Wednesday, December 28, 2022


I recently read the final chapters of the book of Jeremiah. I find his prophetic scope amazing. Jeremiah gives a detailed prophecy for each of the major nations of the world during the time when he lived. He obviously understood the workings and history of each of these nations and had listened to God and gained his perspective on their future. He then wrote a detailed prophecy for each one. That is an amazing achievement.

The modern-day equivalent would be for a prophet to give detailed prophecies for each of the following; United States, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Russia, China, Brazil, India and Nigeria. I cannot think of any of the modern so-called prophets who have come close to doing this.

When I read the prophetic bulletin boards, like the Elijah List, it seems that all the prophecies are about the United States, as if Americans are the only people whom God cares about, when the reality is that the US church is in decline, and the American culture is tearing itself apart. This suggests, contrary to the prophetic focus, that God has abandoned the United States.

No one on the Elijah List has the international scope that Jeremiah had. A few of the Australian prophets give positive prophecies about America, but I presume that this is a good way to build up their ministries and sell their books. A few Americans on the Elijah list say bad things about China and Russia, but they don't know much of these nations' history, and seem to be rooted in fear and xenophobia, rather than the heart of God.

Although the Holy Spirit has been poured out since Pentecost, and the prophetic gift has been restored over the last century, I cannot think of any modern prophet who has achieved the depth and breadth of scope that Jeremiah achieved (as did Isaiah and Ezekiel). This is an indictment on the prophetic movement.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Failed Tactics

Given the dramatic decline in the proportion of Christians and the religious plurality emerging in Western culture, Church leaders should be thinking seriously about how the church will need to change to turn the tide. But there is very little evidence that anything like that is happening.

Continuing in a Christendom-style mode of operating as if Christianity is still dominant in our culture leaves us looking foolish and arrogant.

  • In the past, Christians lived in a culture that respected their beliefs and supported their values (even if they didn’t always live according to them). Their daily lives did not contradict their Christian life. Now the entire culture is hostile, so even if the Sunday service is really good, young Christians spend most of their lives in a culture at work or school that is not conducive to faith. Their interaction with the world during their daily lives will constantly undermine their faith. Many have already succumbed to the pressure. As the pressure gets more intense, many more will give up because their faith is not strong enough to sustain them in an antagonistic environment.

    Modern culture places a high value on members of oppressed groups (female, racial, religious, sexual and transgender minorities). In this context, Christians are seen as part of the dominant culture that oppressed these groups in the past. Consequently, we will see greater hostility to the church, and in some situations, persecution of Christian leaders. So life as a minority will be more unpleasant for Christians will be far more unpleasant than they expect. We will not just be ignored. Those who stand against favoured cultural changes will be harassed.

  • For most people who do not know Jesus, church is a scary place. A few will go with a friend, but most won’t. This means that the Sunday service is no longer a suitable place for seriously sharing the gospel. As a method for sharing the gospel, the Come-to-Church-Model is no longer effective. The declining number of Christians confirms this in Western countries. The modern church has not even been able to replace the Christians who die. Our preferred method for sharing the gospel no longer works.

    Most of what the church does is done in programs run in a church building. Most non-Christians never see the love of Jesus being lived out by people who love one another as Jesus commanded, even if it does happen.

The Come-to-Church-Model is not effective in a culture when Christians are in the minority. It does not work for followers of Jesus, and it does not work for people who need to know Jesus. Persisting with a method that is failing is foolish. Christian leaders who understand how the world is changing should be looking at alternative ways of operating that are better suited to our task.

The New Testament church operated in a very hostile environment. They were often persecuted, first by the Jewish establishment and then by the Romans. People who chose to follow Jesus often had a very tough life. However, Jesus had left his disciples with a way of operating that proved to be very effective. The early church grew rapidly despite the hostility of the environment it operated in. Modern church leaders should be having a serious look at how they did it.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christian Decline

The UK Office of National Statistics has just announced results for religious affiliation from their latest Population Census. For the first time in a census of England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2%) described themselves as “Christian”, a 13.1 percent decrease from 59.3% in 2011. This is amazing. In a nation that was once perceived as the heartland of Christianity, Christians are now a minority. In parts of London, the percentage of Christians is now less than thirty percent.

