“According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).
The Bible’s criterion for acceptable behavior has changed! In the Old Testament it was the Law of Moses that set the standard of behavior. The Law reflected the holiness of God and, therefore, was identified as “holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. 7:12). It was concerning this righteousness – which is of the Law – that Moses said, “The man which doeth those things shall live by them” (Rom. 10:5). However, the Law could only demand! It could not perform because it was, “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:3)! This was an insurmountable problem! Why? Because, “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. 3:10-11). Clearly, the Law justifies no one before God. It is equally clear that had Christ not become our surrogate and made our righteousness through His work on the Cross, there would have been no salvation or acceptance. Thank God, the Bible says, “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). Christ was, “the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Christ’s finished work made a new provision for both salvation and the believer’s behavior.
Performance of acceptable behavior is now a matter of faith in the gracious provision of God. “For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the Law of Sin and Death. For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:2-4). The issue here, after salvation, is clearly a matter of godly behavior to be empowered, not by something so weak as the flesh, but by the indwelling, all-powerful God the Holy Spirit. God has not relaxed the demands of the Law for holiness, but, rather, has provided a new way for its execution.
We are reminded that the whole of the Apostle Paul’s Epistles to Timothy and Titus are taken up with this matter of the believer’s doctrine and conduct – “…that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Furthermore, it is only through the Apostle Paul that the distinctive nature of the doctrines of grace and godliness are revealed and thoroughly explained. This is one of the reasons that the Apostle Paul attaches the word “Mystery” to this issue (1 Tim. 3:9,16). The “Gospel of Glory / The Revelation of the Mystery” – though “committed to his trust” and now “revealed,” – had not been known before (1 Tim. 1:11; cf., 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:1-9).
It is, “According to [the norms and standards of] the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which [the Apostle says] was committed to my trust” that the believer’s conduct is discussed in connection with “sound doctrine”- (as seen throughout – 1 Tim. 1:3,10; 4:6,13; 5:17; 6:1,3; 2 Tim. 3:10,16; 4:2-3; Titus 1:9; 2:1,7,10) We cannot divorce the two. Belief and behavior go together. Behavior is obedience to doctrine! Let no man claim to be Pauline in his theology that is not Pauline in his behavior.
Legalism … the Enemy of Grace Doctrine and Godliness (1 Timothy 1:1-11)
It appears that the Apostle Paul had assigned Timothy to be the pastor of a troubled congregation. He was instructed to “fight a good warfare” (1:18) – which may indicate the high degree of bad doctrine and behavior he was charged to correct. It must have been very difficult and painful for the young preacher to watch as some had already “made shipwreck” of their faith (1:19), and Paul had already “delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan” (1:20). We know that Paul was mindful of his “tears” (2 Tim. 1:4). Our concerns and prayers ought to be for many modern-day preachers who face similar trials and tears in the ministry.
We know that Jewish Legalists precipitated the problems in the Ephesian Church in the congregation. Paul says that some desired to be “teachers of the Law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm”(1 Tim. 1:7). Legalism is always a disaster because it perverts God’s grace by insisting there is something in addition to the finished work of Christ – some work, ritual, ceremony, custom, ascetic or religious practice – that is needed to win God’s approval or approbation for salvation or holiness. Legalism feeds on and perpetuates itself by denying the dispensational change that took place by (not at) the work of Christ on the Cross. Such denials always lead to other departures from the faith as demonstrated in our text. Here Paul tells Timothy that Legalists were departing from the Dispensation of Faith by giving “heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying = rather than a dispensation of God which is in faith – ASV) which is in faith – KJV” (1 Tim 1:4). That is why Paul condemns “any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim 1:10).
It is important to note, in passing, that Paul is careful to say there is a good and legitimate use of the Law, meaning that it was made “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 men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons”(1 Tim 1:9-10). The Law brings the knowledge of sin and makes sin exceedingly sinful, all with the end of bringing a man to Christ (cf., Rom 7:7-25).