The “Pastoral Epistles” is a term used to designate Paul’s two letters to Timothy - His son in the faith - and to Titus – two men who had shepherd’s hearts and delighted to care for the sheep and lambs of Christ’s flock.  These letters were given this designation as they have much to say about the responsibilities of pastors in leading and ministering God’s people.  Yet this should not be a turn off for us as they speak individually to believers as well.  The first letter to Timothy and Titus were penned around 64 A.D. while Paul was able to travel about more or less freely.  This was just after he had been under house arrest in Rome.  Paul was again imprisoned when Emperor Nero began his vain campaign to eliminate Christianity.  This final imprisonment was in a Roman dungeon – no doubt very bleak and depressing – dark, dank and lonely.  Indeed, it was an underground chamber in Rome’s Mamertine prison where the apostle awaited his execution.  He wrote the second letter to Timothy from here around 67 A.D.  It is also believed that is was about this date when he was eventually executed. 

There are two things which distinguish these epistles from Paul’s other letters:  They are among the last things Paul wrote reflecting the sort of concerns which deeply burdened the apostle’s heart near the end of his ministry and they are addressed to two young men functioning in pastoral roles and not to the churches.  Paul recorded his thoughts and feelings to them as he prepared to pass his ministry on to others.  

We will discover that 1 and 2 Timothy are distinctive among Paul’s letters in that they were highly personal, practical and unsystematic in nature.  Timothy was Paul’s child in the faith, his promising protégé and he was very dear to his heart.  Indeed, Timothy had become so dear to Paul that the apostle’s last message was a touching appeal for Timothy to join him in his final days of imprisonment.  You long for those you love when you are alone or awaiting some dire circumstance.  Even the brave apostle longed for the earthly companionship.  Don’t ever forget to put flesh and bones on the characters in Scripture.  They were no different than we are with needs and feelings and heart desires.  

Timothy was younger than Paul – possibly in his 30’s.  He had assisted Paul in a number of different ministry contexts.  And Paul had stationed Timothy in Ephesus to do the difficult work of combating false teaching.  Followers of Christ have always had to face a unique set of challenges related to their ministry context.  For example, pastors and churches in our own culture continue to face complex questions related to who we are as humans.  Could anyone have imagined, even a generation ago, that Christians would have to think through biblical positions regarding cloning or gender reassignment?  Ladies, all heresy certainly does not represent being progressive rather it represents a straying from God’s Truth.  Heresy is always accompanied with a straying from the Word of God. 

When someone is near and dear to your heart and you know you are in your final days you want to pour into them those things which you deem “protos” or the most important, leaving them well prepared to continue on in their sojourn in this world after you are no longer here and this is exactly what Paul does.  The lyrics of a precious old song come to my mind:

“We're pilgrims on the journey - Of the narrow road - And those who've gone before us line the way - Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary - Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace - Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses - Let us run the race not only for the prize - But as those who've gone before us - Let us leave to those behind us - The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives - After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone - And our children sift through all we've left behind - May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover - Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find - Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful - May the fire of our devotion light their way - May the footprints that we leave - Lead them to believe - And the lives we live inspire them to obey - Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.”   Steve Green 

Timothy was an evangelist as was Titus.  Their commission and work was much the same as that of the apostles, accordingly they were itinerant, as we find Timothy was.  One aim of 1 Timothy was to direct him in his duty as an evangelist at Ephesus where he was now ministering.  The main themes being faithfulness in the midst of hardship and the Truth according to godliness – holding fast to the faithful Word of God.  God cares very much about our godliness even in our trials and difficulties.  Nothing speaks greater for God when our attitudes in trials are not whining and complaining! 

Paul writes to us in Philippians:

14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.  Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

As believers in Christ Jesus, it matters greatly how we live our lives.  He desires for us to leave the “aroma of Christ” in all of our life circumstances through His power, for His glory, for our good.  Paul states in Ephesians:

15 Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.   Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)

How very applicable this is to us as well.  Everyone undergoes troubles.  Indeed, it is promised by our Lord Jesus:   

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”    John 16:33 (NIV)            

I am sure we can all “Amen” that!  As Christians we are to be keeping ourselves in the Truth and point others to the Truth.

Just because these letters are deemed “pastoral” it does not mean that they were not meant to be used widely nor does it mean they were to be mere handbooks on pastoral duties.  Paul write is 2 Timothy:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

God wants all of His people equipped for His work and for a life which both brings Him glory and much joy and peace to the believer.  God has a plan for each of our lives and it is His desire for us to be thoroughly equipped by His Word and empowered by His Spirit to fulfill these individual plans.  BTW, the body suffers when one part neglects to do their part and so too the person who neglects it.  Scripture tells us:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”   Jeremiah 29:11-14 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.   Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

We have been saved by grace FOR something and I don’t think it was simply to entertain ourselves to death! 

The more we study and apply God’s Word to our life the better off we will be.  And that is a gross understatement!   It is the pathway to the abundant life which God desires for all of His children.  It is our guidebook for our sojourn here.  We are never, never to neglect it.  Men are not inerrant; God’s Word is.  And it is also eternal – standing firm in the heavens.  Indeed, there are only two things eternal on earth – the souls of men and the Word of God.  It is our supreme authority.  It has been graciously given to us by our loving Father for our good and we are the ones who suffer when we neglect its Truths.  Also, when we remain ignorant of them, we are very prone to fall for all kinds of foolishness.  Like Paul tells us in 2 Timothy:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.   2 Timothy 3:1-7 (NIV)

God desires for us to be well equipped – like the Bereans in Scripture - who were commended for making sure what they heard was true – even from Paul!

