Tag Archives: Timothy

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 7)

Describing Timothy

Timothy was a faithful Christian, though he may have been vexed with anxiety.  Paul spends a good deal of time encouraging Timothy to stay strong, to keep fighting, to remember why he is a minister of the gospel.  This would seem unnecessary unless Timothy struggled with that sometimes.  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, telling them that if Timothy arrives, they are to take it easy on him, possibly because—unlike Paul—Timothy did not thrive on confrontation and debate.

If Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear: for he works the work of the Lord, as I also do.  Therefore, let no man despise [belittle] him, but conduct him in peace that he may come to me (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).

In Ephesus, Timothy seemed to struggle with problems with the elders.  This situation apparently was so stressful that he was having stomach ailments (many believe this is describing ulcers) and was frequently sick.

Against an elder do not receive an accusation, except before two or three witnesses.  [But] them that sin, rebuke before all, so that others may fear.  I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that you observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.  Lay hands [or, ordain] suddenly on no man, neither be a partaker of other men’s sins: keep yourself pure.  Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent sicknesses. Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before unto judgment; and some men they follow after.  Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid (1 Timothy 5:19-25).

The popular verse about “drink a little wine for your stomach’s sake” is contained in a discussion of dealing with elders who sinned and those who aren’t qualified trying to become elders.  Timothy was making himself sick worrying about these problems.  It says a lot about Timothy that he was so concerned about the spiritual condition of the church and her leaders that he would be physically sick because of it.


A work entitled the Acts of Timothy claims that Paul ordained Timothy as “Bishop” of Ephesus during the reign of Nero, and that Timothy remained there the rest of his life.  In this apocryphal writing, a pagan festival called the Katagogia (the “bringing down”) was taking place in Ephesus, where men with masks on took sticks and clubs “assaulting without restraint free men and respectable women, perpetrating murders of no common sort and shedding endless blood in the best parts of the city, as if they were performing a religious duty.”  Historians are divided on whether this was done in the name of Diana (the chief goddess of Ephesus) or Dionysius (the god of liquor and revelry).  Timothy, according to the story, stood in front of the mob, pleading with them to stop, preaching peace in the name of Jesus, but was clubbed to death in the street.  This was said to have happened in AD 97.

-Bradley Cobb

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 6)

Timothy after Rome

Anyone who has tried to piece together the life and movements of the apostle Paul after Acts 28 will tell you that it is difficult, and relies a lot on hints and a few guesses, since there is no detailed account of what he did after the events recorded in Acts.  Trying to figure out Timothy’s movements carries with it the same problems.  However, there are some things we can know.

Prior to Paul’s release from prison, he was making plans to visit specific people and places.  One of those was Philippi.  To the Philippians, he said:

I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be of good comfort when I know your state.  For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.  For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.  But you know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, he has served with me in the gospel.  Therefore, I hope to send him presently, as soon as I shall see how it will go with me.  Bit I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly (Philippians 2:19-24).

Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with this letter, but planned on sending Timothy so that he could get a report on how the Christians in that city were doing.  But Paul was waiting until he knew how things were going to go in his upcoming trial before Caesar before sending Timothy, probably because he wanted to be able to send that information as well—they being the main conduits from which support came during his imprisonment.

The book of Hebrews appears to have been written from Rome,*[1] and the writer (Paul)*[2] anxiously awaits the arrival of Timothy so that he can leave and visit the Christians to whom he was writing.  It seems, then, as though Paul sent Timothy off on a mission (perhaps to Philippi in Macedonia), and was waiting on his return so they could go travel together again.

