For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

1:1.  “Paul, and apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;”

Paul, meaning little, was the former Saul which means asked, and no greater contrast can be imagined than that which marked the two states.  As Saul, he was like the first king of Israel in many ways.  By his own misdirected zeal he had become prominent amongst the Jews, his own description of his former state being given in Php 3:4-6, “... if any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrew; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

But conversion had wrought a marvelous change in the once proud Pharisee.  How different is the language of Paul the Christian!  In verse 15 he declares, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief,” and in 1 Cor 15:9-10 he says, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am....”  He who gloried in his attainments as a Pharisee, would not glory in the far higher office to which God had appointed him.  Pride played no part in Paul’s life, nor should it in ours.

What he was once as an unconverted Jew he had become by his own efforts, but what he was as a Christian was what God had graciously made him, and he never forgot that fact.  What we are as Christians is all by that same grace, and we should never forget it.

It is to be noted that while the word apostle in the general sense means simply a messenger, or one who is sent, and as such may be applied to any who are sent by God as His messengers, there is the special application of the term to the twelve men chosen and appointed by God, who had been with the Lord, as it is written, “Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection” Ac 1:22, the suicide of Judas making necessary the appointment of another to maintain the number of special witnesses at twelve.  Having regard to the special qualifications of the twelve, it is obvious therefore that there can be no apostolic succession.  No one living after the apostolic age could have the necessary qualifications.

The number twelve, incidentally, is the number of those under the government of God, just as ten is the number of God as the Governor of all things.

The equality of the Son with the Father is emphasized by the description of God as “our Savior,” and also by the fact that Paul’s appointment as an apostle was also by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But “Savior” implies our being saved from something, and of course that something is the torment of hell which will be followed by the eternal torment of the lake of fire, for all who die without trusting Him as Savior.

Relative to the Lord’s being “our hope,” it is instructive to consider some of the ways in which He is that hope.  First, it is through faith in Him that we hope to be in heaven, but that hope embraces also the expectation of His coming to catch us up from the earth at the Rapture, which in turn offers the hope of being resurrected at that event should we die before it occurs.  It includes also the expectation of our reigning with Him, our positions in His government being determined by the degree of faithfulness in the service we render Him during our lives here on earth.  Furthermore it is faith in Him that enables us to live above the daily circumstances of life, for we have His assurance that all things (even seeming adversity) work together for good to those who love Him.

1:2.  “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Timothy means honoring God, and unquestionably he was a young man who lived his life for God’s honor and glory above all else, and as such he is meant to be an encouragement to every believer, young and old alike, to live in the same manner. 

Paul was unmarried, but this young man whom he had led to the Savior, was obviously as dear to him as if he had been his own natural son, and in this God would remind us that we too ought to have a similar parental care for those we also lead to the Lord.

Grace is the bestowal of undeserved blessing, and in the present context there can scarcely be any question that the blessings Paul desired for Timothy were spiritual.  It would be well if we had the wisdom to seek the same blessings for our own children, spiritual as well as literal.

Mercy stands in contrast with grace, for it is related to the withholding of deserved punishment, and here seems to imply that Paul was not unmindful of the fact that there might be times in Timothy’s life, as there are in all our lives, when mercy would be needed, for Satan is constantly seeking opportunity to lead believers, young and old, into sin.

Peace was something he also desired for Timothy, and who can begin to estimate the value of that God-given peace which delivers us from coveting the worthless things of this world, and which enables us to accept every circumstance of life, the bitter as well as the sweet, in the light of the knowledge that God is governed by perfect love and wisdom relative to what He ordains or permits in our lives.

What a difference it would make in the lives of our fellow believers, and in our own lives also, if we honestly sought these same blessings for our brethren and sisters!

And again his linking together the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of these blessings continues to emphasize the equality of the Father and the Son.

1:3.  “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine,”

1:4.  “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith: so do.”

The problem in Ephesus was that some were teaching wrong doctrine, and Paul recognized the need of stopping the activity of those men before it wrought havoc in the assembly.  Nor was Timothy to be intimidated by the fact that some would attach little importance to his ministry because of his youth, see 4:12, for the word “charge” means command, instruct, caution, warn.  The importance of maintaining sound doctrine is made very clear in that the principal activities of the apostolic church consisted in their continuing steadfastly, “in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Ac 2:42, with doctrine heading the list.  There is no greater need in the Church today than that of teaching sound doctrine, for where sound doctrine is abandoned the result is chaos.

