I Timothy 1 Part 4
New King James Version 16. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
The Resultant Version 16. Nevertheless on account of this I was treated with mercy, that in me foremost Jesus Christ might be displaying all patience, unto a pattern of those who are about to believe on Him in respect to life eonian.
Paul reveals the reason for which he had obtained such mercy as to become the foremost of sinners. It was so that in him foremost Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering. The word translated “first” here in the New King James Version is again the Greek word protos, meaning “foremost” or most significantly. Christ was showing His gracious longsuffering through His mercy given to Paul.
Now the grace given to Paul made him a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for life eonian. It seems that most believers today look to Christ as the pattern for how we should live. The saying “What would Jesus do?” was quite popular some years back, and people thought that thinking about what Jesus would do in their situation would be helpful in making them more like Him. Yet this is a pattern that is most difficult to follow. Our Lord Jesus is God in human form, and as such, when He was on earth He could do and even say things that we cannot do or say at all. Moreover, He was on earth during a very different dispensation from ours. He worked miracles and showed forth signs that are not at all characteristic of the dispensation of grace in which we live.
Yet Paul is different. Paul was a man, just as we are. Paul at this time in his life was living in the dispensation of grace, and could no more heal than we can (see Philippians 2:25-30, I Timothy 5:23, and II Timothy 4:20). Moreover, the Bible tells us that grace was shown him to make him the leader of sinners and a pattern to us who after the writing of I Timothy have believed on Christ for life eonian. He is our pattern, the pattern God has given us. We would do far better to ask, “What would Paul do?” than “What would Jesus do?” for Paul is our pattern. As for living like Jesus Christ, well, that is just a bar that is too high for us to achieve.
Paul mentions here that belief leads to life eonian. This is more than mere “everlasting” life. The Greek word aion basically means “a flow.” Particularly when it appears in the phrase “the eon,” it refers to the coming time when God is going to take to Himself His great power and reign over the earth. At that time, He will be flowing out to the world in great power and goodness, light and truth. That time is called “the eon” because it is the time when God will flow out to the world as He never has before. Those who are privileged to live on earth during that time will be experiencing “life eonian,” that is, life in God’s eon. This will be an outflowing life, a life that flows with every good thing from the hand of God that would make life forever worth living. It is the great privilege of those who believe on Jesus Christ to receive this eonian life for themselves in the future when God makes all His promises a reality.
New King James Version 17. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The Resultant Version 17. Now unto the King of the eons, incorruptible, invisible, the only wise God, to Him be honor and glory in respect to the eons of the eons. Amen.
Paul, it seems, cannot think of the great mercy and longsuffering of the Lord toward him in making him the foremost of sinners, not to mention the eonian life he is to enjoy along with all believers, without offering praise in gratitude to our great God and Savior for having done such gracious things toward him and toward us. Therefore he offers this outburst of admiration toward Him.
First, he calls Him the King of the eons. While we do recognize that Jesus Christ lives for ever and is eternal, this is not a correct translation of the Greek basilei ton aionon. Basilei is the Greek for “King,” and speaks of an absolute ruler. Ton aionon means “the eons” or the outflows of God. We realize that Jesus Christ is the One Who is the absolute Ruler over all God’s outflows. He sits on the right hand of God, and all that flows out from God flows at His command.
The next word aphtharto does not mean deathless or immortal, but rather means incorruptible. All earthly kings are fallen men, and thus are capable of being corrupted by the right circumstances. Jesus Christ is God, however, and so is completely incorruptible as King and Ruler of the eons.
The Greek aorato means the King cannot be seen, for He is invisible. We cannot now lay our eyes on this great King over all, but that does not mean that He is not there, or that He does not hold all power in His hands.
This King is the only wise God. This is mono (only or alone) sopho (wise, as in our word “sophomore,”) Theo (God) in Greek. Some manuscripts do not have the word “wise,” and this may be a misplacement by a scribe from Romans 16:27 (and Jude 1:25). Either way, both are true. Our King, Jesus Christ, is the only God, and He is the only wise God, for all wisdom truly rests with Him and comes from Him.
