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1 Timothy 1:8-11
8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 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, 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; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. (KJV)
1:8 Paul makes it abundantly clear that there is nothing the matter with the law. “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Rom. 7:12). But the law must be used lawfully. IT WAS NEVER GIVEN AS A MEANS OF SALVATION (ACTS 13:39; ROM. 3:20; .GAL 2:16, 21; 3:11). The lawful use of the law is to so employ it in preaching and teaching as to produce conviction of sin. IT SHOULD NOT BE PRESENTED AS A MEANS OF SALVATION OR AS A RULE OF LIFE.
Guy King has pointed out that the three lessons which the law teaches are: “We ought. We haven’t. We can’t.” When the law has done its work in the life of a sinner, then that person is ready to cry out to God, “Lord, save me by Your grace!” 2 THOSE WHO TEACH THAT THE LAW IS ESSENTIAL FOR SALVATION OR SANCTIFICATION ARE NOT CONSISTENT. THEY SAY THAT IF A CHRISTIAN BREAKS THE LAW, THEN HE NEED NOT BE PUT TO DEATH. This is not establishing the authority of the law. Law without penalty is nothing but good advice.
1:9 The law is not made for a righteous person. If a man is righteous, he does not need a law. THAT IS TRUE OF THE CHRISTIAN. WHEN HE IS SAVED BY THE GRACE OF GOD, HE DOES NOT NEED TO BE PLACED UNDER THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN ORDER FOR HIM TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE. It is not fear of punishment that makes a Christian live in a godly manner, but rather love for the Savior who died at Calvary.
The apostle goes on to describe the type of people for whom the law was given. Many Bible commentators have pointed out that there is a close connection between this description and the Ten Commandments themselves. The Ten Commandments are divided into two sections: the first four have to do with man’s duty toward God (godliness), whereas the remaining six have to do with his duty toward his neighbor (righteousness). The following words seem to correspond to the first section of the Ten Commandments: For the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane. ... The expression for man slayers is linked with the sixth commandment: You shall not murder. Here manslayers refers to murderers, and not just to a person who kills another accidentally.
1:10 The words for fornicators, for sodomites describe immoral heterosexuals and homosexuals. Here they are linked to the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.” The phrase for kidnappers is obviously related to the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal.” For liars, for perjurers (or false swearers) connects with the ninth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
The final words and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine are not directly related to the tenth commandment, but rather seem to sweep back over all the commandments and summarize them.
1:11 It is difficult to decide how this verse is connected with what has gone before. It may mean that the sound doctrine mentioned in verse 10 is according to the ... gospel. Or it may mean that all that Paul has been saying about the law in verses 8–10 is in perfect agreement with the gospel which he preached. Or again, it may mean that all that Paul has been saying about false teachers in verses 3–10 is in accord with the gospel message. While it is true that the gospel is glorious, the emphasis here may be on the fact that the gospel tells of the glory (the literal translation of glorious) of God in a wonderful way. It tells how the same God who is holy, righteous, and just is at the same time a God of grace, mercy, and love. His love provided what His holiness demanded; NOW THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE LORD JESUS ARE GIVEN ETERNAL LIFE.
This is the gospel ... which was committed to the apostle’s trust. It centers around the glorified Lord Jesus Christ and tells men that He is not only Savior but Lord as well.
7–8. Teachers of the law. The law is good and meant to be used even today, but it must be used for its intended purpose, i.e., “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom 3:19), SO THAT MAN TURNS TOWARD CHRIST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS (Rom 10:1–4; Gal 2:21; 3:24–25).
9–11. A righteous man, “A SAVED PERSON” IS NOT UNDER THE LAW BUT GRACE. HE IS NOT LAWLESS BUT THE CONTROLLING FORCE IS THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE GRACE OF GOD (Gal 3:1–5; Tit 2:11ff.). The list of sins parallels the Ten Commandments which condemn each sin and bring guilt. Sound doctrine can be judged by whether it is a “gospel of the glory of the blessed God,” which is the sense here. People are transformed in the church by “be holding … the glory of the Lord” (II Cor 3:18) and not a constant bombardment of legalistic preaching or teaching. Paul felt keenly this ministry was a trust.
1:8 THE PROPER FUNCTION OF THE LAW IS TO MAKE SINNERS AWARE OF THEIR SINFULNESS (Rom. 3:20).
1:9 Paul’s list of those who have violated the law appears to parallel the order of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3–17). The first three pairs of violations recall the first four commands, which address a person’s relationship with God: the lawless and insubordinate, the ungodly and … sinners, and the unholy and profane. Following these are eight violations that parallel five of the last six commands of the Ten Commandments. Covetousness is not mentioned.
1:10 Fornicators are persons involved in sexual immorality in general. Sodomites are specifically male homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:9). But heterosexual and homosexual immorality are violations of the seventh commandment. kidnappers … liars … perjurers: These are violations of commandments eight and nine. Sound doctrine may also be translated “healthy teaching.” Sound is derived from the Greek for “in good health.” Doctrine is a key theme in 1 Timothy (4:1, 6, 13, 16; 5:17; 6:1).
