Fight in the Good War

About Paul’s first letter to Timothy

Paul was a great Christian teacher. God sent him to many countries to tell the people about Jesus Christ. Timothy was a young man who had travelled with Paul on many of Paul’s journeys. (See Acts 16:1-5.)

After Paul had taught in different places for many years, he went to prison at Rome. Rome is the capital of the country that we call Italy. The people who lived at Rome were called Romans. At that time, the Romans were powerful and they ruled many other countries. Paul stayed at Rome for two years (see Acts 28:30). We think that he stayed there at some time between AD 59 and AD 63. That was about 30-34 years after Jesus died. After those two years, we think that the Romans let Paul leave Rome. So, Paul started travelling. He started teaching the Christian message again. And Timothy went with him to Ephesus city. Ephesus was in the country that we call Turkey.

Paul made Timothy the leader of the Christians at Ephesus. When Paul wrote this first letter to Timothy, Paul had left Ephesus. But he had told Timothy to stay there. There was a dangerous problem among the Christians at Ephesus because some people were teaching wrong things. Paul had already told two men to leave the church (the group of Christians) because they were doing that. These wrong teachers had caused some of the Christians to obey the wrong ideas that they taught. So, Paul wrote to tell Timothy that he must stop those wrong teachers.

In this letter, Paul is teaching Timothy how to lead the Christians at Ephesus. Paul also describes how all Christian leaders should live. He says that they should be good examples to other people.

Chapter 1

Paul and Timothy

1 This letter is from me, Paul. God, who saves us, has sent me to be a special worker and teacher on Christ Jesus’ behalf. Christ Jesus, who causes us to hope certainly for great things, has also sent me. 2 I am writing to you, Timothy. You are like my own child because, like me, you believe Christ. I pray that God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord will be very kind and very good to you. I pray that they will cause you to be without trouble inside yourself.

Paul tells Timothy to stop the wrong teachers

3 When I was going to Macedonia, I asked you very strongly to stay in Ephesus. You must continue to stay there, because certain people there are teaching wrong things about God. You must tell them to stop doing that. 4 Neither should they listen to false stories. Nor should they always be studying long lists of their families’ names from years ago. They should not believe that to study lists like that can help them. Those things only cause people to argue. Those things do not help God’s work. To do God’s work, people must believe him.

5 Here is the reason why I am telling you to do this. I want people really to love each other. Only people who are good and clean inside themselves can love like that. Those people know the difference between what is right and wrong. And they try to do only what is right. People love properly only when they really believe God. 6 But certain people have failed to do these things and they have turned away from them. They would rather talk about things that mean nothing. 7 They want to be teachers of God’s rules. They seem very sure when they talk about things. They speak very strongly. But they do not understand what they are talking about.

The purpose of God’s rules

8 We know that God’s rules are good, if people use them properly. 9 We also know this. God did not make those rules for people who do right things. He made them for people who refuse to do right things. Those people refuse to obey good rules. God made his rules for people who like to do bad things. He made his rules for people who do not worship him. Those people do not want to obey God. God’s rules are also for these people:

·              People who kill their fathers or their mothers

·              People who choose to kill other people

10      People who have sex with someone who is not their wife or their husband

·              Men who have sex with other men

·              People who catch other people and take them away to be slaves

·              People who say things that are not true

·              People who promise seriously to speak true things, but then they speak false things

·              People who do any other wrong things. Things like that are the opposite of the right things that God teaches us.

11 Those right things are part of the good news. This good news comes from God, who is so great and so good. God has chosen me to tell this good news to people.

Paul thanks Christ Jesus

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who chose me to work on his behalf. He believed that I would continue to obey him. And he has made me strong. 13 Before he chose me, I spoke bad things about him. I hurt his people and I caused great trouble for them. I said and did very bad things against Christ. But he was very kind and he chose not to remember those things. He chose not to punish me. He was kind because I did not believe him then. So, I did not know what I was doing. 14 Our Lord continued to be very, very good to me. He caused me to believe him. And he caused me to love other people as Christ Jesus loves them. These things happen to us when we are united to Christ Jesus.

