1 Timothy 1:1-20
 The Ministry of Grace, Mercy, and Sound Doctrine

       American Journal of Biblical Theology    Copyright 2004, J.W. Carter
 www.biblicaltheology.com                Scripture quotes from KJV


As we approach this segment of New Testament scripture, we find three unique and outstanding letters.  Referred to as the "pastoral epistles" these were specifically written to individuals who were serving in a pastoral role:  Timothy and Titus.  The intent of the pastoral epistles is to address specific issues that arose in the church and to encourage their pastors as they dealt with those issues.  Because of this, these letters have a personal and sensitive tone and structure that is a little different from other epistles.  When one writes to an individual one is likely to write in a different manner than when one writes to a broad audience.  For example, these Bible studies are written to a very broad audience.  There are currently approximately 600 subscribers who receive these studies each week, and approximately another 400 visitors download the studies each week from the Journal.  Every major Christian denomination is represented in its subscribers.   Consequently, as I write, my personality is certainly evident, but my vocabulary and the nature of my illustrations is far different than it would be if I were writing to a single close friend.  My vocabulary and grammar is more formal, and I tend to use more precise wording than I would otherwise do.  This nature of writing is important if we enter the debate concerning the authorship of the pastoral epistles.

Much controversy has been raised by scholars who argue, based on internal evidence (vocabulary, grammar, content, and style), that Paul is not the author of the pastoral epistles.  However, it is relatively easy to defend the position that the author of the pastoral epistles is, indeed, the apostle, Paul.  Historically, the accounts in these three letters do not identically match those of the book of Acts.  However, Paul did not write the book of Acts, and the purpose of that book is not to give an exhaustive bibliography of all of Paul's experiences.  For example, Clement of Rome (among others) records journeys of Paul that are not recorded in the book of Acts, including missionary trips to the far west of Rome.  There are many words used in these epistles that are not used in other writings that are more clearly attributed to Paul.  However the different audience and different circumstances can certainly be cause for using different words.  (For example, I use the word "engender" in public writing, a word I would never use in a personal letter.) The Pauline authorship was not challenged in the first few centuries.  Other arguments made to refute Pauline authorship can be as easily dismissed when one looks at the context of the setting from which these epistles were written.  The great amount of external evidence (writings of the early Christian authors) that points to Pauline authorship easily overwhelms arguments to the contrary.

Early church historians unanimously record Paul's death at the hands of Nero at the end of Paul's second Roman imprisonment.  Since the second epistle to Timothy was written prior to the winter (2 Tim. 4:21) prior to Nero's suicide, that letter had to have been written no later than A.D. 67.  Consequently, this letter had to have been written at an earlier date.  How much earlier is difficult to determine since we have very little knowledge of the content and chronology of the details of Paul's last several years.  1 Timothy 1:3 indicates that Paul was in Macedonia when he wrote this letter while Timothy was serving the church in Ephesus, one of the largest cities in the region.

1 Timothy 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope; 

Paul's introduction is consistent with the structure of ancient letters where the writer would first state his/her name and title, and then write the name and title of the recipient.  However, Paul deviates from the norm by replacing the titles with very descriptive identification of the nature of the sender and receiver.  In all but four of Paul's epistles he refers to himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ.  

"PAUL, AN APOSTLE"

This title has a broad range of meaning.  During the 19th century an intense debate was taking place among the northern European liberal members of the theological community, a debate that brought us many of today's doctrines and definitions.  During that time it was attested that an apostle had to be qualified by being taught by Jesus Christ prior to his ascension.  They give a particular dispensation to Paul who met Jesus on the Damascus road, and by so doing, they qualify him as an apostle also.  In a broader sense, an apostle is one who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is gifted in an exercised calling to take the gospel to the lost.  Paul is certainly the prime example of this type of apostleship.  If this definition is used, we could argue that Barnabas was an apostle.  We could further argue that the gift of apostleship still exists today in the lives of those missionaries who demonstrate a Pauline ministry since they, too, have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit they understand and share the gospel.   During the European debate, some argued that Paul was the 12th apostle, replacing Judas.  However, it is my position that Judas was the 12th apostle, and as an archetype of the 12th tribe of Levites who did not have an opportunity to inherit the land, Judas did not have an opportunity to serve as an apostle.  None of Jesus' twelve apostles were sinless, and it was Judas' that sin led to his betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent suicide.  However, we must always remember that it was God's purpose that Jesus would die on the cross for the sins of all, including Judas.  If we consider the response of the eleven remaining disciples to Judas' death, we find that they named Matthias (Acts 1:26) to replace Judas.  Matthias would also have learned under Jesus during His earthly ministry and would fit the European definition of an apostle.  We have no additional record of Matthias' ministry, but its absence in the record does not prove any failure on Matthias' part to live up the the calling that the remaining disciples called him to.   Consequently, a literal substitution of Paul for Judas as the twelfth apostle is not clearly defensible.  It is evident that Paul used the title in the context of the first century, as one called by Jesus Christ to take the gospel to the lost.

