Lecture 25: Pastoral Epistles
Login to download lecture and curriculum
The Pastoral Epistles show us how to deal with heresy and addresses the issues of men and women in ministry and also that of leadership.
A. Background and Resources
B. 1 Timothy
C. How to Deal with Heresy
D. The Role of Women in Public Worship (1 Tim. 2:8-15)
E. Leadership Qualifications
F. Titus and 2 Timothy
Lecture: Pastoral Epistles
Background and Resources
1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are called the Pastoral Epistles because in a very general sense, they are addressed to the pastors, Timothy and Titus. Part of the problem in this designation is that neither Timothy nor Titus are a pastor, they are Paul’s apostolic delegates; they’re sent with Paul’s authority to clean up a mess, one mess in Ephesus and one mess in Crete. The title “Pastoral Epistles” has stuck and that’s what we call them. In terms of commentaries, there is one that is absolutely beyond comparison, it’s masterful and absolutely, positively, wonderful and I happen to have it here; it's in the Word Biblical Commentary Series and you all need to run out and pick it up immediately. I think they are $33.00 at Amazon. This is fourteen years of my life, it’s the first and only commentary I will ever write; it is not what I enjoy doing, but it’s done—all 1400 manuscript pages of it. Unlike most of the volumes in this series, you can understand this. Some of the books in the Word Series are just so technical, I mean the one by Aune on Revelation is three volumes long and it goes on and on. I wrote this one and it’s very complete, ad nauseam my students used to say, but anytime I use Greek the English is in there as well. Probably more realistically the one by Gordon Fee New International biblical Commentary particular series has jumped around through many publishes and ended up in Hendrickson’s and it’s a very good commentary and probably on the level you would appreciate. How’s that.
Let me give you a little background to the Pastorals historically so you can see where they fit in Paul’s life. Most people think that Paul was released from the Roman imprisonment that he is in in Acts 28. Now it doesn’t say that, Paul is waiting to go to trial and there is no biblical statement that he was or wasn’t released from that particular imprisonment. It is important though that there is no evidence to the contrary; there is nothing that argues against Paul being released. In secular writings, there is a belief that Paul had a fourth missionary journey to Spain, and since that’s not in Acts it would have to have come after Acts. We know from passages like in Philippians 1 that Paul expected to be released from the Roman imprisonment, and part of the problem is that the Pastorals just simply don’t fit anywhere in Acts. You just can’t find a timeframe with a missionary journey to Crete and all the other historical things that are stated in the Pastorals; they just don’t fit into Acts anywhere. Most people think that Paul appealed to the emperor, he went to Rome for at least a two-year imprisonment, he made his defense and he was found not guilty and was released. Then what happened (and we don’t know for sure the order of these events) is that Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to deal with the problem there. We also know that Paul and Titus had a missionary journey through Crete; we don’t know the relative order of that either. Following those two events, Paul wrote 1 Timothy to Timothy in Ephesus and then wrote Titus to Titus in Crete.
Then, evidently Paul was rearrested and this arrest was significantly different from the first imprisonment where he was under house arrest. If you read through 2 Timothy, you’ll see that the conditions are totally different and he’s pretty much isolated. He’s in a deep hole—that’s what the Romans used. He is very much imprisoned, and he shows the expectation in 2 Timothy that he’s going to die. He knows that this is the end. The first stage of the second trial has happened. He was vindicated at it, but still has no false illusions, and he knows that he’s going to die. According to tradition Paul was beheaded outside of the city of Rome. Paul knows he’s going to die and he writes 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy is so much unlike 1 Timothy because it’s this deeply personal letter to someone who I believe was his best friend, and I’ll show you why in a bit. He just wants Timothy to get some stuff in order in Ephesus and then get to Rome as quickly as he possibly can. He wants to see Timothy before he dies.
Let me just say too, in critical circles (like at a state school), the Pastorals are one of the most questioned. In fact, in main stream scholarship, it’s just an assumption that Paul did not write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. If you want to know the arguments as to why Paul didn’t write them they are right in there, about 150 pages of them. We’ll see if that has any impact on scholarship, I’m not holding my breath. People like to argue such that Paul could not have written them. The arguments are based on liberal academic presuppositions and not so much on the text, Paul said he wrote them, we believe it and there are a billion good reasons to believe that.
The Problems at Ephesus
Okay, that’s enough background, let’s look at 1 Timothy. The best way to introduce 1 Timothy is to go back to Acts 21, where Paul is on his way to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. He stops off and has a long discussion with the Ephesian elders and Paul makes a prophecy. Remember Paul spent three years in Ephesus; he was probably there longer than anywhere else other than Antioch. These are people that knew him well and he had invested a huge amount of time in this church. In Acts 20:28 Paul says, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock,” remember he’s talking to the leadership, “in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (28).” In other words, this church is a precious thing, it cost God the blood of his Son. “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock (29); and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them (30).” Can you imagine being one of those elders? Here’s the founding elder in your church and he says, by the way, you’re going to blow it, you’re not going to be paying attention, some of the elders are going to be led away by heresy and they are going to destroy the church, they are going to become fierce wolves trying to kill the sheep. How do you think they felt when he said that? Evidently not bad enough because they didn’t do what was necessary.
