The First Letter of St Paul to St Timothy


The three letters, two to St Timothy and one to St Titus, are called Pastoral Letters because they are addressed directly, not to the church as a group, but rather to its head or pastor for his guidance in the rule of the church. All three letters are closely connected in form and content. From the earliest times these letters have been recognised by the Western and Eastern Churches as being inspired.


St Timothy was from Lystra in Lycaonia, born of a Greek father and a Jewish mother. He was well educated in the scriptures and probably embraced the Christian faith during Paul’s first stay in Lystra. St Timothy became a missionary companion of St Paul. After Paul’s martyrdom St Timothy became Bishop of Ephesus where he was martyred during the winter of 97AD.


The trouble at Ephesus.


1.      There had been tremendous response to Paul’s teaching in and around Ephesus. Paul was quick to realize how vulnerable they were to wrong teaching.   Ten   years  later  his   fears  materialized.  Apocryphal  Jewish legends and family trees were being made the basis of strange teaching. The Christian message should result in faith and love and a clear conscience – not idle speculation. 1 Timothy 1:1-11.


Paul on His Own Calling.


2.      Paul had been a Christian for over 30 years. He had been on the road with the gospel message for 20. Yet he never forgot that he had once gone all out to destroy this sect. He never ceased to be amazed that God should have taken a man like him into his service. Paul’s directive is a good one: ‘hold to your faith; obey your Christian conscience.’ Paul names Hymenaeus and Alexander ‘as false teachers, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme!’ (‘Handed over to Satan’ means that they were excluded from the sanctuary of the church until they learnt not to blaspheme.) 1 Timothy 1:12-20.


Directions in Prayer.


3.      Prayer is of prime importance, and especially praying for those in authority. Christians should lead peaceable lives which allow them to concentrate on making the Good News known to everyone. 1 Timothy 2:1‑7.


Men and Women in the Church


4.      Men should pray without anger or argument. Women are to be conscious of their conduct but not clothes-mad, and must not lord it over the men. Men and women are equal in the sight of God, but their roles are not identical. Paul is not against women’s normal attire but Titus’ community must have had wealthier members who could afford pearls, golden jewellery etc. He is even handed, correcting abuses in worship, both by grumbling men and usurping and untrained women. 1 Timothy 2:8-10.


Women in the Assembly.


5.         Women in Pauline churches held responsible positions and are depicted as preaching (See 1 Corinthians 11:5). Paul’s words ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission’ was probably a specific instruction to Titus’ community to overcome the problem of the women domineering the men. Verse 15 ‘Yet women will be saved by childbearing’ is not purely chauvinistic sentiment, but to be read in the light of 1 Timothy 4:3-5 where women are being forbidden marriage. 1 Timothy 2:11-15.


Church Leaders.


6.      It was Paul’s practice to appoint several elders (episkpos, translated as ‘bishop’ in some versions, means, literally ‘overseer’) to take charge of each church. ‘Overseeing’ what went on was one of the functions of the elder’s role. These in turn were assisted by ‘helpers’ (deacons). Paul’s list of qualifications for these leaders makes sound sense. They must be men who can control themselves and their families, who have proved to be stable Christians, and who have the respect of the outside world. Timothy was not a naturally forceful character. To have Paul’s written authority was the next best thing to having the apostle with him. 1Timothy 3:1-16.


False Teachers – and True.


7.      The ultimate source of false teaching is Satan, the enemy, himself. It is promoted by those who are dead to conscience. They ban marriage and lay down rigid rules about diet – things God has designed for our good. They claim that their thinking is super-Christian. In fact it is sub-Christian. Timothy, as a true teacher, has to make this clear. And this does not stop at words. His whole life must bear out what he teaches others. So he has to let the truth mould his own life; he has to keep spiritually fit. He has always to watch himself, and watch his teaching. Those who are older will not recognise his authority because he is young. Christian character commands authority at any age. 1 Timothy 4:1-16.


How to Deal with People in the Church.


8.         Paul’s advice is sound. Treat other people as if they were your own family.      1 Timothy 5:1-2.


Looking After Widows


9.        Widows who have no means of support deserve special consideration. Their lot was unenviable. There was a grain dole in Rome and some other places, but no other ‘state welfare’ in Paul’s day. The church was quick to realise and accept its responsibility to help. It soon had a sizeable problem, and not all of the cases were equally deserving. Paul’s rule is that the church should reserve its help for those who are really destitute. It should take onto its books only older widows of good Christian character, and committed to Christian work. The younger ones should remarry, and wherever possible widows should be cared for by their own relatives. In the city where the goddess Diana was served by a host of prostitutes, the reputation of those who serve Christ must be beyond reproach. 1 Timothy 5:3-16.


