Five Reasons You Should Study the Pastoral Epistles

by Keifer Navey

Everyone loves a good trilogy. When I think of famous cinematic trios, I can’t help but think of Lord of the Rings, Back to the Future, and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies from the early 2,000’s. But, my favorite trilogy is what Christians call the “Pastoral Epistles”, found in the New Testament.

While bound and imprisoned, the Apostle Paul makes it his top priority to write three brief letters to two young pastors, Timothy and Titus. Timothy was in the popular Greek city of Ephesus while Titus was ministering on an island called Crete. These letters are rich in doctrine, practicality, and wisdom. But remember, the title of this article is not aimed at why you should read these epistles but why you should study them. That is, why you should labor and pour your heart and mind into the details, doctrines, and teachings of these three wonderful books. Let’s dive in. 

1. Perspicuity  

I believe and affirm the perspicuity of all the Scriptures, meaning what can be known for justification (belief) and sanctification (practice) can be easily ascertained from the Scriptures. Overall, this is Paul’s central point and these books are also his most accessible writings. I believe this biblically illiterate generation can benefit greatly from their examination. 

Like Paul, I believe that all Scripture is profitable for us (2 Timothy 3:16), but the ease of reading, comprehension, and practice of these books highlight that promise with a ring of fire. Their brevity and simplicity make them a great launching pad for family worship and private devotions. They are also incredibly helpful in group studies, for elders and deacons, husbands and wives, and all members of your congregation. While accessible, there’s still so much to dig up with further research, making them a great place to start if you’ve never partaken in the practice of biblical exegesis.

2. Ecclesiology 

I believe that the Scriptures are the final authority for the Christian. The 1689 Second London Baptist Confession states in Article 1:1, “The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” And in 1:2, “Therefore, the Lord was pleased at different times and in various ways to reveal himself and to declare His will to His church.” 

These statements tell us that Scripture is the standard to which we, as Christians, must hold. Both 1 Timothy and Titus 1 list out in great detail the qualities necessary for an elder or deacon to hold an office in the local church. In an age of gender dysphoria and redefining what words and terms means, we can be thankful that God offered us such clear and reliable examples of godly, pastoral character.

Renowned theologian Sam Storms, once said of these epistles, “If God has called someone to ministry He will provide the grace to meet the qualifications for it. The biblical criteria for those in church leadership pertain not only to intellectual and theological skills but also to character, with an emphasis on moral and spiritual maturity. Any effort aimed at identifying those called to church leadership and providing encouragement to them must entail appropriate steps at character development found engraved in the writings of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.”

But they don’t stop there, these letters also cover the necessity for churches to partake in communal prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-2), the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13), and to preach Scripture regardless of cultural hostility (2 Timothy 4:2). In this age of pragmatism, many churches look like a crude caricature of this picture Paul has painted. Whether you attend a house church, meet in a building, or gather in a park, God’s Word is clear, and the standard is set. Therefore, a study of these portions of divine wisdom is essential to understanding church government and structure set forth by God. 

3. Accountability  

Accountability will naturally result from a study of the pastoral epistles. As stated above, there are specific qualifying characteristics one must display to hold a pastoral office. In fact, the pastoral epistles set the mark for godly leadership in the church and home (more on this later), which means that studying these letters articulates the standard of accountability set forth in the Scriptures. 

Therefore, elders and deacons studying these books will gain a deeper sense of accountability to their Lord Jesus, His Word, and His bride. As a man or woman of God, you will have the doctrinal requirements to measure your leaders against. As a Christian, you will be convicted by the verses in your context as a husband, father, wife, mother, and son or daughter. You’ll even gain accountability for your work ethic (Titus 2:9-10), personal relationships, and proper self-definition. 

4. Apologetics

I love apologetics, and Paul gives you a plethora of material for defending the faith in this trilogy. Most notably, 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…” This passage is a staple in the defense of the authority and infallibility of Scripture—especially in our climate and culture that has such hostility towards God’s Word. Both the study and memorization of this verse will be of great benefit to you as you uphold the faith in the public square. 

But before I move onto my next point, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in these books can also be found a roaring defense for preaching God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:1-2), church government (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1), the gospel’s power (Titus 3:3-8; 1 Timothy 1:15), traditional marriage (Titus 2:3-4), and even God’s Law (1Timothy 1:8). Paul is a defender of the faith and his work in these epistles is strong evidence of it.

5. Sanctification  

Finally, a major benefit of studying these epistles is sanctification. Again, the 1689 LBCF proves helpful: “Those who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated have a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. They are also further sanctified, really and personally, through the same power, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them” (Article 13:1). 

To clarify, if you are a regenerate believer, you have a new heart and a new spirit and you will be sanctified further by both the Holy Word and by the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the most progress you can make in your sanctification comes from diligently studying God’s Word, listening to the Holy Spirit through it, and by the Spirit’s power putting it into practice. All that to say, reading and studying the pastoral epistles will have an immensely sanctifying effect on any Christian.  

Where’s the Application? 

Could these books written to two young pastors benefit a Christian nearly 2,000 years later? Absolutely. You may not be a pastor, but are you a father? Fathers are the priests of their household (1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Peter 3:7; Duet. 6:6-7). Fathers model the faith to their wife and children. Fathers control the doctrine that comes and goes from their house. Fathers, are you teaching your wife and children sound doctrine and practice? Are you instructing younger men in sound doctrine and godly character (Titus 2:1-2,6-8)? As a husband and father, could your children describe your character and it be in alignment with the elder and deacon qualities found in these very books? 

Are you a wife and/or a mother? Paul has you covered here, too! Are you instructing women in their behavior and doctrine (Titus 2:3-5; 1 Timothy 2:9-15)? Are you building a home that exudes biblical character and hospitality? Are you modeling the qualities expressed in these books to your husband, children, and friends? 

Are you unmarried and without children? God’s Word in these pastoral epistles can speak to you as well. Are you listening and submitting to your pastoral authority? Do you listen to the more mature or older believers in your life? Do you walk in right relationship with peers? Godly character isn’t restricted to a position but is commanded for all believers. 

As I displayed earlier, Second Timothy 3:16-17 (NASB) states, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man (or woman) of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” No matter who you are, the Scriptures are beneficial for your sanctification.

Applying these scriptural principles, however, cannot and will not save you; only the Holy Spirit’s regenerated power through the Gospel of Jesus Christ can do that.

But for those who are saved, whether you’re studying the pastoral epistles or the Gospels or the Prophets, the content of God’s Word is designed and intended to make you more like Christ. So I plead with you, do not merely read these books, study them. 

The late J.C. Ryle offers us this in closing: “The True Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are his marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which he nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered.” 

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Keifer is the Founder and book reviewer for Nerdy Theologians—a digital resource dedicated to recommending the most edifying theological literature. He is also a husband, father, preacher, and elder mentee at his local church. When he’s not reading or writing, he’s playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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