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Introduction to the First and Second Books of Timothy                            


I. Writer


         Paul the apostle (1Tim. 1:1; 2Tim. 1:1). According to the records of the Bible, Paul was formerly called Saul (Acts. 13:9), an Israelite, of tribe of Benjamin (Rom. 11:1), a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3:5) considering parentage. Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, at the feet of the famous teacher Gamaliel, educated according to exactness of the Jewish law (Acts. 22:3). Afterwards, he became to live a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of the Judaism (Acts. 26:5) and was zealous for God and persecuted the assembly (Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:6). However, he did it ignorantly, in unbelief (1Tim. 1:13). One day, when he intended to go to Damascus to seize Christians, the Lord Jesus manifested to Him on his way (Acts. 9:1-5). He became a Christian henceforth and was called to be an apostle (Rom. 1:1). The apostleship of Paul was mainly towards the Gentiles (Gal. 2:8). He went out to preach for tree times east to Jerusalem and west to Rome and his tracks were found in all satrapies of the Roman Empire. He established many churches and made the groundwork for the preaching of the gospel of Christianity all over the world today. He wrote altogether thirteen epistles in the New Testament, thus becoming the main exegete of the truth of Christianity.


II. Reasons and Dialectics for Querying Paul’s not Being

the Writer of this Book


         In recent years, some Bible scholars, according to the following several arguments, queried the reliability of Paul’s being the writer of the first and second books of Timothy and guessed that the two books may be written by others in the name of Paul in 2nd century. Now here are the dialectics one by one:

      1) The questionable point: the words and the style of writing in this book were different from that in Paul’s other epistles probably because this book was written by another.

        The dialectics: other epistles were written to the church the corporate and the first and second books of Timothy were written to the individual and naturally the tones were different. In addition, the words and the style of writing changed with ages and different ones who wrote on Paul’s behalf.

      2) The questionable point: the deeds recorded in this book were not recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and probably they were faked up by later generations.

        The dialectics: the Acts of the Apostles was not Paul’s biography and therefore the tracks of Paul’s life were not all recorded in it. The deeds from Paul’s first time in the Roman prison to his martyrdom for the Lord were especially not seen in the Acts of the Apostles and these deeds were complemented in the first and second books of Timothy and the book of Titus.

      3) The questionable point: the organization of the church that was recorded in this book was different from that in the time of Paul and it was like that in the second century.

        The dialectics: the organization in the early church developed with years and environments. In the beginning the elders were appointed (Acts. 14:23) and then there were gifts and deacons for various services (Rom. 12:6-8; Pill. 1:1). And it was quite rational that the so-called overseers (the elders) and deacons existed in Paul’s old age and it was not questionable.

      4) The questionable point: the heretical teachings mentioned in the book were similar to Gnosticism which occurred approximately in the second century.

        The dialectics: actually the ideas of Gnosticism to which Paul opposed had already occurred in the book of Colossians. And the ideas of Gnosticism had already seeped into Judaism before the occurrence of Christianity. It merely became a theory indeed till the second century.


III. The Recipients


         The recipient of the first and second books of Timothy was Timothy (1Tim. 1:2; 2Tim. 1:2). Timothy was a man from Lystra and he was much younger than Paul. Probably he was the fruit of the gospel that Paul bore when he visited Lystra in the first journey (See Acts. 14:6-7, 21). And therefore he regarded him as his son. His father was Greek and his mother was Jewish. Both his mother and grandmother believed in the Lord and were quite pious. They taught him to the Old Testament since his childhood (2Tim. 1:5; 3:15). During Paul’s second journey, Timothy had made great progress and was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. And Paul went forth with him to preach and he became Paul’s fellow-worker throughout his life. And Paul even circumcised him for their convenience of work among the Jews later (Acts. 16:1-5).

Timothy was discreet and he might be a little cowardly and fall back (See 2Tim. 1:7; 2:1). He was not strong, having a little stomach trouble (1Tim. 5:23). However, he was zealous in preaching the gospel and willing to work for the Lord. He treated Paul as his father and therefore he was regarded highly by Paul (Pill. 2:19-23) and Paul often sent him to look after and shepherd the churches. And God accepted his devotion. And therefore the moment he began on the service, He gave him the special gifts through the laying on of the hands of Paul and the elders (2Tim. 1:6-7; 1Tim. 4:14).

