Brief Summary Of The Epistles Of Paul To Timothy

That the Pastoral Epistles should have a common character distinct from those to the saints is easily understood; and that each has its own peculiarity is a plain matter of evidence to the attentive reader. The difference is conspicuous in the two letters to Timothy; for the first is as careful to insist on order as the second is to provide for a state of disorder that even then the godly might have divine directions for their walk, bound as they were, and as we are, to take account of so sad a change. That to Titus comes in character between the two extremes.

The First Epistle

1 Timothy 1. “Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus according to command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timotheus, genuine child in faith; grace, mercy, peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” The prefatory words, as usual, give a clear insight into the scope of what follows. The apostolic title is as important for authority here as for the truths of the gospel and of the church to the Roman and to the Corinthian saints, to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians. “According to command” assimilates this letter and that to Titus, while it differentiates both from the second Epistle to Timothy. “God our Saviour” is also very notable here and to Titus, bespeaking the universal testimony of God’s grace in the gospel, and its strong contrast with Judaism. God in love goes out actively to man in the death of the Mediator. Christ is the hope, and is unfailing if cherished. The exhortatory injunction to Timothy was first and foremost to guard the truth from all alien teaching, and specially from fables and interminable genealogies which are such as yield questionings rather than God’s dispensation that is in faith (vers. 3-7), the end of it being love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. It is inseparable from Christ.

These then are the substantial blessings of the gospel, and they are missed by such as turned aside to vain discourse, wishing to be law-teachers. There was the early plague of imagination, and of legalism which assails grace as antinomian while itself tending to that evil, whatever its own contrary claim. It is not that by the gospel the lawful use of the law is denied, which is to convict lawless and insubordinate persons. The gospel alone witnesses of Christ to save sinners (of whom the apostle specifies himself as first, to whom, in his ignorant unbelief, mercy was shown — Christ’s whole long-suffering (vers. 8-16). This draws out his praise, after which he repeats the injunction laid on Timothy, that he might war the good warfare, maintaining faith and a good conscience. For such as put away the latter make shipwreck of the former; of whom he holds up Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he had delivered to Satan for their dishonour to God (vers. 18-20). How practical and personal it all is! And what is truth but a sham and a shame if it be not so?

1 Timothy 2. Here we find the public attitude of Christianity. All should breathe of loving goodwill toward man and the chiefs of the world, even if heathen and persecuting. “I exhort therefore first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings be made for all men; for kings and all that are in authority, . . . for this is good and acceptable before God our Saviour, Who wisheth that all men be saved and come unto full knowledge of truth. For there is one God, one mediator also of God and men, a man Christ Jesus Who gave Himself a ransom for all, the testimony in its own times; to which I was set preacher and apostle (I speak truth, I lie not), teacher of nations in truth and love” (vers. 1-7). Grace rises above all natural thoughts, feelings, and ways, and calls on those who believe to bear a living witness of “God our Saviour”, Who is willing to save all that bow to Jesus, the ransom for all. Such is the testimony; and now that the cross on man’s side proves the guilt of all, Jews and Gentiles, the same cross on God’s side proclaims salvation to all that believe.

Paul was herald of this grace, but moreover apostle in full authority, and teacher in patient wisdom, that even besotted Gentiles might believe and know the truth.

Yet reverence and divine order become those who profess the truth. “I will therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up pious [or, holy] hands, without wrath and disputation.” All the faithful were holy brethren; and it was no longer the question of a Jewish sanctuary any more than of a Gentile high place. They were free and invited to pray elsewhere. The women were to cultivate modesty and discretion, instead of fashion and finery, with good works as their true ornament. To learn is their place, not teaching, nor authority, but quiet subjection; for which the apostle cites the case of Eve, who, deceived, brought in transgression, whatever mercy may do even in her chief natural sorrow (vers. 8-15).

1 Timothy 3. Then Timothy received directions for the local charges of bishops (or overseers) and deacons. “Faithful is the saying: if one is eager for oversight, he desireth a good [or, right] work.” The requisite qualities (vers. 2-7) are moral or spiritual, rather than the possession of an express gift. Free from reproach, husband of one wife, sober, discreet, orderly, hospitable, apt to teach; not quarrelsome over wine, not a striker, but gentle; not fond of money; ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all gravity (for how could one command respect in God’s house who had it not in his own?). And again, not a novice, nor one destitute of a good report without. All this is of so much the more moment as it has been slighted habitually by the greatest systems down to the least. But we cannot wonder where the office itself is turned to ecclesiastical and even worldly show. Those to be entrusted with the diaconate are briefly described in verses 8-13, and in this case the women or wives, who might be useful or a hindrance, are included.

