:19). If any fail in this they should be publicly rebuked so others learn (I Tim. 5:20).
f. More words for Timothy (I Tim. 5:21-25). He must not show partiality to members (I Tim. 5:21), not install anyone into office carelessly (I Tim. 5:22), consider drinking wine for his health (I Tim. 5:23), and be a good judge of human nature (I Tim. 5:24, 25).
g. Timothy must instruct the servants (I Tim. 6:1, 2). They must respect masters. If they have believing masters, they must not claim that unity in Christ forbids their servitude, nor must they give their unbelieving masters a hard time.
h. How to deal with controversy over riches (I Tim. 6:4-19). Timothy must be able to evaluate the true spiritual character of any enemy of the truth—he is destitute of the truth as he argues that gain is godliness (I Tim. 6:3-5). Paul says that true godliness with contentment is gain (I Tim. 6:6-9). Love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim. 6:9, 10). As a minister, he is to warn them and be an example of godliness (I Tim. 6:11-19).
11. Concluding salutation (I Tim. 6:20, 21). A final exhortation to keep the word entrusted to him and to avoid foolish argument, “Grace be with thee. Amen.”
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
1. Explain why I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus are called “Pastoral Epistles.” Give an example from I Timothy why this is a good name for them.
2. Discuss the evidence there is in I Timothy that the journey referred to cannot be one of Paul’s journeys recorded in Acts, but must refer to the one he took between the two imprisonments in Rome.
3. What do we know about Timothy as a young preacher? Refer to the evidence the Bible gives us about his life.
4. What do we learn from this epistle About the church at Ephesus?
5. How does Paul use himself as an example to Timothy concerning how to deal with the church of God?
6. Are the prayers for those in authority (I Tim. 2:1-6) limited to their salvation or does it include praying for their work as well?
9. Consider why it is that children and relatives who fail to care for the financial needs of parents are worse than heathen (I Tim. 5:8, 16).
10. Why does I Timothy 5:24, 25 deal with judging character?
11. Reflect upon godliness with contentment (I Tim. 6:6) and explain why the love of money is the opposite. Why is it wrong to want to be rich and try to become rich (I Tim. 6:9)? What are the hazards of being rich?