Overview of Pastoral Letters
and Study of 1 Timothy 1-6
December 13th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Overview of Pastoral Letters

The New Testament includes four letters written by Paul to specific pastors at other churches. These are the only books in the New Testament that are named after a person but are not eponymous. Any previous book in the Gospels or letters that is named after a person was assumed to have been written by that person. Therefore the title of these four books might be a little misleading at first, so it's important to remember that they represent letters written from Paul to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Although the letters were written to a specific person they were intended to have wider implications for directing all of Paul’s lieutenants, and certainly have application for you and me.

Most of the themes apply very well to our situations today. One of the letters to Timothy includes a scripture verse regarding money that is very applicable for our culture but is one of the most misquoted verses from the Bible. We will read that one today.

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

1 Timothy 1-6 (Guard What Has Been Entrusted to You)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

But you, man of God, avoid all these things. Strive for righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

- 1 Timothy 6:11 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

This letter was written while Paul was in Macedonia. It includes instructions to Timothy for organizing the church and dealing with false teachers while serving in Ephesus. Paul greets Timothy warmly in chapter 1 and reviews with him the objectives of his assignment in Ephesus:

Paul also holds himself up as the best example of Grace – he was a blasphemer and the worst type of sinner but even he has been shown mercy and permitted to be in God’s service.

In chapter 2 Paul provides instructions for worship that might have been appropriate for the time and place of Timothy’s service in Ephesus, but not necessarily for today. Certainly, some of the points are timeless, such as the emphasis on the fact that Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and any individual person. However some of his guidance regarding a subservient role of woman in worship clearly are not fit for our time. We should all be servants of one another, not one gender or one class of people serving others.

Paul says in chapter 3 that the leaders of the church have to live respectable lives so that they will not be tempted and will be considered trustworthy. In chapter 4, Paul encourages Timothy to continue to tell the truth as a defense against false teaching. He advises Timothy not to “let anyone look down on you because you are young (1 Tim 4:12 - NIV)” but instead set an example in the way he lives his live and persist in using his gifts to serve God.

In the last two chapters Paul counsels Timothy on how to relate to specific categories of people: Older, younger, widows, and others. He also addresses the topic of money and its false allure:

Paul closes with a charge for Timothy, warning him to avoid the temptation but instead flee from sin and “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (1 Tim 6:11 - NIV).” He also tells Timothy to give the same advice to the rich so that they will not put their trust in wealth that is uncertain, and advises Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to him (1 Tim 6:20 - NIV).”

Reflection and Application

Timothy had accompanied Paul on many mission trips including the first Christian missionary trip to Europe as described in Acts 16:9. Timothy was appointed as head pastor in Ephesus where he was serving when this letter and the next one arrived, probably around 63-64 A.D.

Few of us can claim the authority or persuasive power of Paul, but one thing that we all have in common with this saint is that we were sinners but have been shown mercy and allowed to serve God. Paul’s sin was the worst kind – he persecuted Christians and had set out to destroy the Christian church before it developed deep roots. He participated in the stoning of Stephen, as described in Acts, and probably encouraged others to do the same.

Yet, God signed him up for his team, and forgave him. When we share the good news with others we might want to mention this type of mercy as one of our key points – no one is beyond redemption. Nobody is irredeemable.

I confess that I don’t understand Paul’s repeated emphasis on an inferior role of woman. Perhaps we need to conduct further study of the Greek and Roman culture of the times. But it’s also important to re-emphasize that Jesus never suggested there was a gender hierarchy. We might think that gender segregation in the church is a problem that was resolved long ago, and it certainly has been in some places, but not all.

Mary Daly (1928-2010) was a professor, author, and lecturer who encountered gender-based hierarchy in the modern Christian church and devoted her career to fighting the status quo in order to empower women in religious roles.

According to the New York Times, Daly moved to Switzerland after earning her doctorate degree in theology because there were limited opportunities for woman in the United States. Daly returned to the US as the situation improved and in 1971, became the first woman to preach at Harvard’s Memorial church. While Daly was a professor at Boston College in the 1970s she did not allow men to register for her woman’s and religious studies because “they sucked up the energy in the classroom.” When she gave lectures to audiences of both genders she refused to take questions from men – so that they would understand how it feels to be ignored (1).

One of our roles as Christians is to ensure that no one in our churches is ignored because of gender, race, age, or other attributes. Unfortunately this is still a challenge, but Paul has made clear that there is only one mediator to God, Jesus Christ, therefore the rest of us are all equal in our relation as children and servants of God.

In this book we find one of the most often misquoted verses from the Bible. Think about how often have you heard the following expression: “Money is the root of all evil.” It seems to get used a lot these days, and was included in a popular song by Pink Floyd, an English progressive rock band of the 1960s and 1970s:

In this lyrical critique of greed, Waters correctly notes that “they say” that money is the root of all evil, but many people mistakenly believe that the Bible says the same thing. If we hear that misattribution we can gently correct our peers by noting that the Apostle Paul says “the love of money is the root of all evil.”

It’s not the money itself that is evil, but our attitude about it can be evil. If we seek to increase our collection of money at any price, then we have a love that is evil. If we seek to accumulate money to care for our families, then earn it honestly, and give back to God what is his, then we are most likely not guilty of loving money. Instead, we are respecting money and acting as good stewards. Moreover, money and wealth are fleeting and uncertain. The financial and natural disasters of the early 21st century are a reminder for anyone who doubts this fact.

Paul tells Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to him” and we can be assured that he would say the same thing to us. What has been entrusted to us? All of us have been entrusted with the word of God and if we understand it will want to share it. We are also entrusted with specific gifts and perhaps some degree of wealth, all of which we ought to guard and use wisely. Youth can be one of those gifts. If we consider ourselves young, then we should recognize how it’s a gift and not be timid regarding teaching others of any age – as long as we do so respectfully.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is the oldest coin that you have ever seen?
    2. How do we make sure that no one feels ignored in our churches?
    3. How do we avoid the evil of the love of money?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you see all us equally and offer great mercy. Help us to love you not money.

    Prayer Concern
    Professional Money Managers


    (1) Corbett, Sara, “Mary Daly Gyno-Theologian”, New York Times Magazine, December 26th, 2010, p14-15

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of 2 Timothy (All Scripture is God-Breathed)

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