It seems that the false teachers were Jews who insisted that law-keeping was an essential part of salvation, even though Scripture is crystal clear that it is not.  It is to be remembered that the Jews had superimposed upon the law as given by God, an enormous volume of extra biblical teaching without any authority from God, and which the Lord Himself scathingly denounced.  It was this same erroneous teaching which Timothy was to denounce and stop.  It has to be recognized, however, that until A.D.70 when Jewish autonomy ended, the Levitical ritual as ordained by God, was still to be used by Jewish converts as part of their worship, but it had no part in the worship of the Gentile believers.

The reason for these two orders of Christianity is that the gospel preached in the early apostolic age was the same as that preached by the Lord Himself: it called upon Israel to repent and be converted in order that they might have the millennial kingdom; and Scripture makes it very clear that in the Millennium the worship of the whole world will be according to the Levitical ritual.  The Jews’ martyrdom of Stephen, however, made it clear that Israel as a nation would not accept the Lord Jesus Christ as King, and that refusal resulted in God’s withdrawal of the offer of the kingdom, and His cutting off of the nation in A.D.70.  The preservation of two orders: one for Jewish Christians, and another for Gentile believers, was so that if Israel had believed, the seven years of the Tribulation era would have followed, and been ended by Christ’s return to set up His millennial kingdom, at which time the Gentile Christian form of worship would have ended, the Levitical form then becoming the order for the whole world, as it will when the kingdom is eventually established.

A question that must be answered relative to the reinstatement of the Levitical ritual in the Millennium is, Why should God ordain for the worship of the millennial nations the same OT system which so clearly points to Christ’s coming as the Lamb of God to bear away the sin of the world by His death on Calvary’s cross, since all of those types were fulfilled in His crucifixion?  The answer is that the very same ritual, which in the OT age pointed to His coming as God’s Lamb, would be invested with a new significance: it would be commemorative, rather than anticipative, pointing the millennial nations back to Calvary, as it had pointed the OT nations forward to that event which is the focal point of eternity.

During the thirty-eight years between Pentecost and A.D.70 there were two streams of Christianity flowing side by side: one Jewish, the other Gentile; the Jewish stream shrinking, and the Gentile river expanding as the years passed, and with the end of Jewish autonomy in A.D.70, the Jewish stream was absorbed into the great river of Gentile Christianity, the Gentile form of worship applying since then to all converts irrespective of nationality.  The rapture of the Church will be followed by the reinstatement of the Levitical ritual as the God-ordained form of worship for the whole world during the Tribulation era and the following Millennium.

The false teachers whose evil work Timothy was to oppose, were attempting not only to impose the Levitical system on all Christians, but were attempting also to impose with it all the mass of man-made laws which the Lord had so strongly denounced,and which included useless debates about foolish fables, and tedious, useless, study of genealogical lists compiled in an attempt to trace family pedigrees.  The study of those genealogical lists was endless in the sense that with the disruption of Jewish life caused by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, it was impossible to ever complete them accurately.

The fables, it seems, had their origin in the practice of many rabbis to allegorize the OT Scriptures according to the vagaries of men’s unrenewed minds.  That there is an allegorical side to much of the OT is undeniable, but the understanding of these allegories must always be according to the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.  Incalculable harm has been done to the proper understanding of Scripture, not only by unconverted men but also by untaught believers attempting to allegorize the OT Scriptures apart from that enlightenment. 

1:5.  “Now the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:”

There was nothing vindictive about Paul’s attempt to correct the wrong doctrine.  His primary objective was the good of the Ephesian assembly, and hopefully, the instruction in sound doctrine of those whose doctrine and teaching were unsound.

The ancients believed the heart to be the seat of the intellect, so “a pure heart” is literally a pure mind, and in this connection there is the exhortation of Paul in Ro 12:2, “... be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and again in Php 2:5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Conscience is that which enables us to know right from wrong, but the guidance of the conscience must be according to Scripture, for it is to be remembered that Paul, relative to his former persecution of believers, writes, “I did it ignorantly in unbelief,” v.13.  The conscience, uninstructed by the written Word, is a very unreliable guide.  “...good conscience” refers to a conscience (scripturally enlightened) void of any sense of wrong; and “faith unfeigned” refers to a faith that is sincere and without hypocrisy.  Paul had this kind of love, this kind of mind and conscience, and his faith was above question.  He had no ulterior motive in attempting to correct the wrong doctrine of those whose activity he sought to stop, and there can scarcely be any doubt that he sincerely desired that they, in fact, should be led to have the same love, the same purity of mind, and clearness of conscience, and same genuine faith as he.  It would do much to promote the well-being of the churches if all correction were ministered in the same spirit.

