Ministry Resources

The Church Finds Solutions

In Lesson 7, we studied the Prison Epistles and saw how they revealed truths about Christ and the church and gave insight into Paul’s character and ministry. These letters helped us see how the church became more mature during the time Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

In this lesson, we will study five letters that were written during the years following Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. For the church, these were years of continued expansion. They were also years of growing opposition. The relationship between the new faith of Christianity and the ancient religion of Judaism needed to be defined in a more conclusive way.

As the Spirit of God gave direction and wisdom, the leaders of the church responded to each of these challenges. Standards were established for church leaders. Attitudes toward persecution were clarified. The significance of Judaism was explained in the light of God’s revelation in Christ. Each of these responses represented another advance for the church. During this period, it gained a fuller understanding of its unique heritage and continued to develop its own special kind of organizational structure.

We will begin our lesson by studying the last years of Paul’s life. Then we will examine the letters he wrote to Timothy and Titus, two of his associates. As we continue, we will give attention to the first letter of Peter and the letter to the Hebrews. These letters show how the church met the problems that arose during the years that followed Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome.

Responding To Growth: Letters To Timothy And Titus

Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus have been called the Pastoral Epistles because they were written to encourage and instruct these two men in their work of pastoring. They demonstrate the practical side of Paul’s wisdom and reveal how he counseled his associates and helped them face the needs of a growing church.

Paul Finishes His Race

As we have already stated, Acts closes without describing the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome or giving any further information about him. However, certain references in the pastoral letters indicate that after his trial, he was released for a time and was able to travel again. In 2 Timothy 4:16–17, for example, Paul wrote that the Lord stood by him in his first defense and that he was “delivered from the lion’s mouth.”

Of the three pastoral letters, 2 Timothy was the last to be written. Paul was back in prison again when it was composed, and he did not expect to live much longer. (See 2 Timothy 4:6– 7.) It is probable that he was executed under the Roman emperor Nero sometime around AD 64.

The manner of Paul’s death is not known for certain, but the manner of his life is. It was one of glorious victory. He served the Savior he loved with total dedication ever since the momentous day when he met Him on the Damascus road. Through shipwrecks, beatings, stonings, imprisonments, and persecutions he followed his Lord. As a result, the gospel message was preached and churches were established all over the Mediterranean world. What an inspiring example he left for us!

The Ministries of Timothy and Titus

Timothy was a young man of Jewish and Gentile descent, respected by the believers who knew him (Acts 16:1–3). Paul took him along on his second missionary journey, and from then on, he was Paul’s constant companion. He helped Paul during the three-year stay in Ephesus and went with him to Jerusalem as one of the representatives from Derbe (Acts 20:4). Colossians 1:1 and Philemon 1 indicate that he was with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. When Paul went to Ephesus after his release, he left Timothy there to oversee the work (1 Timothy 1:3). Apparently, he joined Paul in Rome shortly before Paul died (2 Timothy 4:9, 21). According to Hebrews 13:23, he was also imprisoned for a time.

Titus became a Christian in Antioch. When the controversy arose over the question of circumcising the Gentiles, Paul took Titus along with him to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the leaders there (Galatians 2:1, 3). When difficulties arose in the Corinthian church, Paul sent him there to settle some of the problems. He was effective in this task (2 Corinthians 7:6–16). It appears that he was involved to a great extent in collecting the offerings that were made for the needy saints. Paul called him his “co-worker,” and he was well thought of by the churches (2 Corinthians 8:6, 16–24). When Paul visited Crete after his release, he left Titus there in charge of the work until the arrival of Artemas or Tychicus (Titus 1:5, 3:12). He was probably with Paul during part of Paul’s second Roman imprisonment and later went to Dalmatia (2 Timothy 4:10).

The First Letter to Timothy

Paul went to Ephesus sometime after he was released from prison. He left Timothy temporarily in charge of the work there while he continued his travels. He evidently planned to return to Ephesus and wrote to Timothy in case he should be delayed (1 Timothy 3:14–15). No doubt he wanted Timothy to have clear guidelines for dealing with the situation in Ephesus while he was gone.

In addition to his opening instructions about false teachers, Paul gave Timothy directions about public worship (1 Timothy 2:1–15), church leadership (3:1–16), widows, elders, slaves (5:1–6:2), and the rich (6:17–19). He also advised him about his personal spiritual life and the conduct of his ministry (1:18–20; 4:1–16; 6:3–16, 20–21). His letter shows the close friendship he had with Timothy, yet his manner was authoritative. Several times, he reminded his younger associate of his spiritual heritage (1:18; 4:14; 6:12, 20). Perhaps he sensed that Timothy, left in a difficult situation, was especially in need of encouragement in his work and renewal in his calling.

Read Paul’s first letter to Timothy, using the following outline to guide you.


I. Personal Warning and Appeal. Read 1:1–20.

II. Directions Concerning Church Order. Read 2:1–3:16.

III. Special Advice. Read 4:1–16.

IV. Guidelines for Dealing with People and Situations in the

Church. Read 5:1–6:2.

