New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


1:1 Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus- Paul begins by saying he has been called to be a sent out one, and then a few verses later backs it up by repeating that he was appointed to be an apostle (1:11). The same pattern is to be seen in 1 Timothy; the opening verse speaks likewise of how he is an apostle (1 Tim. 1:1), and then 1 Tim. 2:7 says he was indeed appointed as an apostle. Perhaps Timothy was beginning to doubt Paul's credentials, and this was a factor in Timothy's lack of full devotion to his ministry? Or perhaps Paul is urging Timothy to follow his own example of commitment to the calling he had received. For the letters to Timothy suggest that Timothy needed to be stirred up to continue responding to the calling received.

Through the will of God- Paul often begins his letters by saying this. But "the will of God" should not be understood by us as it is by Islam, where the will of God is understood as fulfilling anyway in a deterministic sense. The word carries the idea of the intention, the wish or pleasure of God. Paul could have turned down the call to be an apostle. He was not forced into obedience by an omnipotent Divine manipulator. All things were created for God's "pleasure" or will [s.w. Rev. 4:11], but clearly enough "all things" do not all perform God's wish. We pray for the Kingdom age when God's will shall be done on earth- for it is now generally not done. We are best therefore to understood the idea of God's wish, His desire, which of course He labours to see fulfilled. But He does not force or impose; He too deeply respects the freewill of His creatures. The art of Christian life is to willingly align ourselves with His will.

According to the promise of the life which is in Christ Jesus- The promise of life is referred to in 1 Tim. 4:8 as concerning both life in Christ now, and the eternal form of that same life which is yet to come. Likewise in John's writings, eternal life is the promise we have (1 Jn. 2:25), and also our present experience. We have the eternal life in that we through the spirit of Christ can live now the kind of life which we shall eternally live.

1:2 To Timothy, my beloved child. Grace, mercy, peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord- Although Paul had not converted nor baptized Timothy, he had played a huge formative part in his spiritual life, to the extent he could address him as his child in the faith. This is the significance of the relationships we an build up now through our spiritual interaction with and efforts for each other. Paul's increasing perception of sinfulness is shown by the way in which in his earlier letters he uses the greeting "Grace and peace"; but in Timothy and Titus, his last letters: "Grace, mercy, and peace...”. He saw the overriding, crucial importance of God's grace and mercy, and he wished this on all his brethren.

1:3- see on Rom. 8:16; 1 Jn. 3:18.

I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, how unceasing is my remembrance of you in my prayers, night and day- How could Paul "thank God" that he remembered Timothy in prayer? "Thank" here translates charis, the usual word for gift or grace. Paul expresses his thanks in this way because he wishes to acknowledge that his feelings for Timothy are maintained by God's grace, the gift of the Spirit within. Perhaps Paul is here alluding to Anna as his model for continual thanksgiving (Lk. 2:37 = 1 Tim. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:3). The language of constant prayer cannot mean that we are literally on our knees 24/7. It refers rather to how our spirit and His are united. It speaks of an incredible personal bonding in prayer between the Creator and each, specific one of His creatures. Only through our will, our essential person and spirit, becoming united with God’s can it be possible to live a life of prayer, whereby we are praying without ceasing, constantly, every moment (Rom. 1:9; 12:12; 1 Thess. 1:2; 5:17; 2 Thess. 1:11; 2:13; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:3). Our life, our person, our spirit, our being, is read as a prayer to God.

Paul claims that the Jewish forefathers served God with a pure conscience (2 Tim. 1:3 NIV). Yet the Jewish fathers, dear Jacob particularly, must have had plenty of twinges of guilt over their years. Indeed, all the Jewish fathers had a bad 'conscience' because of their sins (Heb. 9:9; 10:2). Surely Paul must mean that they had such a firm faith in forgiveness that in God's eyes they had a pure conscience.  