Occasion is given here, not to a doxology, but to a solemn presentation of that church in which the apostle, Timothy, elders, and deacons, and indeed all saints, each called in his special place, have to walk. “These things I write to thee, hoping to come to thee rather soon; but if I delay that thou mayest know how one ought to behave in God’s house, which is a living God’s assembly, pillar and support of the truth. And confessedly great is the mystery of godliness: He Who was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit, was seen of angels, was preached among nations, was believed on in [the] world, was received up in glory” (vers. 14-16). Godliness depends on and is the fruit of the truth in Christ, the secret no longer hidden but revealed; which as a whole, therefore, is in ways wholly distinct from and above a Jewish Messiah reigning in visible power, but One known as we Christians know Him. Compare 2 Cor. 5:16-18.

1 Timothy 4. With this mystery the apostle draws a dark contrast. “But the Spirit speaketh expressly that in latter times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons by hypocrisy of legend-mongers branded as to their own conscience, forbidding to marry, [bidding] to abstain from meats which God created for reception with thanksgiving by those faithful and well acquainted with the truth; because every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be rejected if received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified through God’s word and prayer” (vers. 1-5). Asceticism is no more Christian than moral laxity, though it assumes a fairer form. It is a pretentious assault on the Creator and Preserver of man by setting up a superior sanctity, which ends in turpitude against nature. Monachism is unconscious war against God.

Timothy was called to be a good servant of Christ Jesus by laying before the brethren the contrary good teaching of benign and faithful providence, and avoiding what he calls profane and old wives’ fables. For piety or godliness is profitable for everything, having promise of the present life as well as that which is to come: our God is Preserver of all men, especially of the faithful. Timothy must not be deterred by such as objected to his youth, but meet the reproach by being an example in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Reading, exhortation, and instruction are enjoined till Paul came. The gift that was conferred on him he was not to neglect, but to be diligent in these things, and be wholly in them, that his progress might be manifest to all. A divided heart ruins the service of Christ. Self-vigilance, too, is imperative, to save both himself and others (vers. 6-16).

1 Timothy 5. Here we have the proprieties of that work, which cannot be slighted without danger and harm. An elder he was not to rebuke but exhort as a father, younger ones as brethren, elder women as mothers, and younger ones as sisters, with all purity (vers. 1, 2). Widows were to have special and careful consideration (vers. 3-10), and younger ones to be shunned, in which case suited directions are laid down (vers. 11-16). Elders or bishops were to rule, and those who ruled well to be counted worthy of double honour especially those labouring in word and teaching: a scripture important to bear in mind; as it is also to receive no accusation against one, save with two or three witnesses. Those that sin should be convicted before all, that all the rest too should fear. He adjures Timothy solemnly to observe these duties without prejudice and without favour, cautious against haste in sanctioning others, lest it might compromise himself. He even deigns to counsel liberty where his scruples might injure health, before he closes the warning he had begun, lest he should unwarily be a partaker of other men’s sins (vers. 1 7-25).

1 Timothy 6 Christian slaves are not forgotten, as to whom grave and gracious counsels are given, in the face of different teaching, which is exposed sternly, though the last clause of verse 5 is a spurious accretion. Godliness or piety with contentment, the reverse of making it a means of gain, is great gain. For as we brought nothing into the world, neither can we carry anything out. Having food and covering, we will be, or let us be, content therewith (vers. 1-8). How true that those who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition! For the love of money is a (not exactly “the”) root of every evil, after which some too eager wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Timothy is then urged, as God’s man, to flee these things and to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, meekness, to combat the good combat of faith, to lay hold on eternal life, according to the good confession he confessed (vers. 9-12).

Then follows a deep and lofty injunction which crowns this Epistle, and urges his keeping this confession spotless and irreproachable till the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in its own seasons the blessed and only Potentate shall show, the King of those that reign and the Lord of those that rule, Who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; Whom none of men hath seen or can see, to Whom be honour and might everlasting. Amen (vers. 13-16).

Thereon Timothy is told to charge the rich to rest. not in uncertain wealth, but on the living God, to be rich in good works, laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, that they may lay hold of what is really life. Timothy, in fine, is to keep the entrusted deposit, avoiding profane, vain babblings and oppositions of falsely named knowledge (vers. 17-20). How trenchantly the apostle speaks before he wishes him grace!

