In a previous post we looked at how Paul identified himself as a preacher, apostle, and teacher of the gospel in the Pastoral Epistles. I suggested that today’s missionary identifies with Paul as preacher and teacher of the apostolic gospel. We are not apostles but preach and teach the message of the apostles recorded in Scripture. Timothy and Titus likewise were not apostles but served as coworkers with Paul and in the Pastoral Epistles were delegates of Paul. So we share an affinity with Timothy and Titus as ministers under the authority of the apostles.
THE ROLE OF TIMOTHY AND TITUS
In writing about the role of Timothy and Titus, Andreas Köstenberger notes:
Timothy and Titus are often viewed as pastors of local congregations. However, as mentioned, their role is not actually that of permanent, resident pastor of a church. Rather, these men serve as Paul’s apostolic delegates who are temporarily assigned to their present location in order to deal with particular problems that have arisen in their respective churches and require special attention.
Andreas J. Köstenberger, 2017, Commentary on 1-2 Timothy and Titus, p 8
Timothy and Titus had been coworkers of Paul for some time. Timothy had been sent to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17), Philippi (Philippians 2:19-24), and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-30). Titus was involved in the famine relief collection for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 7:13-15). The letter to Titus assumes that he was with Paul when the gospel came to Crete. Timothy remained in Ephesus to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:3). Titus was left in Crete to “put what remained in order and appoint elders” (Titus 1:5). They were serving as Paul’s delegates or envoys to strengthen these two church plants, one more established than the other. They were serving under Paul’s apostolic authority. Eckhard Schnabel comments:
The missionary work of Paul’s coworkers should not be interpreted as an inferior substitute for Paul’s own presence and ministry. … In the Greco-Roman world, envoys fully represented the person (or the city) that had sent the messenger. The envoy is engaged in the work of his patron with the latter’s full authority. Thus the envoy must be accepted and treated according to the status of his patron with dignity and respect. John formulates in John 13:20 the general principle that characterized the formal and informal relationships in Greco-Roman society succinctly when he reports Jesus as saying, “whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” What is true for the sending of Jesus by God and for the sending of the disciples by Jesus is true not only for the sending of the apostle Paul by Jesus but also for Paul’s “sending” of Timothy, Titus and Epaphroditus.
Eckhard J. Schnabel, 2008, Paul the Missionary, p 253
Timothy and Titus were committed to Paul’s gospel. They knew it well and taught it faithfully. The gospel was a trust from God that Paul had passed on to Timothy and Titus to entrust (2 Timothy 2:2) and declare (Titus 2:15) to others with all authority. Timothy is exhorted to keep a close watch on his own life and teaching (1 Timothy 4:16). Sound doctrine/words heard from Paul (2 Timothy 1:13) are the standard for life and ministry. Sound doctrine and sound lifestyle belong together.
A MODEL FOR MISSIONARIES TODAY
Timothy and Titus model for us what serving under the authority of the apostles looks like. What Timothy and Titus heard and saw from Paul we have in the Bible. We receive the apostolic message and authority in the Scriptures. We don’t have the privilege that Timothy and Titus had in traveling and ministering together with Paul. What they learned in person we learn from the Bible together with all the saints (both those present and throughout church history). The Bible is now our authoritative source for sound doctrine and lifestyle.
We, like Timothy and Titus, have the responsibility to guard the gospel that has been entrusted to us.
We, like Timothy and Titus, have the responsibility to entrust the biblical gospel to others who will faithfully teach others.
We, like Timothy and Titus, have the responsibility to pay close attention to our life and teaching recognizing that we teach by word and example.
WHAT ARE SOME OTHER WAYS THEY SERVE AS MODELS FOR US?
In the next post in this series on the letters to Timothy and Titus, we will look at “sound doctrine and lifestyle.”