(From the Series: CONCISE NEW TESTAMENT SURVEY found at Bible.org)
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
As declared in 1:1 and 2:18, all evidence (external and internal) supports the claim of the book that Paul is the author of 1 Thessalonians. Early church fathers support Paul’s authorship beginning as early as A.D. 140 (Marcion). Those things that characterize Paul are evident throughout (cf. 3:1-2, 8-11 with Acts 15:36; 2 Cor. 11:28). In addition, a number of historical allusions in the book fit Paul’s life as recounted in Acts and in his own letters (cf. 2:14-16; 3:1, 2, 5-6 with Acts 17:1-15). In view of this evidence, few (some radical critics of the nineteenth century) have ever questioned Paul’s authorship.
As the first of two canonical epistles to the church at Thessalonica, this book was called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis A, “First to the Thessalonians.”
DATE: A.D. 51-52
Both 1 and 2 Thessalonians were written from Corinth during the apostle’s eighteen-month stay in that city (cf. Acts 18:1-11). The first epistle was written during the earlier part of that period just after Timothy had returned from Thessalonica with news of the progress of the church. The second letter was dispatched just a few weeks (or at the most a few months) later. Any date assigned will have to be approximate, though probably A.D. 51-52.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The purpose and burden of the apostle in writing to the Thessalonians can be summarized as follows: to express his thankfulness for what God was doing in the lives of the Thessalonians (1:2-3), to defend himself against a campaign to slander his ministry (2:1-12), to encourage them to stand fast against persecution and pressure to revert to their former pagan lifestyles (3:2-3; 4:1-12), to answer a doctrinal question pertaining to the fate of Christians who had died (4:1-13), to answer questions regarding the “Day of the Lord” (5:1-11), and to deal with certain problems that had developed in their corporate life as a church (5:12-13; 19-20).
Two key words and concepts stand out in this short epistle: “sanctification” (4:3, 4, 7), and “the coming of the Lord,” which is referred to in every chapter of the epistle (1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23). The coming of the Lord should not only comfort our hearts, but stir us to godly living.
- 1:9-10. For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 1:10 and to wait for his son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.
- 2:13. And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work among you who believe.
- 4:1-3. Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; (NASB)
- 4:13-18. Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and arose, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. 4:15 For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will arise first. 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be snatched up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always. 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Chapters 4 and 5 undoubtedly stand out as key chapters because of their teaching on both the coming of the Lord for the church, the rapture (4:13-18), and the day of the Lord (5:1-11), the time in the future when He will intervene in human events to consummate His redemption and judgment.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 1 THESSALONIANS:
With the coming of the Lord mentioned in every chapter, Christ is presented as the believer’s hope of salvation both now and at His coming. When He comes, He will deliver us from wrath (undoubtedly a reference to the Tribulation) (1:10; 5:4-11), give rewards (2:19), perfect us (3:13), resurrect us (4:13-18), and sanctify (set apart) all those who have trusted in Him (5:23).
- The Past: The Work of Faith (1:1-3:13)
- The Commendation of the Thessalonians (1:1-10)
- The Evaluation of Paul (1:1-4)
- The Evidence of Life (1:5-7)
- The Explanation of the Evidence (1:8-10)
- The Conduct of the Apostle and His Fellow Workers (2:1-12)
- Their Witness (2:1-2)
- Their Word (2:3-7a)
- Their Walk (2:7b-12)
- The Conduct of the Thessalonians (2:13-16)
- Their Reception of the Word (2:13)
- Their Response to the Word (2:14)
- The Rejection of the Word (2:15-16)
- The Concern of the Apostle (2:17-20)
- His Heart for the Thessalonians (2:17)
- His Hindrance by Satan (2:18)
- His Hope in the Thessalonians (2:19-20)
- The Confirmation of the Thessalonians (3:1-10)
- The Sending of Timothy (3:1-5)
- The Report of Timothy (3:6-10)
- The Concluding Prayer (3:11-13)
- The Prayer That He Might Return to the Thessalonians (3:11)
- The Prayer That the Thessalonians Might Grow in Love (3:12)
- The Prayer That Their Hearts Might Be Established in Holiness (3:13)
- The Commendation of the Thessalonians (1:1-10)
- The Present: The Labor of Love (4:1-12)
- Their Love for God Expressed in Sanctified Living (4:1-8)
- Their Love for the Brethren, an Expression of Being God Taught (4:9-10)
- Their Love for the Lost Expressed in Godly Living (4:11-12)
- The Prospective: The Endurance of Hope (4:13-5:28)
- Concerning the Day of Christ: The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
- The Resurrection of Sleeping Saints (4:13-16)
- The Rapture of Living Saints (4:17-18)
- Concerning the Day of the Lord (5:1-11)
- The Coming of the Day of the Lord (5:1-5)
- The Conduct of Christians (5:6-10)
- The Conclusion (5:11)
- Concerning Deportment in the Congregation (5:12-28)
- The Concluding Prescription (5:12-22)
- The Concluding Petition (5:23-24)
- The Concluding Postscript (5:25-28)
- Concerning the Day of Christ: The Comfort of His Coming (4:13-18)
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
As with 1 Thessalonians, this letter was also written by Paul (cf. 1 Thess. 1:1). However, Paul’s authorship of this epistle has been questioned more often than that of 1 Thessalonians, even though it has more support from early church writers. There is no evidence among the writings of the early church fathers that his authorship was ever doubted. In fact several fathers mentioned Paul as the author of this epistle in their writings. It was not until the 19th century that certain questions were raised about the authorship of this epistle. The doubts came from rationalistic critics who likewise refused to accept the Bible’s claim to divine inspiration. Regardless, external and internal evidence support Paul as the author.