The Second Epistle

The second Epistle to Timothy assumes a deeper character because of the grave disorder of a general kind which was before the eyes of the Holy Spirit. The regular means would not meet that which already and most seriously disclosed departure from God. Hence in the address it is no longer “according to command . . .”, but “by God’s will according to promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus”, anticipating in measure that truth on which the apostle John falls back for the last time. Individual fidelity is the more required, yet there should be in no way giving up but maintaining the divine association of saints.

2 Timothy 1. The value of unfeigned faith rises before the apostle’s heart in this last word of his to his beloved child, to whom he again wishes grace, mercy, peace. He thanks God Whom he serves from his forefathers in a pure conscience, with increasing remembrance of Timothy and his tears, and with longing to see him that he might be filled with joy. He speaks even more decidedly of the faith which dwelt first in Timothy’s grandmother and in his mother, as in his child also (vers. 1-6). He puts him in mind to stir up the gift of God in him through the imposition of the apostle’s hands, and bids him not be ashamed of the Lord’s testimony, nor of Paul His prisoner, but to suffer evil with the gospel according to God’s power. He it was Who saved us with a holy calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace that was given us in Christ Jesus before everlasting ages, but is now manifested through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, annulling death as He did and bringing to light life and incorruption through the gospel, unto which Paul was appointed herald and apostle and teacher of Gentiles. For this cause Paul was suffering thus, but not ashamed; “for I know Whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to guard for that day my deposit” (vers. 7-12).

Hence he says. “Have an outline of healthful words which thou heardest from me in faith and love that is in Christ Jesus; the good deposit guard through the Holy Spirit that indwells in us.” Scripture alone is reliable, as is afterwards expressly said, not human tradition, of all things the most uncertain. Timothy knew the cowardice of many — that all those in Asia, specifying two, had deserted Paul. How different Onesiphorus! for whom and whose house he asks mercy, because he often refreshed him, and when in Rome the more diligently sought him out when a prisoner, besides his loving service in Ephesus (vers. 13-18).

2 Timothy 2. Faithful as Timothy had been, the apostle is most earnest, “Thou therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things thou heardest from me among many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, such as shall be able to teach others also. [Thou therefore] take thy share of suffering evil as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one on service entangleth himself with the businesses of life, that he may please him that enlisted [him]. But if one also contend [in the games], he is not crowned unless he have contended lawfully. The labouring husbandman must first partake of the fruits” (vers. 1-6). These maxims need only to be correctly represented to carry their weighty sense. It was no rite, but truth which had to be communicated, yet suitably an earnest devotedness is pressed, and subjection to the Lord’s will and, as the labourer, first to share the fruits.

“Remember,” says he, “Jesus Christ risen from the dead, of David’s seed, according to my gospel, wherein I suffer evil unto bonds as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound” (vers. 8, 9). Royal rights gave Him no exemption. On the contrary, death was His portion, and what a death! Him Paul followed and imitated as far as this could be, as he urges on all in verses 11-13, and on Timothy to put them in remembrance of these things, instead of wordy fights worse than profitless. His earnest zeal cut straightly the word of truth, warned by two others whom he names as samples who had strayed in asserting the resurrection as past, overthrowing faith under so spurious an exaggeration (vers. 14-18).

This gives occasion to an instruction of great and general value. “Nevertheless the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth those that are His; and, Let every one that nameth the Lord’s name depart from unrighteousness.” From individual comfort and responsibility he goes an-to corporate condition and duty. “Now in a great house are vessels, not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earthenware, and some to honour and some to dishonour. If one therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, serviceable for the master, prepared unto every good work. But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (vers. 19-22). If the Lord’s secret is with Himself, responsibility is mine if I call on His name; I am bound to have done with iniquity. No presumed usefulness can justify my persevering in wrong. But does not God’s house abound in anomalies? Am I to leave it? No, I dare not cease from the public profession of the Lord’s name with all the baptized; but I am here to purge myself from the vessels to dishonour in that house, and, instead of isolation, to follow every Christian duty with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. It may cost much, but it is plain and obligatory in all times and places. And while moral care is ever incumbent, He claims my soul also, with a peaceful and gentle bearing, “in meekness instructing those that oppose, if haply God may give them repentance unto acknowledgement of truth, and that they may wake up out of the snare of the devil, taken as they are by him, for His will” (vers. 23-26).