To this great God Paul ascribes honor and glory. He offers this to Him particularly in respect to the eons of the eons. This phrase does not mean “for ever and ever.” The foolishness of this phrase is shown in the fact that if something lasts “for ever,” how can it also last “and ever”? This just makes it sound childish. The words aionas and aionon are both nouns, and yet the English word “ever” is an adverb. How can it possibly be good translation to translate a noun by an adverb, a completely different part of speech? Not to mention that both these words are plural in the Greek, but who ever heard of plural “evers”? No, this is a poor and senseless translation, and it should be “in respect to the eons of the eons,” as The Resultant Version makes it. (Aionas is “to the eons” and aionon is “of the eons.)
What we have here is flows of the flows. We might imagine a number of rivers, each of which splits and becomes a much larger number of rivers. This is the idea of the “flows of the flows.” We might imagine something that looks like a family tree, with each branch splitting and becoming even more branches. When we consider that the “eons” are the flows of God, we might say that the things that flow out of those flows are the results of the eons of God. It is not only the flows of God themselves that are glorious, but the many, wonderful outcomes of those flows are also glorious. These, I believe, are the eons of the eons.
New King James Version 18. This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
The Resultant Version 18. This charge I commit to you, child Timothy, according to the prophecies going before in relation to you, in connection with these that you might carry on a good warfare,
Now Paul and the Holy Spirit through him speak again directly to Timothy. He commits a charge or a command to him. This may refer all the way back to verse 3, when he told Timothy to charge the teachers in Ephesus not to teach false doctrine or to give heed to fables and endless genealogies. This was a necessary charge, as there was much struggling with false doctrine going on in Ephesus at this time.
Paul calls Timothy “child.” This is the word teknon or child, and does not mean “son,” as the New King James Version wrongly translates it. Paul may well be referring to the fact that Timothy had come to faith in Christ after hearing the gospel through Paul. Timothy’s father was a Greek and, as far as we can tell, did not share Timothy’s faith in Christ, if indeed he was still alive. Moreover, Timothy had been following Paul since he was fifteen years old, so Paul really had been much like a father to this young man. Surely he had earned the right to call him “child” at this time.
Paul now mentions the prophecies previously made concerning Timothy. We think of prophecies as predictions of the future, but really prophecies are simply God’s words spoken on a matter. God can speak of the past, He can speak of the present, or, since He is God, He can speak of the future, and all these kinds of speaking really are prophecy, since they are all speaking the word of God. We do not really know what these prophecies were regarding Timothy, but they need not necessarily have been predictions of the future. Instead, they may have expressed God’s view of Timothy, and the kind of service He had in mind for him to perform. Now, Timothy needs to stay true to these prophecies in carrying out the charge God is laying on him through Paul.
That this book mentions Timothy receiving prophecies might seem strange to us since we know that I Timothy was written after the great dispensational change, when we might expect all such prophecies to have ceased. Yet we must keep in mind that Timothy has been a follower of Paul since Acts 16, which of course was squarely in the Acts period. Of course, such prophecies could have been made over Timothy then and have been entirely in line with what God was doing then, whereas they would be somewhat out of line with what God is accomplishing today in the dispensation of grace.
At the same time, we must realize that even after the dispensational change, God did not fall silent until the writing of the New Testament Scriptures was completed. This book of I Timothy itself, of course, is a God-given oracle to Timothy, and so we cannot say that prophecies could not be given to Timothy at this time. This book itself is really a prophecy given concerning Timothy. We cannot say, then, that the prophecies Paul is referring to could not have been made in the dispensation of grace. Yet I would still tend to believe that these prophecies were given in the Acts period, toward the beginning of Timothy’s ministry, and not recently. The writing of books of Scripture was necessary at the very beginning of our current dispensation in order to get the revelation of the dispensation of grace and its character out there before God fell silent, but that did not mean he had to send men to prophecy over someone as is described here. This was doubtless an event that took place during the Acts.
The bottom line is that by these prophecies Paul desires Timothy to carry on a good warfare. This is something we need to realize as believers: that we are involved in warfare. Ephesians 6:12 tells us who our enemy is.
12. For our wrestling is not against blood and flesh, but with the sovereignties, with the authorities, with the world rulers of this darkness, with the spiritual forces of wickedness among the most elevated.
