“Chapter 47: 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon,” New Testament Student Manual (2018)
“Chapter 47,” New Testament Student Manual
The books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are known as the pastoral Epistles because they contain instruction to help leaders regulate the Church. In these epistles Paul described the qualifications of bishops, who are to be examples of practical gospel living. He warned Church leaders of perilous times to come and counseled them to protect the Saints from the destructive influence of false teachings. He taught that the holy scriptures are the source of sound doctrine and instruction. Knowing that his ministry was coming to a close and that his life was nearly over, Paul acknowledged that he had endured to the end and had received the spiritual assurance that he would receive eternal life.
Paul’s letter to Philemon provides readers with a poignant illustration of how seeing fellow Saints as our brothers and sisters can increase our willingness to forgive them when needed.
Paul’s letters known as 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are often called pastoral Epistles because they contain Paul’s counsel to pastors or leaders in the Church (pastor comes from the Latin word for “shepherd”). In 1 Timothy, Paul counseled Timothy, a Church leader in Ephesus, to ensure that sound doctrine was taught and not to allow popular untruths to distract from Christ’s teachings. He taught Timothy about the offices of bishop and deacon and discussed the qualifications of those who serve in these offices. Though this counsel pertains to specific offices in the early Church, much of it is applicable to all men and women who serve in the Church today. Paul also recounted his deep gratitude for the mercy he received from Jesus Christ when he was converted, and he pointed out that all believers could receive forgiveness of sins and a call to serve the Lord.
The salutation in 1 Timothy 1:1 identifies Paul as the author, and his authorship was widely accepted in the early Church. The vocabulary, style, and content of 1 and 2 Timothy and the other pastoral epistle, Titus, differ somewhat from Paul’s other letters; however, these differences may be the result of the fact that Paul was addressing single individuals and not entire congregations, and he probably used a scribe to compose the letters. For additional information on the use of scribes, see the commentary for Romans 16:22.
In about A.D. 62 or 63, Paul was released from his two-year imprisonment (house arrest) in Rome (see Acts 28:16–31). It is unknown where Paul went after leaving Rome; however, he likely traveled widely, visiting regions where he had previously established branches of the Church as well as new fields of labor. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy seems to have been written sometime between A.D. 62 and 66, while Paul was in Macedonia (see 1 Timothy 1:3).
Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, who had served with him during his second missionary journey (see Acts 16:3). Following this mission, Timothy continued to be a faithful missionary and Church leader (see Acts 19:22; Philippians 2:19) and one of Paul’s most trusted associates (see 1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul referred to Timothy as his “own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Timothy’s father was a Greek Gentile. Timothy had a righteous Jewish mother and grandmother who helped him learn the scriptures (see Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15). Timothy is mentioned in seven of Paul’s epistles.
At the time this epistle was written, Timothy was serving as a Church leader in Ephesus (see 1 Timothy 1:3). Paul hinted that some members doubted Timothy’s leadership abilities because he was young (see 1 Timothy 4:12). Paul intended to visit Timothy in person, but he was unsure whether he would be able to do so (see 1 Timothy 3:14; 4:13). Therefore, Paul chose to write to Timothy to help the young Church leader better understand his duties.
Paul suggested guidelines to help Timothy identify worthy candidates to serve as bishops or deacons (see 1 Timothy 3). These guidelines helped highlight the responsibility of Church leaders to provide for members’ temporal and spiritual needs (see 1 Timothy 5). Paul also addressed the common apostate idea of asceticism—the belief that greater spirituality could be attained through strict self-denial. For example, in 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul warned that some Church members would apostatize (translated as “depart” in the King James Version of the Bible) and promote the ascetic belief that marriage should be forbidden (see 1 Timothy 4:3). To counteract this and other heretical influences, Paul gave instructions to Timothy to teach sound doctrine (see 1 Timothy 1:3–4, 10; 4:1–6, 13, 16).
Paul cautioned against false teachings that do not edify. He gloried in the Lord Jesus Christ, who extended great mercy to save him. Paul referred to himself as the “chief” or worst of sinners, alluding to the persecution he committed against Christians before his conversion (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul reassured others that Christ’s mercy will also help them.
Paul taught about the need for prayer and proper worship. He taught that Jesus Christ is the ransom for all and is our Mediator with the Father. He instructed men and women how to conduct themselves during worship and outlined the qualifications for bishops and deacons. Paul also explained the mystery of godliness as being the condescension of Jesus Christ, His perfect life on earth, and His ascension to glory.
Paul warned Timothy that some people will be deceived by false teachings regarding marriage and dietary practices. He spoke about the importance of marriage and of receiving God’s creations with thankfulness. Paul taught Timothy how to deal with the false teachings of his day and those that would soon come.
Paul gave Timothy guidelines to help him minister to the needs of the elderly, young people, widows, elders, and slaves. Paul described false teachers to Timothy. He also warned that “the love of money is the root of all evil” and instructed Timothy of how Saints can obtain eternal life (1 Timothy 6:10).
