The “Pastoral epistles” 1 & 2 Tim and Titus offer advice to two young companions of Paul’s travels called to church leadership – Timothy, in the big city of Ephesus and Titus on the island of Crete.
There is even more debate about whether these letters were written by Paul than was the case for Ephesians – but as always the issues are highly technical and one needs good Greek as well as significant knowledge of both what we know and how we know it about the development of the earliest churches so I’ll ignore the issue here 😉 and as I did for Ephesians and Colossians just call the author “Paul” since that’s what he calls himself!
Because of the nature of the topics in this epistle there are always questions about where and how far Paul’s advice is ad hoc. And to what extent it is timeless. That question is badly posed. ALL Paul’s advice is timebound and culturally determined! We saw in Luke’s account of Paul’s preaching in Athens that he was too good a missionary not to be culturally sensitive!
If all the advice here is timebound and culturally sensitive then how can we draw teaching for running our churches today from it?
This is where the five step plan comes into its own! (The Five Step Bible Programme: Part 1: Introduction or for all the posts in order from the bottom of the list):
- 1. What DID it say (back then, to the first hearers)?
- 2. What is the difference (between then and now)?
Among the differences here are different forms of church organisation, different cultural contexts and taboos, different expectations on young and old, women and men…
- 3. What does it teach about God and God’s relationship with the world and us (theology)?
This is always the key step – looking for the principles about God, and God’s relationship with the world and humanity – because if we really spot what principle(s) Paul was applying or asking Timothy to apply we can then in step 5 see how they apply today.
- 4. How does Jesus fulfill (fill out fully) this passage?
- 5. What DOES it mean (here and now)?
Applying this simple process will ensure a strong, biblically based, yet culturally sensitive application of the message of Scripture today.