Introduction to 1 Timothy
Author, Date, and Recipient
The apostle Paul probably wrote this letter to Timothy in the mid-60s a.d., during a mission trip not recorded in Scripture. This trip took place after the events described in Acts, between Paul’s first and final Roman imprisonments.
The letter’s theme is that the gospel leads to practical, visible change in believers’ lives. The true gospel, in contrast to false teaching, must and will always lead to godliness.
Paul wrote 1 Timothy to advise his coworker Timothy about issues in the church in Ephesus. False teachers are the main cause for the letter. Their teaching apparently involved incorrect assumptions about the law (1:7–11) and not allowing marriage and certain foods (4:1–5). Paul’s real concern is with the results of the false teaching. For example, it promotes mere theories over solid truth (1:4; 6:4). It also leads to arrogance (6:4) and greed (6:5–10). Paul focuses on the fact that true Christianity is shown in lifestyles shaped by the gospel. Those whose lives are not shaped by the gospel have turned away from the faith (1:6, 19–20; 4:1; 5:6, 8, 11–12, 15; 6:9–10).
- The gospel produces holiness in the lives of believers. There is no legitimate separation between belief and behavior. Thus, those who profess faith but show no progress in godliness should question their spiritual health (1:5; 2:8–15; 3:1–16; 4:6–16; 5:4–6, 8; 6:3–5, 11–14, 18–19).
- Worldwide evangelism is essential. It is rooted in God’s own evangelistic desire (1:15; 2:1–7; 3:16; 4:10).
- One key evidence of receiving the gospel is proper behavior in corporate worship, in matters like evangelistic prayer, unity, modesty, and submission (2:1–15).
- Church leaders should be people whose lives are shaped by the gospel (3:1–13; 4:6–16).
- Appropriate honor is a key element in how Christians should relate to one another in the church (5:1–6:2).
- Everything God created is good. It is to be appreciated, but not worshiped (4:4–5; 6:17–19).
- It is important to protect the purity of the gospel (1:3–7, 18–20; 4:6–16; 6:2b–3, 12, 20–21).
- Greeting (1:1–2)
- Confronting the False Teaching (1:3–20)
- Descriptions of Gospel-shaped Living (2:1–3:13)
- Purpose of Writing: Behavior in the Church (3:14–16)
- Identifying the False Teaching (4:1–5)
- How Timothy Should Be Shaped by the Gospel (4:6–16)
- How Specific Groups in the Church Should Be Shaped by the Gospel (5:1–6:2a)
- Confronting the False Teaching Again (6:2b–21)
The Setting of 1 Timothy
c. a.d. 62–64
Paul likely wrote 1 Timothy during a fourth missionary journey not recorded in the book of Acts. Writing from an unknown location, Paul wrote to Timothy at Ephesus to instruct him on how to lead the church there. Ephesus was a wealthy and highly influential port city in the Roman province of Asia, renowned for its temple of Artemis (Diana).