In fact, this is exactly what is happening in Ephesus at the time of 1 Timothy. The leadership had become thoroughly corrupted and their corruption was visible at two levels, one is that their teaching is heretical. If you go through the Pastorals there’s lots of words that Paul uses to describe their teaching, myths, endless genealogies, foolishness, speculation. The second thing is, not only was their teaching going to become heretical, but their life styles were going to become horribly sinful. These are people that are teaching for money, that are seducing the women in the church, they are just thoroughly horrid people. People who used to be elders probably under Paul’s tutelage. The prophecy has come true; we have the heretical teaching; we have the horrendous behavior on the part of leadership.
The solution just follows the problem. There is some discussion of correct theology, Paul says the things that should happen in terms of their teaching, but Timothy already knows Paul’s theology. Timothy doesn’t have to be instructed in what correct doctrine is; he’s been with Paul for years. The bulk of the instruction in 1 Timothy is how Timothy can help change the behavior of the false teachers in Ephesus. There’s not a whole lot of overt theology in the Pastorals; there’s some, but most of it is directed toward the people’s behavior and how he’s supposed to stand up and confront them and make sure that it stops.
Let me say a few things about Timothy and then we can get into the text. I really believe that Timothy was Paul’s best friend. He was evidently evangelized by him; Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father. In 1 Corinthians 4:17, he refers to Timothy as “Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord.” He joined Paul’s missionary team in the second missionary journey. In Acts 16, we’re told that Timothy’s mom and grandmother are Jewish, but the father was Greek, but he was a young man at that time which probably means late teenage years. He had a good reputation so Paul picked him up as part of his inner circle. In fact, as the years go by, you see Paul trusting Timothy more and more because Timothy is Paul’s man to go to difficult situations. Remember in Berea in chapter 16 that he got run out of town, Paul took off for Athens, and who stayed behind? Timothy, to deal with the instruction of the new converts. You see Timothy moving into more and more of a trust position in Paul’s ministry. In Philippians 2 Paul says this about Timothy, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you (19). For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare (20). For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (21). But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel (22). I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me (23),” Paul thinks he’s almost done with the trial and as soon as he hears the verdict he’s going to send Timothy to Philippi, so in an intensely personal relationship and one of love so that’s Timothy’s background.
How to Deal with Heresy
I have picked a few basic topics out of the Pastorals, mostly out of 1 Timothy, that I want to talk about tonight. I’m not going to work through the books chronologically, but the first has to do with how to deal with heresy. It’s interesting that whenever you are dealing with church schisms or heresies it’s almost constantly to the Pastorals that people turn because this is where we learn how to deal with false teaching and false behavior in the church. If you were to go through the Pastorals as a whole there are about five of six basic themes.
Teach Right Doctrine and Correct Error
One of them obviously is that you have to teach right doctrine and you have to be willing to correct error. There’s an emphasis on teaching what is true. You can see this through the Pastorals, you see an emphasis on the Person of Jesus Christ and evidently he was being devalued by the false teachers. There was asceticism and adherence to the law. There were some other things going on, but obviously one of the main things you did when it gets to heresy is that you teach the truth and you speak against it—both sides of the coin.
Teach Right Behavior
But secondly and this is an interesting thing, there is a ton of emphasis in the Pastorals on right behavior. In other words, people who teach heresy normally act like heretics. That’s the connection in the Pastorals and it’s stronger in the Pastorals than any other place. Now it’s not always the case. Paul is thinking specifically of this situation, but by implication it’s generally true. There’s an attempt in some circles to say, “this person is teaching bad stuff, but you know he really is a good person.” There may be situations where that’s true, but that is not true in the Pastorals because Paul just lays into these people and he calls them names; he’s almost violent in how he describes these false teachers—he’s really mad. The point is he says you know what they’re teaching is false because their lifestyle is so sinful. Do you see the connection? Titus 1:16 is an example, "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works." Despite what their mouths say, their works show that in this case they’re not even Christians. In 1 Timothy 4 he says, “teachings of demons,” so they certainly cannot be Christians. That’s one of the reasons that in the academic community the Pastorals have come under such attack because there’s such a strong connection between heretical teaching and sinful behavior, but you know Paul’s just saying what Jesus says isn’t he. The roots are known by the fruits. Right? so if you see someone whose fruits are wicked, whose lives are wicked, it tells you about the roots, and people will fuss about that, but read through the Pastorals with an eye to this and you’ll see it all over the place that not only do you deal with the false teaching, but you have to deal with their sinful behavior and the fact that they are living such sinful lives is an indication that what they are teaching is wrong. Now again you can’t say this is always the case in every heretical situation. Sometimes even really bad people say things that are right, and I guess conversely people that behave well can say things that are wrong, but as a general rule that’s what’s going on in the Pastorals. You have to look at the behavior of the people who are teaching the error.
Be Willing to Confront
Thirdly you must be willing to confront. I’ve preached to this and when I preached on Jude awhile back, but some of the language that is used in this book is like “wage the good warfare,” “fight the good fight of the faith,” “they must be silenced,” “rebuke them sharply.” The language is very strong that after you meet with someone and you talk with them and if they insist on living sinful lives and if they insist on teaching heresy, the language gets very strong. You are to deliver them over to Satan Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:20, That’s strong language isn’t it? I’ll bind you to Satan until your life comes into conformity with the teaching of Scripture and so does your behavior. That’s pretty strong, but it’s in the Pastorals. Paul is very willing to bind to Satan, as with the 1 Corinthians man that is sexually living with his stepmother. The language again is very strong and there must be a point at which we are willing to be very strong in our confrontation of sin and heresy. I think for Alexander and Hymenaeus that it meant that they were to be kicked out of the church because there’s a spiritual protection that exists in the church, and when someone is kicked outside of it, socially ostracized, then they are fully in the realm of Satan without protection from the church, and then they start to experience the full consequences of their sin—what we do with church discipline. Yet what’s interesting, the other side to this coin is, no matter how strong Paul’s language gets and it’s stronger in the Pastorals than anywhere else, it’s always with an eye to repentance. For example in 2 Timothy 2:24, he’s talking specifically to Timothy here and he says, “the Lord’s servant” and that’s Timothy “must not be quarrelsome, but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil (24), correcting his opponents with gentleness (25).” That’s really hard by the way isn’t it, it’s so easy to slam people. That’s what we do in the academy—we slam people, there’s very little politeness goes on in the academy. It’s not easy, but we have to correct our opponents, silence them, rebuke them sharply, fight for the faith, but we have to do it with gentleness. “God may perhaps grant them repentance”; even repentance is a gift from God. It’s not something you muster from your inner self it’s a gift from God, “leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil (26).” These words are even stronger than in Jude, but still a rebuking that is done with an eye to resolving the conflict and bringing them back into the church.