1:4 Longing to see you, remembering your tears, wanting to be filled with joy for you- The tear stained cheeks of Timothy were such a haunting memory for Paul because he perceived Timothy's weakness and his heart bled for his protégé. Timothy had not attained the Christian joy which Paul knew was potentially possible for him; and he so wished the spiritual growth of Timothy in this respect. We too should long for the spiritual maturity of others; to not feel that way is to be spiritually selfish. Being "filled with joy" is an expression used specifically about the filling of a believer with joy as a result of the indwelling of the Spirit (Jn. 15:11; 16:24; Acts 13:52; Rom. 15:13). Paul wished for Timothy to open himself up more to the work of the Spirit, and this would lead to Paul feeling that fullness of joy in Timothy within himself. As explained more fully on 1 Cor. 5:4, the Spirit in Paul found connection with the Spirit in other believers, thereby creating "the fellowship of the Spirit". In this way, the joy of Timothy would be Paul's joy, just as the joy of Titus was his joy (see on 2 Cor. 7:13).

1:5 I am often reminded of the sincere faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice; and I am persuaded dwells in you also- Faith can become just vague hope for something better, rather than a "confident assurance", a seeing of the unseen. Paul's reference to "unfeigned faith" (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5 AV) as the goal of personal and ecclesial life would suggest that he realized the temptation to have a fake, feigned faith. See on Jn. 8:30. The faith "in [within] you" connects with the gift "in you" (:6).

1:6 Because of this I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands- Because Paul knew that Timothy had faith (:5), he encouraged him to use the gift of the Spirit within him to greater potential. That same gift had been given to the Corinthians, as they are often reminded, but they were still "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1). Likewise Timothy is being urged to use to the full the potential created by the Spirit gift within him. That gift or charisma was "in you", within Timothy, and refers to the same Spirit gift in the heart which is given to all believers. Yet that gift could be given multiple times; not just at baptism, but also through the laying on of hands of believers like Paul.

1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fearfulness, but of power and love and a disciplined mind- The "us" suggests this is a general reference to the gift of the Spirit to all believers, and doesn't reference any specific gift given only to Timothy. Likewise :14 speaks of the gift of the Spirit "which dwells in us". The reference is to an internal gift, within us, and not to miraculous gifts. See notes to this effect on :4,5 and 6. The same words for 'giving' and 'Spirit' are found in describing the gift of the Spirit given at baptism (Acts 5:32; 8:18). They are likewise found in Rom. 5:5, which speaks of God's love being "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us". The domain of operation of this Spirit gift is clearly within the human heart or mind. Likewise the same words for gift and Spirit are found in 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5: "Who has sealed us and given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts". This gift can be given at points after baptism- hence Paul prayed for the baptized Ephesians that God would "Give you... to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). The gift of the Spirit (1 Thess. 4:8) results in our internal awareness, within us, that the Father and Son are abiding with us and we in them (1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13).

"Because you are sons (already born again through response to the Gospel), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:6). We become sons of God by birth of the Spirit as promised in the word of the Gospel (1 Pet. 1:23; James 1:18), and therefore God sends this Spirit of Sonship into our hearts. Notice that the prerogative in this is with God, not us. Likewise Paul prayed that God "may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation and knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened" (Eph. 1:17,18). The gift of the Spirit didn't mean that Timothy would not be fearful, or be loving and disciplined. But he, as all of us, had been given that Spirit. It is for us to allow the path of the Spirit in transforming our spirit; and Timothy's fearfulness and lack of mental power meant that he had not let the Spirit act as he could have done. Likewise the Corinthians were given these Spirit gifts but remained "not spiritual" (1 Cor. 3:1); they failed to allow the Spirit gift to work within them.

1:8- see on Rom. 1:16.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but suffer hardship for the gospel according to the power of God- The possession of the Spirit within us is an earnest or guarantee of the Lord's abiding with us and of our future salvation. Therefore Timothy was to be unashamed of testifying for the Lord Jesus and suffering because of it. According to the power / spirit of God, the gift within, Timothy was to not be ashamed but "suffer hardship". His weak nature seems to have found "hardship" hard to endure, for the word is used repeatedly (2:3,9; 4:5). Clearly the Lord chooses those who are least humanly qualified for the job required; but the example of Timothy is that he was strengthened through the Spirit to achieve what was so hard for him. His sense of 'shame' was surely before the church- for he was called to take in hand a belligerent and forceful opposition in the Ephesian church. So being ashamed of Christ's words doesn't just apply to not speaking up for the Truth when someone invites us to a topless bar after work. It's equally true, and the punishment for it just the same, in the context of not speaking out Christ's word in the ecclesia, to our very own brethren (Mk. 8:38 = 2 Tim. 1:8).