Paul introduced this first letter to Timothy by proclaiming his credentials—“an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God”—thus addressing those who questioned his apostolic calling. Timothy had traveled extensively with Paul during his second and third missionary journeys. Paul loved Timothy as if he were his own faithful son and gave him many important assignments (see 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Thessalonians 3:1–2; 2 Timothy 4:9–13). However, when Paul left Ephesus during his third missionary journey, he asked Timothy to remain behind to help lead the Church there (see Acts 20:1). In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul again exhorted Timothy to stay in Ephesus and protect the Church from false teachings, making sure the Saints taught “no other doctrine.” In 1 Timothy 1:3–7, Paul referred to false teachers who had once known the truth but had “swerved” and “turned aside” from what they once knew to be true. In 1 Timothy 1:19–20, Paul specifically mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander as two who had left the faith, explaining that he had “delivered [them] unto Satan,” meaning he had excommunicated them.
An important role of any priesthood leader is to ensure that correct doctrines are taught. President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) stated: “I have spoken before about the importance of keeping the doctrine of the Church pure, and seeing that it is taught in all of our meetings. … Small aberrations in doctrinal teaching can lead to large and evil falsehoods” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 620).
In 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul asked Timothy to teach Church members not to “give heed to fables and endless genealogies.” In this verse Paul was not condemning the proper practice of collecting and preserving family records. The recording of genealogy has long been practiced by God’s people (see Matthew 1:1–16; Luke 3:23–38), and elsewhere Paul made references to his own genealogy (see Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). In this case, Paul wrote to Timothy about “fables and endless genealogies” as examples of false ideas that simply “minister questions” and do not edify (1 Timothy 1:4) and as a rebuke to those who sought out their ancestry to prove they were “chosen,” or superior to other people. Paul wrote that “the end of the commandment [the summary or capstone of all doctrine] is charity” (1 Timothy 1:5). The Book of Mormon prophet Mormon similarly taught that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever” (Moroni 7:47).
In connection with false teachings that do not edify, Paul also wrote about “vain jangling,” which refers to fruitless discussion or intellectualizing (1 Timothy 1:6); “questions and strifes of words” (1 Timothy 6:4); and “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20; see the commentary for 1 Timothy 6:20). Paul warned that these activities distract believers from the truth and generate strife and contention (see 1 Timothy 4:7; 6:20; Titus 3:9). In these latter days, Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the Church is to teach God’s truths:
“In God’s Church, the only approved doctrine is God’s doctrine.
“The Church is not a debating society; it is not searching for a system of salvation; it is not a forum for social or political philosophies. It is, rather, the Lord’s kingdom with a commission to teach his truths for the salvation of men” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 3:71).
In 1 Timothy 1:13–16, Paul referred to the sins he had committed before his conversion, and he taught that he had obtained mercy from Jesus Christ because he had acted in ignorance. One of the gospel’s great eternal truths is that the Lord will not hold anyone accountable for sins committed in ignorance (see John 9:39–41; 2 Nephi 9:25–26; Mosiah 3:11; D&C 45:54). Paul taught that he was “a pattern,” or example, to others of the power of the Savior’s grace (1 Timothy 1:16). Mercy and grace are gifts the Lord gives to those who, in their weakness, are striving to be holy (see Ether 12:27; D&C 38:14; 50:16; 101:9). As in Paul’s case, mercy allows us to repent, which in turn brings more mercy to us (see D&C 3:10; 61:2).
Paul declared in 1 Timothy 2:5–6 that Jesus Christ is our Mediator with God. A mediator is one who intervenes between two parties, usually to restore peace and friendship. The Joseph Smith Translation provides the insight that Jesus Christ was “ordained to be a Mediator between God and man” (Joseph Smith Translation, 1 Timothy 2:4 [in the Bible appendix]). Because He took our sins upon Himself, Jesus Christ can redeem us and reconcile our relationship with the Father, allowing us to return to His presence. Restored scripture attests that Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant. He justifies men and women and then perfects them (see 2 Nephi 2:9; D&C 76:69). To read more about Jesus Christ’s role as our Mediator, see the commentary for Hebrews 8:1–13.
Paul encouraged women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Timothy 2:9), meaning with humility and reverence; he also taught that women should avoid costly clothing and jewelry and ornate grooming. Similar teachings are found in 1 Nephi 13:7–8; 4 Nephi 1:24; Mormon 8:36–39; and Doctrine and Covenants 42:40. Paul indicated that women should dress as those “professing godliness.” The principle of wearing modest clothing applies to both male and female members of the Church today:
“Through your dress and appearance, you can show that … you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
“Prophets of God have continually counseled His children to dress modestly. When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 6).
