Follow Sound Doctrine

Ephesus was a place of rampant idolatry, philosophical speculation, and gross immorality even in their religious expressions (Acts 19:23-27; 3, 35). Even the Judaism was sensational and superstitious (Acts 19:13-16). Paul had assigned to Timothy a difficult task of ministering in that city and guarding the believers from the treachery of error and building them up in the transforming truths of the gospel.


I. The greeting emphasizes the centrality of Christ to Christian Ministry 1:1, 2

A. His apostleship is particularly of Christ Jesus – (1a) This is because the gospel he was commanded to proclaim is specifically about the incarnate Son of God in his redemptive work perfectly completed in his obedient life, his substitutionary death, and his triumphant resurrection and ascension.

B. It is by command of God and Christ Jesus – 1 [cf. Acts 9:4-6, 15-16; 13:2, 3] Note, as below, the collateral authority of the Father and the Son in this command. I am assuming that “God our Savior” here refers to God the Father since we have this duality mentioned in verse 2. God the Father is our Savior in that all the aspects of the covenant of redemption are executed in accordance with his merciful design. See Luke 1:47; 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 13:20; Titus 1:1-3; 3:4-7

C. It is in light of the hope and salvation brought by Christ – (1b)The resurrected Christ is Himself our living hope. This objective reality of the conquering of death and all its consequences stirs within us the anticipation of a glorious eternity, thus the subjective aspect of hope that corresponds to the objective reality of it. See Romans 8:23-25 (If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”); Also think about the phrase in Colossians 1:5, “The hope laid up for you in heaven.” And “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). “We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).

D. Jesus distributes equally with the Father the blessings of grace, mercy, and peace – (Verse 2) Grace, in this case, may be seen as the entire disposition of God in granting a full range of blessedness, from foreknowledge to glorification (Romans 8: 29, 30) to those sinners lost in the despair of their own rebellion; mercy may be seen particularly as the disposition not to exact punishment upon those who deserve a curse (Ephesians 2:4; Titus 3:5); and peace may be seen as the elimination of God’s enmity against sinners, the removal of their heart of opposition to him, and the consequent restoration of fellowship in increasing measure throughout eternity (Ephesians 2:13, 14; Colossians 1:20).



II. Paul’s Apostolic Instruction to Timothy 1:3-7, 18-20

A. Paul did not allow any “different” doctrine from that which he taught. The doctrine that Paul received by divine revelation constituted a deposit that he gave to Timothy and others in his preaching ministry. In 6:20 Paul commanded Timothy to “guard the deposit entrusted to you.” In 2 Timothy Paul gave increased urgency to this stewardship (1:8, 134, 14; 2:1, 2, 8, 15, 24; 3:10; 4:1, 2, 6). Any deviation from that deposit Paul did not allow, for any human wisdom given in addition would pollute, corrupt, and thus destroy the purity of the message given. He and the other apostles were “stewards of the mysteries of God” and thus must be faithful to the revelation of that mystery (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).

B. The Gospel is not to satisfy the metaphysical speculations of sophists (“myths and endless genealogies”), but to submit us to God in repentance from sin and faith in the saving work of Christ. – (Verse 4) – Paul contrasts the penchant for speculation on the part of self-appointed teachers with the clarity and certainty of the truth given by divine revelation, “the stewardship from God that is by faith.” On the one hand, people flatter themselves with their clever analyses of philosophical ideas, mythology, and genealogies, and on the other those that received God’s message receive the truth into mind and heart and trust the truth that is given. Why should one prefer the uncertainty of human philosophical ramblings to the truth given by God? The Colossians suffered the same temptation to look to philosophy and “plausible arguments” rather than the certainty made plain before us in the gospel of Christ (Colossians 2:3-10).