1:6.  “From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;”

That from which they had turned aside were “a pure heart (mind) ... a good conscience ... and sincere faith.”

“...swerved” is variously translated as erred, strayed, stepped aside, missed the mark, missed the whole idea, and it seems to imply deliberate turning aside from the truth.

“...vain jangling” may be translated as empty, fruitless, purposeless talk, multiplied words, babbling, empty arguments, discussions, reasonings, etc.

Such turning aside is dangerous, and is very unlikely to be the activity of a genuine believer, hence the need for Christians to be on their guard against the teachings of those who have so turned aside from obeying the plain teaching of Scripture.

1:7.  “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.”

The context makes it clear that “the law” was the law of Moses, i.e., the ten commandments; and inasmuch as rabbi (the title of the genuine law-teacher) was one of honor, it is clear that these would-be teachers sought that same honor.  They desired glory for themselves, rather than for God, and they cared nothing about the well-being of those they taught.  Any position of prominence amongst God’s people is a precarious one, for it too tends to engender pride, and beget an arrogant spirit.  The fervent prayer of every man called to a position of prominence amongst the saints should be for genuine humility.

Like many a worldly-wiseman attempting to intrude into a sphere which God has made available to faith only, every attempt of these false teachers to expound Scripture, betrayed their utter ignorance, as it is written, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Cor 2:14.

1:8.  “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;”

In Ro 7:12 it is also written that “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”  “...if a man use it lawfully” is literally “treat it as law,” in other words, men should realize that the law is and always will be the expression of what God’s holiness requires.  As it is also written, “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Ga 3:24.  The law, as the standard which measures God’s holiness, has done its work as schoolmaster when it reveals that men cannot meet that standard, and are therefore condemned to death, a revelation which should impel the question addressed to Paul by the Philippian jailer, “What must I do to be saved?” Ac 16:30, Paul’s answer being the same to every man, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Ac 16:31.  A man’s conversion, however, doesn’t end all his association with law.  It still remains God’s standard of holiness by which the believer can measure his conduct, showing him the difference between right and wrong, the wrongdoing it reveals now leading the man as a believer to confess that sin, not in order to be saved again, but in order to restore the communion between him and his Father, which the sin had interrupted, see 1 Jn 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Paul himself writes, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin?  God forbid.  Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet,” Ro 7:7.  This legitimate use of the law in no way negates the truth that “... ye (believers) are not under the law, but under grace,” Ro 6:14; nor does it alter the fact that the function of the law relative to the unconverted is to show him that he is a sinner who needs a Savior to save him from hell and fit him for heaven, and to show him that the Lord Jesus Christ is that Savior.

1:9.  “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,”

1:10.  “For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine:”

Lawless refers to the attitude of those who defy God, while disobedient refers to their actions.  Some relate lawlessness and disobedience to the commandments to have no other gods, and to make no graven images.

Ungodly describes those who are without reverence or respect for God, while sinners is a general term used of all the unconverted, and some relate these classes to the commandment forbidding the vain use of God’s name.

Unholy describes one who is impure, or the opposite of God, since God is holy; and profane describes one who is outside the sphere of God’s approval, these conditions being related by some to the command to observe the sabbath day.

It is generally agreed that murderers is more accurately translated smiters, i.e., those who treat their fathers or mothers without respect, a state having obvious connection with the command “Honor thy father and thy mother.”  Manslayers appears to be simply “murderers,” and therefore related to the command “Thou shalt not kill.”

Whoremongers is a general term describing unmarried people who have sexual intercourse, or married people who have sexual intercourse with people other than their spouses.  Them that defile themselves with mankind refers to homosexuals.  Both sins are covered by the command not to commit adultery.

Menstealers refers to kidnappers or slave dealers, and may be related to the command not to steal, for it is obviously the most heinous form of stealing.

