Why All Believers, Not Just Pastors, Should Study the Pastoral Epistles

Jon English Lee
| May 3, 2013

While preparing to teach on the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus), I found some helpful thoughts from the commentaries of both William Hendrickson and Matthew Henry on why we should study them. [1] Below is an amalgamation of both of their ideas, along with some of my own. We can clearly see that the pastorals have great value to all believers, even if we aren’t pastors.

1. The Pastorals bring clarity to church life.

What should public worship look like? What things can be a part of worship? Singing? A Choir? Instruments? Led by men? Women? Offering? What should that look like?

What about the Ordinances/Sacraments? What are they? How many are there? Catholics say 7. Some say foot-washing should be one. We Baptists say two: Baptism and Lord’s Supper. But why? What about the Lord’s Supper? How often do we observe? What does it mean? Who can partake? Any Believer, or only our members?

What about church membership? Is that biblical? What does it take to be a member? What does it take to lose membership?

Should there be teaching? If so, what should it look like? Preaching or Bible study? By men, or women? What qualifications must a man have to be a pastor or elder? Is there a difference between those two offices? What roles can women fill in church life? How should pastoral care be administered among the body? Counseling? Ministry to young men? Aged women? Young women?

2. The Pastorals stress sound doctrine.

Is the Bible the word of God, or is it just a testament to revelation? Is it true that it makes no difference what a person believes, as long as he or she believes it sincerely?

If doctrine does matter, what happens when someone holds wrong doctrine? How must one deal with heretics?

3. The Pastoral Epistles demand consecrated living.

Is it possible for a person to have sound doctrine but corrupt practices? Should growth in holiness be a concern of the church, or is that a private matter between God and us? Must evil men be disciplined? If so, how soon? How should it take place?

4. The Pastoral Epistles answer the question, “Are Creeds of any value?”

This one has fallen onto hard times recently, especially among Baptists. But, historically, Baptists have been a very creedal, or confessional, people. We had both the 1st and 2nd London Baptist Confessions (1644 and 1689, respectively), which were drawn up in continuity with the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession.  Later, American Baptists drew up the Philadelphia Baptist Confession (1742), the New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833), the Abstract of Principles (1858), and the Baptist Faith and Message (1925, 1963, and 2000), among others.

Do we have biblical precedent for creeds and confessions? Did the early church believe in creedal formulations, pithy sayings, and other means of transmitting the truth of the gospel to enquirers and to the youth? Were there any hymns? Is the slogan, “No Creed but Christ,” in harmony with the teaching of the Pastoral Epistles?

5. The Pastoral Epistles tell us about the closing activities and events in the life of Paul.

Does Acts tell us Paul’s whole story? Or can we fill in more details about Paul’s ministry? These are the last letters to be written by Paul, and as such, they carry wisdom and perspective that Paul had gained throughout the course of his ministry. We can garner bits of wisdom that help form our missiology, evangelistic, and church planting strategies, because these were letters written from one of the earliest and greatest church planters (Paul) to a couple of his younger protégés (Timothy and Titus).

6. The Pastoral Epistles teach us about Scripture.

This is especially important in our generation where the doctrine of Scripture is under attack from several angles. Is the whole Bible God’s word? Is every word inspired, or only the thoughts? How should scripture be used? Is it merely for teaching? Or can it be used in other ways? Are there parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us, and if so, how do we know which ones?

There are tons of questions that must be addressed if the church is to run as God intends. We aren’t, however, left to guess on a lot of these matters. God has graciously given us instructions regarding the life of His church; the Pastoral Epistles contain much of those instructions. The Great Shepherd has blessed His bride with this wisdom, and we would be wise to heed it as such.

Jon English Lee
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[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: On the Whole Bible 6 Volume Set (Hendrickson, 2006). William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy and Titus, First Edition (Baker Book House, 1979).