15 Here are some words that everyone should believe. Everyone should agree that these words are true. ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save people who do wrong things.’ And I am the worst of those people. 16 But, because I was the worst, God was kind to me. He wanted Christ Jesus to make me an example. Christ showed, by me, how completely patient he is. Christ made me an example to those people who would later believe him. Then, because they believed him, those people would live with God always. 17 God is the King who will rule always. He can never die. We cannot see him. He is the only God. Everyone should say always how very great he is! Everyone should do that always. This is true.

Verses 12-17 Before Paul (Saul) became a Christian, he caused a lot of trouble for Christians. He did not agree with what Christians believed. He did bad things to Christians. He thought that he was working for God. (See Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2.) But later he became a Christian. And so he thought that God was very, very kind to save him.

Timothy must fight against wrong things in the church

18 Timothy, you are like my own child. This is what I am telling you to do. People spoke words from God about you before, and you should remember those words. They will help you to fight well for what is true. You must be like someone who fights in a good war. 19 You must continue to believe God. And you must always do what you know to be right. Some people have known what is right. But they have refused to do it. As a result, they have completely stopped believing Christ. Their lives as believers are like ships that have sailed on to the rocks. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are like that. I have given them to Satan so that he has power over them. So then they can learn not to say bad things about God.

Verse 18 Some Christian leaders had prayed for Timothy at some time before Paul wrote this letter. (See 1 Timothy 4:14.) They had spoken words from God to Timothy. Perhaps God had said that he would make Timothy strong. Timothy needed to be strong so that he could be a Christian leader.

Timothy did not have to fight anyone and hurt them. Paul did not mean that. He meant that Timothy had to be strong for Christ. He had to live completely for Christ. He had to teach the true Christian message. That was how he could ‘fight’ against wrong things. (A very important way that Christians can fight against wrong things is to pray.)

Verses 19-20 Paul had told Hymenaeus and Alexander to leave the church. He wanted them to become ashamed of themselves. Outside the church, Satan has more power over people. Paul knew that Satan would not be kind to these men. He hoped that then they would learn to obey God.

Chapter 2

Christians should pray when they meet together

1 So then, these are the most important things that I must ask you to do. Each of you should ask God to supply what others need. You must pray for everyone. You must ask God to help them. And you must thank God for what he has done for everyone. I strongly ask you to do these things. 2 You should pray for rulers and for everyone who has authority. You should pray for them, so that we may live our lives without trouble or danger. Then we can live for God. And we can always do what is right and proper in every way. 3 It is good that we should pray like this. And it makes God, who saves us, happy. 4 It makes God happy because he wants to save all people. He wants everyone to know what is true.

5 There is only one God. And there is one person who brings God and people together. That person is the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave himself on behalf of all people, to make them free. Jesus died at the time that God thought was best. As a result of Jesus’ death, God showed that he wanted to save all people. 7 For this purpose, God chose me to be a special worker. He sent me to tell the message about Christ to those who do not belong to Israel’s people. I must teach them the true things about Jesus. I must teach them what they should believe. (I am telling you only what is true!)

8 In every place where you meet together, then, I want the men to pray. They should live right lives for God and they should lift up their hands to pray. When they pray, they must not be angry. Nor must they quarrel with other people.

Paul teaches about Christian women

9 Also, I want the women to wear proper clothes. Women should wear clothes that do not show their bodies too much. A woman should not wear clothes that cause other people to be ashamed about her. Women should not do their hair in an expensive way that takes a lot of time. Nor should they wear gold or beautiful stones or expensive clothes. 10 Instead, women should do good things. Christian women say that they live for God. So, it is right for them to do good things. This is what makes them beautiful.

11 A woman should learn quietly when you meet together. She should obey the men who teach in the church. 12 I do not let a woman teach men. And I do not let a woman take authority over a man. Instead, she should be quiet when the men are teaching. 13 I say this because God made Adam first. Then he made Eve. 14 It was Eve, not Adam, who believed Satan. She believed the false things that Satan said. And so she was the first to do what was wrong.

Verses 13-14 See Genesis 2:7, 21-23 and 3:1-6.