These are our foes, and significant foes they are, too. Yet what is necessary for us is the same thing that was necessary for Timothy: that we war a good warfare against them, believing God in faith and following God in righteousness with a good conscience, as the next verse declares.
New King James Version 19. having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,
The Resultant Version 19. Holding faith and a good conscience, which some thrusting away from them, concerning the faith have made shipwreck,
It is not only by the prophecies that went forth before on Timothy, whatever they might have been, that he is to carry on a good warfare. Also, it is by faith and a good conscience. “Faith” is the Greek pistin, and is the same word that is often translated “belief” in the New Testament. Faith and belief are truly the same thing in the Bible. The point of “faith” here is that Timothy is to continue to believe God in his thoughts and opinions and in his lifestyle. The things we acknowledge in our heads as being true are not all that express our faith. Rather, what we live as being true in our lifestyles also expresses what we truly believe, even more than what we think. If we truly believe it, we will act on it. It is as simple as that. Timothy, in order to fight a good warfare, needed to believe the right things and to act on those right beliefs. This is the same thing we need to do today.
Timothy also needs to carry on his warfare with a good conscience. This has to do with living a Godly, righteous lifestyle such as one’s conscience would tell one to live. This could well have in mind a good conscience regarding faith. When God brings us truth from His Word, it is nothing but a violation of conscience for us to refuse to accept and believe it. There is nothing that can foul up our warfare against Satan’s forces so much as a lack of faith or a violation of conscience. When we know what we should believe and when we know what is righteousness, our job is not to think about it, but to act on these things. Anything else is not good warfare for the sake of our Lord and Savior.
Some have rejected both faith and a good conscience, Paul admits. Surely some of those false teachers who were promoting their wrong ideas about the law were among this number. Once they did this, concerning the faith they suffered shipwreck. In their experience, typically when a ship was wrecked it went down, and all its precious cargo went with it. In the same way for those who had ceased to believe the things they found in God’s Word and ceased to follow their conscience, their faith had gone down in shipwreck with all its precious cargo lost. This was not just a small loss, but a major loss of the many blessings they had formerly received from their relationship with Jesus Christ. What a sad thing indeed!
Some who believe that one who is saved can choose to stop believing and become “unsaved” use this idea of shipwrecked faith to support that idea. However, there is no such clear teaching here. For one thing, we do not know that those Paul is talking about ever were believers in the first place. We do not know that they ever had faith. All we hear about them is that they rejected faith. This does not lead us to conclude that they were necessarily believers to start out with. If they were, however, this says nothing about them suffering ultimate destruction, but only losing through shipwreck all the benefits of faith. In II Timothy, Paul will speak of rewards for endurance that can be forfeited by later denying Christ. If he is talking about believers here at all, then the shipwreck he is discussing is about them losing the precious cargo brought to them by their faith, but not their own lives. There is no clear teaching of loss of salvation here.
New King James Version 20. of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
The Resultant Version 20. Of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I give up to Satan that they may be trained not to blaspheme.
Now Paul names names of men whose faith has been shipwrecked. The first mentioned is Hymenaeus. Hymenaeus means “Belonging to Marriage.” He is mentioned again by Paul in II Timothy 2:17.
II Timothy 2:17. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18. who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.
Most probably, Hymenaeus was a man of Ephesus who was giving Timothy trouble during his ministry there, and who perhaps had given Paul trouble as well when he was there back in the Acts period. Apparently, Hymenaeus had given up on faith, refusing to believe the truth of God as it was presented to him, and thus suffered shipwreck regarding his faith. He had also given up a good conscience, apparently knowingly working against what he knew to be right. This was not a good thing, and is certainly something for every believer in Jesus Christ to avoid. We need to follow faith and a good conscience in all things, and avoid becoming like Hymenaeus.
A second man whom Paul names here is Alexander. Alexander means “Man Defender.” Back in the book of Acts, we read of an Alexander of Ephesus in Acts 19.