C. The Gospel transforms the affections by means of the truth – (Verse 5) Philosophical speculation looks to the intellect and has no power to alter the affections; the gospel transforms the heart into humble and loving submission before a holy God by the assurance of sin forgiven. Before love can arise, the heart must be purified. Such is the operation of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. The sentence could be seen as setting forth three goals of Paul’s charge, inextricably connected but logically ordered: love, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. He interrupted the list by the attribution of love to a pure heart. We will not love unless the heart of adamantine enmity is removed for a heart of flesh. We will believe the words and promises of one whom we love and will find a clear conscience in the presence of redeeming love (See Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:8; 1 John 4:16-19)

D. There is a problem when a teacher has an improper understanding of the Law 6, 7 ; Perhaps these are persons that looked upon the Jewish law as something of a cipher to be decoded through elemental philosophical ideas. Paul seemed to know that, given the environment of Ephesus, the danger of infiltration from false teachers was an ever-present possibility (Acts 20:28-31). Now it has happened, and they are using the plausible method of reflection on the Law as a foundation for spinning their speculations about life and religion, leading people away from the simplicity of the gospel as it is in Christ.

E. Timothy is to keep Paul’s command about the nature of a teacher’s doctrine. He is to charge them not to teach these things (3), and he is under charge from Paul to wage a good warfare in pushing back the enemies ofthe historically-accomplished, divinely-revealed gospel. (Verse 18)

  1. In doing this he will manifest the goal of the gospel of establishing a good conscience. (cf verses 5, 19)
  2. Hymenaeus and Alexander have not done this and thus demonstrate their faith is not persevering and true. They have moved away from a focus on the realities of sin, grace, and redemption and the blessing of forgiveness through Christ and have given themselves to their gospel-diluting speculations. (Verses 19b, 20)



III. A Teacher must know the basic relationship between Law and Gospel 1:8-11

A. The Law serves a good purpose (8 – cf. Romans 7:7-12). Just because the speculators used the Law as their starting point for their cloudy guesses at life’s meaning, does not mean that the Law had no right use. It sets forth moral absolutes that constitute the real picture of righteousness when all of it is done from a heart fully loving toward God. It is placed in Scripture in a strategic place to reveal the sinfulness of humanity in order to drive sinners to Christ (Romans 2:13, 14).

B. The righteous person does not stand in need of the Law – 1:9a Were a person fully righteous, he would not stand in need of the Law for he would be fully conversant with the glory and righteousness of God through the law written on the heart. The external law, distributed into two tables and parsed into its constituent implications, he would not need, for he would live that way through unsullied love for God and neighbor. Only those who are sinful stand in need of this clear reminder of the standard that God requires of his creatures. “It often happens that those who wish to be thought to have the greatest zeal for the Law prove by their whole way of life that they are its greatest despisers. The clearest example of this in our own day is those who maintain justification by works and defend free will.” (Calvin) We see Calvin’s point demonstrated in Scripture with regularity.

  1. The Rich Young Ruler could not benefit from Jesus’ pressing the Law on him, because he thought he was righteous Mark 10:17-27 cf. Lk 18:18-27
  2. The Pharisee considered himself righteous, but the one who knew his sin went home “justified” – Luke 18:9-14
  3. Paul pointed to the Jewish zeal for the righteousness of the Law as a prime example of failure to grasp the level of righteousness its requires and thus they miss it: “Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law.” Romans 9:31 and thus “they did not submit to God’s righteousness” Romans 10:3.
  4. As a Pharisee, Paul considered himself righteous and thus despised Christ – Phil 3:6, 9

C. It is designed to convict of all kinds of sins – 9b, 10:This is a catalogue of specific examples of how the 10 commandments are broken.

  1. The first table of the Law (the first four commandments. is summarized in the terms Ungodly(“thou shalt have no other gods before me”), and sinners(“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything etc. . . . visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children etc”), unholy(Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not him guiltless . . .” and profane(“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”).
  2. Commandments 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are pointed to, some with more than one type of violation. They do not honor their parents, they do not value life and thus feel no compelling prohibition against taking human life, They are immoral sexually including homosexuality, they steal men in order to enslave them, and they do not regard the truth and thus find it acceptable to lie, perjure themselves, and bear false witness.
  3. He does not mention the tenth commandment precisely although in Romans 7:7-9 he points to it as embodying the entire law.

