Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on 1 Timothy 1:3-20

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Paul Commissions Timothy to Confront False Teachers of the Law - 1 Timothy 1:3-20

Paul Commissions Timothy to Confront False Teachers of the Law. Paul began his letter with a clear focus on his purpose for leaving Timothy in Ephesus. He must confront those who were propagating false teachings about the Law of Moses. This opening section of his letter provides a brief summary of the problem (1:3-7), his apostolic corrective (1:8-17), his identification of Timothy as his apostolic representative and of Hymenaeus and Alexander as representative false teachers (1:18-20).

Initial summary of false teaching - 1 Timothy 1:3-7

Initial summary of false teaching. The false teachings at Ephesus which concerned Paul arose from misreadings of the Law of Moses, including false myths and genealogies that may have been tools for speculations about the origins of the world. Rooted in the ambitions of the false teachers, these misreadings swerved from a proper focus on faith in God's work, causing damage to the faith of some in the church.

Not to teach false doctrines - 1 Timothy 1:3

I urged you when I was about to depart into Macedonia. Some have described Paul's first letter to Timothy as a 'mandate letter,' designed not only to instruct Timothy for his difficult task in Ephesus, but to give him authority or a mandate before the church. The present tense of the participle (poreuomenos), may indicate that a form of this letter was communicated orally before the leaders of the church or the congregation as Paul departed Ephesus for Macedonia. A different doctrine. Timothy's central task was to confront and correct false teachings rooted in misreadings of the Law of Moses. The errors at Ephesus did not arise from a well-developed doctrinal system, but the ambitions of 'certain men' to be recognized as 'teachers of the law' (1:7). See note 1:7.

Stories and genealogies - 1 Timothy 1:4

stories. In Titus 1:14, Paul wrote about 'Jewish myths.' In 1 Tim 4:7 he wrote of 'godless myths and old wives' tales.' Coupled here with 'endless genealogies,' Paul may be referring to legends about well-known figures in the Old Testament found in many non-canonical Jewish writings of the Second Temple period. He may also be referencing 'genealogies' and 'stories' about the Greek gods propagated by the Temple of Artemis. Later, Gnosticism developed speculative genealogies about spiritual beings that populated their myths about the origins of the universe. See note 1:3.

Love - 1 Timothy 1:5

the goal of the commandment is love. Paul makes the goal (telos) of this instruction plain. His love for the believers in the church at Ephesus motivated this pastoral intervention to instruct their heart and mind, that their conscience might not be corrupted, so they might stay on course in their faith and love. See 1:14; 6:11; Titus 3:15; 2 Tim 1:13 and cf. 2 Cor 8:7; Gal 5:6, 22; Eph 1:15; 3:16-17; 6:23; Col 1:4; Philemon 1:5 where Paul coupled 'faith' and 'love' as identifying marks of Christian characteric—faith in Christ and love for other people, especially fellow members of God's household. Elsewhere, Paul adds 'hope.' Cf. 1 Thess 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13.

Teachers of the law - 1 Timothy 1:7

teachers of the law. The problem was not reading the Law, but misreading and misusing it. Paul encouraged Timothy and the church to study the Scriptures (cf. 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 3:14-17), including the Law of Moses, but said plainly these teachers "do not know what they are talking about." Paul demonstrated sound readings of Moses about gender and marital relations, food use, treatment of widows, how to handle charges against leaders, etc. in this letter, and explained a proper use of the law in 1:8-11.

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