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Introduction to 1 Timothy

Dr. Grant C. Richison 

 

PASTORALS — Epistles to pastors 

Paul addressed the letters of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus to his coworkers Timothy and Titus. These three letters are often grouped and form a literary whole. We call the group the pastorals. The label “pastoral” comes from the recipients Timothy and Titus. These letters are distinguished from other Pauline epistles because they are written to Paul’s associates and not to congregations. 

The nature of the pastorals is that they are personal, unsystematic, and practical. Church doctrine and order are central. 

FIRST TIMOTHY 

Authorship (1 Tim 1:1) 

First Timothy came from Paul to Timothy in Ephesus. The apostle identified himself at the beginning of the letter (1 Tim 1:1). Paul was a Roman citizen who carried the full privileges of that status. He was thoroughly acquainted with Roman culture from being reared in Tarsus in Asia Minor. He visited Ephesus on his second and third missionary journeys (Acts 16-20). God’s commission for him was to Gentiles. 

Liberal scholarship attacked Pauline authorship in the early 19th century and continued into the 21st century; however, most of their arguments against it do not stand. 

Date  

Mid-sixties, AD 63-66, between Paul’s two Roman imprisonments  

Paul left Timothy in Ephesus on the apostle’s way to Macedonia to deal with problems in the church (1 Tim 1:3). Paul wrote 1 Timothy from Macedonia (AD 63-66). 

The City 

Ephesus was a major trading center located on a seaport on the Aegean Sea. The city today is seven miles inland from the Aegean. The Temple of Artemis, one of the world’s seven wonders, was located in the city. 

Recipient (1 Tim 1:2, 18; 6:20) 

Timothy’s father was Greek, and his mother was Jewish (Acts 16:1). He was a native of Lystra in Asia Minor. His mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were believers (2 Tim 1:5). He became a team member of the Apostle Paul on his second missionary enterprise (Ro 16:21; 1 Co 16:10; Php 2:19-22; 1 Th 3:2). Timothy showed promise for ministry during those years (1 Tim 1:18; 4:14; 2 Tim 4:5). Paul included Timothy in six salutations of his epistles (2 Co 1:1; Php 1:1; Co 1:1; 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1; Phile 1). He was a trusted emissary to the churches. 

Canonicity 

Polycarp (116 AD), Athenagoras (133-190 AD), Irenaeus (175 AD), Tertullian (190 AD), and Clement of Alexandria (195 AD) formally quote from 1 Timothy. Early church fathers regarded the epistle as written by the Apostle Paul and accepted it as canonical. There is much more external evidence of 1 Timothy belonging to the canon. 

Destination 

In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul says, “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus.” Timothy was at Ephesus when 1 Timothy was addressed to him. 

Setting 

False teaching from church leaders in Ephesus had infected the congregation (1 Tim 3:1-16; 5:17-25). Incipient Gnosticism (superior knowledge), profitless speculation, licentiousness that cauterizes the conscience, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, empty godliness (words in the place of works), reducing godliness to wealthy gain, and license of sin by affirmation of pure motive were some of the problems found in the church at Ephesus. 

False teachers placed too much value on genealogies, myths (1 Tim 1:4), and rules (1 Tim 4:3). 

Occasion 

There were two purposes for writing 1 Timothy: (1) to oppose false doctrine and (2) to address the kinds of leaders the church in Ephesus should have had. Paul had moved on to Macedonia and left Timothy in charge of the church at Ephesus. Paul’s challenge to Timothy was to protect the church from false doctrine and remind him of his duties as a pastor. 

Key Words: “doctrine” and “teach.” 

Doctrine = eight times in 1 Timothy 

Teach = seven times in 1 Timothy 

Doctrine protects the church from aberrance by eliminating vain speculation that replaces facts with fables. Doctrine in the form of propositional truth protects the church from doctrinal aberrance (1 Tim 1:10; 6:3); compare 2 Tim 1:13; 6:3; Tit 1:9, 13; 2:1,2,8). There are many appeals to defend “doctrine” or propositional statements from God. 

Peculiarities of the Epistle 

-a personal letter to Timothy, who was the pastor at the church of Ephesus 

-emphasizes the need for sound doctrine 

-emphasizes the need for order in the church 

-four of Paul’s epistles are personal: 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon 

comparison of 1 & 2 Timothy: 

First Timothy: “church of God” (1 Tim 3:15); 2 Timothy: “servant of the Lord” (2 Tim 2:24) 

First Timothy: “good minister of Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 4:6); 2 Timothy: “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim 2:3) 

-The triplet “grace, mercy, and peace” only in the Timothies (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2) 

CENTRAL THEME 

God’s propositions via divine revelation: “teach,” “doctrine.” 

The primary concern is to protect the truth of Scripture. Paul’s concern that the church guards the propositions of divine revelation stands in conflict with modern views of truth. 

OTHER THEMES: 

Warn against false teachers (1 Tim 1:10; 4:1-16; 6:3-16) 

Honor relationships (1 Tim 2:1-15) 

Leadership (1 Tim 3:1-13; 5:17-25) 

Care for the congregation (1 Tim 5:3-16; 6:1-19) 

OUTLINE 

Greeting, 1:1-2 

Reason for writing— heresy, 1:3-20 

Church Order, 2:1-3:13 

Guard the truth, 3:14-16 

Warning against false teachers, 4:1-16 

Protect Relationships, 5:1-6:2 

Charge to Timothy, 6:3-21 

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