15 But God will save women who give birth to children. He will do that if the women continue to believe him. Also, they must continue to love people. They must continue to live right lives because they are God’s. And they must always do what is proper.

Chapter 3

Leaders of the church

1 These words are true: ‘It is good work to lead a church. So, it is good if someone wants to become a leader of the church.’ 2 A leader must live a good life. Then nobody can say anything bad about him. He must be the husband of one wife. He must think seriously and he must rule himself well. He must always do what is proper. He must be happy to have visitors in his home. He must be a good teacher. 3 He should not want to drink too much wine. He must not get angry quickly and fight people. But he should be kind. He should not be quick to quarrel with people. He must not want lots of money. 4 He must rule his own family well. He must cause his children to obey him. They should always respect people. 5 A man must know how to rule his own family. If he cannot do that, he certainly cannot look after God’s church.

6 A leader should not be someone who has believed Christ for only a short time. Someone like that might think that he himself was more important than everyone else. Then God would have to punish him, as he had to punish the Devil. 7 Also, people outside the church should agree that the man is a good man. Then nobody can say anything to make him ashamed. And so, he will not come under the Devil’s power.

Verse 7 The Devil wants to stop people who are good Christian leaders. So, he is happy when other people say bad things about them.

Helpers in the church

8 Deacons (other special helpers in the church) must also be careful to live good lives. People must respect them. They must always speak what is true. They must not drink too much wine. They must not want money so much that they do wrong things to get it. 9 They must really believe the things that God has shown to us about Christ. Also, while they believe, they must always be careful to do nothing wrong. 10 Deacons must first show the people in the church that they could do their work well. They must show everyone that they are good people. Then let them work as deacons. 11 Deacons’ wives must also be careful to live good lives. They must not say bad things about people. They must think seriously and they must rule themselves well. Everyone should know that they are honest and good in every way.

Verse 11 ‘Deacons’ wives’ could mean ‘women helpers’ instead.

12 A deacon must be the husband of one wife. He must rule his children well. He must also rule other people in his house well. 13 Those deacons who do their work well will cause everyone to think good things about them. And deacons like that will believe Christ Jesus more strongly. So, they will become braver. They will speak more strongly about what they believe.

14 I hope to come to you soon. But I am writing these things to you now. 15 So even if I cannot come soon, you will know about God’s family. You will know how people in God’s family should live. That family is the church of God, who is alive. God’s church teaches people what is true. The church keeps those true things safe, just like strong parts of a building make that building strong and safe.

16 The things that God has shown us about Jesus Christ are very great. Nobody can argue about that.

            Christ lived in a human body.

            God’s Spirit showed that he always did completely right things.

            Angels saw him.

            People taught about him in countries where the people do not know God.

            People in the world believed him.

            God took him up to be with himself.

Verse 16 The second part of this verse may come from a Christian song that Paul knew.

Chapter 4

Some people will stop believing Christ

1 But God’s Spirit tells us clearly that, in later times, some people will stop believing Jesus Christ. Instead, they will listen to bad spirits who want them to believe wrong things. Those people will obey what these bad spirits teach. 2 The bad spirits teach through bad men. Those men seem to be good, but really, they are bad. They say things that are not true. Those teachers have stopped knowing the difference between what is good or bad. 3 Those bad teachers say that it is wrong to marry. They tell people not to eat certain kinds of food. But God made those foods for people who believe Christ. Those people know what is true. Believers should eat those foods, and they should thank God for them. 4 Everything that God has made is good. And we should refuse nothing that God has made. But we should thank God for everything when we receive it. 5 Then those things become good and clean for us to use. They become clean because we have prayed. And God’s word also makes them good and clean.

Verse 5 The Christians may have included words from the Bible when they prayed to thank God for food. ‘God’s word’ in this verse may mean that. The Bible says that everything that God has made is good. (See Genesis 1:31.)

