Paul had passed through the area of Lycaonia less than three years earlier on his first evangelistic tour, preaching the gospel at Inconium, Lystra, Derbe and the region round about (Acts 14:1-7). It is highly probable that Paul’s preaching at this time resulted in the conversion of Timothy, and possibly also of his mother and grandmother. Paul describes Timothy as his own son in the faith, an expression which he uses of those whom he had a hand in converting (e.g., I Cor. 4:14-16). Now, Timothy was being chosen to accompany Paul on a second evangelistic tour (Acts 16:1-5).
In his second epistle to him, Paul reminded Timothy of the sufferings he had endured at Antioch, Lystra and Iconium (II Tim. 3:10,11). At Lystra (Acts 14:8), which was likely Timothy’s home town, Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city and left for dead (Acts 14:19). But as the disciples stood around his battered body, Paul astonishingly stood up and went back into the city (Acts 14:20). It is possible that Timothy was one of the disciples that “stood round about him” and was eyewitness of these events. In any event, this story would have certainly been the talk among the disciples there and Timothy would no doubt had been very impressed with Paul’s courage.
From an early age Timothy grew up learning of Jehovah and of the wonderful and exciting histories of His dealings with man. Paul observed that from a child he had known the Holy Scriptures, that is the Old Testament scriptures (II Tim. 3:15). Undoubtedly, he received this instruction from his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois whom Paul commends for their unfeigned faith (II Tim. 1:5). What role Timothy’s Greek, or a gentile, father played in his upbringing is unclear. Luke stresses the fact that he was a gentile (Acts 6:1,3) and that Timothy was uncircumcised (Acts 16:3).
That his mother married a gentile seems curious for such a devout Jewess if he was not a proselyte to the Jewish faith, which otherwise would have been an unlawful marriage (Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-5). Perhaps he was one of those “proselytes of the gate” (cf. Ex. 20:10) who submitted to the law but was not a Jew (cf. Lev. 4:10-22). This might explain Timothy not being circumcised, as well. His father may have died early, for Paul mentions only his mother and grandmother’s faith. But for whatever reason, it was those two women who very likely guided Timothy in the way of the Lord.
This early quality instruction and Timothy’s sterling character made him a desirable worker for the apostle Paul (Acts 16:3). Also, the fact that Timothy was of both Jewish and gentile blood would, perhaps, benefit Paul in his mission to the gentiles. By the time Paul had returned to Lystra, Timothy had already developed a good reputation, for he was “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). Being known by the brethren in these places suggests that he was already engaged in the Lord’s work, possibly being, as McGarvey suggests, “a notable speaker.”
There seems to be evidence to suggest, however, that as a leader Timothy was timid. Paul encouraged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God which is in thee” because God had “not given us the spirit of fear but of power” (II Tim. 1:6,7). He warned him not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord “but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel” (II Tim. 1:8). He urged the Corinthian brethren to allow Timothy to “be with you without fear” (I Cor. 16:10). On a couple of occasions he urged Timothy to “let no man despise thee” (I Tim. 4:12; I Cor. 16:11).
On the other hand, Timothy often showed great courage. He was in prison with, but was released earlier than, Paul (Heb. 13:23). Paul said he had no man like-minded, who naturally cared for the estate of the brethren at Philippi (Phil. 2:19,20). Timothy was always minded to put Christ first (Phil. 2:21). Paul also left Timothy in Ephesus while he went into Macedonia that he “might charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (I Tim. 1:3,4). This was no small task but he must have been successful for when the Lord speaks to the church at Ephesus through John he commends them for finding them liars which claimed to be apostles and were not.
Paul always showers Timothy with praise. He was Paul’s “beloved son and faithful in the Lord” (I Cor. 4:17) and “my own son in the faith” (I Tim. 1:2; cf. I Tim. 1:18). Again, Paul calls him my dearly beloved son (II Tim. 1:2). Paul called him “our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ” (I Thess. 3:2).
We need more like Timothy in the church.
Eric L. Padgett