1 Timothy 1 is a letter written by Paul, to counsel and encourage Timothy. It’s interesting to note, Timothy is the first “second-generation” Christian leader mentioned in the New Testament. He became Paul’s protégé and a leader in the Ephesian church. As a young minister, Timothy would face all sorts of pressures, conflicts, and challenges from the church and the surrounding culture.
As many of us know, Paul spent the final years of his life in prison, but many scholars believe he enjoyed a period of freedom between 62-64 A.D., before he was imprisoned again and executed. It’s believed that Paul wrote this letter during that time of freedom from prison. In it, Paul warns against false teachers and encourages Timothy to remain strong in the faith. Paul also covers several other topics including sound doctrine, public worship, church leadership, personal discipline and a caring church.
Paul opens this letter with a greeting for his close friend and student, Timothy, in which he says: “I’m writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy and peace.” These words point to the close relationship that Paul and Timothy had grown to have from their time in Ephesus as Paul was his spiritual mentor and trainer.
Immediately following this address, Paul addresses three areas of emphasis in this letter. Paul strongly warns against false teachers, gives details of his testimony, and highlights his commands to Timothy with some encouragement.
The first section of this chapter is found in verses 3 through 11. Timothy's primary role in Ephesus needed to be fighting false teaching. This was not only meant to preserve truth, but also to be a good Christian example for nonbelievers. This is what Paul means in verse 5 when he says, “The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith”. Paul specifically warns Timothy to avoid bickering over irrelevant details of myths and spiritual pedigrees because, “these things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.”
The false teachers in Ephesus were misusing the law by using it to justify personal sins and to force Gentile Christians to live according to the Jewish law in order to be a “real” Christian. Which is why Paul reminds Timothy that the ultimate goal of all instruction from God’s Word is not just Bible knowledge in itself, because knowledge itself cannot save us. Knowledge that leads to an inward spiritual transformation is what changes a person. Because if genuine, the change will express itself in love and a pure heart, which then leads to a clear conscience and sincere faith.
The next section of this chapter is found in verses 12-17. Here, Paul gives a brief version of his testimony. Timothy would already have known this story, but would have been encouraged that Paul referred to himself as "worst of all sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul brings up these details for several reasons. One is to point out that he is not any better or more deserving than the men he is instruction. The difference is that Paul sees how serious his own sins were. Paul also says this as a means to highlight the fact that his redemption is entirely the work of God—an act of mercy, not something Paul could have earned on his own.
The last section of this chapter is in verses 18-20. Through these verses, Paul turns his focus to Timothy's obligation to stand against heresy. Paul specifically uses two men as example of those who rejected a clear conscience, and so were ruined: Hymenaeus and Alexander. These men, Paul has "thrown them out and handed over to Satan." Paul’s purpose was not to punish or cast shame on these men, but to serve as an example of how to handle such behavior. Removing these men, kept their spirits from polluting the rest of the church, and he did so with the hopes that they would repent and come back to the truth.
Paul gives us the three-step plan when he says to “fight the good fight, keep the faith, and maintain a clear conscience” in the conclusion of this chapter. These words aren’t just for the young leader Timothy, because they’re true for us today! As believers, we have to remember our primary goal is to grow in our relationship with Christ and understanding of His Word every single day. We must cling to our faith in Christ now more than ever in a world that wants to distract, and I’d argue destroy, your relationship with God. We do this by fighting the good fight, keeping our faith, and in doing so, maintain a clear conscience.