In 1 Timothy 1:8-11, what does the author consider the "legitimate use of the law" to be?:

ISV 1Ti 1:8 Of course, we know that the Law is good if a person uses it legitimately, 1Ti 1:9 that is, if he understands that the Law is not intended for righteous people but for lawbreakers and rebels, for ungodly people and sinners, for those who are unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers, their mothers, or other people, 1Ti 1:10 for those involved in sexual immorality, for homosexuals, for kidnappers, for liars, for false witnesses, and for whatever else goes against the healthy teaching 1Ti 1:11 that agrees with the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.


To whom does "the righteous" refer to in 1 Timothy 1:9?

  • 3
    Do you think you could reduce this question so as to make your intent clearer and more focussed? I also suspect there could be more than one question hiding in there. Aug 31, 2016 at 1:28
  • Could you summarise at the end, by stating quite explicitly some along the lines of "My question is ....?" Then I could sort out the necessary input from the less significant dicta. Aug 31, 2016 at 1:41
  • @WoundedEgo You ignore the possibility that I was voting in agreement with a prior comment, which I up voted, and which you then ignored. Thus, my vote proved to be in fact necessary to get your attention. My comment tried to be more detailed in suggesting a way to improve. My vote ensured you didn't brush it off as you did Dick's.
    – Joshua
    Aug 31, 2016 at 17:47
  • @WoundedEgo Yes. Games. You're still not getting it...Gamification. Its how the system works.
    – Joshua
    Sep 2, 2016 at 2:19
  • I would read this as the answer being inside the verse, after "that is." The prior verse also makes it clear that the writer is seeing a difference between himself and the type that profess to know the law. Feb 16, 2017 at 1:46

2 Answers 2


The literal Greek states something more like "Now we know that the law (nomos) is good if anyone use it lawfully (nominos)", but the ISV seems to have shied away from this rendering because it sounds redundant.

John Chrysostom's Homily on this passage - delivered in Greek - explained nominos as meaning fulfilling the law out of innate virtue rather than simply following the letter of the law:

Another way again of using the law lawfully, is when we keep it, but as a thing superfluous. And how as a thing superfluous? As the bridle is properly used, not by the prancing horse that champs it, but by that which wears it only for the sake of appearance, so he uses the law lawfully, who governs himself, though not as constrained by the letter of it. He uses the law lawfully who is conscious that he does not need it, for he who is already so virtuous that he fulfills it not from fear of it, but from a principle of virtue, uses it lawfully and safely: that is, if one so use it, not as being in fear of it, but having before his eyes rather the condemnation of conscience than the punishment hereafter. Moreover he calls him a righteous man, who has attained unto virtue. He therefore uses the law lawfully, who does not require to be instructed by it.

Homily II on Paul's First Epistle to Timothy


Here Paul is not referring to the rightful obedience to Mosaic law in current times which is by faith in Christ, as argued in Rom 3:31. Here in 1Tim 1, the passage warns against false teachers of the law, who introduced vain controversies and myths related to Jewish customs or teachings. After warning against such heresies, Paul reminds us the goodness of law, that it is harmless if we don't violate it. The violations comprises the general sins listed. The meaning of Law here is general or moral law rather than covenantal law of Moses, as Gary Everett points out:

The Meaning of the Word “Law” – When Paul uses the word “law” in 1Ti 1:8-11 he may not be using the word entirely in the narrow sense to refer strictly to the Mosaic Law. He certainly has to mean the Jewish Old Testament because this was the only Scriptures that the early Church upheld until the writing of the New Testament books, but we should allow the word “law” to carry a broader application to include not only the Mosaic Law, but “civil law and order,” or “governmental rule over a society” as well, since he is establishing order in a largely Gentile church. Thus, Paul is saying that just as God has established law and order over societies (1Ti 1:8-10), so does God establish law and order over His Church. It is sound doctrine that is the basis for this Church order (1Ti 1:10). Sound doctrine establishes order in the Church in the same way that civil law establishes order in a society. It was Paul who was given the divine commission to write this sound doctrine contained within the Church Epistles as he fulfilled his commission to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentile nations. [Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures]

What is lawful according to Paul is to adhere strictly within the sound doctrines of the Gospel, as taught by him (or other apostles of the Church).

Mark Dunagan commentary states:

1Tim 1:11 “According to the glorious gospel”: In the Greek the last phrase is literally “the sound doctrine”, which means that “sound teaching” is another name for the gospel message. This also means that there is not any difference between what composes the gospel and what composes sound doctrine, they are one and the same. Therefore, the gospel contains God’s standard of morality as well as what one must do to be saved. Those who contend for a distinction between “doctrine” and “gospel” are not using the Scriptures lawfully. Paul is saying that this view of the Law and its purpose and what is not lawful is given according to the teaching found in the glorious gospel. Thus this estimate of the Law was not Paul’s own opinion, but part of the glorious gospel that Paul was commissioned to preach

  • Hello and thank you for your response. What I'm seeking is what constitutes "legitimate" use and "rightly obeying". Are you saying the law is to be obeyed but one must not get circumcised?
    – user10231
    Dec 16, 2016 at 16:45
  • Please expand your question to include some description of what you think using the law "lawfully" entails. If you think your comment describes that (an d provides evidence to that effect then incorporate that in your answer, then delete your comment. The comments are just temporary while answers persist.
    – user10231
    Dec 17, 2016 at 10:11

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