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1Timothy 1:12-20 (web)

1:12 And I thank him who enabled me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he counted me faithful, appointing me to service;

1:13 although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent.
However, I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
1:14 The grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.

1:15 The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance,

that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
1:16 However, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first,
Jesus Christ might display all his patience, for an example of those
who were going to believe in him for eternal life.

1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

1:18 This charge I commit to you, my child Timothy,
according to the prophecies which led the way to you,
that by them you may wage the good warfare;
1:19 holding faith and a good conscience;

which some having thrust away made a shipwreck concerning the faith;
1:20 of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered to Satan,
that they might be taught not to blaspheme.

Discussion Questions

vs 12 When was Paul appointed to his service? xref Acts 9:15
In What way had Paul shown himself to be faithful up to that point?

vs 13 "because I acted in ignorance and unbelief"
It seems the more we know, the more we will be held responsible. (Matt 11:21-24; Heb 6:4-6)
Yet how could Paul claim ignorance, having been an expert in the bible (Acts 22:3),
and having no doubt been aware of Jesus ministry and miracles all along as the other Pharisees were? (Luke 23:24)

vs 14 "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (xref Luke 5:32)
During Jesus' ministry, I suspect the disciples had the impression that Jesus had not come to call the self-righteous Pharisees who opposed him and were no doubt surprised not only that Paul became a Christian, but the Jesus chose him to bring the gospel to the Gentiles.
What was it about Paul that may have set him apart from the other Pharisees that were persecuting Christians?
"of whom I am the worst" - strange that he uses "am" and not "had been". In what way is Paul the worst of all sinners?

vs 16. "patience" (makrothumia) = the self restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.

vs 18 What does Paul mean by "fight"? Who are we fighting against? vs 19 How did Hymeneas shipwreck his faith? vs 20 Why is this so serious? What do you believe about the resurrection?


1. God's chosen instrument

2. Fight the Good Fight

False Teachers


Their problem:

What their teaching promotes:

How can you avoid false teachings?

Additional Comments

The Faithful are Qualified for Ministry

1Tim 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,

Paul was put into the ministry because God counted him faithful. This is not to say that each individual Christian needs a special calling to minister, for we are all called to minister. But Paul was referring to the particular ministry God called him to - namely to be an apostle in charge of revealing the gospel, his words being reckoned the very words of God on the matter.

What qualified Paul for this most essential of ministries? The next few verses reveal the matter. In this verse we see that God put him into the ministry because he was faithful. Faithful? Wasn't Paul on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there when God called him? What was faithful about that? But that was not when God put him into the ministry. That was his conversion experience. Yes through Ananias God foretold of his ministry.

Ac 9:15,16  But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."
But that was not when Paul was actually put into that ministry. I think was constitutes being put into that ministry occurred many years later in Acts 13 at Antioch.
Ac 13:2  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
By that point Paul had demonstrated a persistent faithfulness. So if you want to be used mightily by God, be consistently faithful.

Former Reputation Disregarded

1Tim 1:13  although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

That is, Paul was not like an apostate. He was sincere in his persecution of the Church. He thought he was doing God's will. Not that his ignorance was an excuse. But rather to contrast himself with apostates for whom the Lord doesn't have mercy.

"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." Heb 6:4-6

"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin." Heb 10:26

Also note that Paul says "formerly". Once a person comes to faith their former behavior and attitudes change. Thus he also says of the Corinthian Christians, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you." 1Cor 6:9-11a

Exceeding Abundant Grace

1Tim 1:14  And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

Paul's conversion and subsequent calling to the mission as an apostle  given his sinful background, revealed just how exceedingly abundant God's grace was. Both faith and love accompanied God's grace. When God's grace is at work, there is an expectation that it would result in the person exercising faith and love, just as we see in the apostle Paul's life.

Consider how God's grace in your life has affected your faith in God and love for others.

Chief of Sinners Saved

1Tim 1:15  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.