In 1 Timothy 2:11–12, Paul said, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach.” Some people have taken these verses to mean that women were not allowed to speak in church in Paul’s day. However, his recommendation that women “learn in silence” may have been an effort to correct a specific problem where some women were usurping the authority of Church leaders (1 Timothy 2:11). For more information on women keeping silent in church, see the commentary for 1 Corinthians 14:34–35.
President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the valuable roles that women have in the Church: “Every sister in this Church who has made covenants with the Lord has a divine mandate to help save souls, to lead the women of the world, to strengthen the homes of Zion, and to build the kingdom of God. Sister Eliza R. Snow (1804–87), the second general president of the Relief Society, said that ‘every sister in this church should be a preacher of righteousness … because we have greater and higher privileges than any other females upon the face of the earth’ (‘Great Indignation Meeting,’ Deseret Evening News, 15 Jan. 1870, 2)” (“Women of Righteousness,” Ensign, Apr. 2002, 70).
In his discussion of the role of women in 1 Timothy 2:9–15, Paul wrote that Eve transgressed because she was deceived (see verse 14). This was a reference to the fact that Eve was the first to partake of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:6). Rather than being criticized, Eve should be honored for her bold willingness to initiate mortality for all humankind. The Greek text of 1 Timothy 2:14 suggests that Paul believed Eve’s transgression consisted in her overstepping her bounds by usurping authority to make a decision that affected both herself and Adam. The Greek word parabasis, translated in this verse as “transgression,” means literally “to overstep.”
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency discussed Eve’s decision to eat the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden: “It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. And thus Eve and ‘Adam fell that men might be’ [2 Nephi 2:25].
“Some Christians condemn Eve for her act, concluding that she and her daughters are somehow flawed by it. Not the Latter-day Saints! Informed by revelation, we celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. … Joseph Smith taught that it was not a ‘sin,’ because God had decreed it (see The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, , p. 63). …
“Modern revelation shows that our first parents understood the necessity of the Fall. Adam declared, ‘Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God’ (Moses 5:10).
“Note the different perspective and the special wisdom of Eve, who focused on the purpose and effect of the great plan of happiness: ‘Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient’ (v. 11). In his vision of the redemption of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith saw ‘the great and mighty ones’ assembled to meet the Son of God, and among them was ‘our glorious Mother Eve’ (D&C 138:38–39)” (“The Great Plan of Happiness,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73).
The title “bishop” is derived from the Greek word episcopos—epi, which means “over” (as in the epicenter of an earthquake, or the spot over which the quake centers), and scopos, meaning “look” or “watch.” Therefore, an episcopos, or bishop, is one who watches over the flock as an overseer or supervisor. In 1 Timothy 3:1–7, Paul listed several qualifications for men who were called as bishops. The attributes specified by Paul—including vigilance, sobriety, generosity, and patience—are valuable for all disciples of Jesus Christ, regardless of their calling. Speaking to bishops, President Gordon B. Hinckley identified similar qualifications needed for priesthood leaders in our day:
“You must be men of integrity. You must stand as examples to the congregations over which you preside. You must stand on higher ground so that you can lift others. You must be absolutely honest, for you handle the funds of the Lord. …
“Your goodness must be as an ensign to your people. Your morals must be impeccable. The wiles of the adversary may be held before you because he knows that if he can destroy you, he can injure an entire ward. You must exercise wisdom in all of your relationships lest someone read into your observed actions some taint of moral sin. You cannot succumb to the temptation to read pornographic literature or even in the secrecy of your own chamber to view pornographic films. Your moral strength must be such that if ever you are called upon to sit in judgment on the questionable morals of others, you may do so without personal compromise or embarrassment” (“The Shepherds of Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 60–61).
The word deacon comes from a Greek word meaning “servant” or “minister.” The office of deacon seems to have been a preparatory one, because Paul did not prohibit “a novice” (a recent convert) from being called as a deacon but did prohibit a novice from being called as a bishop (1 Timothy 3:6). Other requirements for deacons were similar to those for bishops, including the requirement that “deacons be the husbands of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:12; compare verse 2).
President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) explained the different marital requirements for deacons of the early Church and for deacons today: “It was the judgment of Paul that a deacon in that day should be a married man. That does not apply to our day. Conditions were different in the days of Paul. In that day a minister was not considered qualified to take part in the ministry until he was thirty years of age. Under those conditions deacons, teachers, and priests were mature men. This is not the requirement today” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith, 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:129). To read about the office of deacon in today’s Church, see Doctrine and Covenants 20:57–60; 84:26–27, 30, 111; 107:85.
In Paul’s day, extreme asceticism—the practice of abstaining from physical pleasures in an effort to overcome desires of the flesh—was a threat to the Church (see 1 Corinthians 7:1–5 and the commentary for Colossians 2:20–23). Although Paul did not expound on the doctrine of marriage in this particular passage, other verses in the pastoral Epistles reflect Paul’s consistent message that marriage and family are ordained of God. For example, Paul taught that bishops and deacons should be married and serve as good fathers (see 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12; Titus 1:6–7), that capable adults should provide for the temporal needs of their family (see 1 Timothy 5:8), that married women should love their husbands and children and care for their household (see 1 Timothy 5:14; Titus 2:4–5), and that the last days would be characterized by disobedience to parents (see 2 Timothy 3:2).
