The Pastoral Epistles – 1&2 Timothy, Titus

Since 1703 these epistles have been called the “Pastoral Epistles”. This can be either misleading or helpful depending upon how you define that.

If we permit present day ecclesiastical thinking to interpret this then we may think they were written to two young “pastors” or clergymen of these local assemblies. Of course, the NT knows nothing of our modern day ecclesiastical systems. Timothy and Titus were not “pastors” in the modern day sense. They were gifted young believers whom the apostle Paul sent on specific short term missionary journeys.

If, however, we see the title “pastoral epistles” as describing epistles that give invaluable guidance and direction in shepherding and leading the Lord’s sheep, then it is a good and accurate description.

And it is also a convenient way of grouping three similar epistles. We do this with Paul’s other epistles: the Prison Epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon) since Paul wrote these during his first imprisonment at the end of the book of Acts. Then we have another group known as the Evangelical Epistles (Galatians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Corinthians, and Romans).

What are some of the differences between these epistles and Paul’s other writings?

  1. They were written to individuals, not to specific assemblies or a group of assemblies. Philemon is the other exception. Although written to individuals it is clear the apostle assumed they would be read publicly and thus have a wider application including us here today! The introductions citing his apostolic authority would be out of place if these were just meant for Timothy and Titus.
  2. The style and wording shows similarities within the group and differences from Paul’s other epistles. Some modern day critics suggest this is explained by the fact that Paul was now old and incapable of the doctrinal heights of his younger days. Worse, some “scholars” suggest that an unknown forger wrote the letters as late as the second century. There is no evidence for this, it is mere speculation and the earliest “church fathers” such as Clement of Rome, Polycarp (a disciple of the apostle John), and others as early as AD 95 reference the letters and accepted them as genuinely from the apostle Paul. So why the different language used? Different subject matter oftentimes requires different vocabulary and style, right? Simple.

Emphasized words/phrases in the Pastorals:

Faith or the faith – 32 times. A major theme is the attitude of some toward “the faith”.

  1. Some suffered “shipwreck” concerning the faith (1 Timothy 1:19)
  2. Some would depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1)
  3. Some would deny the faith (1 Timothy 5:8)
  4. Some would cast off their first faith (1 Timothy 5:12)
  5. Some would be “seduced away” from the faith (1 Timothy 6:10)
  6. Some would “err or miss the mark” concerning the faith (1 Timothy 6:21)

Sound – 9 times. Sound = healthy, health-giving; the Greek word is where we get our English word “hygiene”

  1. Sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10, 2 Timothy 4:3, Titus 1:9, 2:1)
  2. Sound (wholesome) words: (1 Timothy 6:3, 2 Timothy 1:13)
  3. Sound speech (Titus 2:8)
  4. Sound in the Faith (Titus 1:13, 2:2)

Godliness, godly – 15 times. The Greek word means “reverence for God or piety”. It can be described as the NT equivalent to the OT “fear of the LORD”. It is the outward evidence of the soundness of one’s doctrine. (1 Timothy 1:4, 2:2, 10, 3:16, 4:7, 8, 5:4 (KJV piety), 6:3, 5, 6, 11, 2 Timothy 3:5, 12, Titus 1:1, 2:12)

Sophron – 10 times. (greek word meaning, soberness, serious-minded, with the sense of reserving one’s mind for things that are truly important). It is variously translated by the KJV as “sober, sober-minded, sound mind, temperate, discreet”. (1 Timothy 2:9, 15, 3:2, 2 Timothy 1:7, Titus 1:8, 2:2, 4, 5, 6, 12)

Good Works – 13 times. (1 Timothy 2:10, 3:1, 5:10, 25, 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:21, 3:17, Titus 1:16, 2:7, 14, 3:1, 8, 14)

God our Saviour – 5 times. (1 Timothy 1:1, 2:3, Titus 1:3, 2:10, 3:4) Only other occurrence in the NT is Jude 25. Typically, the NT indicates Jesus as Saviour, but here it emphasizes God the Father as Saviour. He is Saviour in the sense that He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and will give eternal life to all who trust in Christ alone for their salvation. The phrase “our Saviour” is also ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Timothy 1:10 and Titus 1:4, 3:5 indicating his deity and part in our salvation. It is also worth noting that Hebrews tells us that Christ offered himself “through the eternal Spirit” so all three persons of the Godhead had a role in our salvation.

This is a faithful (true) saying – 5 times. Literally “faithful the word”. Faithful = trustworthy.


Timothy first appears in scripture in Acts 16:1. He was from Lystra and he had a good testimony before the saints. His mother (Eunice, a Jew) and his grandmother (Lois) were both believers (2 Timothy 1:5). The only mention of his father was that he was a Greek. He likely was not a believer, given no further references to him. Paul calls him “my child” (KJV, son) on three occasions, so it can be inferred that Timothy came to know the Lord through Paul’s ministry. It is possible he was saved during Paul’s first journey through Lystra recorded in Acts 14. This would place Timothy’s conversion around AD 47.

Paul chose him to go with him on his 2nd missionary journey beginning in Acts 16. He was circumcised by Paul so as not to incite the Jews since they knew his father was a Greek. He went with Paul and Silas to Macedonia, Philippi, and Thessalonica. It appears that when Paul and Silas were sent out of Thessalonica, Timothy stayed behind and rejoined them later at Berea (Acts 17:10,14). Paul left them there then they later caught up with him in Corinth.

He was with the apostle on the third missionary journey as well (Acts 19:22, 20:4). Paul sent him to Corinth to bring to remembrance Paul’s ways in Christ (1 Corinthians 4:17, 16:10).

