JohnSWilson3 Blog

Thoughts About Paul’s First Letter to Timothy and Letter to Titus

It seems that because of the issues that Paul had been informed of by Epaphras that had been occurring in the church at Colosse he decided that God was now having him rethink his desire to go to Spain as he originally had planned. Paul sometimes desired to go and preach in a new place or visit and encourage a church, to spend time with them, but Paul always realized that his plans where not his but the Lord’s. We know that while on his second church planting journey “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” He even mentioned in his letter to the church in Corinth that he desired to spend time with them, “if the Lord permits.”

The issues that the church in Colosse were facing involved a number of things, all of them attempting to replace Jesus Christ as head of His church: deception “by fine sounding arguments,” false teaching that depended upon “human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ,” judging others by what they did or did not do, “the worship of angels,” asceticism “based on human commands and teachings,” “regulations” that involved “self-imposed worship” of “false humility,” and “their harsh treatment of the body.” Additionally, the issue of brothers and sisters being slaves in a household were of particular concern, having met Onesimus a slave and now a brother in Christ, since in Christ all are free and so this is something tugging on Paul’s heart as well. As a result Paul asked Philemon, the owner of Onesimus, to “prepare a guest room for me.” So Paul had a sense that his Roman imprisonment would soon be over and that God was now leading him back the region of Ephesus to deal with the issues brought to him by his church planting assistants. This would seem to be a divine occasion to help his church planting assistants understand how to follow the direction of Christ in helping these churches live by Christ’s life through these difficulties and to move forward in the church’s walk with Christ.

While in Rome Paul has had a number of his church planting assistants with him, perhaps helping assist the church in Rome, those whom had been transplanted from Ephesus to bring Christ’s life into the Imperial City. From the letters to the Colossians, Philemon and Ephesians we are aware of the following church planting assistants who have been with Paul in Rome: Timothy (from Lystra), Aristarchus (from Thessalonica), Mark, Justus, Epaphras (from Colosse), Luke (possibly from Troas), Demas and Tychicus and Onesimus (from Colosse). After the letters are written Tychicus along with Onesimus leaves Rome to hand carry the letters to the church in Ephesus, then to Colosse and Philemon, since Philemon’s household is one place where the church meets in that area.

Looking at the first letter to Timothy and the letter to Titus, it seems that Paul went to Crete first before setting off to Ephesus and Colosse. It is hard to say whether Paul ever returned to Jerusalem or even to Antioch again. It seems that Paul had gotten a very bad taste in his mouth with the Jewish Christian legalism that had been occurring their along with the urgency of needing to get to Colosse. It seems Paul took Titus with him to Crete along with “Zenas the lawyer and Apollos.” Perhaps the reason Paul went back to Crete was to see his friend Barnabas again, because of having Mark with him. Perhaps Mark had given Paul some additional concerns about the church in Crete that needed Paul’s assistance. Given that Apollos was here in Crete and given the Jewish Christian legalism that he has had to continue to confront he and Apollos write a joint letter to the Hebrew Christians, a letter of the absolute supremacy and centrality of Jesus Christ. Paul had written similarly to the church in Colosse and Ephesus, but they were specifically Gentile believers, but here Paul felt a need to write a letter of the same quality to the Jewish Christians. Perhaps Apollos and Mark took the letter to the church in Jerusalem and others had copies and took them to other churches that had a large Jewish Christian presence. While in Jerusalem Mark perhaps got reconnected with Peter and traveled with him to Babylon. The others that were with him in Rome probably were sent to Ephesus and Colosse and some perhaps stayed in Rome. It is difficult to tell. Timothy and some others probably went directly to Ephesus and spent time their assisting the church as they had done before in the past, visiting their gatherings. There were a number of issues that were occurring in the church in Crete, similar issues which Titus had dealt with on many occasions in the church in Corinth and he seemed to be especially discerning of the Holy Spirit when working with churches on spiritual issues that were keeping them from focusing on Christ as head. So Paul left Titus, Zenas and Apollos in Crete to assist the church to live by Christ’s life in an organic way and to help assist it in the issues it was facing.

Paul perhaps traveled to Ephesus to stay for a couple days and then went on to Colosse to visit with his friend Philemon and to see how the church had accepted Onesimus into the body of Christ. While in Colosse and perhaps traveling over to Laodicea Paul makes a point to spend time with his church planting assistants Archippus and Epaphrus who had planted these churches along with others to personally encourage them in their work. As he visited the churches in the region he looked at how the church loved Christ and one another, how they lived by the Spirit, and to be mutually encouraged together in Christ as they gathered, assisting with some of the problems they were dealing with.

After some time he left to return to Ephesus to the church that he had spent quite a lot of time with earlier. After having spent a couple days in Ephesus before going on to Colosse Paul probably got an earful of some issues that Timothy had been observing visiting the church’s gatherings, so Paul is very concerned about this church as well. Paul possibly takes Artemis and Tychicus with him from Colosse when they visit the church. Paul found himself in the midst of issues that he had warned the older Christians in the Ephesian church some time ago, but had let creep into the church any way. He had told them that he knew “that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” Even after having written his letter to the church in Ephesus and they had copied and sent those copies to other churches, it seems that within a year of the letter being read to the church the issues of love and unity were still wholly lacking. They had found themselves dealing with similar issues that had surfaced in the church in Corinth many years earlier. They had not learned the lessons of the other churches. Christ is the head of the church, when something or someone comes in and replaces Christ’s lordship in our lives personally and His headship in our corporate gatherings we are opening ourselves to all kinds of things from the flesh and the enemy. Paul stays for some time seeing how they are dealing with issues of the female cult of Artemis coming into the church, perhaps from new believers who have not learned to put off the old man while in their gatherings, and other various human traditions and paganism. The church was becoming institutional and divisive. Paul must have shed more tears to see this church fall into a life absent of the life of Christ in their gathering together.

Paul left to got to Macedonia. While their he writes his first letter to Timothy to remind him of his church planter responsibilities in helping the church live Christ’s life given the cultural issues of human tradition and paganism that the church was dealing with. While in Macedonia Paul travels visiting the churches in the many various households that he had enjoyed wonderful fellowship in Christ with such Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. But Paul is led to go to Nicopolis in the western region of Epirus where he, Artemis, and Tychicus preach the good news of grace by faith in Jesus Christ and form a gathering of believers who will live by the life of Christ, with Christ as Lord personally and Christ as head corporately. While there he writes a letter to Titus similar to the letter he wrote to Timothy to remind him of his church planting responsibilities in helping the church in Crete live by Christ’s life. Paul knows of Titus’s strong gifting in church planting and really needs him to visit this new church and also lets Titus know that when Artemis or Tychicus arrive that he along with Zenas and Apollos should come and see him “at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter here.”

So here we finish some thoughts on the first letter to Timothy and Titus. Not exact, somewhat speculative, but think it makes some sense. These letters have often been a source of confusion in the church due to the cultural and pagan issues that the churches were dealing with at the time. Additionally we must remember that the letters to Timothy and Titus in Scripture were written to church planters not to pastors; pastoring is a function in the body of Christ not an office or title. While we can learn some things about functioning in the body of Christ from the letters their focus was on helping the church planter helping the body of Christ live by Christ’s life in the cultural setting of that particular church.