It is interesting to note that Paul's use of "God our Savior" is used by him only in the pastoral epistles, and is a phrase that is more commonly used in the Old Testament and clearly was in the vocabulary of Luke.  Some argue that Luke served as Paul's amanuensis (one who actually recorded Paul's letter as it was spoken by him) for the pastoral epistles.  If this is actually the case, many of the assertive questions of internal content that would deny Pauline authorship quickly become moot. 

1 Timothy 1:2

Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Timothy is a wonderful example of one who fully dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and is an example worthy of imitation.  Paul first met Timothy, the (presumably teen-age) son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father, in the city of Lystra on his first missionary journey, about 15-20 years prior to the writing of this letter.  Timothy came to a saving knowledge of Jesus under Paul's ministry there, and Paul was so impressed by his sincerity that he invited Timothy to join him in his ministry.  Timothy quickly came to prominence as a dedicated Christian who cared deeply for the welfare of the church.  Because of this close relationship, Paul usually referred to Timothy as his own son in the faith, and certainly expresses a father-son relationship with him in his writings.  Timothy was certainly one of the few who were closest to the heart of Paul.

The remainder of the salutation is a parallel to customary letter structure, but Paul makes use of some interesting Greek forms to make his letters unique.  Paul often uses the salutations of grace and peace, charis and eirene, respectively.   These words are, in the Greek, very close in appearance and sound to the typical words used in secular correspondence, but by choosing these particular forms, he communicates the vast truths of God's purpose and love for us.  This play on words is worth exploration.  His addition of "mercy" may have been added specifically for the benefit of Timothy and the Ephesian church, considering their needs at this time.  

1 Timothy 1:3-4.

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

It appears that, following Paul's first imprisonment, he visited Ephesus and became keenly aware of the situation there and the need for someone like Timothy who had the heart, knowledge, and skill-set to pastor the church, bringing it back from a wandering in Christian doctrine and practice.  If the gap in time between 1st and 2nd Timothy is not too great, Timothy may have as many as 15 - 20 years of ministry experience, much of that taking place under the tutelage of Paul.  When Paul left Ephesus for Macedonia, he asked Timothy to remain behind and work with the Ephesian church.  Paul's charge was specifically to centralize and clarify the doctrines of the faith within the body.  The clear implication here is that this church, one of the larger Christian communities in the region, was being led away from the simple and central doctrines of the faith by different leaders who had variant opinions.  With little or no written doctrine to work with, it is not unreasonable that such a situation would arise.  Much controversy had been engendered in the church body as its disparate leadership vied for the platforms of their opinions.  One example that Paul describes here is of the blending of Jewish history and Greek Gnosticism that led these Christians to apply the nature of Greek fables to Jewish genealogies, and by so doing, like their Greek counterparts, made these central to the faith. Arguing over the adamant application of peripheral matters of the faith, defensible or not, lead only to confusion and strife, rather than providing one another with godly edification (Rom 14:1 ff.).  Paul is calling Timothy specifically to the ministry in Ephesus within the task of quelling this strife through the teaching of sound doctrine.  It is certainly safe to say that Timothy, though young in his Christian leadership, was very well prepared to fulfill this ministry.

