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- 1 Timothy
by Gary Hampton
Letters to Young Preachers
A Class Commentary on 1, 2 Timothy and Titus
By Gary C. Hampton
Paul’s Relationship to Timothy
The books of 1 & 2 Timothy are written to a young man who played a very special role in the life of Paul. To fully understand these books, we need to look at the life of this young man and his contact with the apostle.
Timothy was born to a Jewish mother, who believed, and a Greek father, who apparently did not believe ( Act_16:1 ). He received instruction about God from the scriptures at a young age from his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois ( 2Ti_1:5 ; 2Ti_3:15 ). His name means, "one who fears God."
Paul calls Timothy his "true son in the faith," which leads us to believe that he was one of his converts ( 1Ti_1:2 ; 2Ti_1:2 ). Paul may have first met him when he arrived in Lystra and Derbe on his first missionary journey ( Act_14:6-21 ). When Paul returned to that area as he began the second missionary journey with Silas, he found that the brethren from both Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul chose him to be a helper in his various works for the Lord. To avoid criticism from the Jews, and because his mother was a Jew, Paul had Timothy circumcised ( Act_16:1-3 ).
Timothy was with Paul through Phrygia, Galatia and on into Macedonia. Timothy and Silas stayed in Berea while Paul went on to Athens because the crowd was being stirred up by the Jews who had come from Thessalonica ( Act_16:4-40 ; Act_17:1-15 ). Though Paul sent for them from Athens, he immediately sent them out again to Thessalonica to encourage the brethren there and strengthen them in the faith. They next rejoined Paul at Corinth ( 1Th_3:1-5 ; Act_18:5 ). It is thought that both of the letters to Thessalonica were written from Corinth, and Timothy was the bearer of them to the church ( 1Th_1:1 ; 2Th_1:1 ).
During the third missionary journey, Paul continued to work in Asia while he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia. Not long after that, Paul told the Corinthians that Timothy would likely come to them ( Act_19:22 ; 1Co_4:17 ; 1Co_16:10 ). They were together when the second letter was written to Corinth as well as the letter to the Romans ( 2Co_1:1 ; Rom_16:21 ). They were together on the trip through Greece, Macedonia and on into Troas ( Act_20:1-7 ). From that point forward, Acts is silent about Timothy. We do know that he was with Paul as he wrote the prison epistles ( Col_1:1 ; Php_1:1 ; Phm_1:1 ). It was Paul's desire to send Timothy to Philippi to encourage the brethren and be able to give Paul a report. It is interesting to note the great trust he placed in this young preacher ( Php_2:19-24 ).
Dating 1 & 2 Timothy
It seems likely that the first epistle to Timothy was written after Paul's first imprisonment in Rome was over. The second epistle was during a second imprisonment. Acts only mentions the first imprisonment, but we can be fairly confident there was a second. Acts ends with Paul in custody but confidently preaching the gospel. Paul told Philemon to prepare a room for him, as if he soon expected to be released ( Phm_1:22 ). In contrast, Paul writes the second epistle to Timothy expecting to die in the near future ( 2Ti_4:6 ; 2Ti_4:9 ; 2Ti_4:21 ).
The first epistle was written to Timothy in Ephesus, where Paul had placed him to work with the church ( 1Ti_1:3 ) The second letter may also have been addressed to the same city since both 2Ti_1:15 ; 2Ti_1:18 hint at that location. A careful reading of both letters will cause one to feel that Paul was closely guiding the labor of this young preacher as he worked to build up the church.
Circumstances had changed by the time Paul wrote the second letter to Timothy. As he wrote, he was being held as a prisoner and soon expected to die. It appears that he was in Rome during the time of Nero's severe persecution of the church. Thus, the letter would have been written between 64 and 68 A.D. Timothy appears to have been working in Ephesus
when this letter was sent. Paul wrote in hopes that Timothy would be able to join him. However, it is obvious Paul also wrote with the idea of encouraging Timothy to carry on in spite of the terrible persecution the church was enduring, and would endure. If Timothy did not reach Paul before he died, this letter surely must have encouraged him.
The Nature and Purpose of Paul’s Writing
The letters of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus “are of the greatest interest, for no letters in the New Testament give such a vivid picture of the growing Church. In them we see the problems of a Church which is a little island of Christianity in a sea of paganism; and in them we see as nowhere else the beginnings of the ministry of the Church” (Barclay, ix). As Bruce Stewart noted, Paul wrote the letters to Timothy and Titus like a father might write a letter to his son. Stewart also says Paul had the purpose of expressing affection and appreciation, while charging them personally with rebuking false doctrine, reminding brothers and sisters of basic teaching, living as examples, using their gifts to teach others, guarding their relationship to God, holding the pattern of sound words and remaining cool in volatile situations (pp. 1-2).
Barclay, William. The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon . Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960.
Coffman, James Burton. Commentary on I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Austin: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1978.
Guthrie, Donald. The Pastoral Epistles . Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.
Lipscomb, David. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, Volume V . J. W. Shepherd, editor. Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1942.
Roberts, J. W. Letters to Timothy . Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1964.
Roberts, J. W. Letters to Titus, Philemon, and the Epistle of James . Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1962.
Spain, Carl. The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus . Austin: Sweet Publishing Company, 1970.
Stewart, Bruce. A Call to Faith: An Exegetical Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus . Mobile: Southeastern Press, Inc., 1996.
Vine, W. E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words . Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1940.
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