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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: March 05, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome to HBS and our study of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.
Introduction to The Pastoral Epistles (Part One)
I open this Bible study praying that these lessons and all the lessons preceding it would serve to guide you on your search for “the truth” for it is God desire to have, “…all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Keeping It Real
Our Apostle Paul has much to say re: the true Believer’s “walk,” or their present sanctification in his letters to the Thessalonians, such as, “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory;” “every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor;” “stand fast, and hold onto the traditions which ye have been taught;” “be not weary in well doing;” “abstain from all appearance of evil;” “quench not the Spirit;” “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good;” and so forth, because his generation and every generation since then thought the Lord would return for them sooner rather than later. Thus his instruction to “watch and be sober,” or practice self-discipline in anticipation of the Lord’s return is as applicable to us today as it was for the saints of old (1 Thessalonians 5:5-6; Ephesians 5:15-16).
We’re able to comply with the instructions above, and others, once we’re baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit (no water needed) and are sanctified, i.e., more and more transformed into the image of God’s beloved Son or the state of being God-like through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul spoke of this “walk” of faith in his letter to the assembly at Galatia saying, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16); and “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (5:25).
Having said that, I find it interesting that the words “godly” and “godliness” are not found in Paul’s writings until you reach the Pastoral Epistles, the very epistles that have much to say about evil days and evil surroundings and how Believers are to conduct themselves amid an unbelieving world. In the epistles to Timothy, for instance, we read about the “perilous times” with which this present dispensation of grace will be brought to a close, while in the letter to Titus we read of “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers,” of “liars… evil beasts… lazy gluttons,” whom Satan would use to neutralize the “good works” and testimony of God’s beloved saints (Ephesians 2:8-10).
So, as we are about to learn, Paul has much to say about “godliness” to Timothy and Titus, these young men, and co-laborers in the ministry of God. And lest we forget, Paul’s words to them are also God’s Word to us today. I say that because it appears we are living in the closing days of the Dispensation of Grace. That’s not a prediction or prophecy; I don’t do that. However, as in Paul’s day, we too are surrounded by a steadily-rising tide of evil and persecution from an ever-growing number of wicked, godless men and women, who have signed-on in declaring war on God, His beloved Son, the things of God, and us, the “deplorables” who walk by faith and not by sight.
So then, although Paul has much to say about the true Believer’s present sanctification in his other writings, in his Pastoral Epistles he conducts a type of campaign for individual godly-living in the midst of increasing apostasy (the abandonment of key and true Bible doctrines) and godlessness in the world-at-large.
Timothy and Titus Servants of the Lord
These letters are centered upon the ongoing mission of the early church of which Paul’s ministry is certainly an integral part. The crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ occurred in the spring of 32 AD or thereabouts. About five years later in 37 AD Saul of Tarsus encountered the risen Lord on the Damascus RD (Acts 9). Factoring in these details with the writings of 1 Timothy in circa 64-65 AD, that said mission had already been progressing for almost two decades. But now the apostolic era was slowly but surely coming to a close. What would happen after the death of Paul? I mention this because I was a member of a church group that suffered the loss of their pastor and never recovered from it. It began to lose people, albeit slowly at first, but within a few months this once thriving assembly lost 70% of its members, including yours truly. So, without a doubt, this was a crucial moment in time for this fledgling movement. After encouraging beginnings, would the movement continue to survive and thrive, and if so, who would become their spiritual leader? The answer to this question is this: other men of God with a burning desire to serve the Lord would become Paul’s successors in teaching the Word of God, rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).
This begs the question, “What type of personality can God use in His service? In order for us to gain the best possible understanding of these three epistles, I think we ought to consider who Timothy and Titus were along with their individual personalities to answer this question. Should they be a member of affluent society, or from the ranks of the poor? Should they be well-educated or someone that works with their hands?
Should they be brave and outspoken or the shy, cautious type? We can go on-and-on with this, so suffice to say, the answer to this question is: God can use those who sincerely desire to be used of Him. The area of the grace movement is so widespread the need for many varied personalities exists. But here’s the thing, they must be willing to be used in whatever way God sees fit and this is where most people stumble.
