During a recent visit with my parents, I climbed into their attic and brought down a few boxes of old photos. They’d been up there for at least 20 years, maybe more. In one box, I found pictures of my parents in their early twenties. Every time I see pictures of them from before I was born, I wonder who they were. What did they love? How did they spend their time? What kept them up a night? What made them laugh? How did they get from there to here?
Time is a funny thing. We tend to think of people in terms of who they are to us now. But everyone has a story, and none of them are simple. Those stories shape us into who we are. They shape what we care about. The Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus bear this out.
First and 2 Timothy and Titus are Paul’s last letters—his swansong. He writes to his young protégés with the maturity and resolve of a man who knows his end is near. But within Paul’s Spirit-led words, we see reminders of the apostle when he was young—little literary snapshots that take us back to the days when he opposed Christianity and persecuted the Church. We read about his calling to follow Christ and his fight to preserve doctrine that is pure and true. We see a web of relationships forged over the years—some broken, some thriving.
The words we read in these letters have a tremendous amount of history and context behind them. Though they are addressed to individuals, they were written for the sake of all Christians everywhere. For the young believers who will one day become old, these letters exist to guide them along a journey that is faithful and true to the heritage of the gospel of Christ.
Paul says “the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Here at the end of his life, Paul is seasoned in such a way that he knows what it takes to develop this sort of character. He is writing to a young pastor and congregation knowing what sort of training and trials most likely lie ahead for these Christians. Some of what lies ahead for them will be filled with joy; other parts will carry a lot of sorrow. But Paul’s primary concern in these letters is spiritual growth.
One goal of the Christian life is that we would grow and change—that we would become more like Jesus. As you read these letters, I pray the Lord would call to mind ways He has worked to make you more like Jesus. And may this time you spend in His Word add to that ongoing work.
Written by Russ Ramsey