Lecture 18: Pastoral Epistles
Lecture 18: Pastoral Epistles
This is the 18th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
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God wants to work in our hearts so we are full of love for him and others. Paul gives his testimony as an example that anyone can be saved. God desires to save all, and he elects some. Elders are described as people of character who lead and teach. In Titus, the ethical exhortations are anchored in the gospel. In 2 Timothy, Paul calls on Timothy to suffer for the gospel.
Flow Assignment Hebrews 1:5-14
For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels, winds and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’ And to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
There are citations from 2nd Samuel 7 ‘I will be to him a father and he will be a son to me’; and then one from Psalms 104:4, another from Psalms 46:6 and 7 and Isaiah 61:1. There are key words at the beginning of verse 6, ‘an ‘and’ and a ‘when.’ One such citation is from Deut 32:43 where it says ‘let all God’s angels worship him.’ This is from the LSX and then there is another and in verse 7 with the citation from Psalm 104. You can see that this is a detailed exegetical treatment from the Old Testament. Another key word is ‘but’ in verse 8 and then quoted Psalm 45, ‘Your throne. O God is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.’ This continues, ‘you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ Psalm 102 is cited from verse 12 through 13. This starts off with ‘you, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands…’ There is another citation from Psalm 110 saying, ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ This passage is extremely important as Jesus cites it himself. It is not only cited in different places but also alluded to throughout the New Testament.
I. 1st Timothy (Chapters 1 and 2)
Note that Titus and Timothy are much the same in a lot of ways. The Book of Titus is a lot shorter of course but you have that same concern for church structure and office. There are some differences. Titus was ministering on the island of Crete and it seems that the church was newly planted. Of course Timothy is in Ephesus and that church has been going for some time. For Tutus some commentators say that you have a more rude and primitive congregation there. Perhaps that is correct but there are a lot of commonalities between the two congregations also. But with 1st Timothy, the first thing you see is he is responding in chapter 1 to opponents. Obviously false teachers have entered into the community and teaching certain things that are not helpful. They are into myths and genealogies along with speculations. We find this is 2nd Timothy as well. Objectively we try to discern what these people are like and how are we to categorize them. It is really hard; what do these people really believe. Paul doesn’t give us very much information on exactly what these false teachers were teaching. Why were they into myths and endless genealogies? We are really at a lost as to what these things were about. But Paul doesn’t have to say what they were teaching as the church knew all about it. This is kind of frustratingly vague. Some think that these people were Gnostics having held some form of Gnostic Christology. The interesting thing about this is that Paul sort of dismisses their false teaching and basically says what they were teaching was silly and a waste of time. So instead of engaging them, he brushes them aside. Also, he says that they have lost the center of the Christian faith that we be more loving people. God wants to work in us so that our hearts are full of love for him and others. This love comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. That love must come from a Godly character and apparently these teachers have left these things and had gotten into other things. Paul says that they want to be teachers but they don’t know what they are talking about. They want to use the law but ultimately they don’t know what it is for. Paul says that only unrighteous people need the law. But for us, we will be transformed from within, and will not need to law in heaven. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need the commandments.
In Paul testimony, he says that Christ saved him as the chief of sinners. Christ showed mercy to him so that he would be an example for others. This is so that we understand that nobody is outside of God’s saving realm. Paul says that God saved him for Christ so we ought not to leave anyone out. In verses 18-20, notice that he charges Timothy about these false teachers again. In the first part of chapter 2, there are strong emphases on salvation for all people; no one should be left out there and we are to pray for governing leaders and for peace for the spread of the Gospel. Even if we are at war, we pray that peace will be established and that will lead to the spread of the Gospel, particularly in war torn countries of today. Furthermore, Paul is arguing that this saving message is extended to all because God desires all to be saved (chapter 2:4) and come to the knowledge of Christ. There is only one way of salvation and that is God and one mediator between God and man and that is Jesus Christ. Some people argue how can you believe in election where God saves only some and then say that God desires to save all? Is that a contradiction? John Piper’s essay called, ‘Are There Two Wills in God?’ That is in a book called ‘Still Sovereign.’ What Piper argues and I believe that he is correct, theologically, that there is a sense where God desires to save all. But it is also true that God elects some; both are true. It isn’t an either / or. But obviously God desire to save is the same with some are elected, otherwise you have a contradiction. But know that in the complexity of who God is, he desires to save all. Even Armenians think there are two wills in God because they believe that God desires to save all and he chooses to save only those who believe. There is another level in God’s will even in the schema of the Armenians. I think Piper’s solution is a very good one.