Objections are based on internal factors rather than on the adequacy of the statements of the church fathers. It is thought that there are differences in the vocabulary (ten words not used elsewhere), in the style (it is said to be unexpectedly formal) and in the eschatology (the doctrine of the “man of lawlessness” is not taught elsewhere). However, such arguments have not convinced current scholars. A majority still hold to Paul’s authorship of 2 Thessalonians.62
As the second letter to the church at Thessalonica, this epistle is called in the Greek text, Pros Thessalonikeis B, the “Second to the Thessalonians.”
DATE: A.D. 51-52
Because the historical circumstances are very similar to those of 1 Thessalonians, most believe it was written not long after the first letter—perhaps about six months. While conditions in the church were similar, the persecution seems to have grown (1:4-5), and this, with other factors, led Paul to write this letter from Corinth sometime in A.D. 51 or 52 after Silas and Timothy, the bearers of the first letter, had returned with the news of the new developments.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Second Thessalonians was evidently prompted by three main developments that Paul heard about: (1) there was the news of increasing persecution which they were facing (1:4-5), (2) to deal with the reports of a pseudo-Pauline letter and other misrepresentations of his teaching regarding the day of the Lord and the rapture of the church (2:1f.), and (3) to deal with the way some were responding to belief in the imminent return of the Lord. This belief was still being used as a basis for shirking their vocational responsibilities. So the apostle wrote to deal with the condition of idleness or disorderliness which had increased (3:5-15).
To meet the needs that occasioned this epistle, Paul wrote this epistle to comfort and correct. In doing so he pursued three broad purposes. He wrote: (1) to give an incentive for the Thessalonians to persevere by describing the reward and retribution that will occur in the future judgment of God (1:3-10), (2) to clarify the prominent events belonging to the day of the Lord in order to prove the falsity of the claims that the day had already arrived (2:1-2), and (3) to give detailed instructions covering the disciplinary steps the church should take in correcting those who refuse to work (3:6-15).
The key words or concepts are “judgment,” “retribution,” and “destruction” all revolving around the return of the Lord in the day of the Lord. In fact, in this epistle, 18 out of 47 verses (38 percent) deal with this subject. In 1 Thessalonians, the focus was on Christ coming for His Church (4:13-18) where as in 2 Thessalonians, the focus is on Christ coming with His Church in judgment on the unbelieving world (1:5-10; 2:3, 12).
- 2:1-4. Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered so as to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2:2 that you not be easily shaken from your composure or be disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not be here unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. 2:4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, displaying himself as God.
- 3:1-5. Finally pray for us, brothers and sisters, that the Lord’s message may spread quickly and be honored as in fact it was among you, 3:2 and that we may be delivered from perverse and evil people. For not all have faith. 3:3 But the Lord is faithful and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 3:4 And we are confident about you in the Lord that you are both doing, and will do, what we are commanding. 3:5 Now may the Lord direct your hearts toward the love of God and the endurance of Christ.
- 3:16. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.
Chapter 2 is key in that it corrects a serious error that had crept into the Thessalonian church which taught that the day of the Lord had already come. Here the apostle taught them that the day of the Lord had not come and could not until certain events had taken place, not for the rapture of the church which is imminent, but for the day of the Lord, Daniel’s seventieth week.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 THESSALONIANS:
A major theme of this book, especially chapters 1-2, is the return of Christ in judgment when He will put down all rebellion and bring retribution. Second Thessalonians anticipates Christ, the coming Judge.
Apart from the salutation and benediction, the book easily divides up into five sections:
- Salutation or Introduction (1:1-2)
- He Commends and Comforts Regarding Persecution (1:4-12)
- He Corrects and Challenges Regarding the Day of the Lord (2:1-17)
- In Relation to the Present (2:1-2)
- In Relation to the Apostasy (2:3a)
- In Relation to the Man of Lawlessness (2:3b-4)
- In Relation to the Restrainer (2:5-9)
- In Relation to Unbelievers (2:10-12)
- In Relation to Believers (2:13-17)
- He Commands and Convicts Regarding Idleness (3:1-16)
- The Confidence of the Apostle (3:1-5)
- The Commands of the Apostle (3:6-15)
- His Concluding Benediction and Greeting (3:16-18)
The Pastoral Epistles
The last major group of Paul’s epistles have generally been called the “Pastoral Epistles,” a term used to designate the three letters addressed to Timothy and Titus (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus). Originally, they were regarded as mere personal letters and were classified with Philemon, but because of their strong bearing on the life of the church, they began to be called the “Pastoral Epistles.” Though addressed to individuals, these books are not only not limited to personal and private communications, but they are more official in character. Paul addressed them to Timothy and Titus to guide them in matters concerning the pastoral care of the church, which is the household of God (cf. 1 Tim. 3:14-15; 4:6-15 with 2 Tim. 2:2).
The term, “pastoral,” is an 18th century designation that has stuck down through the years,63 and though not entirely accurate, it is a somewhat appropriate description of these three letters. Further, due to the large portion of these epistles that deal with church order and discipline, the term “pastoral” is accurate. These epistles deal with church polity, policies, and practice, all of which are concerns vital to the pastoral health of the church.