Avoid False Teachers after Warning Them
Fourthly, in dealing with heresy, after you warn them once or twice you’re simply supposed to have nothing to do with them. Titus 3:9-11, and again when I give you these verses there’s often many verses, but I’m just picking one, "But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless (9)." That’s what was being taught in Ephesus and that’s Paul’s way of describing the heresies. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned (10).” I really like the Pastorals, the language is just so beautifully violent, if I can say that. I mean Paul loves the truth and he has very little patience for people teaching heresy, but he never forgets that they are people who are going to spend eternity in Heaven or Hell, so that always tempers it. His comment to Timothy is warn them a couple of times, and if they don’t respond then just ignore them, have nothing to do with them. Remember Timothy is not just a pastor in one of the house churches, Timothy is coming with all of the Apostle Paul’s authority to effect whatever change he sees best. So there’s a lot of force; this is not a situation where this sinful person can leave one house church and go to another, that’s simply not going to happen in this environment. When Timothy’s not going to do anything with it, he’ll also be telling other people not to have anything to do with him.
Recognize the Cause
Part of the challenge of interpreting the Pastorals is to know how much of it is addressed specifically to the problem in Ephesus and how much of it is just general instruction. Because Paul is dealing with a real problem in Ephesus, you don’t want to say, well everything he says applies equally in every situation today. Because the situation may be a little different so a little caveat is helpful. For example, in 1 Timothy 1:19, “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this,” in other words, by rejecting both their faith and rejecting their conscience, “some have made shipwreck of their faith,” and he lists Alexander in particular. There’s this verse and many others like it that show that at least in Ephesus these false teachers weren’t tricked. They knew what they were saying was wrong and they said it anyway—it’s very fascinating. Their problem was not intellectual; the problem was moral. They wanted to teach in order to get rich; see 1 Timothy 6. They wanted to teach in order to have access to “weak women” Paul calls them. In the Ephesian problem, the root problem was moral. These people were immoral and so they knowingly adopted heretical beliefs because it allowed them to live immoral lives.
Now you want to be careful at taking that and saying that every time someone disagrees with me that means they are immoral, but it is a flag that waves very fast and high in the Pastorals that when you’re looking at people who live immoral lives and who teach things that are wrong, there’s a very good chance that at the base is not some intellectual problem. It’s not like, “this is how I’ve done my exegesis and this is the conclusion that I came to.” There’s a very good chance that there’s a moral problem at the base. An example just popped in my mind of a very famous pastor and hence I can’t give you his name, who is a computer salesman right now. In fact, I know quite a few pastors who have failed morally and now are computer salesmen. This particular guy was the single most arrogant person I had ever met in my life. He was unbelievable and he taught heresy. He taught that how you live out your Christian life has no relevance whatsoever to your salvation. He was one of these “moments of positive volition” guys. He was molesting every secretary in the church, he was molesting almost every counselee in his church and he had been doing it for years. It was the only church I ever got kicked out of and I’m proud of it. If you’re going to get kicked out of a church, this was the one to get kicked out of because as soon as someone got a little close to him and could start to see what was happening, they were fired. In his particular case he was Hell-bent on living an immoral life and so he taught heretical theology that allowed him to live the life he wanted to live. Now he’s a computer salesman. It’s too bad because he was a highly, highly gifted person. You don’t want to say that’s true every time you disagree with someone, but in the Pastorals, it’s a very big point that behind the heresy is immorality and it is in fact immorality that is pushing the false teaching.
Watch Yourself in the Process
The final thing that Paul says to Timothy on dealing with heresy is watch yourself. When he gets into these passages you can start to see the Apostle Paul shift to the side and you see someone who loves Timothy deeply saying, “You’re in the midst of this Timothy, this is about as bad as it gets, but be really careful that you don’t sin in the process.” I don’t think that Paul was so much concerned that Timothy got sucked into the false teaching, but when you combat heresy it rubs off on you, doesn’t it? It’s hard to do it with gentleness and kindness. It just rubs off on you, and so there’s admonishment, especially in 2 Timothy, to be really careful in how you do it.
For example, 1 Timothy 4:6-16 is one of my all time favorite passages in Scripture, I have a lot of favorite passages, but as a pastor, this is one of them because in this passage Paul is completely, in one sense, putting heretics to the side and he’s focusing on Timothy, “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine,” in other words, just keep hanging on to what you know is true, have nothing to do with silly myths. Verse 12, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example.” Verse 13, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Then you get down to verse 15, “Practice these things, immerse (devote) yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” Be a model, be an example as you’re in the midst of this really difficult task. “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching (16).” In other words, watch your own character as well as watch what you’re teaching. “Persist in this, for by so doing you will save” (you will work out the salvation of) “both yourself and your hearers.” These are very strong admonitions that Timothy is to be very careful.
