Summary: As Paul releases a wealth of leadership wisdom to two of his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, we can learn much about God’s character building in us and how to apply it to our lives and show others the love and power of Jesus.
In my last post, we discussed Paul’s encouragement to grow from his letters to the Thessalonians and Philemon. In this post, I describe the final three letters of Paul on growing in Christ, two letters to Timothy, and one to Titus.
First, Second Timothy, and Titus are in a group of leadership letters called the Pastoral Vessels. In them, Paul writes to two of his sons in the faith. These are young man Paul trained in person and now trains in letters. They are chock-full of leadership counsel and actionable content for us to read and then put into practice.
Timothy is young, but has a pedigree of Christianity and godliness in his family. Paul speaks to him as a son in the faith because while he has “the right stuff,” he faces insecurity as a younger minister, and it is not helped by some ways the churches and people speak about him and to him. Every young minister and leader in the Church gains a wealth of wisdom and encouragement from the letters to Timothy.
Titus is also a son in the faith for Paul. He is in a rough region to be a missionary and pastor. Paul comes alongside him in this letter for the same reasons, to encourage him, tell him what to look for in church leaders, and disciple people around him as a leader in the Church. Paul gives him sage advice and wisdom to face his situations. We can learn from these letters and put Paul’s words from 2,000 years ago into action today. Let’s get started.
Character Development in 1 Timothy
Timothy was young, but God had placed great spiritual wisdom and gifts inside of him. Timothy underestimated his spiritual power. This is one reason Timothy was given a charge to go to the churches of Ephesus. Paul founded the churches of that city. He knew it well, and I’m sure he told Timothy all about his struggles in that city.
Since then, the Ephesian church became a strong and vibrant community of Christians. Later, they would have the steady hand of the apostle John. Timothy would not be sent there if he didn’t have “the stuff” to pastor the church and read it. Whether people were looking down on Timothy, or Timothy had no faith in his ability, Paul encourages this young leader powerfully in these two letters to Timothy.
Right away, Paul starts with showing Timothy as the pastor of that Ephesian church he must not allow false teachers and teaching to invade the church (1 Timothy 1:3-11). He knew the church well, and went against all kinds of gossip and foolish talk. The people were idle talkers, and that often distracts from the gospel message and living for Christ. We, as Jesus’s disciples, must be careful not to allow false teaching or idle talk that distracts the church from its mission.
Paul used his own story of being against Christians and then becoming a leader of them (1 Timothy 1:12-20). He is convinced, and so should we be, that Jesus came to save sinners. We can say along with Paul, “of which I am the chief of them.” We must never forget from where we came. It will keep us humble as we carry out the ministry God has given us.
Paul encourages Timothy, and us, to pray for all people (1 Timothy 2:1-15). He also addresses what may be culturally specific to Ephesus concerning women in the church and their ministry there. We can all learn from Paul that his comments about women remind all of us to be humble in teaching and to be good examples and witnesses of Christ to our world.
Paul gives us discipleship gold as he talks about the qualifications for overseers (pastors) and deacons (servants of the Church) (1 Timothy 3:1-13). We must have a good reputation, manager households well, and be experienced in the faith before we become leaders in the Church. Every disciple of Christ needs to not only be addicted to Jesus, and keep to the faith and its practices, if we serve in church leadership, we must be even stronger in these actions and principles.
Paul finishes 1 Timothy 3 by talking about the mystery of godliness and how Christ is our example. We must always be living like Jesus and all we can. We must live in obedience to the Holy Spirit and follow His guidance. Paul talks about the distraction of some Christians (1 Timothy 4:1-5) to charge Timothy and all disciples of Jesus to be good servants of Jesus (1 Timothy 4:6-15). We must follow our training in Christ, keep our hope set on Christ, and to continue in the faith and teaching faithfully.
Chapter 5 is full of Paul’s advice for Timothy for the church (1 Timothy 5:1-6:2). Among his wise words, he teaches Timothy and the church how to address older and younger Christians of each gender. We must carefully take care of those in our own household, for if we don’t we have to deny the faith and become worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8). Paul talks about ministry to widows. If we as leaders rule well, we are worth a double honor. We must not be partial to certain people, and we must as Jesus’s disciples live a life that can be an example to others.