All in all, in their content, these books are pastoral in nature and give directions for the care, conduct, order, ministry, and administration of churches or assemblies of believers. This is true whether they deal with personal matters or the corporate ministry of the church. In summary, then, these books were designed by God to aid us in our pastoral responsibilities and in organic development and guidance for the life of local churches.
In this regard there is an important observation that might be made. Of Paul’s thirteen letters, these were the very last books he wrote. What is so significant about that? Since these books deal with church order, ministry, and organization, why were they not first? If you or I were doing this (especially today) we would probably first try to get the administrative organization in order, the structure, and then worry about the doctrine. So here are some suggestions to think about:
Suggestion 1. Of course, organization and order is important. The church is a spiritual body, an organism, and each believer is a member with special functions and tasks to carry out, but the primary need so essential to functioning as God has designed the church is right theology (teaching) and understanding of the Word, along with its personal application for Christ-like living. This provides us with the spiritual and moral foundation on which we base our methods, strategy, and administration. So, while our methods will often vary, they must never contradict the moral or spiritual principles of the Word of God.
Giving, for instance, is a corporate and individual responsibility, but our giving and the collection of money must be so done that it does not violate certain biblical principles such as giving voluntarily rather than by methods that employ coercion or manipulation.
Suggestion 2. Organization, or better, the organic and unified growth of a church, must be based on right teaching, which is based on rightly handling the Word, i.e., God’s objective truth along with the use of those people who are qualified and spiritually right with God. When we try to run an organization based on tradition or background, we end up with an organization that is not only not biblical, but which will lack the spiritual fervor and capacity to function as God intends.
These books, then, deal with matters of church order or ecclesiology not hitherto addressed, but before God gave the church directions for church organization (or order as specific as those we find in the pastorals) He gave us Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Is this because organization is unimportant? No! It is because organization and administration are not primary. They are secondary. Further, it is because sound teaching and spirituality are what ultimately produce ministries that are effective according to God’s standards and that manifest the spirit and character of Christ in ministry and outreach.
Suggestion 3. Closely related to this is another concept. Some areas of ecclesiology are more difficult to determine than others. As a result, students of the Word have debated certain issues for years like the exact form of government or how we select and appoint men to leadership. Is this selection to be carried out by the board of elders, by the congregation, or by both working together?
Since there is such a divergence of opinion does this mean we should give up on matters of church government? Of course not. We should carefully study these issues and seek biblical answers so we might come to conclusions based on our study of the facts of Scripture. But the point is simply this: regardless of the type of church government, within certain limits, of course, if God’s Word is being consistently and accurately proclaimed with prayerful dependence on the Lord, and if the people take it to heart, a church will be alive, in vital touch with Christ, and effective for the Lord.
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
Because of their close relationship in thought and focus, the attestation and authorship of all three pastoral epistles will be dealt with here. It has also been pointed out that because all three are so closely connected in thought and style that they usually are either all accepted or all rejected as being written by Paul.
Though all three of these letters have been attacked more than any other of Paul’s epistles, both the external and internal evidence supports Paul as the author. Some early church fathers as Polycarp and Clement of Rome, allude to these epistles as Pauline. In addition, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, and the Muratorian Canon do as well. Moreover, the books declare Paul as the author (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1, Tit. 1:1). In addition, the doctrinal teaching and autobiographical details fit with the life of an aged Paul at the close of his ministry (see 1:12-17; 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:1-8; 4:9-22; Titus 1:5; 3:12-13).64
Those who question Paul’s authorship usually do so on the following grounds:
… that (1) Paul’s travels described in the pastorals do not fit anywhere into the historical account of the book of Acts, (2) the church organization described in them is that of the second century, and (3) the vocabulary and style are significantly different from that of the other Pauline letters. Those who hold to the Pauline authorship reply: (1) there is no compelling reason to believe that Acts contains the complete history of the life of Paul. Since his death is not recorded in Acts, he was apparently released from his first imprisonment in Rome, traveled over the empire for several years (perhaps even to Spain), was rearrested, imprisoned a second time in Rome, and martyred under Nero; (2) nothing in the church organization reflected in the pastorals requires a later date (see Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1); and (3) the question of authorship cannot be decided solely on the basis of vocabulary without considering how subject matter affects a writer’s choice of words. Vocabulary used to describe church organization, for instance, would be expected to be different from that used to teach the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. There is no argument against Pauline authorship that does not have a reasonable answer. And, of course, the letters themselves claim to have been written by Paul.65
The Greek titles for 1 and 2 Timothy are Pros Timotheon A and Pros Timotheon B, “First to Timothy” and “Second to Timothy.” Timothy’s name means, “honoring God.”
DATE: A.D. 63-66
It seems clear by comparing Acts with the epistles that 1 Timothy and Titus belong to the period after Paul’s first release and acquittal in Rome. Because of this, 1 Timothy must be dated after his first release, around the spring of A.D. 63, but before the outbreak of the Neronian persecutions in A.D. 64. First Timothy was probably written in A.D. 63 right after his first release. Titus was written around A.D. 65 and 2 Timothy in A.D. 66. Paul died in A.D. 67, according to the early church father, Eusebius. As a Roman citizen, he died by the sword (beheaded) rather than by crucifixion as did Peter.
