1 Timothy


The church and the mystery of faith, 3:14-4:5

i] The character of the church


Before continuing with his instructions on the ordering of the administration of a Christian fellowship, Paul explains why he has written this letter to Timothy, namely, that if he is delayed in visiting Ephesus, Timothy will be able to explain to the congregation how they aught to behave in church. Having explained the purpose of the letter, Paul goes on to define the church as the community which the living God has called into being and entrusted with divine truth. This truth, this mystery, is then defined in six poetic clauses which serve as the foundational Christological creed upon which the letter is based.


i] Context: See 1:1-11. The Proposition. Paul's first letter to Timothy "turns on a central axis of prophetic texts, hymnic and oracular, which are proposed and interpreted for Timothy by Paul for the benefit of the church, conceived of as God's household (3:14-4:5). Around this axis, apostolic commissions for Timothy are arranged", Quinn and Wacker.


ii] Background: See 1:1-11.


iii] Structure: The mystery of the Christian faith:

Personal note, v14-15:

The letter's / manual's purpose;

A guide for Timothy on how to pastor a church.

Core belief, v16:

The mystery of faith.


iv] Interpretation:

The practical nature of this letter, as a manual for church administration, is again evident in the passage before us. There is an opportunity here to expand on theology, but we are left with a limited doctrinal statement before quickly moving on to the practical issues at hand. This doctrinal statement if often viewed as transitional, but Quinn and Wacker argue that the passage is a central statement of faith upon which the letter / manual is built.

Paul opens with a personal statement: his intention to visit Ephesus. He notes a possible delay, and therefore his need to pen this letter, v14-15a. Then follows the purpose of the letter: the need for proper conduct in church, v15b. This leads Paul to define the church as a community established by God and infused with truth, v15c. Finally, the source of truth is explained in terms of the revelation of Jesus Christ, v16.


The Creedal Proposition: Verse 16 lies at the heart of this passage, in fact, at the heart of the letter as a whole. The hymnic (Jeremias etc.) / creedal statement is often viewed as a somewhat irregular six line chiasmus - an A, earth / flesh, and B, heaven / spirit, ABBAAB arrangement. Best viewed as a balanced six-line statement of the "mystery of religion." Barrett suggests that each line is a separate item, unrelated to each other, and that each progresses chronologically. The verbs are all aorist, followed by a prepositional phrase introduced by en, "in", except line three where the syntax requires a dative.

The Christological creedal statement makes the following points about Christ, the eternal Son of God:

He is fully human, of flesh;

Following his crucifixion, he was vindicated when God raised him up;

His resurrection is an event witnessed by the angels;

As the risen one, he is proclaimed to all people;

Many have put their faith in him;

He has ascended to glory and now reigns, Lord of all.

With the adverb "demonstrably" (often translated "we confess"), Paul sets out the important news concerning Jesus. We commonly identify this news, this confession of faith, as the gospel. The news announces that you can't keep a good man down! Wicked men may have set themselves against Jesus and murdered him, but God raised him up - Jesus is alive and reigning. Many good men and women have put their trust in Jesus and happily pass on this good news about him. And, what about you?


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:14

A word concerning the church, v14-16. i] Paul hopes to visit Timothy at Ephesus in the near future. Of course, this was not to be, as we learn from his second letter to Timothy. So, although Paul plans to visit Timothy soon, he writes to make sure that in the meantime Timothy is equipped for ministry .

elpizwn (elpizw) pres. part. "although I hope" - [i write to you these things] hoping. The participle is adverbial, probably best treated as concessive, as NIV.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "to come" - to come [to you]. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what Paul hopes.

en + dat. "soon" - in [quickness]. The preposition is adverbial, temporal, "I am writing these things to you even though it is my hope that I shall be coming to see you before long", Cassirer, but possibly modal, expressing manner, "quickly".

soi dat. pro. "[I am writing] you [these instructions]" - [i write these] to you. Dative of indirect object.


The purpose of Paul's instruction to Timothy: To help Timothy understand the appropriate conduct to expect from those who are members of his Christian fellowship; "the household of God", the community of God's people, the church.

de "-" - but/and. Transitional connective indicating a step in the argument.

ean + subj. "if [I am delayed]" - if [i delay]. Introducing a conditional clause 3rd. class where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, I am delayed, then I write these things to you" = "[I hope to see you soon], but just in case I am delayed, I write this letter to you."

iJna + subj. "so that" - that [you may know]. Introducing a purpose clause; "I am writing these things ..... in order that .... you might know what one's conduct ought to be in the household of God", Cassirer. An ellipsis is suggested by some commentators with a second grafw, "I write", required to introduce the purpose clause, but this is unnecessary.

eidhV pwV dei "how people ought" - how. "Formulaic phrase for citing something that is (or must be) accepted", Marshall. "People" is normally the assumed subject, as NIV.

anastrefesqai (anastrefw) pres. mid./pas. inf. "to conduct themselves" - to conduct oneself [is necessary]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb dei, "is necessary"

en + dat. "in" - Local; expressing space.

qeou (oV) gen. "God's" - The genitive is adjectival, probably possessive, as NIV.

oikw/ (oV) dat. "household" - the house [of god]. Possibly with the sense "house", with a focus on place, even with the temple in mind and so "God's dwelling place", but more likely "household", as NIV, with the focus on the gathering of believers - an extended family, "God's family." It is interesting how the image of church as a household implies a patriarchal structure, whereas the image of church as the body of Christ implies the mutuality of diverse functions. For some commentators, the "household" perspective of the Pastorals is further evidence that the author is not Paul, or at least, an aged (worn-out!!!) Paul.