Not that he's saying that he continues to behave as the chief of sinners. For upon his conversion he ceased being characteristically a sinner - in the sense in which he's speaking here. And he says elsewhere "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?" 1Cor 6:9

Nonetheless his history as the chief, the primary example of sinners reveals what it really means that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, which is the gospel. This was not simply theological concept in Paul's mind. This saying was Paul's very real experience. Paul could say confidently from experience that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Has this been your experience as well?

Paul the Precedent of Salvation

1Tim 1:16 
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

For what reason did God show mercy to Paul and then make him the spokesman for the gospel to the Gentiles? One reason is so that it might be understood that salvation is available to everyone no matter how sinful their background.

What if a person hears the gospel and not only rejects it but then goes on a rampage persecuting Christians even with violence - making that their objective in life. Will God be long-suffering with such a person and if he repents forgive him? Paul's conversion is a pattern, a precedent, for such people. But indeed don't many of us fall into that category to a lesser extent. We're we all resistant, but over the long term God drew us to himself despite our resistance?

But for those who take God's longsuffering for granted, beware. "Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God." Rom 2:4,5

Paul's conversion is also the pattern for those who would come to believe in that it shows what one should expect of believers - it shows the kind of repentance and changed life characteristic of salvation, characteristic of saving faith and regeneration.

God's Attributes

1Tim 1:17  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Notice the attributes Paul mentions of God which relate to the gospel

1. King - Salvation is contingent upon accepting his Kingship - being Lord over us.

2. Eternal - The gospel is about that which is eternal

3. Immortal - The gospel brings us into a state of incorruptibility

4. Invisible "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Heb 11:1

5. Wise - "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1Cor 1:30 We note also the God's wisdom in assigning Paul to the task.

6. Honor - We honor God for the salvation he has provided.

7. Glory - We note God's attributes revealed through the gospel.

Waging Good Warfare

1Tim 1:18  This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

What charge? The commands he had given previous in this chapter and those to follow. But as for the prophecies made of Timothy we have no record other than "He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium." Acts 16:2, which apparently influenced Paul to chose him as "a man is valued by what others say of him." Pr 27:21

What does Paul mean when he says, "by them you may wage the good warfare"? By what? By the commands he's giving him. Trying to living the Christian life without having specific commands and instructions in mind is like going into battle without a weapon. In fact the Bible says that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God - the Bible. (Eph 6:17) Without it we have no commands or instructions by which to wage war. (Though perhaps some Christians find that preferable.)

Embrace Faith and a Good Conscience

1Tim 1:19  having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck

Why do shipwrecks occurred? Because of shallow faith. Like the seed sown among stones they allegedly believe as first, and with joy, but when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they stumble. Matt 13:5,21 Thus traveling on shallow waters they end up shipwrecked.

Others get shipwrecked by not taking heed to their conscience which corrupts it, causing it to lose its effectiveness in directing the person, so he ends up dashed against the rocks along the shore, not keeping to the course. Or one may have such an effect on the conscience of others. For it is written that "when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ."1Cor 8:12 which causes them to stumble.

Blasphemers Delivered to Satan

1Tim 1:20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

It is unclear who Alexander but we do know of Hymenaeus as he's mentioned in  2Tim 2:16-18 "But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some."

These kind of people, not being willing to listen to Biblical instruction, Paul hands over to Satan - which I take to mean in a similar sense as God handed Job over to Satan, though for a different purpose. And even as God had in a very limited sense handed Paul over to Satan at one point as he said, "a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure." 2Cor 12:7, though I take it in a much more severe sense in the case of Hymenaeus and Alexander, much as Jesus also spoke of Jezebel of Rev 2:20-22"By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways."

