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1 Timothy 1.1-17 Notes

1 Timothy 1:1-17 Biblical Commentary

THE BROAD CONTEXT:  1 Tim., 2 Tim., and Titus belong to a category called the Pastoral Epistles, because they deal with pastoral issues.  1 Tim. 1:1-2 identify the author (Paul) and the intended recipient (Timothy). Timothy had accompanied Paul on his missionary journey to Berea and Macedonia, is identified as co-author of 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, and Philemon, and was clearly Paul's trusted co-worker.  All three of the Pastoral Epistles deal with challenges from false teachers (1 Tim. 3:7; 4:7; 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:14, 16-18, 23-26; 4:3-4; Titus 1:10-16; 3:9-11).  Concerns include those who:

  • Promote "profane and old wives' fables" (1 Tim. 4:7).
  • Teach a different doctrine and don't "consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 6:3).
  • Are conceited and know nothing, but are obsessed with arguments and disputes (1 Tim. 6:4).
  • "Suppose that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Tim. 6:5).
  • Engage in empty chatter (1 Tim/ 6:20).
  • "Creep into houses, and take captive gullible women loaded down with sins" (2 Tim. 3:6).
  • Refuse to "listen to the sound doctrine... (and) heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts; and...turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
  • Those who engage in vain talk and deception, "especially those of the circumcision" (Titus 1:10).

Paul mentions "Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I delivered to Satan, that they might be taught not to blaspheme" (1:20).

He encourages prayer for everyone, especially rulers (2:1-7).  He provides counsel for men and women in worship (2:8-15), outlines requirements for bishops, deacons, and women (3:1-13), gives Timothy advice for dealing with specific segments of his congregation (5:1ff), encourages slaves to honor their masters (6:1), and advises contentment with food and clothing rather than love of money, which is a root of evil (6:6-10).  He encourages Timothy, "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called" (6:11).


THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT:  In verses 1-11, Paul identified the recipient of the letter as Timothy, "my true child in faith" (v. 2). He urged Timothy to "stay at Ephesus that you might command certain men not to teach a different doctrine, neither to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which cause disputes, rather than God's stewardship, which is faith" (vv. 3-4). He stressed that "the goal of this command is love" (1:5).

He talked about those who have "missed the mark" (astocheo-to miss the mark or to fail to reach the goal). They are guilty of "vain talking" (v. 6). They desire to be teachers of the law, but don't know what they are talking about (v. 7). While the law can be good, it is meant for the unrighteous rather than the righteous (vv. 8-10).


Note:  Paul is addressing and encouraging Timothy to stand against certain teachings that were not of God. Certain men were caught up in endless genealogies and they were not paying attention to things that "furthered the administration of God by faith." This could perhaps be a reference to men who were still teaching the Law of Moses. They might have been trying to discern what tribe they were from perhaps to feed their pride because of their heritage. Nevertheless they were no longer teaching the things that would lead one to a pure love, a good conscience and a sincere faith. If the law here is not meant to refer to the Law of Moses, but the Law of Christ, there is still something to be learned. An important point is that what a preacher teaches should not be speculative. There is a purpose, or goal, in a preacher's instruction. That goal should never be lost. There are things someone can get caught up in that only leads to idle talk, and fruitless discussion, but a preacher of the gospel seeks to save the souls of men. 


1 Tim. 1:1 - Our Savior and Our Hope:   1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,

As is common in his letters Paul starts off reminding the reader of his authorization, his appointed office as an apostle, which gives particular weight to his words and for this reason we study them.

Here we notice that of the many aspects of God and Jesus Christ, in this case he speaks of God our Savior and Jesus Christ our hope. Interesting that among other places he speaks of salvation in this letter, he speaks of God "desiring all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2:4), and of "God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." (1 Tim. 4:10).  The hope is of course the feeling of anticipation of the salvation which is yet to be revealed.

So as we study through this letter we should keep in mind that whatever particulars Paul is writing of, this letter may primarily concern salvation.

