Who Wrote the Book of 1 Timothy?
We see in verse one of 1 Timothy that Paul is clearly stated as the author. Paul’s authorship was universally affirmed, up until the last 200 years, where some biblical scholars began denying Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. Critics claim that these writings differ in style from that of Paul’s earlier letters, but the evidence for these claims is not substantial. Style and vocabulary can change much in part to a person’s personal growth and creativity, and the early church would have rejected and removed anyone from office who wrote under false pretenses. Therefore, there is good reason to believe the straightforward statement in Scripture that claims that 1 Timothy was written by the apostle Paul to Timothy.
Context and Background of 1 Timothy
Scholars believe this letter was written in the mid 60’s AD after Paul was released from his first imprisonment. Paul wrote 1 Timothy to his “true child in the faith” (1:2) Timothy, who was ministering to the church in Ephesus. Paul and Timothy had been working together in Ephesus, but before Paul’s separation from Timothy and the church, he charged Timothy to deal with the false teachers that had entered the church of Ephesus. Paul then wrote to Timothy to further instruct him in the way to handle false teachers within the church, and how Christians ought to behave in light of the gospel.
Main Theme and Purpose of 1 Timothy
The main theme of 1 Timothy is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is transformational both personally and relationally; it brings about a practical and visible outworking in the daily life of a believer. The main purpose of this letter is to discuss the false teachers plaguing the church of Ephesus and to promote godly living. As Paul discusses false teachers throughout the book (1:3-20, 4:1-5, 6:2-21) and how Timothy should handle them, he also contrasts that charge with the call to daily gospel-centered living and holiness. Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he writes these instructions for Timothy to “know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth”. We see him describe a gospel-centered life (2:1-3:13), address behavior in the church (3:14-16), and then continue to list out how specific groups of people in the life of the church should conduct themselves (5:1-6:2).
Although it is not the main purpose of the book, we also see a theme of Paul addressing specific instruction for church government and structure. He provides wisdom and counsel to Timothy with a specific focus on church leadership and the characteristics of elders (3:1-7) and deacons (3:8-13).
What Can We Learn from 1 Timothy Today?
Growth in our holiness happens through the transformational grace of Jesus Christ. We see this throughout each chapter as Paul advises Timothy in “the aim of our charge” (1:5). This sets up the entire letter as Paul clearly lays out the goal of his instructions against the false teachers and promotes gospel-centered living. Repeatedly in the letter, Paul calls believers to holy living and obedience with the message of the gospel. It is only in the remembrance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that our hearts and actions can truly be transformed (2:1-6)
We learn that we, like Paul (1:15), we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, like you and I, and is merciful, patient, and gracious in our rebellion and recklessness (1:16). Belief in God’s scandalous grace provides the means for our radical obedience. We take the same charge that Paul gives to Timothy to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness", and “fight the good fight of faith” (6:11-16). We continually labor and strive for good deeds “because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people” (4:10). But it is not only for our own benefit that we seek to live lives above reproach, but it is also for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of others that we strive for righteousness.
Outside of this daily striving, we can learn how both and men and women are to conduct themselves, the basis for church leadership and structure, how Christians ought to care for widows, warnings about putting our faith in money, and how we are to respond to false teachers in the church.
Our Favorite Verses from 1 Timothy
1 Timothy 1:15-16 — “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
1 Timothy 2:1-5 — “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”
1 Timothy 4:7-10 — “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a
trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”
1 Timothy 4:12 — “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
1 Timothy 6:6-8 — “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19 — “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
- Van Neste, R. (2017). 1 Timothy. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1917). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
- Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2153). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.
- Moo, D. J. (2015). The Letters and Revelation. In D. A. Carson (Ed.), NIV Zondervan Study Bible: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message (p. 2455). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
- Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2322). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
- Hughes, R. K. (2013). 1 Timothy. In B. Chapell & D. Ortlund (Eds.), Gospel Transformation Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1627). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
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Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.