But what was so upsetting about the doctrine of Hymenaeus? I comment upon 2Tim 2:16-18 in this way:

If we are to avoid profane and idle babblings how do we identify them? Of course we have the example here in 2Tim 2 of the notion that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus there are no doubt a number of eschatological viewpoints which constitute such idle babblings. But as a general principle we may evaluate particular notions as to whether
1. they promote godliness, purity of heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.
2. they are otherwise wholesome and edifying doctrines conformed to what the Bible clearly states. And by "clearly states" I mean that they are not overly dependent upon the meaning of particular words, but rather just as I've cross referenced Paul's command here to other parts of the Bible, so also such ideas are clear either in the context or otherwise throughout the Bible. Else people end up arguing over words to defend their particular point of view.

As such this places limits on Bible study discussions and Bible study applications. But in doing so it results in more edifying studies which result in godly applications. It may not satisfy everyone's idle curiosity. The Bible doesn't clearly answer all the questions we might want to ask of it. But it gives sufficient information to live the Christian life. If we find we have time for idle babblings, then maybe we're too idle.

2Tim 2:17  "And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort"
Elsewhere false teachings are illustrated as leaven. Concerning the false teachings of the group of the circumcision, for example, Paul writes to the Galatians, "You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Gal 5:7-9 So also concerning the false teachings of the religious elite of Jesus' day, Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." Matt 16:6

What's characteristic of leaven or cancer is its ability to become widespread. So also weeds grow quickly, but trees take time. Why is it that false doctrines tend to spread more quickly and are more readily accepted than the truth? I think it's simply because they pander to people's sinful human nature. You take Islam for example, if I may be so bold. Why has Islam become widespread? Among the many reasons, one reason which is measurably apparent today is because it panders to people's hatreds, even their violent passions, and for some - even among suicide bombers - their sexual passions as well.  But realize that even among the Christian community false doctrines arise which play on people's sinful nature. For example concerning hating one another there are often such divisive doctrines arises giving an illegitimate basis for one Christian hating another. Even back in the time of the Reformation, Christians were murdering Christians over such doctrines as infant baptism and particular nuances concerning the doctrine of the Trinity which are not clear in the Bible.

Whatever is popular is seldom completely correct, because things often become popular because they cater to people's sinful nature. This is a warning also to churches which place an emphasis on "growth" in contrast to edification. Easy enough to achieve "growth" by planting some weeds, some leaven, some cancer. Edification however is a different matter. The truth is straight and narrow and difficult, and not many travel there.

2Tim 2:18 "who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some."
First of all, how could they have possibly convinced people that the resurrection had already past? Afterall it's supposed to be a very visible event.

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord." 1Thess 4:16,17

Secondly it's supposed to be a physical resurrection. Just as Jesus was raised and his body was missing from the grave, so also after the resurrection if you were to dig up the Christian's grave you wouldn't find their body. Thus was Paul's point in 1Cor 15:16 "For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen." And much of that chapter is devoted to the physical nature of the resurrection.

And in fact this is where these false teachers had gone astray. They believed only in a "spiritual" resurrection, not a physical one. In fact this is a belief held by some Christians today in which what constitutes "the resurrection" is simply the idea that when a Christian dies he goes to heaven while denying there be a physical resurrection to come. Thus the false teachers could have said that the "resurrection" has occurred but it was spiritual and so no one noticed it.

Much as they were mistaken, why was this such an abhorrent idea that Paul calls it a cancer and that it overthrows the faith of some. John takes note of a similar heresy in 1John 4:3 "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." In this case, known as Docetism, there is a denial of the physical nature of Christ in his incarnation. Both of these false teachings give a flavor of the gnostic influences trying to infiltrate the early church. Their basic tenet being that anything physical is inherently evil and therefore Christ could not have been a physical man, nor the resurrection physical if it were to bring us to completion.

I think the basic reason why these doctrines are so abhorrent is because of the implications their basic tenet leads to. They could argue that, as Paul says, "if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" 1Cor 15:16,17 So also if Christ hadn't come in the flesh, then neither could he have died for our sins. Thus their basic tenet destoys the faith which Paul preached saying, "What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1Cor 15:3,4

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Sep 12,2020