1 Tim. 1:2 - A True Son in the Faith:   To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul first met Timothy in Acts 16:1-3. There we learn that Timothy was already a disciple of Jesus Christ and well spoken of by the Christian community there. Paul desired to utilize him in his ministry. But he came from a family where his father was Greek and his mother Jewish. The Jews generally held very significant prejudice against Gentiles. Even the Jewish Christians in the church of Jerusalem displayed elements of that prejudice when it came to the distribution of bread to the widows, for "there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution." Acts 6:1 So to help overcome such prejudice in the case of Timothy he circumcised him, and thus among the Jews they would minister to Timothy could admit to being circumcised, making him an insider among the Jews. Timothy was in fact a Jew as the tradition even holds today that one is a Jew if one's mother is Jewish. However we note that Paul did not circumcise Titus, as he was a Gentile.

Without digressing more on that subject we note that Paul characterizes himself as Timothy's father. Not that he led him to Christ. Yet there are many today who consider themselves spiritual "fathers" who simply prayed a prayer with a person to receive Christ and then let them go on their way. That is not being a father to the person. Paul mentored Timothy. He discipled him. He instructed him. Timothy was Paul's apprentice in the ministry. And so also Timothy behaves as a dutiful son to Paul. Paul writes to the Philippians saying of him, "I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel." Phil. 2:20-22. Then the first thing that Paul does is pray for Timothy that he would receive grace, mercy and peace. So among the other concerns to pray for your children, include these three things.

1 Tim. 1:3 - Scrutinize Doctrine:  As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,

Deviant doctrines are elsewhere characterized as cancer or leaven, such as in 2 Tim, 2:16,17 "shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer." and in Galatians concerning the doctrine of the circumcision he says, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." To just leave them alone is to invite further corruption of the Christian community. And so the Bible instructs first of all to identify them and then to purge or otherwise isolate them, much as that process itself will inevitably invite conflict. But that kind of conflict is characteristic of Jesus and Paul's ministry, and so the Christian need not shy away from it.

1 Tim. 1:4 - Avoid Speculative Arguments:  nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

Bible study is about developing convictions unto godly teaching. But one cannot develop convictions based upon things which are largely speculative. Rather things which are highly speculative invite vain disputes as there may be little substance to say anything for certain.

In contrast to that notice the attitude of the Bible authors, such as Luke "it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." Luke 1:3,4 Or Peter "we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty."

1 Tim. 1:5 - Goal:  Heart, Conscience and Faith:  But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

What instruction [commandment]? It was Paul's command for Timothy to stop Christians from preaching deviant doctrines or those that are highly speculative. Why? Because they do no lead to godly instruction in the faith. And in particular they do not lead to being instructed in love in three areas. First of all godly instruction results in a purifying of one's heart, which is the seat of one's desires, the basis of one's motivations. Good doctrine deals with issues of hypocrisy and right desires. Secondly is the issue of the conscience. Informed doctrine results in a healthy conscience - which is not to say a conscience which is guilt-free, but a conscience that feels guilty when one sins, and feels good when it does what is right. That's a healthy conscience. Whereas deviant doctrines often either avoid issues of guilt or place guilt on the wrong thing, or otherwise get things out of balance with respect to the conscience. And thirdly edifying doctrine results in a sincere faith, being solidly based upon the Word of God, as opposed to mere opinions based upon highly speculative stories. Furthermore a sincere faith is a faith which is applied. This as opposed to those who obsess over issues of armchair theology or fables or other highly speculative ideas.

1 Tim. 1:6 - Avoid Idle Speculations:   For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,

"Idle talk" is that which is vain, meaningless, empty. He warns Timothy again of this in 2 Tim. 4:2-4 reminding him to preach the word "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." I wonder if the "Left Behind" series with its associated movies falls in that category. The emphasis concerning things which are largely speculative is to avoid them. Focus on what is known for certain.

The problem is that our human nature yearns for some new thing, some extraordinary idea, some new revelation, and thusly are people drawn away into deviant theology. What God has provided is manna from heaven, which is the Word of God. But Israel got tired of manna, saying, "We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!"  Num. 11:5,6.

