1 Timothy 1:5-11
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing 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, for 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; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust, (vv. 5-11)
In these words the apostle Paul brings out very vividly the difference between two great principles: that of grace, which has been manifested in the cross, and results in love for God and love for our fellow men when we trust that grace; and the principle of law, which demands a righteousness that sinful man can never fully render. We have noticed that one of the objects which the apostle had in writing this letter was to put Timothy on his guard, and to charge him to use care concerning certain emissaries of a legal system who were moving about among the early Christian churches, seeking to pervert believers from the simplicity that is in Christ. This system was based partly on the law of Moses and partly on Eastern mystical traditions. It developed in after years into what became known down through the centuries as Gnosticism, the advocates of which claimed they had a superior knowledge not vouchsafed to other Christians. They sought to gain as many proselytes to their system as they possibly could.
Paul stressed the importance of faith in Christ, which involves salvation by grace alone and not by works of righteousness which we have done, or by any fancied merit of our own. He shows that we are saved by grace alone, and when we have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ and are justified by faith, that faith results in the love of God being shed abroad in our hearts. With this comes ready obedience, but not as a matter of legality. It is easy to do the things which please God when we love Him supremely. The heart readily seeks to please those whom we love, and so the apostle says, “Now the end of the commandment [the charge he was giving to Timothy] is charity.” Our old English word charity really means “love.” “[Love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and [the manifestation] of faith unfeigned.”
When one’s conscience is aroused and is seized with the terror of the law, when he realizes that he is lost, then he can never find real rest or peace until he finds it in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. When he sees that all his sins have been put away by that work, then his conscience is purged, and he is at peace with God. With this is linked the communication of a new life. The believer in Christ is born again, and being born of God, he has a new nature that delights in holiness, purity, and goodness. He is actually a partaker of the divine nature. Therefore he loves God. He loves his fellow Christians. He loves lost men who are still in darkness and living according to the course of this world. This is why genuine Christians are willing to sacrifice in order that they may win others to Christ.
It is this that Paul emphasizes in writing to the younger preacher, Timothy. He stresses the need of preaching the Word, the importance of this gospel of Christ which is the sole remedy for sin. Some had swerved from this and had turned aside unto vain jangling because false teachers had gotten into the church, and some were not strong enough to resist them and so were carried away by their specious theories. They had swerved from the simplicity that is in Christ. It is ever the object of the Devil to obscure the truth and get Christians occupied with something that will hide the glorious face of the Lord Jesus Christ and becloud the truth regarding His finished work.
Such evil teachers were active at Ephesus where Timothy was laboring: “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” These self-appointed teachers had no knowledge of that which they professed to proclaim. They displayed their own ignorance as they sought to add law to grace. This very fact proved that they did not know what they were talking about, because law and grace will no more mix than will water and oil. They are two altogether different principles. The law says, “Be good, and I will bless you”; grace says, “I have blessed you, now be good.” They are opposites. The law says, “Do this, and thou shalt live”; grace says, “Believe this, and thou shalt live.” Law demands; grace freely bestows.
Paul says that we know the law is good. We do not ignore the importance of law; we do not set aside the authority of the Ten Commandments. Preachers of grace are often asked if the Ten Commandments were ever abrogated. No, the law remains with all its stern demands. But the believer has died to the law in the Person of Christ, who is the end of the law to every one that believes. But to the unsaved the law speaks as loudly as ever: “We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing 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.” By the term righteous here we are to understand those who have been made righteous in Christ. The law is for the lawless and disobedient. It is not designed to show spiritually-minded believers how to behave.
If you are a Christian you do not refrain from taking the name of God in vain because you learn it is contrary to law. You love your heavenly Father, and because you love Him you would not think of using His name carelessly. Every Christian knows the sense of shock, of displeasure, that comes whenever he hears the name of God the Father or of the Lord Jesus Christ used profanely. Why is it that it stirs us when many of us were not concerned about such language as this before we were saved? It is because we have now a new nature, a new love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for God who, in His mercy, has brought us to know Himself. And so, I repeat, it is not the law which teaches us how to behave. If we refrain from stealing it is not because the law says “Thou shalt not steal,” but because we have no desire to steal, even if we were ever addicted to such wickedness as this before we were saved. Now our desire is to be a blessing to others and not to wrong them in any way. Thus we see that the law is not for righteous men and women.
