Introduction: If you count the epistle to the Hebrews, Paul is credited with writing 14 books in the N.T. Of those, Paul wrote 4 letters (epistles) to individuals (Philemon, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus). If the Lord wills, we will be focusing some attention in our sermon lessons on three of those personal letters of the apostle – 1 & 2 Timothy, & Titus. Today’s lesson will serve as a general introduction to these books, and our future study.
The Pastoral Epistles: These 3 epistles are many times referred to as the pastoral epistles. This designation may not be the most appropriate description, as there is no indication that Paul, Timothy or Titus were pastors, or elders of a local church as the Bible describes them. But These letters are the place in the Bible where we most learn about the work and qualification of those who were to be appointed pastors, or elders in the NT church. (we will look closely at this teaching in March).
I. Preliminary Questions: Let’s answer some of the obvious questions concerning these 3 epistles.
A. Who wrote the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus? –
• 1 Tim 1:1-2 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope, 2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith:
• 2 Tim 1:1-2 – Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, a beloved son:
• Titus 1:1-4 – Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness,… To Titus, a true son in our common faith:
Paul wrote them. Although there are many today who reject the authorship of Paul for these letters, it was never disputed before the 1800’s and the ancient writers clearly attribute them to Paul. Besides all that, the letters themselves claim to be written by Paul!
B. When were these letters written? They are some of his last writings. The generally recognized order of their composition is that
1. Paul wrote 1 Timothy after his release from his first imprisonment about 62-63 A.D. from Macedonia;
2. Shortly after that he wrote to Titus (same year?).
3. Later, after his he was imprisoned again, he wrote the second letter to Timothy around 67 A.D. 2 Timothy was written after the close of the history in Acts near the time of his death.
C. Are these 3 letters connected? (as the “pastoral epistles”) Why group them together, or study them together? What do these letters have in common?
1. They are all letters to individuals.
2. They all written to instruct the evangelist on his character and the responsibilities of his work. (Some suggest that Timothy and Titus were apostolic representatives to the early church, given specific duties toward organization, appointing elders, setting things in order). We often go to the books of 1 Timothy and Titus to consider the qualifications of the elders and deacons, without considering that these letters clearly present the character and qualifications of the evangelist as well. 2 Tim 4:5– But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Paul refers to Timothy as a “man of God” , who must not quarrel or strive about meaningless words. He calls on him to be an example to the flock, preach, exhort, and rebuke with longsuffering. In writing to Titus, Paul calls on him to preach, remind the people of God of their responsibilities, exhort and rebuke. The tenor and admonitions of the books are similar.
II. “Behaving in the house of God” –But one clearer connection is their common focus on the personal relationships and responsibilities of the Christian as a member of the collective church. Paul expressed this purpose to Timothy in 1 Tim 3:15 – but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. This is what some call a Purpose statement – Paul is telling Timothy what this 1st letter is all about.
A. There is a certain behavior that God expects (ought) from those who are in His family (house is household, not the church building).Paul provides specific instructions (doctrine) concerning the character and activity of both men and women in the church, pointing out their differing roles in regards to teaching and leadership. The apostle refers to this teaching as “sound” – a word that means healthy, resilient. The family of God needs sound doctrine, so as to conduct themselves properly.
1. This same purpose appears in 2nd Timothy – 2 Tim 2:19 – Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
2. Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to set in order the things that were lacking (1:5); which included the appointment of overseers; and stopping the mouths of those who were subverting the church through false teaching. Paul commanded Titus to speak things that were proper for sound doctrine (2:1). Much like 1 Timothy, what follows in Titus 2 is specific teaching (doctrine) on the conduct and attitudes of the differing groups within the church -older men, younger men, older women, and the younger women.
B. All three epistles make the same connection between living godly(ought to behave) and teaching the exclusive message of Christ (1 Tim 1:3 – …teach no other doctrine).Godliness comes through sound doctrine. In Paul’s purpose statement he affirms that the church Is built upon the uniform foundation of the truth.
1. Consider 1 Tim 4:6-7 – Paul tells Timothy to instruct the brethren in these things (roles and responsibilities). If he does two things will result: 1) he will prove himself a good minister of Jesus Christ and 2) he himself will be nourished in the word of of the good doctrine. In the next verse the apostle calls on Timothy to “train yourself for godliness”. The only pathway to godliness is the words (doctrine) of Jesus. Just as one must eat the right food, and exercise with purpose to be healthy, so the Christian must strive to be godly through the applying the nourishing word to active obedience.
III. Guard what was Committed to Your Trust: Another common element of these epistles is the unique place of the Gospel of Jesus. Paul had delivered the message of Christ through the power and providence of the Spirit of God. What was Paul’s (and God’s expectations) toward Timothy and Titus (and us)?
A. Notice how Paul ends the first letter to Timothy… 1 Tim 6:20-21– 20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Paul depicts the gospel as a trust (deposit) given to Timothy that was to be guarded. The words committed to your trust translates from a single Greek word that is used only in Paul letters to Timothy (3 times). It is also translated as deposit. You put it in the bank for safe keeping. This deposit was the gospel (sound words). Paul had entrusted the message with the young evangelist. He was responsible for guarding it against false teachers and making sure it was preached, and it alone. 2 Tim 1:13-14 – Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
B. We will be considering these passages, and others like them, more specifically later on. But we cannot put too much emphasis on the place of the apostolic message in the function of the church and in the development of personal godliness among us. We can easily trace the tragic results that have transpired when those who were entrusted with the truth, failed to guard it against false teaching.
1. In these very letters Paul warned against the time when men would turn away from the sound words of the truth to the fables of men. He called them perilous times when men would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim 3:2-5) The power of godliness that they will have denied is the gospel message itself. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16)
Conclusion: Inherent to the proper understanding of these epistles is a familiarity with the men to whom they were addressed. In a future lesson we will look at Timothy and Titus and their contribution to work of Paul in behalf of Christ. Have you been obedient to the sound words?