Paul’s missionary journeys occupied approximately the years A.D. 48-56. From 56-60 Paul was slowly making his way through the Roman courts, arriving ultimately at Rome. For two years, 61-62, Paul was held under house arrest in Rome, at the end of which time, it can be surmised, he was released. From 62-67 Paul traveled more or less freely, leaving Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete, and then subsequently writing each of them a letter. Thus the approximate dates for 1 Timothy and Titus are perhaps 63-66. After being recaptured and once again imprisoned, Paul wrote Timothy a second letter, 2 Timothy. Thus 2 Timothy, dated approximately A.D. 67, represents the last Pauline Epistle.66
THEME AND PURPOSE:
At least five clear purposes can be seen in 1 Timothy. Paul wrote: (1) to encourage and boost the spirit and courage of Timothy by reminding him of his charge or duty (1:3), of his spiritual gift (4:14), his good confession (6:12), and of the deposit of doctrine entrusted to him (6:20); (2) to give Timothy biblical insight in dealing with the errors of false teachers and to encourage Timothy himself to continue in sound doctrine (1:3-11, 18-20; 4:1-16; 6:3f); (3) to give direction concerning proper church conduct in worship (chap. 2); (4) to give guidance regarding numerous issues that would arise and to show how they should be handled. This would include such things as: qualification for elders and deacons (chap. 3), proper behavior toward the various age groups—towards elders and widows (chap. 5). Finally, (5) he wrote to warn against the evils of materialism (chap. 6).
The theme of 1 Timothy, as with Titus and 2 Timothy, is twofold, one involving the individual and the other the church.
- For the individual, the theme is “fight the good fight” (1:18).
- For the church, the theme is “how to behave in the church, the house of God” (3:15).
While 1 Timothy is in many ways a manual on leadership and the conduct of the church, a key term is “sound doctrine” which is emphasized in a number of places (see 1:10; 4:6; 6:1-3). But not to be outdone, is the concept of “conduct” or “godliness,” which occurs nine times (cf. 2:2, 10; 3:16; 4:7, 8; 6:3, 5, 6, 11 with 3:15 and 4:12). This is, of course, fitting, for sound doctrine should lead to godly conduct.
- 1:5. But the aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.
- 3:14-16. I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you 3:15 in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth. 3:16 And we all agree, our religion contains amazing revelation: He was revealed in the flesh, Vindicated by the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
- 6:11-12. But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. 6:12 Compete well for the faith and lay hold of that eternal life you were called for and made your good confession for in the presence of many witnesses.
Since leadership is so determinative of a church’s spiritual growth and effectiveness, chapter 3, which sets forth the qualifications for leadership is clearly a key chapter. “Notably absent are qualities of worldly success and position. Instead, Paul enumerates character qualities demonstrating that true leadership emanates from our walk with God rather than from achievements or vocational success.”67
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 1 TIMOTHY:
Several passages stand out in pointing us to the person and ministry of the Savior. He is the source of our calling, strength, faith, and love so needed for ministry (1:12-14), the one who came to save sinners (1:15), “the one Mediator between God and men” (2:5), “God manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory (3:16), and “the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (4:10).
- The Salutation (1:1-2)
- Instructions Concerning Doctrine (1:3-20)
- Warnings Against False Doctrine (1:3-11)
- Paul’s Testimony of Grace (1:12-17)
- Paul’s Charge to Timothy (1:18-20)
- Instructions Concerning Worship (2:1-2:15)
- Instructions Concerning Prayer (2:1-7)
- Instructions Concerning Men and Women (2:8-15)
- Instructions Concerning Leaders (3:1-16)
- Concerning Elders and Deacons (3:1-13)
- Parenthetical Explanation (3:14-16)
- Instructions Concerning Dangers (4:1-16)
- Description of the Dangers (4:1-5)
- Duties and Defenses Against the Dangers (4:6-16)
- Instructions Concerning Various Responsibilities (5:1-6:10)
- Concerning Various Age-Groups (5:1-2)
- Concerning Widows (5:3-16)
- Concerning Elders (5:17-25)
- Concerning Slaves and Masters (6:1-2)
- Concerning the Heretical and Greedy (6:3-10)
- Final Instructions to Timothy (6:11-21)
- Exhortation to Godliness (6:11-16)
- Instructions for the Rich (6:17-19)
- Exhortations to Remain Faithful (6:20-21)
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
See the material in 1 Timothy.
DATE: A.D. 67
See the material in 1 Timothy.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
When we turn to 2 Timothy we find a very different atmosphere. In 1 Timothy and Titus, Paul was free and able to travel, but here he is a prisoner in a cold dungeon and facing death. In this letter Paul had two major purposes in mind. He wrote (1) to urge Timothy to come to Rome as soon as possible in view of his impending death (cf. 4:9, 21 with 4:6-8), and (2) to admonish Timothy to keep holding on to sound doctrine, to defend it against all error, to endure hardship as a good soldier, and to realize we are living in days of growing apostasy.
As with 1 Timothy, there is a personal and a corporate aspect in the themes of the book:
- For the individual, the theme is “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you” (2 Tim. 1:6), though there are several other verses that could form the theme both individually and corporately (cf. 1:14; 2:1, 2; 2:15; 4:5).
- For the church, the theme could be entrust sound teaching to faithful men who will be able to teach others also by suffering and serving as a good soldier of Christ (2:2-4) or perhaps fighting the good fight and finishing the course (4:6-7).