1 Tim. 1:7 - Naïve  Teachers:   wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

This is a sort of sophomoric effect where people get a little knowledge and experience and reckon

themselves experts. Perhaps the most dangerous drivers are not beginners, but rather those who have

driven for about 6 months and thereupon reckon themselves experts. 

Teachers, including Jesus and the New Testament authors, often utilize the Old Testament by way of analogy, allegory, or inference. But if one doesn't have a solid understanding of the fundamental concepts of scripture, one can easily end up reading just about anything into Old Testament events. And thus best to follow the hermeneutic that whatever is clear in scripture takes precedent over what might be inferred, and what is emphasized in scripture takes precedence over what is not emphasized.

1 Tim. 1:8 - Law can be Good:   But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,

To use it correctly is to interpret and apply it using proper Biblical hermeneutics (principles of interpreta-tion). For example twice Paul utilizes Deut 25:4, "You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain." This he applies as affirming the idea that one who preaches the gospel has a right to get paid for it. (1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18) But he also backs this up with the explicit teaching of the Lord by saying, "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel." 1 Cor. 9:14, which is in line with what was practiced.

Another example is in Mark 10 concerning the subject of divorce, Jesus utilized verses in the first book of the Law to reveal the most fundamental principles concerning marriage from its very inception, which the Pharisees hadn't taken into account in their literal application of other verses from the Law.

Therefore, Law of Moses has relevance to the Christian life as long as it is applied properly and consistent with New Testament principles.

1 Tim. 1:9 - Law Designed for the Wicked:  realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers

Notice that Paul associates a "righteous person" in accordance with his behavior. Today often there is a misconception on this point in the Christian community, where a person being righteous is only regarded with respect to his judicial standing before God. But the Bible teaches that there is also a connection to the person's behavior.

Notice for example in 1 Cor. 6:9-11a, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you." Notice again Paul associates the concept of righteous or unrighteous with one's behavior. Some among the Corinthians Christians fell into these categories prior to their being saved. But after becoming righteous they no longer behaved that way. True that "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Rom. 4:5, but they don't continue to live ungodliness after that point.

Therefore let us recognize that when we Christians speak about ourselves and other Christians as being righteous, we are making a statement not just with respect to such a person's judicial standing before God, but also we are making a claim concerning such a person's behavior. Do you live up to such a claim?

1 Tim. 1:10 - More Bad Behavior:   10  and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,

This verse continues on the list of behaviors of the unrighteous from the previous verse. Such lists are found in a number of places, such as 1 Cor. 6:9-11a, above and other such as:  Eph. 5:5, "this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Gal. 5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."  Rev. 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."     

It seems they had a very clear and categorical understanding as to what constituted the behavior of those who did not inherit the kingdom of God. Interesting that they made no attempt at prioritizing these. In the case of 1Tim 1:10 lying is given equal emphasis as sodomy and kidnapping. In Rev 21:8 cowardice is given equal emphasis as murder. Perhaps it would be instructive if each was viewed with equal severity - reckoning more severe than we do presently things like envy, cowardice, lying and selfish ambition. To extend the categories Paul furthermore says, "if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine" While it could be argued that some amount of sound doctrine may not touch upon a person's behavior, much of sound doctrine does. Therefore in evaluating whether doctrine is sound, one test it to identify how the doctrine applies to one's behavior.

1 Tim. 1:11 - Gospel Committed to Paul:   11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

God entrusted the gospel to the apostle Paul. It is noteworthy that many of those of other religions give deference to a "Jesus", though they don't really mean the Biblical Jesus. But many such people - such as Muslims - have an outright hostile attitude towards the apostle Paul. In fact even among Christians there are those who are angered by or otherwise reject what Paul teaches - like his views on women. But the fact is that if one rejects the gospel which Paul preaches, one rejects Jesus. Paul's gospel is the gospel of Christ.


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12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.