The two friends and fellow-soldiers of the cross went to Asia Minor, stopping at Ephesus, where they were able to reunite with the Christians they loved dearly and hadn’t seen for several years.  While they were there, Paul (and perhaps Timothy as well) probably traveled to Laodicea to visit Philemon,*[3] who he had told to “prepare me a lodging, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be released to you” (Philemon 22).  Returning to Ephesus, Paul saw work that needed to be done in the congregation, but he also felt a very pressing desire to get to Macedonia personally and reunite with the ones who supported him tirelessly and out of their poverty.  Thus, he told Timothy that they must separate.  Timothy remained behind in Ephesus while Paul went on to Macedonia,*[4] but he planned on returning at some point in the future.*[5]

Timothy’s time in Ephesus was not the most pleasant of events.  There were men who were completely unqualified who sought to join the eldership.*[6]  There were false teachers on the rise.*[7]  There were women who wanted to be teachers in the assembly.*[8]  Paul knew about these problems, but he was confident that Timothy would be able to handle them.

Paul most likely returned to see Timothy in Ephesus before leaving for more mission work, some believe westward to Spain.  After some time, Paul made it back to Troas, but was arrested and taken back to Rome.  Timothy has remained in Ephesus during this time, working with the congregation there, but then he receives a letter (2 Timothy) which causes him much concern.  The Roman Empire has declared Christianity to be their enemy, and an Empire-wide persecution has begun.  Paul, being perhaps the most well-known of the Christians, would have been one of their primary targets.  Timothy reads the letter, which urges him to remain strong, to prepare people to continue to propagate the message of the gospel, and to endure hardships like a good soldier.*[9]  Paul is telling Timothy that they may never see each other again on this side of death.*[10]  So Timothy hurriedly gathers what things he needs and travels north to Troas to gather Paul’s books, parchments, and cloak,*[11] and travels to Rome with John Mark (who had apparently come to Ephesus), probably by ship.

Whether he made it to Rome in time to see Paul prior to his execution, we have no way of knowing.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *The writer, who has traditionally been identified as Paul, tells his readers “they of Italy salute you” (Hebrews 12:24).

[2] *It is the belief of this author that Paul is the writer of the book of Hebrews.  However, as this work is not focused on that book, nor is the point here being made one of major significance, the evidence for such a conclusion does not need to be presented here.

[3] *Most scholars place Philemon in Colossae, but this author believes the evidence points to the nearby city of Laodicea.  See the introduction and appendix of The Prodigal Slave: A Study of the Letter to Philemon by this author for more details.

[4] *1 Timothy 1:3.

[5] *1 Timothy 4:13.

[6] *1 Timothy 5:21-22, 24-25.

[7] *1 Timothy 4:1-5.

[8] *1 Timothy 2:9-15.

[9] *2 Timothy 2.

[10] *2 Timothy 4:6-8.

[11] *2 Timothy 4:9, 13

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 5)

Timothy during Paul’s Imprisonment

Timothy accompanied Paul and the others into Jerusalem, where they met with James, the brother of Jesus, as well as the elders of Jerusalem.  They presented the funds, as well as gave a report of the great work God was doing among the Gentiles.  This brought up a touchy subject in Jerusalem.  There were thousands of Jewish Christians in the city, and they’d all heard reports that Paul was teaching Jews not to circumcise their children anymore, and that they should forsake all the customs passed down from Moses.*[1]  All Paul would have had to do is point to Timothy to disprove those rumors.  Timothy was a Jew who had not been circumcised, yet Paul made it a point to circumcise him.

Some Jews from Asia had seen Paul in the temple, and began to make these same accusations, but added that he brought a Gentile into the temple, because they falsely assumed that Trophimus had accompanied him there.  Paul was forcibly removed from the temple by a mob, and the doors were shut behind him.  The mob began to beat Paul, and would have succeeded in killing him, had not the Roman soldiers arrived on the scene.  It does not appear that Timothy was with Paul during this uproar, but no doubt he heard about it shortly thereafter.*[2]