h{tiV pro. "which" - which [is]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Feminine by attraction to the following noun. The indefinite relative pronoun introduces an attributive modifier limiting "church of God."

ekklysia (a) "the church" - the assembly. Predicate nominative. "The people of God gathered together", Marshall, although is it local or universal? Probably always best viewed as both with the local assembly serving as a representative gathering of the heavenly / eschatological assembly gathered before the Ancient of Days.

qeou (oV) gen. "of the [living] God" - of a [living] god. The genitive is again adjectival, possessive, but possibly ablative, source / origin. That God is a "living" God simply states that he is a real God in contrast to pagan idols which are no-gods.

zwntoV (zaw) pres. part. "living" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting God.

thV alhqeiaV (a) gen. "of the truth" - [the pillar, support and foundation, firm base, fortress] of the truth. The genitive is usually classified as verbal, objective, such that the church is a support and foundation for the truth, the "truth" being "the content of the Christian faith", McArthur / "the gospel of truth" / "the proclamation of Christ", Mounce / "the gospel", Towner. Possibly adjectival, attributive, idiomatic / content, limiting "pillar and foundation"; "which preserves, upholds and communicates a knowledge of the truth ("the content of Christianity as the absolute truth", BAGD)." "Pillar" and "foundation" is possibly a hendiadys, so "a powerful fortress of truth"; "a bastion of truth", Peterson. Hort makes much of the fact that both nouns are anarthrous, without articles - the church is not the bastion of truth, but a bastion of truth. The phrase most likely stands in apposition to ekklhsia, "church", outlining its "responsibility and function", Marshall, but it possibly stands in apposition to "how it is necessary to conduct oneself." Johnson argues for the second option suggesting that it "makes better sense of the metaphorical point; the community is the oikoV, house, and the members should behave so as to be supports and pillars for it."


As for God's revealed truth, that which guides the appropriate conduct of God's people, it is a divine "mystery". The word "mystery" is somewhat confusing since it's not so much a mystery, but rather a secret once hidden, now revealed. This secret, now revealed to broken humanity, is the gospel, the important news concerning the salvation wrought in the person of Jesus Christ, in his life, death, resurrection and ascension. Paul provides us with a summary of this important news in the form of a creedal statement.

kai "-" - and. Probably emphatic; "Great indeed", ESV.

oJmologoumenwV adv. "Beyond all question" - confessedly, undeniably, certainly [great]. Hapax legomenon / once only use in the NT; "undeniably", BAGD. Without a doubt", NRSV.

to ... musthrion (on) "the mystery" - [is] the mystery]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. The word "mystery" is used in the NT of a secret once hidden now revealed. This "mystery" entails the gospel as revealed in the person and work of Christ. The following statement of faith / hymn summarises the content of the "mystery".

thV eusebeiaV (a) "of godliness / from which true godliness springs" - of godliness. The genitive may be classified as verbal, objective, or better, adjectival, of definition / epexegetic. "The duty that man owes to God, piety, godliness, religion", BAGD.

mega "is great" - Predicate adjective. What is undeniable is that the mystery of godliness is great, "sublime or important", Knight. "Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness", ESV.

o}V rel. pro. "He" - who. Variant, "God", is easily produced by a slip of the pen. The variant neuter o{ assumes agreement with the neuter "mystery". The "who" obviously refers to Jesus, although usually translated to leave open the option that God may be intended.

efanerwqh (fanerow) aor. pas. "appeared" - was manifested, made known. The following passive verbs have no stated agent. Usually viewed as a divine / theological passive, ie., made known by God.

en + dat. "in" - in [flesh]. Either local, expressing space, "in a human body", Barclay, or adverbial, manner, "as flesh", "fleshly".

edikaiwqh (dikaiow) aor. pas. "was vindicated" - was vindicated, justified, pronounced righteous. Here "was proved right" as Son of God / messiah, and this through his life, the testimony of others, and ultimately his resurrection.

en + dat. "by [the Spirit]" - in [the spirit]. If pnuma is the "Holy Spirit" then the preposition is instrumental, expressing means / agency, as NIV - the Holy Spirit is the agent of Christ's vindication. The focus then would be on the resurrection. If pnuma is "spirit", either Christ's human spirit, or divine spirit, his being God is intended, then the preposition is local, expressing sphere. The focus would then be on the cross or his ascension. That the preposition is local is supported by the use of a plain instrumental dative in the next line, although most commentators opt for "by the Holy Spirit."

aggeloiV (oV) dat. "[was seen] by angels" - [he was seen] by messengers. The dative could be viewed as instrumental, expressing means / agency, but it is virtually functioning as a dative of direct object after the verb "to see", even though the verb is passive. It is unclear whether the witness of the angels refers to Christ's resurrection, or his ascension, but the resurrection seems likely - the angelic host witness Christ's victory / vindication. It is possible that "angels" takes its basic sense of "messengers", such that the apostles are in mind. They too bore witness to the resurrection.

en + dat. "[was preached] among" - [he was proclaimed] in [nations, gentiles = all people]. Possibly local, space, "among", but the preposition may well serve as a dative of indirect object, "he was proclaimed to all people." Referring to the interim moment of grace before the day of judgment when all knees will bow before the Ancient of Days. In this moment of time, Christ proclaims his saving grace through his human angels / messengers = apostles = all believers.

en + dat. "[he was believed on] in" - [he was believed] in [the world]. Local; in the sphere of human habitation. Referring to the saving of the lost through faith

en + dat. "in" - [he was taken up] in [glory]. Adverbial, manner, "Christ's ascension occurred with glory", Perkins. Referring to Christ's final triumph, his ascension and exaltation.


1 Timothy Introduction



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