RPM, Volume 18, Number 31, July 24 to July 30, 2016

Introduction to the New Testament

By Louis Berkhof

Table of Contents:

The Gospels in General
The Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of John
The Acts of the Apostles
The Epistles in General
The Epistles of Paul
The Epistle to the Romans
The First Epistle to the Corinthians
The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
The Epistle to the Galatians
The Epistle to the Ephesians
The Epistle to the Philippians
The Epistle to the Colossians
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians
The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
The Pastoral Epistles
The First Epistle to Timothy
The Second Epistle to Timothy
The Epistle to Titus
The Epistle to Philemon
The Epistle to the Hebrews
The General Epistle of James
The First General Epistle of Peter
The Second General Epistle of Peter
The First General Epistle of John
The Second and Third General Epistles of John
The General Epistle of Jude
The Revelation of John

The First Epistle to Timothy


The first Epistle to Timothy may be divided into four parts:

I. Introduction, 1:1-20. The apostle begins by reminding Timothy that he had been left at Ephesus to counteract prevalent heresies, 1-10. He directs the attention of his spiritual son to the Gospel contradicted by these errors, thanks the Lord that he was made a minister of it, and charges Timothy to act in accordance with that Gospel, 11-20.

II. General Regulations for Church Life, 2:1—4:5. Here we find first of all directions for public intercession and for the behavior of men and women in the meetings of the church, 2:1-15. These are followed by an explicit statement of the qualities that are necessary in bishops and deacons, 3:1-13. The expressed purpose of these directions is, to promote the good order of the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, essentially revealed in Christ, from which the false brethren were departing, 3:14—4:5.

III. Personal Advice to Timothy, 4:6—6:2. Here the apostle speaks of Timothy's behavior towards the false teachers, 4:6-11; of the way in which he should regard and discharge his ministerial duties, 12-16; and of the attitude he ought to assume towards the individual members of the church, especially towards the widows, the elders and the slaves, 5:1—6:2.

IV. Conclusion, 6:3-21. The apostle now makes another attack on the heretical teachers, 3—10; and exhorts Timothy to be true to his calling and to avoid all erroneous teachings, giving him special directions with respect to the rich, 11-21.


1. This letter is one of the Pastoral Epistles of Paul, which are so called, because they were written to persons engaged in pastoral work and contain many directions for pastoral duties. They were sent, not to churches, but to office-bearers, instructing them how to behave in the house of God. It is evident, however, that, with the possible exception of II Timothy, they were not intended exclusively for the persons to whom they were addressed, but also for the churches in which these labored. Cf. as far as this Epistle is concerned, 4:6, 11; 5:7; 6:17.

2. From the preceding it follows that this letter is not doctrinal but practical. We find no further objective development of the truth here, but clear directions as to its practical application, especially in view of divergent tendencies. The truth developed in previous Epistles is here represented as the "sound doctrine" that must be the standard of life and action, as "the faith" that should be kept, and as "a faithful word worthy of all acceptation." The emphasis clearly falls on the ethical requirements of the truth.

3. The letter emphasizes, as no other Epistle does, the external organization of the church. The apostle feels that the end of his life is fast approaching, and therefore deems it necessary to give more detailed instruction regarding the office-bearers in the church, in order that, when he is gone, his youthful co-laborers and the church itself may know how its affairs should be regulated. Of the office-bearers the apostle mentions the episkos and the presbuteroi, which are evidently identical, the first name indicating their work, and the second emphasizing their age; the diakonoi, the gunaikes, if 3:11 refers to deaconesses, which is very probable (so Ellicott, Alford, White in Exp. Gk. Test.) and the chÄ"rai, ch. 5, though it is doubtful, whether these were indeed office-bearers.

4. Regarding the style of the Pastoral Epistles in general Huther remarks: "In the other Pauline Epistles the fulness of the apostles thoughts struggle with the expression, and cause peculiar difficulties in exposition. The thoughts slide into one another, and are so intertwined in many forms that not seldom the new thought begins before a correct expression has been given of the thought that preceded. Of this confusion there is no example in the Pastoral Epistles. Even in such passages as come nearest to this confused style, such as the beginning of the first and second Epistles of Timothy (Tit. 2:11 if.; 3:4 if.) the connection of ideas is still on the whole simple." Comm. p. 9. This estimate is in general correct, though we would hardly speak of Paul's style in his other letters as "a confused style."

