As far as New Testament letters go, first and second Timothy and Titus have probably dominated more of my time and study than any other books. To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely certain why I’ve had such a fascination with these letters. Perhaps it’s because they were written to young preachers struggling to adapt to new towns, churches, and still faithfully deal with the struggles and challenges associated with ministry. To that I can relate. Not that I haven’t loved it with my whole life and heart, but it has been challenging to say the least.
Early in the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas referred to these letters as letters that provide something of a pastoral role in the church. This idea stuck and in the 18th century a man named Anton called them the “Pastoral Epistles.” The title “Pastoral Epistles” is a term that you need to remember since most modern writers will refer to them as such.
Now, we know that Timothy and Titus were not pastors in the same way Scripture refers to pastors. In scripture, a pastor (Titus 1:7; Eph. 4:11) is simply another term describing his work in “overseeing” the congregation entrusted to him by the Lord. I believe that some men can use the title provided they are elders appointed by the congregation for the leading and teaching of the congregation. Despite this, the title “pastoral epistles” has been good for the letters in some ways. Mostly because it has helped them to be seen as a group or set of letters.
For the most part, the consensus has been that Paul wrote all three letters (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:1). If you’re like me and accept Scripture as the primary authority on such things, then there is no question to their authenticity and authorship since Paul is called the author at the very beginning of each letter. There have been times in Christian history when scholars and academics questioned this, but the average Christian was never really swayed by such things. We simply take God at his word and move on to more important matters like the meaning.
Several topics are present in these small letters but at their core they are practical letters. In some respects, each letter is an occasional letter, but the theme of a sincere and faithful Christian life still lies at their core. In each letter you will see that Paul is addressing issues that have arose due to some group within the church that is focused on the wrong things and get caught up in an inordinate focus on self. In each letter, Paul quickly reminds them that the goal of the faith is “a love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). For Paul, like Jesus himself, the goal of the faith is about creating a people who love God first and others as themselves (Matt. 22:36-40).