Introduction to the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Why study this book?

In 1 Timothy we read that Paul counseled Timothy, a Church leader in Ephesus, to ensure that sound doctrine was taught and not to allow popular falsehoods to distract from the teachings of the gospel. He taught Timothy about the offices of bishop and deacon and discussed the qualifications for those who served in these positions. Paul also recounted his deep gratitude for the mercy he had received from Jesus Christ when he was converted. Studying 1 Timothy can help students increase their awareness of the importance of teaching sound doctrine in the Church. Students can also deepen their appreciation for the Savior’s mercy and for the important role of bishops and other Church leaders.

Who wrote this book?

Paul wrote 1 Timothy (see 1 Timothy 1:1).

When and where was it written?

Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy was likely written sometime between A.D. 64 and 65, possibly while Paul was in Macedonia (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Pauline Epistles,” scriptures.lds.org; 1 Timothy 1:3). Before writing this epistle, Paul had been released from his two-year imprisonment (house arrest) in Rome and was likely traveling widely, visiting regions where he had previously established branches of the Church (see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”).

To whom was it written and why?

Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, who had served with Paul during his second missionary journey (see Acts 16:3). Following their mission, Timothy continued to be a faithful missionary and Church leader (see Acts 19:22; Philippians 2:19) and one of Paul’s most trusted associates (see 1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul referred to Timothy as his “own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy’s father was a Greek Gentile, but he had a righteous Jewish mother and grandmother who had taught him and helped him learn the scriptures (see Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

At the time this epistle was written, Timothy was serving as a Church leader in Ephesus (see 1 Timothy 1:3). Paul hinted that some members doubted Timothy’s leadership abilities because he was young (see 1 Timothy 4:12). Paul intended to visit Timothy in person, but he was unsure whether he would be able to do so (see 1 Timothy 3:14; 4:13). Paul wrote his epistle to Timothy to help the young Church leader better understand his duties.

What are some distinctive features of this book?

Paul’s letters known as 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are often called pastoral Epistles because they contain Paul’s counsel to pastors or leaders in the Church (see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”). Pastor comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.”

Paul suggested guidelines to help Timothy identify worthy candidates to serve as bishops or deacons (see 1 Timothy 3). Paul’s guidelines helped highlight the responsibility of Church leaders to provide for members’ temporal and spiritual needs (see 1 Timothy 5). Paul also addressed the common false idea of asceticism—the belief that greater spirituality could be attained through strict self-denial. For example, Paul warned that some Church members would apostatize and promote the belief that marriage should be forbidden (see 1 Timothy 4:1–3). To counteract this and other heretical influences, Paul gave instructions to Timothy to teach sound doctrine (see 1 Timothy 1:3–4, 10; 4:1–6, 13, 16).

Outline

1 Timothy 1 Paul cautions against false teachings. He glories in the Lord Jesus Christ, who extended great mercy to save him. Paul refers to himself as the “chief” (1 Timothy 1:15), or worst, of sinners, alluding to his opposition of Christians before his conversion. Paul reassures others that Christ’s mercy will also help them.

1 Timothy 2–3 Paul teaches about the need for prayer and proper worship. He teaches that Jesus Christ is the ransom for all and is our Mediator with the Father. He instructs men and women how to conduct themselves during worship. He outlines the qualifications for bishops and deacons. He explains that the mystery of godliness is the condescension of Jesus Christ, His perfect life on earth, and His Ascension to glory.

1 Timothy 4 Paul warns Timothy that some people will be deceived by false teachings regarding marriage and dietary practices. He speaks about the importance of marriage and of receiving God’s creations with thankfulness. Paul teaches Timothy how to deal with the false teachings of his day and those that would soon come.

1 Timothy 5–6 Paul gives Timothy guidelines to help him minister to the needs of the elderly, young people, widows, elders, and slaves. Paul gives Timothy a description of false teachers. He warns that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10) and instructs Timothy regarding how Saints can obtain eternal life.