How Timothy can be a good servant of Christ

6 You must teach the believers to remember these things that I have just said. Then you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus. You must continue to study the words of the Christian message. Continue to understand more of the true things about Christ that you have obeyed. Then you will become stronger for Christ. 7 But you must refuse to listen to silly stories that are not true. Stories like that are not from God. Continue to prepare yourself so that you live for God more and more completely. 8 A person may do sport to prepare his body to be strong and healthy. And that will help him a little. But if a person prepares himself to live for God more completely, that is even better. That will help him in everything. That person will live the kind of life that God has promised. This kind of life is not only for now, but also for always. 9 These words are true. Everyone should agree that these words are true. Everyone should believe them. 10 We work for God very much. We continue to work, through many difficulties, because we believe completely in God. We know that God is alive. And it is he who can save all people. Certainly, he saves everyone who believes him.

11 You must teach everyone to do these things. 12 You are still young. But let nobody think that they know better than you because of that. Be an example to the people who believe Christ. Be an example because of:

·              What you say

·              What you do

·              How you love people

·              How you believe God

·              How you always do only what is right.

13 Until I come, be careful to continue doing these things. Read the Bible aloud to the people. Teach them to understand and to obey the message about Christ. 14 Do not stop using the gift that you have. God gave you that gift when people spoke messages from God about you. And the leaders of the church put their hands on you and they prayed for you.

Verse 14 God must have caused Timothy to be strong as a leader in a special way. That was the ‘gift’ that God gave to Timothy.

The Bible tells us that the Christians often put their hands on people. They did that when they prayed for people. (See, for example, Acts 8:17 and 13:3.)

15 Never stop doing these things. Do them all the time. So then, everyone will see that you are becoming better and stronger for Christ. 16 Think carefully about how you live. And think carefully about what you teach. You must continue to do all these things that I have said to you. Then God will save you yourself. And he will save those people who listen to you.

Chapter 5

Paul writes about different groups of people in the church

1 Do not tell an older man strongly what he should do. But tell him kindly what you think. Tell him as you would tell your father. And speak to younger men like they were your brothers. 2 Speak to older women as you would speak to your mother. And speak to younger women like they were your sisters. Always be completely right and proper when you are with these women.


3 Help widows. But only help those widows who are really alone. 4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, then they should help that widow. Those children or grandchildren should learn, before anything else, to do their duty to their own family. They should do this for God. In this way, they can give something back to their parents and their grandparents. That is what makes God happy. 5 A widow who is really alone has nobody to help her. So, she believes that God will be good to her. She continues to ask God to help her. She continues to pray, at night and during the day. 6 But a widow who lives only to enjoy herself is dead to God. Even while she lives, her spirit is dead. 7 Tell the people these things. So then, nobody can say that the believers are doing anything wrong.

8 A believer should supply what people in his own family need. Certainly, he should do that for the people who live with him. If anyone does not do that, then he has stopped really being a believer. That person is worse than someone who does not believe Christ.

9 Do not include a widow’s name in the list of widows unless she is more than 60 years old. She must have been the wife of one husband. 10 People should know that she has done good things. She must have been a good mother to her children. She should have been happy to have visitors in her home. She should have helped God’s people. She should have been like a servant who washes their feet. She should have helped people who had trouble. She must have continued to do all kinds of good things.

Verse 9 There was a list of widows who needed the church to help them (for example, with food or money).

Verse 10 At that time, when people travelled somewhere, they usually walked. The roads were dirty and it was often hot. So, when they arrived at someone’s house, the travellers’ feet would be dirty. A servant or a slave in that house would usually wash the visitors’ feet.

11 Refuse to include younger widows’ names in the list, for this reason: When they want to have sex, they will want to marry again. They will want to marry more than they want to be Christ’s servants. Then they will stop being Christ’s servants. 12 So, they will not do what they had promised earlier to do for Christ. They will be wrong not to do that. And God will know that they are wrong.

Verse 12 The church helped widows if their names were on its list. But we think that those widows had to promise something. They had to promise to be Christ’s servant as a widow. So, they promised not to marry again.

13 They will also learn to be lazy. They will go about from house to house. And not only will they become lazy. They will also learn to talk too much. They will become busy talking wrongly about other people. And they will say things that they ought not to say. 14 So, I think that younger widows should marry. They should have children. And they should look after their homes. Then they will not give an enemy any chance to say bad things about them. 15 Some of the younger widows have already turned away from Christ, so that they can obey Satan.

