The book of First Timothy is both fascinating and practical. Paul is the author of the letter and he is writing to Timothy who served as the pastor of the church in Ephesus and Asia Minor. The content of the letter is addressed both to Timothy and to the congregation. For Timothy, the encouragement is to stay faithful and fight the good fight. For the congregation, the encouragement is to practice good behavior in the house of God.
The first two verses of chapter one serve as a simple greeting to the reader. Paul identifies himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ who has been given authority by God to address the issues considered in the letter. He writes to Timothy who is one that Paul has personally discipled.
Paul begins his instructions to Timothy with thoughts concerning false teachers who may creep into the church.
Warning against false teachers (1:3-11). In these verses, Paul gives a clear and direct warning concerning false teachers.
VERSE 3: Here Paul reminds Timothy of his purpose in giving him the responsibility as the pastor in Ephesus. Paul wanted to make sure that the doctrinal foundation that was laid remain intact. The doctrine of which Paul preached is the Gospel of Christ. It is imperative that the local church protect and preserve the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ encompasses the entirety of God’s Word. Therefore, systematically preaching through the scriptures is essential for the spiritual growth and health of the church.
VERSE 4: Paul warns Timothy to be careful to not fall prey to the whims and questions of the day. One of the greatest temptations that come upon the local church today is the desire to be relevant within the culture. Being relevant has its place, however, we must be careful that we do not compromise on the clear teaching of scripture. The churches that God is pleased with are those who do not follow the latest trends nor do they follow the traditions of men; instead, they simply lift up Jesus in all that they do and stay faithful in proclaiming ‘thus says the Lord.’
VERSE 5: In this verse, Paul points out that the motivation for ministry comes from a love for God and for people. Instead of stirring up questions and doubts in the minds of people, we should minister to them in love. This love comes from having a pure heart and a clean conscience. It is also based upon a sincere faith. It is one thing to have the right doctrine, it is another thing to practice right doctrine. Often times we have the tendency to preach doctrine with the wrong motive or practice. We must learn that love reigns supreme. No matter how much truth we know and preach, if we do not live a life of love for God and for people, then all that truth that we preach is just empty words.
VERSE 6-7: False teachers are those who are puffed up with pride. They desire to be recognized. They desire to look as if they are wise and knowledgeable. They speak in ways that others cannot understand in order to feed their own ego. Yet, they really have no understanding of the truth that they are attempting to preach. Pride, ego, and selfishness are all warning signs when evaluating others. When you see someone who is puffed up with pride and all about self-promotion and never willing to listen and never willing to step aside and let others serve, then look out, you may have a false teacher on your hands! The biggest dead give-away of a false teacher is selfishness and pride.
VERSE 8-11: As part of Paul’s warning concerning false teachers, he addressed the issue of the law. Apparently, there were false teachers in Paul’s day who were misrepresenting the law. They were teaching that one must follow all that is in the law in order to be saved and there were others, perhaps, that were teaching that the law has no value. Paul explains that the law does have value in showing our sinfulness and our need for a Savior. Therefore, proper understanding of law and grace is needed in the life of the church.
Paul’s experience of grace (1:12-17). Here we find Paul giving a testimony concerning what God has done in his life. This testimony serves as an example of what a true man of God is like and also shows Paul’s authority in writing to Timothy.
VERSE 12: Paul expresses thanksgiving to His Lord for allowing him to serve in the ministry. A true servant of God is one who is quick to give all the glory to God and to shy away from receiving glory for himself. He is one who recognizes that God is the one that enables him to serve. You and I can do nothing apart from Christ. He is the one who empowers us to do the work. Paul mentions his thankfulness for Jesus who saw his pure heart and his desire to serve and thus placed him in the ministry. Every single believer has a ministry. There is something that God has for all of us to do. He places us in different opportunities and situations and has fitted us for the specific work that He has called us to.
VERSE 13-17: Paul continues his testimony by speaking of where God brought him from and how he gloriously saved him. A lesson for us all is to not forget where we have come from. Never forget what God has done for you. When we begin to forget who we are, we will find ourselves feeling up with pride and falling down that slippery slope of becoming just like a false teacher.
Paul’s command to Timothy (1:18-20). In light of Paul’s warning concerning false teachers and his own testimony of grace, Paul now gives a command to Timothy.
VERSE 18: At an earlier time in Timothy’s life, there was a prophecy made concerning his call to the ministry. He was raised to become a man of God. Paul challenges Timothy to not forget what God has done in his life and to not forget his calling. Many men and women have failed because they forgot their God-given purpose and calling. Never forget who God has called you to be. Never forget what God has called you to do.
VERSE 19: Paul goes on to encourage Timothy to stand firm on His faith and to have a clean conscience. In other words, don’ forget what you have been taught and keep yourself clean from sin.
VERSE 20: There are those, whom Paul mentions that have turned away and have fallen. These have been put out of the church and given over to Satan in order that they may be restored. Paul uses this as an example to Timothy to be on guard against such people and to not allow them to have a foothold in the church. There are times when the church must excommunicate someone from their congregation who is causing problems and teaching false doctrines. The purpose of this is in hopes that they will repent and will be able to be restored into right fellowship with the church.
Satan is doing all he can today to destroy local churches. It is imperative that we guard ourselves against false teachers and we never forget who we are and what we believe.