The book of Acts ends with Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, which took place around A.D. 60-62. After his release, Paul most likely made a final missionary trip to Spain before he was imprisoned again and martyred for the Lord. It was probably during this trip, between A.D. 62-66, that Paul wrote this epistle.
Paul had urged Timothy to remain in Ephesus for a specific purpose— to “charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies” (1:3-4). Paul’s letter is to remind Timothy the charge to defend sound doctrine and combat false teachings in the church.
Furthermore, Paul gives Timothy instructions on church offices, worship, and pastoral responsibilities towards various groups. The goal is to teach the believers to conduct themselves in a manner that accords with godliness, whether at home or in the church. Paul also exhorts Timothy to be an example to the believers by being steadfast in sound doctrine, pursuing spiritual progress, and fighting the good fight of faith.
- 1 and
2 Timothy and Titus are collectively known as the Pastoral Epistles because they are directives to two of Paul’s assistants on the pastoral care of the church.
- The phrase “this is a faithful saying,” used to highlight a key teaching, is not found anywhere else in the NT but appears five times in the Pastoral Epistles (
1Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9; 2Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8).
“But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (3:15).
- Read the entire epistle once for general impressions. Then go through each section as listed in chart B and record a heading for each section.
- Note the symmetrical structure of this epistle (See Willbert B. Wallis, “1 and
2 Timothy” in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp. 1368-70).Charge (1:3-16) Hymn (1:17) Charge (1:18-20) Charge (2:1-3:15) Hymn (3:16) Charge (4:1-6:2c) Charge (6:2d-15a) Hymn (6:15b-16) Charge (6:17-21)
Timothy’s foremost responsibility in the church is to teach and defend sound doctrine. Some in the church have turned aside to idle talks, desiring to be teachers of the law but understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm (1:6-7, 6:20). They give heed to profane and old wives’ fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification (1:4, 4:7). Paul also points out that in latter times some will give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, forbidding marriage, and commanding abstinence from foods (4:1-3). Thus, Paul charges Timothy to avoid and reject all these, and to stop the works of those who teach such things.
As a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine, Timothy must command and teach the believers to follow sound doctrine (4:6, 11, 6:2). He needs to give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine (4:13). He is to also take heed to himself and to the doctrine, and to continue in them in order to save himself and those who hear him (4:16).
The sound doctrine, which Paul speaks of so often in the pastoral epistles, is the doctrine which accords with godliness (6:3). It is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God and the great mystery of godliness (1:11, 3:16). It brings godly edification rather than disputes (1:4), and its goal is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith (1:5).
Godliness pervades every aspect of a believer’s life. Christians need to supplicate, pray and intercede for all men, for kings, and all who are in authority, so that they may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (2:1-3). The men are to be holy, prayerful, and without wrath and doubting (2:8). The women are to likewise conduct themselves in a manner that is proper for godliness, adorning themselves with modesty, good works, faith, holiness, love, and self- control (2:9-15). Those who minister in the church, such as bishops and deacons, must be believers with godly and blameless conduct (3:1-13). Bondservants are to honor their own masters so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed (6:1). Godliness also underlies a correct understanding of wealth (6:6-10, 17- 19).
While Timothy teaches the believers to live in godliness, he himself must also exercise himself toward godliness, which is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (4:7, 8). He is to flee all sinful conduct and attitudes, but pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness (6:11).
Church Offices and Order
The purpose of the epistle is to show Timothy how a worker of God ought to conduct himself in the church, the house of God (3:15). Therefore, Paul gives specific instructions on church order so that
godliness and sound doctrine may prevail in God’s house. He lays down the criteria for bishops and deacons, whose responsibilities are to teach, watch over, and serve the believers (3:1-13). He writes about the role of women in the church (2:11-13). He addresses the issue of care for the widows in church (5:3-16). He also instructs Timothy concerning discipline in the church (5:19-25). If believers in the church conduct themselves in godliness according to the sound doctrine, then there will be no room for false doctrines and strife.
The Holy Spirit has expressly revealed that in the latter times, some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1). Thus, the command to exercise godliness and hold on to the sound doctrine is particularly relevant in this day and age, especially when believers are in constant danger of succumbing to misleading doctrines and immoral conduct. Whether in our personal lives or in the church, we need to be true to the message of the gospel and live in a manner that exhibits the glory of God. We must reject everything that does not edify and exercise ourselves toward godliness while holding on to eternal life.
This epistle also serves as a manual for the spiritual leaders of the church today. Not only can we adopt the model of church regulations based on Paul’s instructions, we can all the more observe and learn the principles behind caring for the house of God. As shepherds of God’s flock, we have the responsibility to teach sound doctrine, guard against false teachings, and exhort the believers to act in godly conduct. We also ought to watch our own lives, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.