The Person To Whom The Epistle Was Written

Paul addresses this letter to "Timothy my own son in the faith," 1:2. We find the first mention of Timothy in Acts 16:1, where he is introduced as an inhabitant of Lystra. He was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father, of whom we have no further knowledge. Both his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois are spoken of as Christians in II Tim. 1:5. In all probability he was converted by Paul on his first missionary journey, since he was already a disciple, when the apostle entered Lystra on his second tour. He had a good report in his home town, Acts 16:2, and, being circumcised for the sake of the Jews, he joined Paul and Silas in their missionary labors. Passing with the missionaries into Europe and helping them at Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea, he remained with Silas in the last named place, while Paul pressed on to Athens and Corinth, where they finally joined the apostle again, Acts 17:14; 18:5. Cf. however also I Thess. 3:1 and p. 222 above. He abode there with the missionaries and his name appears with those of Paul and Silvanus in the addresses of the two Epistles to the Thessalonians. We next find him ministering to the apostle during his long stay at Ephesus, Acts 19:22, from where he was sent to Macedonia and Corinth, Acts 19:21, 22; I Cor. 4:17; 16:10, though it is doubtful, whether he reached that city. He was again in Paul's company, when II Corinthians was written, II Cor. 1:1, and accompanied the apostle to Corinth, Rom. 16:21, and again on his return through Macedonia to Asia, Acts 20:3, 4, probably also to Jerusalem, I Cor. 16:3. He is then mentioned in the Epistles of the imprisonment, which show that he was with the apostle at Rome, Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1. From this time on we hear no more of him until the Pastoral Epistles show him to be in charge of the Ephesian church, I Tim. 1:3.

From I Tim. 4:14, and II Tim. 1:6 we learn that he was set apart for the ministry by Paul with the laying on of hands, in accordance with prophetic utterances of the Spirit, I Tim. 1:18, when he probably received the title of evangelist, II Tim. 4:5, though in I Thess. 2:6 he is loosely classed with Paul and Silas as an apostle. We do not know when this formal ordination took place, whether at the very beginning of his work, or when he was placed in charge of the church at Ephesus.

The character of Timothy is clearly marked in Scripture. His readiness to leave his home and to submit to the rite of circumcision reveal his self-denial and earnestness of purpose. This is all the more striking, since he was very affectionate, II Tim. 1:4, delicate and often ill, 1 Tim. 5:23. At the same time he was timid, I Cor. 16:10, hesitating to assert his authority, I Tim. 4:12, and needed to be warned against youthful lusts, II Tim. 2:22, and to be encouraged in the work of Christ, II Tim. 1:8. Yet withal he was a worthy servant of Jesus Christ, Rom. 16:21, I Thess. 3:2; Phil. 1:1; 2:19-21; and the beloved spiritual son of the apostle, I Tim. 1:2; II Tim. 1:2; I Cor. 4:17.


1. Occasion and Purpose. This letter was occasioned by Paul's necessary departure from Ephesus for Macedonia, 1:3, the apprehension that he might be absent longer than he at first expected, 3:14, 15, and the painful consciousness that insidious errors were threatening the Ephesian church. Since Timothy was acquainted with these heresies, the apostle refers to them only in general terms which convey no very definite idea as to their real character. The persons who propagated them were prominent members of the church, possibly even office-bearers, 1:6, 7, 20; 3:1-12; 5:19-25. Their heresy was primarily of a Jewish character, 1:7, and probably resulted from an exaggeration of the demands of the law, a mistaken application of Christian ideas and a smattering of Oriental speculation. They claimed to be teachers of the law, 1:7, laid great stress on myths and genealogies, 1:4; 4:7, prided themselves like the rabbis on the possession of special knowledge, 6:20, and, perhaps assuming that matter was evil or at least the seat of evil, they propagated a false asceticism, prohibiting marriage and requiring abstinence from certain foods, 4:3, and taught that the resurrection was already past, most likely recognizing only a spiritual resurrection, II Tim. 2:18. The charge entrusted to Timothy was therefore a difficult one, hence the apostle deemed it necessary to write this Epistle.

In connection with the situation described the purpose of Paul was twofold. In the first place he desired to encourage Timothy. This brother, being young and of a timid disposition, needed very much the cheering word of the apostle. And in the second place it was his aim to direct Timothy's warfare against the false doctrines that were disseminated in the church. Possibly it was also to prevent the havoc which these might work, if they who taught them were allowed in office, that he places such emphasis on the careful choice of office-bearers, and on the necessity of censuring them, should they go wrong.