Most of time Timothy followed Paul to serve the Lord: he walked with him, worked with him and labored with him (See Acts. 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:1-6) and Timothy was even the fellow-prisoner of Paul when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the first time (Pill. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Philem. 1). When Paul wrote the second book of Corinthians, the book of Philippians, the book of Colossians, the first and second books of Thessalonians and the book of Philemon, he listed his name with Timothy. Timothy was Paul’s good assistant throughout his life indeed.

When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the second time, Timothy was not with him (2Tim. 4:9, 21) and we did not know whether they met each other before Paul’s death. We only knew that Timothy himself was also imprisoned and set at liberty later (Heb. 13:23). However, we did not know the concrete time and location.


IV. The Time and Location the Book was Written


         The first book of Timothy was written in about A.D. 64-65. And it was between the time Paul was set at liberty from the Roman prison and his second imprisonment. It was written in Macedonia. At that time, Paul was on the fourth journey and he worked in various places of Macedonia and kept Titus in Crete (Tit. 1:5) and Timothy in Ephesus (1Tim. 1:3). Paul determined to go to Nicopolis to winter there and meet Titus (Tit. 3:12) and then go to Asia to meet Timothy (1Tim. 3:14; 4:13).

    The second book of Timothy was written after his being imprisoned for the second time and before his martyrdom for the Lord (about A.D. 67). And it was written in the Roman prison. At that time, Paul foreknew that he would suffer disaster (2Tim. 4:6) and wrote this book in order to transfer his works to Timothy and ask him to know one's subordinates well enough to assign them works commensurate with their abilities. And therefore many names were mentioned in this book and some of them were good and some of them were bad.


V. The Motivation for Writing the Epistle


         The reason why the first book of Timothy was written was that Paul preached in Macedonia at that time and he kept Timothy in Ephesus to shepherd the church (1Tim. 1:3). On one hand Timothy was young (1Tim. 4:12) and was not experienced in the pastoral work; on the other various heretical teachings were popular at that time (1Tim. 1:3-7; 4:1-8; 6:3-5, 20-21). And therefore Paul wrote the first book of Timothy to teach him how to resist the wrong teachings and doctrines, mange and shepherd the church, and exercise himself as a good servant of Christ Jesus. 

    Paul wrote the second book of Timothy because he was suddenly arrested on the journey and was imprisoned in Rome again. He knew that he did not have many days in the world (2Tim. 4:6) and was forced to commit the last several important things to Timothy in brief by writing. And it implies the handover of work at the point of death.


VI. Importance


         On the occasion of the perilous times in the last days (2Tim. 3:1) and in face of the development of evil and the attack of heresies, how do God’s workers defend the truth and build the church? The first and second books of Timothy provide us some appropriate and important messages and the main points are as follows:

1) First of all, we must get a clear understanding of our duties. We should not be silly or muddle along any more but work diligently to accomplish what God had entrusted to us.

2) The sound truth in the Bible is our best weapon to resist the heretical teachings and God’s workers should put in time and effort in the word of God in order to avoid the clumsy and meaningless disputes.

3) In order to be able to influence others to keep the truth together effectively, God’s workers must not only teach others the sound doctrines and teachings but also show the good examples to them in life.

4) God’s workers should know one's subordinates well enough to assign them jobs commensurate with their abilities------appoint the appropriate leaders in churches in various places and build the church and keep the truth with them.

5) In order to manifest God, bear witness to Him in the dark world and be convinced by the world, believers in the churches in various places must live the normal life.

6) Fellow-workers and believers should fight the good fight of faith and be strong and endure to the end though being persecuted and suffering tribulation.

7) Paul the apostle gave the best testimony and example. We should also love the Lord’s appearing like Paul and be faithful till death.


VII. The Comparison between the First Book of Timothy and the Second Book of Timothy


When Paul wrote the first book of Timothy, the church was the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1Tim. 3:15). When Paul wrote the second book of Timothy, the church became a great house in which there was the difference between the honorable and dishonorable vessels (2Tim. 2:20). The circumstances were favorable when Paul wrote the first book and there wasn’t hindrance or persecution. And therefore workers’ building of the church was stressed on. There was persecution and tribulation when Paul wrote the second book and therefore the workers’ own faithfulness in keeping the truth was stressed on. When Paul wrote the first book, there weren’t many internal questions in the church and it was still in the stage of preparation. When Paul wrote the second book, there were a lot of internal problems in the church and many people forsook Paul (2Tim. 1:15; 3:10, 14, 16) and the faith of some was overthrown (2Tim. 2:17-18).