A similar change has occurred in New Zealand. According to the 2018 population census, only 37.3 percent of the population describe themselves as “Christian”, whereas nearly half (48.6 percent) claim to have “No Religion”. If the various ethnic churches are excluded (they are probably unlikely to reach the existing population with the gospel), the percentages would be significantly worse than in the UK.

The United States is a decade behind, but secularisation of the culture is proceeding faster there, so the decline will be faster too. Unless something changes significantly, the United States will soon be in a similar state to the UK. Pretending that this decline is not happening, or vainly hoping that revival will come and turn the situation around is foolish.

The decline in Christian faith recorded by these statistics represents a massive cultural change in our society. A reasonable person would expect the church to recognize the problem and begin adapting so that it can be effective in the new culture that is emerging. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence that this is happening.

A military general who lost half of his troops, while his enemy's forces were increasing would be freaking out. He would probably be wondering about surrendering or suing for peace before his army was totally decimated. At the very least, he would be changing the way that he fought. He would stop all major engagements against large concentrations of enemy forces, and would disperse his remaining forces to engage in guerilla-style insurgent tactics, harassing the enemy in hit-and-run attacks.

Despite facing similar losses, the church seems to be content to go on doing what it has always done without any consideration of radical change. The “Come to Church for an Hour on Sunday” is still the norm. The worship songs have become more upbeat, and the music production is more professional. The presentation of the message uses more sophisticated visual aids, but the method is still one man preaching. The song-prayer-sermon-altar-call club-sandwich is as popular as ever.

Given the dramatic secular shift and the religious plurality emerging in our culture, Christian leaders should be thinking seriously about how the church will need to change to turn the tide. But there is very little evidence that anything like that is happening.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Isaiah (2)

The second half of the book of Isaiah has some amazing prophecies about the promised Messiah. Isaiah 53 records a detailed prophecy of how his death would occur. The various Servant Prophecies are an amazing description of what Jesus would be like and what he would do. As I read these prophecies, I was amazed at how accurate Isaiah was in hearing God’s voice and prophesying events that were way beyond what anyone living at the time expected. More amazing, this was way before the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Given the difficulties a person like Isaiah would face in receiving God’s word, I am amazed that he could prophesy so clearly about events that were so far in the future. I assume that he did not have this capacity when he was first called to be a prophet. I presume that it gradually developed over many years, as he received and declared God’s word, as he dealt with pushback and hostility, and as he suffered for his loyalty to God. I presume that it was God working in his life by the moving of the Spirit and suffering for the truth that produced the ability to hear God clearly.

I assume that when Isaiah was an old man, he was far more skilled in hearing God speak than he was when he was first called (this is a challenge for everyone with a prophetic calling). It was only toward the end of his life, following intensive work by the Holy Spirit, that he was able to receive word about what the Messiah would do when he came. It was only when he was old that he was able to receive a revelation about the Messiah that was totally different from what everyone else expected.

Isaiah’s prophetic ministry reached great heights as he grew older. Therefore, I am not surprised that he began speaking in a different style and used different words. This would be a natural response to the major work that God had to do in his life. So a change in writing style is not evidence that a different person wrote the latter chapters of the book.

Isaiah is a massive challenge for anyone with a prophetic calling. I cannot think of many modern prophetic voices who have the insight and accuracy that Isaiah demonstrated. Yet, in the confusion of the modern life in our troubled world, a clear direction like Isaiah brought is urgently needed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Isaiah (1)

I have been re-reading the book of Isaiah. Many commentators suggest that only the first half of the book (chapter 1-39) was written by Isaiah, and that the second half (chapters 40-66) were written by a different author, a century later, when Israel was in exile in Babylon and looking forward to their return to the Promised Land. They suggest that the second half is written in a different style from the second half.

I see several problems with this view.

1. A change in style does not mean much. Isaiah prophesied over more than forty years. He began prophesying as a young man during the final years of the reign of King Uzziah (Is 6:1). He was probably still prophesying when King Hezekiah’s son called Manasseh became king. Isaiah was just a young man in his early twenties when he was called to his ministry. Towards the end of his life, he would have been prophesying for more than forty years, and perhaps nearly fifty.

During this ministry, his understanding of God’s purposes would have increased. Because he was open to listening, he would have developed a clearer insight into God’s will. As he grew in his gifting, he would speak in a different way and use better words to describe what God was showing him.

