Title: Introduction to I Timothy
Text: I Timothy
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to I Timothy chapter 1. Today we will begin our study of the Pastoral Epistles. The plan for today is to give a brief introduction to all three of these books (I and II Timothy and Titus) but then give a more substantial introduction for I Timothy, and then read the book itself. That should just about deplete our time for today. So there won’t be a lot of “preaching” today – mostly teaching.
First let me introduce the Pastoral Epistles generally. Now why are they called the Pastoral Epistles? As we crack open each of these books, what will become apparent is that this is sort of an unfortunate name. When hearing the name “Pastoral Epistles” one might assume that these epistles give instruction to anyone who would be a pastor in a church on how to be a pastor in a church. Such assumptions has led many to conclude that, if they are not a pastor, then these books really weren’t written with them in mind. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
What makes these epistles, “Pastoral”, is that they were, all three, written to pastors. Yet, even this is somewhat untrue in the sense that Timothy and Titus were installed ELDERS, overseers, or bishops, of the churches in which they exercised their gift of pastor/teacher. As Paul reveals in Ephesians 4 – apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor/teachers are gifts given by Christ for the formation and stability of the church. Pastor is less a title or office and more a gift.
Of course, we don’t use the term bishop since it has been used (and maybe abused) by the Roman Catholic Church. Overseer describes more an action than a title. Elsewhere in scripture we see this role described as Elders, which has Jewish roots to the elders of cities, clans and tribes who would judge disputes and exercise general leadership.
But even if we corrected this and said that these epistles are Elder Epistles, we’d still miss the mark slightly. Although these epistles were written to Elders in two particular churches, the truth is that most epistles were written to elders in particular churches. So, what makes these epistles unique?
I think if I could just be in charge of renaming it, I’d probably call these three epistles The Ecclesiastical Epistles. Meaning they were written specifically to talk about the order, practice, behavior, purpose, direction and focus of the entity known as the ecclesia, the assembly, the church. Not the building, but the people. Not necessarily on an individual level, as most epistles are written, but as a body of believers. These letters, written to the Elders presiding over the church, are primarily instructing the Elder how to order the church, correct people, what to do, how to do it and all this with the backdrop of being gospel-formed, gospel-shaped, and gospel-preserved people defending the faith and representing Christ and His Kingdom, well. Within this, there is specific instruction to each Elder (Timothy and Titus) but what is clear is that this instruction is in reference to their role in forming the church into this gospel changed assembly.
So, when we say the Pastoral Epistles, we must understand that these are written for and to the church, the assembly of God, in a particular time and context but with truths and expectations for every church in every time and context. And who would be better to trust and charge with enacting such instruction, than the very people God has put in place to serve and lead each church?
So, if you’ve ever thought – oh, Pastoral epistles, probably nothing for me there. You couldn’t be more wrong.
So now that we know what these three books are – let’s talk about who wrote them.
[Slide 2] Paul introduces himself in the typical greeting in each book. So immediately we are a step ahead of the epistles of John, who in all three does not name himself. So now, the question is not who are they written by, but rather, is it authentic? In other words, the question of who wrote this book is not a question of identification but of canonization. If Paul is not the author, than these books should not be in the bible at all.
It has been argued by recent scholars that these epistles are not distinctly Pauline. Much of the argument comes from analyzing the vocabulary Paul uses in his other letters, as well as sentence structure and idioms and phrases common to Paul. What is remarkable, and indisputable, is that these 3 epistles have much fewer similarities to Paul’s other 10 epistles than these 10 have to one another. The 10 epistles we know are Pauline (which doesn’t include Hebrews) have remarkable similarities in style, syntax, and vocabulary. All this pushes us to conclude that the pastoral epistles are very different than the other 10 by Paul. But, does that really mean Paul didn’t write it?
Of course not. We have already talked about the unique purpose behind this group of letters. And the fact that they all claim Pauline authorship and are remarkably similar to each other, tells us the most likely reason they differ so sharply from the other Pauline letters, is not because someone else wrote them, but because Paul’s purpose is drastically different in these letters than in all his other letters.
When you add to this that these letters have been quoted by Polycarp, Athenagoras and other early church fathers as both Pauline and divinely inspired, it makes the counter argument for non-Pauline authorship seem fairly weak.
Added to this, the personal connections to both Timothy and Titus and the authority upon which the author speaks, makes our conclusion that Paul is the author, inescapable.
So we have Paul’s primary theme in these letters and that he wrote them – but when?
[Slide 3] The trouble with dating these books comes when we try to assign them into the account of Paul’s journeys in Acts. Paul leaving Timothy in Ephesus and going on to Macedonia, Paul leaving Titus on Crete – all of these events do not fit into any context of the 28 chapters of Acts.
