Introduction to 1 Timothy




First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus have been referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles” since the eighteenth century. It is reasonable to consider these letters together since they have striking similarities in style, vocabulary, and setting. These letters stand apart from the other Pauline letters because they were the only ones written to Paul’s gospel coworkers. The Pastoral Epistles deal with church structure issues and, unlike Paul’s other letters, were addressed to men serving in pastoral roles rather than to churches. But we must also recognize these are separate letters with their own distinctives. They were not written primarily to describe church structure or pastoral ministry (contrary to popular opinion), but to teach Christian living in response to the gospel.

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra by Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem (1621/ 22-1683). Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey took them to Lystra , the home of Timothy who joined Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey.

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra by Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem (1621/ 22-1683). Paul and Barnabas’s first missionary journey took them to Lystra (Ac 14:8-20), the home of Timothy who joined Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey (Ac 16:1-5).


AUTHOR: As stated in the opening of each letter, these letters were written by Paul (1Tm 1:1; 2Tm 1:1; Ti 1:1). However, many scholars today assume that Paul did not write them. This opinion is based on the differences from his other letters in vocabulary and style, alleged differences in theology, and uncertainties about where these letters fit chronologically in the life of the apostle. But the differences in style and vocabulary are not troublesome when one considers that authors often use different vocabulary when addressing different groups and situations. Rather than addressing churches in these letters, Paul was writing to coworkers who were in unique ministry settings. Hence we would expect different vocabulary. Also, the traditional view of the historical situation in which Paul wrote these letters is reasonable and defensible. Therefore, in spite of significant opposition by some scholars, there is a solid basis for accepting the Pastoral Epistles as Pauline.

BACKGROUND: Paul most likely wrote these letters after the time covered in the book of Acts. Acts closes with Paul in prison. Traditionally it has been believed that Paul was released from this imprisonment, then continued his work around the Mediterranean, perhaps even reaching Spain (Rm 15:22-29). During this time, he visited Crete and other places. First Timothy and Titus were written during this period of further mission work. Timothy had been left in Ephesus to handle some problems with false teaching there (1Tm 1:3-4). Titus had been left in Crete after the initial work to set up the church there (Ti 1:5). Eventually Paul was imprisoned again, and this led to his execution. During this final imprisonment, Paul wrote 2 Timothy to request another visit from Timothy and to give final exhortations as he anticipated his martyrdom.


In each of these letters, Paul instructed one of his younger coworkers in living out his faith and teaching others to do the same. Each letter is concerned significantly with false teaching and its harmful effects in the church. In each letter Paul wrote to affirm his representative before the church, to hold up the standard of right doctrine, and to show that right doctrine must result in proper living.

In 1 Timothy Paul directed Timothy to actively oppose false teaching. He also gave instruction on the type of behavior that should characterize those in the church. The letter to Titus shows a similar purpose, albeit briefer in scope. As Paul addressed the character of church members, he presented it in light of the work of Christ. The message in 2 Timothy, Paul’s final letter, is quite different. It is much more personal, a letter from one friend to another. Paul was preparing Timothy to carry on the work of ministry after he was gone. Several themes are found in these letters:

THE GOSPEL: Paul expressed a concern for the truth of the gospel. The terms that Paul used in describing the gospel in the Pastoral Epistles are not common in his other writings, but they are not unique to these letters. He referred to the gospel as “the faith” (1Tm 3:9; 2Tm 4:7; Ti 1:13); “the truth” (1Tm 4:3; 2Tm 2:25; Ti 1:1); sound or healthy teaching (1Tm 1:10; 2Tm 1:13; 4:3; Ti 1:9; 2:1); and godliness or sound religion (1Tm 3:16; 6:3; Ti 1:1). Paul may have used these terms because they represent the phrases used by his opponents. As he used them, however, he renovated them for his purposes by attaching new meaning to them.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: Paul emphasized the importance of a response of holiness to God’s act of salvation (1Tm 2:15; 4:12; 5:10; 2Tm 1:9; Ti 2:12). Holiness calls for behavior that is both positive (Ti 3:8) and negative (2Tm 2:19) in emphasis.