I have a life-experience I can utilize that might help you understand what this means. I knew a woman who regretted going to work every day and living “an unfulfilled life” (her own words). She frequently remarked that she wanted to be a missionary working overseas. Her desire was to be on the front-lines of the spiritual battle, taking God’s message of salvation to those who had not heard it. My response to her complaint never changed. I told her that might not be what God wants for you; He expects you to “bloom where you’re planted.” I said your missionary field is in the home, at work, or wherever you are at any given time. I told her the reality is your own children have said they aren’t interested in Jesus, and there are many people where you work that do not know Him, I am sure, so talk to them when the opportunity arises. But she would have none of it. That’s not to say she didn’t share her testimony with others, but she took issue with God because she couldn’t do that in the Amazonian rain forest.
With that in mind let’s consider this. When our Lord was on the earth, “…he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;” (Luke 6:13). Just so you know, a disciple is a follower; an apostle is “one sent.” Therefore, a disciple listens; an apostle speaks. A disciple learns; an apostle teaches.
If you know your O.T., in reference to the LORD God’s prophets, their message usually began with the words, “Thus saith the LORD,” but at the beginning of the whole line of prophets there was a young man, saying to the LORD, “Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10). Clearly, then, in service to the Lord, there is no reaching the top in ten easy steps. Those who aspire to reach the top in the shortest period of time may, like Diotrephes, merely, “love to have the preeminence” (3 John 1:9).
To be truly used of the Lord, it is necessary to bear in mind that we must patiently listen before we can speak authoritatively; we must learn before we can teach; we must follow before we can be sent; we must humbly say, “Speak, for thy servant heareth” before we can confidently say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Having said that, it’s also true that those who sincerely seek to learn and to have the Holy Spirit shape their lives do not all develop in the same way. Two biblical examples of this are Timothy and Titus, both godly men, but possessing differing personalities. They were Paul’s closest “companions in labor,” and to both of whom he addressed these personal letters, but their personalities were as different as night and day.
From the two letters to Timothy it is evident that he was cultured and refined; a student of the Scriptures from his youth (2 Timothy 3:15). Evidently, he suffered from a nervous condition probably brought on my stress, and possessed, as was natural from his upbringing, much compassion and tenderness (2 Timothy 1:5). We catch a glimpse of his personality and character when Paul wrote to him about his childhood, his mother, his grandmother, his tears, and prescribed medicinal wine for his “often infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23).
There are times when Paul seem concerned lest Timothy withdraw from the battle, for he urged him not to be ashamed or afraid, but to be a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel,” enduring “hardness” as a “good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 1:8, 2:3).
But Timothy didn’t withdraw. He served with Paul for many years, “as a son with the father” (Philippians 2:22). There was between them that warmth and openness that encourages and produces growth in the “son” and the “father’s” confidence in him. Regarding this confidence, Timothy served Paul, and Christ Jesus, in such places as Ephesus, where his natural abilities could be put to good use. It is significant in light of Paul’s warnings to the Ephesian elders about the emerging apostasy there (Acts 20:28-31), that it was Timothy whom he asked to “abide still at Ephesus” as their pastor.
Titus, on the other hand, was a very different character. This is evident from Paul’s letter to him, in which he addressed him as a general in the army might address one of his lieutenants; directing him to “set in order the things that are wanting,” to “exhort and convince the gainsayers,” to “rebuke sharply” those who live in sin and to “reject” willful heretics (Titus 1:5,9, 11, 13, 3:9-10).
It was Titus whom Paul and Barnabas took along with them as a test case, as it were, when they went up to Jerusalem to defend the gentile’s liberty re: circumcision and the Mosaic Law. They knew he would not waver and that’s how it turned out for later Paul rejoiced that “they didn’t compel Titus to be circumcised” (Galatians 2:3; Acts 15).