In view of the challenge of chapter 2 and the model of chapter 4, “endurance in ministry” is a fitting key concept of this letter.
- 1:7. For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
- 2:1-4. So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2:2 And what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. 2:3 Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2:4 No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.
- 3:14-17. You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the holy writings, that are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 3:16 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 3:17 that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
I am convinced that Wilkinson and Boa are on target when they write: “The second chapter of Second Timothy ought to be required daily reading for every pastor and full-time Christian worker. Paul lists the keys to an enduring successful ministry: A reproducing ministry (1-2); an enduring ministry (3-13); a studying ministry (14-18); and a holy ministry (19-26).”68
Since, in reality, all believers are called to full-time ministry in one way or another, this chapter would be more than beneficial for all Christians.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN 2 TIMOTHY:
At the heart of all ministry and our ability to endure in ministry is the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. It is not surprising, therefore, that even in a book stressing endurance in ministry, the doctrine of Christ is prominent. Here, He is described as the One who “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (1:10), as the One who rose from the dead (2:8), as the One who gives salvation and eternal glory (2:10), as the One with whom all believers have died, with whom they will live, and from whom they will be rewarded for faithful service (as in the crown of righteousness) and in the privilege of reigning with Him (2:11-13; 4:8).
- The Salutation (1:1-2)
- The Expression of Thanks for Timothy (1:3-7)
- The Call to Remember Timothy’s Responsibilities (1:8-18)
- The Character of a Faithful Servant (2:1-26)
- He Is Strong in Grace (2:1)
- He Is a Multiplier of Disciples (2:2)
- He Is Single-Minded Like a Soldier (2:3-4)
- He Is Strict Like an Athlete and Enduring Like a Farmer (2:5-13)
- He Is a Diligent Workman (2:14-19)
- He Is Sanctified Vessel (2:20-23)
- He Is a Gentle Servant (2:24-26)
- The Caution for a Faithful Servant (3:1-17)
- The Peril of Apostasy (3:1-9)
- The Protection From Apostasy (3:10-17)
- The Charge to Preach the Word (4:1-5)
- The Comfort of a Faithful Servant (4:6-18)
- A Good Finish to Life (4:6-7)
- A Good Future After Life (4:8)
- Good Friends in Life (4:9-18)
- Concluding Greetings (4:19-22)
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
Since the Pastoral Letters have been treated previously on the matter of authorship, see 1 Timothy. In the Greek text, Titus is titled Pros Titon, “To Titus.”
Though Titus is never mentioned in Acts, the many references to him in Paul’s epistles (13 times), make it clear he was one of Paul’s closest and most trusted fellow-workers in the gospel. When Paul left Antioch for Jerusalem to discuss the gospel of grace (Acts 15:1f.) with the leaders there, he took Titus (a Gentile) with him (Gal. 2:1-3) as an example of one accepted by grace without circumcision, which vindicated Paul’s stand on this issue (Gal. 2:3-5). It also appears Titus worked with Paul at Ephesus during the third missionary journey. From there the apostle sent him to Corinth where he helped that church with its work (see 2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:5-6; 8:6).
DATE: A.D. 62-67
A recap of the events pertinent to this epistle will help give some idea of a probable date for Titus, though the exact time is unknown. First, Paul was released from his house arrest in Rome (where we find him at the end of Acts). Perhaps because Paul was a Roman citizen and they could not prove the charges, his accusers did not choose to press charges against him before Caesar (see Acts 24-25; 28:30). In essence, then, their case was lost by default, and Paul was freed. The apostle then visited Ephesus, where he left Timothy to supervise the church, and went on to Macedonia. From Macedonia (northern Greece), he wrote 1 Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3). He then visited Crete, leaving Titus there to put in order the remaining matters in the churches of Crete. Following this, Paul went to Nicopolis in Achaia (southern Greece, Titus 3:12). Then, either from Macedonia or Nicopolis, Paul wrote the epistle to Titus to encourage and instruct him. Afterwards, he visited Troas (2 Tim. 4:13) where he was then arrested, taken to Rome, imprisoned, and finally beheaded. As mentioned previously, it was from Rome, during this second imprisonment in the dungeon that he wrote 2 Timothy. These events took place from about A.D. 62-67.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Several themes and purposes are seen in this epistle. Paul wrote:
- To instruct Titus about what he should do to correct the matters that were lacking in order to properly establish the churches in Crete.
- To give Titus personal authorization in view of the opposition and dissenters Titus was facing (see 2:15; 3:1-15).
- To give instruction on how to meet this opposition and special instructions concerning faith and conduct, and to warn about false teachers (1:5, 10-11; 2:1-8, 15; 3:1-11).
- To express his plans to join Titus again in Nicopolis for the winter (3:12). Whether this meeting ever occurred, we do not know. Tradition has it that Titus later returned to Crete and there served out the rest of his life.
The theme is to show how the grace of God that has appeared to us in the saving life and death of Christ instructs us to deny ungodliness and to live righteously and soberly as a people full of good works that are in keeping with the doctrine of God (2:10–3:9).
Important issues discussed in the letter include qualifications for elders (1:5-9), instructions to various age groups (2:1-8), relationship to government (3:1-2), the relation of regeneration to human works and to the Spirit (3:5), and the role of grace in promoting good works among God’s people (2:11-3:8).