Likewise, it is appropriate that every Christian, like Timothy, grow in their understanding of the doctrines of the faith, and do so to a point where they can give answers to false doctrines and peripheral disputations.  Entire congregations are led astray by leadership who profess unsound or peripheral teachings, and are successful only by overpowering the scriptural truths with their adamancy.   Such a disparate approach to the gospel would not take place if more Christians, like Timothy, applied themselves to the study of sound doctrine rather than allow their doctrine to be dictated by someone else.  We may give deference to a leader who is "seminary trained," and ignore the sweet little lady who loves the Lord and studies her Bible regularly.  She may have much more to contribute to sound doctrine than she is allowed.

1 Timothy 1:5-7

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

When I was young in the faith, perhaps as many as 30 years ago, I encountered a life-altering decision upon the application of a couple of key verses concerning gifts. 

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. 1 Cor. 12:31.  

Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. 1 Cor. 14:12.

1 Cor. 12:31 follows Paul's discourse on the spiritual gifts, where he implies a form of ranking where he arguably places the speaking in tongues at the lowest, and prophesy at the highest.  This ranking is directly tied to 1 Cor. 14:12, where he clearly states that the purpose for gifts is solely for the edification of the church.  Gifts that edify the individual do not make as much an impact on the kingdom of God as those which edify the church.  Upon understanding this, I made a choice concerning gifts.  Understanding the gift of prophesy as the ability to understand the word of God and to proclaim it to others, and also understanding that the purpose for doing so is to edify the church, I solemnly asked God for that gift, and that gift alone.  I have spent the last 30 years in Bible study and Bible teaching, and may some day approach the calling that I desired 30 years ago.  

So it is clear that mine was a desire to be a "teacher of the law," as described here in verse 7.  Hopefully, that which separates the one who desires to exercise leadership in the church is that which Paul appoints here to Timothy rather than that which is demonstrated by the then current leadership in the Ephesian church.  What is Paul's description of the state of the Ephesian leadership?  First, their "desire" is inspired by personal pride rather than for the edification of the body.  Devoid of the deep knowledge of God's Word, they exercise that desire to lead without any real knowledge of what it is they are professing to teach.  They, because of their ignorance, are forced to teach what it is that they know, and for many of these, it was a doctrine of either Jewish tradition, Greek paganism, or a combination of both.  I have actually had the experience of serving in a congregation where the leadership openly distained Christian education, criticizing those who have an interest in a deeper understanding of God's word, preferring to maintain their own personal control over the congregation by espousing their own simplistic, legalistic and logical doctrines.  In such a setting, any theological discourse is simply a "vain jangling" that lacks the power to bring people to a saving faith, and serves only to edify the pride of the leadership.  Such congregations are rarely evangelical, experience very little growth, and produce few conversions outside of their own member families. 

Look at how Paul describes the characteristics of the teacher that Timothy is to emulate.  The first is a love that comes out of a pure heart.  This love is the highest calling of a Christian, a love that is unconditionally afforded to all of those whom God has created.  It is a love that cries over the plight of those who, because of their ignorance of the truth, are lost.  It is a love that loves the sinner as well as the saint, and seeks to bring both to a better spiritual state.  This is a love that comes from a heart that is characterized by integrity, not tainted by sinful and prideful desires for power or position.  It is a love that comes from one who, though like all have sinned, are owners of a good conscience, one with a lifestyle of confession and repentance.  Finally it is a love that comes from one who's faith has been strengthened by the knowledge and understanding of God's Word and emboldened by the godly application of experiences in one's life.  Such a person's faith is strong, and like the shield of Ephesians 6, can stand against the fiery darts of the devil.  Such a faith will not crumble under stress.

When we look at our own life, is our heart like those who Paul describes as "desiring to be teachers of the law," or is it closer to the model that Paul sets forth for Timothy?  For most of us, it is probably somewhere in between.  How do we recognize and reject teachers who have turned aside unto vain jangling?  Verse five instructs us to look for the attitude of the heart.  Does the teacher/preacher demonstrate a love that comes out of a pure heart, one who is of good conscience and unshaken faith?  Does the teaching hold up against the Word of God?  We cannot make this last judgment if we are satisfied to be ignorant of God's Word.  Such ignorance will lead us to believe the sweet sounds of Christian sorcery, and turn aside from the truth.   

