1 Timothy
by Francis Foulkes ©


'Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord' (1:1,2)

It was usual in New Testament days to begin a letter by putting first the name of the writer, then the name of the person addressed, and then a greeting. Paul did this, but by what he added to the names of writer and readers he showed how their lives, and the relationship between them, had been changed completely by Jesus Christ, His greeting, too, was always in the form of a prayer.

a. The writer

Paul describes himself as 'an apostle of Christ Jesus', one sent by Christ Jesus. Timothy did not need this reminder - for years they had worked together. Nor did Paul want to emphasize his own importance, or his authority. But he could not stop thinking of his great privilege; he had been called and sent by God to preach the good news of Christ (see Ephesians 3: 8). Above all, he thought of the fact that because Christ had sent him, he was a man under authority. He was an apostle 'by command of God'. Since the day when the risen Lord Jesus had met him on the road to Damascus, he had been a man under orders (Acts 22:10). Where he was sent he must go; what he was commanded he must do. Furthermore, he knew in his heart that the One who sent him was the only 'Saviour' of men, and that the good news of Jesus Christ was the only true 'hope' that he could offer to men. This One whom he served had the right to command, and it was Paul's greatest privilege to know His will, and his highest duty to obey it.

b. The reader

Timothy's home was in Lystra (Acts 16:1, 2) in the Roman province of Galatia. There Paul had gone on his first missionary journey, and perhaps at that time Timothy had been led to faith in Jesus Christ. Two or three years later the apostle came to Lystra again (on his second missionary journey), and heard a good report of the young man Timothy from the Christians there, and so took him to work at his side. Now for more than ten years they had worked together, the young man and the older. For two reasons the apostle could call Timothy his 'true child in the faith'. In all probability he could say, referring back to that first visit to Lystra, that he had brought Timothy to birth in Christ and to find life in Him (compare Paul's way of speaking in 1 Corinthians 4:14, 15). Then he could say concerning him, 'as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel' (Philippians 2:22). Paul found in Timothy the respect and love and dutifulness of a son; Timothy found in Paul the care and tenderness and the discipline of a father. It is one of the greatest privileges given to us in life to become the father or mother of a child. So in the spiritual life it is high privilege to lead one for whom we had longed and prayed to become a true child of God by faith in Him, and then to be able to nourish and strengthen that one in Christ. But when we have this privilege, we must avoid the dangers that go with it. We should notice that Paul did not treat Timothy as a child; he joined Paul as a 'brother' in Christ (Colossians 1:1), a full colleague and fellow worker.

c. The bond between them

That which bound writer and reader together was the 'faith', faith in God as 'Saviour', and in Jesus as 'hope', Other religions may speak of God as all-powerful Creator and Lord. We know His love and goodness in that He comes to meet our deepest needs, past, present and future. first and foremost He has come to be our Saviour. Then in Him we find comfort and enjoyment and a way by which to live in this world. He also provides for the future. Our world (like Paul's) has no real hope, apart from Jesus Christ. But because Christ has passed through death, conquered death, He gives us hope of eternal life with Him. The Christian can say with certainty the words of the Psalm, 'This is God, our God for ever and ever' (Psalm 48:14).

So the greeting that Paul uses as he writes to Timothy (and similarly in nearly all his letters) is a prayer, in which he mentions the great blessings that God seeks to give. First 'grace', the undeserved favour of God to us by which we, though sinful, are received by Him, pardoned, strengthened, blessed with every spiritual blessing. Then 'mercy', the personal pity of God, which means His willingness to forgive. The meaning of this word comes out clearly in verses 12-14 of this chapter, as Paul describes his own experience of Christ's love. Lastly 'peace' beginning with that peace with God which comes from forgiveness. It is this forgiveness which gives peace in our hearts and the ability to live in peace with our fellows. All these blessings He wants to give to those who are willing to receive them - and if we know these three things, grace, mercy and peace, we have everything that we could really desire, because they include the certainty of everything else that we need. (See Romans 8:31-32.)


Lord, we thank Thee for those whom Thou hast sent to help us to know Thee as Saviour, and to find eternal life as Thy children. May we truly experience Thy salvation; then send us, we pray, to show others how they may find grace and mercy and peace, in Thy Son Jesus Christ who died for us. AMEN.

Further Study. 1. Find out what you can about the earlier life of Timothy from Acts 16:1-5; 2 Timothy 1; 3-7; 3: 14, 15.

2. What other words besides 'apostle' does Paul use to describe himself, and how do these words show the ways in which he thought of his life in the service of Christ? (See 1 Corinthians 3:10; 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5; 5:20; Ephesians 3:1; 4.1; 6:20; Philippians 1:1.)