President M. Russell Ballard spoke of modern influences that threaten marriage and the family today: “False prophets and false teachers … attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles” (“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 64; see also D&C 49:15).
Paul urged Timothy to “exercise thyself … unto godliness.” Paul then pointed out that physical exercise “profiteth little” (meaning that its positive effects were only temporary), whereas “godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Timothy 4:7–8). This contrast would have been particularly poignant to Paul’s audience, since an athletic, fit body was highly valued in the Roman culture, and athletes trained and exercised in gymnasiums throughout the empire. Paul rejected the overvaluation of physical fitness and taught that reading, exhortation, doctrine, and cultivating gifts of the Spirit should take higher priority (see 1 Timothy 4:13–15).
Caring for our physical bodies is still important: “Your body is a temple, a gift from God. You will be blessed as you care for your body. … To care for your body, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice balance and moderation in all aspects of your physical health” (For the Strength of Youth , 25).
In 1 Timothy 5:1–16, Paul taught true principles about welfare assistance. Respect and concern for the elderly and widows is a godly principle, and although Paul’s instructions in these verses applied specifically to widows, many of the principles can be applied more broadly in our day to caring for family members and others in need. For example, Paul taught that a widow could qualify for welfare assistance only if she was righteous and did not have children or other relatives who could care for her (see 1 Timothy 5:4, 10). If family members would assist widows, the Church could avoid becoming “burdened down” (1 Timothy 5:16, footnote b). The reference in 1 Timothy 5:9 to widows being “taken into the number” may mean that certain widows were numbered among those receiving welfare assistance from the Church.
Paul then wrote that “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith” (1 Timothy 5:8). The role of fathers to provide temporally for their families was important in Paul’s day, as it is today. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “From the early days of this Church, husbands have been considered the breadwinners of the family. I believe that no man can be considered a member in good standing who refuses to work to support his family if he is physically able to do so” (“The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 58). Although fathers are considered responsible to provide for their families, modern prophets have also taught that families’ individual “circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 129).
Paul counseled Timothy, “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Timothy 5:22). This meant that men were not to be ordained without proper preparation. That preparation included ensuring that the one to be ordained was spiritually mature and worthy (see the commentary for 1 Timothy 3:1–7) and seeking the Lord’s guidance (see Acts 1:24–26). Elder Richard J. Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy explained: “When Paul instructed Timothy, he said, ‘Lay hands suddenly on no man’ (1 Timothy 5:22). He knew that prayer, pondering, and inspiration must precede the giving of callings” (“Words of the Early Apostles: Building Up the Church,” Ensign, Sept. 2003, 45; see also Articles of Faith 1:5).
In 1 Timothy 6:6–19, Paul warned Timothy of the destructive influence that riches can have on those whose hearts are set on the things of the world. Paul’s warnings can be summarized by his statement that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Paul also spoke about people who had “coveted after” money and as a result had “erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about how a love of money and possessions can affect our spirituality:
“Our world is fraught with feelings of entitlement. Some of us feel embarrassed, ashamed, less worthwhile if our family does not have everything the neighbors have. As a result, we go into debt to buy things we can’t afford—and things we do not really need. Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude. Money we could have used to care for ourselves and others must now be used to pay our debts. What remains is often only enough to meet our most basic physical needs. Living at the subsistence level, we become depressed, our self-worth is affected, and our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and the Lord are weakened. We do not have the time, energy, or interest to seek spiritual things. …
“… When faced with the choice to buy, consume, or engage in worldly things and activities, we all need to learn to say to one another, ‘We can’t afford it, even though we want it!’ or ‘We can afford it, but we don’t need it—and we really don’t even want it!’ …
“Whenever we want to experience or possess something that will impact us and our resources, we may want to ask ourselves, ‘Is the benefit temporary, or will it have eternal value and significance?’ Truthfully answering these questions may help us avoid excessive debt and other addictive behavior” (“Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 8–10).
Paul said that “no man hath seen, nor can see [God]” (1 Timothy 6:16). However, the Joseph Smith Translation of 1 Timothy 6:15–16 makes clear that a person can see God if he or she is clean and worthy:
“Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, to whom be honor and power everlasting;
“Whom no man hath seen, nor can see, unto whom no man can approach, only he who hath the light and the hope of immortality dwelling in him” (in the Bible appendix).