V. Final Charges. Read 6:3–21.

The ministerial ideals and the practical guidelines that Paul outlined in 1 Timothy are as relevant for the Christian today as they were for Timothy when he first received them. They should be carefully studied by every person who wants to serve the Lord faithfully.

The Letter to Titus

It appears that Paul went to Crete soon after he wrote his first letter to Timothy (Titus 1:5). Evidently, there were already many believers on the island. Perhaps they had heard the gospel message from pilgrims who were in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). After a time of ministry among these believers, Paul continued his travels, leaving Titus behind to finish organizing the work on the island (Titus 1:5). Titus’ task, then, was somewhat different from that of Timothy, who was left in charge of a work that had already been organized.

The content of Titus is similar to that of 1 Timothy. There are instructions for choosing leaders (Titus 1:5–9), directions for dealing with false teachers (1:11, 13; 3:10), and personal admonitions for Titus (2:7–8, 15).

However, Titus contains a more specific emphasis on the importance of correct or sound doctrine in the life of the church. The phrase “sound doctrine” indicates the truth concerning Christ. This truth was sound, or correct, and was not like the erroneous or unsound doctrine of the false teachers.

Read the letter to Titus, using the following outline to guide you.


I. Introductory Remarks. Read 1:1–4.

II. Appointing Elders. Read 1:5–16.

III. Teaching Believers. Read 2:1–3:8.

IV. Dealing with Divisive Persons. Read 3:9–11.

V. Closing Instructions. Read 3:12–15.

Though the book of Titus is short, it is a valuable handbook for Christian workers. Knowledge of its principles and instructions is a sound foundation for those who wish to build up the body of Christ.

The letters of 1 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter show that the groups of believers had developed more definite patterns of organization. Leaders such as overseers and deacons are mentioned more often in these letters than in those written previously. Their qualifications are described in these letters.

The Second Letter to Timothy

Timothy was no longer in Ephesus at the time he received Paul’s second letter to him (2 Timothy 4:12). He was probably engaged in evangelistic work in Macedonia or Asia. Paul’s circumstances had also changed. He was in prison again (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:9).

New Testament descriptions of Paul’s trials and imprisonments seem to show that there was a gradual shift in the attitude of the Roman government toward Christianity. At first, Roman officials were indifferent (Acts 18:14–17). Then they were tolerant (Acts 26:30–32). But tolerance became hostility; history shows that many Christians suffered for their faith during the persecutions that began under the Roman emperor Nero in AD 64. Paul may have been one of these. He told Timothy that he was prepared to face death (2 Timothy 4:6).

Second Timothy is a mixture of advice, warning, exhortation, request, and personal reminiscence. As a departing senior officer would instruct the junior officer who was about to succeed him, so Paul instructed Timothy. He encouraged him to be faithful (2 Timothy 1:1–14). He challenged him to be a good workman (2:14–26). He told him about the difficult times that he saw approaching (3:1–9), and he charged him to perform all the duties of his ministry (3:10–4:8). Alone except for Luke, he longed for Timothy to come to him and bring him some of the belongings he had left in Troas (4:9–22).

Read 2 Timothy, using the following outline to guide you.


I. Opening Greeting. Read 1:1–2.

II. Be Faithful to Your Calling. Read 1:3–2:13.

III. Be Diligent in Your Work. Read 2:14–26.

IV. Be Prepared for the Future. Read 3:1–9.

V. Rely Upon the Scriptures. Read 3:10–17.

VI. Fulfill Your Ministry. Read 4:1–8.

VII. Personal Requests. Read 4:9–22.

Responding To Persecution: First Letter Of Peter

During the years following Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, the church began to experience increasing persecution. The apostle Peter responded to this situation by writing a letter to some believers who were undergoing severe tests and trials.


Peter was one of the three disciples who were closest to the Lord (Matthew 26:37, Luke 9:28). At times, he displayed great spiritual insight (Matthew 16:13–17), but at other times, he failed (Matthew 16:21–23, 26:69–75). As Jesus had prophesied, however, he changed from an unstable disciple into a steadfast apostle (Matthew 16:18, Luke 22:31–32). We have discovered from our study of Acts that he was a prominent leader in the church and a powerful witness and preacher of the gospel. Like Paul, he traveled widely (1 Corinthians 9:5). Also like Paul, he may have died a martyr’s death in Rome sometime after Nero began to persecute the Christians.

Background And Content

Peter wrote the letter of 1 Peter to believers in Asia who were experiencing a time of trial and suffering (1 Peter 1:1, 6; 3:14; 4:12–19). When Peter wrote, Mark had apparently already visited the area, for Peter gave his greeting to the readers (1 Peter 5:13). This indicates that the letter was written sometime after Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, for at that time, Mark was planning a visit to the area but had not yet done so (Colossians 4:10).

Though Peter had not met these believers personally, he was aware of their difficulties. Perhaps Mark had described their situation to him. There is no specific information about how they first heard the gospel. However, it is likely that they became Christians as a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Peter’s reference to the “elders” among them is evidence that they were organized into churches (1 Peter 5:1). It is possible that their sufferings were associated with the persecutions that took place under Nero, for Peter said that others were also suffering (1 Peter 5:9).

