MANual Lessons: Paul’s Pastoral Letters to His Mentees

The Apostle Paul had a wonderful gift of providing encouragement and instructions to young leaders in the early church. In this next post during my year-long journey through The MANual, an NIV Bible for Men, I provide the lessons from Paul’s three pastoral letters with guidelines for Christ-centered living. Paul wrote two letters to Timothy and one to Titus that each became separate books in the New Testament known as the “pastoral letters.” 

Who was Timothy 

Timothy was a close associate of Paul and his young protege who became an overseer of the church in Ephesus. 

Timothy was born in the region of Lystra and Iconium to a Gentile man and a Jewish woman so their marriage was likely disfavored by the community at large. From infancy though, Timothy was raised in Hebrew Scripture. His grandmother, Lois, probably converted from Judaism to Christianity and led his mother, Eunice, to the faith. Since Timothy’s father was Greek, he did not have the young boy circumcised like the other Jewish males at the time. This also likely drew a lot of criticism from his Jewish neighbors. 

Timothy likely became a believer after hearing about The Way of Jesus during Paul’s first missionary trip to Lystra (see Acts 16:1-5). Timothy was already held in high regard by others by the time Paul visited. When Paul heard about Timothy’s upbringing, he wished to take him along on his journeys. But first, he had to have Timothy circumcised since it could be a great barrier to Jews since the young man was ethnically half-Jewish, half-Gentile. 

Timothy then joined Paul, and his companion, Silas on the second journey to help advance the Gospel and plant new churches in the various cities of Greece. Throughout their lives, Paul functioned as a mentor for his young protege. He sends him all around the Roman Empire visiting churches. He praises Timothy, repeatedly saying, “I have no one like him,” and that he is like “a son” in his service to his “father,” Paul (Philippians 2:20, 22). 

Good Families Always Produce Great Kids 

In a world with so much uncertainty and heartache, it’s no wonder we look for things that are “sure things.” We seek long and productive lives, a happy family, financial security, and inner peace. What’s the formula for success? Show us the steps to get the desired results. Is there a book to read, a class to take, or a conference to attend? When it comes to raising children, if we do the right things, they will come out OK, right? 

Well, rebelliousness goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. In reality, we don’t know that Timothy’s father was not faithful. He may have been a believer. The text does not state either way.  But you can be sure Timothy’s mother and grandmother prayed for the entire family often. Paul and others also discipled Timothy.  

  • What was the impact of your mother and/or grandmother on your faith journey? 
  • How about Your father?
  • In what ways are you becoming a “Paul” to someone younger in the faith? 

Tradition states Timothy died in Ephesus when he was over 80 years old (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia). 

Paul’s First Letter to Timothy

Paul first wrote to young Timothy approximately AD 64, probably from either Rome or Macedonia, prior to Paul’s final imprisonment. Timothy and Silas had stayed in Berea after Paul was forced to quickly escape to Athens. The two later rejoin Paul in Athens, before Paul sent young Timothy to Thessalonica. Timothy then rejoins Paul in Corinth, where the group heads out on Paul’s third missionary journey. After 3 months in Ephesus, Paul leaves Timothy there to oversee the church.

Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy with encouragement and instructions.  He had received a favorable report from Timothy but needed to encourage him. Paul begins his letter with fatherly advice referring to Timothy as “my true son” in the faith (1:1-2).  He then warns about the false teachers (1:3-11) and urges him to hold to his faith (1:12-20).

Next, Paul gives his instruction to the church about public worship (2:1-7) and how to maintain order in church meetings (2:8-15). Chapter 3 provides specific criteria for church leaders for each office (3:1-16). 

Paul again speaks about false teachers, giving Timothy guidance on how to recognize and respond to them (4:1-6). Chapter 4 includes the key verse for this letter: “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you love, and your love, your faith, and your purity.” (4:12). 

Next, Paul gives Timothy practical advice on ministering to the young and old, (5:1,2), widows (5:3-16), elders (5:17-25), and slaves (6:1,2). He concludes his letter by exhorting Timothy to guard his motives (6:3-11), to stand firm in his faith (6:11-12), to live above reproach (6:13-16), and to minister faithfully (6:17-21). 

Most scholars believe Paul was released about AD 62 (possibly since the “statute of limitations” had expired for holding him without real cause). Paul could again travel. During the time (around A.D. 64–65), he wrote both 1 Timothy and Titus but did not indicate his location when he wrote Titus.

About Titus

Titus was also an early church leader and trusted companion of the apostle Paul. He became a prime example of a born-again Gentile Christian and proof that the rite of circumcision was unnecessary for salvation (Galatians 2:3). 