Paul told Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science” (1 Timothy 6:20). In this verse, “science” is a translation of the Greek term gnōseōs, which means “knowledge,” and the term was probably referring specifically to the Gnostic movement that was then finding its way into early Christianity. Gnostics believed that salvation was obtained by being instructed in secret knowledge (called gnosis). Gnosticism was a major source of controversy in second-century Christianity. To read more about this movement, see “To whom was 1 John written and why?” in chapter 52.
Chronologically, 2 Timothy appears to be Paul’s final letter in the New Testament, having been written shortly before his death (see 2 Timothy 4:6). It contains the reason why Paul labored so diligently in his ministry: his conviction that he had been called by Jesus Christ, who had “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Having witnessed the difficulties that false teachers can cause for Church members, Paul encouraged Timothy to trust in the scriptures and in Church leaders (see 2 Timothy 3:14–17) and to rely on true doctrine (see 2 Timothy 4:2). Modern readers can easily see the accuracy of Paul’s prophetic description of the “perilous times” that would exist in the last days (see 2 Timothy 3:1–7). The Second Epistle to Timothy emphasizes the power that comes from having a testimony of Jesus Christ (see 2 Timothy 1:7–8).
The epistle states that it was written by the Apostle Paul (see 2 Timothy 1:1). This letter is one of the pastoral Epistles, along with 1 Timothy and Titus.
Paul wrote of being imprisoned frequently (see 2 Corinthians 11:23), and the scriptural record specifically mentions imprisonments in Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome. In 2 Timothy, however, Paul alludes to another imprisonment in Rome, which was apparently a separate incident from when he was under house arrest there earlier (see Acts 28:30–31). In the imprisonment spoken of in 2 Timothy, Paul was in chains (see 2 Timothy 1:16; 2:9), he was held in a cold cell or dungeon (see 2 Timothy 4:13, 21), and his friends struggled to locate him (see 2 Timothy 1:17). Luke was apparently his only contact (see 2 Timothy 4:11), and Paul expected that his life was coming to an end (see 2 Timothy 4:6–8). According to early Christian traditions, Paul was executed during the persecutions of the Roman Emperor Nero. Since Nero died in A.D. 68, the Second Epistle to Timothy may have been written about A.D. 67 or 68, just prior to Paul’s martyrdom.
In this letter, Paul encouraged Timothy and offered strength to help him carry on after Paul’s impending death. Paul was aware that his time was short and he desired to see Timothy, whom Paul figuratively called “my dearly beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:1; see also 1 Timothy 1:2). At the end of his letter, Paul requested that Timothy and Mark visit him and bring him a few items that he had left behind (see 2 Timothy 4:9–13).
While writing this epistle, Paul was expecting to be put to death shortly (see 2 Timothy 4:6–8). This letter contains his reflections about the blessings and difficulties of serving as “a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:11). Paul declared, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8), indicating that he had a personal assurance that he would inherit eternal life. As one who had ministered for Jesus Christ for over 30 years, Paul was in an excellent position to instruct Timothy on how to serve effectively in strengthening the faith of others (see 2 Timothy 2:15–17, 22–26; 4:1–2, 5).
Paul spoke of the gift and power of God that is received through priesthood ordination. He taught that the “spirit of fear” does not come from God and that we should not be ashamed of our testimony of Jesus Christ (see 2 Timothy 1:7–8). Paul testified that he was called by Jesus Christ to be “a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:11).
Paul used the imagery of a good soldier, a victorious athlete, and a hardworking farmer to illustrate the need for endurance to receive eternal glory. He contrasted true and false teachers, as well as honorable and dishonorable vessels. He warned Timothy to avoid controversies and to patiently teach those who need repentance.
Paul described the evil conditions of the last days and encouraged Timothy to use the scriptures in his role as a priesthood leader. He wrote of his impending death and declared, “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul testified that the Lord would deliver him to the “heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).
In the opening of his Second Epistle to Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God, which is in thee” (2 Timothy 1:6); this was an admonition to Timothy to revive the gift of the Holy Ghost and keep it strong and alive in his life. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles pointed out: “These four words—‘Receive the Holy Ghost’—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed ‘receive the Holy Ghost’ and its attendant spiritual gifts” (“Receive the Holy Ghost,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 95).
Paul had been imprisoned and endured severe persecution himself, so he knew firsthand how persecution could cause followers of Christ to fear. President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) quoted 2 Timothy 1:7 as he encouraged members of the Church not to become fearful about the future:
“It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come—if we allowed ourselves to dwell only on that which is wrong in the world and in our lives. Today, however, I’d like us to turn our thoughts and our attitudes away from the troubles around us and to focus instead on our blessings as members of the Church. The Apostle Paul declared, ‘God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ [2 Timothy 1:7]. …
“The history of the Church in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. It will not remove our troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 89).
Paul reflected on his life of discipleship and encouraged Timothy, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). Paul himself was not ashamed of his faith, for he knew in whom he had believed (see 2 Timothy 1:12). He counseled Timothy to “hold fast” to the doctrines once he had learned them (2 Timothy 1:13), and this counsel certainly applies to us today. Paul anticipated that he would soon be put to death by the Romans, yet he knew that Jesus Christ had “abolished death” (2 Timothy 1:10).
