First Timothy

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God…To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

- 1 Timothy 1:1-2

Among the reasons given for denying that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) is the difficulty of fitting their record of Paul’s travels with the details of the apostle’s life in the book of Acts. For example, Titus 3:12 relates Paul’s intent to stay the winter in Nicopolis, an event Luke does not record in his account. Do such facts mean that the Pastorals were written by somebody pretending to be the apostle, not Paul himself?

The answer, of course, is no. Acts does not tell us everything about the apostle’s life, and, tellingly, Luke’s account does not end with Paul’s death. In fact, Acts concludes with Paul very much alive and free to preach the gospel while under house arrest in Rome (28:30–31). Furthermore, Acts gives every indication that the apostle would eventually be acquitted and released from custody  (25:23–25; 26:32). And that is precisely what occurred, according to the early church fathers. Luke ends Acts with Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, but he was later freed and took several other missionary journeys, including a planned trip to Spain (Rom. 15:24). The Pastoral Epistles are Paul’s own record of some of the things that happened to him between Acts 28 and his death.

We are now prepared to start our study of 1 Timothy, which is probably the first of the three Pastoral Epistles to be composed, although it is possible that Paul wrote Titus earlier. If Paul was released from the imprisonment described in Acts 28 around ad 62, then 1 Timothy is to be dated sometime in the mid-60s, before the apostle’s second prison term and martyrdom under the Roman emperor Nero. Timothy, whom Paul calls his “true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:1–2), is the person to whom the letter is addressed, and we will examine his biography in the months ahead. For now, note that he was quite a bit younger than Paul and one of his most trustworthy companions.

As the letter opens, Paul has left Timothy in the city of Ephesus to stop some false teachers who had taken leadership roles in the churches there (v. 3). Timothy needs encouragement in his difficult task and wise advice for his work as pastor and superintendent there, and so Paul sends him an epistle. 

Coram Deo

Take time to read through the letter of 1 Timothy in preparation for our study over the next few months. Consider the problems and issues Paul discusses in this letter and how they manifest themselves in the church today. Ask the Lord to apply the message of the epistle to your specific circumstances by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray that your heart would be ready to receive the truth of His Word.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 5:32–33
1 Timothy 3:14–15; 4:11; 6:11–16
Jude 3–4

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