"And I thank (charin echo-I am grateful to) him who enabled me (endunamoo me-strengthened me or made me strong), Christ Jesus our Lord, because he counted me faithful, appointing me to service" (diakonia) (v. 12).

Paul is grateful because (1) Christ appointed counted him faithful and (2) appointed him to service (diakonia). The word diakonia is the word from which we get our word deacon. It represents a humble kind of service.

  • Jesus said, "Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant" (diakonos) (Matthew 20:26; see also Matthew 23:11).
  • Paul uses the word frequently to show that he is merely a servant of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:5, 9; 2 Corinthians 6:4; Ephesians 1:23; 6:21; Colossians 1:23, 25).
  • Paul also calls Christ a diakonos(servant) (Romans 15:8). That might make it sound as if diakonos and deity are synonymous, but they are not. Christ emptied himself of his Godly status so that he could come to earth in a servant (doulos-slave-an even more humble word than diakonos) status.

Why should Paul be grateful for Christ's having appointed him to Christ's service? After all, Paul's life as Christ's servant has been anything but easy. He has been imprisoned, lashed, beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked in Christ's service. He has suffered peril from many sides, and has experienced hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness in Christ's service (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Paul's gratitude stems from the importance of the calling to which he has been called. If Christ was crucified and resurrected from the dead, "the first fruits of those who are asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20)-which Paul clearly believes-then there is no greater calling than to proclaim the Gospel and to win people to Christ and salvation. In other words, the service to which Christ has called Paul has life-and-death consequences for the people to whom Paul ministers.

Also, Paul has been honored to be an apostle of the King of kings and Lord of lords (6:15). Stop to consider how proud people are to serve a governor or a president-but those kinds of service hardly compare with being the emissary of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Paul is grateful to have been called to such an exalted position.

What Paul couldn't know is that his name would be known and revered throughout the world and throughout time. Today, two thousand years after his death, we still hear his name mentioned in public worship services. We still read the letters that he wrote to various churches. Today people consider it an honor to have their names attached to a building or a bridge that will stand for a century or less. Paul's name will be remembered and honored as long as humans exist on this earth-and into eternity.


"although I was before a blasphemer, a persecutor, and insolent" (hubristes) (v. 13a). Saul (as Paul was originally known) was "a blasphemer," because he spoke against Jesus and tried to force others to do the same (Acts 26:11).  He was "a persecutor" who "both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them" (26:10). He was present at the stoning of Stephen, and approved of Stephen's execution (Acts 7:58; 8:1). He breathed "threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord"-considering them spiritual renegades. He traveled to Damascus, "that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" where they could be tried and convicted (Acts 9:1-2).

He was insolent (hybristes­-insolent, violent, arrogant)-contemptuous of others and indifferent to their suffering-conceited-capable of inflicting injury without qualms of conscience.


"However, I obtained mercy (eleeo-mercy or compassion), because I did it ignorantly in unbelief"(v. 13b). Jewish law distinguished between sins committed unintentionally and sins committed intentionally (Numbers 15:22-31). Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Shortly after Pentecost, Peter accused his listeners of killing "the Prince of life" (Acts 3:15)-but he acknowledged that they had committed this sin in ignorance, and told them to repent (Acts 3:17, 19).

When confronted by a vision of Christ on the Damascus road, Saul suddenly realized that he had been wrong, and he immediately changed his ways. He became a fervent disciple of Christ who "proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20)-and he continued diligently in Christ's service to the end of his life.  Paul obtained mercy because he persecuted Christians "ignorantly in unbelief." We might go one step further. He genuinely believed that he was doing God's will when he persecuted Christians. He believed that Christians were a threat to the true faith, and he felt a responsibility to do everything in his power to stop them. However evil the results, his heart belonged to God and he was committed to serving God faithfully.  A problem raised by this verse is the fact that most of us have committed sins willfully and intentionally. Is there any hope for us? There is. We are "justified freely by (God's) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

"The grace (charisof our Lord abounded exceedingly (huperpleonazowith faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (v. 14). Grace (charis) is a significant word in the New Testament, especially in Paul's epistles. The use of charis in the New Testament has its roots in the Hebrew word hesed, used in the Old Testament to speak of God's lovingkindness, mercy, and faithfulness.