CHURCH GOVERNMENT: The church is presented as a united family ministering to its constituency and organized for service. The church is the family of God (1Tm 3:5,15), and believers are brothers and sisters (1Tm 4:6; 5:1-2; 6:2; 2Tm 4:21). Paul charged the church with a responsibility to minister to the poor (1Tm 5:16) and to serve as a foundation of doctrinal and ethical truth (1Tm 3:15). Leaders of the church are known as overseers or elders (1Tm 3:1-7; 5:17-19; Ti 1:5-9), and they are assisted by deacons (1Tm 3:8-13).


These letters are rich theologically and ethically. One of their key contributions is the clear way they show the connection between doctrine and ethics, belief and behavior.

While these letters were not intended to provide a detailed account of church government, they do provide some significant insights on this topic. The lists of characteristics for overseers (1Tm 3:1-7; Ti 1:5-9) and deacons (1Tm 3:8-13) are the only such lists in the NT.


All three letters follow the typical pattern of a Greek epistle. While there are some lexical differences with many of Paul’s other letters, keep in mind that these letters were written to specific individuals. One thing unique to the structure of these letters is the focus on church leadership.


I.Greetings (1:1-2)

II.Introductory Remarks (1:3-20)

A.The situation at Ephesus (1:3-17)

B.Charge to Timothy (1:18-20)

III.Worship of the Church (2:1-15)

A.Prayers (2:1-7)

B.Conduct of men and women (2:8-15)

IV.Qualifications of Church Leaders (3:1-13)

A.Overseers (3:1-7)

B.Deacons (3:8-13)

V.The Minister’s Job in Tough Times (3:14-4:16)

A.Staying focused on the gospel (3:14-16)

B.Combating false teachings (4:1-5)

C.Setting the example in service (4:6-16)

VI.Duties Toward Others (5:1-6:2)

A.Relationships with various groups (5:1-2)

B.Responsibility toward widows (5:3-16)

C.Instructions for elders (5:17-25)

D.Instructions for slaves (6:1-2)

VII.Conclusion (6:3-21)

A.Motives of false teachers (6:3-5)

B.Warning against materialism (6:6-19)

C.Final charge to Timothy (6:20-21)

AD 5-50

Paul is born in Tarsus of Cilicia. 5

Paul’s conversion to Christ as he travels to Damascus 34

Paul takes Titus and Barnabas from Antioch to Jerusalem for the Jerusalem Council. 49

Paul and Silas return to Lystra and take Timothy with them as they travel through Asia Minor to Troas. 50

Timothy ministers with Paul and Silas in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. 50

AD 51-56

Paul has to flee Berea; he leaves Timothy and Silas to continue the work. 51

Timothy rejoins Paul in Athens and brings word of the work in Macedonia. 51

Timothy returns to Thessalonica to encourage the new believers. 51-52

Timothy joins Paul in his ministry in Corinth, bringing word of progress in Thessalonica. 52

Timothy comes to Ephesus to work with Paul during Paul’s three-year ministry. 54-56

AD 56-62

Paul sends Timothy with the 1 Corinthians letter to the troubled church in Corinth. 56

While ministering in Ephesus, Paul sends Titus to mediate the conflict between Paul and the church at Corinth. 56

Paul comes to Corinth in person and from there he writes the letter to the Romans. 57

Upon his release from his first imprisonment, Paul goes to Ephesus and appoints Timothy as chief pastor. 62

AD 62-67

Paul writes 1 Timothy and Titus. 62-64

Paul commissions Titus to train leaders for the young Christian congregations on Crete. 62-64

Major persecution of the Christians in Rome begins following the great fire. July 18-24, 64

Paul returns to Rome, is arrested, and writes 2 Timothy from the Mamertine Prison. 67?

Paul’s martyrdom in Rome. 67?