The Central Message in the Pastoral Epistles

Paul’s central message in the Pastoral Epistles focuses on the presence and the errors of false teachers, and how the church and its leaders should respond. In 1 Timothy, Paul explains that false teachers in Ephesus were distorting and misrepresenting the Torah by devoting themselves to myths and endless genealogies (1:3-4). Paul commissions Timothy to confront the corrupt teachers (Chpts 1 & 6) and tells him to instruct the church to pray, to learn sound doctrine and to appoint qualified Christian leaders who will carry on the true gospel message (Chpts 2-3). Paul connects belief with behavior by explaining that there are members in the church community that have adopted some of the false teaching and their lives and behavior have been affected as a result (Chpts 4-5). Thus, Paul wants Timothy to manage these issues and then teach the church to persevere in the truth while dealing with the false teachers.

Paul’s second letter to Timothy further addresses false teaching at length (see 2 Timothy 2:14-4:5), and like his first letter, Paul instructs Timothy to appoint leaders who will teach others correct doctrine. Paul wants them to focus on the Scriptures, “which are able to make [them] wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (3:15). He also explains the practical purposes of the Scriptures in that they are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (3:16-17).

The book of Titus addresses false teaching that was affecting the church in Crete. Paul describes the false teachers as “rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group” (1:10), and then he goes even further in his description by writing, “Even one of Crete’s own prophets has said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true” (1:12-13a). “Their minds and consciences are corrupted” (1:15b). “They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (1:16b). Later in 3:11, Paul writes, “You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.”  Similar to the situation in Ephesus, these false teachers were fixated on myths, foolish controversies, genealogies and Torah distortions. Therefore, Paul gives the same commission to Titus as he did to Timothy; he was to confront and silence the false teachers (1:11), and he was to appoint solid Christian leaders in order to continue the furtherance of the true gospel message (1:5-9).

1 Corinthians 1-2 and Neutrality

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church explaining that when he visited them, he did not use secular rhetorical techniques or think in secular ways or impart secular wisdom (1 Cor 1-2), but rather he imparted words “taught by the spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13 ESV). He explains that Christians have the mind of Christ, and so they can understand spiritual and theological themes; whereas, the secular person is left to their own natural cognitive devices, and so cannot understand the things of God. Paul refutes the “godless intellectualism”[1] that was being promoted in Corinth. The people of Corinth were overly fixated on human wisdom and the wisdom of the world, and they became culturally arrogant and addicted to power, wealth, style and sophistication. Thus, when Paul preached to them the message of Christ crucified, some considered it folly because the truth of the cross cannot be grasped by the best of human thinking or rhetorical strength, but it is received as a gift by faith and trust.[2] Paul did not compromise the gospel message by changing it to the whims and tastes of the secular Corinthians because that would be to follow the expectations of fallen and sinful humanity.[3]

According to Greg Bahnsen, any philosophy that submits to worldly wisdom or human tradition, instead of Christ, is vain deception and futile in its deductions. All wisdom and knowledge is from God and is located in Christ, and so humanity’s knowledge of the truth is contingent on God’s eternal knowledge.[4] Thus, Christians should root their thinking in Christ and submit “to his epistemic lordship rather than the thought patterns of apostate pseudo-wisdom.”[5] Bahnsen explains that the scriptures present God’s words, and so they have absolute authority and are the ultimate criterion of wisdom and truth. Christians must commit to this presupposition rather than following the secular mindset of neutrality— “a nobody knows as yet attitude.”[6]

Secular thinkers will claim that a neutral mindset, while engaging in study, is the superior intellectual method. They argue that such a neutrality comes from their lack of presuppositions or precommitments. However, this type of “coming from nowhere and going nowhere but making things up as we go”[7] is a myth and a useless intellectual exercise. In reality, no one is neutral, all have thoughts and assumptions. Christians are not the only ones with epistemological presuppositions. “Even those who claim to be ‘detached’ are in reality, servants of hidden precommitments and presuppositions.”[8]

The neutrality mindset in rampant in the present culture, and so “to believe in the triune God of Scripture who speaks and acts in history requires an act of apostasy from the assumed creed of our age.”[9] Christians should ground themselves in scripture, and as they are confronted with new ideas, they will be in a position to critically evaluate those ideas. While engaging with ideas, Christians should not be afraid to pull back on the leash when ideas veer off in the wrong direction—that is, when they advocate neutrality or relativistic truth claims.[10]

[1] Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians. NIVAC, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 56. [2] John Polhill, “The Wisdom of God and Factionalism: 1 Corinthians 1-4,” RevExp 80 (1983): 330 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 57. [3] Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, 1 Corinthians, (Wilmington, NC: Glazier, 1979), 14 cited in Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 56. [4] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith. (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), 23. [5] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 24. [6] Bahnsen, Always Ready, 4.[7] Michael S. Horton. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011) EPUB edition, Introduction, Part I. A. “Drama: The Greatest Story Ever Told.” [8] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction 5th ed. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), EPUB edition, Part II, ch. 5, “Commitment and Neutrality in Theology.” [9] Horton, Christian, Introduction, Part I. A. “Drama: The Greatest Story Ever Told.” [10]David K. Clark, To Know and Love God : Method for Theology (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2003), XXV.