Greeks often used the word charis to speak of patronage (the support of a patron, such as someone who provided financial or political support). To Greeks, the word charis connoted generosity-generosity that demanded loyalty on the part of the recipient.

It is easy, therefore, to understand why Paul would adapt charis to the Gospel. Christian charis is the gift of salvation by God to all who accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God, therefore, is the patron-the benefactor. Just as we could never fully repay a person who left us an inheritance of unimaginable wealth, so also we can never repay God for the gift of salvation. However, if a patron were to grant us unimaginable wealth, we could be faithful to the patron by using the money in a way that would be consistent with the patron's wishes or values. So also, we can be faithful to the God who gives us salvation by living in accord with God's will.


"abounded exceedingly" (v. 14) is a good translation of huperpleonazo, which is a combination of huper or hyper (above) and pleonazo (more than enough). The idea is super-abundance-hyper-abundance-overflowing abundance. Paul is talking about having hit the charis (grace) jackpot. Grace is now the ocean in which he swims.


"with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (v. 14). There are three possible meanings here:

  • Paul received the benefit of God's faith and love along with God's grace. In other words, the faith and love in this verse are God's-not Paul's.
  • Being the beneficiary of God's grace filled Paul's heart with faith and love. In other words, the faith and love in this verse are Paul's.
  • Or both meanings could be true. Paul may be saying that he has been the beneficiary of God's grace, faith, and love-and, in turn, has responded with faith and love.

"in Christ Jesus" (v. 14). The phrase, "in Christ Jesus" is important. Paul uses it (or "in Christ") frequently. Some examples include:

  • We must "consider ourselves also to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:11).
  • Christians "are sanctified (made holy) in Christ Jesus" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
  • "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).
  • "In Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
  • "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

Being "in Christ" involves an all-encompassing relationship with Christ Jesus-a relationship that has saving power. That relationship involves receiving justification (being made righteous) as a gift rather than as an achievement. That makes us equal at the foot of the cross, so there is "there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). "In Christ" there is no room for boastfulness, because we have all received the same gift.



15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16 Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would

believe in Him for eternal life.


"The saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance" (v. 15a). This sort of "faithful saying" phrase appears in four other places in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8)-and nowhere else. This is another example of the anomalies that cause scholars to question Paul's authorship.

This is Paul's way of signaling that he is about to say something of great importance. Jesus did the same sort of thing with his "Amen amen lego soi" statements ("Truly, truly, I say to you").


"that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (v. 15b). This is the heart of the Gospel, and is reflected in a number of Jesus' sayings as well as those of his disciples.

  • "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mark 2:17).
  • "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).
  • "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

"the world" (kosmos) (v. 15b). While the word kosmos can refer to the created order, in the New Testament it usually means the world that is opposed to God-people who are antagonistic to God.


"Christ Jesus (v. 15b). Christ (Greek: Christos) is Jesus' title-the equivalent of the Hebrew word Messiah. Both Christ and Messiah mean anointed-set apart for a particular service or calling. In the Old Testament, they anointed prophets, priests, and kings.  Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:16), but the word Christ is used to refer to Jesus more than five hundred times in the New Testament.


"sinners, of whom I am chief" (protos) (v. 15c). The Greek word protos means "first," but in this context it means "foremost" or "chief" or "the worst example." He surely has in mind his former persecution of Christians. Elsewhere he calls himself "the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God (the church)" (1 Corinthians 15:9). He also calls himself "the very least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8).  But he could also have in mind his ongoing struggle with sin (Rom. 7:15-20).


"However, for this cause I obtained mercy" (eleeo) (v. 16a). See the comments on verse 13b above.