We can guess that Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, recorded in Acts 28, took place probably around AD 60-61. It was here that Paul wrote the prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon).
What has long been held as tradition, although we don’t have a lot of evidence to support it, is that after 2 years in prison, and perhaps after the fires in Rome set by Nero himself, Paul was released due to lack of evidence against him. At that point, Paul went on his fourth missionary journey reaching the outer limits of the Roman empire – possibly as far west as Spain. If he was journeying that far, it would make complete sense for him to appoint Elders that he trusted in churches with problems. Two of which were Ephesus and Crete.
Assuming this is true – and since there are no other clear answers – we can guess that Paul writes I Timothy from Macedonia, travels around the Balkan Peninsula, or perhaps across it, and settles in a city called Nicopolis on western shore of Greece on the Ionian sea. Perhaps as he travels around the Balkan Peninsula he passes by Crete, putting him of the mind to write to Titus.
From there, we have no idea where Paul goes – but we do find him writing again to Timothy from prison in Rome. This time, the conditions seem different. He asks for a cloak indicating that he is in a less comfortable prison than he was when he wrote the prison epistles.
So the writing of I Timothy and Titus is probably somewhere between AD 63-65 and II Timothy around AD 65/66.
Corpus or Thematic Series?
[Slide 4] From here on out, we won’t treat these Epistles the same way we did the epistles of John. John’s epistles shared a similar context, audience, theme, and goal and therefore addressing each of them independently but as one unit was quite appropriate. However, the Pastoral epistles while linked thematically, vary widely in audience, and even situation.
Although it is true that of the 3 I Timothy and Titus are very similar, even then we must understand that Crete and Ephesus, while needing similar instruction, had unique contexts to present that same information.
While The epistles of John could be viewed as 3 parts of one story – the Pastoral Epistles would be more like 3 stories in one series. All that to say – that now we will address each book independently knowing that they are connected by theme – but otherwise should be treated more independently from one another that we did for John’s Epistles.
So let’s get specific to I Timothy. Who is Timothy?
[Slide 5] Timothy was the son of a Gentile father and Jewish mother named Eunice. His mother came to Christ prior to Paul’s 2nd Missionary journey. His mother and grandmother Lois were responsible in teaching him the scriptures. (Most of this we discover in II Timothy)
He lived in Lystra. He came to Christ during Paul’s first missionary journey when he visited Lystra in Acts 14. During the second journey Paul and Silas added Timothy to their party (Acts 16). Paul had him circumcised mainly to not be a stumbling block to those he ministered to since he was half Jewish.
Timothy co-wrote with Paul 6 of his 10 non-pastoral epistles.
He was sent to Thessalonica, Macedonia, Philippi and Corinth.
Overall, Paul trusted him implicitly, although there was one character flaw with Timothy. Paul in a couple places speaks of how timid Timothy was. He was probably not a coward so much, as he was simply soft spoken and easy to be steamrolled.
What is the particular occasion of I Timothy? Or to put it differently – what was the trouble in Ephesus?
[Slide 6] Even a cursory reading of I Timothy and Titus allows us to see that there is some kind of false teaching rising up in the church in that area. The writing of this predates John’s epistles by 30 years or so – so it may well be that this heresy is the predecessor of the secessionist’s teaching, although there are elements of it that suggest otherwise. It is difficult to know exactly what the heresy is, simply because it has so many facets that we don’t see coming together in any known heretical teaching.
That could mean either that this is a form of heresy was ultimately eradicated, or perhaps Paul is confronting many different heresies that are arising within the church.
So let’s look at the facets of the rising heresy.
It seems to have some Jewish elements
- Those of the circumcision (Titus 1:10)
- Fight over the law (Titus 3:9)
- Teachers of the law (I Tim 1:7)
- Myths and genealogies (the jewish allegorical approach to the OT)
- Anti-Gentile and perhaps even anti-authority.
- Food laws
- Emphasis on genealogical patterns and numerology.
It also has some early Gnostic elements:
- Things falsely called knowledge
- Asceticism – avoiding indulgence or pleasure of any kind - marriage, childbirth, dietary laws
- Speculation to the interp of the OT
- Low view of the physical world
- Mythological explanation for Yahweh and the creation of the physical world
It even has some pagan elements:
- Women church leaders
All of this is checked by Paul as he instructs both Timothy and Titus to focus on what is important and reject what is a distraction.
Things brings us to the purpose of I Timothy specifically. Why was this letter sent to Timothy?
[Slide 7] Paul actually includes two statements to spell this out to us.
1 – Oppose false teaching – This is found in chapter 1 right after the greeting. This is probably the primary purpose Paul intends for Timothy.