Paul was clearly frustrated by imprisonment, and laments his bonds and limitations. But he saw himself as the Lord's prisoner; even the most oppressive of circumstances are under His control and can be endured 'as unto Him'.

1:9- see on Eph. 2:6.

Who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal- The allusion is to the salvation of Israel out of Egypt- although they were still able to fall from that 'saved' position. Natural Israel was called out of Egypt by their Red Sea baptism to be “a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). After our baptism, the members of spiritual Israel likewise receive “a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). After baptism we “become slaves of... holiness” (Rom. 6:19,22 and context). Our calling is according to God's purpose- the same words and argument as used in Rom. 8:28; 9:11. Paul there cites the whole concept of calling as the great example of grace. The fact God's "purpose" means some are called and some aren't is a parade of grace (Rom. 9:11). Instead of getting caught up on the imponderables about those who are not called, the fact we have been called and are in God's purpose should be read as His grace being poured out upon us. We know we are called because without doubt we have heard the call to the Kingdom. But this calling was in fact given to us in Christ from infinity- "before times eternal". This is mind-blowing- that God's plan to save us was given for us not just at the creation of the world, but from some infinite point before time existed. To say 'from the beginning' would be to miss the wonder of it. 

1:10 But has now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel- The plan to save us which was made from infinity 'back' (see on :9) was actualized by the death of the Lord Jesus. What had been for so long in God's mind for us has now been revealed to us. It would be tragic indeed to shrug it all off as unimportant or exaggerated in wonder. There is no immortality for any of us apart from "through the Gospel"; it was the Lord Jesus who brought our immortality to the light of real possibility. This not only means that there is no immortal soul; our immortality, on a personal level, is the context of :9. And this plan from infinite time (:9) had as it were been in the dark, but in Christ, it was brought out into the light of day. The "appearing of our Saviour" refers both to His appearing to abolish death on the cross, and also to His appearance in glory at the last day, when in reality death shall be abolished. This is the "that day" referenced in :12.

Paul says that Jesus has "abolished death" in that death as the world has to face it, final and total death, does not happen to us in Christ. This is why those who truly follow the Lord will never taste of death (Jn. 8:51,52); everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die (Jn. 11:26). It really is but a sleep. I know the hard reality of the loss still hurts, still registers. But in the end, because He abolished death in Himself, so has He done already for all those in Him.

1:11 Of which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher- The wonder of extending the grace of God's calling to others is compelling. All who hear are surely called, and despite the masses of those not called [and all our curious questions about them], the wonder is that all those called had a wonderful eternity planned for them from before infinity (see on :9). These reflections are a great motivation to preach and teach these things to others.

1:12 For which cause I suffer also these things. Yet I am not ashamed- Paul is asking Timothy to copy his example of suffering hardship  and not being ashamed. The wonder of being saved, and knowing that all our witness work is extending the calling to others and bringing them to the real possibility of eternal life and glory to God... all this empowers us to suffer and not be ashamed for the sake of the Gospel.

For I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard what I have committed to him against that day- As we along with Paul have committed our "all things" to Him, so He commits the "all things" of the Gospel to us (2 Tim. 1:12 cp. 14; 1 Tim. 6:20). There is a mutuality here between us. But some manuscripts offer an alternative, to the effect that He is able to guard what He has committed unto me. The gift of the Spirit, through which God's power / ability ["is able"] operates, will enable us to hold on to the ministry we have received from Him. And Timothy is then urged in :14 to use the power of the Spirit to maintain the ministry which he had received.

"I know Him" clearly speaks of relationship, rather than mere theological awareness, no matter how pure. It is the knowledge of Jesus, the mutual relationship with Him, knowing His presence in the Spirit, which makes us not ashamed. "That day" is the appearing of the Lord Jesus at His return, when death shall be abolished (see on :10). Paul's persuasion that he would be 'guarded' until that last day is another way of saying that he knew that he really now had the Spirit as an earnest / guarantee of future salvation. For His 'ability', dunatos ("able"), is through the dunamis of the Spirit which we have been given.