What’s more, it was Titus whom Paul sent to Corinth, Greece to exhort the saints there to be more generous in their giving; a task he had assumed also on a previous occasion (2 Corinthians 8:6-7). Timothy wouldn’t have been the suitable choice for this task.
An interesting comparison between Timothy and Titus is found in what Paul had to say with regard to visits they both made to the assembly in Corinth. Timothy was head and shoulders above the Corinthian Believers, both morally and spiritually, yet when Paul sent him there he had to write a letter in advance, exhorting the Corinthians, “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do. Let no man therefore despise him: but conduct him forth in peace, that he may come unto me: for I look for him with the brethren” (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).
But later, when Titus had been to Corinth and had returned, Paul wrote, “And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him” (2 Corinthians 7:15).
As Timothy, then, was the ideal man for the work at Ephesus, Titus was the man for Crete, whose inhabitants were described as being “always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies (lazy gluttons)” (Titus 1:12).
Without a doubt Titus was the more robust character, yet one should not assume that he was coarse or crude by nature; on the contrary, he exhibited a notable combination of enthusiasm, discretion, and integrity. While Timothy was sent to Corinth to help the Believers doctrinally, Titus was sent to deal with them in more practical matters, including the delicate matter of their delinquency in giving to the poor in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:6). Thus, even though their personalities varied, both these men found great usefulness in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, in both of them, Paul found the support he needed in his labors and sufferings for the gospel’s sake.
We’ve already seen how Timothy served with Paul “as a son with the father,” but Paul also needed a like-minded friend like Titus and, in a way, he looked up to him. Paul’s anxiety and mental state at Troas and in Macedonia was partly due to his concerns regarding the Corinthian assembly, but it was also partly due to his disappointment at failing to find Titus, whose resilient faith had often refreshed and encouraged him.
For instance, even though “a door was opened” to Paul at Troas “to preach Christ’s gospel” he failed to take advantage of the opportunity, not because he hadn’t heard news from Corinth, but “because I found not Titus my brother” (2 Corinthians 2:13), and regarding his “troubled” condition in Macedonia, he says that “God, who comforteth those who are cast down,” comforted him, first “by the coming of Titus,” and then by the favorable report he brought from Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:5-7).
Finally, both Timothy and Titus were the kind of devoted men to whom Paul could entrust responsibility in the work of the Lord. Said differently, they were reliable, and Paul could count on them. This confidence shines forth not only in his letters to them, but also in his writings to the grace churches about them. For instance, in Romans 16:21 Paul said, “(Timothy) is my fellow workfellow.” In 1 Corinthians 16:10 Paul wrote: “He (Timothy) worketh the work of the Lord as I also do.” In 2 Corinthians 4:17 Paul referred to Timothy as, “my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways, which be in Christ.” And in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 he wrote: “He (Timothy) will establish you and… comfort you concerning your faith.”
Regarding Titus, in 2 Corinthians 8:16 Paul said, “You are as much on his heart as on mine” for “God,” he said, has “put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.” Then in 2 Corinthians 8:23 he said, “Whether any do inquire of Titus, He is my partner and fellowhelper” And then later on in the same letter Paul added this: “Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?” (2 Corinthians 12:17-18)
Before bringing this lesson to a close there are two important facts we must carefully observe:
1) According to Ephesians 4:11, the pastor is one of God’s special gifts to the Church, and Timothy (in 1 Timothy 6:11) is called, “thou… man of God.” Some people believe that all Believers are equally called to the ministry, but this is not the case. For God gave “some” pastors, not all pastors. Thus we learn, the pastor’s office is a sacred trust and should be discharged with meticulous care in the light of God’s Word, rightly divided, as we shall see as we move further along in this study.
2) Having said that, one should not assume that these epistles are reserved only for the pastors’ study. I say this because one church I attended some time ago taught this. I disagreed heartily. Although all cannot and should not be pastors, all should learn from the pastor, and all should strive to achieve the qualities that are required of him in Scripture and which, hopefully, he possesses for this is how many laymen become pastors in service to the Lord Jesus Christ.
(To be continued)
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