2 – How the church should operate in relation to the gospel and the world – This is found really from chapter 2 on and is certainly a purpose for Timothy but is also clearly intended for all the church to read and observe.
Within these two purposes, we see several key themes running through this book which are connected to the whole counsel of God.
[Slide 8] Adherence to sound doctrine that they have received.
Dismissal of needless controversies that distract from the gospel
The Gospel leads to practical and visible change in the lives of those who believe it – both in the church’s order and in each individual life
Inner workings of the church. How the church is to function, what is its purpose, and how does it achieve that?
Qualifications of Elders and Deacons
Specific groups within the church living according to the doctrine they have confessed
Phrases to keep an eye out for:
[Slide 9] As we study this book, we need to keep our eyes open for a couple phrases.
1.) Occasionally Paul breaks out in praise to God. What do I mean by that? Paul will be talking about something and then all of a sudden, he will start extoling the character of God and end the sentence with Amen. As if it was a prayer, song, or poem he did not feel as though he could control. It would be good for us to pay attention to when that happens. There is a common theme that pushes Paul to this. This happens twice in I Timothy, and once in II Timothy.
2.) There is one other phrase we should keep our eyes peeled for. Paul states 3 “this is a trustworthy saying” statements in this book. All three are axioms of truth. We would do well to grasp hold of those truths as core truth and doctrine. There is 1 more in both Titus and II Timothy as well.
Theological Challenges and Spicy Topics
1.) Universalism – at some points Paul suggests that God or Jesus is a savior or redeemer of all men. Are all men saved?
2.) Women’s modesty is brought up.
3.) Women in authority – Paul makes a strong statement about women in leadership of the church. Spoiler alert, it is not politically correct.
4.) Can women be deacons?
5.) Homosexuality and Slavery will be mentioned in the book.
6.) Being a part of the assembly and either having no money or a lot of it is addressed. (watch your pocket books)
7.) Paul insists on giving financial assistance only to those who are truly helpless and truly godly in the church. The rest can, in his words, get married.
8.) How can you confront an Elder? It is different than regular church discipline.
Outline of I Timothy
[Slide 11] Finally, by way of introduction, I have provided for you an outline to the book of I Timothy. I do extend a disclaimer though. As I study the book more deeply, these divisions may change. Still, this should give us a good start on Paul’s first Letter to Timothy. As we read the letter itself, you can follow along in the text and with this outline in front of you.
I.) Greeting – From Paul an apostle to Timothy his true child in the faith – 1:1-2
II.) Charge to protect the gospel – 1:3-20
a. Using the law rightly – 1:3-11
b. The Law vs. Paul – 1:12-17
c. Restated charge to protect the gospel – 1:18-20
III.) Gospel formed order in the church - 2:1-3:13
a. Pray for all kinds of men – 2:1-7
i. All men
ii. Even kings and gentiles
b. The testimony of gospel changed people to the world – 2:8-15
i. Prayerful men
ii. No fighting
iii. Pure women
iv. Women not in authority
v. Women in their role as child-rearers
c. Authority is given to those in the church who are God-qualified. 3:1-13
i. The Elder’s qualifications – 3:1-7
ii. The Deacon’s qualifications – 3:8-13
IV.) What is the church? – 3:14-16-4:5
a. The purpose of the letter = How God’s people ought to conduct themselves - 14
b. The church’s position and role - 15
c. The church’s confession - 16
d. Why this matters - The Coming apostasy – 4:1-5
V.) Instructions to Timothy 4:6-6:21
a. Feed on the word teachings you have heard and confessed. Reject all else – 4:6-10
b. Persevere as an example for your people – 4:11-16
c. Dealing with particular groups of people
i. Correcting people like family – 5:1-2
ii. Stipulations for helping widows – 5:3-16
1. Widows with family, do not help – 5:3-8
2. Qualifications for widows to be helped – 5:9-10
3. Young widows do not qualify – 5:11-15
4. Family bears primarily responsibility for the care of widows – 5:16
iii. Dealing with Elders – 5:17-24
1. Elders are worthy of pay – 5:17-18
2. Elders accused of sin and discipline of an Elder – 5:19-22
3. Elders and wine – 5:23
4. Do not fear corrupt Elders, people cannot hide what they are forever – 5:24
iv. Slaves and their masters – 6:1-2
d. Monetary wealth and the gospel – 6:3-16
i. Godliness with contentment is gain – but not in this life. – 6:3-10
ii. Hold fast to your confession and practice – 6:11-16
iii. Having a lot of wealth in the church – 6:17-19
e. Timothy, stay focused in grace – 6:20-21
[Slide 12 (end)]