1 Timothy 1:8-11.

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

It is God's Word that we teach, not the vagaries of personal opinion.  How do we use the Word of God?  Some approach the Bible as a book of rules and regulations, and by so doing, place people back into the bondage that Jesus' passion freed us from.  What does this mean?  Paul had a very clear understanding of how the law applies to the life of a Christian.  As a Pharisee he had been a zealous defender of the Jewish law, openly persecuting those who would break it.  He went so far as to imprison and even execute (Stephen) those who broke the law.  When he came to faith in Jesus Christ he was given an understanding of the true purpose of the law, and clearly saw how the Jewish leadership had perverted it.  There is a way to use the law "lawfully," a cute play on words.  Paul teaches that the purpose of the law is to expose the sin of the unrighteous.  To the lost, the scripture IS a book of law that judges every unrighteous soul to an eternity in hell, an eternity separated from the experience of the love of God.  This is a dramatic and firm condemnation, and because all have sinned and come short of God's glory (Rom 6:23) all people are subject to this condemnation.  However, because of the atoning act of Jesus Christ, those who place their faith and trust in Him are saved from this condemnation.  They are no longer condemned by the law.  In this way, the law is no longer a book of rules and regulations that would bind a righteous person in a legalistic prison from which there is no escape.  It is impossible for any person to keep the law, so Jesus' atonement is the only way for salvation.

The law exposes the sins of the unrighteous.  Paul gives one of his several detailed lists of unrighteous lifestyles.  The context of the adjectives used in these lists clearly imply that these are lifestyle characteristics.  These are the regular and normal sets of choices of the unrighteous.  Though the righteous do sin, they have an avenue of confession and repentance that is not characteristic of the unrighteous.  The unrighteous have no interest in repentance.  Paul lists these as murderers of mothers and fathers (only two words in the Greek), and other people.  Paul also lists those who live lifestyles of sexual impurity including those who engage in sexual activity outside of marriage (whoremongers) and homosexuals (them that defile themselves with mankind, the Greek word, arsenokoitais, the common word for male homosexuals).  Any attempt to argue that the scriptures do not clearly identify homosexuality as an ungodly lifestyle must ignore the scripture they attempt to refer to.  This statement is not anti-homosexual, it is anti-sin.  All are in need of God's grace, both the saint and the sinner.

Menstealers is the translation of a word that literally refers to slave traders.  These are those who would kidnap unwary children and adults and sell them into slavery.  The term came into general use to refer to one who steals everything of value, leaving only tragedy behind.  It refers to the habitual thief.  Paul also points out the lifestyle of dishonesty, those who live with a characteristic lack of integrity that leads to lies and perjury.  Finally, as if to make sure he is not missing any ungodly lifestyle, he simply includes "any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine."  We might look at our own lives and state that we are not murders, homosexuals, or liars, and feel emancipated from Paul's charge.  However, this last phrase really sets the bar.  Paul includes any lifestyle that is contrary to sound doctrine with the list of notorious sins.  Remember that Jesus taught that to harbor anger carries the same sin-guilt as murder.  Consequently, nobody is in a position to point fingers of judgment at another.  All we can do is love each other and seek God's forgiveness.

The true doctrine comes only from the "glorious gospel" which Jesus declared, and which Paul teaches.  When we stray away from this gospel in doctrine we fall into the confusion and disputations that Paul describes.  When we stray away from this gospel in our actions, we enter the list of sins that Paul also describes.  The only true and godly path for the Christian is one that is based upon the sound doctrine that was "committed" to Paul's trust.  Again, Christians are not perfect, and still must deal with the sins in their own heart and the consequences of the sins of others.  Dealing with these sins in a godly manner is simply a way of life for the Christian, a way that is characterized by confession and repentance.

1 Timothy 1:12.

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

It was customary for an ancient letter to move directly from the salutation to words of thanksgiving, and Paul often does this in his epistles.  However, in this epistle, Paul digressed to insert his purpose in writing.  Now he returns to the customary words of thanksgiving.  In contrast to the customary letter, however, Paul's words of thanksgiving are always directed to Jesus Christ, again taking the common form and raising it to a faith-sharing level.  Some of the nature of Paul's feelings of thankfulness are shared here.  He is thankful that Christ has enabled, or empowered him.  It is from Christ Jesus that Paul finds the foundation of his strength.  When forced to rely on our own strength, we lack the power to make a real difference in God's Kingdom, the very purpose for which all Christians are called.  