Paul once again visits false teachers and false doctrines that may infiltrate the church (1 Timothy 6:3-10). We must be aware of the marks of false teachers and teaching that Paul gives Timothy here. We must avoid allowing these people to take hold in our faith communities. Paul says that one of our greatest treasures is the godliness Jesus is working in our heart and character (1 Timothy 6:6). Do not desire money and riches, for the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
Paul calls Timothy, and the Lord calls us, to fight the good fight of faith, to flee the ungodliness he has already spoken of, and to pursue righteousness and godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). He lays down principles to deal with the wealthy (1 Timothy 6:17-19). We do well to read 1 Timothy over and over to catch the gems found throughout this first letter.
Character Development in 2 Timothy
Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy as he awaited death. Reaching the end of his life and run for Christ, Paul focused on instilling wisdom and advice to the young church leader has his chief help to the young man. We can learn much from Paul’s final charge to Timothy. Let us focus on what Paul gave in the last moments of his life to this young son in the faith.
He begins by reminding Timothy of his godly heritage (2 Timothy 1:3-7).. Some disciples of Jesus don’t have such a background. But if you do, thank God for giving you a godly heritage. If you didn’t grow up with a godly heritage to look to, know that you are now part of God’s family. We must not be ashamed of the gospel or that we are God’s children how (2 Timothy 1:8-14).
Paul continues by charging Timothy, and us, to be a good soldier for Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1-13). We suffer as soldiers for Christ. But we will see the fruit of our labor. As we suffer for Jesus, let us not forget that we also will take part in His victory. The Bible calls us to be unashamed workers. We must handle God’s Word and truth faithfully. Paul once again addresses the foolish talk and foolhardy pursuits that keep us from being good soldiers and hard workers. We should approach others, especially unbelievers, gently as we correct their false presumptions, and so some may become Christians.
Paul next addresses the end times and how dangerous they will be (2 Timothy 3:1 9). These will be corrupt times, and we should prepare for them as we live in the last days before that time. He reminds Timothy, and us, that God’s Word is paramount and truthful (2 Timothy 3:10-17). It comes directly from God’s mouth. And it is good for everything from correction to encouragement. Allow God’s Word to review as you read it.
He winds down his second letter to Timothy with a firm charge to preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:1-8). You don’t have to be a full-time pastor to preach. You speak God’s Word to your culture, your world, and the places God has planted you. That is the same as what a preacher does from the pulpit. It is effective in the world. Like Paul, we want to finish our race and be counted among those who have run well for Jesus.
Character Development in Titus
Paul wrote to Titus to encourage him and help him fulfill his duty to appoint elders in the churches. Titus had to know the qualities these leaders needed to lead their churches. We can gain much insight on how to live for Jesus by looking at the qualifications for these elders and seeing how Paul addressed Titus and encouraged him.
He gave the qualifications for elders (Titus 1:5-16). Some of these qualifications match those he gave Timothy. They transition Christian character to action. Paul calls Titus to find people who are above reproach in their reputation, not drunkards, violent, or arrogant. We must love everything that is godly and all the good that comes from God. These leaders must be able to teach sound doctrine, and therefore, be practicing it themselves. It is no different for us disciples of Jesus.
He goes into further detail about sound doctrine in Chapter 2 (Titus 2:1-15). Paul speaks of older men, older women, younger men, and slaves. He tells Titus to teach older men to be unified and sound in doctrine, love, and steadfastness. Older women should be reverent, keep from slandering others, avoid much wine, teach good things to their children, and to submit to their husbands.
Paul also addresses young men, who should be self-controlled, practice good works, show integrity, and have speech that can’t be questioned. Titus led these young men by leading by example. Slaves must submit to their masters, not be argumentative or pilfering and stealing, and be good representatives of Jesus. We must all be godly because Jesus’s grace has shown on us.
He continues by giving Titus things to remind the elders he chooses to serve in church leadership (Titus 3:1-15). We must be ready to do every good work, obey Jesus and the Holy Spirit, submit to rulers and authorities, avoid quarreling, and speaking evil of others. It’s best to remember our lives before we met Jesus and experienced His grace and compassion on us. We must reject anything that would divide our attention from serving Jesus.
We have learned so much about how to live for Jesus and be good representatives for Him. Paul has much to teach in each of his letters. Let us continue to study them and grow in Christ as he sets the example for us.
As with all of Paul’s letters, if anything stuck out to you, that’s the Holy Spirit telling you what He wants to work on in your character. Apply what He improves in your character in real life situations.
Now that we have discovered Christian character development from Paul’s letters, we turn to the General Epistles and continue to discover Christian character development from the writer of Hebrews
Image by eko pramono from Pixabay