October 23-29, 2023
1 & 2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon
This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
In the epistles Paul wrote to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, we get a glimpse into the heart of a servant of the Lord. Unlike Paul’s other epistles to entire congregations, these were written to individuals—Paul’s close friends and associates in God’s work—and reading them is like listening in on a conversation. We see Paul encouraging Timothy and Titus, two leaders of congregations, in their Church service. We see him entreating his friend Philemon to reconcile with a fellow Saint and treat him like a brother in the gospel. Paul’s words were not addressed to us directly, and he may never have expected that so many people would one day read them. Yet we find in these epistles counsel and encouragement for us, whatever our personal ministry in the service of Christ might be.
Before we begin, I just want to acknowledge that today’s lesson is a record as the series attempts to discuss 4 New Testament books (out of 27) in a single week. This means that 15% of all the books in the NT are tackled in just 2% of the lessons for this year. Totally amazing that this was even attempted, let alone accomplished. Yes, I realize these are shorter books, but 1 TImothy (6 chapters), 2 Timothy (4 chapters), Titus (3 chapters) and Philemon (1 chapter) make up 14 total chapters, which I believe is a record for the entire series. Unbelievable.
Is it possible to do a genuine Bible study by following the Come, Follow Me series? I contend that the answer is “no.” There is just too much information here to adequately cover the material. This is very unfortunate and is, quite honestly, disheartening. This may even be more astonishing than trying to cover the Book of Romans in only 2 weeks (16 chapters).
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Who were Timothy and Titus?
Timothy and Titus had served with Paul on some of his missionary journeys. During their service, they earned Paul’s respect and trust. Timothy was later called as a Church leader in Ephesus, and Titus was called as a leader in Crete. In these epistles, Paul gave Timothy and Titus instruction and encouragement regarding their responsibilities, which included preaching the gospel and calling men to serve as bishops.
Of course, all LDS leaders believe that “bishop” used in the KJV of this passage means what it means in the LDS terminology today. So this paragraph will lead many readers to confusion.
1 Timothy 4:10–16
“Be thou an example of the believers.”
Timothy was relatively young, but Paul knew that he could be a great Church leader despite his youth. What counsel did Paul give to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:10–16? How can this counsel help you lead others to the Savior and His gospel?
Because of the number of books being covered in this week’s lesson, there is only one sentence of instruction (yes, this book is 6 chapters long) and two questions. Is this one sentence capable of summarizing the great book of 1 Timothy? Absolutely not. For those not inclined to read the book, here are some highlights:
1:3: “Command certain men not to teach false doctrine”
1:7: These “teachers of the law” “do not know what they are talking about”
1:8-10: The law is not made for the righteous but for lawbreakers
1:13: Though Paul was a murderer (an unforgivable sin in Mormonism), he claims that he was “shown mercy” by God
1:14: The grace of Jesus was poured out on Paul based on faith
1:15: Jesus came to save sinners
1:16: “Jesus came into the world to save sinners”
1:17: Jesus is called “the only God”–a clear indication of His deity
2:2: Christians are called to live peaceful and quiet lives
2:5: There is one God (see Deut. 6:4) and one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ
2:8: Paul desires men to pray without anger or disputing
2:9-10: Women are to be modest and have good deeds
2:11-12: A woman is not permitted to have authority over the man
3:1-7: Qualifications for an overseer/elder
3:10-13: Qualificatins for a deacon (including husband of one wife, which is interesting because pre-teens can become “deacons” in Mormonism)
4:1: “Some will abandon the faith” (this verse was misused in last week’s lesson to prove the Great Apostasy)
4:7: Train yourself to be godly
4:9: Jesus is the Savior of all people
4:12: Set an example for those who are younger
4:13: “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching”
4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely”
5:3-6: Instruction given for the care of widows
5:8: Provide for your relatives (including immediate family)
5:9-16: More instructions for widows
5:17: Elders are worth of double honor
5:18: Financial assistance ought to be given to the elders (this is the word for bishops, so an explanation of why the LDS Church does not provide for the financial needs of its bishops deserves an explanation)
5:19: Two or more witnesses are needed to accuse an elder
5:20: Those elders who sin ought to be rebuked
5:23: Paul advises TImothy to use some wine to soothe his stomach (yet wouldn’t this suggestion break Mormonism’s Word of Wisdom?)
6:1-2: Instruction given to those in slavery
6:3-4: Those who teach false doctrine and do not live godly lives know nothing
6:6: “Godliness with contentment is great gain”
6:8: Those who want to get rich fall into Satan’s trap
6:10: “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”–many have wandered from the faith because of their love for money
6:12: Fight the good fight of the faith
6:17: Those who are rich should not be arrogant
6:18: Be generous and lay up treasures in heaven
6:20: Timothy commanded to not be involed in godless chatter
Honestly, I only hit the highlights of this great book. Doesn’t this passage deserve more than one line of instruction?
“God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy is believed to be the last epistle Paul wrote, and it seems that he knew his time on earth was short (see 2 Timothy 4:6–8). How might Timothy have felt, knowing that he might soon be without his trusted mentor and leader? What did Paul say to encourage him? You might also read with your own challenges and fears in mind. What messages of hope and encouragement does the Lord have for you in 2 Timothy?
2 Timothy 3
Living the gospel provides safety from the spiritual dangers of the last days.
We are living in “the last days” that Paul spoke of, and the “perilous times” have come (2 Timothy 3:1). As you read 2 Timothy 3, write down the perils of the last days that are mentioned (see also 1 Timothy 4:1–3):
This is all we get for instruction for a four-chapter book. Here is my challenge for the LDS reader: Do what I did above for 1 Timothy and mark down the main notes for this chapter. See what you can learn for yourself in this wonderful book that goes well beyond the analysis given by the church writers.
Who was Philemon?
Philemon was a Christian who had been converted to the gospel by Paul. Philemon owned a slave named Onesimus, who apparently escaped to Rome. There Onesimus met Paul and converted to the gospel. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter encouraging Philemon to receive Onesimus “not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved” (Philemon 1:16).
Disciples of Jesus Christ treat one another like brothers and sisters.
Actually, the reader gets twice as much analysis for this book than 1 and 2 Timothy combined. Still, there is more here than what is provided. For instance, questions that are not answered include:
- Why did Paul rock the boat, so to speak by asking Onesimus receive Philemon?
- Why didn’t Paul encourage Onesimus to be free away from his master?
- Why was what Paul asked so radical in the Christian way of thinking?
- How are we supposed to learn from this book today (application)?
There was so much potential in this week’s lesson with the material that was supposed to be covered, but again the church curriculum bit off more than could be chewed and digested. Once again, my encouargement for those reading this review is to consider picking up the Bible and read the passages for yourself. I encourage a modern translation, if possible, such as the ESV or NIV translations. Here are links to both for 1 Timothy:
I will tell you that your time reading these books in a language you can understand will be much more profitable than trudging through the church’s lesson…and you will learn a lot more than what you would otherwise receive by just doing the church lesson. Give it a shot and develop a love for the Word of God.