Acts 19:33. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
If this is the same Alexander, there is no indication that he was ever a believer in Christ. His identification with “the Jews” would lead us rather to identify him with the synagogue, which Paul had left several years earlier when certain of the Jews rejected the true message, and had separated the believers to the school of Tyrannus. If this Alexander was not a believer, this could lead to the thought that Hymenaeus was not either. However, I would tend to think not. In Acts 20:29-30, Paul warned the Ephesian elders of two kinds of opponents they would face after he had left them.
Acts 20:29. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
The believers would suffer from two kinds of false teachers. The first kind would be from without, savage wolves who would come in among them and not spare the flock. The second kind would be from among the elders of the Ephesian believers themselves, who would apostatize from the truth and who would speak perverse things to draw disciples after themselves and away from Paul and Christ. Since Hymenaeus taught false things about the resurrection (II Timothy 2:17-18), I would suggest that he was of the latter type. Since Alexander is described as one of “the Jews,” I believe he was of the former type, one who came in from without.
We also read of an Alexander in II Timothy 4:14-15.
II Timothy 4:14. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 15. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.
This Alexander did much harm to Paul, and greatly resisted his words. He is called “the coppersmith,” which name he was not given the other two times. However, since the uproar in Ephesus was caused by the smiths, it could well be that the Jews put Alexander forward because of his association with them. If so, all three Alexanders could be the same man. This seems quite likely, since in all three verses the Alexander mentioned was from Ephesus, and especially in the latter two was a strong opponent of the truth.
Now we come to this strange mention of Paul giving these two up to Satan to train them not to blaspheme. What does this mean? And how could Paul do such a thing in the dispensation of grace? We certainly do not believe that any of us have the right to give a person up, believer or not, to Satan for any purpose. So how could Paul do this?
First of all, we have to remember that Paul had first visited Ephesus in the Acts period, and Timothy had been with him. Paul faced opposition then, we know, and one of his opponents at least was the man Alexander. It is very possible, therefore, that it was actually during the Acts period that Paul had done this delivering. We know of at least one other case in the Acts period when Paul was ready to do this very thing, as we read in I Corinthians 5:4 regarding the man who had taken his father’s wife.
I Corinthians 5:4. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5. deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
This was a much more drastic punishment, for the destruction of the flesh and not just for teaching not to blaspheme, but it was also a delivering. This incident with Hymenaeus and Alexander might also be an example of something Paul did during Acts, even though he is talking about it now in I Timothy after the Acts period concluded. After all, he had not been back to Ephesus since the Acts period. Therefore, if he had done this after the Acts period, he would have to have done so from a distance, which would not seem as likely as him doing it in person. Yet at the same time, if I am right in what I said above and Hymenaeus was one of the elders of the believers in Ephesus who had gone astray, then it is most likely that he did so after Paul left them, so it could indeed be that Paul had done this from a distance. Paul was at a distance from Corinth as well, yet because he gave his approval to them delivering a man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, he says his spirit would be present when they did it. This delivering in I Timothy might have been done the same way.
If Paul had delivered these two to Satan after the dispensational change, which idea we cannot rule out completely, then we would have to remember that this is Paul we are talking about. Even after the dispensational change, Paul at least for a time maintained certain powers and privileges which the typical believer of today does not have. For one thing, he continued to write books of the Bible, which is not at all a typical thing in the dispensation of grace. I believe his movements and work were still overseen by the Lord. We have already seen that he was continuing to suffer the preordained sufferings the Lord had revealed to him in advance, which is something we typical believers of today do not have to go through. For all we know, Paul may have maintained certain authorities, such as the authority to deliver one to Satan. Since this delivering was not for destruction, as that of I Corinthians, but rather for teaching, it may have had a gracious purpose which is consistent with God’s work today. So it could be that Paul did do this in our day. Yet we need to realize that this was Paul. This is not anything we could do, or should even attempt to do.
The only question that remains is exactly how being delivered to Satan would teach one not to blaspheme? The only answer we can give to this question is that we simply do not know. We must just assume that Paul knew what he was doing, and that it was possible that one could learn not to blaspheme by being delivered to Satan. Whatever lessons these two men may have learned, they obviously did not learn enough, as we read in II Timothy that they still were opposing Paul. May we not become like them, but rather always cling to God’s truth and God’s ways.