Week 21: Letters to Pastors (and Philemon)

Progress After This Week
Bible Foundations Plan 88%


The pastoral epistles (letters written to pastors) include 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus. While these books are especially pertinent for church leaders, it is vital for every Christian to know what to expect from their pastors and to “know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15). Just as the Bible tells us what to believe and how to live, it instructs us in how we ought to worship and gather.

This week, you will also read the short epistle to Philemon, written by Paul to a Christian named Philemon about his runaway slave Onesimus. 

Reading & Summaries


Ch. 1 — False Teachers and the Gospel: Paul warns against false teachers who do not understand “what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim. 1:9); immorality is forbidden along with “whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10-11). We must wage spiritual warfare to advance the message that Jesus came to save sinners.

Ch. 2 — Prayer in the Church: We should pray for all people, since God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Men should be holy and prayerful; women should be modest and respectful.

Ch. 3 — Elders and Deacons: Paul gives qualifications for elders (also called overseers, bishops, pastors, etc.) and deacons. Paul’s purpose for writing is that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3:15). The incarnation, proclamation, and glorification of Christ is “the mystery of godliness.”

Key Concept — Eldership: New Testament churches are to be led by a plurality of elders, each qualified and responsible to oversee and “shepherd” or “pastor” the church (1 Tim. 4:14; Titus 1:5). There is no distinction between a pastor and an elder in the New Testament (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:4; 1 Pet. 5:2). Not all elders labor in preaching and teaching; some primarily help to rule (1 Tim. 5:17). Godly men are encouraged to “aspire to the office” (1 Tim. 3:1), but should expect to be evaluated.


Ch. 4 — Sound Teaching and Godly Character: Paul encouraged Timothy to speak the truth “before the brothers,” opposing false teachers and promoting good doctrine. He encouraged young Timothy to expect others to judge him by his godly character instead of his age. Timothy was to use his God-given gifts and keep a close watch on his teaching—“for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Ch. 5-6 — Instructions for the Church: Paul gives instructions for how the church is to support widows and treat elders. False teachers are condemned for their greed; true teachers are encouraged to be content with food and clothing. Pastors are to be faithful until Jesus returns.


Ch. 1-2 — Paul encourages Timothy to be unashamed in guarding the gospel, and to suffer for it as a good soldier of Christ. He instructs Timothy to do his best to be a worker approved of God and to pursue godliness.

Ch. 3-4 — Paul warns of the godlessness and foolishness that will characterize the last days; he instructs Timothy to avoid those who love pleasure more than God and deny the power of godliness. Since all Scripture is God-breathed, Timothy is to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2), especially since the day is coming when men will look for preachers that will tell them what they want to hear. Nearing the end of his life, Paul writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). He leaves several personal instructions and greetings. 

Key Concept — Inspiration of the Scriptures: Paul writes that “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (ESV); that is, “given by inspiration of God” (KJV). The words of Scripture are the very words of God. Second Peter 1:21 describes how this happened: “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit carried along the writers so that they wrote exactly what he wanted them to write. Highlight 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:21 in BLUE.


Ch. 1-3 — Paul, having left Titus in Crete to appoint elders, reminds him of the qualifications for elders. He warns Titus about the importance of sharply rebuking and thereby silencing the wicked deceivers in Crete. Titus was to teach sound doctrine and instruct every age group to walk worthy of  God until the return of Christ. Because of the goodness of God revealed in Christ, believers should “be careful to devote themselves to good works” (Titus 3:8). Paul tells Timothy to separate from those who cause division, then gives final instructions and greetings.


Paul writes to Philemon, a Christian in Colossae (recall the letter to the Colossians), about his runaway slave Onesimus. After wronging Philemon in some way, Onesimus had fled to Rome where he met Paul and became a Christian. Through his letter, Paul encourages reconciliation and asks Philemon to receive Onesimus “no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother” (Philemon 16).

Key Concept — Slavery in the Bible: The New Testament instructs slaves to “obey in everything those who are your earthly masters” (Col. 3:22) and masters to “treat your bondservants justly and fairly” (Col. 4:1). Many wonder why the Bible does not call for the abolition of slavery. In fact, to do so would have been virtually impossible in Rome, since nearly one-third of the population was considered slaves (including doctors and lawyers). Instead of confronting the institution, the Bible confronts the relationships within the institution (as in the case of Philemon and Onesimus), laying the seeds for its abolition. It is no wonder that history’s leading abolitionists were Christians.

Recommended video: Read Scripture: Philemon by The Bible Project.

Study Exercises

When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.

  1. What questions do you have about this week’s reading?
  2. What specific examples of ungodliness and sin are given in 1 Timothy 1:9-10?
  3. Why did Jesus come into the world (1 Tim. 1:15)? Highlight this verse in PINK.
  4. What are men to do “in every place” (1 Tim. 2:8)? If you are a man, highlight this verse in GREEN.
  5. According to 1 Timothy 2:9, how are women to “adorn” or “arrange” (κοσμέω) themselves? How are women not to arrange themselves? See also 1 Peter 3:3-4. If you are a woman, highlight these verses in GREEN.
  6. What are pastors supposed to devote themselves to (1 Tim. 4:13)?
  7. What is one practical application of 1 Timothy 5:8 and 5:16?
  8. In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul instructed Timothy to drink “a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” Some Christians use this as a justification for drinking alcohol in moderation. Read Alcohol: Moderation or Abstinence? What position do you think best accords with all of the Biblical principles?
  9. What does Paul consider to be “great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6-8)? Highlight these verses in GREEN.
  10. What does the doxology that begins “he who is…” say about God the Father (1 Tim. 6:15-16). Compare this to what the doxology in 1 Timothy 1:17 says about Jesus. Highlight these verses in BLUE.
  11. Who influenced Timothy for Christ (2 Tim. 1:5)? Which family members do you hope to influence most for Christ?
  12. What did Jesus accomplish through his appearing (2 Tim. 1:10)?
  13. What should everyone do who names the name of the Lord (2 Tim. 2:19)? If we do this, what will we be (2:21)?
  14. Do you know anyone who fits the description in 1 Timothy 4:3-4?
  15. Titus 2:1-8 addresses the behavior of older men, older women, younger women, and younger men. Highlight in GREEN the verses that pertain to you and write down a few practical ways in which you can grow in these areas.
  16. For those who have faith, what are the results of the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior (Titus 3:4-7)?