The Lost Epistles: The Pastoral Epistles


“[S]o that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work”

2 Timothy 3:17 (LSB)

Every so often some enterprising publisher and even more imaginative author or editor comes up with a title promising some new revelation in the form of an old Gnostic document dubbed a “lost book of the Bible.” Elaine Pagels built a career on this kind of publication. Best-selling novelists occasionally get into the act, as witnessed by the popularity of The DaVinci Code, both as a 2003 book and 2006 film. When I preached open-air on university campuses, at the time it seemed as if every student had read it and had miraculously become a pseudo-expert on Gnostic gospels and the canonicity of Scripture. Or, at least, they thought they had.

The Pastoral Epistles—1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus—authored by the Apostle Paul (1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1) have become lost books of the Bible, but not because they have somehow fallen out of every copy of the Bible. Check your own copy, I bet they are still there. They should be considered “lost” because some of the most basic teachings of the Pastoral Epistles have been lost. Yes, they are still read and quoted by many, but their truths have been abandoned by church leaders and seminaries around the world.

Some truths are lost because they are misplaced. In this case, these truths have been lost because they have been ignored.

For example, how many pastoral search committees emphasize academic accomplishments or entrepreneurial characteristics over and against the Biblical qualifications for elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9)? While these trades have resulted in bigger or more intellectual churches, the cost can be counted in the moral and heretical trainwrecks that litter the evangelical landscape.  These trainwrecks—in the form of destroyed lives, families, and churches—are not just failures to chalk up in a fantasy football win-loss column. They represent real people who have been hurt by seminary graduates posing as “men of God” who had no more business leading a church than Disney has teaching your children.

And, just to get your attention, consider how few search committees demand that their teaching-elder actually be “elder,” as in older. More on that later in the series. Stay tuned.

Classes on church planting typically focus on the Acts of the Apostles, but a careful student of Titus will find important teaching on starting Biblical churches in a culture that is pagan. Like the church planter in twenty-first century America, Titus had to teach new converts about the importance of godliness (Titus 2:11-14). Such instruction is always countercultural.

Yet the apostle Paul did not mince words on this matter. Imagine an Acts 29 pastor saying of his community, “One of [the Cretans], a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason [rebuke] them severely so that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:12-13, LSB). So much for “woke.” And so much for easy-believism.

Ultimately the Pastoral Epistles are part of the Word of God itself. As such, they are given by God for a distinct purpose that is of interest to any man who thinks he is called to pastoral ministry. The Pastoral Epistles are written “so that the man of God may be equipped, having been thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17, LSB). If you aspire to be a man of God and you desire to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” of the pastoral ministry, please let me encourage you to make the Pastoral Epistles the bedrock foundation of your preparation for ministry. If, during your study, you discover that this work is too much, do yourself and your brothers and sisters in Christ a favor and find something else to do. There are many ways to make a living for you and your family. Pastoral ministry is not a career. It is a calling.

A word about the nature of this study: this is not intended to be a scholarly commentary on these books. Rather, it is intended to be a devotional study, and hopefully, an accessible study of these books. You do not have to be a seminary student or pastor or elder to benefit from this series. Any Christian will benefit. In fact, all Christians should.

If nothing else, it will help you to know what to expect from church leadership when that leadership seeks to build Biblical churches. It will help you to assess local churches if you find yourself in the unenviable task of locating one at a time when there is a famine of the Word of God in the land. The Prophet Amos speaks of such a time. “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares Lord Yahweh, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of Yahweh.’” (Amos 8:11, LSB).

In such a spiritual famine, it is more difficult than ever to find a good local church. But the Head of the Church has not left you alone. He has given you a Bible. And He has given you the Pastoral Epistles. Please join me on this tour of these important books.

For further reading
Pastoral Theology by Al Martin
Lectures to My Students by Charles H. Spurgeon
The Pastoral Epistles by George W. Knight
Interpretation of St Paul's Epistle to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon by R.C.H. Lenski
Jon Speed

Jon Speed

Jon Speed is married to Kim and they have five children and two grandchildren. He is the Pastor of Missions and Evangelism at By the Word Baptist Church in Azle, TX. Speed is the author of Evangelism in the New Testament and co-produced Babies Are Murdered Here (2014) and Babies Are STILL Murdered Here (2019). He planted Christ is King Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY (2011-2019) and is a co-founder of Loor.tv.

November 6, 2023

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