Recognizing that Timothy too would be a “partaker of the afflictions of the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8), Paul exhorted Timothy to faithfulness by using the metaphors of a good soldier who dutifully endures hardships and sets aside other affairs to please his superior (see 2 Timothy 2:3–4), an athlete who can be victorious only if he acts according to the established rules (see verse 5), and a hardworking farmer who must toil to harvest the fruits of his labors (see verse 6). At the heart of Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was an understanding that a disciple must be willing to endure hardships in order to help others obtain salvation through Jesus Christ (see verse 10).
Paul encouraged Timothy to “flee also youthful lusts” and to sincerely seek after “righteousness, faith, charity, peace” with a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22). Concerning youthful lusts, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “We cannot say it frequently enough. Turn away from youthful lusts. Stay away from drugs. They can absolutely destroy you. Avoid them as you would a terrible disease, for that is what they become. Avoid foul and filthy talk. It can lead to destruction. Be absolutely honest. Dishonesty can corrupt and destroy. Observe the Word of Wisdom. You cannot smoke; you must not smoke. You must not chew tobacco. You cannot drink liquor. … You must rise above these things which beckon with a seductive call” (“Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, 49).
In 2 Timothy 3:1–7, Paul prophesied about the terrible difficulties and wickedness that will cover the earth during the “perilous times” leading up to the Second Coming (2 Timothy 3:1). (Note that the footnotes for verses 1–7 are helpful in understanding the terms used in the verses.) President Boyd K. Packer (1924–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the key to gaining spiritual safety in the last days: “We live in those ‘perilous times’ which the Apostle Paul prophesied would come in the last days. If we are to be safe individually, as families, and secure as a church, it will be through ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ [Articles of Faith 1:3]” (“The Test,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 88).
According to a Jewish tradition, Jannes and Jambres were the names of the two magicians in Pharaoh’s court who opposed Moses and Aaron (see Exodus 7:10–12).
According to Paul, “the holy scriptures … are able to make thee wise unto salvation” and “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15–16). These admonitions help us understand the importance of teaching the scriptures to our children. Elder David A. Bednar spoke about how scripture study brings divine direction and protection: “The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is ‘the fountain of living waters’ (1 Nephi 11:25; compare Ether 8:26; 12:28), by reading (see Mosiah 1:5), studying (see D&C 26:1), searching (see John 5:39; Alma 17:2), and feasting (see 2 Nephi 32:3) upon the words of Christ as contained in the holy scriptures. By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey” (“A Reservoir of Living Water” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Feb. 4, 2007], 1).
Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:1–4 foreshadow the coming of the Great Apostasy, when people would “not endure sound doctrine” but instead would seek after false teachers who would say what their listeners’ “itching ears” wanted to hear. The reference to “itching ears” might be more easily understood as describing those who choose to listen only to those things that they wish to hear.
Knowing that the end of his life was approaching, Paul wrote that he was “ready to be offered,” implying that he was ready to give up his life as a sacrifice to the Lord (2 Timothy 4:6). He then used the metaphor of a victorious athlete to describe the completion of his mission: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:7). Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about how Church members can faithfully finish their course: “Enduring to the end means that we have planted our lives firmly on gospel soil, staying in the mainstream of the Church, humbly serving our fellow men, living Christlike lives, and keeping our covenants. Those who endure are balanced, consistent, humble, constantly improving, and without guile. Their testimony is not based on worldly reasons—it is based on truth, knowledge, experience, and the Spirit” (“Press On,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 101).
Continuing with his metaphor comparing himself to a triumphant athlete, Paul spoke about the “crown of righteousness” that was “laid up” for him (2 Timothy 4:8), a reference to the crowns of olive branches that were given to the victors in ancient Greek athletic contests. Paul then pointed out that an eternal crown will be given to all Saints who righteously endure to the end and prepare for the Second Coming of the Lord. Paul testified that throughout his persecution, “the Lord stood with [him], and strengthened” him as he preached the gospel (2 Timothy 4:17).
Paul’s letter to Titus, like his letters to Timothy, contains timeless counsel from the Apostle Paul to a local Church leader. Paul wrote that the “hope of eternal life” was first promised by God in the pre-earth life “before the world began” (Titus 1:2). He taught that the Saints should look forward to “that blessed hope” of exaltation and to the Second Coming (Titus 2:13). Paul also wrote to Titus about the “washing of regeneration” and the “renewing of the Holy Ghost,” alluding to the ordinance of baptism and the purifying effect of receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, both of which are preparatory to being “made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5, 7). Paul’s inspired counsel reminds modern Christians that the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel bring hope for eternal life.