II. Leaders in Community (1st Timothy 3)
Here we have elders and deacons together. This terminology is very familiar in the New Testament. You see it in Acts, 1st Peter and in James and of course with Paul. Some have never experienced this, not that it isn’t in the Bible, but we obviously read the Bible in a certain traditional way and miss these things. We read the Bible through our experiences in the past. This leads to things that we never see sometimes, until the Spirit or a person calls attention to it. When I was in Seminary, the significance of the New Covenant was pointed out to me and then I saw it just about on every page! So what do elders do because we are hardly told anything? They lead and they teach. It doesn’t say that deacons are to be able to teach but elders are. Titus says that elders are to encourage sound teachings and refute those who contradict. So you may have a very godly person in your congregation who loves and who is sweet, but perhaps not refute those who go against sound doctrine. That person should perhaps be a deacon instead. So elders need to be able to lead a congregation by primarily teaching. The main thing that Paul says in Timothy is who they are; it puts emphasis on character and often when we read it, we think that we don’t match up, yet Paul would probably say that many would meet the qualification to be elders. This is what is expected of all Christians not just a few but ordinary believers who are walking with God. In Titus for example, they were all new converts so elders was chosen from them! You don’t always have the luxury of choosing a ‘seasoned saint’ as such. Paul is just listing the kind of things that are true of most people. When Paul says ‘husband of one wife,’ I don’t think Paul is excluding divorce people as such! Of course in appointing elders and deacons, we need to think seriously and prayerfully over whom to choose, of course. Paul says, not a drunkard, but this doesn’t ever mean, not ever a drunkard. Because before I was a believer, I got drunk; so? I don’t think he means this, though. The meaning, do you have a sufficient track record in your marriage, so that you can function in that sort of way.
It also says that children should be believers and I understand that to mean that they have good obedient children, and in that culture they usually got married at a very young age. I think it is more significant if the children are wild and crazy and out of control when they are young. This tells you the way the home is operating. There are some kids when they are young, they are just running wild. It tells you something about what is happening in the home. Again, obviously every situation has to be considered. So I think we need to tone down the way we apply these requirements.
As far as deacons, it seems they assist the elders in serving the congregation. They do all sort of things from greetings, setting up for communion to helping with the finances. So they help in a variety of service area; that is the kind of things deacons do. They seem to have the same character qualifications as the elders. I understand also the women serve as deacons, according to verse 3:11. It is never said that deacons are to teach and rule. I think in Romans 16:1, Phoebe was a deacon of the church at Cenchreae. There is no feminine word in Greek for deacon like we have in English as deaconess. She seems to be financially well-off. So my understanding of the Biblical pattern for churches is that you have elders, overseers, pastors and deacons with deacons being comprised of both men and women. Some churches only have deacons who are really elders. And you need to realize that going into a church and making changes to whatever set up takes a long time and one needs to be prudent in doing so. Note that the word wife and woman in Greek is the same. Interestingly, why would he be concerned about the wives of deacons when nothing is said about the wives of elders? This is because wives can be deacons but not elders. I think lay people should be part of the elders or involved in some way. John McCarthy thinks that the elders should make all the decisions. I think the congregation can reverse any motion brought by the elders but in some churches the congregation has no voice. Interestingly in Titus, Paul doesn’t say anything about deacons. Perhaps there weren’t enough people to have elders in deacons in those new churches in Crete. In verses 14-16, Paul is interesting in the church should be ordered in such a way that it be the pillar and support of the truth. Roman Catholics really like this verse; the church is the pillar of the truth and support of the Gospel. The Roman Catholics need to realize that it is the Gospel that creates the church. Then it is true that the church, once it is established, is also the guardian of the truth. If a church starts to go astray and ceases to preach the Gospel, the truth is damaging the community. We see churches in our community that are not preaching the Gospel anymore which obviously hurts the truth. Of course, we know that the Gospel will triumph. In verse 16, we have an early Christian hymn summarizing the Gospel, ‘he was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.’
