The Pastoral Epistles of Paul and the Catholic Epistles were among the most controversial books of the New Testament. Although these letters touch upon a range of topics and concerns, the central theme of these epistles is Christ. These letters focus on God’s plan to save all of mankind while exhorting Christ’s followers to remain faithful to the teachings that have been handed on to them. In addition, we find treatises on how Christians are to act appropriately and what to do when faced with persecution. Throughout these letters, we find evidence of the teachings that have been passed down from Christ through the Apostles to His Church.
In the Pastoral Letters, God is the savior who “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Paul stresses that Christ is the one mediator between God and man, who comes as a ransom for all (1 Timony 2:5-6). Out of his love for us, God appears in the flesh to save us from sin (Titus 2:11, 3:4). His earthly life is one of mediation by which he “gave himself for us to redeemer us from all iniquity and purify [us]” (Titus 2:13). Therefore, Christ unites all men to God.
Hebrews also emphasizes Christ’s pre-existence and superiority over all of creation. Christ is the Son through whom the world was created and He comes to purify our sins (Hebrews 1:2-3). He is greater than the heavenly hosts and, even if for only a little while, He humbled himself to share in our humanity (Hebrews 2:9). Jesus is the great high priest who offers sacrifice in atonement for our sins. He is greater than the Levitical priesthood because His priesthood lasts forever and He offers himself as the perfect sacrifice, both priest and victim (Hebrews 7:24, 27). Since Jesus has ransomed us by his blood, we must purify our “souls by [our] obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Each believer shares in the Holy Priesthood of Christ to offer acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).
Each believer who shares in this priesthood awaits His return in glory. They must be careful to not be led astray (2 Peter 3:3-4). The world seeks to divide and encourages the following of ungodly passions (Jude 18). Each of us must build up “your most holy faith [and] pray in the Holy Spirit [to] keep [ourselves] in the love of God” (Jude 20-21). We are to kindly correct those in error so they might come to repentance and know the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-25). The heavens and the earth will pass away so we must be diligent to live lives of holiness and godliness (2 Peter 3:11).
We have each been called to a higher standard. We must be steadfast in our love of one another, bearing suffering in imitation of Christ (1 Peter 2:23). Christ suffered on our behalf and so we must rejoice when we can share in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). Peter instructs his readers that we imitate Christ and so set an example for those around us. We must remain steadfast with Christ through our virtue which leads to self-control and steadfastness so we may love perfectly as Christ loves us (2 Peter 1:5-8). Each believer must keep themselves “in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 21).
James reminds us that trials to our faith produce steadfastness so we may be perfect and complete (James 1:4). Our faith in Christ Jesus must be accompanied by an inner conversion. We must put aside our wickedness and “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:23). The things of this world will pass away, but we patiently await Christ’s return (James 5:8). Each believer must renounce worldly passions so we may be prepared for the return of our Savior who purifies us (Titus 2:12-14).
The people who are purified, the Church, extend and apply the saving action of Christ. This Church is not just a human society, but it is the household of God through which God acts (1 Timothy 3:15). Since it belongs to God, its ministers are not free to act in any way whatsoever, but are called to perform those duties which they have been obliged to perform. Principally, it is the pillar and bulwark of truth and the means by which the world can know the saving mission of Christ himself. The Church is called to “convince, rebuke, and exhort” to evangelize all people, at all times (2 Timothy 4:2). The Church must be humble and tend the flock, by being a worthy example to follow (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Christ is central in these letters and in the Church. Throughout these writings, we learn that Christ saves us and is the mediator between God and man. We must persevere to the end of our lives or until His return. We are each called to share the gospel so that all might be saved and our lives should be an example of the charity we should have toward God and our neighbor. Through this, others might be drawn to Christ and His Church which leads us to the life to come.