11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.   Acts 17:11 (NIV)

We are to take everything to the Word to make sure it lines up with Scripture before we make it a part of our core belief/value system.  Indeed, Moses told the Israelites (and we should take heed as well):

45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you--they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”   Deuteronomy 32:45-47 (NIV)

It was the Israelites path to the abundant life and it is to be ours as well.

“Truth must enter into the soul, penetrate and saturate it, or else it is of no value.  Doctrines held as a matter of creed are like bread in the hand, which ministers no nourishment to the frame, but doctrine accepted by the heart, is as food digested, which, by assimilation, sustains and builds up the body.”  Charles H. Spurgeon

“Everything around us may be changing, and our values as Christians are being challenged at every level.  We can so easily become discouraged or disillusioned, if our foundation is not firmly rooted in the Truth of God’s Word and the Truth of Who He really is.”   Chip Ingram

“The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection.  And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others.  Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”   A.W. Tozer

Sadly, heresy has always been alive and well in the church.  In our times, for example, David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge in their book Health, Wealth and Happiness highlight a disturbing trend in the modern day church:  

“A new gospel is being taught today.  This new gospel is perplexing – it omits Jesus and neglects the cross.”  They report that 46 percent of self-proclaimed Christians in the United States agree with the idea that God will grant material riches to all believers who have enough faith.  This teaching has become known as the “prosperity gospel” and it is easy to get sucked in to.  Unfortunately, professing Christians are taking the bait, and not just in America.  To be sure, false teachers are still going strong.  There is nothing new under the sun is there?  Paul cared deeply about the people to whom he had ministered and poured His life into and out for, and he knew that what they needed was not human wisdom rather Godly.  They needed to stand on the Truth of God’s Word and to fix their hope on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are no different.

Paul had previously warned the believers at Ephesus at his departure from there to keep watch over themselves and all the flock.  We find in Acts:

27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.   Acts 20:27-31 (NIV)

And this is precisely what happened.  The church there begin dealing with the very serious problem of false teaching.  We cannot be too precise with regard to the content of the false teaching.  But what we do know, is the city of Ephesus was large, diverse, religiously complex, and flourishing commercially, not unlike a major metropolitan area of the United States today.  The temple of Artemis was located in Ephesus therefore the cult of Artemis was especially influential in this Imperial capital.  The cult affected commercial activity and it seems to have engulfed a number of other cult practices such as the practice of magic, sorcery and soothsaying.  Needless to say, Timothy was not ministering in a culture founded on Judeo-Christian values.  Ephesus had its own particular brand of sin and rebellion – as do we – but that does not mean that Paul’s instructions have no relevance for us today.  

Paul did give us a few clues throughout the letter and the following are what we can piece together about the false teachers:  They were straying in their doctrine (1:3); They were preoccupied with myths, genealogies and speculation (1:4); They misused the law (1:7); They were apparently immoral (1:19-20); Their consciences were seared (4:2); They were forbidding marriage and certain foods (4:3); They craved controversy and quarrels (6:4); and They were using godliness for material gain (6:5). 

These heresies came onto the scene in the second century A.D. after the writing of the New Testament.  What seems more certain is that the false teaching in Ephesus had some strong Jewish elements.  Isn’t that how Satan always works?  From the VERY beginning – since Eve) he has always mixed the Truth of God with a lie to God’s people.  And he continues on with the same agenda.  In our example from 1 Timothy, Paul mentioned that these teachers wanted to teach the law (1:7) and that they had an unhealthy interest in genealogies (1:4).  The church was not merely dealing with preferences for the style of music – the gospel itself was at stake.  

Unfortunately, some Christians have gotten the wrong idea that a Book like 1 Timothy is only relevant for the church staff.  The urgent message it contains is sometimes passed over because the Book is referred to as a “leader’s manual” for pastors which is true yet we need to rethink our perspective on it as it applies to us as well.  Whether you teach, or disciple, or open your home in hospitality or evangelize unreached groups for the Lord or doing the important job of raising Godly children we are not to ignore this important Book.  We might be missing more than we think!  Consider just a few important questions addressed by Paul:  How do Old Testament laws apply to Christians today? (Chapter 1).  Can women teach in the church? (Chapter 2).  Who is qualified to be an elder or a deacon? (Chapter 3).  How do I spot false teachers? (Chapter 4).  Which widows should the church support? (Chapter 5).  How should wealthy Christians handle their finances? (Chapter 6).

All believers in the church need to know as well what God has said about how the church is to function.  Paul writes in 1 Timothy:

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.   1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)

This letter is all about how God’s people conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, and Paul was not merely talking about our personal etiquette in the sanctuary.  God’s household is the church, the gathered people of God.  This letter was written so that we could know how we come together as followers of Christ for worship and then spread out to serve the Lord throughout the week in each of our differing spheres and influences.  Its message is for every person and for every context.  

These are Beth’s personal notes, due to this fact sources are not often stated.

What I Glean