Timothy is Paul’s protégé, his apprentice, and in these short letters Paul is passing on his advice to Timothy who is helping churches in Paul’s absence.
Paul met Timothy in Lystra (Acts 16) and from then on they travelled together on mission trips. There came a point where Paul had to send Timothy on his own projects and that is the context for these letters. 1 Timothy is a book written to Timothy whilst he is out in Ephesus dealing with some issues that have arisen in the church there. This first book written to Timothy addresses 2 sections of issues that the church had. These came about due to false teaching being spread by the corrupt leaders in Ephesus and Paul encourages Timothy to address these issues with them head on. In the first section of issues (chapters 2 and 3) Paul asks Timothy to deal with prayer meetings, rich women leading & speaking and who to appoint as leaders. In the second section (chapter 4 to 6a) Paul writes about bad theology around food and marriage, caring for disadvantaged widows, dealing with drinking problems among older men who were leading, and how to strategically promote equality under the Gospel among slave and free. It is clear that for Paul a church’s practice should be shaped by scripture and the good news of Jesus and that it should be known for its integrity.
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is his final letter, and probably his most personal. It is most likely that Timothy was still in Ephesus and he was encouraged to come and visit Paul who was not doing well in prison. Paul then wants to pass on some final advice. We also see in this letter Paul is wanting Timothy to accept his calling as a leader, to keep persevering as a follower of Jesus despite the fact that it is hard. Paul encourages Timothy to focus on Christ, to be willing to sacrifice and endure for a greater goal. But the main section of this book is similar to the previous book, that the leaders of the Ephesian church are corrupt and have abandoned key doctrine around the resurrection and new creation.
Paul is wanting Timothy to realise that following Jesus is hard, but that this is not a sign of his absence, rather that it is in these hard moments Jesus’ love and faithfulness is most acutely realised.
These letters are great for understanding the value Paul had for scripture and following Jesus’ teaching and how that in all circumstances we should never waver from the Gospel of Jesus.