Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are commonly referred to as the Pastoral Letters. These letters show Paul’s deep concern for the pastoral responsibilities he had entrusted to Timothy and Titus, and the warm relationship he shared with his two fellow workers. The letters belong to the final years of Paul’s life, and give an indication of how church life had developed since the early days of Paul’s missionary travels.
Paul’s later travels
Although the book of Acts records many of Paul’s travels, it does not record them all. It concludes at the point chosen by the author according to the purpose of his book, but it does not represent the end of the story of Paul. Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years as he awaited the outcome of his appeal to Caesar (Acts 28:16,30), and the letters he wrote during that time showed that he hoped to be released. He even expected to travel to other countries and revisit some of the churches (Phil 1:25,27; 2:24; Philem 22). It seems certain that at the end of two years Paul was released and went on further journeys, but since the book of Acts had by this time been completed, the only references to these journeys are in Paul’s later writings.
Among the places Paul visited (accompanied, it seems, by Timothy and Titus) was the island of Crete. He soon found that the churches of Crete were in a state of serious disorder, mainly because they lacked the right leaders and were confused by false teachers. Paul gave whatever help and direction he could, but he had to move on to other places. He therefore left Titus behind to carry on the work and establish proper leadership in the churches (Titus 1:5,10-11).
Upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul found further problems of false teaching. Some years earlier he had warned the elders of the Ephesian church that he expected such problems to arise (Acts 20:29- 30). Self-appointed ‘experts’ were causing much harm in the church with unprofitable teaching based on ancient myths, legends, laws and genealogies (1 Tim 1:4-7; 4:1-3; 6:3-5). Some of the teaching was so damaging that Paul decided the only way to deal with the offenders was to put them out of the church (1 Tim 1:19-20). But Paul
could not stay in Ephesus indefinitely, as he wanted to visit churches in other regions. Therefore, when the time came to move on to Macedonia, he left Timothy behind to give further help to the church (1 Tim 1:3).
Letters to Timothy and Titus
In Macedonia Paul probably fulfilled his wish to visit the Philippian church (cf. Phil 2:24; 4:1), but he was concerned for Timothy and Titus whom he had left to deal with difficult church problems. He therefore sent to them the letters known to us as 1 Timothy and Titus.
The two letters are similar in many ways, though the letter to Timothy is longer and more personal. In both letters Paul encourages his fellow workers to be confident in carrying out the tasks entrusted to them (1 Tim 1:3,18; 4:6,11-12; Titus 1:5; 2:15). They are to establish order and leadership in the churches
(1 Tim 2:1,8; 3:1-13; 5:17; Titus 1:6-9; 2:2-8), instruct people in Christian truth (1 Tim 3:14-15; 4:13-14;
6:20; Titus 2:1,7; 3:8), and avoid wasting time with arguments about senseless issues (1 Tim 4:7; 6:20;