In this short epistle, the concept of “good deeds” occurs some six times (1:16; 27, 14; 3:5, 8, 14). Two other key words are “grace” (1:4; 2:11; 3:7, 15) and “faith” (1:1, 4, 13; 2:10, 13, and 3:15). Good deeds are not to be the product of human ingenuity or dead religion, but the work of God’s grace through faith in the power of God as manifested in Christ, the Savior.
- 1:5. The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.
- 2:11-13. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 2:12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 2:13 as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
- 3:3-7. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. 3:4 But “when the kindness of God our Savior appeared and his love for mankind, 3:5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 3:6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 3:7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”
Undoubtedly, chapter 2 is key because of its emphasis on relationships in the church (2:1-10) and how a proper understanding and focus on both Christ’s first and second coming (the blessed hope) should impact the life of the church.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN TITUS:
Again, as is so consistent with the teaching of Paul, we see how good works or the conduct of the Christian is so connected with the person and work of Christ, past, present, and future. In this book we see the deity (2:13) and redemptive work of the Savior (2:12). Here Christ Jesus is emphatically described as “our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (2:13-14).
The phrase “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” is one of the christologically significant texts affected by the Granville Sharp rule. According to this rule, in the article-noun-kaiv-noun construction the second noun refers to the same person described by the first noun when (1) neither is impersonal; (2) neither is plural; (3) neither is a proper name. For more discussion see Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 270-78, esp. 276.69
- Salutation and Opening Greetings (1:1-4)
- Ordination of Elders in the Church (1:5-9)
- Offenders in the Church (1:10-16)
- Operation in the Church (2:1-3:11)
- Duties for Titus (2:1-10)
- Directions Regarding God’s Grace (2:11-15)
- Demonstration of Good Works (3:1-11)
- Final Instructions and Greetings (3:12-15)
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
As with the other prison epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians), Philemon was written by Paul during his first confinement in Rome. That Paul is the author is supported by both the external and internal evidence. First, “among the church fathers, Ignatius, Tertullian, Origen, and Eusebius give evidence of the canonicity of this brief book. It was also included in the canon of Marcion and in the Muratorian fragment.”70 As to the internal evidence, Paul refers to himself as the author in verses 1, 9, and 19.
The letter is written to Philemon, the owner of Onesimus, one of the millions of slaves in the Roman Empire, who had stolen from his master and run away. Onesimus had made his way to Rome, where, in the providence of God, he came in contact with the apostle Paul, who led him to trust in Christ (v. 10). So now both Onesimus and Philemon were faced with doing their Christian duty toward one another. Onesimus was to return to his master and Philemon was to receive him with forgiveness as a Christian brother. Death was the normal punishment for a runaway slave, but Paul intercedes on behalf of Onesimus.
Thus, the book is titled Pros Philemona, “To Philemon.”
DATE: A.D. 61
Since it was written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, it was written around A.D. 61.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
The primary purpose of this letter, the most personal of all Paul’s letters, was to ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus and accept him back as a beloved brother and fellow servant in the gospel (see vv. 10-17). In the process of this, Paul asks Philemon to charge this to his own account. As such, this epistle is a fitting illustration of Christ who took our place as our substitute (see v. 18). A secondary purpose is to teach the practicality of Christian love as we seek to express the life-changing effects of Christ’s life in ours as it transforms our relationships with others whether in the home or in the master/slave or employer/employee relationships. In the other prison epistles, Paul spoke of this new relationship (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22; 4:1). In this letter we have a wonderful example. A final purpose was to express Paul’s thanksgiving for Philemon and to request preparation for lodging for him when he was released from prison (vv. 4-7 and 22).
The theme, then, is the life-changing power of the gospel to reach into the varied social conditions of society and change our relationships from bondage to brotherhood.
Philemon was not the only slave holder in the Colossian church (see Col. 4:1), so this letter gave guidelines for other Christian masters in their relationships to their slave-brothers. Paul did not deny the rights of Philemon over his slave, but he asked Philemon to relate the principle of Christian brotherhood to the situation with Onesimus (v. 16). At the same time, Paul offered to pay personally whatever Onesimus owed. This letter is not an attack against slavery as such, but a suggestion as to how Christian masters and slaves could live their faith within that evil system. It is possible that Philemon did free Onesimus and send him back to Paul (v. 14). It has also been suggested that Onesimus became a minister and later bishop of the church at Ephesus (Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 1).71
Key words or concepts are, “Oneness,” and “forgiveness in Christ.”
- 15-18. For perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated from you for a little while, so that you would have him back eternally, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, as a dear brother. He is especially so to me, and even more so to you now, both humanly speaking and in the Lord. Now if he has defrauded you of anything or owes you anything, charge what he owes to me.