III. 1st Timothy Chapter 4
Again, we have the threat about the false teaching in the church. We learn a little more about it here. These people were Ascetics who forbade people from marriage. It was said that if you really want to be spiritual, you will not get married or eat certain foods and privately people can do what they ever want in this regard. I was in a home Monday night where the family is vegetarian, but they don’t impose it on other except when you come over for dinner. It was a good dinner. The Gospel teaches us that marriage is good and sexual relations are good within marriage. Some people think that all sex is evil, even within marriage. This is not true. God created everything and we acknowledge his goodness to us.
In verses 6-16, we see Timothy’s responsibility to counter the heresy by his teaching and by his life. This is a great section for all of us going into the ministry or in ministry. What it means to be a minister is to teach and live the truth. Verse 16 sums these verses up saying, ‘keep a close watch on your Godly life and on the teaching.’ Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. Live in a Godly way and remain in that Godly life. ‘By doing this, you will save yourself.’ This is an amazing comment. Don’t take this out of context, as it could become heresy. Paul is talking about our responsibility to persevere to the end. Those who hear must persevere to the end to be saved on the last day. No one can say, ‘I have received Christ and now I can do whatever I want, I am just saved anyway.’ This thinking is obviously contrary to Scripture.
IV. 1st Timothy Chapter 5
Chapter 5 verses 1 and 2, ‘do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, old women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.’ Verne has written an essay, the Church as a Family. We ought to think of the church as a family. These verses tell us that. It is addressed to a man here so you have to apply it depending on your station in life and your age, etc. We don’t treat everyone the same. As a young man, you are to address an older man with respect compared to someone of your same age. This is clear from this verse. Some people think that they can treat everyone the same; that is wrong. You treat an older man as you would a father. This is common sense but a lot of people have lost common sense today. As our culture becomes more ungodly, people have lost their common sense. You treat a younger man like you would a brother. You treat older women the same way you would treat your mother. Make sure that you engage in purity with any woman that is young, realizing that there may be a temptation that needs to be avoided. So this is very practical. What about widows in verses 3-16? Paul is telling them that the widows in the church should be financially supported. Notice he begins within the church. There is a level of responsibility, right? But you begin within your own family. Paul says that if you don’t do this, you have denied the faith and you are worse than an unbeliever. Of course there are people who aren’t able to help their parents financially. If you have the resources, it is your responsibility to do this. Paul is saying if you don’t do this, how can you call yourself a Christian? So you start with the family and then it goes to the church. If the family can’t do it, then the church takes over. And from there, it is the world. The church has a particular responsibility to take care of its own. And Paul makes it clear, not to put it on the church what the family should do. Of course, in our culture today, the government helps retired people and there are even other avenues by which older people can obtain help.
More on elders in verses 17-25; first of all elders should be respected and paid well; this is in having double honor. Paid well can mean anything. The church has a responsibility to pay a pastor appropriately. Obviously, there can be big differences in what this could mean. This is done so that they can study God’s word and teach and preach. Also, if there are actuations brought against elders, the presented evidence needs to be of two or three witnesses. If elders sin, they must publically bring their sins before the body of Christ, that is sin that warrants discipline. So if you fall into significant sin, it is not right for you to hide it. You need to bring it to the congregation and confess it so that they can decide whether you need to be removed or not. Note that an elder needs to be without reproach and so they need to be respected by the community and unbelievers. We must be careful in ordaining elders because some people should not be appointed. Timothy seems to be an extremist; Paul tells him to take some wine for his health.
The only thing that I want to say about Titus, I want you to notice how the ethical exhortation is anchored in the Gospel. Some people think that that is not in the Pastoral Epistles, but you have the ethical exhortations and then the call to the Gospel.
For 2nd Timothy; it is a book where Paul calls on Timothy to suffer for the Gospel. You have a theme of suffering throughout the book. This is Paul’s last letter before he is about to die. So he is calling on Timothy as he looks to future generations, and what does it mean to transmit the Gospel to a new generation? It means that we are willing to suffer for the Gospel. Paul calls on Timothy to do that with Paul being a remarkable example of one who has suffers for the Gospel. We are now done with the Pastoral Epistles.