None of us remains static. When I look back on what I wrote thirty years ago, the tone is different, the message is not as clear, and I use a different set of words. I used to refer to Jesus as “Christ” all the time, whereas now I rarely use the word, because I think it gives a false understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done.

In the same way, Isaiah’s way of speaking would have changed and developed throughout his ministry. So it is not surprising that his later prophecies have a different style, tone and message from his earlier ones.

2. Prophecies about the end of the exile are relatively rare, even in the last half of the book of Isaiah. As I read through the book, I was surprised at how few they were. Isaiah 44:21-28 is one example. That does not make sense if the second half of the book was written at the time when Israel was about to return from exile. There would have been a much greater focus on that event.

Saturday, December 17, 2022


Many Christians have strong hope for revival. Despite the decline of faith in Jesus throughout the Western world, they believe that God will send a revival that will turn the situation around and restore the church to the place of strength that it once held.

The problem with this hope is that revival is not a New Testament concept. The word “revival” is not used in the Testament

The closest to a reference to revival is in Acts 3:19, but it refers to “refreshing” not revival. It was addressed to people who were not believers in Jesus, so Peter was not challenging a dull church. He was doing evangelism in a hostile world, which is very different.

The other problem with the revival hope is that it puts the blame for the decline of the church on God. If the Holy Spirit moves in power in some seasons then remains hidden for other seasons, then a period of decline is most likely the consequence of the Holy Spirit is having withdrawn for a season. If that is the case, the solution is to persuade God to send the Holy Spirit back again to bring revival. There is nothing that God’s people can do until the Holy Spirit returns again.

Unfortunately, the underlying premise of this hope is flawed. The Holy Spirit does come and go. He is not in a good mood at some times and in a bad mood at others. He is not unavailable to the church for long seasons. The biblical message is that Jesus has poured the Holy Spirit into the world. He is always working and he never goes away. He is always available to people who seek him honestly and sincerely.

The biblical message to a church in decline is to change your thinking (repent). Change your ways. Do things differently. The Bible promises that if we will humble ourselves and fully commit to doing his will, he will move in power amongst us.

The decline of the church is never God’s fault. It is never because the Holy Spirit has stopped moving for a season. It is always because the church has failed to listen to the Holy Spirit and obey his voice. The reason he cannot move in the way that he wants to is that the church is unwilling to obey him.

In this season, I see no sign that the church wants to change what it is doing and do what the Holy Spirit is desperately begging it to do. The church seems to want to carry on doing things the same way as it has always done, even though it is not working.

The church seems intent on doing what it is already doing. That means that revival is unlikely to come soon. Relying on revival teaching is a false hope.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Reading and Writing

I read articles written by other people critically, not in the sense of looking for faults, but testing all new ideas to ensure that they make sense in terms of what I already know to be true, such as the truth that God exists and is love.

So when people read what I write, I expect them to do the same. I often push the boundaries of conventional wisdom, so I don’t mind if people disagree with what I write. They are entitled to do that. All I ask is that readers don’t reject my ideas, just because they are different from the majority view. They should remember that majority in Israel wanted to make a golden calf to worship. The majority in Jerusalem wanted to crucify Jesus, so the majority is not always right.

I have studied the scriptures for many years, and I think extensively about what I write, but I also know that not everything that I have written is true. The problem is, as a wise person once said, I don’t know which bits are wrong. If I did know, I would not have written them. So everyone who reads my writing should test my ideas and ensure that they align with the truth that they know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (10) Pseudepigrapha

Some modern scholars claim the pastoral epistles written by Paul are pseudepigrapha. The word refers to letters and other texts that are falsely attributed to an important religious leader who is not the true author. They say that these letters were written by a later leader, who tried to gain authority for his letters by claiming they were written by Paul to leaders from the first generation of Christians.

They suggest that the letters referred to leaders mentioned in Paul’s genuine letters to give them credibility. They say that the author of the letter used Paul’s name to give their writings standing in the church.

I think that this is a stupid idea. Even if the letters were written at a date as late as AD 120, there would be people around who knew about Timothy and Titus and how and where they lived and what they did.

