By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: First Timothy
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Epistle of First Timothy in conjunction with this article.
The Epistle of First Timothy
The New Testament writings are filled with much information: from the Gospels telling us about Jesus, to the Epistles (Letters) to the churches not only encouraging the brethren but also addressing their spiritual problems. Yet, the New Testament also contains letters to individuals like Philemon, Timothy and Titus, and let us not neglect the beautiful yet marvelous Revelation of John. Together, all of these writings have valuable spiritual application, but with this article and the coming three months, we are going to spend some time examining what Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to do while they were serving at their respective churches.
Timothy was from an intermixed heritage, he was the son of a Jewish mother and a Greek father,1 which simply means his mother was a Hebrew and his father a Gentile. While it is stated that Timothy and his mother are believers and disciples of Jesus, nothing is stated about Timothy’s father and his belief or discipleship.2 We also know that Timothy received his faith – at least in part – from Eunice, his mother, and his grandmother, Lois.3 It is also important to note that Timothy was taught Scripture from his youth.4
Timothy is a fellow laborer5 with Saul (Sha’ul) also known as Paul.6 We also know that Paul utilized Timothy in many circumstances to encourage the early church. Paul had Timothy help the Corinthian church.7 Timothy helped the brethren at Philippi.8 He also helped the assembly of believers in Thesalonica.9 And interestingly, Timothy may have helped the brethren who received the Hebrews Epistle.10 When Paul sent this first epistle to Timothy, Timothy was asked by Paul to remain in Ephesus.11 This shows that Timothy is not just well traveled as an itinerant (traveling) evangelist, but also a stationary localized evangelist.
It is also interesting to note that Paul seems to include Timothy as a coauthor of several epistles. If coauthor does not sit well, perhaps the word cosponsor will work. Second Corinthians opens stating “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth”.12 This coauthor/cosponsor idea is also seen in Philippians, “Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi”.13 Consider the opening lines of Colossians, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, which are at Colosse”.14 This is also found in the Thessalonian epistles15 and the personal letter to Philemon.16 While we may not have thought of Timothy as a contributor of the thoughts that are contained in the above mentioned epistles, it seems evident based on Paul’s salutations that he not only considers Timothy very important in evangelism, but also considers Timothy a contributing factor to these six epistles, stating so in the epistles’ opening salutations.
As we continue, let us consider some tidbits mentioned in the NIV Archeological Study Bible. These provide additional points of interest which can enrich one’s reading of the Epistle of First Timothy. The study Bible states that the reader should “note the types of problems about which Paul alerted Timothy. Are there modern correlations? Identify Paul’s advice for dealing with leadership responsibilities and combating heresy.”17 So that one can increasingly appreciate the leadership responsibilities encourage by the inspired apostle Paul, consider the following information (provided by the Archeological Study Bible) regarding the epistle of First Timothy:18
- In Greek culture the word “overseer” was used of a presiding official in a civic or religious organization (3:1-7).
- In ancient Rome life expectancy was much lower than it is today. We may assume that there were more unmarried women than available men in the Ephesian congregation and that some of these women had become financially destitute (5:3-5).
- Paul gave instructions to Timothy about the care of widows by the church. The only widows included were those who were at least sixty years of age, had been married only once and had a reputation for good works (5:4).
The epistles of Paul to the evangelists, Timothy and Titus, contain critical leadership information that will be examined over the next several weeks. This month we will focus on Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, next month (July 2009) we will look at Second Timothy and following that we will look at Paul’s epistle to Titus. This writer entreats all to read the epistles as we study, consider the teachings therein about the role of leadership and its responsibility toward God, Jesus and the Church. While these three epistles are often called the Pastoral Epistles and such as teach the leaders their responsibility to the Church, the reader is asked to consider their response to leadership in light of what Paul tells the leadership to do. How will the reader respond? As with all teachings and instructions, reaction will be according to the reader’s humble servant attitude toward pleasing God. May Jehovah bless us as we study and seek to please him.
1. “Timothy had an intermixed heritage.” Acts 16.1, NASB.
2. “The belief and discipleship status of Timothy and his mother and father.” Acts 16.1, NASB.
3. “Timothy’s mother – Eunice; grandmother – Lois.” II Timothy 1.5, NASB.
4. “Timothy was taught Scripture during his youth.” II Timothy 3.15, NASB.
5. “Timothy a fellow laborer with Paul.” Romans 16.21, NASB.
6. “Saul called Paul.” Acts 13.9, NASB.
7. “Timothy helped Corinth.” I Corinthians 16.10, II Corinthians 1.19, NASB.
8. “Timothy helped Philippi.” Philippians 2.19, NASB.
9. “Timothy helped Thesalonica.” I Thessalonians 3.1-2, 6, NASB.
10. “Timothy may have helped the brethren who received the Hebrews Epistle.” Hebrews 13.23, NASB.
11. “Timothy helped Ephesus.” I Timothy 1.3, NASB.
12. “Timothy included as coauthor/cosponsor to Corinthians.” II Corinthians 1.1, NASB.
13. “Timothy included as coauthor/cosponsor to Philippians.” Philippians 1.1, NASB.
14. “Timothy included as coauthor/cosponsor to Colossians.” Colossians 1.1-2, NASB.
15. “Timothy included as coauthor/cosponsor to Thessalonians.” I Thessalonians 1.1,
II Thessalonians 1.1, NASB.
16. “Timothy included as coauthor/cosponsor to Philemon.” Philemon 1.1-2, NASB.
17. Introduction to First Timothy; “As You Read” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1954, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.
18. Introduction to First Timothy; “Did You Know?” Archaeological Study Bible, New International Version, p. 1955, ISBN-10: 0-310-92605-X.