It is time for us to consider the pastoral epistles. Before I tell you why we need to consider them at this time, I want to tell you something about them. There are three letters (or epistles) in the New Testament that have been sometimes called the ‘pastoral epistles’. The introductions and the greetings in each of these letters indicate that they were written by the apostle Paul. The first two letters were directed to Timothy, who at this time was pastor at Ephesus (1:3), and the last letter was directed to Titus who was pastor of the church on the island of Crete. These pastoral epistles were written by Paul to these younger colleagues in the ministry in order to provide pastoral help and counsel for the many and varied situations which these younger men and pastors encountered in their respective situations.
The pastoral epistles address a number of timeless issues that churches experience, and it is therefore of great value for us to learn from the wisdom of the God inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16,17) and so to avoid the common pitfalls and traps into which so many churches throughout the ages have fallen, having not only lost their spiritual direction but more significantly, having lost their favour with God. A study of the letters to the 7 churches in the book of Revelation confirms that. The church that habitually ignores the counsel of God in His word will find in time that God will remove His presence from her. Woe the church that God hands over to her own wisdom. Her love for human wisdom will eventually kill her.
With every passing year I am becoming more aware that I have, humanly speaking, only a few years left in the pastoral ministry. My calling and desire from God has by and large been to see the church restored and reformed according to the Scriptures, and in a small way I have seen some progress in this direction. Sadly, I have also witnessed the destruction of church and of society in my own day at the hand of unscrupulous wolves in sheep’s clothing . Paul calls these “men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20: 30). Satan thrives best in churches that have left the safe boundaries of Scripture, churches that are given to experimenting with latest fads and ideas spun to them by worldly authorities. By contrast , a church of born again members, and ordered upon the wisdom of God and His Word is a thorn in Satan’s flesh, and such a church is a formidable influence for good in our broken society.
And so, as the years are passing for you and I, we want to ensure that we should remain faithful to the whole gospel of God, teaching and training a host of Timothy and Titus’s, encouraging a generation of men and women to build their lives and society upon the pure principles of the gospel. This is what the pastoral epistles are all about, and so John Stott reminds us that ,
“Paul’s overriding preoccupation throughout these three letters is with the truth, that it may be faithfully guarded and handed on.
With these preliminary thoughts in mind then, we begin with the first letter to Timothy.
Introductory comments to 1 Timothy :
This letter, although it is addressed to Timothy, pastor of the church in Ephesus, was inspired by the Holy Spirit for wider use. We thus find that this letter speaks to individuals, and to groups within the congregation, and indeed also to the whole church. The letter is not as structured as some of Paul’s other letters tend to be . For example in his letters to the Romans and Ephesians we find a closely argued doctrinal section ( e.g. an the exposition of the doctrine of salvation) which is followed by a closing section filled with practical application and implications for r daily living. In this letter to Timothy, Paul does not use this style , but in almost a conversational tone he deals with many issues that these young pastors are wrestling with in their respective contexts, and so you will find yourself challenged to think about many different areas of life.
A brief word about the date of this letter: It was written somewhere between 62-66 AD, roughly 30 years after the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts we read of Paul’s Roman imprisonment. During this time Paul wrote letters to the Colossians and to the Philippians. He told the Philippians that he hoped to be released from prison (Phil. 1:18-19, 24-26) and it seems that this is what actually happened. Following his release he visited the island of Crete with Titus and probably also Timothy, leaving Titus on the island to care for the new converts and to constitute a local church. Paul and Timothy then make their way to Macedonia via Ephesus and here they realize that false teachers were undermining the church in Ephesus. On this occasion Paul deals firmly with two trouble makers, Hymenaeus and Alexander (I Tim. 1:19-20). Paul, constrained by the Holy Spirit could however not remain in Ephesus, and so he leaves Timothy in Ephesus, while he goes on to Macedonia. It is here that he writes two letters, one to Titus in Crete and his first letter to Timothy in Ephesus. When Paul was eventually on his way back to Ephesus, he is arrested again and brought back to Rome, from where he writes his second letter to Timothy. He wants to have Timothy with him in Rome and therefore he sends Tychicus to Ephesus to replace Timothy there as pastor.
And now the text : vv 1-2 :
1. The Author and His Authority established : (1:1)
Why should we listen carefully and attentively to the words contained in this letter? Listen to the formidable credentials by which Paul presents himself to us: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope…”. He says that he is an apostle. How did he become an apostle? In Acts 9 we read first of his conversion when he was personally confronted by the Lord Jesus on the Damascus road, and then in 9:15 we read of his commission from the Lord Jesus: “… he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel”. In his letter to the Galatians Paul asserted that his apostleship was not from men nor through man, but, as he says here in our text “by command of God our Saviour.” Paul was an apostle by the command of God. Here we need to be careful that we do not get lost in the title, for in truth, the word ‘apostle’ carries no implications of a superior ranking among mortal men, such as we find the tendency to be in Namibian churches, where the rankings from bottom to top are pastor, bishop, apostle! Paul’s favourite title for himself is actually “servant” (Gr. doulos) – a slave of Christ Jesus! The word apostle is derived from the Greek word apostello (lit. to be sent from), and hence the best translation we can afford here is that an apostle is a messenger boy! So the title, ‘apostle’ in itself cannot impress us.