My great-grandfather moved to the area where my family farmed in 1878. That is about 140 years ago. My father knew his grandfather, and he told me about his struggles on a small uneconomic farm, and his making ends meet by working as a shearer. If someone was to come along now and say that my great-grandfather was a doctor or a lawyer, I would not believe them. Their story would not be credible to someone familiar with my family history.

If Timothy and Titus were active in about AD 50, a letter written in AD 120 would have only a gap of seventy years. That is the equivalent of me looking back to 1952. I was a child at that time. My parents talked to me about the things that happened at that time. I remember some of the big events, like the coronation of the Queen Elizabeth and Hillary climbing Mount Everest. If someone wrote a book about my great uncle climbing Mount Everest, I would know it was not true.

Even if the Pastoral Epistles were not written until AD150, the gap back to Timothy’s actual life is like me looking back to the 1920s. I was not alive then, but my father was. He talked to me about the things that happened in his family and the nation back then. A false narrative about what happened during the great depression of the late 1920s would not gain traction because too many people still alive know what really happened.

So the idea that someone could pretend to write a letter from Paul to Timothy or Titus and gain credibility for their account is not credible. It assumes a level of stupidity for the Christians of that time that is arrogant and unfair.

This full series is at Pastoral Epistles.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (9) Not Deserted

Commentators usually suggest that Paul was depressed when he wrote his second letter to Timothy because all his fellow-workers had deserted him. Again, I think that this is misleading. A more realistic picture is that Paul was constantly organising his fellow-workers to advance the gospel and protect the fledgling churches.

The reason that Paul wanted Timothy and Mark to come was so that they could work with him. A careful reading of the final chapter if Second Timothy shows that Paul was busy organising the advance of the gospel and the growth of the church. He sent his fellows to various places where the church might need help.

  • Demas Thessalonica (he is midunderstood).
  • Crescens — Galatia
  • Tychicus — Ephesus
  • Erastus — Corinth
  • Trophimus — Miletus
These leaders covered most regions of Asia Minor, Macedonia and Greece where Paul and his co-workers had already taken the gospel. Clearly, Paul was still thinking strategically about how to advance the gospel.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (8) Depressed Paul

Many commentators assume that his second letter to Timothy was written just before Paul died. They suggest that he was shut up in prison in Rome and depressed because he was alone, and his ministry was coming to an end. I reject this view, because I believe that it is based on a misunderstanding of the letter.

The passage that is commonly misunderstood is 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Commentators mostly assume that Paul knew that his death was near and was ready to die. But that is only one possible meaning of these verses.

Paul says that his is being poured out as a drink offering. That was not new. He said the same thing in his letter to the Philippians.

I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you (Phil 2:17).
He rejoiced with the Philippians because his sacrifice of service was helping increase their faith. He was not talking about his death, so it does not follow that he was thinking about his death when he spoke the same way to Timothy.

Paul says that he has a crown of righteousness and reward awaiting him on the day of judgment. However, this is something that he said frequently, not just when he thought he was dying. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:9, Paul speaks of the crown that he and the disciples wear, just as he writes to Timothy. Speaking of a crown that would be given by Jesus to his followers when he appears is not a sign that he was thinking about his death.

Paul says that he has completed the race, but he was a person who was always racing, and striving. He always worked hard at his ministry, so he always saw himself as having completed the race that he had been called to run. Paul was always in a position where he had no regrets about what he could have done. His role make his life precarious, so he was always ready to die, because he was always doing what Jesus wanted him to do.

Paul says that the time for his “departure” is near. He was not necessarily speaking of his death (v.8). The Greek word that Paul uses is “analusis”. It means “unloosing” or “departure”. It can refer to the unmooring of a ship ready for departure.

I suspect that Paul realised that his release from prison was getting close, and his letter was planning for what he would do when he got out. He wanted Timothy and Mark to come and join him, so he could engage in further missionary work (2 Tim 4:9). There would be no point in their coming to him if he was about to die. Paul confirms this by saying that Mark is useful for his ministry (2 Tim 4:11).

Paul asks Timothy to come before the winter (2 Tim 4:9,21). He asked Timothy to bring a cloak for the winter, and some books that he used. He would not be asking for these things if his death was imminent. Paul’s practice was to find a good place and stay there for the winter months (1 Cor 16:6; Tit 3:12). It seems that he was planning to do this again.