In Titus 2:7-8 he makes the same point: be diligent, stay focused. In fact, all of 2 Timothy 1 is this deep, deep concern that Timothy hang in there and be careful. The final thing that the Pastorals say about how do you deal with heresy is that in the process of dealing with it, be very careful. It is so easy when you are dealing with error to launch into it, because you are right; there’s this tendency to think that anything you say and anyway in which you say it is acceptable because their theology is wrong and our theology is right. Paul is telling Timothy and telling us be very careful. Always do it with an eye to repentance, always do it with the realization that it can suck you down with it. Be careful. That’s a quick overview on the instructions in the Pastorals on dealing with heresy.
The Role of Women in Public Worship (1 Tim. 2:8-15)
The second issue which I do not want to discuss, but I have to, is the whole thing of women in public worship. The whole women’s issue is five verses. I know of people that teach the Pastorals, all thirteen chapters, and they spend half the semester on these five verses. There are just five verses, now they are important verses, but there’s so much more in the Pastorals. Let me just work through this. I’m just going to tell you what I believe, and I’ll tell you where some of the pressure points are, and then I’ve got a couple other books on this topic. Let me show you where some of the issues are.
Instruction to Men (1 Tim. 2:8)
We’re in 1 Timothy 2:8-15, and Paul starts initially just talking about men, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarrelling.” The emphasis is not on the posture, there are many postures of prayer in Scripture, but he’s saying, “At least in your prayer time could you guys manage to stop fighting with each other?” Imagine the dysfunctional church that existed in Ephesus; they couldn’t even pray without arguing among themselves. He says to the men, good grief, do it without anger and quarreling. Sometimes you’ll hear worship leaders say this verse as a way of telling everyone to raise their hands, but in the Bible there are all different positions of prayer. In fact, no one position is demanded. Jesus was flat on his face in Gethsemane, it’s hard for me to imagine Jesus face down with his hands up unless he was doubled jointed or something; I don’t know how you do that. I think he’s focusing on the men because the men are fighting and arguing—have we ever seen that? I think he’s addressing one issue in the Ephesian church and that is that the men simply won’t stop fighting. Even during prayer time they’re fighting.
Instruction to Women about Dress (1 Tim. 2:9-10)
He wants to get to the women, because as you read through the Pastorals, you find that the women are the ones that are really being tricked by the false teachers. Even to the point of practicing magic. In 9 and 10 he turns to women’s dress and he says, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel,” and the word respectable has very strong sexual nuances to it, there’s not an English word that does it. The women were dressing in two ways that was disrupting the church. One was they were dressing sexually immodestly, which tends to disrupt the church. He says, adorn themselves in respectable apparel, “with modesty and self-control,” and that was the other problem. They weren’t being modest, not so much sexual modesty, but as he continues, “not with braided hair and gold or pearls,” that’s important and I’ll tell you why in a second, “or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.”
Because of these verses, the Nazarene tradition in the past has not allowed women to wear wedding rings and they have to wear boring dresses. I still remember when I went to college in Kentucky, about every month, a new cult would come through the school and they were all the same. Guy was out walking in front behind him were ten women dressed in burlap, literally. It was just amazing. That’s not what this passage is saying, alright? I don’t even know if it’s Nazarene teaching any longer.
What was going on was that the fashion in those days, the hair was braided and then woven together on top of the head and then in an attempt to set social economic levels and pecking orders, they would put gold or pearls into the braided hair. What they were doing was they were spending all their time on the outside, the costly attire, the word is used of dresses that are equal to the expense of the gowns that they tend to wear to the Emmys. I think it’s used in one context where the dress cost $70,000.00 in our money. In other words, what was going on is that women were coming to the church they were dressing sexually, and they were setting social economic level pecking orders by the amount of gold and pearls they were putting in their hair and they were spending a phenomenal amount of wealth on the clothes they wore, obviously at the expense of who they were inside as women of God. Paul is not saying you can’t look nice or you can’t wear nice gowns, but he’s saying your emphasis can’t be on the outside and there’s nothing on the inside. You cannot disrupt the church with sexual dress.
Women during the Teaching (1 Tim. 2:11-15)
Then from verses 11 on is the primary debating ground for the whole women in ministry debate. There are other passages that touch on it, 1 Corinthians 11 for example, but this is the primary passage and where you come out on this passage is probably where you are going to come out in the whole issue of whether women can be senior pastors. Paul says, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness (11). I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet (12).” Those verses form an ABBA structure. First he says, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." What does it mean to be submissive? It means you don’t teach or exercise authority over men and rather you have to learn quietly. That’s the structure of verses 11 and 12.
I lost the debate on the translation of quietly because I proposed some very poor English phrase that actually said what the Greek said. The word can be used for absolute silence, but the word is used I think one time here and six others in the New Testament, and three times it’s used for silence, but three times it’s used for a quiet spirit. Paul says in Thessalonians to work quietly. He doesn’t mean go plow your field and not say a word, it means there should be a quietness about your demeanor, about how you carry yourself. That it’s not overly assertive, but it’s quiet—does that make sense? There wasn’t a way to say it, but to translate it as silence is a problem if for no other reason than, what are women to do when their heads are covered in 1 Corinthians? Pray. People that say that women should not speak in a public assembly they are not reading 1 Corinthians, because they can pray under the right conditions. The argument is that it can’t mean silence, but it must mean a quietness of demeanor. Rather than asserting yourself, you should learn quietly and you should be submissive.
