The Roman Emperor Nero martyred the Apostle Paul in the year 68 AD. Among Paul’s last letters are what we call the Pastoral Epistles: 1 Timothy; 2 Timothy; and Titus. They were given this name because Paul originally wrote them to pastors of the nascent church. The key themes are: the qualifications required of church leaders, how to organize worship services, how to maintain authority within the church, and how to recognize false teachers and purge them from the congregation.
Paul instructs Timothy to love his flock with a pure heart, good conscience and sincere faith. Pastors are to avoid gossip and legalism. Paul writes that the law is not made for the righteous but for the ungodly, unholy, lawless, insubordinate and profane; those who are murderers, fornicators, sodomites, kidnappers, and liars.
A distinction is made between those who sin through ignorance and those who willfully rebel against what they know to be right. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He is the mediator between God and men; he gave Himself as a ransom for us. Christ desires all persons to come to the knowledge of the truth and gain eternal life. Believers are to live quiet, peaceable lives of constant prayer, godliness and reverence. Women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel.
Paul also lays down the necessary qualifications for a man to become a leader within the church. Such a man must be beyond reproach among believers and non-believers alike in the community. He must have been married only once; and may not be violent, quarrelsome, greedy, or a drunkard. A leader in the church must be a teacher who is not a recent convert; someone who is well behaved and whose children are well behaved. Paul ordained an office between the leaders and the congregation called deacons; a deacon must meet these same qualifications.
Paul gives these instructions to Timothy so that he will conduct himself properly regarding the house of God—which is the church of the living God. Paul is very concerned about false teachers and false doctrines. He warns that some will depart from the faith, give heed to deceiving spirits, and in turn, teach demonic doctrines. Pastors are to set an example for their flock in their words, conduct, faith and purity.
Older men are not to be sharply criticized, but rather encouraged as we would a father. Young men are to be treated as brothers; older women as mothers; younger women as sisters. Widows are to be honored; they are to be taken care of by their children and grandchildren. If they have none, the church is to care for them—provided they are godly women and over sixty years of age.
If a church leader is living a sinful life or teaching false doctrines, he is to be rebuked publicly in the presence of the congregation. Paul declares that false teachers will have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels over words that will produce conflict among the faithful. False teachers will often show an inordinate and inappropriate focus on money, and they will enjoy the idle babblings they will call knowledge.
We bring nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. A Christian is to be content with adequate food and clothing; therefore he should not covet earthly wealth because the love of money is the root of all evil.
Paul commands Timothy to pursue moral uprightness; serve the will of God; exhibit gentleness, patience, faith and love. He was instructed to fight the good fight, lay hold of everlasting life, and to confess his Christian faith to many witnesses.
Paul opens his letter to Titus by describing himself as owned by, and serving only, God; as an apostle of Jesus Christ; as a believer in God's promise of eternal life for faithful Christians. He goes on to instruct Titus that leaders of the church must not be quick-tempered or greedy. Church leaders must be hospitable, love what is good, exhibit self-control, and be disciplined. They must teach sound doctrine, and be able to refute fallacious doctrines while convicting those who promulgate them. False teachers claim to know God, but their actions are detestable and disobedient.
Older men are to be moderate and worthy of respect. They should be patient, faithful and loving. Older women are to be deeply respectful, and not slanderers or heavy drinkers. They should train younger women to love their husbands and children; to be pure and kind. Paul exhorts Titus to be an example to young men by showing himself to be a man of integrity who is serious and sound of speech.
Christians should say "No" to worldly lusts because Jesus gave Himself for us in order to redeem us from wickedness and to purify for Himself a people who are His very own, people who are eager to do what is good.
Christians are to speak evil of no one; they are to be humble and respectful to all persons regardless of station. Those who are lost are foolish, deceived, disobedient, envious, malicious, hateful, lustful and hedonistic. Christians are not saved—resurrected after death to live forever—because they are good people who do good deeds but solely due to the mercy and grace of God, who saves us by transforming us through the power of His Holy Spirit.
A divisive person in the church is to be warned twice and after that, ignored.
2 Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote. He wrote it from prison in Rome while awaiting martyrdom. He calls on Timothy to be strong and courageous in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells inside us. God has saved us and called us to a holy life—for His own purposes. His grace has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, who opened the door to immortality through His death and resurrection. We are to teach others this gospel.
Paul likens the Christian life to an athletic competition where we must compete for the crown according to the rules to avoid being disqualified. Salvation is for those united by faith with Christ. Believers are saved by grace not works, but nonetheless will serve God faithfully as a demonstration of the grace of God at work. Those who deny Christ will be denied by Him.
Christians are to present themselves to God as servants of Him who need not be ashamed; who have rightly handled His Word of Truth—the gospel. The Lord knows those who are His. Anyone who claims to be a Christian must turn away from wickedness to distinguish himself from the lost. Flee from the lusts of youth and pursue peace, virtue, faith and love with a pure heart. Be kind to everyone, but gently correct those who are lost in the hopes that they might come to know the truth and turn from their wicked ways.
False teachers will come who appear to be Christians, but they will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemous, disobedient, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slandering, out of control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, arrogant, and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; they will have a form of godliness but deny its power. From such people turn away! They creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, women led away by various lusts, women who are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, correcting, reproving, and training in moral rectitude, so that a man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. God is the source and ultimate author of Scripture. Human hands have written the word of God, but they are God’s words, and they ultimately carry the weight of His authority.
Christ Jesus will judge the living and the dead. Preach the Word. Encourage with great patience and careful instruction. The time will come when humankind will not want to know the Truth. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their backs on the Truth, and turn toward fables and myths.
Paul knew he was soon to be martyred, and he understood God’s purpose for his life. He wrote to Timothy (and to us) that he had fought the good fight, that he had finished his race, and that all throughout he had kept the faith. He died knowing that there is stored up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Righteous Judge, the Lord, will award him come Judgment Day—not only for him, but also to all who long to see Jesus and be with Him for eternity.