Timothy was no doubt anxious the next day when the chief captain, Claudius Lysias, called together the high priest and the Sanhedrin to hear Paul’s testimony.  The proceedings quickly turned ugly, and Claudius removed Paul, “lest [he] should have been pulled in pieces by them.”*[3]  It is quite possible that Timothy visited Paul while he was being held as a prisoner in Jerusalem, and brought him much-needed comfort.*[4]  Timothy most likely joined Paul as he was taken to Caesarea and was probably present during his trial before Felix.*[5]  Timothy was given freedom by Felix to visit Paul as often as he wanted, and this he no doubt did as Paul was there for two years.  It is believed by some that Paul’s letters to the Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, and to Philemon were all written during this two-year period.*[6]  If this is the case, then Timothy’s constant presence with Paul is confirmed, for he is mentioned as co-writer in three of those letters.*[7]

Paul, in order to guarantee that he wasn’t turned over to the Jews, whom he knew would try to kill him, appealed to Caesar.  This was the right of every Roman citizen, and required going to Rome and awaiting a convenient time for the emperor to hear his case.  Luke does not record who, other than himself, joined Paul on this treacherous sea voyage,*[8] but it would be surprising if Timothy was not among his companions.*[9]  If this is indeed the case, then Timothy would have experienced the Euroclydon, the “tempestuous wind” that attacked their ship for fourteen days, and was so bad that the professional sailors tried to abandon the ship, leaving Paul, Timothy, Luke, and the other 200+ to die in the storm.  He would have come aboard the land at Malta, seen Paul get bitten by a viper, yet suffer no ill effects.  He would have seen Paul heal many of the inhabitants of the island, and helped the apostle in preaching to them for the three months they were there.*[10]

The prevailing view among Bible scholars, past and present, is that Paul wrote his “prison epistles” while in Rome under house arrest.*[11]  The greeting at the beginning of Philemon, Colossians, and Philippians all include Timothy, showing he was there with Paul during his imprisonment.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *It is important to note that James calls them “customs,” and not “commands.”  By this point, the Law of Moses had no binding effect on anyone, having been superseded by the law of Christ.  The customs would have included observing the Sabbath, circumcision, feast days, fasting, vows, meat restrictions, etc.

[2] *Luke tells us that Paul went to the temple with the four men who had a vow on them.  This would appear to exclude anyone else from being with Paul at that point.

[3] *Acts 23:1-10.

[4] *Paul’s nephew was able to come see him (Acts 23:16-22), so it is not a stretch to think that others were permitted to as well.

[5] *At the conclusion of Paul’s trial before Felix, the ruler stated that Paul’s acquaintances and ministers (assistants) were to be permitted to come and go to meet with him.  This implies that Felix had knowledge of Paul’s traveling companions.

[6] *The majority of Bible scholars place the writing of these letters a few years later while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, as recorded in Acts 28.

[7] *The only exception being Ephesians.

[8] *Note the use of “we” throughout chapters 27-28.

[9] *This is especially true if we assume—as do the majority of Bible scholars—that Paul’s “prison epistles” were written from Rome, which include Timothy in their greetings.  Some might suggest that Timothy was sent on missionary journeys to some of the congregations that they had visited before, informing them of Paul’s current situation, and that is also a logical guess as well, considering that Paul would need financial support while under house arrest in Rome, awaiting trial.

[10] *These events are recorded in Acts 27-28.  The specific time on Malta is given in 28:11.

[11] *This living arrangement is shown by Luke in Acts 28:16, 30-31.

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 4)

Journey to Jerusalem

Sometime thereafter, Paul joined them in Macedonia, and Timothy is listed as a co-author of the second letter to the church in Corinth.*[1]  After traveling with Paul throughout Macedonia, Timothy finally made it back to Corinth, where they stayed about three months,*[2] and during which time, he was mentioned to the church in Rome by Paul.*[3]  Timothy had planned to accompany Paul on a sea journey to Syria (probably returning to Antioch).*[4]  However, since there were Jews waiting to kill Paul, the apostle decided to travel by way of Macedonia instead, apparently sending Timothy and several others ahead to wait for him at Troas.*[5]