CHRIST AS SEEN IN PHILEMON:
The forgiveness that the believer finds in Christ is beautifully portrayed by analogy in Philemon. Onesimus, guilty of a great offense (vv. 11, 18), is motivated by Paul’s love to intercede on his behalf (vv. 10-17). Paul lays aside his rights (v. 8) and becomes Onesimus’ substitute by assuming his debt (vv. 19-19). By Philemon’s gracious act, Onesimus is restored and placed in a new relationship (vv. 15-16). In this analogy, we are as Onesimus. Paul’s advocacy before Philemon is parallel to Christ’s work of mediation before the Father. Onesimus was condemned by law but saved by grace.72
- Prayer of Thanksgiving for Philemon (vv. 1-7)
- Petition of Paul for Onesimus (vv. 8-18)
- Promise of Paul to Philemon (vv. 19-21)
- Personal Matters (vv. 22-25)
The Non-Pauline Epistles
We now come to the final eight epistles of the New Testament canon, seven of which have often been called the General or Catholic Epistles, though Hebrews has been excluded from this description. The term Catholic was used in the sense of general or universal to distinguish them from the Pauline Epistles which were addressed to churches or persons.73 In their addresses (with the exception of 2 and 3 John) they were not limited to a single locality. As an illustration, James is addressed “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (1:1), which is a designation for believers everywhere (likely all Jewish Christians at that early date). Then 1 Peter is addressed “to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” a designation to believers in these various areas. The epistles of 2 and 3 John have also been included in this group even though they were addressed to specific individuals. Because of these differences, in this study these eight books are simply being called “the Non-Pauline Epistles.” It should be noted that the Pauline Epistles are titled according to their addressees, but, with the exception of Hebrews, all these epistles are titled according to the names of their authors.
In general, we may say that James and 1 Peter are ethical, calling believers to a holy walk with the Savior. Second Peter and Jude are eschatological, warning believers against the presence of false teachers and calling them to contend for the faith. Hebrews and the Epistles of John are primarily Christological and ethical, calling Christians to abide in Christ as God’s final revelation and fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant, to experience His life, and not go beyond the truth of the gospel.
These eight epistles exert an influence out of proportion to their length (less than 10 percent of the New Testament). They supplement the thirteen Pauline Epistles by offering different perspectives on the richness of Christian truth. Each of the five authors—James, Peter, John, Jude, and the author of Hebrews—has a distinctive contribution to make from his own point of view. Like the four complementary approaches to the life of Christ in the Gospels, these writers provide a sweeping portrait of the Christian life in which the total is greater than the sum of the parts. Great as Paul’s epistles are, the New Testament revelation after Acts would be severely limited by one apostolic perspective if the writings of these five men were not included.74
AUTHOR AND TITLE:
For some 1,200 years (from c. A.D. 400 to 1600) this book was commonly entitled, “The Epistle of Paul to the Hebrews,” but there was no agreement in the earliest centuries regarding its authorship. The oldest and most reliable title is Pros Ebraious, “To Hebrews.”
As stated, the author is unknown. Many suggestions have been made and very elaborate arguments put forth by scholars, but the fact is the author is nowhere named in the book and is in essence, like its place of writing, date, and even its readership, unknown. Ryrie writes:
Many suggestions have been made for the author of this anonymous book—Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, Silas, Aquila and Priscilla, and Clement of Rome. There are both resemblances and dissimilarities to the theology and style of Paul, but Paul frequently appeals to his own apostolic authority in his letters, while this writer appeals to others who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry (2:3). It is safest to say, as did the theologian Origen in the third century, that only God knows who wrote Hebrews.75
Because of the uncertainty of its authorship, its recognition as a part of the New Testament canon, at least in the West, was delayed until the fourth century when it was finally accepted in the Western church through the testimonies of Jerome and Augustine. Because Paul was considered to be the author by the Eastern church, it was always accepted.
The issue of its canonicity was again raised during the Reformation, but the spiritual depth and quality of Hebrews bore witness to its inspiration, despite its anonymity.
Chapter 13, verses 18-24, tell us that this book was not anonymous to the original readers; they evidently knew the author. For some reason, however, early church tradition is divided over the identity of the author. Part of the church attributed it to Paul; others preferred Barnabas, Luke, or Clement; and some chose anonymity. Thus, external evidence will not help determine the author.
Internal evidence must be the final court of appeal, but here too, the results are ambiguous. Some aspects of the language, style, and theology of Hebrews are very similar to Paul’s epistles, and the author also refers to Timothy (13:23). However, significant differences have led the majority of biblical scholars to reject Pauline authorship of this book: (1) The Greek style of Hebrews is far more polished and refined than that found in any of Paul’s recognized epistles. (2) In view of Paul’s consistent claims to be an apostle and an eyewitness of Christ, it is very doubtful that he would have used the phraseology found in chapter 2, verse 3: “which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” (3) The lack of Paul’s customary salutation, which includes his name, goes against the firm pattern found in all his other epistles. (4) While Paul used both the Hebrew text and the Septuagint to quote from the Old Testament, the writer of Hebrews apparently did not know Hebrew and quoted exclusively from the Septuagint. (5) Paul’s common use of compound titles to refer to the Son of God is not followed in Hebrews, which usually refers to Him as Christ, Jesus, and Lord. (6) Hebrews concentrates on Christ’s present priestly ministry, but Paul’s writings have very little to say about the present work of Christ. Thus, Hebrews appears not to have been written by Paul although the writer shows a Pauline influence. The authority of Hebrews in no way depends upon Pauline authorship, especially since it does not claim to have been written by Paul.76
Since the recipients are not mentioned as in the Pauline Epistles, we might say a word about them. The very nature of the book with its many Old Testament quotations and the emphasis on the sacrificial system strongly suggests they were Hebrews. Writing in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Zane C. Hodges says:
The identity of the first readers of Hebrews, like the author, is unknown. Nevertheless they were evidently part of a particular community. This appears from several considerations. The readers had a definite history and the writer referred to their “earlier days” (Heb. 10:32-34); he knew about their past and present generosity to other Christians (6:10); and he was able to be specific about their current spiritual condition (5:11-14). Moreover, the author had definite links with them and expressed his intention to visit them, perhaps with Timothy (13:19, 23). He also requested their prayers (13:18).
