During the summer, we began studying 1 Timothy. When we finished that book, we continued with 2 Timothy. We are currently just over half way through 2 Timothy. We will then continue through Titus and Philemon. These books are normally called “The Pastoral Epistles”. I think that is an unfortunate name. Remember that “The Pastoral Epistles” is not a scriptural designation. When we read the name “The Pastoral Epistles”, we tend to think that the content is primarily for pastors. Again, I think this is unfortunate.
Scripture was written to a people, not to a person. Even the letter that is probably Paul’s most personal (Philemon) epistle was addressed to a group of believers:
Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house… (Philemon 1:1-2 ESV)
We know from reading the remainder of the letter that Paul is writing Philemon in order to encourage him to give up his claims of the runaway slave, Onesimus. Yet, even with this purpose in mind, Paul did not address the epistle only to Philemon. He expected Philemon’s brothers and sisters in Christ to listen to the letter as well as to help Philemon in carrying out Paul’s instructions.
Lately, we have had several opportunities to read entire books with the church. When we started studying 1 Timothy, we read the whole book together. We did the same with 2 Timothy. Also, we were invited to read Luke’s gospel at a brother and sister’s house just before Christmas. Each of these times have been special. It helps us to understand that the book was meant to be read by the church.
Do you think about Scripture as being written to a people? How does it affect our understanding of Scripture?