16 A woman who believes Christ should help any widows in her own family. Then the church will not have to do that work. So then the church can help those widows who are really alone.

Leaders called elders

17 Leaders called elders who do their job well are very important to the church. So, the church should respect them and it should pay them properly. Certainly, the church must do these things for elders who speak God’s message to you. The church should also do these things for elders who teach you. 18 The Bible says: ‘You must not put anything over a cow’s mouth when that cow is walking on the grain. You must not stop it eating some grain’ (Deuteronomy 25:4). The Bible also says: ‘You ought to pay a worker what he is worth’ (Luke 10:7).

Verse 17 Some people think that there was a difference between ‘elders’ and the other leaders. But they do not know what the difference was between ‘elders’ and the other leaders. Paul describes those other leaders in chapter 3 (see 3:1-7). They might be the same. Or elders may have been less important than those other leaders.

Verse 18 Grain is seeds that people use to make flour. People used cows to walk on the seeds. This made the seeds separate from the other parts of the plants, the parts that people cannot eat. While the cow worked, it could eat some of the seeds. Paul is saying that, like that cow, a good leader should receive something good for his work.

19 Somebody may say to you that an elder has done something wrong. But you must refuse to listen unless two or three people say the same thing. 20 If elders continue to do wrong things, you must tell them not to do those things. You must tell them when everyone in the church is present. So then, all the other people will be afraid to do things like that.

21 I tell you that it is your duty to obey these rules and to teach them. God and Christ Jesus agree with what I am saying. The angels that God has chosen also agree. You must not decide what to do about anyone before you know the facts about them. You must never be kinder to one person than to another. 22 Do not hurry to put your hands on any man to make him a leader of the church. Perhaps that man has done something wrong. Then people might think that you agree with him. But have nothing to do with wrong things. Always do what is right and good. 23 Do not continue to drink only water, but drink a little wine. Do this to make your stomach well, because you are ill so often.

Verse 22 ‘Put your hands on’ someone means to pray for that person.

24 Some people do wrong things that everyone can see clearly. So everybody already knows that it is right to punish those people. But other people do wrong things secretly. Nobody knows about those wrong things until they discover about them later. 25 It is the same when people do good things. Many good things are clear for everyone to see. But even when people do good things secretly, nobody can continue to hide those things always.

Chapter 6


1 All slaves should always respect their own masters properly. So then, other people will not say bad things about God’s name. Neither will they say bad things about what believers teach. 2Some slaves have masters who believe Christ. So, as believers, their masters are like their brothers. But those slaves must not refuse to obey their masters properly because of that. Instead, those slaves should work even better for them because their masters believe Christ. And the slaves should work better because they love their masters. Those slaves can help their masters if they work well for them.

Teach these things and ask the believers very strongly to obey them.

Paul writes again about wrong teachers

3 Some people may teach things that are wrong. Those people do not agree with the true words that our Lord Jesus Christ taught. They do not agree with what believers teach about how to live for God. 4 A person like that who teaches wrong things thinks wrongly. He thinks that he knows a lot more than anyone else. But he knows nothing. His mind is sick, so that he always wants to argue. He wants to quarrel about words. And so, people begin to want what other people have. People become angry with each other and they do not agree. They say and believe bad things about each other. 5 People go on arguing with each other. They do these things because their minds have become confused and bad. They can no longer understand what is true. They want to believe God so that they can get lots of money. That is how they think.

How we can become really rich

6 But God’s people should be happy with what they have. And they should really live for God. Then they are really rich. 7 When we were born, we brought nothing into this world. And when we die, we cannot take anything out of it.

Verse 6 ‘Really rich’ does not mean that Christians will have lots of money. It means that they will receive very good things from God, inside themselves. God will make their spirits strong and happy. He will always be there to help them. And they will live with him always.

8 So, if we have food and clothes, we should be happy. We should not want more things. 9 But if people want lots of money, Satan easily gets power over them. And he causes them to want all kinds of bad things. Those bad things are things that only fools want. Those bad things will hurt them. Those things completely destroy people. 10 When people really want money, that causes all kinds of bad things to happen. Some people have stopped believing Christ because they want to get more and more money. But they have caused themselves to be sad because they have very many troubles.