2 Timothy 3. Next comes a solemn warning of the outlook in Christendom, for many would expect progressive good on earth. “But this know that in the last days difficult (or, grievous) times shall be there. For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, uncontrolled, fierce, haters of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, pleasure-lovers rather than God-lovers, having a form of piety [or, godliness] but deniers of its power; and these turn away from” (vers. 1-5). One might have shrunk from a course so peremptory, had the apostolic charge been less plain. It was direct to Timothy, but for every Christian also. The evil was at work even then, and the apostle severely characterizes not only the corrupt misleaders, like Jannes and Jambres, but the misled as silly women laden with sins, led by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to right knowledge of truth (vers. 6-9).

As the false or senseless teachers have their limit set, Timothy is told how he had closely followed Paul’s teaching, course, purpose, faith, long-suffering, love, patience, persecutions, sufferings. Such is the ministry of Christ the Lord, with persecutions endured, and the Lord delivering out of all! What is more, the apostle assures that all who desire to live piously in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted, but wicked men and imposters shall advance for the worse, deceiving and being deceived. How sad, yet how true! What is the resource or safeguard for Timothy and for all saints, “Abide thou in those things which thou didst learn and wast persuaded of, knowing of whom thou didst learn them [they were no mere traditions of unknown source]; and that from a babe thou knowest the sacred letters [those of the Old Testament] that are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture [of New Testament or of Old] is God-inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction that is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished thoroughly unto every good work” (vers. 10-17).

2 Timothy 4. Not less solemn is the apostle’s direct charge: “I testify earnestly before God and Christ Jesus that is about to judge living and dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, convict, rebuke, encourage, with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will be when they will not endure sound teaching, but according to their own lusts they will heap up to themselves teachers, having an itching ear, and from the truth they will turn away their ear, and will be turned aside unto fables. But be thou sober in all things, suffer evil, do evangelist’s work, fully perform thy ministry” (vers. 1-5).

Be it observed that Christ’s appearing, not His coming as such, is immediately connected with His kingdom. He comes to receive His own to Himself and for the Father’s house; He appears to establish His kingdom, and all shall see Him, and then in the same heavenly glory. “For I am already being poured out, and the time of my departure is all but come. The good combat I have combated, the course I have finished, the faith I have kept: henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me in that day; and not to me only, but also to those that love [have loved and do] His appearing” (vers. 6-8). Here again, as His coming is the expression of sovereign grace, His appearing is the display of His righteous remembrance of faithfulness’ and, of course, of the want of it.

Then the apostle bids Timothy be diligent to come unto him quickly; he valued his loving presence, and knew that Timothy reciprocated it. He speaks of Demas with grief. Whatever he might be as known to God, he deserted the apostle through love of the present age. Crescens and Titus had their work, and only Luke was with the apostle. He wished Timothy to take up on his way and bring Mark with him. There indeed he had joy, if sorrow over Demas For Mark, says he, is useful to me for ministry. He had no longer Tychicus whom he sent to Ephesus. How interesting in these ministerial matters, to have the apostle — while writing an inspired pastoral epistle — telling Timothy to bring the cloak which he left behind in the Troad with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments! Hence we learn of the Christian liberty the apostle exercised as to these outward things of body and mind. He preferred to have a cloak brought than to buy another, and he asked for his books there, which had their interest or use for him, though looking for death he knew not how soon. He would not so speak of the scriptures. If he put special stress on “the parchments”, or unwritten material of a costly and durable nature, was it to have his Epistles correctly copied and multiplied? (vers. 9-13).

Next, he alludes to the hostility of Alexander the coppersmith, not in a prayer, but in the grave conviction that the Lord would render to him according to his works; for he showed much evil against the apostle, who warns Timothy also to beware of him (vers. 14, 15). Paul pathetically names how all deserted him on this repeated imprisonment when his first defence came on; but the Lord stood by him, turned it for all the Gentiles to hear, and delivered him from most imminent danger, as He also surely would from every evil work, and preserve him for His heavenly kingdom. He wishes salutations to his old friends, Prisca and Aquila, and to Onesiphorus’ house. He tells of Erastus at Corinth, and Trophimus left sick at Miletus; for a sign of healing (as the rule) did not apply to a Christian, who came under the Lord’s government. He gives the greeting of Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brethren; he prays that the Lord should be with the spirit of Timothy, and grace be with him and others there (vers. 16-22).