The Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit in the Pastoral Epistles

Since Paul refers to the Holy Spirit often in earlier epistles, (Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians), it is a little surprising that there are only three explicit references to the Spirit in the pastorals: 1 Timothy 4:1, 2 Timothy 1:14, and Titus 3:5. All commentators are agreed that there is an indirect reference to the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 3:16. Some commentators also see a reference to the Spirit in 1 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Timothy 1:7.

The Spirit Warning

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”(1 Tim 4). All prophecy is given by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit whether in the OT or in the NT The word translated “expressly” is sometimes referred to as clearly, distinctly, explicitly, or specifically. The present tense is used for the word speaking which means that the Spirit is giving Paul this information at the time he is writing. It may also include the meaning of the Holy Spirit giving prophecy be ginning in the OT and continuing through to the time of the NT apostles and prophets.

“Some shall depart from the faith”. “The faith” is the whole body of revealed truth. “Shall depart” is from a strong Greek word from which we get our English word “apostasize.” The Spirit tells us why they apostasize: “giving heed to seducing spirits.” These spirits are not all-powerful. They only control those persons who give heed to them. “And doctrines of devils.” The word translated “devils” is better translated, “demons.” There is only one devil but many demons. “Doctrines of demons” is not teaching about demons, but doctrines that come from demons. In this one verse Paul refers to both the Holy Spirit and seducing spirits. Paul, guided by the Spirit of truth, declares these false teachers to be guided by deceiving spirits. In 1 John 4:6 “the Spirit of truth” is contrasted to “the spirit of error.”

The Spirit Working

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). The first word, “for,” links this verse with the previous verse showing that whenever God gives a gift He also gives the necessary enabling to use it. The Holy Spirit is not here explicitly mentioned, but these are three things that the Spirit does give us when we are dependant on Him. The word translated “fear” means timidity, fearfulness, or cowardice and is only used here in the NT. We know from other passages as well that Timothy was of a timid disposition. Paul is gently chiding Timothy for his timidity, but Paul tactfully softens this by writing “us” instead of “you,” for the apostle is really encouraging Timothy. The “us” also includes every child of God. Power is opposite to the weakness of cowardice. The Holy Spirit can give us “the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe,” the same power used to raise Christ from the dead and set Him at God’s right hand (Eph 1:19,20). William MacDonald puts it beautifully, “Through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, the believer can serve valiantly, endure patiently, suffer triumphantly, and if need be die gloriously.”

The Spirit Enabling

“That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep by the Holy Ghost (Spirit) which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim 1:14). “That good thing” is the good deposit of truth, including the “sound words” of verse 13. Paul is repeating his exhortation to Timothy (1 Tim 6:20), but now he calls the deposit “good” which means it is intrinsically good, fair, noble, or excellent. Later in this verse he tells Timothy how he can do this. Timothy is not told to add new truth, but to guard intact without any change what has already been given. Paul tells Timothy that he can do it “by the Holy Spirit that dwelleth in us.” The Spirit not only indwelt Paul and Timothy but He indwells every believer (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19). Three times in His farewell ministry Our Lord Jesus referred to the Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; and 16:13). The Spirit of truth who inspired every word of the Bible is well able to help Timothy and each one of us to keep the good deposit of truth.

The Spirit Writing

“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of” (2 Tim 3:14). We should notice that learning is not enough. When we apply the truth to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, He can give us a firm, thorough, inner conviction about the truth which can transform our lives.

In 2 Timothy 3:15 “the holy scriptures” or “sacred writings” (RV) were able to make Timothy “wise unto salvation.” Timothy always believed the OT to be the Word of God. But there had to come a moment when he put personal trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.

We read in verse 16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable.” Verse 15 is the only place in the NT where the OT is designated “the sacred writings” (RV). It is likely that Paul uses “sacred writings” in verse 15 and “all scripture” in verse 16 to draw attention to the distinction between the OT in verse 15 and all that can rightly be called inspired scripture in verse 16. The word “scripture” here without the article is more general than the “sacred writings” of verse 15 and leaves room for the NT writings. The apostle Paul calls his message “the Word of God” (1 Thess 2:13) and “the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37). He writes about speaking “in the words …which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (1 Cor 2:13). In 1 Timothy 5:18 he quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 and calls both of them “scripture.” The apostle Peter puts Paul’s writings on a par with the rest of the scriptures in 2 Peter 3:16.

The adjective “inspired of God” or “God-breathed” is only found here in the NT. It suggests the method of writing. God breathed all scripture by His breath, the Spirit of God. This is more explicitly stated in 2 Peter 1:21, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved (or borne along as a sailing ship with the wind) by the Holy Spirit.” These two verses are the most outstanding verses on the inspiration of the scriptures. Interestingly, our Lord Jesus spoke of “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Inspiration does not mean that the authors were inspired in all that they did, but they were inspired in all that they wrote that is scripture. We can see the personalities of the human authors, but the Holy Spirit so controlled and directed them that every word of the Bible is truly God’s Word and inerrant. Hendricksen puts it well: “Hence, though every word is truly the word of the human authors, it is even more truly the Word of God.”

Because every word of the Bible is inspired by God, it is also profitable and able to fully equip every believer for every good work.

The Spirit Washing

“He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). The washing refers to our cleansing from the defilement of sin in regeneration. It is done once for all, as in John 13:10. Many commentators want to refer the washing to water baptism and prefer to translate the word for washing (lout ron) as layer. But the only other place the word loutron is used is in Ephesians 5:26 where it is translated washing. E.K.Simpson writes, “as Doddridge long ago remarked, the version ‘layer’ lacks corroboration, except in patriotic treatises, colored by the dogma of baptismal regeneration.” He goes on to say, “for the active sense of washing there is abundant evidence throughout Greek literature.” The word for regeneration is only used one other time in the NT (Matt 19:28) where it is used of the new birth of the whole creation in the future millennium. But the thought of the spiritual birth of an individual, as here in Titus, is many times in the NT (John 3:3,5-8; John 1:13,1 Cor 4:15; Gal 3:26, 1 Pet 1:23; James 1:18).

The RV, by omitting a comma after regeneration, attributes both “regeneration” and “renewing” to the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus refers to being born of the Spirit three times in John 3:5,6, and 8. The emphasis in verses 4 to 7 is on what God has done; therefore our appropriation by faith is omitted. The renewing began initially by the coming of the Spirit, but it is also a continuing process as in Romans 12:2. The phrase there, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,” emphasizes our being willing to adjust our thinking and our conduct to be more in accord with God’s Word. “Renewing” implies making new. The word emphasizes new in quality rather than new in time.

“Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit 3:6). The aorist tense points back to what took place on the day of Pentecost. The very same word, “shed” is used at Pentecost (Acts 2:33). Just as all three persons of the Godhead are involved in Acts 2:33, so also here in this verse. “On us” identifies us with the past phenomenon of Pentecost. At conversion we enter into the good of what took place at Pentecost. “Abundantly,” emphasizes that God made ample provision for the development of the new Christian life.