What then is the standard of the righteous? It is Christ Himself. The Word of God reveals Him as our example, and we seek to walk as He walked. The consistent believer seeks to be like Him, to love as He loves, and to behave as He would behave. The righteousness of which the apostle speaks is a righteousness that springs from a renewed mind. We delight to honor the One who redeemed us.
The law still speaks to the ungodly. It convicts the sinner of his lawlessness. In 1 John 3:4 we read, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” But this is not exactly what John meant, as every careful Greek scholar knows. It might be better translated, “sin is lawlessness.” Sin is self-will. It defies the law of God, which insists on righteousness. “Knowing 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.” Is not that rather strange? It is not murderers in general who are mentioned, but “murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers,” as though to put it in the very strongest sense. The law says, “Thou shalt not kill.” That forbids all murder.
Let me say this, dear young people, you do not have to stab your mother with a knife or a dagger, or strike your father with a club in order to kill them. You can kill them by your willfulness. Many a dear mother has gone down to an early grave heartbroken because of the evil behavior of a loved son or daughter, and many a father has sunk under the awful blow of a son or daughter who turned away from the path of righteousness. We need to remember that murder does not necessarily mean driving a knife into the heart or mixing a cup of poison, but it may consist of anything that breaks a dear one’s health and results in early death. And so the law is given for the lawless, those who would destroy others.
Note the awful list of sinners mentioned in verse 10: “For 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.” I have heard people say, “Why does the Bible have those nasty words in it? I do not like to read them, and I do not like to hear them read from the pulpit.” It is not the words that are so bad; it is the vile sins that they represent. The Holy Spirit always uses the right words to describe these shameful sins in order that men might realize their wickedness and corruption when they indulge in such sins as these.
If I dared to believe all that I am told by Christian high school teachers and college professors, I would have to believe that many of the youth of our land today are becoming almost as corrupt as the people before the flood, and conditions are as vile as those in Sodom and Gomorrah when those cities were destroyed with fire from heaven. From what these teachers tell us, many young people of high school and college age, as well as older people, are given to the very sins depicted here. But to everyone comes that stern command, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and that covers every kind of sexual evil. If people would only listen to the voice of the law we would never have such terrible crimes against children and others which have become so prevalent in this and other enlightened lands. God’s law is defied, and so sin flaunts itself openly and men glory in their shame.
The law is given for liars. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” Men are in the habit of distinguishing between different types of lies. Some lies are called “white lies,” and some are called “black lies.” But my Bible tells me, “All liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). It does not make any distinction between white, black, and gray lies. So the commandment comes to every untruthful person, condemning falsehood of every description.
“And if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” In other words, the law was given to convict men of every sort of sinfulness and wickedness. All such are exposed to the righteous judgment of God. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The only way one can ever escape that curse is by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He died to redeem us from the curse of the law; He was made a curse for us: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
“If there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” Notice how frequently Paul uses this word sound. Of course I realize he was writing by inspiration; nevertheless, it appealed to his own heart. Sound means “healthy,” and when the apostle speaks of sound doctrine, he means doctrines that are conducive to spiritual health.
If we will turn to some of the other passages in these Pastoral Epistles where he uses this word, it will help us to get the force of it: “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome [that is, sound] words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Tim. 6:3). “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Tim. 4:3). “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound m faith, in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:1-2).
Through all these Pastoral Epistles, Paul emphasizes the importance of teaching the spiritually healthful doctrine. The proclamation of the truth of God’s Word is conducive to health spiritually. False teaching leads to death and decay. Where the teaching in the classroom and from the pulpit is sound, it has an effect for good, and tends to build up believers in holiness of life and Christlike-ness in character. Where it is otherwise, it has the very opposite effect.
Paul concludes this section with the words, “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” Now in order to get the connection we should notice that all that is included from the first word of verse 6 to the last word in verse 10 came in parenthetically. Go back to verse 5, “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned”; now verse 11: “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” The glorious gospel is really the gospel of the glory. It is an expression peculiar to the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he says, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
Paul spoke of the gospel as the gospel of the glory because it tells of a glorified Christ, a Christ who once bore our sins when He hung as a bleeding Victim on Calvary that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. He is now the glorified Man seated on the right hand of God in heaven, and Paul was eager to proclaim the message about that Man in the glory, so he calls his message the gospel of the glory. This is the message that has been passed on to us. A glorified Christ at the Father’s right hand tells us that the sin question is settled, and now God can save in righteousness all who come to Him and believe in His Son.