“I hope to send Timothy to you shortly, so that he may report back to me how you are getting along. I know of no one better qualified for this task, for most men put their own interests ahead of Christ’s. But TImothy has proven himself as my son in the faith. I will send him to you soon, and when I learn more about my own situation here, I hope to come soon after.” (paraphrased)
In this passage, we find young Timothy ready to help the Philippian church any way he can (2:21). Paul refers to his selfless devotion and eminent trust in Timothy as he sends him to Philippi. Paul longs to come himself, but must rely on faithful co-workers, such as Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Those who love God’s Word are especially interested in the dynamic character of Timothy and his friendship with Paul. His name means “one who honors God” or “one who is valued by God.” Although he is called Timotheus in Acts, the two names are used interchangeably throughout Paul’s letters.
Timothy’s ministerial chronology is hard to track precisely, but it is clear this young man is busy for God. We find Timothy very active in Acts 16 through 20. He is a co-author in several of Paul’s epistles. Paul mentions him in Romans, I and II Corinthians, Philemon, Colossians, Philippians and I and II Thessalonians. He is also referred to in Hebrews 13.
We first meet Timothy as a young disciple at Lystra on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 16:1). He is probably not a convert of Paul, for we find he is already “well reported of among the brethren” (16:2). He is the child of a godly heritage (II Tim. 1:5). It is unclear how long Timothy’s mother or grandmother have been Christians, but it is apparent he has been brought up with a knowledge of the Old Testament (Acts 16:1-3 & II Timothy 3:15).
Although there is little ministerial history concerning Timothy, he seems to have a good reputation around Athens, Derbe and Lystra before he enters the ministry. We know little of his home life, other than his mother is a Jewess and his father is a Greek (Acts 16:1). Paul has Timothy circumcised so that he can enter the temple (Acts 16:3). We do not know why his mother does not have Timothy circumcised as a child anymore than we know why she marries a Gentile. Timothy leaves his godly mother and grandmother to minister alongside Paul and Silas, serving as a “child with his father” (Phil. 2:22).
When Paul reaches Lystra, he is around 45 years old and Timothy is probably a teenager. Paul and others lay hands on Timothy and pray for him and his ministry (I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6). Paul calls upon Timothy to develop his gifts, charging him with challenging and sensitive tasks throughout his ministry. As a young minister, Timothy is especially active around Macedonia (Acts 17:14; 18:5; 19:22). Paul has high praise for Timothy throughout his epistles, referring to him as a “fellow-worker” (Rom. 16:21), “one involved in God’s work” (I Cor. 16:10), “a preacher” (II Cor. 1:19), “brother, minister and fellow-laborer” (I Thess. 3:2) and even “apostle” (I Thess. 2:6). He has proven himself (Phil. 2:22) and is faithful (I Cor. 4:17). Paul tells the church at Corinth to “treat Timothy as you would me” (I Cor. 16:10-11). As a result of his zeal for God, he suffers for Christ with Paul (II Tim. 1:8).
Paul bonds with Timothy because they are likeminded. Paul and Silas take Timothy with them to Asia Minor, Troas and Macedonia. While Timothy and Silas remain at Berea, Paul sets sail for Athens (Acts 17:10). Later, Paul tells both of them to join him at Athens as soon as possible (17:15). If they ever reach Athens, there is no record of it. It seems they do not actually meet up with Paul until they join him at Corinth.
Everything we know about Timothy indicates he has an active and fruitful ministry. We find him at Thessalonica (I Thess. 3:1-2) and in Corinth (Acts 18:5). The next few years of Timothy’s ministry are obscure, but we know he joins Paul at Ephesus on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:22), Paul sends him on a mission to Corinth and encourages the Corinthians to equip Timothy with whatever he needs (I Cor. 16:6). Paul’s first letter to Timothy suggests he is now free from jail and directs Timothy to minister in Ephesus (I Tim. 1:3). Paul writes a second letter to Timothy, encouraging him to be strong and to endure afflictions (II Tim. 1-4).
Toward the end of Paul’s ministry, the skies of persecution are darkening under the tyrant Nero. Demas forsakes Paul and only Luke is with him toward the end of his life (II Tim. 4:10). Because Paul knows his own death is eminent, he calls for Mark to visit him (v. 11). Whether or not Timothy arrives before Paul is beheaded for Christ we do not know. Paul writes some of his very last words to Timothy, desiring to see his son in the faith before he dies (v. 21). The last we hear about this dynamic young pastor is written in the final chapter of Second Timothy.
Historical records suggest Timothy becomes the first bishop of Ephesus. A legend tells of his attempt to stop an indecent heathen procession there during a festival honoring the goddess Diana and of his martyrdom for this brazen act of faith.
The New Testament record consistently portrays Timothy as an unselfish minister, zealous for Jesus. Not even Apollos, Barnabas or Luke seem to have been as close to Paul as Timothy. He is associated with Paul’s ministry longer than any other co-worker. Timothy needs Paul’s wisdom and Paul needs to mentor Timothy—each providing what is essential to the other. In the church of St. Paul in Rome is Paul’s tomb. In front of it is a less impressive grave simply engraved “TIMOTHY.” Here these two great co-workers now rest united in death as they were in life.
RECOMMENDATION – STUDY QUESTIONS
1. The meaning of the name Timothy carries the concept of:
A. a teacher
B. a traveler
C. a pilgrim
D. one who is holy
E. one who honors God
2. From 2:20-21, we find that characteristics of Timothy include:
D. hot temper
E. both C and D
3. From Hebrews 13:23, we know that Timothy has been:
A. on his way to Rome
B. traveling with Apollos
RECOMMENDATION – REFLECTION
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES
1. Paul has high praise for Timothy. For what particular actions do you compliment your mate the most?
2. Timothy apparently came from a godly home. What specific steps are you taking to make your home a strong Christian environment? What things do you prohibit in your home that can negatively impact your testimony? What things do you practice in your home that can enhance your witness for Christ?
3. Throughout his epistles, Paul portrays Timothy as one who is faithful in his spiritual endeavors. List the things you do as a couple to enhance your spiritual growth together.
ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. Paul has high praise for Timothy. List things that you do for others you would appreciate compliments for. List good things that you do that others often take for granted.
2. Timothy apparently came from a godly home. What specific steps are you taking to make your dwelling place a strong Christian environment? What things do you prohibit in your home that could negatively impact your testimony? What things do you practice that can enhance your witness for Christ?
3. Throughout his epistles, Paul portrays Timothy as one who is faithful in his spiritual endeavors. List things you do to enhance your spiritual growth.