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Updated 6/28/2012

Biographical Information

Timothy’s name means: “Honored of God, “worshipping God” or “Valued of God.” He was the son of an unbelieving Greek man and a believing Jewish woman:

Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra.  And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek…  Acts 16:1

His mother, Eunice and grandmother, Lois, raised Timothy.  His father had evidently passed away before Paul arrived on the scene. God greatly blessed Timothy by providing him both a believing mother and grandmother.  There was no synagogue in Lystra where he was raised, so all of his instruction came from those two, not from the community.  What a credit to his mother and grandmother.  They instilled in him a great love for the Lord and for the Word.  They were both mature believers. This is documented twice in the Scripture:

…and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 3:15

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”  2 Timothy 1:5

His Relationship with Paul

Paul called Timothy his “child in the faith.” which refers to the fact that Paul brought him to spiritual maturity. In both letters to Timothy, chapters 1 verse 2, Paul refers to him as his “child in the faith.”

To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.   2 Timothy 1:2 NASB

Paul ordained and circumcised Timothy:

Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” 1 Timothy 4:14 NASB

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.     2 Timothy 1: 6-7

Some wonder why Paul had Timothy circumcised when he understood that circumcision was a ritual related to the previous dispensation.  Abraham was circumcised as a covenant sign for the people of God,[1]a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, as per Genesis 17:3.  Paul did not circumcise Timothy, as some theologians have written, to appease the Judaizers, who believed that Gentile believers needed to adhere to every aspect of the Mosaic Law.  Paul argued against their position using the three rationales.  The first rationale involved the ministry of the Holy Spirit to Church Age believers; that the Spirit’s ministry of reconciliation and placing the believer into union with Christ accomplished salvation. The second rationale dealt with the Scripture’s description of Abraham’s salvation; that he was justified by faith through grace, not by works of the Law.  The third rationale dealt with historicity of the covenant; that it was stop-gap until our Lord fulfilled His substitutionary work on the cross.

Paul probably circumcised Timothy because he was culturally a Jew, having a Jewish mother and a Greek father.  Paul had no issue with circumcision as a cultural identifier, only with it being related to an indication of salvation. Because Timothy ministered to Jews, he had him circumcised as a Jew, identifying him as Jewish culturally.  A close friend of mine, Dr. Leroy Judd, a retired missionary who served many years in Africa illustrated this with a modern example.  He told of an African pastor who carried many scars and bodily marks which identified him with a certain tribe from whence he came and to whom he intended to minister.  Though offsetting to those outside the tribe, those markings were necessary for him to have rapport with that certain tribe.  That certain tribe had some customs which were obviously anti-Christian; those he avoided and, I’m sure taught against. But certain customs, though outside of western standards, were necessary for him to have a hearing among those tribesmen.

He served Paul faithfully, “as a son with his father,” accompanying him on many occasions.

But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Philippians 2:22

But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.  Acts 18:5

Paul had no other so “like-minded” companion who constantly enjoyed his teaching:

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 2:3

Timothy’s Resume

Timothy accompanied Paul to Philippi where he remained as their first pastor-teacher.  Epaphroditus replaced him there.

…and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.  Acts 16:12

But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father.  Philippians 2:22

He pastored the Berean Church:

But when the Jews of Thessalonica found out that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea also, they came there as well, agitating and stirring up the crowds.  Then immediately the brethren sent Paul out to go as far as the sea; and Silas and Timothy remained there.  Acts 17:14 NASB

He was pastor of the church at Thessalonica:

And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith…   1 Thessalonians 3:2

He pastored the Corinthian Church, which demonstrated how much Paul trusted him.  Paul sent him to them to bring them around from their reversionism.  He evidently became disillusioned and left.

For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.     1 Corinthians 4:17

Timothy’s alleged failure in Corinth raises some very important issues in pastoral ministry.  Was Timothy teaching doctrines which, if believed and applied by the Corinthian congregation, would bring them to spiritual maturity?  Because Paul and Timothy was so “like-minded” the answer to that question is assuredly affirmative.  Should Timothy have changed his pleasant and gentile personality to teach them?  Absolutely not!  God uses pastors with all kinds of personalities to communicate His Word!  The Corinthians were in error not to recognize Timothy’s teaching authority then to learn from him.  Paul, as an application of his Divinely given apostolic authority, sent Timothy to pastor them.  So these Corinthians not only rejected Timothy’s authority, but Paul’s and God’s as well.  The failure was not Timothy’s but the Corinthians.  No pastor is called upon to remain at a church where his teaching authority is rejected.

After Paul’s release from the Roman prison, they went to Ephesus where Timothy took on the pastorate there.  He went into reversionism there, which motivated Paul to write 2 Timothy.  Tradition says that Timothy was martyred during the reign of Domitian or Nerva while trying to stop a heathen procession.

[1] Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (138). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.



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