Paul’s letters of 1,2 Timothy and Titus are called “pastoral letters” because they contain instructions for pastors. The apostle addressed them to Timothy, who gave pastoral leadership to the church in Ephesus, and Titus, who led the churches in Crete. In these letters, the elder Paul instructed his young associates in matters needing pastoral oversight in their respective congregations.
But I’m not a pastor, someone might say. Why should I study the Pastoral Letters? It’s a valid question. I can think of at least 5 reasons every believer needs to spend time in these letters:
1. All Scripture is profitable.
It‘s in the Pastorals that we find these verses: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
“All Scripture” means all Scripture. It means the study of Leviticus is profitable; it means the “begats” (genealogies) in Genesis 5 and Matthew 1 are profitable. And indeed it means the Pastoral Letters are God’s inspired and profitable Word for every believer. In the immediate context, “man of God” (2 Tim. 3:17) referred to Timothy, but the intention of the verse applies to every believer. God want each believer to be “complete.” In the words of A.W. Tozer, “Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”
2. Doctrine matters.
In these letters, Paul addressed the matter of correcting certain false doctrines that threatened the churches in Ephesus and Crete. Some in those churches had moved away from sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:3-4,19-20; Titus 3:9), and Paul warned that false teachers would continue to deceive believers, telling people only what they want to hear (1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 4:3-4).
As long as false teachings are being taught and people are turning away from believing the truth, we need to hear the Pastorals’ warning that faulty doctrine is a serious matter for all the church. The Pastorals remind us that right beliefs matter.
3. Church matters.
If your church matters to you, then the Pastoral Letters will matter to you. The health and proper functioning of the church is the focus.
Paul had previously written to the same church Timothy was now overseeing (Ephesus). He told the church that the role of church leaders was to equip church members “for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12). Therefore, the church’s ministry to care for the needs of its members—especially the poor and the widowed—belongs to the members, not just to the pastors (1 Tim. 5:3-16; 6:18). Further, every member has a role in maintaining the unity of the church by avoiding divisive arguments and behavior (1 Tim. 5:19; 2 Tim. 2:14,23; Titus 3:9-11).
4. The gospel matters.
The Pastorals reflect Paul’s passion for the gospel (1 Tim. 1:12-17; 2 Tim. 1:8-12; Titus 3:4-8). Not only was he concerned with the truthfulness of the gospel message being proclaimed, he lived with a personal sense of amazement and gratitude that God would save a sinner such as him (1 Tim. 1:15).
The Pastorals point all of us to our need of a Savior, lead us to praise God for the grace and mercy He has shown us in Christ, remind us we are exhibits of God’s grace for the world to see, and spur us to unashamed confidence in the gospel’s power.
5. Behavior matters.
When Paul told Timothy and Titus to “remind them…” (2 Tim. 2:14; Titus 3:1), he meant remind the church members. We are the “them.”
In the Pastoral Letters, we are reminded that we all must behave rightly (Titus 3:1-2,8). Men in the church are reminded to set the example in praying for others (1 Tim. 2:8). Women in the church are reminded of their impact on the witness of the church (1 Tim. 2:9-15). Parents and grandparents are reminded of the profound affect they have on the spiritual lives of the children and grandchildren (2 Tim. 1:5). Adult children are admonished to care for their elderly parents (1 Tim. 5:8). We all are reminded to treat one another as family (1 Tim. 5:1-2) and to use what we have to bless others (1 Tim. 6:17-19).
The Pastoral Letters are God’s inspired words for every believer. You will be blessed, encouraged, and challenged as you study them.
Mike Livingstone works at LifeWay Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.