At a Glance
Author: The apostle Paul
Audience: Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son in the faith
Date: AD 62–63
Type of Literature: A letter
Major Themes: False teachers, false doctrine, church leadership, and God’s household
Letter Opening — 1:1–2
Ordering and Organizing the Church, Part 1 — 1:3–3:16
Ordering and Organizing the Church, Part 2 — 4:1–6:19
Letter Closing — 6:20–21
About 1 Timothy
First and 2 Timothy have been recognized as “Pastoral Epistles”—letters written by Paul for pastors and leaders to help them bring order and ordain elders (pastors) for the churches he planted. In fact, Timothy was an apostolic apprentice to Paul, mentored by a spiritual father who poured into his life, even after being sent out to establish churches and bring them to maturity. Timothy was the extension of Paul’s apostolic ministry. Perhaps we should view these two letters more as “Apostolic Epistles” instead of Pastoral Epistles.
One reason we know that Timothy’s ministry was unlike the pastoral ministry of today is that Timothy was an itinerant apostle who planted and brought healing and truth to the churches in which he ministered. Some of the locations he ministered in would include Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2–6), Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10; 2 Cor. 1:19), Philippi (Phil. 2:19–23), Berea (Acts 17:14), and Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:2). His ministry eventually brought him imprisonment, much like his apostolic mentor, Paul (Heb. 13:23).
Timothy’s name means “honored by God.” He was from the city of Lystra, the place where Paul was stoned to death and then raised from the dead (see Acts 14:19–20). It may have been that Timothy witnessed what happened to Paul and was converted through what he saw. Paul recruited young Timothy and raised him up to take the message of the gospel to the nations. He soon began to travel with Paul in his missionary journeys and was eventually trusted with great responsibilities to teach and instruct the church.
Timothy was the son of a mixed marriage with a Greek father and a Jewish mother, whose name was Eunice (“joyous victory”). His mother was a convert to Christ and was distinguished by her faith. Timothy was likely in his thirties when Paul wrote him this challenging letter.
Timothy’s ministry was in more than one location, for he was told to do the “work of an evangelist” in planting churches and winning souls to Christ. He was Paul’s faithful representative to the churches of Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:2), Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17), Philippi (Phil. 2:19), and Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3)—yet it was in Ephesus where Paul left him to keep watering the seeds that had been planted to help the church there mature.
Paul instructs Timothy about the administration of the church and encourages him to hold up a high standard for those who lead. The qualifications for church leadership are spelled out in 1 Timothy (and Titus). And we are given clear instructions about caring for widows and for supporting the leaders of the church financially. Generally speaking, 1 Timothy could be seen as a manual for church planting. The key verse is found in 3:15: “But if I’m delayed in coming, you’ll already have these instructions on how to conduct the affairs of the church of the living God, his very household, the supporting pillar and firm foundation of the truth.”
What heavenly principles are revealed in this letter!
The clear purpose of 1 Timothy is to reveal and emphasize the glorious truths of God. False teachers had begun to infiltrate the church of Ephesus, and Timothy was given the mission of preserving the truth and cleansing the church of error. Good relationships and spiritual growth can only come when the church grows in maturity and knows the difference between truth and error. There are wonderful revelations waiting for us in 1 Timothy that will focus our hearts on Christ, his glory, and his resurrection.
Author and Audience
What beautiful words Paul shares with his spiritual son, Timothy! We are about to overhear the intimate words of encouragement and inspiration that a first-century apostle shared with his protégé. If we have any example at all of mentoring in the Bible, it is seen here in the relationship Paul had with Timothy. Written about AD 62–63, Paul imparts to Timothy the wisdom and revelation that is required to plant churches and lead an entire region into spiritual breakthrough.
False Teachers and Doctrine. Every generation has seen its fair share of false teaching; ours is no different, and neither was Timothy’s. Paul commands him to confront false teachers and oppose unorthodox doctrines that “emphasize nothing more than the empty words of men” (1:6). He exhorts him to maintain his personal faith and warns against falling away, like others.
Qualifications for Church Leaders. In this letter to his ministry coworker, Paul has provided the church throughout the ages a helpful list of qualifications for two offices: overseers/elders and deacons. Both church officers are called to a similar standard of high moral and personal conduct, which includes integrity, peace, temperateness, generosity, and a well-managed household.
The Household of God. Throughout this letter from heaven, Paul explains what it means to live in the household of God. He outlines the proper treatment for widows, and he lays out the expectations for slaves, which can apply to workers too. He even says how the church should disciple its own. Paul gives Timothy the task of teaching Christ’s vision for how his household should exist in the world.