I Timothy: A Letter of Pastoral Care
Of the sundry agents and servants who helped St. Paul during the strenuous work that was the ministry appointed to him by God, of none does he speak more affectionately than St. Timothy.1 From the day St. Paul first chose the young lad as his assistant, St. Timothy never left his master's side except for occasional errands he was sent on by St. Paul.2 H.G. Bishop Youssef cites the fact that he accompanied the Apostle during the length of his first imprisonment, to succor and refresh his spirits; and the youth's loyalty evidently impressed the heart of Paul so much that he touchingly affixes St. Timothy's name to the epistles sent out from the Roman dungeon.3 St. Paul, in fact, makes St. Timothy a "co-sender" in six of his fourteen epistles.4 This letter of the aged father to his spiritual son marks the first of three New Testament books that are generally referred to as the "pastoral epistles".5
The seed of St. Timothy's faith was sown by St. Paul during his first missionary journey, when he and Barnabas came to Derbe and Lystra (cities of the province of Lycaonia) to preach the gospel.6 Here they found Eunice, a Jewess married to a Greek, who was converted to Christ, along with her mother Lois, and her son St. Timothy, who was at the time barely a youth.7 When St. Paul came to pay Lycaonia a second visit several years later, he found St. Timothy held in such high repute and warm commendation by the church for his upright character, that he adopted him as his spiritual son and traveling companion for the work of the gospel.8 The church at Lystra had distinctly singled him out for the work of evangelism by prophetic utterances and the imposition of hands.9
After being the constant companion of the Apostle during his perilous journeys on land and sea, St. Paul finally charged him to remain at Ephesus, the pre-eminent city of Asia Minor, to superintend the church there, because what the Apostle had originally feared was quickly becoming a reality.10 Some type of incipient Gnostic heresy, which St. Paul calls "knowledge falsely so-called", and which led to "profane and idle babblings and contradictions", was infiltrating the church.11 Two church members, Hymenaeus and Alexander, had been leaders of the blasphemy before had St. Paul dealt with them by the most rigorous form of church discipline available.12 These agitators were the inventors of fables;13 they denounced marriage as an unholy thing and forbade the eating of certain foods;14 they pretended to be teachers of the law, though their minds were so confused that they hardly understood what they said.15 It was imperative that St. Timothy guard the believers from the spreading disease.
In addition, St. Timothy had the daily challenges of pastoral ministry to grapple with; he had to rule the elders, most of whom were older than himself,16 as well as oversee the entire gamut of prayers, teaching, preaching, and ordinations that constituted the spiritual fabric of church life. St. Paul gives specific instructions on prayer in the church and on the proper role of women (chapter 2). He delineates the moral, social and spiritual qualifications of those considered candidates for church leadership (chapter 3). He instructs St. Timothy on the most seemly conduct to be observed between himself and various groups of believers, and on the management of widows, presbyters, and slaves (chapthers 5 & 6). Finally, the Apostle addresses that most sensitive and troublesome of topics, money (chapter 6).
The position the young17 bishop found himself in might well have made him anxious and the quick sense of the Apostle led him to feel his disciple's uneasiness. He probably decided that St. Timothy would benefit from a more explicit "credential" as a representative of apostolic succession, rather than basing his authority on a mere verbal commission. In addition, the demands of evangelism might have delayed St. Paul's return to Ephesus much longer than expected; and it was desirable that St. Timothy be able—in his struggle with heretical teachers and administration of a large church—to show documentary proof of St. Paul's agreement with himself in all things pertaining to doctrine and practice.18 The Apostle therefore undertakes to write a letter to St. Timothy full of encouragement and exhortation, reminding him once again not to neglect the gift of God which was in him,19 and unconsciously laying down the rules of church doctrine and polity that would serve as a framework for the Church Universal until the end of time.
1 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:19—22; 2 Tim 1:2
2 Acts 17:14, 15; Acts 19:22; 1 Tim 1:3
3 Phil 1:1; Col 1:1; Philemon 1:1 (His Grace's Bible Study video: www.suscopts.org)
4 1 Thess; 2 Thess; 2 Cor; Phil; Col; Philemon. Also per H.G. Bishop Youssef.
5 1 Tim; 2 Tim; Titus.
6 Acts 14:5,6
7 Acts 16:1
8 Acts 16:2,3
9 1 Tim 1:8; 1 Tim 4:14
10 Acts 20:29,30
11 1 Tim 4:20
12 1 Tim 1:19,20. Most commentators believe this was excommunication.
13 1 Tim 1:4
14 1 Tim 4:3
15 1 Tim 1:7
16 1 Tim 5:1
17 I Tim 4:12
18 Conybeare & Howson, Life and Epistles of St. Paul
19 I Tim 4:14