A Pastor’s Commentary
“Letters to the Pastor”
(First and Second Timothy and Titus)
Lesson 1 “Introduction”
Pastors get letters about all kinds of things. Many of them are about the latest book on church growth. Others are about how your ministry can be twice as effective if you just attend our seminar. But many are about real needs and problems and concerns.
Have you ever wished that you could read someone else’s mail? If so, you might think that letters to the Pastor would be among the most interesting – and some of them are. But of course, it wouldn’t be right for you to read the most interesting ones. But if you are just dying to read some letters to the Pastor,” God has given you that opportunity – He has included 3 of them in the Bible.
Among Bible scholars, Paul’s two letters to Timothy and his letter to Titus, tucked away here among the last books of the Bible, are called “the Pastoral Epistles.” Now don’t get the idea that because of their location in the Bible, they are kind of an “afterthought.” On the contrary, as we work our way through this material we are going to find some of the most personal information that can be found in all of scripture. Now someone might say, “well, if they are letters to pastors, why do we need to study them? Well, first of all, you need to know what I’m supposed to be doing. But secondly, you’re going to discover that there is a great deal here that will apply directly to you as a member of the church. And also, you can do a much better job of what you are supposed to be doing as a part of the church family if you understand what I am supposed to be doing.
In this lesson we are just going to have a survey of these books and get acquainted with them, so that you will know what to look for as we move into them in the weeks ahead.
The first thing we want to think about is the source of all scripture. Of course, we know that the Holy Spirit is the source of all scripture. But one of the beautiful things about the doctrine of inspiration is that the Holy Spirit worked through the lives and experiences of the human authors to “flavor” and “temper” that message. And the reason that is important is that these books were written during the very last years of Paul’s life – thus they are not “theoretical” or fanciful but the result of long experience.
The book of Acts, which contains the details of Paul’s life, ends with him in prison in Rome, and the Bible doesn’t add any further information. Although that is true, there is a lot of historical and traditional information about the closing years of his life. Most Bible scholars think that he was probably released for a time and continued his writing ministry, and was ultimately beheaded in Rome. And it was during those years that he wrote these letters. So what we have here are settled, tried, and true convictions of a great man of God looking back over his life as it comes to a close. And they are also a good example of how God used the lives of the writers to enhance and enliven the scripture. And to make it even more true to life, these are letters giving advice to two of Paul’s younger disciples who were early in their ministry. Timothy was from a “Christian” home – at least his mother and grandmother had been devout Jews who became believers in Christ – we don’t know anything about his father except that he was a Greek – probably not a believer.) From various references we learn that even though he was sickly and timid he remained faithful to the Lord and to Paul throughout his life.
Titus, on the other hand, had several important differences from Timothy (we have to piece the story of his life together from the 13 references to him in scattered places (primarily in Galatians and Second Corinthians. Apparently he was saved as an adult during the first missionary journey of Paul (in contrast to Timothy’s salvation in early childhood) Galatians 2:3 says that He was a gentile, and both of his parents were believers. (In contrast to Timothy’s mother and grandmother being Jewish) II Corinthians 8:16,17 say that he was “self starter,” in contrast to Timothy’s timidity. This kind of information shows that the people of God together form an interesting tapestry of abilities, gifts and experiences which God weaves together to accomplish His purposes. Even though Timothy and Titus differed from each other they shared a lifelong unwavering loyalty to the cause of preaching the gospel, and high regard for their mentor, the Apostle Paul.
Now having thought about “the source” of these letters, let’s think about the subjects they cover. First Timothy contains some “warnings about heresy in chapter 1. Then the warfare of prayer is in chapter 2. Chapter 3 deals with the work of church leaders, and chapter 4 is about their walk (lifestyle) And the work of a Pastor is in chapter 5. And finally, some warnings for a pastor are in chapter 6.
Then Second Timothy is about the warfare that a pastor faces – the whole letter characterizes the pastor as a good soldier. His call is in chapter 1, His character is in chapter 2, Some cautions are in chapter 3; And the charge to the soldier is in chapter 4, verses 1 through 5.
Then The letter to Titus gives very similar information: The elders and their work and duties are described in chapter 1. And some exhortations to Godly living are in chapter 3. Now that we have looked at the source of these books and “their scope, let’s think about their significance. – some of the reasons they are included in the Bible and that we should study them.
First of all, they give us the basic structure and organization of the local church. It should be noted that there is nothing about an “association “of churches” or “denominations.” There are some advantages to those (and in my opinion, some even greater disadvantages) but at best they are human “assumptions”
All of the instructions in the New Testament are for and about the Local church. Oddly enough, even though these instructions are so specific and clear, many other types of organizations and structure for churches have been developed down through the years – and many other problems along with them.
A second significant thing about these letters is that even though they deal with church structure and with problems that a pastor has to face, the underlying emphasis in each of the three is on personal relationship with the Lord. For example, I Timothy chapter 1 gives some important warnings about heresy. First there is a “public warning” in verses 5 through 11 – some general principles about heresy. But in verses 12 through 20 there is the “personal “warning” summarized in verses 18 and 19
This charge I commit to you son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare (19) having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.
Here are two elements in avoiding heresy in your own life: faith and a good conscience. It is not enough to just have the technical knowledge of spiritual facts (“the faith”) – they must be held in a good conscience about our obedience to them. another example of this personal application is in the area of prayer in chapter 2. In verses 1 and 2 he gives the “technical” instruction:
Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications prayers, and giving of thanks be made for all men, (2) for kings and all who are in authority . . .” but the “personal” reason for that prayer is in verses 2b through 4: “That we might have a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (3) For This good and acceptable in the sight of God our savior (4) Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God wants us to have good government – and He tells us to pray that we will (an often overlooked) injunction in the first place) But do you know the real reason for that? Not just so that we will have less crime and lower taxes; not so that we will have a good economy and good schools. Not even so that your favorite politician or political party can stay in power, but so that we will have the kind of atmosphere in which people can most easily hear the gospel and be taught the Word of God. In a general way, this is demonstrated in the detailed instructions about relating to various age groups, such as we find in chapter 5, verses 1 and 2 There are several other “significant” aspects of these books: (the need to guard against false teaching; the vast importance of prayer, but let me mention just one more: the importance of personal relationships. In a general way this is demonstrated in the detailed instructions about relating to various groups in 5:1 and 2.