Introduction to the Book of 1 Timothy

Guidelines for Christ-Centered Living

Book of 1 Timothy
Design Pics / Don Hammond

The book of 1 Timothy, one of the Apostle Paul's three Pastoral Epistles, provides a unique yardstick for churches to measure their conduct. The letter identifies the traits of committed Christians and also offers practical and spiritual guidance to pastors and church leaders.

Question for Reflection

Timothy was a young minister and a leader in the church. He had to tackle all sorts of challenges, pressures, and conflicts in the Christian community and the surrounding culture. Like Timothy, are you young in age and in the faith? Remember Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NLT)

The Apostle Paul, an experienced preacher, gave guidelines in this pastoral letter to his young protege Timothy for the church in Ephesus. While Paul had complete trust in Timothy ("my true son in the faith," 1 Timothy 1:2, NIV), he warned against sinister developments in the Ephesian church that had to be dealt with.

One problem was false teachers. Paul commanded proper understanding of the law and also warned against false asceticism, perhaps an influence of early Gnosticism.

Another problem at Ephesus was the behavior of church leaders and members. Paul taught that salvation was not earned by good works, but rather that godly character and good works were the fruits of a grace-saved Christian. He gave instructions on preserving truth in the church and outlined standards for worship.

Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy are especially relevant to today's churches, in which size is often among the factors used to determine a church's success. Paul cautioned all pastors and church leaders to behave with humility, personal integrity, high morals, and indifference to riches. He spelled out requirements for overseers and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:2-12.

Further, Paul repeated that churches must teach the true gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from human effort. He included solid principles regarding finances, especially as they relate to contentment and personal goals for a godly life. Additionally, Paul provided detailed instructions on the church’s role in caring for widows. He closed the letter with personal encouragement to Timothy to "fight the good fight of the faith." (1 Timothy 6:12, NIV)  

Author of 1 Timothy

The Apostle Paul.

Date Written

About 64 A.D.

Written To

Paul wrote this letter to the church leader, Timothy, his protégé and spiritual son, and to all future pastors and believers.

Landscape of 1 Timothy

Ephesus, where Timothy resided, was a major trade center and commercial port at this time, and also home to the temple of the goddess Artemis. The city was known as an educational hub for learning and practicing magical arts.

Themes in the Book of 1 Timothy

Two scholarly camps exist on the major theme of 1 Timothy. The first says instructions on church order and pastoral responsibilities is the message of the letter. The second camp insists the book's true aim is to prove that the authentic gospel produces godly results in the lives of those who follow it.

Overall, the message of 1 Timothy concerns sound teaching, while additional themes include how to deal with false teachers in the church; the responsibilities and qualifications of church leaders; appropriate conduct for Christians; and guarding the church's reputation in the world.

Key Characters

Paul and Timothy.

Key Verses

1 Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time. (NIV)

1 Timothy 4:12
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (NIV)

1 Timothy 6:10-11
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (NIV)

Outline of the Book of 1 Timothy

  • The importance of believing right (1:1-20)
  • How church members should worship and behave (2:1-3:16)
  • How church leaders should behave (4:1-6:21)