2. Time and Place. The Epistle shows that Paul had left Ephesus for Macedonia with the intention of returning soon. And it was because he anticipated some delay that he wrote this letter to Timothy. Hence we may be sure that it was written from some place in Macedonia.

But the time when the apostle wrote this letter is not so easily determined. On what occasion did Paul quit Ephesus for Macedonia, leaving Timothy behind? Not after his first visit to Ephesus, Acts 18:20, 21, for on that occasion the apostle did not depart for Macedonia but for Jerusalem. Neither was it when he left Ephesus on his third missionary journey after a three years residence, since Timothy was not left behind then, but had been sent before him to Corinth, Acts 19:22; I Cor. 4:17. Some are inclined to think that we must assume a visit of Paul to Macedonia during his Ephesian residence, a visit not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. But then we must also find room there for the apostles' journey to Crete, since it is improbable that the Epistle of Paul to Titus was separated by any great interval of time from I Timothy. And to this must be added a trip to Corinth, cf. above p. 168. This theory is very unlikely in view of the time Paul spent at Ephesus, as compared with the work he did there, and of the utter silence of Luke regarding these visits. We must date the letter somewhere between the first and the second imprisonment of Paul. It was most likely after the apostles' journey to Spain, since on the only previous occasion that he visited Ephesus after his release he came to that city by way of Macedonia, and therefore would not be likely to return thither immediately. Probably the letter should be dated about A. D. 65 or 66.

Canonical Significance

There was not the slightest doubt in the ancient church as to the canonicity of this Epistle. We find allusions more or less clear to its language in Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ilegesippus, Athenagoras and Theophilus. It was contained in the old Latin and Syriac Versions and referred to Paul by the Muratorian Fragment. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian quote it by name, and Eusebius reckons it among the generally accepted canonical writings.

The great abiding value of the Epistle is found in the fact that it teaches the Church of all generations, how one, especially an office-bearer, should behave in the house of God, holding the faith, guarding his precious trust against the inroads of false doctrines, combating the evil that is found in the Lords heritage, and maintaining good order in church life. "It witnesses," says Lock (Hastings D. B. Art. I Timothy) "that a highly ethical and spiritual conception of religion is consistent with and is safeguarded by careful regulations about worship, ritual and organized ministry. There is no opposition between the outward and the inward, between the spirit and the organized body.".

The Second Epistle to Timothy


The contents of this Epistle falls into three parts:

I. Considerations to strengthen Timothy's Courage, 1:1—2:13. After the greeting, 1, 2, the apostle urges Timothy to stir up his ministerial gift, to be bold in suffering, and to hold fast the truth entrusted to him, 3—14, enforcing these appeals by pointing to the deterrent example of the unfaithful and the stimulating example of Onesiphorus, 15—18. Further he exhorts him to be strong in the power of grace, to commit the true teaching to others, and to be ready to face suffering, 2:1-13.

II. Exhortations primarily dealing with Timothy's Teaching, 2:l4—4:8. Timothy should urge Christians to avoid idle and useless discussions, and should rightly teach the truth, shunning vain babblings, 14-21. He must also avoid youthful passions, foolish investigations, and false teachers who, for selfish purposes, turn the truth of God into unrighteousness, 2:22—3:9. He is further exhorted to abide loyally by his past teaching, knowing that sufferings will come to every true soldier and that deceivers will grow worse, 10-17; and to fulfil his whole duty as an evangelist with sobriety and courage, especially since Paul is now ready to be offered up, 4:1-8.

III. Personal Reminiscences, 4:9-22. Paul appeals to Timothy to come to Rome quickly, bringing Mark and also taking his cloak and books, and to avoid Alexander, 9-15. He speaks of his desertion by men, the protection afforded him by the Lord, and his trust for the future, 16-18. With special greetings, a further account of his fellow-laborers, and a final salutation the apostle ends his letter, 19-22.


1. II Timothy is the most personal of the Pastoral Epistles. Doctrinally it has no great importance, though it does contain the strongest proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture. In the main the thought centers about Timothy, the faithful co-laborer of Paul, whom the apostle gives encouragement in the presence of great difficulties, whom he inspires to noble, self-denying efforts in the Kingdom of God, and whom he exhorts to fight worthily in the spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness, that he may once receive an eternal reward.

