1 Timothy 1

Introduction
In Lystra, during his second missionary tour, Paul found Timothy, already a well-known disciple in the area (Acts 16). He quickly became one of Paul’s closest friends and trusted companions. Timothy appears more than twice the times of anyone else in Paul’s letters, and he is mentioned in all of Paul’s letters except four, plus once in Hebrews and six times in Acts.

We know only a few things about Timothy’s personal life. He was born to a Greek father and Jewish mother (Acts 16:1). He was young, but how young is unknown (1 Timothy 4:12). He seemed to have been sick frequently (1 Timothy 5:23). He suffered a major period of spiritual depression at one point that left him nearly ready to quit the ministry (2 Timothy 1:6-8).

Contrary to popular opinion, Timothy was not a pastor or elder of a local church; rather, he was Paul’s personal representative and an apostle in every sense of the word. Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus when he went on to Macedonia to continue the work there (1 Timothy 1:3), yet planned to rejoin Timothy back in Ephesus (1 Timothy 3:14; 4:13). Since this event does not line up with the timeline in Acts, it is probable that this took place after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (Acts 28:30-31), meaning that both of his letters to Timothy were written after the book of Acts, probably in A.D. 64-66, before Paul’s final imprisonment and death in Rome. The purpose of this letter was to clarify the instructions and task that he had left for Timothy to accomplish in his absence. It seems as if Timothy may have written Paul with some questions that Paul needed to answer as well.

Chapter one begins with a slight modification of Paul’s traditional greeting. With only the letters to Timothy as the exception, Paul always offered “grace and peace” to his readers, combining the normal Greek and Hebrew salutations, respectively. To Timothy, though, he offered “grace, mercy, and peace” (1 Timothy 1:2). It is possible that he included “mercy” because of the difficulty of the work in Ephesus and Timothy’s weaker tendencies. In fact, Timothy faced a situation that would become confrontational, as he had to stop false teachers in the church, about whom Paul warned the Ephesian elders a few years earlier (1 Timothy 1:3-7; Acts 20:28-30). Apparently, they wanted to place the Gentile church under the Mosaic Law, something Paul had fought from the beginning of his ministry (1 Timothy 1:8-11). 1

Paul connected back to the theme of mercy by reminding Timothy of Paul’s own past (1 Timothy 1:12-17). Even though he “was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and an arrogant man,” God treated him with mercy for one primary reason: so that he could be an example demonstrating “for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life” that God can save anyone.

Paul concluded this opening chapter by charging Timothy with his task: “fight the good fight,” a soldier theme that will permeate both letters (1 Timothy 1:18-20). This would require him to “hold firmly to faith and a good conscience.” There were those in the Ephesian church who had already shipwrecked their faith, and Paul did not want Timothy to suffer the same fate.

Notes:

  1. The entire letter of Galatians was written to combat this false teaching, and Paul had to fight it everywhere he went, as shown in several of his other letters as well.

2 Thessalonians 2

Chapter two contains the largest section of new teaching in this short letter and has generated a great deal of debate in several areas. It seems possible that someone had sent a letter in Paul’s name to Thessalonica, stating that they had missed “the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). One of their fears that prompted the first letter was that the believers who had died would miss the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13), which Paul addressed. However, it seems a “letter allegedly from” Paul and possibly a “spirit or message” claimed that, in fact, they all had missed it and were now living in “the day of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Since Paul had obviously taught them about the terrors of the great Tribulation, they were scared to be in it and wondered how they could have missed the Rapture.

