Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

The Law, The Legalists and The Ungodly


This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book.

When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.

Let’s start in verse eight of the first chapter of First Timothy.

The Law is good but use it lawfully

Leaders have to be careful about who they allow to do the ministry of God in our assemblies. But more on that should the LORD tarry long enough for me to do Chapter 2. Paul continues his thought in verse 8.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Paul is keen to advise that the law that God gave is still a good law, it was created by a perfect God and was and is and is to come God’s perfect standard. There is nothing wrong with the law itself, the law is purposed with exposing the wrongdoing of the heart and shining a light on the personal sin of the sinner.

Paul writes to the Galatian church in chapter 3…

Galatians 3:11 (ESV) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

And also…

Galatians 3:24 (ESV) So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

Legalism or loving conviction?

The law was designed to convict the heart of the wrongdoing person, it was never meant as a club to beat someone with in a legalistic fashion. We are commanded to use the law lawfully. Yes, by all means hold your brother accountable in a loving way if he has fallen into error and correct doctrine and apostasy, but don’t use it as a substitute for walking by faith or use it to keep showing us righteousness.

Personally, if I was on the receiving end of such legalism and law clubbing, I would lose confidence in my faith very quickly and begin to question if the salvation that was done by Jesus on the cross was in fact enough for me to be saved. I know that it is but the standards set by God in the law were there to point to the one who would live a life according to what the Father said the law was.

I said this was a continuation in thought as when we looked at “sound doctrine” I touched on “sinful actions” and here again we see that the two are conjoined. If we do not have our doctrine straight it is far easier to fall into actions that will be problematic.

Really we have to have balance; I am not stating that we should not have standards, or that Gods standards are not correct, we have to live a good life according to biblical standards but this does not make us justified before God, save us from our sin or get us to heaven.

Who are the ungodly?

Paul then gives quite a list of types of people that would fall into this category. I will be contrary to many commentators and not spend much time on the list. The lost is somewhat self-explanatory. Many folks have used this passage for their own ends to prove a point against whatever sin they were preaching against that week.

Paul’s list is as follows…

1) Those who strike their fathers and mothers
2) For murderers
3) The sexually immoral
4) Men who practice homosexuality, 
5) Enslavers
6) Liars
7) Perjurers
8) Whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

Paul lists the top 7 sins that folks were practicing in that area and in that time. He also leaves the last category for folks who do things that are contrary to a life lived in sound doctrine.

Paul is wise in doing so as people will try to use guidelines like this as a means to justify their wicked actions. (Well, what I am doing is not on Paul’s bad list) and this would be a mistake as we are approaching this with the wrong heart and trying to avoid repercussions as opposed to willingly serving and keeping ourselves clear of these things to glorify God.

Loving legalism

We have to be careful to not be in love with our own legalism as if the actions we do will justify us as much as the grace of God. It is important to not do these things and not be tainted by the world, but we can turn our actions into a semi-false doctrine of its own by claiming that it in some way will give us holiness.

Stay where you are planted

Paul lists what was going on in Ephesus and lists common behaviors and lists why it is important that Timothy remains where God has planted him regardless of the difficulty in his current mission. It does remind me of when Jesus spoke on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13…

Matthew 13:1 (ESV) That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

You can judge for yourself what type of ground Ephesus was, it certainly was not fertile soil, there was some growth but there was also a lot of the culture influencing the church and even today that is an area of concern in many churches. (I would be interested if you would state what seed you think the Ephesian church is in the comments and why)

It is easy when things get difficult to try to seek an easier place to serve the LORD. I write this as a man who is currently in a foreign country. I was born in Scotland and live in California in the USA. The only “service” I do for the LORD is a small bible study where I open up my house to allow folks to discuss the bible on a Sunday evening. (Obviously I write this blog and I am a father and husband)

I have found it harder than I would back home to have opportunities to serve as people simply don’t know me and coming from a missions church background where it was all hands on deck, I miss being in the thick of serving regularly. It would be easy to go somewhere else, but the truth is I haven’t been called elsewhere yet. (If it ever happens at all) Leaving would be contrary to God’s plan for this part of my life and I may miss out or delay valuable lessons God has for me.

Legalism versus the gospel of glory

We spoke on legalism and the replacement of real righteousness, legalism or works based faith cannot bring you one centimeter closer to God, but the “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” can. Paul saw himself as a keeper of the flame, a guardian if you will of that true gospel that it be preserved, not perverted and kept the true word of God. He wanted the truth to remain the truth, untainted by error, what a mission!.

Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.

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