What does it say?

1 and 2 Timothy along with Titus are often called the Pastoral Epistles due to the intensely personal relationship Paul has as mentor and colleague to both men and the practical nature of instruction. They are written late in his life. Paul is ministering in Greece and Asia Minor and has left Timothy in Ephesus to continue the work. Most believe that these events are after Paul’s initial imprisonment and appearance before Caesar in Rome. What little we know of this period is from piecing together information from these letters to Timothy and Titus. When Paul later writes 2 Timothy, he is again imprisoned in Rome and will shortly be executed.

Paul encourages Timothy to confront false teaching by diligently teaching truth (1Tim 1). He writes of the need for prayer for those around us and advises about the roles of men and women in the church (1Tim 2). Paul tells Timothy what he should look for in those who will be leaders (bishop means overseer and most see pastor and elder as synonymous in this context) and servants (deacons) (1Tim 3). Timothy should stand firm against false teachers and not be intimidated because of his youthful age (1Tim 4), yet he should encourage respect and honor for those older and take the lead in providing for widows without family to care for them (1Tim 5). Honor should also be extended in the workplace and church leaders should be especially careful to not fall into the temptation of chasing after money, but rather lead by way of righteous living (1Tim 6).

What does it mean?

This book is a great resource for church leaders in dealing with practical issues of culture and life. Paul’s objective here is not so much the development of theology or establishing rules and regulations for the local church, as it is dealing with examples of practical application of biblical truth within a specific cultural context.

We can learn from everything Paul says, but some of his advice is rooted in first century culture. Earlier we spoke of distinguishing between New Testament commands binding for all believers at all times, New Testament practices but not commanded (apostolic practices) and customs resulting from culture, preference or practical realities with no basis in biblical truth. There are examples of al three of these categories in this letter. This in itself is instructive as we see how absolute biblical truth can be flexibly applied according to cultural realities.

How will I respond?

In this letter filled with practical instruction, what most spoke to my heart today, and how will I make application to my life right now?