Issues in the City of Corinth

The city of Corinth was a bustling town due to its location on the isthmus that connected the Peloponnesian peninsula with the rest of Greece. The isthmus was useful for military and commercial movement, and since the area was a crossroads for sea traffic from around the world, Corinth had ports for travelers to base. Corinth was a wealthy city due to its ability to tariff traffic and due to its ongoing world commerce throughout the city. Corinth was a religious and philosophical hub as people from around the world visited and introduced their culture and ideas (Hafemann 172).

The contextual setting of Corinth contributed to the Corinthians becoming intellectually and spiritually prideful. They were overly fixated on human wisdom and the wisdom of the world, and they became culturally arrogant and addicted to power, wealth, style and sophistication. This affected the church community in areas of sexual integrity, food practices and communal worship. Church members who followed the cultural norms thought that they were above other people within the church, and so they behaved and treated people differently. They thought they could engage sexually with anyone, eat whatever food they wanted and exercise their spirituality whenever they felt moved.

This type of attitude also led to a boastful competition and division within the church regarding leaders. Rival factions developed among the Corinthians based on their preference of and loyalty to certain Christian speakers. One would say, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ” (1 Cor 1:12). Paul addresses this by explaining that the church is not a popularity contest, but rather the church is a community of people centered on Jesus. He points out that their dividing based on their favorite teacher is a sign that the Spirit of God is not prevailing in their lives, and so while they think they are spiritual, they are acting like those who are unspiritual (Hafemann 164-165).

This behavior was so prevalent in the Corinthian church that Clement of Alexandria needed to address it again several decades later. Clement refers to Paul’s Corinthian letter and writes, “he [Paul] wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas and Apollos because even then parties had been formed among you” (Chap. XLVII). Then, he describes their present similar behavior as “highly disgraceful, and unworthy of Christian profession” (Chap. XLVII). He finishes his admonition by writing, “…through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves (Chap. XLVII).

Works Cited

Clement of Alexandria. “The First Epistle of Clement.” ANF v.1.

Hafemann, S.J. “Corinthians, Letters To The.” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin. Inter-Varsity Press, 1993, pp. 164-179.

The Aim of Theologians

The aim of theologians is to consider the existence of a deity or deities and then to reflect on the implications of such a notion for humanity. This involves an examination of theistic arguments in order to determine the reality of a supreme supernatural being(s). The strongest theistic arguments have pointed to monotheism─the existence of one God. Thus, the aim of monotheistic theologians is to seek knowledge of God and to attempt to understand what God is up to in the universe and how God relates to humanity. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, God is personal and desires to be in relationship with humanity. God has made this possible through the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ. With this in view, Christian theologians should aim to know God personally and to draw near to God in order to experience God’s glory, holiness and love.

Christian theologians should live the Shema, which states,

The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deut 6:4-8 NIV).

Christian theologians should allow God’s truth to saturate  every aspect of their lives. Furthermore, Christian theology should not be done in isolation, but rather it should be shared with others. Christian theology should not only be an endeavor that transforms and shapes the lives of individual believers, but also of the church community and of the world. [1]

[1] David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology (Weaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2003), 209.



Theology and Doctrine

There are many areas of study that people can pursue and most of them end with -logy which is a combining form “denoting a subject of study or interest.”[1] When the greek word θεός (theos) meaning “divine being,” “true God,”[2] is combined with -logy it forms the word “theology” which has the literal meaning of the “study of God.” This is a basic definition, and many have expanded this definition. Saint Augustine’s basic definition was stated as “rational discussion respecting the deity.”[3] John Frame writes, “theology is the application of scripture, by persons, to every area of life.”[4] David Clark defines evangelical systematic theology as:

The science by which evangelical believers learn of God. It is rooted in the Bible and focused on Christ. Through this knowledge, the spirit transforms us into followers of Christ and forms us into Christian communities, awakening in us the wisdom of God that leads to genuine worship and cultural transformation. Through theology we know and love God.[5]

B.B. Warfield explains that in order to have a “true theology” a harmonious interaction of authority, intellect and heart is needed. The authority of the scriptures supplies the substance for the intellect which lands in the heart, so that life is beautified.[6] The last defining statement belongs to Michael Bird, “theology is something that is learned, lived, sung, preached, and renewed through the dynamic interaction between God and his people.”[7]

Closely related to the definition of theology is the term doctrine which may be defined as a collection of teachings centered on theological topics. Doctrine accentuates the core, authoritative and agreed upon teachings of a community’s faith.[8] Doctrine is the content of a faith community’s distinct conversations about God.[9] Doctrine describes what God is up to in the universe, how he relates to humanity and the inherent implications. God reveals and communicates his intentions, then acts upon and completes his intentions, then tells humanity what he did. These accomplishments are the essence of doctrine.[10] Michael Bird with his emphasis on the gospel explains that doctrine emerges from the gospel, and so the gospel is the foundational teaching and ultimate rule of the Christian faith. It provides the glasses that Christians look through in order to understand God’s salvation and mission for the church.[11]

Therefore, in view of these definitions, it is easy to identify God as the object of theology and doctrine, but God is unlike any other object of study. God is a personally knowable object of study. God is personal and desires to be in relationship with humanity. God has made this possible by revealing himself in the universe and in the scriptures and through the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ. With this in view, Christians should seek to personally know the object of their faith and to draw near to God in order to experience his glory, holiness and love. They should strive to know Christ and the power of the resurrection. That Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again!

