(A study in 1 Timothy)
1 TIMOTHY 1:1-20
Paul addresses his personal letter to Timothy “my true son in the faith” <1 Tim.1:2 (NIV)> his spiritual son. Each believer in Christ can look back to a time in life where an individual, male or female, guided you to the acceptance of salvation. You now have a Christian mother or father in the faith. Paul then proceeds to instruct Timothy as to his previous assignments in the Church at Ephesus: “I urged you …stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies.” <1 Tim.1:3-4 (NIV)>, since such teaching only promotes controversies and impedes the work of God which is achieved by faith only, and continues to explain why. First, he states that “The goal of this command is love” <1 Tim.1:5 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.13:4-7> and must be the underscoring objective of any Church leader when correcting false teaching.
Secondly, because false teaching has led to controversies, “Some have wandered away” <1 Tim.1:6 (NIV)> from the faith; primarily because they are ignorant of the facts that are taught in the very Law that they are persistently teaching in error. “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.” <1 Tim.1:8 (NIV); cf Gal.3:3, 10-13>; they want to be teachers of the Law but they do not know what they are teaching <1:7>. The Law is good, says Paul, and was not given to condemn the righteous but to condemn the lawbreakers and rebels <1 Tim.1:8-10>, “and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine” <1 Tim.1:10b (NIV)>, and this conforms to the gospel message entrusted to Paul.
Paul then digresses from his instructions to Timothy to express his own experiences of the gospel that he so faithfully preached <1 Tim.1:12-17>. He commences by giving thanks to “Christ Jesus our Lord” who considered him faithful and appointed him to serve in preaching the gospel <cf Gal.2:7; 1 Thess.2:4; 2 Tim.1:14>, and that he has faithfully guarded his responsibility. He also speaks to the fact that “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” <1 Tim.1:14 (NIV)>; and what was true of Paul is also true of every believer in Christ. None of us are worthy of God’s favour, but He freely and abundantly poured out His grace upon us, even though we were rebellious, and even though in our self-righteousness we claimed to live by the Law and commandments <cf Rom.1:32; 3:20-24; 5:1>. This was made possible because “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” <1 Tim.1:15 (NIV)>, reminding Timothy of the fact that our salvation and justification is by faith in Christ only and not by observing or keeping of the Law <see Gal.2:16>. So, Paul concludes this section with praise to God for His wonderful grace to all mankind; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <1 Tim.1:17 (NIV)>.
Paul now gives Timothy his first directive <1 Tim.1:18-20>, consistent with the predictions made about him. Nothing is said as to what these prophecies were, but consistent with other instances where men were ordained for specific duties, we can assume that there were some specifics revealed to Timothy at his ordination <cf 1 Tim.4:14; Acts 13:1-3>. “I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” <1 Tim.1:18 (NIV)>: Timothy is expected to fight the good fight of faith, and the same expectation is required of all Christ’s disciples today.
What does it mean to fight the fight of faith? God expects us to live by faith in Him; this means that we should follow His commands even though we do not know the outcome, acknowledging that whatever happens, God is in control. He does not allow us to see the outcome, but He expects us to follow His leading <Matt.10:39>. “I have vivid memories as a kid of my father taking me to an auction sale, telling me, “Don’t scratch your nose at the wrong time, son.” He said to me, “Always remember this: whenever you go to an auction sale, make sure you know your upper limit price.” That is ingrained in me. The great danger for us is that we walk into the Christian life knowing clearly our upper limit price. Jesus does not allow us to set that. “If you save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s, you will keep it,” said Jesus [Mark 8:35]. Our calling is to a life of unconditional obedience where the price is unknown.” [from Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Colin Smith, pastor of Arlington Heights Evangelical Free Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois; source: Preaching Today #204]
So, like Timothy, we are expected to fight, for that is exactly what it is. Paul, writing to the Ephesian Church reminds them that our struggle is not against the enemy that we know or can see, but against the enemy that is unknown and unseen <Eph.6:12>; and this was what Timothy encountered in carrying out Paul’s charge to him; he was to do so by “holding on to faith and a good conscience.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV)>; that is the outcome from the love, pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith that Paul had referred to earlier <see 1 Tim.1:5>. It is unfortunate that some believers in Christ then, and presently, “have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” <1 Tim.1:19 (NIV); cf. 1 Tim.1:6-7; 6:21; 2 Tim.2:18>. It is extremely important that all believers in Christ be cautious of false teaching, avoiding meaningless discussions of subjects that do not pertain to, or are not taught by scripture. We do so by individually educating ourselves in studying the Bible and not being entirely dependent upon what others teach.
Paul then closes this section by making reference to two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander <1 Tim.1:20>, and very little is said as to who they were, but they are used here as examples of church discipline; he states, “whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” <1 Tim.1:20 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.5:5, 13>. Being handed over to Satan is a figure of speech where the individual is expelled from the Church fellowship and left in Satan’s “territory” in an attempt to destroy the sinful nature of that individual.
What is Blasphemy as is used in the Scriptures? It signifies speaking evil of God or to curse the Name of God <cf Psa.74:18; Isa.52:5; Rom.2:24>. There are two general forms: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good; (2) Giving the attributes of God to a human being <cf Lk.5:21; Matt.26:65; Jn.10:36> which was the accusation of the Jews given to Christ. The punishment given under the Mosaic Law was either atonement, when committed in ignorance or thoughtlessness; but if when in rebellion against God the punishment was by stoning <see Lev.24:11-16>. In the New Testament Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referred to as the “unpardonable sin” <see Matt.12:31-32; Mk.3:29; Lk.12:10>; where it appears to have been based on attributing Christ’s miracles to the power of Satan, and it is questionable whether it may be extended beyond this one limited and special sin [source: Unger’s Bible Dictionary].
In the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, the punishment was separation from the fellowship and care of the Church, having been sent back into the outside world where they would learn not to blaspheme.
From the very beginning of the Church age false teaching was a problem for the Church elders. During the early years of the Church, Paul and the Apostles were constantly harassed by Judaizers who insisted that all converts to Christ must adhere to the Mosaic Law; that is, a Gentile could not become a Christian unless he or she first became a Jew; further adding that Gentile converts should practice physical rituals of the Law such as circumcision, for faith in Christ alone was not sufficient <see Acts 15:7-11>. Judaizers caused much turmoil which affected the evangelical work of the apostles and for the Church leadership. Church leaders also had to be careful of Gnostic teachings that crept into the Church; teaching such things as Jesus wasn’t really God’s Son, and that Christ and God could not have united in the person of Jesus; they professed to have special insight to the secret truths of life. There were also those that taught the beliefs of the Nicolaitans, which was a more extreme form of Gnosticism, they claimed that only what their spirits did was important and because their physical bodies were evil, they had freedom to indulge in indiscriminate sexual relationships, that they could do anything they pleased with their bodies, and were free to practice idolatry <cf Rev.2:14-16>. Such doctrines have been combined and modernized in today’s society and have affected the Church in all forms of worship; Satan has duplicated our worship and praise to God and introduced false worship into our Churches and we must be constantly examining anything new that is introduced to our practice of worship to God.
False doctrine in the Church must be swiftly and severely reprimanded!