Very few details are known about Paul’s ministry and travels after he was released from his first Roman imprisonment in A.D. 62 or 63 (see Acts 28). It is likely that Paul wrote the Epistle to Titus between his writing of 1 and 2 Timothy, perhaps in A.D. 63 or 64. Paul did not specify his location when he wrote the Epistle to Titus.
This epistle was written by Paul “to Titus, mine own son after the common faith” (Titus 1:4). Titus was born to Greek parents (Galatians 2:3) and had been converted to the gospel by Paul himself. After his conversion, Titus labored with Paul to spread the gospel and organize the Church. He helped gather donations for the poor in Jerusalem (see 2 Corinthians 8:6, 16–23) and accompanied Paul to the Jerusalem council (see Galatians 2:1). Titus was personally entrusted to bring greater unity to the branches in Corinth (see 2 Corinthians 7:5–15). Paul wrote to Titus to strengthen him in his assignment to lead and care for the branch of the Church in Crete in spite of opposition (see Titus 1:10–11; 2:15; 3:10).
The Epistle of Titus provides the earliest evidence that the Church had been established on the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Titus had the responsibility of calling new bishops on the island. Paul listed some of the spiritual qualifications for bishops (see Titus 1:6–9). In addition, Paul gave specific advice to men, women, and servants on proper behavior for Saints (see Titus 2:2–10).
Paul instructed Titus to ordain Church leaders; then he listed some qualifications for bishops. He instructed Titus to correct heresies and to rebuke false teachers who “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him” (Titus 1:16).
Paul encouraged Titus to instruct elderly Church members to set examples for the younger Saints. He also asked Titus to teach servants to submit to their masters. Paul explained the manner in which disciples should live as they prepare for the Lord’s return. He described the redemption brought about through Jesus Christ.
Paul taught that Church members are to be good citizens and righteous followers of Jesus Christ after baptism. Through baptism, we may receive eternal life through the Lord’s grace.
In Titus 1:2, Paul spoke of “eternal life, which God … promised before the world began.” This verse, along with other passages in the Bible, attests that we lived before we were born into mortality (see Job 38:7; Jeremiah 1:5; Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4; Hebrews 12:9; Revelation 12:7).
Titus presided over the branch of the Church on the Greek island of Crete and thus had authority to call bishops to oversee Church members. In Titus 1:7–9, Paul outlined a list of qualifications for bishops. To read more about these qualifications, see the commentary for 1 Timothy 3:1–7.
Paul warned Titus about “unruly and vain talkers and deceivers” who sought after “filthy lucre” (Titus 1:10–11). “Filthy lucre” refers to money obtained through dishonest means. Dishonest people often teach “things which they ought not” (Titus 1:11) for money and the praise of the world. The Book of Mormon refers to this activity as “priestcraft” (2 Nephi 26:29).
As Paul warned about false and greedy teachers among Titus’s own people, he pointed out that the people of Crete—“Cretians”—had a reputation for being “liars, evil beasts,” and “slow bellies” (Titus 1:12). Ancient writers such as Cicero, Livy, Plutarch, and Polybius similarly reported that the people of Crete were greedy. Historically, the word Cretan came to be synonymous with dishonesty. The term “slow bellies” in this verse is better translated as “idle bellies” and carries the idea of lazy gluttony.
Church members in Crete had apparently been influenced by Jewish teachings that some things were either ritually pure or impure. In Titus 1:15, Paul taught that “unto the pure all things are pure,” meaning that purity is an inner spiritual condition that cannot be affected by touching or partaking of something that had been declared to be ritually unclean. The Joseph Smith Translation of Titus 1:15 reads, “Unto the pure, let all things be pure” (in Titus 1:15, footnote a).
Because false teachings were creeping in among the Saints on the Isle of Crete, Paul urged Titus to teach “sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Paul then gave several examples of how true doctrine will guide the behavior of men and women, old and young, and servants.
President Dallin H. Oaks stressed the value of teaching the doctrine of the gospel: “Well-taught doctrines and principles have a more powerful influence on behavior than rules. When we teach gospel doctrine and principles, we can qualify for the witness and guidance of the Spirit to reinforce our teaching” (“Gospel Teaching,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 79).
President Boyd K. Packer also taught:
“True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
“The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (“Little Children,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 17).
In Titus 3:5, Paul wrote that we are saved through Christ’s mercy “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The “washing of regeneration” is baptism; the Greek word translated as “regeneration” suggests the idea of re‑creation. At baptism a person enters into a covenant relationship with Christ and is created anew in a sinless state, becoming “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Just as a newborn is given a name, those who are baptized take upon themselves a new name—the name of Jesus Christ—and covenant to strive to live like Him.
Elder Christoffel Golden Jr. of the Seventy spoke about the sanctifying effect of the Holy Ghost: “Only the Atonement can rid man of sin, making one justified in the sight of God. Afterward comes the gift of sanctification—being made clean, pure, and spotless—which can only be dispensed through the power of the Holy Ghost on conditions of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“Paul himself testified that he had been baptized for a remission of sins (see Acts 22:12–16) and reminded Titus that we would be saved ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but … by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost’ (Titus 3:5)” (“Words of the Early Apostles: Grace,” Ensign, Oct. 2003, 51).
