- Salutation (1:1, 2)
- Church order and church officers (1:3 - 3:16)
- Advice and exhortations to Timothy (4:1 - 6:19)
- Concluding salutation (6:20, 21)
Authorship, date, and background
The three letters 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are known as the Pastorals. They were obviously written by the same person and around the same time. From the second century until the nineteenth century it was commonly accepted that the apostle Paul was the author of these letters. The dates of their writing, on this assumption, must have been before his traditional execution date, in the early A.D. sixties. Beginning in the nineteenth century, liberal scholars have attacked the Pauline authorship vigorously and have generally concluded that the letter were written after Paul's death; many have supposed they were written in the second century. Some say a disciple wrote the letters in the name of his teacher and that this involved no dishonesty since this was done occasionally in other connections in the secular world. Others think a later admirer of Paul put them in their present form with a view to preserving Pauline traditions and to sustain the impact of Paul's authority by attaching his name to them. Other scholars do not accept Pauline authorship on the grounds that the letters do not contain some things they insist Paul would have included if he had written them. They conveniently overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit is the divine author of Scripture and that he worked through human instrumentalities. Moreover, for critics to state what must have been included in order for these letters to be considered genuinely Pauline is to place themselves n a position of authority which belongs to the Holy Spirit and not to the critics.
It is quite correct that The Acts of the Apostles does not include some of the details of Paul's life and ministry mentioned in the Pastorals. But Pauline authorship would make it clear that Paul suffered two Roman imprisonments. Between the two, he was free to travel so that his mission with Titus to Crete, a winter spent at Nicopolis, and the period when he visited Asia Minor and left Trophimus ill at at Miletus occurred subsequent to his release fro the first Roman imprisonment. 2 Timothy, however, places him back in Rome as a prisoner awaiting his execution. If these details which are not recorded in The Acts of the Apostles were inventions of someone who wrote these letters in Paul's name, it throws open the whole question of biblical authority and truthfulness and calls into doubt the very gospel itself. Those who trust the word of God can live comfortably with the claim of these letters that Paul is the author.
Characteristics and content
Timothy, to whom this letter is addressed, was born in Lystra. His mother was Jewish, his father was a Greek. He had been raised in the Jewish faith, becoming a co-laborer with Paul in his early years. Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3) not because circumcision was a necessity, but to avoid controversy, and in the larger interests of Timothy's ministry. Timothy was timid, not forceful, and appeared to be immature. He suffered from a weak stomach. Paul assigned him to a ministry at Epehsus. The letter was designed to encourage him and to strengthen him for that ministry. It was also designed to help the church members understand that he had the apostolic authority of Paul behind him, which was a badge of his authenticity. Paul was probably travelling at the time of the writing and was himself actively engaged in ministry. The church which Timothy pastured was troubled by some who were teaching wrong doctrine, fables and myths (1:3).
The burden of the letter is to communicate to Timothy pastoral advice on the operation and conduct of a local congregation. In the course of doing this, Paul speaks about women at worship, the offices of bishop and deacon, the coming apostasy, and Timothy's relationships to widows, elders, backsliders, slaves and lovers of money. Paul's concluding advice to Timothy is to flee from sin, follow righteousness, fight the good fight, and keep or fulfil the commandment of Jesus Christ.