1 Timothy 1: The Law, Sound Doctrine, and the Glorious Gospel

1 Timothy 1: The Law, Sound Doctrine, and the Glorious Gospel

One of the greatest mistakes of biblical interpretation is the failure to take into account the use of words in context. For example, many interpret every New Testament use of the word “law” to mean any and every religious injunction.

Thus, when they read that man is not justified by works of the law, they erroneously conclude that God has placed no conditions whatsoever on the appropriation of His grace and reception of His blessings. This conclusion generally fails to consider the distinction between law generally and the Law of Moses, often designated “the law.”

The New Testament is clear; no man can be justified today by the works of the law of Moses (cf Gal 2:16). However, that does not mean there is no law for us today, for in today’s text, Paul uses the words doctrine, commandment, law, and gospel interchangeably.

In verse 3, he charged Timothy to remain in Ephesus that he might command those there to “teach no other doctrine.” In verses 5-6, speaking of that same doctrine, he speaks of “the purpose of the commandment,” noting that some had strayed from the same.

Moving to verse 8, Paul says that the law is good if a person uses it lawfully. We know “the law” is not a reference to the Law of Moses, for that law had long since been taken away, being nailed to the cross of Christ (Eph 2:14-16). Remember that Timothy was in Ephesus at this time, preaching to the same people who received Paul’s epistle.

In verses 9-10, Paul says a proper use of the law convicts every kind of unrighteous practice or person, equating that law with “sound doctrine.”

Finally, in this regard, Paul identifies this doctrine, commandment, and law as “the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (v 11).

The gospel is more than a set of facts about Jesus (see our notes on 2 Thes 1). The gospel is the law of Christ (Gal 6:2), by which we shall be judged on the last day (Rom 2:16).

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