Published: 4 April 2022

The Reason For The Letter Of 1 Timothy

Reason For The Letter

A study of the book of 1 Timothy is best begun in the middle. It isn’t until the middle of the book that Paul specifically tells us the reason for the letter:

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:14–15 ESV)

Paul is writing the letter so that the Christians in Ephesus could know how they should conduct themselves as members of God’s family. Even though Paul addressed this letter to Timothy, it would appear it was not meant to be a private letter. The very last words of the letter, “Grace be with you” (1 Tim 6:21), implies a wider audience because “you” is plural. Paul intended for this letter to be read by others in the Ephesian church.

Household of God

We don’t have to wonder what Paul meant by “the household of God” because he spells it out for us. The household of God is the church. Paul is clearly communicating that members of the church are not a member of a social club, but a family. The New Testament could not be more clear that when we put our trust in Jesus and obey the gospel (2 Th 1:8, 1 Pet 4:17) God adopts us into His family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 ESV)

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:23 ESV)

to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Gal. 4:5 ESV)

he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Eph. 1:5 ESV)

Was Paul a misogynist?

Paul was not a male chauvinist as some people claim. His use of “sons” in the above verses is not evidence of sexism. In Paul’s day, to be a son was to have a claim to inheritance. This is specifically stated in Galatians: 

6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.  (Gal. 4:6-7 NKJV)

Female Christians are not being left out. God elevates Christians of both genders to the legal status of “sons” and can expect an inheritance appropriate to that status. It is a statement of status, not gender!

The church is not an institution

Christians know that the church is not a building, but the people. We know this in our heads, but our speech and actions lean in a different direction. We talk about the church and practice “church” more as if it is an institution or organization. 

in·sti·tu·tion [in-sti-too-shuhn], n,  1.  an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program, esp. one of a public, educational, or charitable character.  

Is “institution” a good description of the local assembly of Christians? Local congregations do (or should) promote a cause (the cause of Christ). But the words establishment, foundation or society don’t seem to compare very well to the description of the church in the Bible.

The Bible portrays the church as a close knit association of people with common spiritual goals and interests. It is a spiritual family. The words “organization” or “institution” don’t come to mind when we think of a family do they? Yet, the concept of family is used by the New Testament over and over when describing the church. God has adopted us into His family and He is our Father. This makes all followers of Jesus brothers and sisters.

Our conduct reflects upon our family

We are part of the family whether the family is together, or not. Family members represent the family all the time wherever they are, whoever they are with. Parents who care about their family’s reputation don’t want their children to behave well only when the family is together. Parents want more than that from their children. They instill values in their children expecting them to live those values all the time, even when they are with people who don’t share the same values.

God wishes this for His household as well. He wants His family, His adopted sons and daughters, to conduct themselves appropriately when together. He also requires His sons and daughters to live out the family’s values when they aren’t with the church. There are people we could mistake for angels on Sundays, but Monday through Saturday they behave like children of the devil. 

Living like the devil undermines the church’s influence

Paul reminds the Ephesians that God’s family, His household  (i.e. the church), is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15 ESV). We can’t support and uphold the truth of the gospel when we are living like the devil. We can’t behave as God’s children only when we are with the rest of the family and expect the truth of God’s word to have any credibility with those outside the family.

We support and uphold the truth when we live out God’s values 24×7. If our conduct is not consistent with God’s family values, why would anyone outside the church want what we have? If we behave no differently than the world around us, we have no credibility when we tell a lost world it needs God. If individual Christians have lost credibility, the church has lost credibility.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. (Matt. 5:13 ESV)

The reason for the letter

The family of God at Ephesus was undermining the gospel by their conduct and behavior. There are even indications that some of the Ephesian Christians were not even meeting Greek and Roman society’s standards of conduct.1 Paul is writing this letter to Timothy to demand proper behavior of those in the household of God. 

If Paul were to write a letter to the church in America, what do you think he’d say to us? What would he have to say about church leaders in our society embroiled in scandal? What would he say about churches which place no emphasis on a transformed life? How can Christians who show no evidence of repentance from sin be “a pillar and buttress of the truth?”

What would Paul say to us?


  1. Mounce, William D. Word Biblical Commentary, Pastoral Epistles, Vol 46, Nelson, 2000, 368.