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- 1 Timothy
by L.M. Grant
This epistle, and that to Titus, were written about the same time, the date considered to be 64 A.D., three years before the martyrdom of Paul. Only his second epistle to Timothy is written later, evidently just immediately before his death. The apostle had in his many previous epistles communicated the truth of God so necessary for the saints of God collectively and corporately. But it remains that there must be good, solid instruction to be pressed upon the individual child of God in connection with his responsibilities in fellowship with the assembly, the Church of God. These epistles, therefore, are addressed personally to Timothy and Titus, as was that to Philemon just two years before. (In this, however, Paul had not written as an apostle, but a prisoner of Jesus Christ.) While the unity of the Church of God is a matter of vital importance, as all the epistles to the assemblies bear witness, yet the obedience of the individual is most vital to that unity: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Moreover, whatever the response of the assembly unitedly may be, the individual is fully responsible still: there is no reason for us individually to be wrongly affected because of wrongs collectively.
The epistle to Titus emphasizes that truth is "according to godliness": it is not mere cold, isolated statements of fact, but requires a consistent, godly walk. On the other hand, Timothy (called a "man of God") shows evidence of godly character and sensitive conscience; so that this epistle to him emphasizes the other side of things, that is, that godliness must be according to truth. Godliness itself is not enough, but must have the clear truth of God as its pure guide, not merely conscientious scruples or commandments of men. This too accounts for the fact that Paul writes simply as an apostle, while in Titus his servant character is added; for the apostle presses the authority of the truth, while the servant encourages godliness.
Thirteen years previous to this Timothy had joined Paul and Silas in the work (Acts 16:1), evidently at an early age, for even at this time his youth is referred to (ch. 4:12). His background had been one of good instruction in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) - the Old Testament, of course - his mother and grandmother being women of faith (2 Timothy 1:5). He was Paul's child in the faith (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 4:17), evidently converted at Paul's first visit to Lystra and lconium (Acts 14:1-28).
Both epistles to Timothy are authoritative, urgent, taking the form of a solemn charge, to which every believer should take heed. And yet in these the tenderness and love of the apostle's heart beautifully mingle with the seriousness of his message.
The reason for this first epistle is plainly recorded in chapter 3:15, that Timothy, the individual, might know how to behave himself in the house of God. A more normal state of the Church is contemplated here, before disorder had so largely affected it; for the second epistle presses the responsibility of the individual when disorder has caused such damage that the Church is no longer called the house of God, but "a great house" (ch. 2:20). Not that the present disorder does away with the responsibilities of the first epistle; but the second adds that which is necessary in the face of general departure. Let us take both deeply to heart, for present-day declension is the result of neglecting such vital truth.
the Fifth Week after Epiphany