Friday, December 09, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (7) Many Imprisonments

Paul says that he was in prison (2 Tim 1:8). There is no reason to assume that this was his last time in prison. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul records that he was imprisoned numerous times. Many of these are not recorded in the book of Acts. It seems that part of his life and ministry was missed by Luke.

Several of the bad experiences Paul records in his letter must have happened on another journey for which we have no details.

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits... in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea... I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked (2 Cor 11:23-27).
Acts does not record three ship wrecks, or the five times Paul received forty lashes. It does not seem to record all the times he was in prison. So some of his imprisonments probably occurred in his journey to the western Balkans. I think that is more likely that Paul’s second letter to Timothy was written while Paul was in prison at some point on his unrecorded missionary journey, possibly after he had returned from to Greece from Illyricum.

Paul records that he has sent Titus to Dalmatia (which is down the coast from Illyricum (2 Tim 4:10). This suggests that he was writing after he had returned from planting churches there. He often sent one of his co-workers to visit the churches he had established to ensure that elders were functioning correctly. Titus had probably gone to Dalmatia after his time in Crete (Tit 1:5). He had probably gone there with Paul and remained for a while after Paul left (or perhaps was forced to leave).

Thursday, December 08, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (6) Aquila and Priscilla

A clue to the date of the second letter to Timothy comes from the travels of Aquila and Priscilla. They were Jews who had been expelled from Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2). Paul met them in Corinth and took them to Ephesus when he made a brief visit there, prior to travelling to Jerusalem.

They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:19).
When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinth, Aquila and Priscilla were still in Ephesus, because they sent a greeting to Corinth (1 Cor 16:9). By the time Paul wrote to the Romans, Aquila and Priscilla were back in Rome, because Paul sent a greeting to them there (Rom 16:3).

This confirms an early date for Second Timothy, because in this letter, Paul sends a greeting to Aquila and Priscilla and the church in the house of Onesiphorus (2 Tim 4:19, which was in Ephesus or its environs. It is unlikely that Aquila and Priscilla would have gone all the way back to Rome and then returned to Ephesus again, so Paul must have written to Timothy before he wrote to the Romans.

This connection with Aquila and Priscilla explains where Timothy was when Paul wrote his second letter to him. He must have been in the area around Ephesus, where Aquila and Priscilla had been based. It also explains why Paul asked Timothy to pick up his cloak and books from Troas when he came to join him. If he was travelling west from Ephesus, he would need to pass through the Port of Troas.

This also confirms that Paul was based even further west when he wrote to Timothy, probably somewhere in Macedonia or Greece. One possibility is Nicopolis in the West of Greece (see Titus 3:12).

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (5) Onesiphorus

The usual assumption is that Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy while he was in prison in Rome, not long before he died. I believe that this is wrong. The only hint that the letter was written when Paul was in Rome is a verse about a church leader called Onesiphorus. Paul sends greetings to the church that meets in his house (2 Tim 4:19).

Paul says that Onesiphorus blessed him when he was in prison in Rome.

May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me (2 Tim 1:16-17).
Two things should be noted about this text. Onesiphorus had not been worried about Paul’s chains, but the letter does not say where. It could be referring to the time when he first met Paul in Colossae where Onesiphorus led a church and Paul was in prison before visiting that city.

The text says that Onesiphorus looked out for Paul when he visited Rome, but does not say when that occurred. It does not say that Paul was in prison when Onesiphorus looked him out.

Most commentators believe that Paul did not get to Rome until after he was arrested in Jerusalem and appealed to Rome. I don’t agree with that. At the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul sends greetings to a large number of church leaders and churches in Rome (far more than any of his other letters). This indicates to me that Paul has already visited Rome. He would not have known so many people living there if he had not visited.

It was probably during this early visit to Rome that Onesiphorus had met up with him. There is no reason to assume that he was in Rome when he wrote the second letter of Timothy.

Luke seems to have missed part of Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts while he was not with him. When writing to the Romans, Paul declares that he has travelled as far as Illyricum, which is in modern-day Croatia, with the gospel (Rom 15:19). Acts does not record this journey. If Paul had travelled as far as Croatia he would probably have gone to Rome at the same time. This would explain why he knew so many people when he was writing to the church in Rome.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (4) Young Timothy

If the Pastoral Letters have a late date, Timothy would have been getting older when Paul wrote to him. However, Paul writes as if he is a young man. He explains how Timothy should conduct himself in the church (1 Tim 4:15). He warns him not to let anyone despise his youth (1 Tim 4:12). Paul urges Timothy to stir up the gift that had been released in him through the laying of hands (2 Tim 1:6). He encouraged him do the work of an evangelist and to fulfil his ministry (2 Tim 4:5).

