Published: 28 March 2022

1 Timothy: Introduction

1 Timothy: Introduction

1 Timothy: Introduction

Important Facts:

  • Author: The apostle Paul.
  • Date: About AD 65.
  • Reasons for the letter:
    • Instruct Timothy about the false teachers in Ephesus and how to deal with them.
    • Establish guidelines for church practices in Ephesus.
    • To encourage Timothy.

What do we know about Ephesus?

Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman empire in the first century AD with a population of about 250,000. Only Alexandria and Rome were larger. Ephesus was the leading city in the richest region of the Roman empire. There had been a significant Jewish presence in the city since at least the third century BC.

Theater at Ephesus. Photo:

Paul’s first recorded visit to the city is in Acts 18:18-21 when he traveled there with Priscilla and Aquila. He did not stay long, instead leaving Priscilla and Aquila there. While in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila met Apollos who knew the Scriptures well, but had incomplete knowledge of the Lord (Acts 18:24-28).

When Paul returned to Ephesus (Acts 19) he remained there for two years “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8 NKJV). Because Ephesus was a major seaport and was located at the intersection of two major trade routes, “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10 NKJV). 

Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was so effective, it reduced the demand for idolatrous paraphernalia. An Ephesian silversmith named Demetrius was instrumental in starting a riot in the theater to protest the decline of his trade which was the making of silver shrines of the goddess Diana (Acts 19:21-41). 

While passing through the area on his way to Jerusalem, Paul sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus to come meet with him. In Acts 20:29-30, Paul warned them that “savage wolves” would victimize the Ephesian church. He predicted that some of the Ephesian church elders would become these false teachers and would draw away the disciples! 

What do we know about Timothy?

When we first encounter Timothy in Acts 16:1-3, he is already a disciple. He had a good reputation among the Christians in Lystra and Iconium and Paul was so impressed with him that he took Timothy with him on his missionary journey. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were faithful Jewish disciples who taught him the Scriptures from his youth (2 Tim 1:5, 3:15). Timothy’s father was a Greek Gentile.

Timothy had a long association as a co-worker with Paul. Timothy’s name appears alongside Paul’s as the co-author of several of Paul’s letters (2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). Paul trusted Timothy completely once remarking “I have no one like him” (Phil. 2:20 ESV). While Paul was in prison awaiting execution, he sent for Timothy to come be with him (2 Tim 4:9). Scholars believe that the two letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus were the last that Paul wrote before his martyrdom. 

Challenges of studying 1 Timothy

Timothy was a close personal associate of Paul’s, fully versed in his teachings and practices. Therefore, we don’t have the level of explanation in 1 Timothy that we see in Paul’s other letters. Timothy required little in the way of background information. He was well aware of the challenges in the Ephesian church. Consequently, we have to read between the lines when studying this letter.

The exact heresy(s) dealt with in the letter are never detailed, only hinted at. We don’t know the exact nature of what Paul and Timothy’s opponents were teaching in Ephesus. Paul says more about the false teacher’s behavior than their teachings. The letter suggests that just as Paul had foretold in Acts 20:29-30, the main source of the problems in the Ephesian church originated with the church’s pastors (i.e. elders or overseers). We can safely conclude that all the topics addressed in the letter were problems facing the Ephesian church.