Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
Timothy is the son of Eunice and grandson of Lois (both apparently God-fearing women, as indicated by their mention in these letters). He was a Greek man converted to Christ when Paul and Barnabas came through Lystra in Lycaonia, and he traveled with Paul on his journeys. By the time of these letters, he was a preacher in his own right, and though young he was blessed with great wisdom and learning.
These letters to Timothy are letters from a mentor to his protege, almost as from a father to his son. What is contained herein is a collection of lessons that every Christian, and especially everyone who seeks to preach and teach, should learn.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
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,
4 Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.
5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;
7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
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,
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;
11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
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.
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.
17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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;
19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
20 Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
What to Teach
Paul’s first teaching to Timothy regards what to teach. In the first place, Paul reminds Timothy of a lesson he taught when he left Timothy to preach in Ephesus. Fables and genealogies are nice bits of history and trivia, but the focus should be on the doctrine of Christ and the edification therein. We who speak the Word do not seek to teach who begat whom, but rather what our Lord has said and how this translates to our lives and worldviews. Fables – stories with a lesson attached – have their merits, and even our Lord Jesus Christ spoke in parables, but there are also many fables which are not productive (as many found in the Jewish apocrypha).
The end of the commandment – the summary of the law – is charity out of a pure heart. “Charity” is translated “love” by many, but the original word refers to a certain kind of love which is giving and unconditional (agape in the Greek), and charity can only come freely from a pure heart. The pure of heart have naturally clear consciences, for their actions and words reflect the demands of conscience, and only in true faith can one be so pure.
Some teachers and Christians do not have such charity or purity. They turn away from this goodness in favor of posturing; they feign faith through boldness; they mask a lack of charity with publicity-seeking donations and offerings. They seek to hypocritically teach the Law (that is, the law which wicked men have stacked atop the pure and noble Law given by God), but they do not know the purposes of these laws or truly understand either the man-made Law or God’s Law. They condemn the just and the wicked alike in their ignorance, and many are confused.
The Law is good is used lawfully. Those who do and live rightly need not concern themselves with the Law, for their habits and lives naturally follow its tenets. Instead, the Law is made for the disobedient, the ungodly, and the sinner, for their lives do not follow the Law and so they stand in danger of judgment. Unholiness (that is, defiance of God), murder of all kinds, adultery of all kinds (whether whoremongering, whoring, philandering and encouraging philandering, aberrant sexual acts such as homosexuality, or simple fornication), bearing false testimony, and any other violation of the ten commandments and sound doctrine is wickedness in violation of the Law. We speak the law, then, to warn against such acts and warn the violators against further violation and the judgment that comes with it.
Paul, a chief of sinners, now a disciple of Christ
This law condemns all men, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul remains fully aware of this, as he himself was a woeful sinner – he blasphemed the Lord, persecuted the believers and the just, and harmed his fellow men without just cause. Even so, the Lord has shown mercy and grace, raising Paul up as a minister and endowing him with tremendous faith so that he can preach the Gospel.
The grace of our Lord is exceedingly abundant with faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus. Christ came not for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Mercy is not given to the just who need it not, but to the unjust without which they will surely perish. In Christ, the chief of sinners is made new and restored to grace. In Paul, Christ demonstrates his longsuffering nature, his willingness to abide our wickedness and dispense mercy to all who would believe. And as surely as Christ is risen, so too shall all the elect be raised up to life everlasting.
To our King eternal, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is immortal and not now seen, the only wise God, be all glory and honor now and forevermore. Amen.
The Charge of Spiritual Warfare
Beyond this, Paul calls Timothy (and by extension, the believers who would teach and preach) to struggle in spiritual warfare. This is not a war of arms, nor (as many believe) a call to rituals for the banishment of spiritual beings, but rather the war for hearts and minds. Timothy being in Ephesus, the words of Ephesians 6 would naturally spring readily to his mind, and so it is a key to understanding the nature of this warfare.
In this warfare, we struggle to preserve ourselves in faith and conscience, being always at war with the sinful nature and the wickedness of the world to preserve ourselves in sound doctrine and faith. Truth girds our loins, binding our spiritual armor together and providing ready defense against the mightiest blows. Righteousness – rightness within the law and purity of conscience – preserves us against attacks on our hearts that would cause us to doubt. The Gospel of peace guards our feet from stumbling against the roughness of the world and its many stumbling stones. Faith shields us, salvation guards our minds, and the Holy Spirit serves as our weapon against all who would challenge us in this fight.
There’s a verse here that is oft overlooked concerning Hymenaeus and Alexander, who were “delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” This concerns excommunication, as spoken of in the letters to the Corinthians – those who sin repeatedly and with joy are put aside from the Church to wallow in the despair of their sins. This is not a permanent penalty, but rather a correctional measure to cause them to return to the Faith. So, too, must we be prepared both to reject the blasphemer and welcome him when he returns as the prodigal son.
Let us Pray
Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.
Sovereign Lord, we thank you that you have preserved us. We praise you for your great and continuing works, including the preservation of Scripture that we might benefit from its teachings. Thank you that you have preserved the epistles of our brother Paul to the Church, and particularly in this case to his “son” Timothy.
Lord, let all of us who are called to teaching and preaching meditate upon your word day and night, that we be preserved in conscience and faith against the wiles of the devil. In this world we have trouble, Lord, but we thank you that you give us peace.
In the name of our beloved Lord, Jesus, who is the Christ, the Son of God who has come into the world, we pray.
Go now in the peace and power of almighty God, and let not your hearts be troubled, for you trust in the true God and his son Jesus Christ.