Returning to chapter 1 of 1 Timothy, I’ll pick up where I left off. In the last post on the Pastorals, I analyzed the first eleven verses of the chapter, demonstrating that false teaching was the major problem at Ephesus, and that the nature of this teaching was “myths and endless genealogies.”
In verse 12, Paul gives his testimony. His testimony follows the logic of the letter, since he has just talked about the ignorance of the students in the church (v.7) in regards to the law. In verse 12 he said, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service.” Paul says here that the Lord examined him and found him to be “faithful,” that is, dedicated and committed. Notice that right after his comment about his faithfulness, he writes the following:
“though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy BECAUSE I HAD ACTED IGNORANTLY IN UNBELIEF…” (v. 13, ESV).
Paul admits that he himself was once IGNORANT of the truth, CONFIDENT of his own wrong, sure that by persecuting Christians he was doing God service. However, he makes the point that, despite his ignorance, God gave him mercy.
Paul calls himself “the foremost” of sinners in verse 15; in verse 16, Paul tells how God used Paul’s ignorance and God’s mercy:
“But I received mercy for this reason, THAT IN ME, AS THE FOREMOST [of sinners], JESUS CHRIST MIGHT DISPLAY HIS PERFECT PATIENCE AS AN EXAMPLE TO THOSE WHO WERE TO BELIEVE IN HIM FOR ETERNAL LIFE” (v. 16, ESV).
Paul states here that he serves as an example, a standard, for all those who, although ignorant, will come to faith in Christ. Because of Christ’s long-suffering nature and enduring patience, He will stick by those who initially are ignorant and unaware of their ignorance. This is a message of hope for the “ignorant” students at Ephesus: for all those who believe in Christ, He would help them grow in grace and knowledge of Himself.
In verse 17, Paul gives a benediction of praise to the Lord God Almighty, calling Him “The only God.”
In verse 18, Paul tells Timothy why he has said all that he has said here in chapter 1—“that by them[the prophecies made about him] YOU MAY WAGE THE GOOD WARFARE, HOLDING FAITH AND A GOOD CONSCIENCE.”
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is now placed alongside the current situation: “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (vv. 19b, 20). Some have deserted the faith, and some have been handed over, so that, should they hear the truth, they could someday return to the faith.
I can now summarize chapter one like this: chapter one paints the scene at Ephesus—false teachers are teaching false doctrine, the doctrine consists of myths and genealogies, and these false teachers have gained a following—much of it from the women in the church, who are ignorant of the truth. Paul encourages Timothy and the students by saying that, just as the Lord had patience with him in his ignorance, so would the Lord be patient with these women. May the Lord be patient with His children as we seek to understand the whole counsel of God.