In this chapter, Paul revealed three events that must happen first, before the day of the Lord could commence. The first is called, variously, “the rebellion” (NET, NLT, NIV, ESV); “the apostasy” (NASB, HCSB); and “a falling away” (KJV). There are three views of what this could be. One common view is that, toward the end of the Church Age before the Rapture, there will be an apostasy or falling away within the Church itself. This is prophesied in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, among other places. There will be people within the Church who are either not believers at all or weak, immature Christians who will fall away from the faith. This is the view promoted in Walvoord and Zuck’s Bible Knowledge Commentary. The translation “rebellion” presupposes this view. A second view is that this refers to the Rapture itself. Because the Greek word ἀποστασία (apostasia) simply means “departure,” and since it is prefixed with the definite article (“the departure”), some hold that there is only one specific departure Paul had already taught them about – the departure of the Church from this world, the Rapture. This view is held by Dr. Olander (The Greatness of the Rapture, Tyndale Seminary Press, Hurst, TX). The third view is that this will be a departure from the true faith, after the Rapture, by those who had only professed belief but were not true Christians. Constable promotes this view in his Notes on 2 Thessalonians (soniclight.com). This view seems less likely, because it seems that Paul thought his readers would see the apostasy, which they would not do if they had already been raptured, something he was also certain they would experience.

The second event that must occur before the day of the Lord is that “the man of lawlessness” must be revealed. Interestingly, although it is commonly used in Christian churches and theology books, the term “Antichrist” is never applied by the biblical writers specifically to the coming world ruler. In fact, John referred to anyone who denied the Word made flesh as an antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:1-3; 2 John 7). However, Paul used a series of phrases to describe how evil this man will be: “the man of lawlessness…the son of destruction…the lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). He will publicly and unashamedly oppose and place himself above all gods, to the point that he will set himself up to be worshiped in God’s Temple in Jerusalem (a fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15). Since his arrival will come “with all kinds of miracles and signs and false wonders and with every kind of evil deception” and since his revealing must take place before the Day of the Lord and since that had not (and still has not) yet happened, Paul comforted his readers that they had not entered the Day of the Lord.

The third event that will precede the Day of the Lord is that “the one who holds him back will [be]…taken out of the way” before he is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Again, there has been great debate over who or what restrains the lawless one. The two most common views are that the Church or the Holy Spirit is restraining him. Those who believe the Church to be the restrainer say that the Rapture will release Antichrist to begin his campaign, since there will be no godly influence in his way. However, the Church is not more powerful than Satan, except through the power of God, so even that view unintentionally bows to the second. Only the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to stay Satan’s work in this world. After the Rapture, when the Church is removed from Satan’s attacks and God’s coming wrath, will the Holy Spirit release his hold on “the hidden power of lawlessness [which] is already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

The chapter ends with Paul’s word of thanks, again, that his readers would not have to go through that time and an encouragement to hold fast to what he had already taught them on this subject, rather than being tossed around by false teachings (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17).

1 Thessalonians 3

Chapter three best begins with 1 Thessalonians 2:17, and is probably the most personal section in the entire letter. This is a great reminder that this is not just “a book in the Bible” but a personal letter between dear friends. For those of us reading since that time, it also reveals what genuine Christian fellowship looks like. Paul could literally say that his absence from them caused his heart to grow fonder toward them (1 Thessalonians 2:17-20). 1 Thessalonians 2:18 is a subtle, yet powerful, reminder that Satan’s forces are still active, and God has allowed them some latitude to work against his servants in this world.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 reveals Paul’s concern when he had not yet heard from Timothy. Even the apostle who commanded us to not worry (Philippians 4:6) could not help but be concerned for his friends. This was especially true because he knew that believers in this world are destined for opposition and affliction, just like Jesus promised (John 15:18-20; cf. 2 Timothy 3:12).

1 Thessalonians 3:6-10 shows the complete emotional shift Paul experienced once Timothy had found him and delivered his report. Interestingly, verse six contains the only time in all his letters that Paul used “good news” (εὐαγγελίζω, euangelizo) for something other than the gospel. Both their faith and love had remained strong (1 Thessalonians 1:3), and their attitude toward Paul had not been swayed by his accusers like the Galatians’ had been and the Corinthians’ would be later on. Their faith was their attitude toward God, and love was their attitude toward each other. So even in their affliction, they kept the proper attitude toward God, each other, and Paul.

Paul finished with a short but significant prayer. First, he asked that God would clear the way (remember, Satan was blocking it) so he could get back to Thessalonica. Second, he prayed that their love would “increase and abound,” both within their church and in their community. Third, he prayed that they would grow in holiness so they would be ready for Jesus return.