Liars and perjured persons are almost the same except that the lie of the perjured person consists of giving false testimony against another.  Both are clearly related to the commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

The final clause “... and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine (wholesome teaching)” takes us beyond the specifics of the Mosaic law, and includes disobedience of NT teaching.

1:11.  “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

In the original the glory is of God rather than of the gospel, and it is generally agreed that a more accurate translation is “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.”  In the OT age the law exposed sin, but during this present age it is exposed by the Gospel which goes further and reveals the Lord Jesus Christ as the remedy for sin.  The glory brought to God by means of the Gospel is that those who believe it are not only cleansed from all sin, but are enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit to live righteously and thus display Christ living His life in them - something the law couldn’t do, as is declared in Ro 8:3 “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

What a change the Gospel had wrought in Paul’s life!  He who had been a fanatical exponent of law, had become an equally ardent advocate of the Gospel.  His zeal rebukes the apathy of most of us.

1:12.  “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;”

Christ is the Lord’s title as Messiah, while Jesus is the name uniquely associated with Him as Savior, but Lord designates Him as the One Who is the Master of all things, that lordship being willingly acknowledged now by believers, but being acknowledged by compulsion by unbelievers in a fast approaching day, and given too late to save them from His wrath.

“... who hath enabled me” is Paul’s confession of his own weakness, and of his total dependence on the Lord.  It is the very opposite of the spirit of independence that marked Him in his unsaved days when he persecuted the Lord’s people, and trusted in his own law-keeping to take him to heaven.  In the eye of man the independent Saul was far stronger than the dependent Paul, but man’s vision is distorted, and his powers of judgment flawed.  The dependent convert was infinitely stronger than the independent rebel, for as Paul he could say, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me, Php 4:13.  All the power of Christ is at the disposal of the obedient believer.  It would be well if that dependent spirit were more in evidence in our own lives.

Relative to the Lord’s counting Paul faithful, the question may well be asked how the Lord knew that the one time persecutor would be faithful to the trust imposed in him.  The answer, of course, is that it was according to the Lord’s foreknowledge, which should never be confused with His predestination.

1:13.  “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecuter, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

Blaspheme means to speak against someone, particularly against God, evilly, slanderously, reproachfully, railingly, abusively.  Since obviously Paul the selfrighteous Pharisee would never have literally spoken thus against God, the conclusion is that unwittingly he was being a blasphemer when he persecuted and spoke in this manner against those who belonged to Christ, as it is written concerning God’s people in the OT, “...he that toucheth you toucheth the apple (pupil) of his (God’s) eye,” Ze 2:8, and in the NT, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Mt 25:40.  We tend to forget how precious we are to Christ, another reminder of our value to Him being conveyed in 1 Cor 12:27, “ are the body of Christ,” and in 1 Cor 12:26, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it....”  See also Eph 5:23-33.

Persecute is “to subject to harassing or cruel treatment,  because of religion, race, or beliefs.”  It is instructive to note that the Lord’s first words to Saul were, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Ac 9:4.  A further indication of Saul’s hatred of Christ may be gathered from what is written concerning the martyrdom of Stephen in Ac 7:58, “...”the witnesses (against Stephen) laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul,” while they stoned Stephen to death.

Injurious as used here relates to harm or injury inflicted on another out of insolent haughty pride.  It was pride in his own selfrighteousness that prompted Saul’s murderous persecution of the Christians, and so has it been always: religious pride has been the driving force behind the persecution of true believers in every age, consider for example the torture and killing carried out by religious Rome in what are aptly called “the dark ages,” the period from c. 500 AD till c. 1000 AD.

“...but I obtained mercy.”  God withheld the punishment Saul deserved, giving him time in which to repent and save himself by trusting in the Christ he unwittingly persecuted.  And so has it been with every believer.  But for God’s mercy we should have been consigned to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

“...because I did it ignorantly.”  It is instructive to note that in the OT age there was no offering prescribed for wilful sin, such sin being far more heinous by reason of the fact that it is committed in brazen defiance of God, and with full knowledge of how abhorrent it is to Him.  Saul was not only ignorant of doing wrong: he thought he was doing God service.