Now I wish Paul had said submissive to whom, because that’s one of the difficult things in this passage. Again there are people who say that any woman has to be submissive to any man. There’s a good theological term for that—chauvinism. It’s just simply can’t be what it means. There’s no way that my wife has to submit to any of men who aren’t elders. This is foolishness. It can’t mean that. It’s either submissive to your husbands or submissive to the church leadership. I suspect it is husband because church leadership really doesn’t raise its head until chapter 3. The women, instead of taking an aggressive position of authoritative teaching, are to learn in quietness and they are to do it in a submissive, quiet way.
I Do Not Permit a Woman to Teach…
Then Paul wants to define specifically what that submissive way is and he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” The connection is the basic principle is authority over men. One way in which authority over men shows itself is by teaching. Instead of taking an assertive teaching position, which is an act of authority over men (all these points become critical when we try to apply this), but they are not to take a position of authority over men specifically in teaching. Rather they are to learn, which put Paul ahead of most of ancient culture, but they are to learn quietly.
This is the phrase that we have to struggle with when we figure out, what does this look like in real life? My position is that it certainly applies to my position in the church. If a woman were to stand behind the pulpit and to preach the way I do, then she is acting in an Ecclesiastical authority over the people in the church. I have been almost tarred and feathered over this, but it still doesn’t change my mind. That’s at least what it includes. Since all elders are supposed to be teachers, it covers elders too. I think when you start getting below elders is where it gets a little fuzzy, and that’s where we’ve agreed to disagree on some stuff in the church. At what point do boys become men? When is it an act of authority and when is an act of authority over men? Of course our children’s pastor will tell you that one of the things that frustrates him the most is that almost all of the teachers for grade school program are ladies. While he’s extremely thankful for you ladies, he’s saying, where are the men? How are these young kids to know what male headship looks like? They go through much of their childhood and young adulthood and all of a sudden they are supposed to become men, but they have always been taught by women. Our children should have male models as well as female models. Models of Godly behavior. It does get difficult.
One of the biggest difficult areas is the whole thing of missions and God is obviously, I’m going to be really careful with this argument because it’s abused all over the place, but God has highly blessed women’s work in missions. If it weren’t for women, most missions would never have happened, but just because something appears to be blessed doesn’t always mean it’s God’s will—that’s the other side of it. Otherwise the biggest church would win, right? If apparent success in ministry is what we use to determine our belief, then we have to find the largest church there is in the United States and whatever they say is obviously God’s will. One of the balances of this, I’m just giving you things to struggle with, he’s gone through in chapter 3 and he’s coming to a conclusion in 3:14-15 he says, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God,” that governs chapter 2. Chapter 2 in my opinion does not relate to para-church organizations. It doesn’t relate to a lot of things include much in missiology, but it does apply to when believers gather as the church
One of the other balances in this is Titus 2:3-4 where Paul says, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,” and so forth. Again in the history of the church, you can find excesses all over can’t you? If you want to determine what you believe by asking the question, “Does someone teach this?” the answer is yes. You can always find someone who teaches anything, but for people that say that women can have no role in the church, this is flying in the face of Scripture. Of course in this modern age saying you can teach the women, because there’s a restriction, there’s a sense of devaluation, and that’s not at all what’s going on. I cannot teach women. When I was in college and I was always teaching on the Pastorals I was trying to make that point, I can’t teach women because I’m a man. I can teach groups, and the majority of the church is female, right? It’s probably always been that way, and there’s a huge component of the church that a man simply can’t teach. There certainly is the necessary place for older women to teach younger women how to love, and I’ll tell you as this culture gets more and more dysfunctional, more and more young girls are not going to have any idea how to love their husband. They’re not going to have the faintest idea what that means. It’s going to be up to you ladies to teach them.
The Rationale (1 Tim. 2:13-15)
Verse 13 Paul continues, “For,” and that’s one of the most important words in this book, in this passage, in other words, let me tell you why this is true. Paul gives us two reasons, one: “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” That is a verse that has been misunderstood and then ridiculed in book after book after book after book. My Systematics professor at Fuller, Jewett, was the one who started it and just said, “So whatever is created first is more significant and has more value?” Whenever there is hierarchy of authority, the assumption in the world is that what’s on top is more valuable than what’s underneath, which is unbiblical, otherwise the suffering servant is of the least value of all, but he says according to this logic, the animals have preeminence over man because they were created first. Jewett just said Paul was wrong which partly explains why Fuller is where it is today.
That’s not at all what’s going on here. Paul is summarizing Genesis 2, and in Genesis 2, which is the drawn out version of creation, he is saying, the verse says, the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” The NLT says, “I will make a companion who will help him.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:9, “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” So the first argument is, this is what creation should teach, that the primacy of Adam’s creation and the creation of Eve from Adam for Adam (and again there are a million qualifiers, but you know them I think), indicates that the women should not be in a position of authority teaching men.
Now here’s one of the crucial parts of verse 13, Paul is not appealing to culture. Much of the argument on this says that Paul was just a first century rabbi, and that that’s just the way things were in the first century, or Paul is being cultural. It may have been true then, but it’s not true now, is what was often said. It’s simply impossible to read verse 13 and come away with that and I’ve got about twenty pages in this book if you want to see all the ways in which people try to change this verse around. Paul is appealing to creation; he’s saying this is the order that God established in creation; creation was before culture. It cannot be a cultural norm—that is absolutely critical. I’ve been involved in thousands of debates on this and I have yet to have anyone win this debate. You have to start ignoring the verse, which is what they do, what they do.
