Date: c. A.D. 64
After Paul’s release from prison in A.D. 62, he spent about two years traveling (some early sources say as far as Spain), both preaching the gospel and encouraging the churches that were in existence. He was rearrested in 64 and probably died in that year. Sometime between his two imprisonments Paul wrote three letters (I, II Timothy, and Titus) called the “pastoral letters” to his associates in Ephesus and on the island of Crete. Timothy seems to have been the younger of the two men and with a single church; Titus appears to have been an ambassador of some sort whose job it was to appoint elders and oversee the affairs of many churches.
Paul’s first letter is basically practical, dealing with matters related to living a Christian life. There is also important doctrinal material. False views were developing. Some individuals wanted to establish little empires for themselves independently of the established churches.
Theological Themes in the Epistle of I Timothy
In a short summary of who Jesus was, Paul outlined some essentials of the faith (3:16). Christian faith is a profound mystery; God alone knows all there is to know. Our job is to trust God and not worry about things over which we have no control. Christ’s incarnation and resurrection are at the heart of what we believe. Jesus could have remained forever one with the Father in all his eternal glory, but that would have meant our eternal loss. But because of his love for us, he was willing to leave all that temporarily behind so that he might bring us to salvation. Paul’s short doctrinal abstract ends with an emphasis on Christ’s ascension and the preaching of the gospel to the world.
Paul also reiterated other theological points such as the place of prayer, the resurrection, the nature of God, and the benefits of the death of Christ.
The practical material in this letter covers two areas, public church life and private existence. The material about church life should be studied carefully by anyone who aspires to be a church officer. Paul listed the requirements for those who want to serve as bishops (or elders) and deacons. There are some differences in the requirements but basically they require that a person be wholly committed in life and heart. There is also a leader designated to look after the widows, an unusually large category of women in antiquity. The fact that there are church officers indicates that we all have a need for order and regularity. Just as a household or a business cannot run well without leaders and regulations, so the church must have its officers, guided by the Spirit and answerable to God and the people.
The material devoted to practical Christian living covers human relationships and actions. There is material for children, parents, husbands, wives, and servants. There is also a stress on freedom properly exercised. Evidently there were some who wanted to run the lives of others, but Paul would not allow that. We are to make up our own minds about what to eat or drink, whether to marry and how to handle our affairs (4:1-10). Our basic human needs are not to be despised because God made us this way. But they are not to dominate us, turning us into gluttons, drunkards, or adulterers. Everything must be put in its proper place under the guidance of the Spirit and with an attitude of humility.
Outline for the Epistle of I Timothy
- Greetings and charge to Timothy I Timothy 1:1-20
- Church officers and worship I Timothy 2:1-3:16
- General regulations I Timothy 4:1-16
- Specific regulations and instructions I Timothy 5:1-6:10
- Final charge to Timothy I Timothy 6:11-21
Date: c. A.D. 64-66
Paul’s second letter to Timothy was probably the last one he wrote. He had been arrested and was in prison (4:6), knowing that the end was at hand. It is a letter filled with courage and strength, showing us what kind of person Paul really was–or, better, what kind of person God can help us to be if we trust in him. The letter consists basically of four charges directed to Timothy from the aged Paul.
Theological Themes in the Epistle of II Timothy
In the first charge, Paul reminded Timothy of his godly heritage. His grandmother and mother had set a wonderful example and Timothy was to follow it. It is impossible to overestimate the influence of our homes and parents. As parents and others live godly lives, younger ones absorb that atmosphere and become like that themselves. When we are parents our task is to continue that pattern so our children will live before the Lord as well. It is significant that Paul singled out the two women for commendation, whether because the father was an unbeliever or deceased. In any case, by the grace of God, one parent can do it if necessary.
That charge continues with Paul reminding Timothy to rekindle his gift. We have all been given endowments by God, but they must be used. If they are not, they will wither and die, like an unused muscle. If we exercise our gifts, they will grow and be strengthened. In Timothy’s case this included defending the faith against error.
The second charge is in essence a command to be strong in God’s grace. Paul used a marvelous collection of metaphors to describe the Christian life. A Christian is like a soldier whose task it is to do his commander’s will. No soldier would dare go off on his own in the midst of battle, nor would a faithful Christian desert his post when engaged in fighting evil. Paul had used this metaphor before, describing it as the armor of God that we are to wear as we stand against the evil of our day (Eph. 6:1-17). The Christian is also like an athlete who prepares for the race, runs hard, and goes by the rules. We too must remember that, as Christians, discipline and honesty count for a great deal if we are to succeed. Finally, the Christian is like a farmer who breaks up the stubborn earth to bring out the best that is in it. A farmer’s life is never easy, but the rewards are worth it. So too, for a Christian, we put our hand to the plow and do not turn back. In all of those figures we have before us the example of Jesus Christ. The third charge is to be watchful over the flock and vigilant concerning the world. God has all kinds of people in his church and all must be cared for. As for ourselves we are to shun evil passions, live with a pure heart, and avoid controversies. The servant of God must not be quarrelsome and bigoted. If one is, that is a sure sign that God is not there. With respect to the world, God’s servant must be aware of its evil and refuse to be a part of it. In the world there will be greed, arrogance, hatred, and indecency. Those sins must be kept out of the life of the church and of Christians. The tragedy is that sometimes these very things are to be found even among believers. When that happens, they must be compassionately but firmly dealt with.
Paul’s fourth charge is to preach the word and be an example to the congregation. We are to be ready at all times to do whatever needs to be done to accomplish God’s will. Paul closed this section with the memorable words, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (4:7). Timothy was to remember that he was not alone. Others had gone before him, setting an example for him.
Outline for the Epistle of II Timothy
- Greetings II Timothy 1:1-5
- First charge: Remember your part; rekindle your gift II Timothy 1:6-18
- Second charge: Be strong in the grace of God II Timothy 2:1-19
- Third charge: Be watchful II Timothy 2:20-3:17
- Fourth charge: Preach the word II Timothy 4:1-8
- Concluding greetings II Timothy 4:9-22