The Church in the Pastoral Epistles - Introduction
T. Ernest Wilson, USA
Among the mysteries committed to the apostle Paul was that of the Church, Col. 1. 25-27. In the Epistle to the Ephesians he expounds more the great truth of the Church as the body of Christ, but in the Pastoral Epistles he places the emphasis on the local church. Seeing that these three letters are the last of Paul's writings, the instructions found in them are important. Many of the truths found in them are expounded in his earlier Epistles, particularly in 1 Corinthians. But in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus there is a good deal of supplementary material, especially in relation to church government and various important matters connected with discipline, women's ministry and the responsibility of the church to care for needy saints such as elderly widows. In Titus he stresses the necessity to maintain the balance of good works along with sound doctrine.
Timothy and Titus were among Paul's most beloved and trusted fellow-workers; both in; the Gospel and in serving the saints. Both of them apparently were his sons in the faith, 1 Tim. 1.2; Titus 1. 4. They seem to have been very different in their disposition and character. Timothy was sensitive, diffident, weakly in body and in need of encouragement and support. Titus was a man of conviction, one who could face up to a difficult situation and be faithful and successful in it. Both men had had considerable experience in the work of the Lord previously. Timothy had been specially used at Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth. Titus was the man who had been used as the test case in the controversy over circumcision which was resolved at Jerusalem and had been outstandingly used of God at Corinth, 2 Cor. 7. 13-15; 8. 6, 16, 17, 23. Obviously, neither of them was a novice.
It is interesting to notice the work in which these two servants of God were engaged at Ephesus and Crete respectively. They had been sent there by Paul as apostolic delegates with a specific function to perform. Timothy had to abide still at Ephesus while Paul went into Macedonia. His responsibility was to charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, 1 Tim. 1. 3-4. The first letter addressed to him contains instructions as to how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, 3. 14-15. The work of Titus at Crete was quite different. Paul left him there that he might set in order the things that were wanting and ordain elders in every city, Titus 1. 5. In Ephesus a recognised group of elders was already functioning. This was not so at Crete and the task given to Titus was to rectify this. The word "set in order" means to straighten out. Having thus improved things he was to safeguard the future of the work by pointing out those who should be esteemed as elders among them.
There is not the slightest foundation in these Epistles for the idea that the work of Timothy at Ephesus or Titus in Crete was a permanent or long term arrangement. They did not become resident pastors of local churches. There was already a plurality of elders at Ephesus functioning in the normal way, Acts 20. 17, 28. The instructions in 1 Timothy 3. 1-7 form a check list of qualifications for those who were doing pastoral work in the assembly. Neither was Timothy sent there to act as a chairman or superintendent over elders. His presence and ministry would restrain those who were introducing erroneous teaching and counteract this with healthy teaching and practice. Paul exhorts him to do the work of an evangelist which would keep him mobile and with his face towards a needy world, 2 Tim. 4. 5. Paul also entreats him to come to him before winter, involving a journey to Rome which was a considerable distance from Ephesus, 2 Tim. 4. 21. The letter to Titus was probably written in A.D. 65 whilst 2 Timothy, Paul's last letter, would have been written in a.d. 66. In it we find that Titus had already gone to Dalmatia, our modern Albania, which is a long way from Crete. Apparently his stay on the island of Crete was of a very temporary nature, 2 Tim. 4. 10. It is obvious that the present ministerial system has no Scriptural basis for its existence in the work in which these two servants of God were engaged.
If one could make a distinction between the teaching in the three letters it would seem that the emphasis in 1 Timothy is "Order in the house of God". In Titus the insistence is upon "good works" j conduct and behaviour must correspond with doctrine. In 2 Timothy the individual rather than the collective testimony is in view, so general is the departure of the last days which is described in it. Or to put it in another way, in 1 Timothy we have the house of God, in Titus the grace of God and in 2 Timothy the man of God.