D. The Law is consistent with the provisions of the Gospel – (Verse 11) The gospel is not a contradiction of the Law but its best confirmation (Romans 3:31). Paul’s gospel does not set aside, or replace the law, but confirms it and fulfils it by showing that all of its righteousness demands are not overlooked by God; all of them are honored by the life and obedience of Christ and by the Father’s setting him forth as a propitiation for our sins.” Anyone that sets aside the laws as a picture of perfect righteousness and would seek to convince a person not to honor it, would at the same time oppose the full implications of the gospel.



IV. Paul as an example of the Gospel’s operation on a sinner 1:12-17

A. Counted faithful – cf. 1 Corinthians 4:2 and 9:16, 23, 27 Being made an apostle meant that God had counted Paul as faithful [not chosen him on the basis of foreseen faith]; it was an office conferred on him that would cost him much labor to attain the predetermined goal of faithfulness; For use of “consider” see Romans 6:11; the accounting involves the certainty of the use of means. At the end of his life Paul could look to the faithfulness of God as the ground of his faithfulness (2 Timothy 4:7, 18).

B. His “qualification” for mercy was his vicious lawbreaking and ignorant unbelief: illustrating that the Law is not made for a righteous man (13) – these are not seen as mitigating, but as aggravating factors. His ignorance and unbelief were not excuses that placed him in the sphere of candidacy for mercy, but aggravated his sin and made mercy the only possible path to redemption. His blasphemy had obliterated any feasibility of obedience to the first table of the Law, and his persecution and insolence had violated every aspect of the second table of the Law. He had shown clearly that his conscience was tied to falsehood and, thus instead of loving God and serving man, he hated Christ and sought the elimination of Christians. He gave an expansion of this idea in Titus 3 when he wrote of “passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.”

C. Paul received from grace both faith and love found in Christ Jesus. The grace of regeneration, or the new birth, precedes the production of love and faith flows from love. We would not repent of sin unless we were brought to hate its moral deformity and we could never see that unless we were brought to see and love the perfect righteousness of Christ. All of this is consistent with the purpose of the Law. Faith replaced unbelief, and love replaced his murderous cruelty and blasphemy; none of these comes abstractly apart from Christ.

D. When the Law has done its work of making all men sinners in their own sight, they are candidates for benefiting from the work of Christ. – (Verse 15). Paul appears to be quoting a confessional proposition common in the churches, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Such a statement is so universally and absolutely true that none can be exempt from accepting it. Its worthiness arises from the perfect moral beauty of such a redemptive work, fully answering all the demands of the Law and manifesting at the same time the gratuitous mercy of God.See Hebrews 9:14, 15 for relation between the work of Christ and the cleansing of conscience through the redemptive work of Christ.

E. Paul as chief of sinners becomes a demonstration of the infinite perfection of Christ’s sacrifice and his patience with his elect while he works to bring them to repentance (“an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”) All people may take encouragement from this truth of Paul’s reception of converting grace, that one of such great sin could find forgiveness means that any who come in repentance and faith will find abundantly receptive mercy.

F. As in Romans 11:33ff the exposition of grace gives rise to benediction of the unsearchable goodness and glory of God. If we give the appropriate latitude to the words—“of the ages (eternal), immortal, invisible, the only God” we will recognize that all things he brought into existence as expressions of his glory. Genesis 1:1 lets us know that the world and all therein is his. It came into being as a display of glorious and infinite might, power, and intelligence. Additionally, all of history, from the fall through the final redemption of his people will be a manifestation of his wisdom, justice, righteousness, mercy, and grace. Beyond that, all of eternity will be an increasingly joyful display of his infinite beauty. So, to him will be honor and glory forever and ever.



V. Serious contemplation

A. Can one have confidence that he is a Christian if he does not embrace the connections of necessity between Christ, law, and the Gospel?

B. Should anyone who aspires to be a teacher be investigated on this issue prior to acceptance?

C. Should we not meditate often on the person of Christ and the substitutionary nature of his atonement to have deepening convictions of the “worthiness” of such a salvation?

D. Can we praise God sincerely and singly apart from the power of these truths?

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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