"that in me first, Jesus Christ might display all his patience" (makrothumia) (v. 16b)The Greek word makrothumia means endurance or steadfastness or patience or longsuffering or perseverance. Rather than striking down Saul for persecuting Christians, Christ exercised remarkable restraint-appearing personally to Saul in a Damascus road vision to effect Saul's conversion (Acts 9:1-19)-and then appointing Saul (renamed Paul) to be an apostle (Acts 22:17-21; Romans 1:1-2; 1 Corinthians 9:1-5; Galatians 1:15-16).

Paul's conversion from persecutor to apostle gave Christ the opportunity to demonstrate the incredible reach of his patience and perseverance.


"for an example (hupotuposisof those who were going to believe in him for eternal life" (v. 16c). The Greeks used the word hupotuposis to speak of the preliminary sketch that an artist might draw. Such a sketch might be rough and incomplete, but it would nevertheless give the viewer a good idea what the finished product would look like. If anyone wondered what Christ could do for them, Paul's conversion gave them a clear outline. If they would only believe, Christ would give them eternal life.

We tend to think of eternal life as having to do only with longevity-infinite in duration. However, Jesus portrayed eternal life as also having to do with quality of life-and starting in the here and now. In his High Priestly Prayer, he said, "This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3).


17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.


Paul opened this passage in verse 12 with thanksgiving to "Christ Jesus our Lord." Now he concludes with a doxology-an expression of praise to God (the word doxology comes from two Greek words-doxa, which means glory-and logos, which means word).  Doxologies are common in both Old and New Testaments (Genesis 24:27a; 1 Samuel 25:39a; Psalm 28:6; 31:21; 41:13; 68:19, 35; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; Romans 11:36; Galatians 1:3-5; Philippians 4:20; Ephesians 3:20-21; 1 Timothy 6:14-16; 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 Peter 4:11b).  These doxologies typically include:

  • The name of the one to whom the praise is directed (God, Yahweh, the Lord, Christ Jesus).
  • An expression of praise or blessing ("Blessed be the Lord." "Be honor and glory").

They often include:

  • A reason for the praise ("Because he has heard the voice of my petitions." "For he has shown me his marvelous loving kindness").
  • An expression denoting eternity ("From everlasting to everlasting." "Forever and ever").


"Now to the King eternal (basilei ton aionon-"of the ages"), emphasizes the eternal nature of God-that God is infinite, having no beginning or ending-that God is not bound by time, but is eternal. 


"immortal" (aphthartos-incorruptible), seems an odd translation of aphthartos, which means incorruptible. However, most translations (NRSV, NIV, ASV, The Message) say "immortal," so I will bow to the weight of scholarship. The idea here seems to be that God is immune to the kind of degrading or wearing down that is typical of the created order.


"invisible." When Moses asked to see God's face, God replied, "You cannot see my face, for man may not see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). God's glory is so overwhelming that humans aren't engineered to be capable of experiencing it. Like coming into contact with a live high-voltage electrical line, it would be too much for us.  The New Testament reaffirms this idea. John says, "No one has seen God at any time," but then continues, "The one and only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him" (John 1:18). In other words, Jesus has made the invisible God visible. Jesus made the same point when Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father." Jesus responded, "Have I been with you such a long time, and do you not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:8-9). In his letter to the Colossians, Paul said that Jesus "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15).


"be honor (timeand glory" (doxa) (v. 17c). The Greek word time (pronounced tim-AH) means honor or respect or reverence. Doxa means glory. Honor and glory are often found together in the New Testament (Romans 2:7, 10; Hebrews 2:7, 9; 1 Peter 1:7; 2 Peter 1:17; Revelation 4:9, 11; 5:12-13). God is worthy of our highest praise.


"forever and ever" (eis tous aionas ton aionon-literally, "into the ages of the ages") (v. 17d). It is appropriate that a timeless God should receive timeless praise.


"Amen" (v. 17d). "Amen" (v. 20b). This word is Hebrew, and in the New Testament is transliterated into Greek. In other words, Greek letters are used to make the sound of the Hebrew word. In the OT, amen  means "to confirm; to support; to be faithful... (and) is also used in response to worship and praise.... The English word amen comes from this word and means, 'I agree; may it be so'" (Baker and Carpenter, 70).