“ unbelief.”  Unbelief is a terrible blinder, for in unbelief man’s intelligence is nothing less than foolishness; his emotion is hatred of God and of all that belongs to Him; while his will is devoted to rebellion against God; but in the darkness of his natural state he is unaware of all this, see Ro 1:22 relative to mere natural wisdom; Ro 1:26-27 relative to human emotion; and Ro 1:28 relative to the natural man’s will.  Because he is fallen and ruined intellectually, emotionally, and volitionally, man in his natural state is as described in 1 Co 2:14, he “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

1:14.  “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

Grace goes far beyond mercy, for while mercy withholds deserved punishment, grace bestows unmerited blessing, and in Paul’s case the grace was “exceeding abundant” for now his blind foolish natural wisdom had been replaced by faith in Christ, which is the beginning of true wisdom, as it is written, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Ps 111:10.  And that faith had caused hatred of God and of His people to be replaced with love.  This transformation is possible only to those who are “in Christ,” and who therefore have Christ in them through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  It is now possible for them to live by faith, and not by the world’s wisdom; and to have the same love for God and men as led the Lord to cry from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” Lk 23:34.

1:15.  “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

“Faithful” here means true, reliable, to be trusted, and because of this it should be universally accepted, but such is the darkness of the natural mind that only a relative few believe it, but by that faith they save themselves.

What isn’t always recognized, however, is that inseparably bound to Christ’s coming into the world to save sinners is the fact that His coming was first to glorify the Father, for even if not one soul were saved, God would still be glorified by the Lord’s perfect obedience, and His willingness to die the death the first Adam should have died, for by that vicarious sacrifice God’s moral integrity was preserved.  He had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” Ge 2:17, and failure to execute that sentence would make Him a liar.

It is to be noted also that His incarnation was an absolute necessity.  He must become Man in order to die, for as God He could not die.  His incarnation also implies His prior eternal existence as God the Son, coequal and coeternal with the other two Persons of the Godhead.

“...of whom I am chief” is literally “there is no greater sinner than I.”  How differently things are seen when the light of heaven shines upon them.  To the natural eye there was no one more religious that Saul the Pharisee, and surely no one more worthy of heaven than he; but the illumination of heaven revealed the very opposite.  There was no greater sinner than he, and therefore no one more worthy of eternal punishment in the lake of fire.  This surely ought to thunder a warning in the ears of those who hope to enter heaven on the basis of religion and good works.

1:16.  “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

The reason why God had been merciful to Paul was that others might not dispair.  If one of the greatest sinners can be saved, then so can anyone who will trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.

“...all longsuffering” is also translated the whole of His patience; the fullness of His patience; His vast patience, and wrongly as His unlimited patience; His exhaustless patience.  His patience is not unlimited or inexhaustable.  It has a limit as is declared clearly in Ge 6:3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” and again in Pr 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”  There is no more deadly error than to believe that God’s patience is infinite.  For the sinner there is a time in which he may accept God’s gift of eternal life, but continued rejection of that gift may result in withdrawal of God’s offer with the result that though the individual may live for many years beyond that time, he cannot be saved.  It seems also that for the believer who continues in sin there comes a time when God’s Spirit will cease to strive to lead him back to an obedient walk, with the result that he is either taken home to heaven, as in 1 Cor 11:30, or left to make shipwreck of his life with resultant eternal loss at the judgment seat of Christ.

As to Paul’s being “a pattern,” this relates to what he had become as a believer: the arrogant pride, self-righteousness, and hatred of God and His people, that had characterized his unconverted days, had been replaced with meek submission, true righteousness, and a deep love for God and those who belonged to Him.  He was an example of what God can do with anyone willing to yield his life to His control.  What marked the life of Paul the convert ought to mark the life of every believer.

Many see also in the transformation of the former Saul an example of what God will yet do with Israel by means of the Tribulation judgments.  What marked Paul the Apostle will mark also that converted remnant that will emerge from the Tribulation as the new Israel that will inherit millennial blessings.

Some translators render “everlasting” as “eternal,” which is in fact a more accurate description of the believer’s new life, for everlasting describes only its duration, but eternal describes its quality: it is more than just a life that will continue for ever: it is the very life of God Himself.

1:17.  “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.”

“King” speaks of God’s royal dignity and authority, while “eternal” reminds us that He alone is without beginning or end; and “immortal (incorruptible)” describes the incorruptibility of His Person, a quality that will apply also to us in our resurrection bodies, see 1 Cor 15:49-54.  “Invisible” relates to the majesty and glory of His Person: it is of such brightness as to be beyond the range of human sight, and of such intensity as to destroy the mortal body of even a believer, see for example the experience of Moses as recorded in Ex 33:18-23.  Only in our new bodies will we be able to behold God.