The second argument is verse 14, verse 14 is much more difficult and I’ll be perfectly frank, I am not comfortable with any conclusion on 14. It is one of the few places in the commentary where I don’t state my conclusion, because I just couldn’t make up my mind. The second reason that Paul gives is “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Adam is sitting there in the Genesis narrative, he’s listening to the snake talk to Eve, and when Eve reaches out her hand to take the fruit, and he keeps his mouth shut and doesn’t say anything. I think that’s one of the reasons why Paul says sin entered in the world through Adam and not Eve because I think he sinned first by keeping his big mouth shut. Eve took the fruit, but she was deceived and verse 14 seems to be saying that Eve’s tendency toward deception is indicative of women in general. You can see why that’s a difficult conclusion to come to. The thing you have to be careful of on these kinds of generalities is that I know a lot of women that are much brighter and less deceivable than a lot of men. You scratch your head and say, “Paul, couldn’t you have come up with a better argument, please.” That is traditionally the way the verse has been taken, and there are some books that will go into real depth to say that very gently and carefully with lots of qualifiers, but that is the standard historical understanding of that particular verse. I’m uncomfortable with it, but I’m less comfortable with all the other ways people get around it.
Verse 15 which is truly one of the top 2 or 3 most bizarre verses in all the Bible, "Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." Paul is taking what should have been about four sentences and cramming them into one sentence because he’s having to move from Eve’s sin to the Ephesian women, that’s why he goes from singular to plural. I think what he’s saying is this, women work out their salvation, not by reversing roles with men, but by accepting their God given roles, one of which is bearing children. There’s evidence elsewhere in the Pastorals that the false teachers were attacking the idea of motherhood and saying it’s a lower form of life. Can you imagine anyone telling you ladies that having children and raising a family is a lesser form of life? That appears to be what is going on there.
For additional reading there’s my commentary, and then Tom Schreiner has written repeatedly on this topic and he’s very good, he’s very gentle and he has literally read every book on the topic. He has a book called, First Timothy 2:11-12, I couldn’t find the publisher, I think it’s Baker, but I couldn’t find it. He’s written several others. Probably the most complete one out there is, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by Grudem and Piper. It’s a big thick blue book and they talk about everything. It’s written by about forty different people and they talk about issues of missions and they talk about all the ways which men have abused this passage, in sinful ways and have destroyed women, but it’s a very complete book and if this is a topic that’s important to you, then that’s a good book to read. There’s not really a good book that I can recommend on any other position, I’m sorry. If there really were some I would do it. Aida Spencer wrote one which at least you can read without getting mad, but her position is called, Beyond the Curse. I taught with her at Gordon-Conwell, she’s a very nice lady and is middle of the road, but her position is not believable to me at all. Gordon Fee would completely disagree with me on this point, but in his commentary in the Pastorals he doesn’t say it and Gordon’s not a chicken to say anything, he’ll say anything he believes, but for some reason he didn’t make the case in his commentary and he hasn’t elsewhere. Anything that you read of Craig Keener’s, Keener will believe that women can do any role that men can do in the church, but he’s not written any specific book on it. Some books are vitriolic, some of these books are so bad and just cruel that I actually got run out of Fuller Seminary because I taught a course on the Pastorals and I presented the traditional interpretation as one among many. I brought Fuller Seminary to a grinding halt. Classes were cancelled, people were furious with me. The Dean finally called me in two weeks later and begged me to apologize and I said, “I didn’t say anything wrong.” He said you’ve got to do something, you’ve got to bring this under control and I said, “Excuse me, I thought you were the Dean.” It was just horrible and there were things said about me no matter what you believe you couldn’t believe that anyone who wanted to be a pastor, male or female, could ever say those things, sexual stuff, it was mind boggling. It was the hardest experience of my life professionally. What was interesting was I got a near perfect rating from the students at the end of the year, and I still have those papers. But this topic can become very ugly. I had one teacher at Azusa at lunch time just start screaming at me, at the top of his lungs in front of 1500 students. I paid a price for this, it’s not a position I necessarily like, for the life of me I think it’s what the Bible says. I could be wrong; I don’t think so.
The other thing that is in the Pastorals that is again where the Pastorals are one of the central repositories of information about is the whole issue of leadership in a church and eldership. As we saw, historically the problem in Ephesus was the elders went bad. The elders did not know the truth and they would not behave properly. So part of the cure is that Timothy has to pay really close attention to elders. In 2 Timothy 2, you’ve got Timothy actually appointing the elders himself. That’s one way he’s going to take care of the problem. If Timothy were around today it would be great—come on over every September and Timothy you can pick the elders, but I don’t think Timothy’s coming. I’m pretty sure of that. What we have to do is look at what Timothy was told about the qualifications for elders.
I wrote a position paper on elders; I spent a tremendous amount of time writing it, which doesn’t make it right, but at least I put some work into it. Then the elders in our church went through it and modified it in some places. What’s interesting is that Paul has very specific instructions on elders that almost universally are ignored in the church. It just doesn’t matter to most people, has been my experience, but even if it does matter, there are some places where it is really hard, for example, they have to be apt teachers, able to teach. What does that mean? Does that mean that pastors have to go get a PhD? No, it’s the issue of we want to believe it, we want to put it into practice, but what was hard in the paper was to say, we want to follow the biblical instructions, but what exactly does that mean? That an elder must have faithful children—figure out what that one means. There are some interpretive things so what I did in the paper was that I gave my interpretation and application and it was mostly the application that the elders went through and massaged and changed in some places. 1 Timothy 3, the second half of 1 Timothy 5, the first half of Titus 1 is where all the data comes from.