1:11 according to the glorious gospel: This phrase should be interpreted in its immediate context, a discussion about the purpose of the law. THE PROPER USE OF THE LAW IS TO DEMONSTRATE HUMAN SINFULNESS AND OUR NEED FOR THE GOOD NEWS THAT CHRIST HAS SAVED US FROM BONDAGE TO THE LAW AND OUR OWN SINS.
In this section where Paul is warning believers against unsound doctrine, he has mentioned the mystery religions and the idolatry that abounded in Ephesus where young Timothy was. He has also warned against the false teaching that sought to make the Old Testament merely a mythology. Now Paul warns against legalists, those who taught that the law is a means of salvation and a means of sanctification after salvation.
The Law served a purpose, BUT GOD DID NOT GIVE IT AS A MEANS OF SALVATION. The Law condemns us; IT REVEALS TO MAN THAT HE IS A SINNER IN NEED OF A SAVIOR. Under the Law the best man in the world is absolutely condemned, BUT UNDER THE GOSPEL THE WORST MAN CAN BE JUSTIFIED IF HE WILL BELIEVE IN CHRIST.
THE SINNER CANNOT BE SAVED BY GOOD WORKS FOR HE IS UNABLE TO PERFORM ANY GOOD WORKS. Paul wrote in Romans, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). This idea that in and of yourself you can please God absolutely contradicts the Word of God. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM—YOU CANNOT MEET HIS STANDARD.
GOOD WORKS CANNOT PRODUCE SALVATION, BUT SALVATION CAN PRODUCE GOOD WORKS. WE ARE NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS, BUT WE ARE SAVED UNTO GOOD WORKS. Paul makes this very clear in Ephesians 2:8–10 where we read: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
“We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” The Law reveals the will of God—it is morally excellent. It is good for moral conduct BUT NOT FOR OBTAINING SALVATION. It cannot save a sinner, but it can correct him or reveal that he is a sinner. THAT IS ITS PURPOSE.
THE LAW WAS NOT GIVEN TO THE RIGHTEOUS MAN, the one who has been made righteous because of his faith in Christ. THAT MAN HAS BEEN CALLED TO A MUCH HIGHER PLANE BEFORE GOD. The Law was given for the lawless. “Thou shalt not kill” is not given to the child of God who has no thought of murdering anyone, who does not want to hurt but wants to help. That commandment was given to the man who is a murderer at heart. It is given to control the natural man. The Law is “for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons.” THOSE WHO HAVE COME TO CHRIST WERE NOT SAVED BY THE LAW, BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD. They have been brought into the family of God and HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO A PLANE OF LIVING HIGHER EVEN THAN THAT GIVEN IN THE LAW.
Let me give two illustrations of this that I trust will be helpful. Imagine a judge on a bench who has a lawbreaker brought before him. He is guilty, and he should pay a heavy fine and go to prison. However, the judge says, “I have a son who loves this prisoner although he has broken the law and I must condemn him. My son is a wealthy man and has agreed to pay his fine. He’s also agreed to go to prison on behalf of this man. Therefore, his penalty has been fully paid. I am going to take this criminal into my home, and I am going to treat him as a son of mine.” When the judge takes the criminal into his home, he no longer says things like, “Thou shalt not kill” or “Thou shalt not steal” (Exod. 20:13, 15). The man is now his son. The judge will talk to him about loving the other members of his family, how he is to conduct himself at the table, treat his wife with respect, and take part in the family chores. You see, this man is treated on an altogether different basis from what he was before. That is what God has done for the believing sinner. We are above and beyond the law. The law is for that fellow out yonder who is a lawbreaker. It is given to control the old nature, the flesh.
The other illustration is one that Dr. Harry Ironside told me years ago. After teaching at an Indian conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, Dr. Ironside took one of the Christian Indians with him to Oakland, California. Among other things, this Indian was asked to speak at a young people’s group that was mixed up on the ideas of law and grace. They were confused about the place of the law in the Christian life. The Indian told the group, “I came here from Flagstaff on the train, and we stopped over for several hours in Barstow. There in the station’s waiting room I noticed signs on the walls which said, ‘Do Not Spit on the Floor.’ That was the rule there. I looked down on the floor, and observed that nobody had paid any attention to the law. But when we got here to Oakland I was invited to stay in a lovely, Christian home. As I sat in the living room I looked around and noticed pretty pictures on the walls, but no signs which said ‘Do Not Spit on the Floor.’ I got down on my hands and knees and felt the rug and, you know, nobody had spit on the floor. In Barstow it was law, but in the home in which I’m staying it is grace.”
Under law man never kept it, he couldn’t measure up to it, and he broke it continually. Under grace a man is brought into the family of God, and he is not going to murder or lie. If he does, he is surely out of fellowship with God.
“Any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.” Paul adds this in case he had left out something. It covers any and all sin he may have omitted in his list.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1997, c1995). Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments (1 Ti 1:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
KJV Bible commentary. 1997, c1994 (2495). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson's new illustrated Bible commentary (1 Ti 1:8-11). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (electronic ed.) (5:432-434). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.