Nov 12 2016


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The Two Epistles of St. Paul to Timothy

(Part 1)


1- Paul 1 and Timothy

The name “Timothy” is derived from Greek, “Timo-Theos”, and means “honouring God,” or “in God’s honour,” or “honoured by God.”  The relationship between St. Paul and his disciple Timothy started at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (around 51 – 54 A.D.) as recorded by St. Luke (Acts 15:36 to 18:22).  St. Paul started this journey from Antioch, traversing Syria, passing through Cylicia, and arriving finally at Derba and Lystra of Asia Minor’s Galatian region.

It should be noted that St. Paul, accompanied by Barnabas, had already visited Lystra during his first journey (Acts 14:8-21), but no mention was made, then, of Timothy.  It is likely, though, that he resided, during that visit, at Timothy’s home, since he was well acquainted with his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), both of whom were believers.  Despite Timothy’s young age at that time, he must have won St. Paul’s admiration to the extent that their relationship was established during the second journey.

In Lystra, St. Paul met with “… a certain disciple … named Timothy … He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.” (Acts 16:1,2)  The implication here is that Timothy was a believer, through his mother who believed in the Lord, 2 prior to his encounter with Paul. Timothy’s father, though, was Greek.

St. Paul took Timothy as a service companion, since he saw in him a young man with a fiery zeal for serving the Lord, 3 whom Providence sent to aid in his service.  Since Paul was resolved to evangelize among the Jews of that region, who knew that Timothy’s father was Greek, he circumcised Timothy, as a precautionary measure against Jewish opposition. (Acts 16:3)

St. Paul and his companions, now including Timothy, passed through Phrygia and the Galatian region and, having encountered difficulties in their service in Asia, crossed from Troas to Macedonia.  Their preaching in Maced­onia was in response to what Paul considered to be a Divine calling, namely, his vision of a Macedonian man pleading for their help.

The foremost Macedonian city was the Roman colony of Philippi; there they witnessed the first signs of the spread of Faith in Europe: Lydia, the devout seller of purple, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul … she and her household were baptized …” (Acts 16:14,15)

The well-known incident followed, namely, that of the possessed, young maid, out of whom Paul cast out the evil spirit, thus angering her masters, who profited from her spirit of divination.  Paul and his companion Silas were then thrown in jail, having been beaten with rods.  In the middle of the night a great earthquake shook the prison’s foundations; the doors opened, the prisoners’ shackles were loosed, they escaped, and the prison guard believed. (Acts 16:16-40)

They subsequently went to Thessalonica, where Paul preached to, and reasoned with, the Jews for three Sabbaths in their synagogue.  Some of the Jews were persuaded, but the others were envious and created an uproar; this prompted the brethren to send Paul and Silas to Berea, where their service bore fruit and many were converted. (Acts 17:3-12)

Nevertheless, the Jews from Thessalonica stirred up the crowds, prompting the brethren to send Paul to Athens, leaving Silas and Timothy to complete the service in Berea and Thessalonica, with the intent of catching up with Paul – which they did. (Acts 17:14, 18:5)

After preaching in Athens’ Areopagus (Greece’s high court of appeal for civil and criminal cases), Paul proceeded to Corinth, accompanied by Silas and Timothy.  There he preached the word of God for about eighteen months, and wrote both of his epistles to the Thessalonians (around 52 A.D.)  In those epistles, likely the first of his fourteen, he says that he preferred to stay alone in Athens and send Timothy “… our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith, that no one should be shaken by these afflictions …for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. (1 Thess. 1:1, 3:1-6).  Also, Paul mentions that Timothy return­ed and “brought us good news of your faith and love…” (1 Thess. 3:6)

During St. Paul’s third journey, he sent Timothy and Erastus once more to serve in Macedonia (Thessalonica) – (Acts 19:22).  Timothy further­more accompanied Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4), was with Paul when the latter wrote his epistles to the Romans from Corinth (Rom. 16:21), and was sent by Paul to the troubled Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17, 16:10).