Paul also expresses thankfulness that, from where he was before, God "counted" him faithful.  The word for faithful, diakonia, is a form of the word diakonos, from which we get the English word, deacon. Many churches misunderstand the meaning of the word, deacon, and the ministry that such faithfulness entails.  A deacon is one who is faithful to the ministry.  Many churches today simply assign deacons to be administrative overseers who have no real ministry responsibilities.  Such a perversion of the position of deacon effectively robs the deacon of his true calling: to minister to the needs of the congregation.  "Deacon" and "faithful ministry" cannot be rightfully separated.  I have seen a church come to grips with this truth, and went through the process of removing administrative responsibilities from the deacons and distributing it among those in the church who are engaged in those respective areas of ministry.  The deacons then moved to a ministry role, and over a few years came to see themselves as servants, not leaders.  The result?  The church, over the next six years doubled in size from 500 to 1000, experienced anywhere from 20 - 50 baptisms per year, and built a large building to house its additional ministries.  One Sunday morning each church member who had taken part in a mission effort in the previous year was given a small trinket.  250 trinkets were given away.  God has called us to faithful ministry, not to organizational administration.

1 Timothy 1:13-14.

Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 

All people are unrighteous, unable to keep the law, and are in need of God's grace.  Paul was no exception.  Furthermore, Paul as a Pharisee thought that he was as close to one who kept the law as anyone could be.  He was zealous for the law.  It is only after he came to faith in Jesus Christ and came to know and understand the purpose of the law, did Paul really understand the extent of his unrighteousness as a Pharisee.  He uses only three words to describe his life before Christ:  a blasphemer, a persecutor, and one who was injurious to the kingdom of God.  This same testimony is shared by all who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and by so stating, he is identifying himself with all believers.  Because Paul's zealousness was focused against Jesus Christ, he always felt that his apostasy as a Jew was the most grievous.  Consequently, by his example he gives hope to all others who have lived ungodly lifestyles.  Just as he obtained mercy, God's mercy is available to all.  Paul recognizes that his sinful lifestyle was one that was lived in ignorance of God's true purpose for his life.  Those who live outside of the fold of Christ, like Paul, are living in ignorance.  All people seek peace and joy in their lives, and God in forming us in His own image, ordained that true peace and joy are only found in Him.  When people are ignorant of this truth, they seek peace and joy through other means, only to be frustrated and die in turmoil, condemned to an eternity without God.  This truth should cause every believer to cry for the fate of the ignorant lost.  God's grace is infinitely abundant, and is available to everyone.  The love of Christ Jesus is provided for all people.  Paul is abundantly thankful that God showed him that grace, and called him to a ministry to share the knowledge of that grace with others.  It is this grace that is the truth of the gospel, the true source of peace and joy.  This is the central doctrine of the faith that, when accepted, makes the life-changing and eternity-changing difference in a person's life.  The rules, regulations, and disputations of the false teachers that Timothy is addressing, may provide a temporal peace, or incorrectly answer deep questions.  False doctrine only serves as a band-aid over a wound that must be healed with God's grace.

1 Timothy 1:15-17.

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

At this point we seem to see Paul going past the presentation of doctrine and inserting his own personality and emotion.  "This is a faithful saying" is the rendition of three Greek words that we find Paul only using when writing a personal letter to someone he knows:  Timothy and Titus.  The phrase serves to add an emphasis on the truth of a maxim he is about to state.  In this case, the maxim is that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, came into the world to save sinners, and that he was the chief of sinners.  As the chief of sinners, Paul is not in a position to condemn others for their sin.  Likewise, no Christian is in a position to condemn others for their sin.  Christians are only in a position to offer a solution to the sin problem so that those who are in ignorant bondage to it can be freed.  It is because of Paul's previous sinful nature that he was in need of God's mercy.  Likewise, all lost individuals are in need of God's mercy, not Christian condemnation.  Christians are not in a position to affect a positive influence for the kingdom of God until they can love the sinner, and fully surrender the judgment for their sin to the One Judge, Jesus Christ.  It is God who has been patient with us, showing us mercy, and offering to those who place their trust in Him a life everlasting, an eternity in God's presence.  Paul, upon consideration of this truth breaks into words of spontaneous praise, offering honor and glory to Jesus, the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, and wise.  Paul does not seek praise for himself as he positions himself as a leader of the first-century church.  Paul continually points out that he is, like all others who came to Christ, saved by God's grace, not by his own works.  Paul seeks praise only for God, for what He has done.  When we seek praise for ourselves, we rob God of what is truly His, and find our reward only in the temporal words of those around us.  As we seek the praise of the people of the church, we will find no such praise coming from God.  Jesus said of those who seek such praise that they "have received their reward."  God's reward for faithfulness goes far beyond the short-termed praise of men by affording to the believer the eternal relationship with God.  How can one not praise God when such a gift is fully understood?  Paul cannot help but express praise.