Titus was a Greek from the island of Crete. He is said to have studied philosophy and poetry in his early years. During Paul’s first missionary journey, young Titus heard Paul preach about Jesus. Titus had not grown up worshiping the God of the Bible. But after listening to Paul, his heart responded and he believed in Jesus. Like Timothy, Paul also referred to Titus as a “true son of the faith” (Titus 1:4) because he had led him to trust Christ.

After two years in the Roman prison, Paul was released so he and Titus traveled to the island of Crete, where they taught about the need for God and the good news about Jesus (Titus 1:4-5). Soon there were enough believers to start churches in several towns on the island.

Titus continued to travel with Paul on missionary journeys, helping in the work of sharing the gospel. During the three years Paul was in Ephesus, Titus was there with him. After having success on this mission, Titus journeyed north and to meet Paul in Macedonia, where —overjoyed by Titus’ success, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians. Paul then sent Titus to Corinth to alleviate tension there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 13-14) and to collect money for the poor (2 Corinthians 8:6, 16, 23). Titus returned to Corinth with a larger entourage, carrying that harsh letter with him. Titus was considered a troubleshooter, peacemaker, administrator, and missionary.

Several years later, Titus and Paul traveled to the island of Crete, where Titus was left behind to continue and strengthen the work. When Artemas and Tychicus arrived in Crete to direct the ministry, Paul summoned Titus to join him in Nicopolis, a city in the province of Achaia in western Greece (Titus 3:12).

The New Testament does not record Titus’ death. The last mention of him in the Bible indicates that Titus was with Paul during Paul’s final Roman imprisonment. From Rome, Titus was sent to evangelize Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10), an area that became known as Yugoslavia and is now called Serbia and Montenegro. Tradition has it that Titus later returned to Crete and there served out the rest of his life.

Paul’s Letter to Titus

The Epistle of Titus is very similar to 1 Timothy with its instructions to church leaders. It also provides the earliest evidence that the Church had been established on the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Paul opens with a longer-than-usual greeting and introduction, outlining the leadership progression for the church on the island (Titus 1:5). Titus had the responsibility of calling new bishops. Paul would provide the spiritual qualifications (1:6–9). 

Paul encourages Titus to instruct elderly Church members to set examples for the younger Saints and give specific advice to men, women, and servants on proper behavior (2:2–10). He also asks Titus to teach servants to submit to their masters. Paul then explains the manner in which disciples should live as they prepare for the Lord’s return by describing the redemption brought about through Jesus Christ.

Paul teaches in chapter 3 that church members are to be good citizens in the Christian society and avoid divisive arguments (3:9-11). He states that Artemas or Tychicus are coming to take over for Titus since Paul is staying in the city of Nicopolis for the winter.  

Paul’s Second Letter to the Timothy

Paul’s second letter to Timothy was written approximately AD 66 or 67, a year or two after he was arrested again by Emperor Nero. Paul was facing death’ not of disease but of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. He was virtually alone in prison with only Luke alongside. Titus is serving the kingdom of God in Dalmatia (2 Timothy. 4:10). Tychicus is on his way to relieve Timothy in Ephesus so that Paul can see Timothy one last time.

Paul wrote this letter knowing he would be executed and wanted to pass the torch to the new generation of church leaders. 

His introduction is tender and exudes the love he had for Timothy (1:1-5). He then reminds Timothy of the qualities necessary for a faithful minister (1:6-2:13). He reminds Timothy of his call and to use his gifts with boldness in order to prepare others to follow him, be disciplined and be ready to endure suffering. 

Paul challenges Timothy to hold to sound doctrine, reject error and avoid foolish talk and keep his life pure. Next, Paul warns Timothy of the opposition that he and others would face from others who might use the church for their personal gain (3:1-9). 

Paul then gives Timothy a stirring charge to preach the Word of God and to fulfill his ministry until the end. He says he has “fought the good fight and finished the race so the prize of heaven awaits him.” (4:7-8).

Paul concludes with a personal request for visits from his closest friends. He also requests his books, especially his personal papers – possibly parts of the Old Testament, the Gospels, and other biblical manuscripts. In his final words, he reveals his loneliness and his strong love for his brothers and sisters in Christ (4:9-22). 

God Buddy Focus

Paul’s pastoral letters are especially valuable since they reveal the beginnings of the type of church organization that persisted even to this day. These letters also contain practical instructions for mentoring young leaders on the necessity of standing firm in the faith.

This week discuss :

  • Do you have a “Timothy” and a “Titus” in your life? 
  • Who can you encourage to “stand firm in your faith”? Or do you need a “Paul” to help you with instructions on living the Christian life?
  • Find some guys to help fill these gaps in each other’s life and learn about these pastoral letters?

My next post is about Paul’s private letter to Philemon. 


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