The Pastoral Epistles

The Pastoral Epistles

The pastoral epistles, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, reveal vital truth about the doctrines of the local church, about the connection between sound doctrine and healthy practice, and about faithfulness to pass on the Christian faith reliably. The three letters sent by Paul are called the pastoral epistles, since they deal with proper shepherding of the local church..

Despite it’s large population, there was but one local church in Ephesus. There were not many different churches. This is critical to apostolic ecclesiology.

1st Timothy is sent to Timothy in Ephesus, the 2nd largest city in the empire (250,000) and the jewel of Asia Minor. Paul had invested 3 years there, 2 years doing apologetics and discipleship in the Hall of Tyrannus. Paul was concerned about doctrinal divisions in the one body, with some men beginning to teach an odd mixture of Christianity, Mosiac Law, and mysticism. He was particularly concerned that these men not fragment the church of Ephesus and start separate churches in the city. Paul reaffirms to Timothy the qualifications for elders in the one local church in Ephesus. The body of Christ in Ephesus was populous, proportionate to the city, and it needed a large body of elders to shepherd and teach the burgeoning body. So appointing qualified elders who would adhere strictly to apostolic doctrine was critical.

Key points:

  • Despite it’s large population, there was but one local church in Ephesus. There were not many different churches. This is critical to apostolic ecclesiology
  • There is no mention of “Senior Pastor” so and so. There are only co-equal shepherds/elders (See Acts 20).
  • Paul is concerned that men might try to rise up to draw men after them, drawing them off with their different doctrinal emphases and aberrations, even splitting off into separate churches and establishing “Senior” pastorates.
  • Timothy is not “Senior Pastor” to Ephesus. He is the apostolic emissary, having authority from Paul while he is there. But the expectation is that once Timothy withdraws the elders will be self-sufficient and self-replicating.
  • Healthy personal and congregational practices follow sound doctrine.

2Timothy2-Study


II Timothy, sent by Paul who was under house guard and then in the Mamartine prison, to Timothy in Ephesus. Paul was chained to and/or kept by the elite Praetorian Guard serving Nero. It is Paul’s last Biblical epistle, his “swan-song” as he was beheaded on order of Nero on the Ostian Way shortly after the letter was written, in the fall of AD67. II Timothy outlines the necessity of Timothy to step up, man up and carry the Pauline apostolic doctrine and practice forward, and to find faithful men who would do likewise, who themselves would find faithful men who would propagate the Christian faith.

Outline of 2 Timothy, 2:1-13. Click to view.

2Timothy#03-The Faithful Soldier-Pt1

Outline of 2 Timothy, 2:14-end. Click to view.

2Timothy#04-The Faithful Soldier-Pt2

It provides a template of personal vigilance and faithfulness that all Christians can apply to their situation and life.

Key points: 

  • Not so much an exposition of doctrine, but an overwhelmingly urgent call for Timothy to brace himself as a soldier of Christ for the rigor of duty ahead, and an athlete that runs his leg of a relay, staying within the lane and running with honor, passing the baton without dropping it.
  • It sets out the character of a good solder and an athlete.
  • It contains several complaints about various men that abandoned Paul out of shame before the Roman culture and legal systems, considering that Paul was expected by that culture to be ashamed of being imprisoned.
  • It warns and encourages.
  • It provides a template of personal vigilance and faithfulness that all Christians can apply to their situation and life.
  • It is intensely personal.
  • It shows us that every link in the historical chain of Christianity, and every Christian, is vital to the propagation of apostolic doctrine and apostolic practice!

Titus was sent a letter by Paul to instruct him as to why he dropped him off on Crete. The churches there had been started as a result of Jewish visitors from Crete, visiting Jerusalem during Passover in 33AD, having been converted by the preaching of Peter at Pentecost (Acts 2:11) and in the evangelism explosion that followed. These converts to Christianity took their faith back home and started churches.

But in the intervening 33 or so years since Pentecost something terrible had happened to these churches! Because of the lack of direct apostolic input and training they had begun to develop schisms and then certain “rebellious men” (1:10) had started separate congregations as “Senior pastors” in cities where gospel believing churches already existed.

Because of the lack of direct apostolic input and training they had begun to develop schisms and then certain “rebellious men” (1:10) had started separate congregations as “Senior pastors” in cities where gospel believing churches already existed.

This was strictly against the unity of the one local body in each city that was the the hallmark of apostolic ecclesiology. Thus the reason for Titus to be sent to quash these rebel pastors, take charge of rounding up these heretical churches and directing them back into the one church, and then appoint (no voting)  qualified, co-equal, “elders in each city”. Any “factious” (heretical) man, any pastor that refused to unite to the one local church, according to apostolic doctrine, Titus was to reject as worthless (3:10-11)!

*Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

Key points:

  • There is no “Senior Pastor” in the book of Titus. In fact, that is the very reason Titus was sent as an apostolic emissary to the island of Crete – to put down a rash of such men, by using bold action, and to re-unite the different congregations into one in each city, and then Titus was to:
  • Appoint elders, with very specific qualifications (1:5-9) designed for a fellowship of co-equal elders in the church, which are in sharp contrast to the self-promotion of the break-away pastors in v10-11, and 3:10-11.

    The use by churches in those days or in ours (or pulpit committees) of the elder qualifications in 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to select a Senior Pastor or sole pastor (as a permanent arrangement) is illegitimate.

  • The use by churches in those days or in ours of the elder qualifications in 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 to select a Senior Pastor or sole pastor (as a permanent arrangement) is illegitimate. These qualifications are designed to select men to act as co-equal undershepherds – elders. In other words, it is improper to use the Biblical qualifications designed for elders to select men that are not functioning or who do not intend to function as elders, in a body/fellowship of elders, as co-equal under-shepherds, with Christ as the Chief Shepherd. It is at times appropriate for there to be sole pastors for a certain amount of time as the local church is planted and men are yet in training, but the purpose of the sole pastor should be either to train and appoint elders and then move on to repeat the process in a new city/town, or to remain on as one of the elders.
  • It is not mere happenstance that Paul sent Zenas the Lawyer, and Apollos the mighty teacher to help Titus. Both of their skill sets would be needed to bring these churches back together, and legal and doctrinal issues would have to be settled with their expert help.

Some of this may come as a surprise to you. To read more about the understanding of the particular problem in Crete that is being addressed by Titus, read about The Church’s One Foundation.


*”Reject a factious man after the first and second warning” is not about usual relations of people within a local church, for it would have Paul giving a command contrary to his own and that of Jesus in how to deal with sin/offense, even divisive behavior between brothers. Paul would then be sinning by commanding contrary to Christ. Instead, this is a unique command, fitting for the uniquely outrageous behavior of the break-away pastors on Crete and those who follow in their steps. The same factious spirit in incipient form is seen in Diotrephes in John’s 3rd epistle, a key reason for John writing it.

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