Since the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of as King of kings, Re 19:16, some feel that the description here is confined to Him alone, but it is generally agreed that it applies to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Godhead.

“...the only wise God.”  “Wise” is not found in many of the original manuscripts, so that the correct reading is “the only God.”  He is God, and there is none other.

“...honor” is also translated worth, value, esteem, dignity; and “glory” dignity, praise, worship.  All of these things belong to God.

1:18.  “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare.”

“Charge” is literally command, instruction, injunction; and while Timothy was simply one whom Paul had led to the Lord, the apostle’s use of the word “son” indicates the depth of his love for this young man who was proving himself such a worthy disciple.  The “charge” here is generally accepted as being the instructions given in vv. 3-5 relative to the need to silence the false teachers.

“...the prophecies which went before on thee” refer either to a direct relevation given Paul by God concerning Timothy, or given by a prophet in the church.

“ them” refers to the above mentioned prophecies, while their being linked with Timothy’s spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness, was to give the young man courage based on the knowledge that he had been called to this work and warfare by God Who would uphold him in it.

Every believer has also been called to engage in that same warfare, and has been given the same assurance of God’s support in such words as, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Php 4:13, and in the Lord’s commission to His own, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (age),” Mt 28:18-20.

Nor should we miss the significance of the word “warfare”: this wasn’t an isolated battle: it is a life-long conflict in which we are engaged.

1:19.  “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:”

“Holding faith” is literally to cling to the faith that first led him to trust in Christ as his Savior, and never to entertain a doubt concerning it.

The imperative of maintaining a clear conscience is related to the fact that failure in that area is the very thing that will produce doubt concerning our faith, and that doubt begins a chain reaction which includes loss of peace and joy, which in turn distracts from study, meditation, and prayer, which is followed by inability to worship and to continue effectively in the Lord’s service.  It is essential that we keep a tender conscience which will be sensitive to the slightest disobedience in thought, word, or deed.  We must keep short accounts with God.  The moment sin is discovered in our lives it is to be confessed, repented of, and forsaken, for if not, the conscience will become hardened, less sensitive, thus leading to more sin, with the end result that it will become as described in 4:2 “seared as with a hot iron,” i.e., incapable of any awareness of doing wrong.

“...which some having put away concerning faith” has reference to deliberate rejection of the voice of conscience, thus making the sin deliberate rather than accidental disobedience, and it is to be remembered that in the OT age there was no sacrifice for such sin.  It is a dreadful thing to stifle the voice of conscience, and sin deliberately.  He who does so is very likely to come to the same end as those described here: he will make shipwreck of his life.  But what exactly is involved in a man’s making shipwreck of his life?  It seems that the application is to true believers, who by rejecting the voice of conscience, plunge deeper and deeper into sin until their testimony is ruined altogether, with the result that at the Bema there will be found nothing worthy of reward.  That is a terrible price to pay, to forfeit what would have afforded pleasure for ever, just to gratify a fleeting sinful desire!

Our prayer should be for the wisdom that will keep us from such madness.

1:20.  “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Amongst those who had been guilty of the sin just discussed, were Hymenaeus and Alexander, about whom nothing is known except what is recorded here.  Their being delivered unto Satan appears to be the same chastisement as was inflicted upon the fornicator mentioned in 1 Cor 5:1-5, resulting in his ultimate repentance and restoration to the fellowship of the assembly.  It is not recorded whether it produced the same happy result with Hymenaeus and Alexander.

As to their being delivered unto Satan, it seems to have involved the exercise of Paul’s apostolic authority in commanding their expulsion from the fellowship of the assembly, an action which effectually cut them off from many privileges, and left them at the mercy of Satan, God, of course, imposing a limit beyond which Satan could not go in harming them.  The severity of the chastisement was appropriate to the enormity of the offense, but as always with God, it was meant to produce repentance, abandonment of the sin which had incurred the chastisement, and eventual restoration to full fellowship with Him and His people.

Blaspheme means to speak against someone, particularly against God, evilly, slanderously, reproachfully, railingly, abusively.

[1 Timothy 2]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough