First and 2 Timothy, as well as Titus, are known as Paul’s “Pastoral Epistles.” This simply means that unlike the Apostle’s other letters—which, except for Philemon, were written to congregations—these letters were written to pastors of local churches concerning their duties in the ministry. Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus when Paul wrote these letters to him. Yet, by the superintendence of the Holy Spirit, Paul also writes to us. These letters are full of encouragement and exhortation to pastors and parishioners alike. Here are three things we should know about 1 and 2 Timothy.
1. Sound doctrine matters.
Ephesus was a wealthy and worldly city known for its practice of sorcery and worship of the goddess Artemis. Pagan religion and materialism, however, were not the only threats to the Ephesian church. When Paul penned these epistles, false teaching about Christianity was advancing aggressively in the city.
Today, things aren’t much different. Like Timothy, we too live in “the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1; see also 1 Tim. 4:1), when people are “lovers of self, lovers of money” (2 Tim. 3:2; see also 1 Tim. 6:10) and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). We live in a time when people do “not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they . . . accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3; see also 1 Tim. 1:10). We need leaders in the church who will “follow the pattern of sound words” given by the Apostles and codified in the church’s creeds and confessions (2 Tim. 1:13). We need ministers who will “preach the word . . . in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2; see also 1 Tim. 4:13), who will “always be sober-minded, endure suffering,” and “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). These letters describe the world in which the church now lives, a world full of apostasy and godlessness. If the gospel and sound doctrine are to advance into the next generation, the church—especially ministers of the Word and church leaders—must heed the exhortations and warnings found in 1 and 2 Timothy.
2. Courage is found in Christ.
In a world hostile to the Christian faith, it takes courage to say that Christ is the only way to heaven. It takes courage to believe in the authority of the Bible and to be unashamed of the gospel. Courage is essential for the Christian life. If you have ever felt frightened by adversaries of the gospel or discouraged by daunting circumstances, you are not alone. Fear and discouragement are common enemies to all Christians, including the original recipient of this letter, Timothy.
Although he was Paul’s most faithful and trusted colleague, Timothy was young, timid, frequently ill, and in need of encouragement. He faced a situation in the church of Ephesus that caused him to feel that he was in over his head. Persuasive false teachers were launching attacks on the gospel. Some in the church were questioning his authority as a pastor. Moreover, he was perhaps embarrassed about Paul’s imprisonment and declining reputation. He needed to stand up for the truth and faithfully preach the Word of God, but he was afraid of suffering. His flame was burning low. Paul found it urgent to remind this young pastor to fan into flame the gift of God (2 Tim. 1:6; see also 1 Tim. 4:14), and that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and of love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Only by God’s grace in Christ could Timothy find the courage to suffer for the gospel (2 Tim. 1:8–9; 2:3).
Maybe you feel a lot like Timothy. Maybe you fear man far more than you should. Maybe you are afraid to suffer for the gospel. First and 2 Timothy remind us to be strengthened not in ourselves, but “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:1; see also 1 Tim. 1:12). While it is true that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12), it is also true that the Holy Spirit has equipped us so that we can fulfill our callings and fight the good fight of faith, even in the face of fear (1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7).
3. The power is in the Word.
Timothy must guard the gospel against false teachers so that it would be brought to the next generation (1 Tim. 1:3–11; 2 Tim. 1:13–14; 2:16–18), entrust the gospel “to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2; see also 1 Tim. 3:1–7), and be willing to suffer for the gospel like his mentor (2 Tim. 1:8, 12; 2:3, 9; 3:12; 4:5). Above all, however, he must preach the gospel. The veteran Apostle thus gives his younger colleague one final charge to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season,” remain “always sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, [and] fulfill [his] ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2, 5). The power to convert and to build up lies in the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16–17). For this reason, pastors are to keep a close watch on themselves and on their teaching (1 Tim. 4:16).
May God bless the church and the world by raising up a multitude of Timothys so that future generations will discover—and rediscover—the gospel and apply it to their own times.
This article is part of the Every Book of the Bible: 3 Things to Know collection.