Let me just go through some of the basic issues that Timothy is going to make. I’m going to go in the order of the position paper, but the verses are from those three passages. A couple of things by way of introduction, there is some instruction in terms of their abilities, specifically have they been shown to be a good manager of their house. The house is a microcosm of the church, if you cannot manage your own house, you cannot manage God’s house. The bulk of the instruction, however, has to do with the person’s character and as I look at our churches in general, this is the issue. There is a leadership crisis in the American church which is above anything else I see. Every time I hear of a church failing, guess where the fault lies—leadership. When I see a church doing really good, the leadership is strong and biblical. We are in a crisis of leadership.
You can read some of the books on church leadership and they are terrible. I read one the other day, it was totally secular, it had a few scattered verses here and there, but it could have been leadership in Kraft Food Inc. For all that mattered. Many of the books on church leadership are on the totally secular side of things and there’s something to be said about that, but that’s not what Paul is concerned about. Paul is concerned that men of character become elders and what we’re finding, is that no matter how good the situation is, bad people will ruin it. No matter how bad a situation is, good people will fix it. It’s the character of the people that is paramount.
It also appears that the requirements for eldership are a little higher than they are for people in the church. It’s not a second tier significance, it’s a second tier of responsibility. Requirements are placed on elders that are not placed on other people in the church. There also is a significant level of commitment as well; that’s one of the things that we’ve been learning is that in order to be an effective elder, there is just a huge level of commitment that has to be made, but again, men of character are going to make the time commitment to do their jobs.
In general, I believe that elder is a position that is to be held by men: 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” In Timothy 3:2, it talks about being the husband of one wife. I think the requirements at this level of the church are male and male only. Obviously this is a debated topic, but that’s what I think the Bible says.
Oversight and Teaching Ability
In terms of tasks what is an elder do? It’s really surprising it doesn’t really say. I mean there are some hints of some little things, but it’s not that clearly enumerated, but the title elder and the parallel title overseer suggests that what an elder does is has general oversight, general responsibility, general authority. In 1 Timothy 1 they are called stewards that they are a steward over God’s house. That means they are responsible and have the authority to take care of the house. That’s one reason that I don’t believe in congregational rule, I can’t find it anywhere in the Bible. I find elder headship in the Bible. In terms of tasks 1 Timothy 3:2 says, “able to teach,” and in Titus 1:9 he spells out more specifically what that means, the elder “must hold firm to the trustworthy word” that’s the Gospel “as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” That’s what I think it means to be an apt teacher; you have to be absolutely and totally convinced this thing is true and you have to be able to defend it against lies, and you have to be able to rebuke and fight against false teaching.
Now what does that mean? Do elders need PhDs? No, it doesn’t mean that, and I don’t think it means that any elder has to be able to get up and preach in front of large groups of people; I don’t think that’s what is going on, but the conclusion we came to in our church is that an elder must, at a minimum, be able to teach one to ten people at a time, not a really high standard. We could have made it a lot higher, but you have to be able to teach and you have to be able to teach at least small groups. Then later on we said that an elder has to be able to explain every word in the Statement of Faith, so that’s where we set the bar. Personally I think it’s too low because Titus 1:9 says you have to be able to rebuke false teaching. That means an elder has to be able to go toe-to-toe with a Jehovah Witness or Mormon. But at least it’s a good start to be able to teach small groups, be able to explain the Statement of Faith. That is why in about two months you and everyone else who has been at this church for fifty-two consecutive weeks will be able to do precisely that. Every word in the Statement of Faith has come up in a sermon and every word in the Statement of Faith has come up in this class. Our last class period is to work through the Statement of Faith, and you should be able to understand every single word. That’s what has been controlling my choice of topics that we talked about.
The overall term used to describe elders, and it appears over and over again, is that they must be above reproach. This does not mean perfect. We don’t have to be perfect, that’s never a qualification for an elder, but it does mean that we have to be above reproach, that means fundamentally that our lives have to shine for God’s Glory. There’s a problem here, and a problem there, how we handle problems is an indication of being above reproach, but that is the general characteristic that occurs at the head of all the lists of elders in the Pastorals.
A “One-Woman” Man
One of the phrases that has caused a lot of trouble is the husband of one wife, the phrase that Paul actually uses is a phrase that has no parallel in Greek literature. Why he chose to do that, I’m going to have to ask him someday. “One-woman man” is what the Greek says. There are some people, for example, that will say, “Scripture says a divorced person can’t be an elder,” 1 Timothy 3:2. That is not what 1 Timothy 3:2 says. The word divorced does not appear there, it just doesn’t. Now you may think it applies to that, but that’s not what the text says. One of the explanations is that it is a prohibition against polygamy. One woman at a time is the idea. That’s generally dismissed because there is no evidence that the Jews were polygamists. Why would Paul put a prohibition in there prohibiting something that wasn’t being practiced? Since I wrote the commentary I found out that in fact there was a lot of polygamy in Judaism, as there was in Greek culture along with concubines and other things like that. That argument might have more weight than I give it in the commentary, I just haven’t had the time to go back and think through it. The conclusion that I came to in the commentary is the conclusion in Fee, and I always feel very safe when Gordon and I agree, that the elder is faithful in marriage—that you are a one-woman person.
