Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 3)

Solo Journeys of Timothy

Timothy and Silas left Berea, and together they journeyed to Athens.  No doubt these two fellow-soldiers of the cross talked about their experiences over the past months while on their journey, and wondered what things God had in store for them once they arrived in Athens.

Upon their arrival,*[1] Paul was worried.  He remembered the Christians in Thessalonica who had been scared by a mob of angry Jews and their band of thugs, and was concerned that the persecution of godless men and Jews who refused to obey the gospel might cause them to leave the faith.  So he spoke with Timothy and told the young man that he was being sent on a mission to “establish” and “comfort” the congregation in the midst of their trials.  So Timothy went on a solo journey, returning to Thessalonica (in Macedonia) to check on them.  When he arrived, he was overjoyed with what he found.  The Christians there, even though they’d only received three weeks’ teaching from Paul and Silas, were staying faithful and showing love one for another.*[2]  Soon after arriving and seeing their spiritual condition, Timothy brought the happy news to Paul, who had moved on from Athens to Corinth by this point.*[3]  It was upon receiving this uplifting news that Paul wrote the first letter to the Thessalonian Christians.

Timothy apparently remained in Corinth for at least a few months, for his name is included as a co-writer of the second letter to the Thessalonians, which most believe was sent between 3-6 months after the first letter.  What happened next with Timothy is not spelled out for us in the Scripture.  It seems most likely that Timothy stayed with Paul as he traveled from Corinth to Ephesus for a very short stay, and then went to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts*[4] before returning to Antioch to give a report to the church there.*[5]  Afterwards, having spent some time in Antioch, he would have then journeyed with Paul back through Galatia and Phrygia (in Asia Minor), “strengthening all the disciples”*[6]  before arriving with Paul in Ephesus, which is where he shows up next in the biblical narrative.

Paul remained in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31), and it was during that time that he sent Timothy on a journey that would eventually take him to Corinth*[7] to give the Christians there a refresher course in Paul teaching.*[8]  There is reason to suspect that Timothy was not able to make his planned visit to Corinth (or perhaps that Paul sent Titus instead),*[9] and returned to Paul in Ephesus instead.*[10]  Some time after his arrival back in Asia Minor, Timothy was sent on another mission, this time to Macedonia with a man named Erastus (Acts 19:22).  This mission to Macedonia quite possibly included traveling to the various congregations, raising support for the poor saints in Jerusalem.*[11]

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *Some are of the belief that Silas and Timothy went to Athens, but that by that point Paul had already moved on to Corinth, and so they would have had to search him out there.  1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, however, makes it clear that Timothy and Silas met up with Paul in the city of Athens.  Acts 18:5, which records their arrival to meet Paul in Corinth, must have come after Timothy (and apparently Silas) was sent out to check on other congregations.

[2] *This trip is recorded in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6.

[3] *Acts 18:5 shows Silas and Timothy meeting up with Paul in Corinth, apparently after they had been sent to visit other congregations in place of Paul (who was a lightning rod for the unbelieving Jews).  See 1 Thessalonians 3:1-6 for at least part of this evidence.  Timothy went to Thessalonica, and it is guessed by many that Silas went to Philippi.

[4] *Acts 18:21.  Johnson (People’s New Testament with Notes) says “There are reasons for believing the feast to be Pentecost.”  Most modern versions leave out Paul’s explanation of why he couldn’t stay in Ephesus, due to some faulty ancient manuscripts which they have mistakenly elevated to “most accurate” status.  The visit to Jerusalem and to the church in that city is mentioned in Acts 18:22—Paul went to Caesarea, and from there “went up” to some city [Jerusalem] to salute the church there, and then “went down” to Antioch.

[5] *These events are recorded in Acts 18:18-22.

[6] *Acts 19:23.

[7] *If Paul had sent him directly to Corinth, then it would have been with this letter in his hand.  However, at the end of the letter, he says “if Timothy come…” which implies that by the time the Corinthians receive this correspondence, Timothy still wouldn’t have been there yet.  Thus, Timothy’s mission must have included other stops on the way.

[8] *1 Corinthians 4:17

[9] *See 2 Corinthians 2:13, 7:6, 13-14, 8:6, 16, 12:18 for evidence of Titus’ mission to Corinth.

[10] *Paul seemed to take this into consideration before sending the letter to the Corinthians.  Even though he told them that he had sent Timothy to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17), he also told them that it wasn’t a certainty (1 Corinthians 16:10), saying “If Timothy comes…”

[11] *See 2 Corinthians 8:1-4

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