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Timothy’s Conversion, Character and Commissioning.


Timothy Comes on Board

Acts 16:1-5

The band of missionaries is expanding, and now another name is added to the missionaries, a young man called Timothy, and we first encounter him in Acts 16:1-5. With Timothy’s addition, the missionary duo becomes a trio again.

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

1 His Conversion.   Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy.

Paul has travelled overland from Antioch to Lystra, a place where had preached on his first missionary journey, some five years or so before.  There hadn’t been a huge response to the gospel in Lystra but at Lystra and Derby a young man had come to Christ whose name was Timothy, and how encouraging it was for Paul that five years later Timothy is still there, still part of the church, a disciple of the Lord Jesus.  Paul now wants to co-opt him in to the Lord’s Work among the Gentiles. I wonder was Paul now looking for someone to replace Mark, who had been his ‘assistant’ in the first trip in Cyprus,    (Acts 13:4).   But Mark had turned back from the work, when things turned tough. 

2 His Characterthe son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

What was this man Timothy like?  We know he was young, because, afraid that his youth might be a hindrance to him, Paul reminds Timothy not to be carried away with youthful lusts in 2 Tim 2:22.  Perhaps he was shy, too or of a nervous disposition, for Paul urges the Corinthian church to treat him gently and with respect, 1 Corinthians 16:10 cf 2 Tim 1:6. Perhaps a contributing factor to Timothy’s shyness and timidity was his poor health. He was not a robust figure, like Paul. In fact the apostle has to remind him to be considerate of his own physical wellbeing, when he reminds him to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake. 1 Timothy 5:23. Now, why then, was Timothy, a young, inexperienced, nervous, shy, frail young man Paul’s natural choice as a helper in the mission?

  • Because of his upbringing.  2 Timothy 1:5   2 Timothy 3:14-15  
  • Because of his reputation. He was well spoken-of by all the brethren.  As a believer, it is important to have a good reputation among the brethren – sometimes that needs a bit of work!  I wonder how people will remember me? If at all!   
  • Because he was a willing pupil.  Of course he had a very good teacher, and he benefitted greatly from his time spent with Paul.  He learned Christian Doctrine, Christian Ethics, Missiology, Practical Ministry, –  it was a thorough ministerial training!  Paul reminds him of this in 2 Timothy 3:10-12   
  • Because of his genuine faith.  2 Timothy 1:5  This must be the most important reason of all!  He was a man who had FAITH!  Not some kind of fuzzy belief – Timothy had a real genuine faith and trust in the saving works of Christ for sinners.

There’s another reason why Timothy was Paul’s chosen worker, and that was the relationship between these two men.  Paul was very fond of the younger man.  2 Timothy 1:2-4, 1 Timothy 1:18  

That statement actually tells us quite a lot about Timothy for Paul regards him very highly indeed. The word ‘true’ is γνήσιο, and it it is used in a family situation to describe a natural-born son, as opposed to an adopted son. Paul regarded Timothy as his own spiritual son, his convert.  Throughout most of his later ministry, Timothy was working alongside Paul, Philippians 2:19-24

3 His Commissioning.   Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.  There seems to be two aspects to Timothy’s induction to the Lord’s work…

  • A standard ordination.  Timothy had been uniquely called by God, and had been regularly ordained, and was to serve the Lord as a pastor.  2 Timothy 1:6  It was the pattern for ordination and commissioning, in the early church, and it has been down the centuries ever since.   But, in Timothy’s case there was more needed.
  • A strange preparation.  Now, here we come to a very strange episode indeed. We have been learning, in Acts 13-15, that there was a war for truth among those very early apostles, disciples and believers.  There were some Jewish born Christians who thought, mistakenly, that in order to be a Christian, a convert would need to become a Jew first.  That would involve circumcision and keeping the law.  Paul argued vehemently against this.  Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone, without any works, even religious ones.  A great council of the church was held to settle the issue, and it reached a momentous decision.  No-one needed to become a Jew to follow Jesus, but they should simply be aware of the feelings of the Jews, and be tolerant of their long held cultural traditions and not deliberately offend them.  The Gentiles were jubilant when they received the ruling of the Council, for a great burden had been lifted, the weight of the law!  Yet, when Paul decided that Timothy is to be part of the missionary party, he CIRCUMCISED HIM!  Acts 16:3 The reason for the circumcision is given.  It is not for salvation, not to appease the Juadaisers, the very people Paul denounces and anathematises in the epistle to the Galatians, it is simply to stop the local Jews from harassing him!  
  • A specific task.  Acts 16:4-5   Despite the fact that Timothy had undergone circumcision, his task was to persuade the local churches that circumcision doesn’t save, becoming a Jew doesn’t save.  How did that work?  Timothy was a walking, talking visual aid!  He had been saved before he was circumcised, and he had gone to very extreme lengths indeed not to offend others!  Because of his work and words the local churches were strengthened in the faith, and new disciples were made, as more people followed Christ and joined the church.

Timothy turned out to be a good choice.  He was a fervent witness and had, at some time, been imprisoned for his faith. Paul warns him not to be ashamed of the gospel, in 2 Tim 1:8, and he must have paid attention to this for Hebrews 13:23 tells us that he has been set free from his imprisonment.

From → Acts, Sermon Notes

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