In his letter, Peter encouraged his readers and reminded them to face their enemies with a Christlike spirit (1 Peter 2:20–23). He contrasted the temporary nature of their earthly suffering with the eternal reality of heavenly glory (1:6–7; 5:10). He stated the nature of the hope they could have in the midst of their trials (1:1–12). He reminded them of their spiritual calling (1:13–2:3). He explained their position as God’s chosen people (2:4–12). He instructed them regarding their relationships with civil authorities and each other (2:13–3:7). He exhorted them to continue to do what was right (3:8–22). He described the attitude they should have if they were called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake (4:1–19). He gave counsel to the elders and young men among them and told everyone to trust God (5:1–14).

Read the first letter of Peter, using the following outline to guide you.


I. Our Living Hope. Read 1:1–12.

II. Our Costly Redemption. Read 1:13–2:3.

III. Our Privileged Position. Read 2:4–12.

IV. Our Personal Example. Read 2:13–25.

V. Our Outward Behavior. Read 3:1–22.

VI. Our Inner Attitude. Read 4:1–19.

VII. Our Eternal Glory. Read 5:1–14.

No doubt the first believers who read 1 Peter were greatly encouraged and comforted by its message of hope. And what a striking testimony it was to the power of God in the life of its author, the apostle Peter. He who once denied his Lord became a man who strengthened his fellow believers (Luke 22:32). Today, we too receive strength from the words the Holy Spirit inspired him to write.

Responding To Judaism: Letter To The Hebrews

Our study of Acts and Galatians has shown that at first, many Jewish Christians found it difficult to understand and adapt to the changes brought about by the work of Christ. The Judaizers insisted upon circumcision for Gentiles, and Paul had to oppose them and defend the true gospel. It appears that other Jewish Christians continued to cling to the temple, its rituals, and the Jewish way of life in general. The author of Hebrews directed his letter to believers such as these.

Author and Background

The exact identity of the author of Hebrews is unknown, for the letter does not mention the writer’s name, and there is no definitive information available about who he might have been. However, the early church eventually concluded that it did bear the marks of apostolic authorship and included it in the Canon. Certain Bible scholars have suggested Paul, Barnabas, Apollos, and others as possible authors. However, the letter’s form and content do not point conclusively to any one of these. We do know that the author wanted to visit the people to whom he wrote and that he knew Timothy (Hebrews 13:19, 23). It appears that he was not one of the original disciples (2:3). His teaching, though, agrees completely with that of the apostles, and it bears the unmistakable mark of divine inspiration throughout.

The name of the Epistle indicates that it was written to Jewish Christians. Since no city is mentioned, we do not know where these Christians lived. Rome and Jerusalem have been suggested as two of the most likely places (see Hebrews 13:24). The Epistle was probably written sometime in the late sixties before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

Content and Outline

The writer of Hebrews was aware that those to whom he wrote were beginning to draw back from identifying themselves fully with Christ. He saw that they were displaying a tendency to choose the temple and its familiar ritual over obedience to the revelation that God made through His Son. He wrote his letter to show them the grave danger of their position and explain the superiority of Christ and His work over all the ceremonies and institutions of the Law.

He demonstrated how Christ was greater than the angels (1:1–2:18), Moses (3:1–4:13), and Aaron (4:14–7:28). He described how the new agreement was better than the old (8:1–9:28) and how the sacrifice of Christ was the only one that could take away sin (10:1–31). He illustrated the necessity of faith (10:32–12:29) and gave practical ways in which his message could be applied (13:1–25). Woven into his letter are several warnings (such as the one given in 2:1–4) and thirteen exhortations beginning with the words “let us” (see for example 4:1, 16 and 12:1). Look for these warnings and exhortations as you read the letter.


I. His Name Is Higher. Read 1:5–2:18. Comparison: Angels

II. His Position Is Greater. Read 3:1–4:13. Comparison: Moses and Joshua

III. His Priesthood Is Everlasting. Read 4:14–7:28. Comparison: Aaron and Melchizedek

IV. His Covenant Is Eternal. Read 8:1–9:28. Comparison: The Old Covenant

V. His Sacrifice Is Final. Read 10:1–31. Comparison: Yearly Sacrifices

VI. His Promise Is Sure. Read 10:32–12:13. Illustration: Heroes of Faith

VII. His Kingdom Is Unshakable. Read 12:14–13:25. Exhortation: Identify with Christ

As we have seen, the letter of Hebrews contains many precious truths about Christ and His work. Its message was important for the Jewish Christians to whom it was directed, and it is important for us today. Like them, we need to realize that Christ is our great high priest, the one to whom all the rituals and ceremonies of Judaism pointed. Like them, we too have a race marked out for us. Let us run it with perseverance, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–2). How wonderful to know that He is continually interceding for us before the Father, even at this very hour. (7:25)! He helped those early Christians face the challenges of growth and opposition and showed them truths about their spiritual heritage. Through His Word, He can give wisdom and guidance to believers today regardless of the problems or needs they may have.

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