A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy. 1:1-2. Introduction (continued).
Here is wisdom for the local church in every generation and every place. Let no-one say that Scripture is out of date. Calvin, when dedicating his commentary to the Duke of Somerset in 1556, called this letter ‘highly relevant to our own times’. More than 400 years later we can make the same claim. Truly ‘the Bible speaks today’.
The beginning of the letter is conventional. Paul announces himself as the author, Timothy as his correspondent, and God as the source of the grace, mercy and peace which he wishes him to enjoy. He thus describes the letter’s three *dramatis personae*. He is not content, however, with a bare greeting like ‘Paul to Timothy: grace’; each of the three persons involved is elaborated.
In nine out of his thirteen New Testament letters Paul designates himself *an apostle of Christ Jesus*, and usually adds a reference to the call, commission, command or will of God. Here it is *by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope* (1). Thus Paul claims to be an apostle of Christ on a level with the Twelve, whom Jesus had named ‘apostles’ (Lk.6:13), with all the teaching authority which this represented. He had emphatically not appointed himself. Nor had he been appointed by the church. He was not one of the ‘apostles of the churches’ (E.g. 2 Cor.8:23; Phil.2:25), whom today we might call ‘missionaries’. On the contrary he was an apostle of Christ, chosen, called, appointed, equipped and authorized directly by Christ, without any ecclesiastical mediation. To put the matter beyond dispute or misunderstanding, Paul adds that God the Father was involved with Christ Jesus in commissioning him; it was by their command that he was an apostle. This formula *by the command of (kat’ epitagen)* was apparently used on official notices, meaning ‘by order of’, and Lock says it ‘suggests a royal command which must be obeyed’.
Further, Paul locates his apostleship in the historical context, whose beginning was the saving activity of *God our Saviour* in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, and whose culmination will be *Christ Jesus our hope*, his personal and glorious coming, which is the object of our Christian hope, and which will bring down the curtain on the historical process. Paul may even imply that the interval between these two termini will be filled with the spread of the apostolic gospel throughout the world.
Paul now designates *Timothy as my true son in the faith. For if Paul is an authentic apostle of Christ, Timothy is an authentic son of Paul. *Gnesios* (‘true’ or ‘genuine’) was used literally of children ‘born in wedlock, legitimate’ (BAGD). It is possible, therefore, that Paul is hinting at the circumstances of Timothy’s physical birth. Since his father was a Greek, Jewish law will have regarded him as illegitimate. Spiritually, however, Timothy is Paul’s genuine child, partly because he was responsible for his conversion and partly because Timothy has faithfully followed his teaching and example (Cf. 1 Cor.4:17; Phil.2:22; 2 Tim.3:10ff.). By affirming Timothy’s genuineness Paul aims to reinforce his authority in the church.
After describing himself and Timothy, Paul refers to the God who binds them together in his family. What unites them is their common share in *grace, mercy and peace*. Each word tells us something about the human condition. For ‘grace’ is God’s kindness to the guilty and undeserving, ‘mercy’ his pity on the wretched who cannot save themselves, and ‘peace’ his reconciliation of those who were previously alienated from him and from one another. All three issue from the same spring, namely *God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord* (2b). Thus Father and Son are now bracketed as the single source of divine blessing, as they were in verse 1 as the single author of the divine command which constituted Paul an apostle.
Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 1:3-20. Apostolic doctrine.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.