Elders to be Carefully Chosen.


10.    Elders must be carefully chosen, treated with respect, and paid for their work. They are especially open to false charges against them. Timothy must take care to deal fairly in such cases. Verse 23 is intended for Timothy who needs to take care of himself. As Christians, slaves are free people – but they are not to drag Christ’s name in the mud by turning on their masters.1 Timothy 5:17-25. & 6:1-2.


False Teachings and Disputes.


11.    The subject of false teaching comes up yet again. Verses 3-5 give us a none too happy picture of what Timothy had to contend with in his church: questions, arguments and endless disputes. The superior ‘knowledge’ claimed   by   these  people   soon  grew   into   the   full-scale   heresy  of ‘Gnosticism,’ whose initiates felt free to discard some of the cardinal Christian truths, including the fact that Jesus was truly human.

         1 Timothy 6:3-16.


The Possible Problems of Wealth.


12.    Some see religion as a road to riches – though not in money. Money is not wrong in itself, but the craving for money leads to all kind of evil. ‘Rich Christians’ must count their wealth in terms of generous sharing, and good done to others. 1 Timothy 6:17-19.


Timothy to Steer Clear of Money.


13.       As someone ‘dedicated to God’, Timothy will steer clear of pitfalls of money. Faith, love, perseverance and gentleness are his goals in the ‘good fight of faith’. One day Jesus will return in glory: life is to be lived in the light of that fact. 1 Timothy 6:20-21.


The Second Letter of St Paul to St Timothy


This is Paul’s most moving letter. After a lifetime of service and suffering for Christ he is in prison again, death is imminent. He is alone except for Luke, and longs to see Timothy again. Yet there is no hint of self-pity: no regrets. His last word is one of encouragement. He can face death without fear and without doubt. The race is over – ahead is his reward.


Paul thanks God.


1.      Deep thankfulness fills Paul’s heart as he thinks of Timothy. He longs for this man of many fears, as well as real faith, to share his own confidence. He urges Timothy to hold to the truth he has taught him, and not be ashamed of the gospel or of Paul. The secret of Paul’s confidence is knowing Christ. God’s grace is sufficient; he will give the needed strength to endure in the face of opposition and suffering. 2 Timothy 1:1-18.


Paul’s Charge to Timothy.


2.      No one knew better than Paul what it costs to be a Christian. ‘From the soldier Timothy must learn endurance, from the athlete discipline and from the farmer perseverance.’ The theme of Paul’s gospel is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead: it is for this he has suffered. He offers Timothy a lifeline to hold onto, in what is probably an early Christian hymn:


                                                If we died with him,

                                                    we will also live with him;

                                                if we endure,

                                                    we will also reign with him.

                                                If we disown him,

                                                    he will also disown us;

                                                If we are faithless,

                                                    he will remain faithful,

                                                    he cannot disown himself.


Timothy must stick to the true gospel, not be side-tracked into empty chatter, wild speculation or fruitless, divisive argument. The true servant of Christ is kind, not quarrelsome, a good teacher, tolerant, and gentle with those who need discipline. 2 Timothy 2:1-26.


Troubled Times Ahead.


3.      Paul describes in detail the character of the final age of turmoil. We can see something of it in our own time, indeed in every age. He warns that, as the time for Christ’s return draws near, evil will intensify – even within the Church. Those who are true to Christ will endure persecution. For his part, Timothy must stand firm in the truths taught him from the scriptures. In them lies wisdom and the way to salvation in Christ. They are ‘God-breathed’ (inspired): the breath of life of all who seek to walk God’s ways. 2 Timothy 3:1-17.


A Final Charge


4.      Death is close for Paul. He can face it without fear; he has run the course and kept the faith. The Olympic victor’s wreath, the sovereign’s award for faithful service is in prospect, not just for him but for all who have loved the Lord and long for his return. He has a last charge for Timothy: ‘go on declaring God’s message, press it home in season, out of season, come what may.’ The time will come when people prefer to follow their own whims, choosing fable and legend in preference to truth. 2 Timothy 4:1-8.




5       Personal news is left until last. Paul’s fellow missionaries – Titus, Tychicus,Tromphimus – are all away. One is ill, and one (Demas) has defected. At the first stage of his trial Paul, like Jesus, stood alone. Nearly all his friends deserted him, and his enemies were not slow to make capital of it. Now winter is coming and he wants his books, papers, and his thick cloak. He has only Luke’s presence, and the faithful Christians in Rome, to warm his heart – and the hope that Timothy and Mark will reach him in time. 2 Timothy 4:9-22.