Timothy was also with St. Paul when he wrote his 2nd Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1,19; 1 Thess. 1:1, 3:2,6), the Philippians (Phil. 1:1, 2:19-22), Colossians, and Philemon (Col 1:1; Philemon 1).


2- Saint Paul’s two epistles to Timothy

Whereas most of Saint Paul’s epistles were addressed to Churches (hence Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse), those two are among the epistles addressed to specific persons, and arranged in sequence in the Holy Bible: Timothy, Titus and Philemon.  Strictly speaking, the epistles to Timothy and Titus were not purely personal, since much of their content pertained to service, Divine work, spiritual guidance, and adherence to the Christian Faith. He thus says to Timothy, “… I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God …” (1 Tim. 3:15)  Hence, the epistle sounds like a pastoral message from the archbishop to the bishop of one of the Churches (Ephesus), following his service and pointing out improvements, with respect to shepherding God’s congregation, organizing church work, and dealing with church-related problems, especially as that was a church newly born like an island amidst a raging sea of paganism (or Jewish resistance), threatening its very existence.  Those threats accentuated the importance of conserv­atism and vigilance against misleading heresies and apostasy4 (1 Tim. 1:19,20; 4:1,7; 6:3,5 and 2 Tim. 3:8).

In the epistles to Timothy and Titus we notice an advanced degree of ecclesiastic hierarchy; hence, we have elders (1 Tim. 5:1,17-19; Titus 1:5,7)  bishops (1 Tim. 3:1,7; Titus 1:7,16) and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8,13), as well as a set of rules associated with each group.  We also note a financial organization that not only awards servants their dues, especially … the elders who rule well …,” but also holds offenders account­able. (1 Tim. 5:17,18,19-22)

St. Paul is thus instilling in Timothy trust, and the ability to shoulder responsibilities associated with the service; he also encourages him to set the example to believers despite his young age (1 Tim. 4:12), and to be fully preoccupied with the word of God and teaching, as befitting his advanced rank in the Church (1 Tim. 4:16).

Furthermore, Saint Paul’s epistles to Timothy and Titus embody the essence of the Christian Faith with regards to the incarnation, grace of salvation, redemption, resurrection, ascension, Christ’s mediation and second coming, and the truthfulness of the word of God. (1 Tim. 1:15-17, 2:4-6, 3:16, 6:14-16; 2 Tim. 1:9,10, 2:10,13, 3:16 and Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7)

Additionally, St. Paul’s epistles included instructions with respect to prayers for the leaders “… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life …” (1 Tim. 2:1,2) – also mentioned to the Romans (Rom. 13:1-7) – urging submission to the authorities, commitment to laws, and paying taxes, rules governing bishops and deacons, advice concerning conduct and worship for men and women (1 Tim. 2:8-15), dealing with older members of the community (1 Tim. 5:1,2), and caring for the widows (1 Tim. 5:3-16).

The only personal component of those epistles is likely his advice to Timothy to treat his stomach and many afflictions (despite his young age): “… use a little wine for your stomach’s sake …” (1 Tim. 5:23).  Many scoffers consider this statement to be a licence to consume alcohol, despite the Bible’s condemnation of drunkenness, and what St. Paul himself wrote to the Ephesians: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissip­ation; …” (Eph. 5:18)


3- When did Saint Paul write his epistles to Timothy?

(To be contd.)

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  1. Fathers Ignatius, Polycarpus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria have all confirmed that those two epistles were authored by Saint Paul.
  2. In his second epistle, Saint Paul praises both Timothy’s mother and grandmother by name: “… when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” (2 Tim. 1:5)
  3. Saint Paul refers to Timothy in his first epistle as “… a true son in the faith…” (1 Tim. 1:2) and extols his love and piety in the second: “… greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,…” (2 Tim. 1:4)
  4. The prevailing heresy in those days was known as “Gnosticism.” Gnostics believed that anything material is evil, while goodness or righteousness can only be found in the spirit. Accordingly, the human body is evil. Therefore we should either tame the body by extreme subjugation, or give full rein to its instincts. Consequently, bodies are destined to perdition and cannot experience resurrection.

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