Sound Doctrine (1 Tim. 1:1-11)


As we introduce this first letter in what are called the pastoral epistles, it is important to contextualize it. Reconstructing the chronology of the New Testament, we may conclude that Paul was probably imprisoned in Rome twice. The first is found at the end of the book of Acts, after which he was released, and during which time he wrote this letter and Titus (c. A.D. 62-66). When he was imprisoned again (at the end of which time he was executed), he wrote 2 Timothy. It is fashionable for many modern scholars to dispute the Pauline authorship of the epistles, and, also sadly, it is common for more conservative scholars to argue for the Pauline authorship without reference to chapter one, verse one. “Paul, an apostle . . .”

The Text:

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord . . .” (1 Timothy 1:1-11).


Timothy had been left with responsibility for the Ephesan churches (v. 3). Although Paul is writing him a personal letter, it is also an official letter. Paul identifies him here as an apostle of Jesus Christ (v. 1). His apostleship was commanded by God our Savior, and Jesus Christ is our hope (v. 1). The letter is addressed to Timothy, Paul’s own son in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace (v. 2). The reason Paul left Timothy in Ephesus was so that he might charge certain individuals not to engage in “alternative-teaching” (v. 3). Such heterodoxy would include fables (myths), or what Paul in Titus calls Jewish fables (Tit. 1:14). The endless genealogies are more likely of Jewish extraction than Gnostic, but commentators are divided. These things don’t edify (v. 4). It is also interesting to note that this is an incomplete sentence in Greek; the AV finishes it off with an appropriate so do.

The point of this requirement of Paul’s is three-fold: love from a pure heart, a sound conscience, and a non-hypocritical faith (v. 5). Some people don’t like this kind of spiritual health, and so they turn aside into vain jangling (v. 6). They do this out of vain ambition—they want to be teachers of the law, and the only problem is that they don’t know what they are talking about (v. 7). But, Paul says, we understand the law—it is good if it is used properly (v. 8). And one right use of the law is to restrain by force those who do not know or understand it (v. 9). Paul then moves into a descriptive list of the kind of people who don’t get it. First are the general descriptions: lawless, rebellious, those lacking piety, for sinners, for the unholy and profane. Paul then moves from the general demeanor of sin to specific sins. First we have father-strikers and mother-strikers, and murderers (v. 9). Then we have sexually immoral people, homosexuals, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and anything else that is contrary to sound doctrine (v. 10). This right handling of the law is according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and was committed to Paul’s trust.

Pastor in Ephesus:

The apostle Paul is nearing the end of his life. In the pastoral epistles we find the kind of instruction that would naturally arise in such a situation—Paul is concerned with the next generation, and he is making sure the foundation is true. Ephesus was the kind of place where this would be most important. The church there was significant—Paul had ministered there for two years in the hall of Tyrannus. The ministry was so effective there that “all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). It was no small work: “So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20).So many people were converted that the idol-makers felt constrained to counterattack—not “alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people” (Acts 19:26). Now all this was almost ten years before Paul commissions Timothy to oversee the churches there, which had to be have been a real going concern during his ministry there. John writes to the church at Ephesus right around the same time—in fact, it is even possible that Timothy was the “angel” of the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1). While the church there had declined from their first love, it was clearly a robust and orthodox church (Rev. 2:6).

Fools Without a Point:

The apostle has little use for self-appointed teachers of the law who do not understand what they are talking about. Their teaching is, in a fundamental way, pointless. Where does it go? Why should we know this? Where does it get us? In contrast, godly teaching does not “minister questions,” but rather drives toward the goal, which is godly edification. To edify means to build up. There is a difference between a lump-in-the-throat kind of blessing, and edification. A preacher who plays the emotional violin can make you feel good for a time, but at the end, what do you have? An edifying preacher or teacher gives you a brick, and, when you get home, you know exactly where in the wall to put it. As a result, the structure goes up.

Contrary to Sound Doctrine:

As mentioned before, Paul addresses the attitude of rebellion first (v. 9). What kind of sinful tree produces the fruit of sins? The answer is a lawless, disobedient, ungodly, sinful, unholy and profane heart. This is a certain attitude toward God and His law before there is any actual knowledge of the content of His law.

But then what kind of fruit grows on this tree? The first is those who strike father or mother. This is a violation of the first commandment with promise, and so it is also the first commandment with a curse. Then we have murderers. Remember this as you are studying your entertainment catechisms. The same thing is true of the sexually lax. The word translated whoremonger here is pornois, and it involves more than sin with prostitutes. Also contrary to sound doctrine is the sodomite. Also mentioned 1 Cor. 6:9 is the effeminate catamite. So if words have meaning, the current push in the Church to allow for this kind of behavior is a sure mark of unfolding apostasy. Then there are slave-traders, liars, and perjurers. All this is contrary to sound doctrine, and there are a number of other unmentioned things that are contrary to sound doctrine as well.

The Nature of Sound Doctrine:

One of the striking things about this passage is that Paul does not divide everything up into neat, little parcels—with ethics here, and theology over there. The practical teaching about what was consistent with Christian profession is called sound doctrine, and, even though a good deal of it had to do with developing a right attitude toward the law, Paul says that all his teaching on the subject was in accordance with the glorious gospel.

Leave a Reply

Notify of