2. It is the last Epistle of Paul, the swan-song of the great apostle, after a life of devotion to a noble cause, a life of Christian service. We see him here with work done, facing a martyrs death. Looking back his heart is filled with gratitude for the grace of God that saved him from the abyss that yawned at his feet, that called and qualified him to be a messenger of the cross, that protected him when dangers were threatening, and that crowned his work with rich spiritual fruits. And as he turns his eyes to the future, calm assurance and joyous hope are the strength of his soul, for he knows that the firm foundation of God will stand, since the Lord will punish the evil-doers and be the eternal reward of his children. He already has visions of the heavenly Kingdom, of eternal glory, of the coming righteous Judge, and of the crown of righteousness, the blessed inheritance of all those that love Christs appearance.


1. Occasion and Purpose. The immediate occasion for writing this Epistle was the apostles' presentiment of his fast approaching end. He was anxious that Timothy should come to him soon, bringing Mark with him. In all probability he desired to give his spiritual son some fatherly advice and some practical instruction before his departure. But we feel that this alone did not call for a letter such as II Timothy really is. Another factor must be taken in consideration. Paul was not sure that Timothy would succeed in reaching Rome before his death, and yet realized that the condition of the Ephesian church, the danger to which Timothy was there exposed, and the importance of the work entrusted to this youthful minister, called for a word of apostolic advice, encouragement and exhortation. It seems that the Ephesian church was threatened by persecution, 1:8; 2:3, 12; 3:12; 4:5; and the heresy to which the apostle referred in his first epistle was evidently still rife in the circle of believers. There were those who strove about words, 2:14, were unspiritual, 2:16, corrupted in mind, 3:8, indulging in foolish and ignorant questionings, 2:23, and fables, 4:4, tending to a low standard of morality, 2:19, and teaching that the resurrection was already past, 2:18.

Hence the object of the Epistle is twofold. The writer wants to warn Timothy of his impending departure, to inform him of his past experiences at Rome and of his present loneliness, and to exhort him to come speedily. Besides this, however, he desired to strengthen his spiritual son in view of the deepening gloom of trials and persecution that were threatening the church from without; and to fore-arm him against the still sadder danger of heresy and apostasy that were lurking within the fold. Timothy is exhorted to hold fast the faith, 1:5, 13; to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, 2:3-10; to shun every form of heresy, 2:16-18; to instruct in meekness those that withstand the Gospel, 2:24-26; and to continue in the things he had learnt, 3:14-17.

2. Time and Place. From 1:17 it is perfectly evident that this letter was written at Rome. The apostle was again a prisoner in the imperial city. Though we have no absolute certainty, we deem it probable that he was re-arrested at Troas in the year 67. The situation in which he finds himself at Rome is quite different from that reflected in the other epistles of the captivity. He is now treated like a common criminal, 2:9; his Asiatic friends with the exception of Onesiphorus turned from him, 1:15; the friends who were with him during his first imprisonment are absent now, Col. 4:10-14; II Tim. 4:10-12; and the outlook of the apostle is quite different from that found in Philippians and Philemon. It is impossible to tell just how long the apostle had already been in prison, when he wrote the Epistle, but from the fact that he had had one hearing, 4:16 (which cannot refer to that of the first imprisonment, cf. Phil, 1:7, 12-14), and expected to be offered up soon, we infer that he composed the letter towards the end of his imprisonment, i. e. in the fall of A. D. 67.

Canonical Significance

The canonicity of this Epistle has never been questioned by the Church; and the testimony to its early and general use is in no way deficient. There are quite clear traces of its language in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, and Theophilus of Antioch. The letter is included in all the MSS., the old Versions and the Lists of the Pauline Epistles. The Muratorian Fragment names it as a production of Paul, and from the end of the second century it is quoted by name.

The Epistle has some permanent doctrinal value as containing the most important proof-passage for the inspiration of Scripture, 3:16, and also abiding historical significance in that it contains the clearest Scriptural testimony to the life of Paul after his first Roman imprisonment. But Lock truly says that "its main interest is one of character, and two portraits emerge from it." We have here (1) the portrait of the ideal Christian minister, busily engaged in the work of his Master, confessing His Name, proclaiming His truth, shepherding His fold, defending his heritage, and battling with the powers of evil; and (2) the "portrait of the Christian minister, with his work done, facing death. He acquiesces gladly in the present, but his eyes are turned mainly to the past or to the future." (Lock in Hastings D. B. Art. II Timothy) He is thankful for the work he was permitted to do, and serenely awaits the day of his crowning.

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