[1] [2] Walter Bauer et al. “θεός,” BDAG 357-358.[3] Augustine, Civ. 8.1 quoted in Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: a Biblical and Systematic Introduction, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013) EPUB edition, Part 1.1, “What is Theology?” [4] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2013.), EPUB edition, ch.1 “What is Theology?” [5] Clark, To Know, xxxii. [6] B.B. Warfield, “Authority, Intellect, Heart,” Selected Shorter Writings II, 668-671.[7] Bird, Evangelical, Part 1.1, “What is Theology?”[8] G.J. Thompson, “Doctrine,” NDT, EPUB edition. [9] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God. Trans. G.W. Bromiley; London: Continum, 2004 [1932], 1/1:11 cited in Bird, Evangelical, Part 1.1, “What is Theology?” [10] Horton, Christian, Introduction, Part I. A. “Drama: The Greatest Story Ever Told.” [11] Bird, Evangelical, Part 1.2, “What Do You Have to Say Before You Say Anything?”

Two Important Themes in Romans

Centrality of Christ

While the centrality of Christ may not be everywhere apparent throughout the book of Romans, it is a major theme because it underlies every other topic throughout the book. The Apostle Paul begins the letter with a strong Christological statement. Romans 1:2-4 states, “the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (NIV). Several passages throughout the book present God’s act in Christ as the center of God’s revelation (i.e. 3:21-26; 5:12-21). Furthermore, this theme is seen by the constant refrain “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (especially in Chapters 5-8). Romans is a complex and sometimes daunting theological letter and much has been written about it (from Augustine to Luther to Barth to many others), but I think this most basic underlying Christological theme of God’s act in Christ, must not be overlooked. Douglas Moo writes, “while Christology is nowhere in Romans the expressed topic, it is everywhere the underlying point of departure” (25).


In view of my prior paragraph, I risk being accused as over-simplifying and neglecting the whole book of Romans by proposing the basic theme of salvation as a major theme and by quoting from chapter one again (I really did consider the rest of the book). Nevertheless, Romans 1:16-17 states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (NIV). This appears to be a strong thesis statement for the Apostle Paul that sets the salvation theme for the rest of the letter. Throughout the letter Paul explains God’s salvation as the transformation, renewal and regeneration of the world which involves the incorporation of the Gentiles and the continued significance and relationship with Israel. For Paul, the gospel message was his main focus which primarily involved the theme of salvation. Other statements by Paul with a strong salvation presentation are Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV), and Romans 13:11 “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (NIV).

Works Cited

Moo, Douglas J. “The Epistle to the Romans” Stonehouse, Ned Bernard, et al. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1974.

Romans 12-16

In Romans 12-16, Paul describes the practical outworking of the gospel that he presents in the prior sections. Throughout his letter, Paul explains that Christ gave himself as a sacrifice, and this gracious life giving gift should be the stimulus for sacrificial living by Christians. Paul explains to his readers that the sacrificial giving of themselves in service and commitment to God is the proper and logical response to Christ’s divine act of grace (12:1-2). This service and commitment to God can take various forms, and everyone has been given a gift, a role and a function to perform in the community of faith. Paul adds that the exercising of such gifts, roles and functions should be permeated by love, humility, empathy and hospitality, and Christians should live in harmony with one another (12:3-16). Such a focus should also extend to the wider world including enemies, the government and neighbors outside the Christian community (12:17-13:10).

Moreover, Paul points out the eschatological basis for such service and commitment to God. Christians should recognize that the final hopeful “day of salvation is already casting the rays of its light on our path, and our lives must reflect that light.”[1] Christians should walk in the light of the new day, living soberly and expectantly while putting behind them past deeds of darkness (13:11-14).

Next, Paul uses Christ-like service principles to address a divisive issue in the church at Rome: the observance of certain dietary codes and rituals. Paul exhorts his readers to follow the example of Christ who did not insist on his own rights. Thus, they were to live in sacrificial harmony and tolerance with one another despite their differences of opinion on the issue (14:1-15:13).

Paul concludes his letter to the Romans by giving more information about his situation and travel plans (15:14-29), by requesting prayer concerning his Jerusalem ministry (15:30-33), by commending a sister in Christ along with other greetings (16:1-16), by giving a final warning about false teachers and by giving personal notes and a benediction (16:17- 27).

[1] D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 240.