1:13 Hold the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus- The "pattern of sound words" could refer to some defined body of teaching which Paul had passed on to Timothy. The problem with any such 'statement of teaching / faith' is that it tends to be held in anything other than love or faith. As soon as definitions and boundaries are potentially established, there arise disputes, lack of love and an associated loss of faith. Hence the urge to hold this form of sound teaching in faith and love.

1:14 That good thing which was committed to you guard through the Holy Spirit which dwells in us- See on :7. The "good thing" may refer to the prophecies committed upon Timothy to "war a good warfare" (1 Tim. 1:18). The reference may be simply to his calling to the ministry at Ephesus. Just as Paul had been given a ministry which the Spirit empowered him to fulfil (see on :12). The only other time we read of the Spirit dwelling in us with tis Greek phrase is in Rom. 8:11 "His Spirit that dwells in you". As here, the Spirit is operative within the human mind and person. No reference to the miraculous gifts, but to the internal gift of the Spirit which is promised to all believers for all time. The Spirit likewise distributes to each believer a ministry, a role or part within the body of Christ; and the same Spirit empowers us to maintain it.

1:15 This you know, that all that are in Asia turned away from me. Of whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes- Paul lamented on his deathbed that all the believers in Asia had turned away (2 Tim. 1:15; Gk. apostrupho, to apostasize). But at roughly the same time, the Lord Jesus wrote to seven ecclesias in Asia, commending some of their members for holding on to the Truth. Paul was a man of great love, who really tried to see the best in his brethren, having been touched by the grace of God. He even would have given up his eternal life, so that the Jews would be saved (Rom. 9:3 cp. Ex. 32:32). But even Paul, in the time of his greatest spiritual maturity, thought that all the Asian Christians were apostate; when in the Lord's eyes, this wasn't the case. As noted on Galatians 1, it would seem that Paul over personalized issues; their turning away from him he took as a turning away from the Lord, when the letters of Rev. 2 and 3 show this was not the case. We too can take the lesson, that personal fall out with ourselves doesn't mean that a believer is no longer with the Lord. The names Phygelus ["fugitive"] and Hermogenes ["born of Hermes"] may be code words, nick names created so as not to allow the naming of specific individuals for reasons of security. Perhaps Phygelus was seen as a fugitive slave on the run from the Lord Jesus; and Hermogenes had returned to the worship of Hermes.

1:16- see on Mt. 5:7.

The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chain- The family [or house church?] of one faithful individual were blessed for his singular kindness and grace shown to Paul. Blessing [and the reverse] often comes upon third parties as a result of the spiritual position of another. Thus the paralyzed man was forgiven his sins for the sake of the faith of his friends (Mk. 2:5). Association with prisoners has never been an easy thing to do, and Onesiphorus was unashamed of association with Paul. The implication could be that the Rome ecclesia generally were ashamed of such association. This brother's example was cited as an encouragement to Timothy whose sensitive, timid spirit was concerned at being ashamed for the Gospel and of Paul personally (:8).

2 Tim. 1:16 records Paul praying that the Lord would give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; yet the same phrase is used in :18 about receiving mercy at judgment day. Here it seems that the whole household of Onesiphorus is to be granted mercy, at that day, because of his faithfulness. Does this imply that some will be in the Kingdom only due to the efforts of a third party?

1:17 But, when he was in Rome, he diligently searched for me and found me- This diligent searching and finding surely takes us to the Lord as the good shepherd doing just the same for the lost sheep. Perhaps Paul means to imply that he was spiritually weak and needed the refreshment and 'finding' due to the efforts of this brother.

1:18 (The Lord grant to him that he find the mercy of the Lord in that day); and in how many things he gave service to me at Ephesus, you know very well- Paul obviously thought that his prayers and wishes for Onesiphorus could affect the outcome of the judgment seat "in that day" for him. If we really can affect the eternal destiny of each other, and Paul's letters, prayers and example show that we surely can- then we should like Paul be constantly in prayer and concern for each others' path towards the Kingdom.