1 Timothy 1
The law is for sinners, not saints
Hello, son1From: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, personally appointed by God our Savior and Christ Jesus, our source of hope.
2Timothy, my true son in spirit. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our leader show you their great kindness and mercy. And may they give you peace.
Put a stop to warped teachings3I’d like you to keep doing what I told you when I left Ephesus for Macedonia. It’s this: stay in Ephesus, and keep telling those certain folks who are spreading warped teachings to stop it.
4Tell them to stop obsessing over those countless legends and myths they love to talk about. And tell them to stop spending so much time studying their family trees. Myths and genealogies generate nothing but speculation. They don’t do a thing to help people express their faith in God. 5I’m giving you this order because I want the folks to zero in on love. That’s our focus—love that comes from a good heart, a clear conscience, and authentic faith. 6Some folks haven’t even come close to doing that. They got distracted by senseless yapping, and then they wandered off, following the yapping wherever it led. 7Now, they want to teach the Law, as though they know what they’re talking about. They don’t. That doesn’t stop them. Yet they talk like they know the Law. Lots of authority in their voice. Nothing but ignorance in their words.
8I’ll grant you this: the Law is good when people use it the way they’re supposed to.
9But the Law isn’t meant for good people devoted to God. It’s meant for everyone else: lawbreakers, rebels, anti-religious sinners, irreverent and sacrilegious folks, wife-beaters, father-beaters, murderers, 10sex sinners, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars in life, liars in court. The list goes on and on. It covers everything that’s opposite of the spiritually healthy teachings 11that God trusted me to deliver. These teachings are the Good News of our wonderful and glorious God.
I’m an example of how Jesus treats a sinner12I sure am grateful to Jesus, our Messiah and leader, who gives me strength from day to day. Think of it. He trusted me to do this work for him. That’s why he gave me this assignment. 13He gave me this job when I was despicable. I constantly badmouthed him and I persecuted his followers. Yet he showed me mercy because I didn’t know any better. I didn’t believe his story. 14Jesus the Messiah, our leader, poured kindness over me like water from a bucket. That’s why I’m soaked in faith and love.
15Trust me when I tell you this, because what I’m going to tell you is worth trusting. Jesus the Messiah came into the world to save sinful people. And I’m the biggest sinner of all. 16That’s why Jesus showed me mercy. He wanted everyone to see how patient he is toward even the worst sinner so that people will believe his story and trust in him for eternal life. 17Every honor and all the glory we could ever imagine belong to the one and only God, the king of kings—immortal and invisible. And that’s the truth.
Ahead, Timothy’s to-do list18I’ve got orders for you, Timothy, my child. You’ll recognize them. That’s because they come from earlier prophecies made about you. These prophecies were intended to help you fight the good fight in the spiritual battles ahead, 19hanging onto your faith and living a good life with a clear conscience. Some people have done the opposite. They shipwrecked their faith and trashed their conscience. 20Hymenaeus and Alexander did that to themselves. I’ve given up on them and released them to Satan. Maybe the punishment they’re about to get will convince them not to badmouth God.
Apostle means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples hand-picked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus and to Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while Paul was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
More literally, “Christ Jesus our Lord.” This works today like a divine title. But in the early days of the church, “lord” referred to a boss, a master, or a person of high status or respect. “Christ” was the Greek version of “Messiah,” which in Hebrew meant “Anointed One,” as in a king anointed under God’s authority. A literal translation today might be, “Messiah Jesus our leader.” But early on, Christians started using “Christ” as more than the Greek word for “Messiah.” They used it as part of Jesus’ name. Paul may be doing that here.
“Great kindness” is often translated as “grace,” from the Greek word charis. The Greek word also means “life.”
Ephesus was a busy port city on the west coast of what is now Turkey. In Paul’s day, it was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. Paul, on his third mission trip, spent three years there getting the church started. Before he left, he asked Timothy to stay there and lead the church as a pastor.
Macedonia was a Roman territory in what is now northern Greece.
The myths, some Bible experts speculate, may have been legendary tales about Jewish heroes and family members in Old Testament times. These tall tales may have been a bit like the American legend about three-year-old Davy Crockett killing a bear that was not named Teddy.
Tradition and genealogies were important to observant Jews. In some cases, the family tree determined what a Jew could or couldn’t do. Three families of Jewish priests, about 500 years before Paul, returned from exile in what is now Iraq. But because they couldn’t prove they were priests by tracing their genealogy back to the tribe of Levi, they were disqualified (Ezra 2:61-62). A group of 652 other returning exiles couldn’t even prove they were Jews (Ezra 2:59).
Paul doesn’t say what “Law” he’s talking about. But many Bible experts say that the context that follows, in verses 8-11, suggests he’s talking about the laws Moses gave the Jews. These are the Old Testament laws, summarized in the Book of Deuteronomy, that distinguished the Jews as a race of people uniquely devoted to God.
The Greek word is charis, often translated as “grace.”
Hymenaeus and Alexander were possibly leaders in a heretical teaching. Paul essentially excommunicates them. He later accused Hymenaeus of causing people to leave the church by teaching that the resurrection of the dead had already come and gone (2 Timothy 2:17-18).
Paul assigned Timothy to stay behind in Ephesus to help fight off warped teachings: “obsessing over those countless legends and myths…family trees” (1:4). Bible experts are left guessing what Paul was talking about. Read the footnotes about this. Is there anything about this info that rings true or perhaps sounds a little shaky?
Paul said something strange: “The Law isn’t meant for good people devoted to God. It’s meant for everyone else: lawbreakers, rebels, anti-religious sinners…” (1:9). Jews considered the Law sacred. It was a collection of hundreds of rules that guided the people in their worship, daily living, and even in how to handle criminal cases. Why do you think Paul would say something like that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul was an intolerant Jewish traditionalist and an antichrist who hunted down Christians and arrested them. It took a vision of Jesus to convince him that he was fighting on the wrong side (see Acts 9). He said that when Jesus called him to become an apostle, “I was despicable….the biggest sinner of all” (1:13, 15). Who have you seen make a remarkable change in their life after making the decision to follow the teachings of Jesus?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight in the spiritual battles ahead, hanging onto your faith and living a good life with a clear conscience. Some people have done the opposite. They shipwrecked their faith and trashed their conscience” (1:18-19). What causes people today to shipwreck like that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said he gave up on two former Christians, “Hymenaeus and Alexander” (1:20). Paul said he “released them to Satan.” That doesn’t sound especially Christian. It sounds mean-spirited. How do you think Paul might justify saying what he did?