Timothy is mentioned as associated with Paul in three of the four Prison Epistles. After Paul’s release from his first imprisonment (after the end of the Acts), Timothy was sent to Philippi (Philippians 2:19-24). Then it seems he rejoined Paul in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) and was left there by the apostle as described in 1 Timothy 1. It is now about summer AD 64. They likely met only once more and the parting of ways was a sad one (2 Timothy 1:4). Paul was rearrested and imprisoned again and would soon put to death for the testimony of Christ. Under this threat he writes to Timothy once more and urges him to join him in Rome before the winter (2 Timothy 4:21). This is likely the winter of AD 67. It is unknown whether Timothy made it to Rome before Paul’s execution.

Hebrews 13:23 tells us Timothy was imprisoned and released sometime during his ministry, but no other details are given.

No other companion of Paul was held in such high esteem as Timothy. Timothy received much praise from the apostle (1 Corinthians 16:10, Philippians 2:20-22).

1 Timothy

Three Primary Purposes for the Epistle


  1. Doctrinal Responsibility: That Timothy would charge those in Ephesus to “teach no other doctrine”. 1:3
  2. Personal Responsibility: That Timothy might “war the good warfare”. 1:18
  3. Assembly Responsibility: That Timothy would know how one “ought to behave himself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” 3:15


Verse 1:


Apostle = sent one. The word indicates that the letter is not a mere personal communication to a friend; it comes with the authority of Jesus Christ. He is sent from Christ and commissioned to speak for Christ. The criteria for being an apostle in the primary sense:

  • Divine Call: 1 Corinthians 1:1
  • Witness of the Risen Christ: Acts 1:22, 1 Corinthians 9:1
  • Signs of an Apostle: 2 Corinthians 12:12

Lord Jesus Christ, our hope. Hope is here connected with all that God has purposed in and for us. All the promises of God toward us and all the spiritual blessings we enjoy are ours because of Jesus Christ, “our hope”. Note also Ephesians 2:14, where Christ is “our peace” and Colossians 3:4, where Christ is “our life”.


Verse 2:


KJV reads “own son”. This is better translated “true child” (greek: teknon: born one). This is a touching, endearing term for Timothy from Paul, likely indicating that Timothy was saved through the apostles preaching as stated earlier.


Grace, mercy, and peace. Only in the Pastorals does Paul add “mercy” to his salutations. These are written to individuals rather than assemblies so it is fitting to add “mercy”. Bill Macdonald states that “mercy speaks of God’s compassionate care and protection for one who is needy and prone to fail.” The source of these three blessings is “God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here the Lordship of Christ is emphasized. The word Saviour occurs 24 times in the NT (surprised?!?). The word Lord occurs 522 times. What do you think the Spirit of God is trying to get across to us?


Verse 3:


Paul had likely verbally told Timothy this prior to his leaving for Macedonia, but this would serve as a reminder and also add apostolic authority to Timothy’s task.


The word charge usually denotes “to command” per Vines. Being a military term it could be translated “give strict orders to”. “That they teach no other doctrine” could be translated “that they not teach a DIFFERENT doctrine”. The concern of the apostle for the assembly at Ephesus had apparently come to fruition (Acts 20:29-30).


Verse 4:


It’s impossible to know for sure what these “fables and endless genealogies” were. Some suggest that “fables” were linked with an offshoot of Judaism and “genealogies” were associated with Gnosticism. At any rate, there always are worthless subjects that invariably “minister questions” or doubts and contentions. Sound or healthy doctrine is the opposite as it brings godly edification.


Verse 5:


Commandment does not refer to the Law. It is referring back to Paul’s charge to Timothy. The goal of this charge or commandment is to produce love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of sincere faith. These can only be produced in an atmosphere of sound doctrine that Timothy is to proclaim. The false doctrines must be stopped so sound doctrines can flourish.


Verse 6:


From which (love out of a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith) some have “swerved” or missed the mark, erred. Not only did they “miss the mark”, but “turned aside” an act of the will to purposely follow after “vain jangling”, which means idle talk. Their preaching was empty, producing nothing.


Note the use of the word “some”. It is used in 1:3, 1:6, 1:19, 4:1, 5:15, 24, 25, 6:10, 6:21. It seems the false teachers were a minority at the writing of 1 Timothy. However, by the time of 2 Timothy, “some” is no longer a prominent word and the minority had become the majority.


Verse 7:


The false teachers wanted to be “law teachers”. Judaizers: mixing Judaism and Christianity. Law and grace. They taught that Christ alone was not enough, but believers must keep the law too. They had no idea what they were talking about. This wicked system of “works salvation” still flourishes today. It is the primary teaching of all world religions and cults.


Verse 8:


It’s not that the law is bad, in fact, it is “good”. (Romans 7:12). But it must be used lawfully. In other words, not as the way of salvation. It condemns, not saves. It must be used to show one that he is a sinner and can’t save himself. Galatians 3:24.


Verses 9-10:


The law is not made for someone who is “righteous”, in other words, already saved. It has done it’s job showing that person to be a sinner, unable to save himself. It is made for those who are not saved to reveal their sinfulness to them so that they might turn to Christ in faith.


Many Bible commentators have pointed out that there seems to be a link between this list and the 10 Commandments.


  • Lawless and disobedient – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”
  • Ungodly and sinners – “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain”
  • Unholy and profane – “Thou shalt remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”
  • Murderers of fathers and mothers – “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother”
  • Manslayers – “thou shalt not murder”
  • Whoremongers, homosexuals – “Thou shalt not commit adultery”.
  • Menstealers (kidnappers) – “Thou shalt not steal”
  • Liars, perjured persons – “Thou shalt not bear false witness”
  • Any other thing contrary to sound (healthy) doctrine, summarizes all the commandments.