     The elders and deacons in the church were stressed on in the first book and the faithful individuals were stressed on in the second book. The corruption of the church was predicted in the first book and there was the fact of corruption in the second book. It is said in the first book that we should exercise ourselves in godliness and in the second book, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. It is stressed on in the first book that the authority of workers made men be obedient and in the second book, the workers exhorted all with the hearts of gentleness.


VIII. It’s Relations with the Book of Titus and the Features


         The first and second books of Timothy and the book of Titus are all private epistles and they are all written to young fellow-workers. They are all called the Pastoral Epistles. Their common features are as follows:

1) Stressing on the visible organization of the church: when the church begins to take shape and the number of believers increases, naturally there are many works and various problems which are unable to be solved by one or two full-time preachers. And therefore managers and minsters are needed in the church and an effective organization must be set up. And there are many churches in various places, there must be a general and consistent principle which could be known and used by workers to ordain the elders and deacons. In addition, the heresies rise up and the churches suffer disturbances. These problems cannot be solved merely by the spiritual doctrines. In order to handle these problems, there must be a complete organization in the church. On one hand, the church proclaims the truth as the pillar and ground of the truth and on the other the church keeps the truth and guards against heresies. The works in the church are taken charge by special ones so that everything could make progress in order gradually.

2) Stressing on the talented persons in the church: if we stress on the organization, we have to stress on the talented persons, i.e. ordaining the elders and deacons. The elders are overseers and they take care of the church (1Tim. 3:15; 5:17). The deacons, overseen by the elders, deal with the common affairs in the church and they stress on serving and helping the Saints. And the elders and deacons in a local church are plural and it means that in a normal local church, it is not allowed that one takes all the responsibilities and monopolizes every service. The elders should complement each other in order to take care of all the flock. The deacons have their own special duties and serve men in their aspects. There are only these two kinds of positions in the local church and the other saints, with their own gifts, functions and services, give provisions to each other and help each other.

3) Stressing on characters: we should specially pay attention to characters if we stress on talented persons. We should not only consider whether they have gifts and talents but also pay attention to whether they have good spiritual states, characters and testimonies (1Tim. 2:1-3). And therefore every time the elders and deacons are mentioned, we specially refer to their qualifications and we give special attention to characters in qualifications. For example, the overseers must be blameless because their influence of examples is greater than that of teachings. The corruption of the church probably begins with life. And therefore, in order to lead brothers and guard against heresies, the leaders in the church must have good characters.

4) Stressing on the order: there is the organization of the elders and deacons in the church. The church should also be in order in all aspects. There are respective explanations for the relations between the old and the young, male and female, mothers and daughters-in-law in the family, masters and servants and even how to deal with heretics, the poor widows and those who are sinning. 

5) Stressing on the outlines of main doctrines: in the first and second books of Timothy, Paul always used brief words and expressions to state the outlines of main doctrines: godly edification which is in faith (1Tim. 1:4-6); the functions of the law (1Tim. 1:8-10); the mystery of godliness (1Tim. 3:16); sound doctrine (Titus. 2); the main doctrine of justification (Titus. 3:1-8) and etc. We should stress on the talented persons and their characters and we must train them with the outlines of the main doctrines so as to make them understand the main doctrines and principles of Christianity. In this way, they won’t make mistake in the work.

6) Stressing on the workers: how do they learn by themselves (1Tim. 4:13); how to divide the word of truth (2Tim. 2:15); how to seek to be examples to believers in life (1Tim. 4:12); how to appoint the elders and deacons, knowing how to conduct in the house of God (1Tim. 3:14-15); how to stand faithfully when the church suffers persecution and some betray the truth and commit the teachings to faithful men who will be able to keep the truth.

7) Being private: the first and second books of Timothy, the book of Titus and the book of Philemon were Paul’s epistles to individuals and the other epistles were written to the church the corporate. It is discussed in the first book of Timothy that how the workers of the church organize the church to make her be in order and become the pillar and ground of the truth. The individual life of workers is discussed in the second book of Timothy: workers are asked to be strong and faithful when the church is unfaithful, keep the truth to death and commit the teachings to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.


IX. Key Verses


         “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy” (1Tim.1:15-16a).