Paul’s exhortations to Timothy do not make sense if he was writing at a late date. By then Timothy would have been twenty years into his ministry, so it would be ridiculous to be treating him as someone who did not know what he was doing and could easily fail. The nature of Paul’s message confirms an earlier date for the letters.

Friday, December 02, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (3) Last Days

Paul explains to Timothy what will happen in the Last Days/Latter Times. A common misconception amongst Christians is that the “Last Days” are a tumultuous season prior to the Second Coming of Jesus. That is incorrect. I have explained in an article called Last Days that this expression is the name of the season between the Ascension of Jesus and the Destruction of Jerusalem. This short season marked the end of the nation of Israel in its existing form, before the Jews were sent into exile.

Timothy was a Jew, so it was natural that Paul would describe what things would be like in the Last Days (1 Tim 4:1-3). In his second letter to Timothy, he gives his fullest description of what things would be like in Israel during the season between the Ascension and the Destruction of Jerusalem (2 Tim 3:1-6). All the things described in this passage occurred during the siege of Jerusalem.

Christians love to look for the fulfilment of 2 Timothy 3:1-6 in their own situation, but this prophecy was fulfilled prior to the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It does not have a future fulfilment (except as a general description of what always happens in societies that desert God).

If Paul was warning of the situation that would occur during the lead up to the Destruction of Jerusalem, his words would only make sense if they were written before that terrible event occurred. This suggests that the two letters to Timothy must have been written well before AD 70, which confirms an early date for the letters.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Pastoral Epistles (2) Selecting Elders

Once we understand that the letters to Timothy and Titus are instructions about the type of people that should become elders, an earlier date for these letters makes more sense. Elders were recognised in the church right from the beginning. Deacons were appointed early on in the history of the church (Acts 6:1-7).

Sending a letter about selecting elders and deacons to the church at the end of the first century does not make sense. By that time the church had considerable experience with elders. They were everywhere. All churches had elders (Acts 13:1-3). Most would have deacons to care for their poor. They did not need basic teaching about appointing elders and deacons, because they had been doing that for a long time.

However, in the early days of the church, the situation was different. Paul had gone back to the churches he had established and recognised the more mature Christians as elders (Acts 14:23), but they could not keep on depending on Paul to do this. Therefore, it makes sense that Paul would give instructions about identifying elders to the people who worked with him and were going to visit new churches that had been established.

Paul had had more experience than anyone in identifying good elders, so it would be natural for the church to preserve his instructions about selecting them. Timothy and Titus were returning to places where new groups of Christians had formed, so it would be natural that Paul would write to them giving instructions about how to appoint elders (Tit 1:5-9; 1 Tim 3:1-7). Getting this task wrong would create serious problems, so Paul would want ensure that they did it well.

Paul always supported himself in ministry by working part-time as a tentmaker, but he did not expect other elders who worked hard at caring for new believers to do the same. He recognised that some elders would need financial support if large numbers were coming to faith in Jesus. Ensuring that they all grew in faith could be a full-time task during some seasons. The early church was growing fast, so it was natural that Paul would write instructions about financial support for very active elders (1 Tim 5:17-18).

Deacons were established to care for the poor in the early days of the church at Jerusalem. These deacons were not deputy bishops, but people who cared for the poor (Acts 6:1-7). Read my article called Ministry of the Deacon for more on this topic. This role was important for the demonstration of the gospel, so other churches would have copied the Jerusalem example. However, appointing the right people to be deacons (caring for the poor) would be important (1 Tim 3:8-13). So it would be natural for Paul to write instructions about how to appoint deacons who would be able to carry out their role effectively (1 Tim 5:3-16).

When read with an understanding of the role of overseers and deacons, the letters to Timothy and Titus would not make sense if they belonged at the end of the first century. However, if Paul wrote them to two of his key followers in the early days of the church, they really do make sense. So I support an early date and Paul’s authorship.