Paul tells Timothy that he must continue to live for God

11 But you are a man who lives for God. So, you must have nothing to do with these bad things. Always try to do what is right. Live for God and believe him. Love other people. Continue to be brave and strong for Christ. And be kind to people. 12 You must be like someone who fights a good fight. You must fight against everything that could stop you living for Christ. Then you will certainly live with God always. God chose you to live with him. And you said that you believe the true things about Christ. You said that when many other people were present. Those people heard what you said.

13 God knows that I am telling you this. And it is God who causes all things to be alive. Christ Jesus also knows what I am telling you. Jesus spoke about these true things when Pontius Pilate was present. 14 So, I tell you this. It is your duty to obey what I have told you to do. Obey carefully and completely. Then nobody can say that you have done anything wrong. Continue to obey those things until our Lord Jesus Christ appears. 15 God will cause Christ to appear at the proper time. God is good, and he is the only ruler with all authority. He is the Greatest King and the Most Powerful Lord. 16 God is the only person who can never die. He lives in light that is very, very bright. It is so bright that people cannot go near it. No human person has ever seen God, and nobody can ever see him. Everyone should say always how great he is! He must rule always! This is true.

Verse 13 Pontius Pilate was a Roman officer. He ruled the part of Israel called Judea at the time when Jesus died. Jerusalem city, where Jesus died, was in Judea. Pilate had to decide whether Jesus should die. Jesus told Pilate that he (Jesus) was the King of the Jews (Israel’s people). But Pilate let Jesus die. (See Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-3 and John 18:33-37.)

Rich people must be careful how they live

17 Say this strongly to people who are rich now, in this world. Tell them not to think that they are more important than other people. They must not believe that they will be safe because of all their money and their valuable things. They could easily lose all those things. Instead, they should believe God. He gives us so many things so that we can enjoy them. 18 Tell the rich people to do good things. They should do many good things. That is how they should be rich. They should be ready to give things to other people. They should be happy to let other people have some of their own things. 19 Then they will be storing really valuable things for themselves in heaven. And those things will be important for the life to come. Then they will certainly live with God always.

Timothy must continue to teach the Christian message

20 Timothy, God has chosen to give you his message to tell people. You must be like someone who keeps that message safe. Stay away from people who say a lot of wrong things. Those things are not about God, and they mean nothing. Some people argue against what is true. They say that they know special, secret things. But they do not really know anything. 21 Some of the people who believe those secret things have stopped believing the true message about Christ.

I pray that God will continue to be very kind to you, Timothy, and to all those believers there with you.

Word List

spirit being. Good angels come from God’s home beyond the earth. They are God’s servants and they bring messages from God to people.
a person or animal that is alive.
a group of Christians who meet together. A church is not just the building that they meet in. (It can also mean all the Christians in the world.)
a special helper in the church.
the bad spirit who wants to be God. He is the ruler of bad angels and of all that is bad. He is the enemy of Christians.
the place beyond the earth where God and Jesus Christ live.
look after
to help someone and to supply what someone or something needs.
master. Another name for God, which means that he is greater than everyone else.
to cause someone to hurt, or to cause trouble for them, because they have done bad things.
to think that another person is important. So then you always do what is proper and good for them.
a person from Rome. Rome was a powerful city; it had a strong army.
another name for the Devil.
a being that is always alive, even without a body. A person’s spirit is the part of them that will always be alive. It will be alive even after their body is dead. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his angels. And there are bad spirits, like Satan and his angels.
a woman without a husband, because her husband is dead.
a drink that contains alcohol. People make it from small, sweet fruits called grapes.
to love and thank someone (God) more than anyone else.

Book List

A. Marshall ~ The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament

D. A. Arichea and H. A. Hatton ~ A Handbook on Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus

G. W. Knight ~ The Pastoral Epistles ~ A Commentary on the Greek Text

G. D. Fee ~ New International Biblical Commentary ~ 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus

R. C. Blight ~ A Literary-Semantic Analysis of Paul’s First Discourse to Timothy

Various Bible versions


© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1997-2005

This version published January 2005

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.