In Paul’s Pastoral Epistles, one finds an incredibly rich trilogy of ministerial treatises which equip young ministers for the hardships they were facing or would soon face. The ecclesiological conditions for both Timothy and Titus were, as E. E. Ellis comments in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, “increasingly endangered by a judaizing-gnostic countermission,”1 one which promulgated insipid pseudonyms for the truth of the gospel as entrusted to the apostle Paul. These spurious subversions of apostolic doctrine, whether written or spoken, led many astray, “ruining entire households” and resulting in individuals whose faith was “shipwrecked.” (Ti 1:5; 1 Tm 1:19–20) As such, the burden consigned to Timothy and Titus pioneered a new phase of pastoral ministry, namely, a defense of the faith and “sound teaching” of God. (1 Tm 1:18–19; 6:3; 2 Tm 1:13; Ti 1:9) It is in this way, then, that Paul’s pastoral letters serve to concretize the constituent components which comprise the contemporary church and its leaders.
Critical to one’s ecclesiastical competence is a cognizance of the organization of the church itself. The church is the body of Jesus Christ, operating as the “pillar and foundation of the truth” in the midst of a world that is fundamentally opposed to the truth. (1 Tm 3:15–16; Ti 1:10–14) “The Church militant,” eminent Scottish theologian Patrick Fairbairn writes, “is true to her calling, and fulfills her mission, only in so far as she everywhere presents the aspect of a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”2 It is only as the aspiring church leader recognizes and cherishes that the “faith and truth” to which he is appointed to proclaim originates from “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” that he will profess with all fervency that the Lord of “unapproachable light” is also the Savior who “appeared bringing salvation for all people.” (1 Tm 1:15–17; 2:7; 6:15–16; Ti 2:11) “For the truth is not of the church’s making,” Fairbairn continues elsewhere, “but of God’s revealing: she has it, not as of her own, but from above; and has it not to alter or modify at her own will, but to keep as a sacred treasure for the glory of God and the good of men.”3
In that regard, then, the church leader’s primary responsibility is to maintain the God-given ecclesiastical errand to “guard the good deposit” of the gospel of grace “through the Holy Spirit.” (2 Tm 1:14) “God did not send us out as apothecaries to put sugar in His medicine, nor to coat His pills,” B. H. Carroll writes incisively. “Our business is to put forth the words of the Almighty.”4 “Preach the word,” the apostle insists. (2 Tm 4:2) Indeed, the first and foremost task of the church leader is to nourish his church in “the faith and the good teaching” found in Christ Jesus. (1 Tm 4:6) He is, therefore, “not at liberty to preach whatever he pleases,” Carroll continues.5 Rather, the clergymen’s message is one that is entirely of God. The commission with which the church leader is entrusted and endowed is nothing more or less than the pronouncement that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tm 1:15) “Of primary importance in the process of building up God’s people,” P. T. O’Brien asserts, “is the regular and systematic exposition of Scripture, together with the teaching of ‘sound doctrine’ by those equipped and appointed for the task.”6
To conclude, the church leader’s position is weighty because of the worthiness of the King in whose service he ministers. The churchman “is speaking for God,”7 and is, therefore, afforded no leniency for self-promotion or involving himself in the silly “myths and endless genealogies” which disparage the church to which he is called. (1 Tm 1:4–6; 4:7) Rather, the church leader understands that his function within the church body is such that necessitates “a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” for the establishment and continuance of godly conduct as the household of God the Father. (1 Tm 1:5; 3:14–15; 4:8–10) The “noble work” to which he has been called insists on a certain degree of nobility to be brought to bear in his own life. (1 Tm 3:1–7; Ti 1:5–9) As the aspiring church leader exhibits the peculiar trademarks of a “man of God,” he will, then, invigorate the church’s ministerial scope and enthusiasm. (1 Tm 6:11–12) Indispensable to the church leader’s assignment is the epitomization of the trustworthiness of the God who died and rose again, bringing “life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Tm 1:10–11)
E. E. Ellis, “Pastoral Letters,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 661.
Patrick Fairbairn, Pastoral Theology: A Treatise on the Office and Duties of the Christian Pastor (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1875), 27.
Patrick Fairbairn, The Pastoral Epistles: The Greek Text and Translation with Introduction, Expository Notes, and Dissertations (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874), 157.
B. H. Carroll, The Pastoral Epistles of Paul and I and II Peter, Jude, and I, II, III John, edited by J. B. Cranfill (New York: Revell, 1915), 105.
P. T. O’Brien, “Church,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 129.