Philemon is perhaps the most personal of all Paul’s letters, and it clearly illustrates the fact that when people join the Church of Jesus Christ, they become brothers and sisters in the gospel. One principle that Paul taught Philemon was that when a person is offended or hurt by another, it is the injured person’s duty to forgive the wrongdoer (see Philemon 1:15–17; see also Matthew 18:21–35; D&C 64:9).
The Epistle to Philemon was sent by the Apostle Paul and Timothy (see Philemon 1:1).
The Epistle to Philemon was prepared by Paul while the Apostle was in prison, presumably during his house arrest in Rome about A.D. 61 or 62 (see Philemon 1:1, 9; see also Acts 28:14–31). It was probably written around the same time as Colossians and perhaps Ephesians (compare Philemon 1:23–24 to Colossians 4:10–11, 14).
Paul wrote this Epistle to Philemon, a Greek convert who probably lived in Colossae (see Colossians 4:9). He allowed a Church congregation to meet in his home (see Philemon 1:2, 5). Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who had run away from Philemon and then sought help from Paul. Onesimus subsequently converted to the gospel (see Philemon 1:10–12). Paul wrote to Philemon to encourage him to receive Onesimus back without the severe punishments that would usually be inflicted on runaway slaves (see Philemon 1:17). Paul said that Onesimus had changed from being “unprofitable” to “profitable” for both Paul and Philemon and that Philemon should “therefore receive him” (Philemon 1:10–12). More significantly, Paul suggested that Onesimus was now “a brother beloved” since he had come unto the Lord (Philemon 1:16). Paul even offered to make up any financial loss suffered by Philemon because of Onesimus being “unprofitable” (see Philemon 1:18–19).
In this letter, Paul neither approved of nor opposed the institution of slavery (in the New Testament Judeo-Christian culture, slavery, or servitude, was an accepted part of society), but instead he emphasized how Philemon’s identity as a Christian ought to dictate the way he treated his servant. For more information on slavery in New Testament times, see the commentary for Romans 6:12–23.
Philemon is the shortest of Paul’s epistles. It is a letter addressed to a private individual; as such, it does not include much doctrinal content. Nevertheless, Paul’s plea for Philemon to reconcile with the slave Onesimus illustrates how the doctrines of the gospel apply to daily life—in this case, showing that our relationship with Jesus Christ brings us into a familial relationship with all other followers of Christ and highlighting the importance of mercy and forgiveness in Christian living.
Paul greeted Philemon and the Church members who were meeting in Philemon’s house. Paul encouraged Philemon to receive back the runaway slave Onesimus as he would receive Paul himself.
In Philemon 1:7, 12, and 20, the original Greek word translated as “bowels” referred to one’s “inner parts,” meaning one’s feelings and affections. Some modern Bible translators have chosen to translate this word as “heart” rather than “bowels.” When Paul spoke of the Saints’ bowels and his own bowels being refreshed (see Philemon 1:7, 20), he was referring to their hearts being comforted and their emotions heightened by others.
Onesimus was a runaway slave who belonged to Philemon. Onesimus had fled to where Paul was imprisoned and was subsequently converted to the gospel. Paul then wrote to Philemon to admonish him to receive Onesimus back as “a brother beloved” (Philemon 1:16).
Paul explained that he had chosen not to use his authority as an Apostle of Jesus Christ to demand that Philemon do “that which is convenient”—to receive Onesimus back (Philemon 1:8). Instead, Paul simply requested that Philemon honor his wishes because of Paul’s advanced age and his suffering as a prisoner (see Philemon 1:9).
It may seem strange that Paul would suggest that Philemon might accept Onesimus back because it was “convenient” (Philemon 1:8). However, at the time the King James Version of the Bible was produced, convenient could mean “suitable” or “fitting.” The original Greek word translated as “convenient” is formed from a verb meaning “to come up to,” and the term carries the idea of measuring up to a certain mark or standard. Paul’s use of the word hints that Philemon should forgive Onesimus because it was the most fitting or becoming thing for a true follower of Christ “to come up to.” Paul then set an example of Christian charity when he offered to personally compensate Philemon for any financial loss that resulted from Onesimus’s actions (see Philemon 1:18).
Under Roman practices of the time, slaves were at the mercy of their owners. Runaway slaves who were recovered were sometimes branded on the forehead, severely beaten, sent away to perform hard menial tasks, thrown into amphitheaters with dangerous beasts, and in extreme cases, killed. When Paul requested that Philemon receive Onesimus back not as a servant but as a beloved brother, he was asking Philemon not to inflict on Onesimus the customary punishment of a runaway slave (see Philemon 1:10, 16).