Now that in itself is awful restrictive because if there is an elder who is caught in pornography, is he a one-woman man? No. The phrase is much more restrictive than it first sounds, but that was the position that I came to, and in fact I wrote this, “At a minimum the elder is faithful in his marriage if he’s married. This includes sexual faithfulness as well as things that lead up to unfaithfulness, such as even casual use of pornography, emotional abuse, emotional abstinence, degrading speech and conduct and excessive attachment to other women,” that’s how the position paper reads, and I think that all is assumed under the phrase a one-woman man. There are some ramifications and there’s some debate among the elders on this and I’m sure the debate won’t go away, and that we will keep talking about it, but that’s the position I came to. Please notice the issue is not forgiveness, the issue is loss of privilege, being an elder is not a right, it’s a privilege—it’s a gift. Just because someone made a horrible mistake and has been forgiven doesn’t somehow make them qualified to lead. There’s none of that in Scripture I don’t think. A one-woman man, faithful in marriage; there are many specific reasons for that are in the book if you want to read them.
Not a Recent Convert
Also, he can’t be a recent convert. In our bylaws, we say he has to be a Christian for at least five years, and has to be a member of the church for two. Again, we are just trying to put substance to what it means to not being a recent convert.
Proven Manager of Home and Family
The qualities go on as well, in terms of his family, 1 Timothy 3:4-5, “4He must manage his own household well, 5for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” It also talks about keeping his children submissive in Titus 1:6, “…and his children…not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.” This is obviously a very difficult passage, but it has to be taken into consideration that elders have to be managers of their home. They cannot manage God’s house if they cannot manage their own. Period. End of discussion, but then you get into the situation where, “Okay, I’ve got four kids at home, one is rebellious and three are doing well; am I’m qualifying to be an elder?” “I became a Christian late in life, does the state of the children I had before I became a Christian affect me?” “What if my children are gone does their state/relationship to God affect?” Also, what’s tied in to all of this is that in Titus 1:6 the Greek is difficult, but it says “the children are faithful.” The position I took in the commentary is that it means that the children are Christians.
Let me just read some sections of the position paper: “Just because the child is in rebellion does not mean the father is not a good manager. Sometimes his managerial ability is seen in the heat of the conflict. However, if a majority of his children are in rebellion, then he is no longer eligible for leadership. If even one child is in rebellion,” (and this is children at home), “perhaps he should be encouraged not to become involved in church leadership, but to spend what time he has building a relationship with the child. If the children have left the home, just because his children have left the home does not somehow mean automatically that he has become a good manager.” I really believe this and I’ve seen it in church after church where a man has four kids, all living Hellishly, and the minute they leave home he thinks, “Hey, I can be an elder” and you shake your head and you say, “What makes you think because your children no longer live at home that somehow you’re a good manager?” I don’t think because children leave that somehow you become a good manager, but I said, “recognition should be paid to the fact, however, that he no longer has direct control of the child and yet how he manages his distance child continues to indicate his managerial ability.” I know there are some men in the church that in many ways are qualified to be elders, but their children are non-Christian and in talking with them I’ve said, “Why don’t you just take what time you have and spend the rest of your life, if necessary, pursuing your children.” They looked at me and said, “Is that okay?” I’ve said, “Yes” and they’re off doing it, and that was the conclusion the elders came to. It’s not a right—it’s a privilege and there are guidelines for it, but you’ve got to interpret the guidelines. I would encourage you to look at this.
In appointment, don’t be hasty; there’s a long discussion in 1 Timothy 5 saying do not be hasty on appointing, some people sins are not immediately apparent and it you appoint an elder who turns out to be a sinner you share in his sin, (1 Timothy 5:22). Not if that doesn’t slow down the appointing process, I don’t know what will, but that is what it says. At this church we are working on a process to train and to raise up the future elders. Biblical Training is part of it, some book studies are part of it, but it’s amazing how many pastors I’ve called and said, “How do you raise up young men to be elders?” and they say we have no idea at all. It is one of the challenges of the church.
Titus and 2 Timothy
Let me real briefly say something about Titus and 2 Timothy. Paul and Titus had a missionary journey in Crete. Titus either went back or stayed behind to set up things. The letter was sent to Titus to give him some basic instructions. One of the greatest passages in the Bible is in 2 Timothy 2, and I’m going to read it because it’s just so great.
The church in Crete was very young and Paul was wanting to address their needs and their needs were very basic and fundamental. Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,” and here’s what salvation looks like, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age (12), waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (13),” the clearest affirmation that Jesus is God. That’s one reason I think liberals don’t like Titus, because Titus flat out says Jesus was God. He continues “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (14).” There’s the Christian life: we were horrible wretched people, God saved us and he saved us for a life of holiness. All the balance is in that passage; that’s why I like it so much.
2 Timothy is my favorite book in the Bible, it’s the most personal of all of Paul’s letters. He’s not dealing hardly at all with heresies, he just really misses his friend and he wants Timothy to get things in order and he wants him to get to Rome before the end. There are probably twenty different ways in which Paul encourages Timothy to hang in there. Verse after verse, it’s anything Paul can think of to encourage Timothy.
Let me just say in 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 is the primary passage on the view of Scripture that all of Scripture is breathed out by God, that it comes from him and it is therefore true, it is therefore authoritative and therefore is profitable for teaching and correction, rebuke and training and righteousness that you and I can be perfectly complete and not lacking.
If you are enjoying this lecture, would you consider making a donation so others can learn from it as well?
BiblicalTraining is a non-profit and relies on its users for support.