Gamma 17 – The Pastoral Epistles (Study 13)

Study 13




Please look at the questions and discuss the answers. The case histories are designed to let you apply what theoretical knowledge you have gleaned from the study. There are intentionally many more questions and case histories than you can manage in one session but this is designed to cover the many and varied needs of the individuals in the church hence please pick and choose which ones to discuss as long as it gets people sharing and applying the Word to real life situations. Never feel obligated to finish all the questions The answers will be posted on the web the next day.

The truth in the Pastoral epistles is a word often used by Paul for the “gospel”. We are each called to be a worker for the kingdom and involved in some part of this ministry of the word whether it is teaching and preaching it out like Timothy and for many of us living it out in our lives and sharing the truth of the gospel to our neighbours co-workers and our families. We are each responsible to the extent of our gifting and time God has given to us to rightly discern this truth as its ministry is our offering and service to God. The understanding and more importantly the living out of this truth is hard labour simply because of our sinful nature which tends to distort the truth in a way to indulge our own sinful desires and propensity to live our lives according to our own purposes and not for His.

The handling of truth is hard because the Bible was written 2-3 thousand years ago and the immense chasm of time , language, culture as well as social norms stand between us and its original meaning. The labour involves cross that chasm with the help of bible dictionaries, commentaries, handbooks and church leadership which God has provided over the years. They are available but often we are too disinterested in rightly handling the truth and prefer to be spoon fed rather than learn how to discern the truth. The lazy way out is to accept lock stock and barrel what the meaning of the text is from our BS leader and not inquire of how he or she actually came to that conclusion of what the text said.

The famous example is of the Berean Christians in Acts how actively checked out the Old Testament to see if it was interpreted correctly the way Paul had brought the gospel to them. The handling of the truth is hard because of its application. We can often come to some reasonable conclusion of the meaning of the text but we fail to see how it is applied to our contemporary society of so many different cultures. Take for example the 1 Cor 11 passage on the head veils being used as a symbol of gender differentiation in the service and the submission of wives to their husband. How does it apply today in a Subang Jaya church and family? This will be different in an Indian family vs Chinese family vs Caucasian family. Much needs to be discussed amongst all church members led by the Spirit and it can only be done in a group because on our own our own personal bias ness and sinful nature will tend to skewer the application to suit our own preferences hence it is hard to be accountable to the body and fellow Christians.

The right handling of the word is hard because it is like a dual edged sword and if it is correctly used it will cut to our hearts and expose our sins and this will be uncomfortable and force us to face our own realities and wrestle with our own sinful flesh. The truth when it is received with a repentant spirit and obedient heart will be sweet as honey or bitter if we are unrepentant and stubborn we will find it hard to accept. It is hard simply because in the default mode we do not want to be constantly confronted with our frailities

The consequences will be quarrelling and debating about the minute details of the new teaching in such a way as people will be alienated and embittered against each other. The church will be split along their various loyalties to the individual leaders or false teachers and once false teaching sets in the people will be led astray and sin against God and like the Ephesian church people will be led astray. The greatest problem through history that the church had faced was never persecution but false teaching and it is no more relevant than today because there are more than 33k denominations. We avoid it by refusing to engage on controversial quarrels and debates on the new truths these false teachers may have come up with.

The reality of life in the church will be that there are as in the parable Jesus told of the wheat and the tares that the enemy will sow into the church and it will only be on the last day of judgment that fake believers will be unveiled for who they really are. However in church life the departure of believers many of whom are good friend and influential leaders into false teachings will always have a devastating effect on the church morale. We tend to ask who is really safe? Will we be led astray too one day?

The OT passage recounts the time where Korah and several families ,Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth rebelled against Moses questioning his leadership. They came with 250 leaders who were influenced as well. In the light of this threat Moses fell on his face and said to Korah and gang “ In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him” Numb 16:5.

He essentially said God will vindicate his leadership by demonstrating who are truly His. In the morning the opposing factions gathered in front of the tabernacle to offer incense and the glory of God appeared and vindicated Moses by the ground opening up and swallowing up Korah and his rebellious household and fire which destroyed 250 other rebels.

Moses and God’s people the people who are truly His were untouched. When Paul refers to this episode he is reassuring the Ephesian Christians that just as in the rebellion against Moses by Korah, they do not have to be afraid for He truly knows who are His people and who are false believers. They do not have to be afraid but this verse assures them of their eternal security.

In the second part of the verse Paul tells us the distinguishing part feature of true believers is that they live holy lives remaining true to their “holy calling” in 2 Tim 1:8 that is the purpose for which God calls us. Hence God protects His true people from false teaching and apostasy and His people will demonstrate their genuiness by fleeing from sin and remaining true to their holy calling.

Firstly , doctrinal integrity is entrusted to the leaders of the local church who are responsible for the truth taking root in our lives.

Heb 13: 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.

Paul instructed Timothy that the elders must be able to teach in 1 Tim 3:2. He also instructed Titus to appoint elders in Titus 1: 5 and their appointment was on the basis of character and sound teaching.

In Titus 1:9 the criteria given was that they have the ability to teach sound doctrine and refute and correct the false teachers or wrong doctrine which is vital for the survival of the church.

The principle is that one belongs to the local church of ones’ conviction and choice hence the handling of truth will depend on the leaders of that church. If one does not believe in the way doctrine is held by that leadership then one should find the church that holds to the doctrine which one is comfortable with.

Second guideline

There is a standard doctrinal stand in almost all evangelical churches which clearly state the basic tenets of the gospel which Fbc also adheres to. They are also called the tenets of orthodoxy which has been passed down to us over the years which include things like.

1. Belief in the Triuine God
2. Jesus is the incarnate Son of God born of the Virgin Mary.
3. Sin is the rebellion against the rule of God and the punishment of eternal death and torment in hell.
4. Jesus died for our sins and we are saved by his life and death on the cross by grace though faith in Him.
5. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead we too will be raised dead to eternal life.
6. Scripture is the inspired Word of God and it is the sole authority for our faith.

Third guideline

To interact with the bible yourself , learn to be a good workman. One should feel free like the Berean Christians to check out what your leaders are teaching with the Word of God. Ask them why it should be interpreted the way it is. One can read commentaries and Bible dictionaries. Learn how to understand the verse in its context, to appreciate how the social circumstances, historical background, culture and literary structure and grammar play a part in understanding the text.


Read Christian books and websites and get information from reliable evangelical authors which your church leaders will recommend to you. Websites like the Gospel Coalition and renowned biblical scholars who communicate well also add to your knowledge of the truth but when there is a disagreement even within these authors ask your leaders firstly until your exegetical skills and discernment have reached a matured level where you could form your own opinions on the text and defend them on technical basis rather than following a particular author lock stock and barrel.

Fifth guideline

Understand that there are many areas of theology where good Christian teachers may had sincere disagreements which almost never make a difference to the essential tenets of the gospel. Learn to be generous and do not let these disagreement affect the unity of your church. Hold them loosely learn to respect the views of others especially your leaders as they are accountable to God.

The use of the two different kinds of vessels in the house hold is a metaphor in which Paul is challenging Timothy and the Ephesians to live a holy life ..fleeing from sin but dedicated to good works and holy living. There is no unfairnesss because the choice is given to everyone as Paul writes.

21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

By living holy lives and deciding to dedicate our lives to service to Him in good works we are deciding that we are going to be the vessels of honour. By indulging in sin and pleasing ourselves we are deciding to be a vessel of dishonour.