     “But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1Tim. 3:15).

      “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1Tim. 4:12).

      “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim. 2:15).

      “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2Tim. 2:21).

      “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2Tim. 4:7-8).


X. Key Words


“Conscience” (1Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:9; 4:2; 2Tim. 1:3).

“Faith” (1Tim. 1:5, 14, 19; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2Tim. 1:13; 2:18; 3:10).

“Love” (1Tim. 1:14; 2:15; 4:12; 6:11; 2Tim. 1:13; 3:10).

“Faith”, “Sound doctrine”, “truth”, “good thing” (1Tim. 1:10, 19; 2:4, 7; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 3, 6; 5:8; 6:10, 12, 20, 21; 2Tim. 1:14; 2:18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:3, 4).

“Godliness” (1Tim. 2:2; 3:16; 4:7, 8; 6:3, 5, 6, 11; 2Tim. 2:16; 3:5, 12).

“Pure”, “good”, “sincere”, “blameless”, “not be ashamed of…”, “not need to be ashamed” (1Tim. 1:5, 19; 3:2, 9, 10; 5:7; 6:14; 2Tim. 1:5, 8, 11, 16; 2:15).

“Ministry”, “a good work”, “rule”, “serve as deacons”, “manage”, “serve”, “the work” (1Tim. 1:12; 3:1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 12, 13; 5:14, 17; 6:2; 2Tim. 1:3; 4:5).

“Sufferings” (1Tim. 1:8, 12; 2:3, 9; 3:11; 4:5).


XI. Outlines of the Book


Outlines of the First Book of Timothy

I. Foreword (1:1-2).

II. The true and false workers in the church (1:3-2:7):

  A. The danger of false workers (1:3-11).

  B. The testimony of true workers (1:12-17).

  C. The true workers’ orders and exhortations to the young fellow-workers (1:18-2:7):

1. be soldiers with faith (1:18-20).

2. pray for all men and all who are in authority (2:1-7).

III. The normal life, administration, and testimony of the church (2:8-3:16):

  A. The godliness in the normal life of the church (2:8-15).

  B. The candidates who deserve attention in the normal administration of the church (3:1-13):

1. the qualification for a bishop (3:1-7).

2. the qualification for a deacon (3:8-13).

  C. The states of the normal testimony of the church (3:14-16).

IV. How to be a good deacon of Christ (4:1-6:21a):

  A. Be alert to those who depart from the faith and the doctrines of demons (4:1-5).

  B. Exercise ourselves in godliness and teach others (4:6-11).

  C. Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct and in various aspects (4:12-16).

  D. Know how to exhort and teach various men and in various conditions (5:1-6:10, 17-19):

1. to men with different genders and different ages (5:1-2).

2. to widows and their family members (5:3-16).

3. to the elders and those who labor in the world (5:17-25).

4. to bondservants (6:1-2).

5. to those who teach differently and are greedy for money (6:3-10).

6. to those who are rich (6:17-19)

  E. The states of those who are of God (6:11-16, 20-21a):

1. fight the good fight of faith (6:11-16).

2. guard the truth which is committed to us (6:20-21a).

V. Epilogue (6:21b).


Outlines of the Second Book of Timothy

I. Foreword (1:1-2).

II. Be a worker who does not need to be ashamed (1:3-2:26):

  A. Stir up the gift of God (1:3-7).

  B. Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (1:8-12).

  C. Adhere to the truth constantly (1:13-18).

  D. Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1-7).

  E. Remember that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead and reigned (2:8-13).

  F. Rightly divide the word of truth (2:14-18).

  G. Be sanctified and useful for the Master (2:19-22).

  H. Be gentle to all and able to teach (2:23-26).

III. The perilous times in the last days and the duties of a worker (3:1-4:5):

  A. The knowledge we should have to the peril in the last days (3:1-9).

  B. All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (3:10-13).

  C. All Scripture is profitable to the man of God (3:14-17).

  D. Do the work of an evangelist with all longsuffering and teaching (4:1-5).

IV. A worker’s example of fulfilling the ministry and last testimony (4:6-18):

  A. The declaration of a worker’s fulfillment of the ministry (4:6-8).

  B. The arrangement and instructions to the fellow-workers (4:9-15).

  C. The reliance upon the Lord before his martyrdom (4:16-18).

V. Epilogue------greeting and blessing (4:19-22).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

   Translated by Sharon Ren