Those "Pastoral" Epistles--1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus
The part of the Bible that is inspired is the text, not the commentary that appears in the margins, in the footnotes at the bottom of the page, or the study notes before each book of the Bible. All of those things were written by men and represent men's opinions. In fact, the divisions of the Bible that we refer to as chapters and verses were put there by man. You don't number your sentences when you write a friendly letter to your cousin, do you? Neither did the inspired writers of the Old and New Testaments.
Men, not God, have called these three books "the pastoral epistles." This name comes from a misunderstanding of what the office of pastor is in the New Testament. Pastor was a term occasionally applied to elders but never to preachers or evangelists, as will be shown. To whom were these letters originally written? They were written to two young preachers, written for the purpose of telling about the organization and operation of the church. These epistles did not sow the seeds of "one man rule" over a congregation; that denominational teaching is the reason for this discussion.
In what capacity were these books written to Timothy and Titus? In what way were they not to be disregarded? Timothy and Titus were not being written to as pastors--they could not have been. "Preacher" and "pastor" come from different Greek words and represent different offices and functions within the church. επισκοπή or ep-is-kop-ay' is one Greek word used for elder in the New Testament. Strong's Greek dictionary says that the word refers to "a superintendent, that is, Christian officer in general charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively): - bishop, overseer." This is the word in Acts 20: 28, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." The office also refers to bishop (I Tim. 3: 1) and has to do with the supervisory capacity of the elder's personality. Most of us would rather approach elders within the second word used in the New Testament, ποιμαίνω poimaino ( poy-mah'ee-no) to tend as a shepherd (or figuratively superviser): - feed (cattle), rule which embodies more of the nurturant, counseling, gentle work of the elder. A third word used for elder in the New Testament is πρεσβύτερος or presbuteros ( pres-boo'-ter-os) Comparative of πρέσβυς presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; specifically an Israelite Sanhedrist (also figuratively, member of the celestial council) or Christian “presbyter”: - elder (-est), old (Strong's dictionary) carries with it the idea of the elder in a congregation being older or being one of the oldest. None of these could have applied to either Timothy or Titus because they were young men in the church. Timothy is referred to as Paul's true child in the faith (I Tim. 1: 2) and was told to "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity" (I Timothy 4: 12, ESV). Titus was called a "true child in the faith" (Titus 1: 4) and like Timothy was told (Titus 2: 7, 8) to "Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. . . Let no one disregard you." (Titus 2: 15). As long as the speaker or preacher of the Gospel is teaching accurately, his words should not be despised or disregarded simply because he is young.
What about the "pastors" of Ephesians 4: 11--"And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers"? Strong's shows "pastor" as " poimen, poy-mane' . . . a shepherd (literally or figuratively): - shepherd, pastor." Pastors and teachers are referred to separately in this passage because they are different people. Neither in this place nor any other in the New Testament is the preacher or teacher referred to with any of these words for elder. In Romans 10: 14 "preacher" is "κηρύσσω, kerusso, kay-roos'-so, . . . to herald (as a public crier), especially divine truth (the gospel): - preach (-er), proclaim, publish." In I Timothy 2: 7, "preacher" was again "a herald of righteousness." In II Timothy 1: 11 the "preacher" there was again, according to Strong's, "κήρυξ kerux, kay'-roox, a herald, that is, of divine truth (especially of the gospel): - preacher." Timothy was (II Timothy 4: 2) to preach (kay-rooso) the word.
The elders, shepherds, and pastors of the New Testament church (by whichever name) always served as a plurality. From a logical and managerial point of view,God did not set up local churches under one-man rule; this would have been to institutionalize dictatorships. He set it up under the leadership of elders or likely under a council of the men of the church with the local preacher as a servant to all until such time qualified elders could be found. Why were the young preachers (heralds) charged with the ordination of elders and deacons? A simple maturity factor. Men could become preachers much earlier in their spiritual growth than they could become elders or deacons. Preachers and members can identify the qualities of elders and deacons among their men even if they have not yet attained them. Titus was given the charge to ordain or appoint elders in every town (Titus 1: 5) in order to amend what was defective (RSV). The congregation that has been in existence for a long time without growing elders is a congregation that is wanting, lacking, or defective (depending upon translation). An additional responsibility given to Timothy was the enrolling of widows to receive the help of the church. And Titus was given instruction about what to tell both the older men (further pointing out his youthful status) and fellow young men (Titus 2).
What does it mean, "Let no man despise your youth"? Even if the Gospel of Christ is being preached by a youthful speaker, if his message is scriptural and accurate, it should be heard by all, and the fact of the youthfulness of the speaker should not be used to disregard or dismiss God's word. Remember Jesus' words in Luke 10:16--"He that heareth you heareth me; and he that rejecteth you rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me rejecteth him that sent me." The situation is exactly as Jesus described the soils in Luke 8. Some will not allow the word to enter their hearts at all. Some will keep Jesus's commands for only a short period of time. A third personality will remain faithful for quite a while but then be comsumed by the cares and temptations of this world. A fourth group--a distinct minority--will stay faithful and will produce many other Christians. It is because of that group that preachers keep on preaching. The power of the Gospel is not necessarily in the communicator. Some people will tend to ignore a preacher of 16 because they think he is too young. At 26 they think the preacher can relate to the young folks but not to anyone older. At 36 they aren't quite sure what to make of him. At 46 they think he is hopelessly lost in his middle-age crisis. At 56 they think he can't relate to young people or their parents. At 66 they think he can relate only to the retirement crowd. When he is 76 they will then say that he is too old to relate to anyone. In reality they never intended to accept the word of the Lord. "Let no man despise thy youth" is an admonition to keep on preaching anyway. II Timothy 4: 2-5 "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
Click on the doorway above
to return to the sermons index page.