1 Timothy 1:18-20.

This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; 19Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 20Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Paul returns from his reverie to summarize the message he is bringing to Timothy.  Like all Christians, Timothy is immersed in a secular and sacred world that both blaspheme the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Truth is ignored or distained by the secular world, and distorted by the church.  Though Paul's letters and the other New Testament writings that were being prepared during this period have given us a solid foundation of Christian doctrine, the first-century church had little such resource.  Their scriptures were still limited to the Old Testament writings.  Consequently, he who would stand on the foundation of the teachings of Jesus Christ is facing opposition, not only from the world, but from within the church also.  There are leaders in the church who, though maybe sincere, are sincerely wrong.  This forms the basis for a conflict that is very difficult to address.  When a Christian approaches the conflict, he/she does so in love, without condemnation, and with a purpose of restoration.  Unfortunately, the "enemy" does not share this view.  The evil one comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10a), and is effective within the walls of the church if sound doctrine is not preached and adhered to.  Paul describes this to Timothy as warfare, but further characterizes it as "good warfare."  When addressing issues within the church there is no place for judgment or condemnation.  There is no place for anger and abuse.  Paul sees the addressing of sin in the church much like God's addressing sin in the life of the unbeliever:  with patience, faith, and good conscience.   Paul encourages Timothy to hold close to the faith that he knows, and to not be swayed by the arguments of those whose faith has become shipwrecked.  

What is a shipwrecked faith?  As a very amateur wordsmith (obvious by my atrocious grammar) I often encounter a sentence which contains grammar that is so incorrect and confusing as to make it essentially meaningless.  I refer to such a sentence as a "train wreck", worthy only to be discarded and rewritten from scratch.  This is not a lot different than that to which Paul refers.  Though my sentence may contain correctly spelled and meaningful words, when taken together, their original meaning is lost, and all that is left is gibberish.  The faith of those false teacher, though initially sincere, has been infiltrated with error and content that does not serve the purpose of the faith.  Like my sentence that becomes gibberish, their faith loses all of its power, and is not useful for serving its intended purpose.  Paul goes so far as to mention two specific leaders, Hymenaeus and Alexander, members of the Ephesian church who have wandered so far from the faith that Paul feels that they are entirely in the hands of Satan.  However, note that Paul even expresses hope that these two will be tested and learn not to blaspheme, that they will be restored to the faith.  We should always approach false teachers with this same motive:  the restoration to truth, and to the subsequent fellowship that such restoration engenders.

Timothy is an example for all Christians, a person whose life one would do well to emulate.  We see that Timothy spent many years working with Paul, traveling with him on his missionary journeys, sharing in his persecution, and by so doing fully learning the gospel.  Timothy also had a tremendous concern for the welfare of the church.  At some point, Paul ordained Timothy to serve in the church in Ephesus, a context that later came to be understood as pastoral.  When Timothy entered that phase of his ministry he was faced with an established church that was embroiled in a mosaic of doctrinal disputations caused by errors that were brought in by the varying cultural and religious opinions of its leadership.  It would be a challenge for Timothy to bring this church to an understanding of the truth of the gospel and restore it to its original purpose.  He would have to confront the false teachings head-on without compromising his testimony of love for the people who adhered to them.   Paul advised Timothy to approach the task with love, a pure heart, and unwavering faith. We would all do well to do the same.