What is impressive is whose messenger boy he is: Paul calls himself “an apostle of Christ Jesus”, and then to drive this really home, he also adds “by command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope”. Paul’s assertion is that he carries a message from no one less than God! That is a weighty assertion, and so we must decide as to what we are going to do with such a letter. This is where the authority of Scripture has been questioned by some, and their conclusion has been that if this is not from God, then this is only an opinion from a man named Paul, and therefore such a letter can be at best suggestive. But please note that Paul’s words do not leave themselves open to such an interpretation. Paul’s letter claims to have the authority of the Lord Jesus and of God, and as such it is therefore not a suggestion but an authoritative word from God.
We must be reminded that it is this Word that has called the church into being. The church was born through the preaching of the Word given by God to the apostle Peter at Pentecost. On that day 3000 were added to the church. In Acts 2 we learn that the is new church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching etc. These were God’s chosen men to speak the truth to the new church . So why should we be listening intently to this series of sermons? Answer: Because we believe this Word to be a true word from God to every church in every age. The authority of the word is God Himself. He made Paul an apostle of His Word, which was written down in time to be read and to be followed by us. My work as your preacher and pastor is to give and explain to you the accurate sense of what is said here. No preacher or church have the right to twist, change or leave out what the Bible so clearly teaches. In that sense every preacher is only a messenger boy and not a re-interpreter and re-designer of Scripture.
The Recipient and his Relationship to Paul (1:2)
“To Timothy my true child in the faith”. Timothy was the immediate recipient of the letter. He is first linked to Paul in Acts 16:1-5. Timothy, the son of a Jewish mother and a gentile father came either from Derbe or from the neighbouring town of Lystra. He was probably a young boy when he was converted through the preaching of apostle Paul. The seeds of faith had been already planted by his godly grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15ff), and so when Paul preached the word about Jesus they became no longer mere Old Testament believers but now they were trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, the true hope of Israel and the world. So, in this sense Paul had become Timothy’s father in the gospel as he calls him here in our text, “my true child in the faith.” This also points to the fact that Paul may have spent some time in their home , seeing the boy grow up in between his apostolic journeys, seeing him mature and the gifts becoming increasingly evident. At some point the council of elders laid their hands on Timothy (1 Tim 4:14) and so Timothy’s labours in the gospel ministry began. He became Paul's co-worker in the gospel (1 Thess. 3:2), so that Paul could say that Timothy served with him "as a son with his father" (Phil 2:22).
The Blessing (1:2)
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.2). This blessing occurs regularly (minus mercy) in Paul's introductions. At the heart of the Christian ministry lie these graces, under all circumstances.
A Facebook post from my dear friend and brother in Christ, Pastor Roland Eskinazi of the International Baptist Church in Brussels concerning the testimony of their members Fred and Janet Young illustrates this well. They write :
Dear family, dear friends, We are not able to respond to you at the moment as we seem to spend most of our time taking care of ourselves and our (minor) wounds – burns, shrapnels, cuts and hearing loss. It feels so good to receive every single text message, voice mail and email though. We welcome them all. They warm our hearts and soothe our soul. We cannot begin to explain how emotionally helpful it is to hear from each one of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank for your concern. Thank you for your love. Thank you for caring. We are fortunate to know all of you. On Tuesday March 22nd, we were in the check-in line at the Brussels Airport. Fred was getting ready to leave for the USA where he would lead a FormaSport college visitation tour for Belgian basketball players. They were due to join him in Denver on Thursday. The bomb exploded 10 to 15 feet from us. We were knocked out for maybe 4 or 5 minutes. When we came to our senses we saw others laying dead next to us. We stood up and walked out. Peace and calm came over us, which enabled us to hold, talk, and pray for gravely wounded people laying on the sidewalk. Today our hearts ache for them and the families of those who were so senselessly killed. In the midst of chaos, we feel it was helpful for us to understand the unthinkable. We are familiar with the first pages of the Bible that paint a picture of the predicament our world is in: Humans tend to turn away from God's goodness and sometimes do terrible things. We humans so easily follow the evil one. His ways are evil and he rules in this world. He does it daily in small ways, and at times in horrific ways. Tuesday in Brussels, we were reminded of this truth. Nonetheless, we are convinced that God is Love, Peace, and the Light in this dark world. He invites people to follow His ways. His kingdom is not political, nor religious. It grows in people’s hearts as they turn to him for wisdom, forgiveness and help. More than ever before, we want to keep learning from Jesus Christ how to be peaceful, loving and lights in our marriage, in our family, wherever we are, and whatever we do. We are ok for the moment, but feel tired. We’ve been told to expect stress and anxiety. So in the coming days, we’ll need to hold on to what Jesus says to anyone who wants to learn from him and receive his help: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John14:27 Warm greetings, Fred & Janet
So, right at the beginning, Paul reminds Timothy that God's grace, mercy and peace will overshadow his servant even in the most difficult of circumstances. Today, this is also our promise, because we have it on good authority that the Bible says that it will be so .