In all probability the readers were chiefly of Jewish background. Though this has sometimes been questioned, the contents of the epistle argue for it. Of course the ancient title “To the Hebrews” might be only a conjecture, but it is a natural one. When everything is said for a Gentile audience that can be said, the fact remains that the author’s heavy stress on Jewish prototypes and his earnest polemic against the permanence of the Levitical system are best explained if the audience was largely Jewish and inclined to be swayed back to their old faith. The heavy and extensive appeal to the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures also was most suitable to readers who had been brought up on them.77
DATE: A.D. 64-68
Several things suggest a date sometime between A.D. 64-68. First, the book was quoted by Clement of Rome in A.D. 95 so it had to have been written before that time. Second, it seems quite apparent that the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 for the following reasons. First, surely the author would have mentioned the temple’s destruction along with the end of the Jewish sacrificial system if such an event of this importance had occurred, especially in view of the argument of this book. Second, the author uses the Greek present tense over and over when speaking of the temple and the priestly activities which suggest they were still going on (see 5:1-3; 7:23, 27; 8:3-5; 9:6-9, 13, 25; 10:1, 3-4, 8, 11; 13:10-11). Third, the author refers to Timothy’s recent release in 13:23, which, if in connection with his ministry to Paul in Rome, requires a date in the late 60s.
THEME AND PURPOSE:
Clearly, the theme of Hebrews is the surpassing greatness of Christ or His superiority, and thus also that of Christianity to the Old Testament system. Several words, better, perfect, and heavenly, are prominently used to demonstrate this. As his primary purpose, the author seeks to demonstrate five significant ways Christ is superior or better. As the Son, He is: (1) superior to the Old Testament prophets (1:1-3), (2) to angels (1:4-2:18), (3) to Moses (3:1-6), (4) to Joshua (3:7-4:16), and (5) to Aaron’s priesthood (5:1-10:18). The goal of this theme is to warn his readers against the dangers of giving up the substance of what they have in Christ for the temporary shadows of the Old Testament system. Thus, the readers are admonished to go on to maturity and their reward as faithful believers, partakers of their heavenly calling. To do this, there are five warning passages inserted to challenge them to progress in their Christian faith (2:1-4; 3:1-4:13; 5:11-6:20; 10:26-39; 12:14-29).
The key words are better, which occurs some thirteen times, perfect, which occurs nine times, and heavenly, which occurs six times. Thus, the key concept, for Hebrews is the superiority or the surpassing greatness of Christ.
- 2:1-4 Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2:2 For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty, 2:3 how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was first communicated through the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, 2:4 while God confirmed their witness with signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
- 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. 4:13 And no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to his eyes to whom we must render an account.
- 4:14-16 Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.
- 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 12:2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Chapter 1, which so strongly declares the deity of Christ as the Son and final revelation of God, is certainly a key chapter, but chapter 11 also stands out as the great Hall of Fame and Faith chapter. In pointing to the many Old Testament saints who lived by faith, it demonstrates the truth of 11:6, “Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
CHRIST AS SEEN IN HEBREWS:
In accomplishing the purpose to show the superiority of Christ, Hebrews undoubtedly becomes the most Christological single book of the New Testament. Here he is declared as Son, as the very outshining and representation of the essence of God (1:3, 13), as the one who sat at God’s right hand (1:3), as the one declared by God the Father as God (1:8-9), as the eternal Creator (1:10-12), and as the eternal Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (7). Here Christ is presented as the divine-human Prophet, Priest, and King. He is seen as our Redeemer who, having been made like His brethren, has once and for all dealt with our sin and done that which the temporary sacrifices could never do. As such, He has now passed into the heavens as our Great High Priest as one who sympathizes with our weaknesses.
- The Superiority of Christ to Old Covenant Leaders (1:1-7:28)
- Christ Is Superior to Old Testament Prophets (1:1-3)
- Christ Is Superior to the Angels (1:4-2:18)
- Christ Is Superior to Moses (3:1-6)
- Christ Is Superior to Joshua (3:7-4:13)
- Christ Is Superior to the Aaronic Priesthood (4:14-7:28)
- Exhortation to hold fast (4:14-16)
- Qualifications of a priest (5:1-10)
- Exhortation to abandon spiritual lethargy (5:11-6:12)
- Certainty of God’s promise (6:13-20)
- Christ’s superior priestly order (chap. 7)
- The Superior Sacrificial Work as Our High Priest (chaps. 8-10)
- A Better Covenant (chap. 8)
- A Better Sanctuary (9:1-12)
- A Better Sacrifice (9:13-10:18)
- Exhortations (10:19-39)
- Final Plea for Persevering Faith (chaps. 11-12)
- Examples of Past Heroes of the Faith (chap. 11)
- Encouragement for Persevering Faith (12:1-11)
- Exhortations for Persevering Faith (12:12-17)
- Motivation for Persevering Faith (12:18-29)
- Conclusion (chap. 13)
- Practical Principles for the Christian Life (13:1-17)
- Request for Prayer (13:18-19)
- Benediction (13:20-21)
- Personal Remarks (13:22-23)
- Greetings and Final Benediction (13:24-25)