Timothy was present in Troas on the Lord’s Day when Eutychus fell asleep in an open window on the third story of the building where the church was meeting.  This young man slid down and fell out the window to his death, but Paul healed him.*[6]  Timothy then rode with Luke and some others in a boat to Assos, meeting up with Paul who had decided to go there on foot,*[7] and they continued their journey to Miletus.  It was in Miletus that Paul waited, calling the elders of Ephesus to come meet him there.*[8]  These are some of the same men that Timothy would have interacted with during his initial time in that city with Paul, as well as during his time preaching there full-time some years later.*[9]

The young preacher accompanied Paul and the others as they made his way back east, sailing past Cyprus (where Barnabas and John Mark had last been seen), and finally arriving in Syria at Tyre.  In this city, they stayed for a week, meeting with the disciples who lived there.  Timothy must have been impressed by the love and care of the Christians in Tyre.  The entire congregation—men, women, and children—walked Paul, Timothy, Luke, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, and Trophimus out of the city and to their boat.  Then they all knelt together on the shore and prayed to God.  These Christians did not head back home until Paul and his company had all boarded the ship.*[10]

Timothy’s next stop was in Caesarea, where he got to meet Philip, the man who taught the gospel to the eunuch of Ethiopia.*[11]  Philip welcomed the traveling missionaries into his house for “many days,” being overjoyed no doubt at the aid which the churches of Macedonia and Achaia had sent for the poor saints in Jerusalem.  It was while staying in Caesarea that Timothy saw a prophet named Agabus grab Paul’s belt and tie himself up with it, prophesying that Paul would be arrested in Jerusalem and turned over to the Romans as a prisoner.*[12]  Timothy began to beg and plead with Paul not to go,*[13] but the apostle stood firm, telling him and the others who also pleaded, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”*[14]  Finally, Timothy and the rest of Paul’s company ceased their pleading, instead saying “The will of the Lord be done,” and they traveled to Jerusalem in the company of one of the early disciples, Mnason,*[15] with whom they would stay in Jerusalem.*[16]

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *2 Corinthians 1:1

[2] *Acts 20:2-3.  Corinth is the primary city of Greece, and Paul had promised the Corinthians that he would come to see them in person after traveling through Macedonia (1 Corinthians 16:5, 2 Corinthians 9:4).

[3] *Romans 16:21.  Paul wrote that he was staying at the house of Gaius (Romans 16:23), who was one of the few people in Corinth that Paul himself baptized (1 Corinthians 1:14).  Paul also mentions “Erastus, the chamberlain of the city” (Romans 16:23), and a first-century inscription in Corinth exists which says “Erastus, the commissioner of public works, laid this pavement at his own expense.” (see introduction to Romans in “The Open Bible: Expanded Edition,” 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers).

[4] *Acts 20:3.

[5] *Acts 20:4-5.

[6] *Acts 20:6-12.

[7] *Acts 20:13-14.

[8] *Acts 20:17.

[9] *See 1 Timothy 1:3.

[10] *Acts 21:3-6.

[11] *Acts 21:8.  As a side note, it is quite possible that Luke was able to talk to Philip at this time, gathering the information that he would later include when writing the book of Acts.

[12] *Acts 21:10-11.

[13] *Acts 21:12.

[14] *Acts 21:13.

[15] *Mnason may well have been one of the converts on the day of Pentecost.

[16] *Acts 21:14-16

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

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 2)

The Missionary Timothy

Timothy joined up with Paul and Silas, initially traveling to the cities near Lystra and Iconium, but soon thereafter they made their way west across Asia Minor, including Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, and Troas.  It was while in Troas that Timothy met a doctor named Luke.*[1]  This physician became a trusted friend of Paul, and certainly of Timothy as well.  Timothy, Luke, Silas, and Paul were all in this city one evening when Paul had a vision that they should travel to Europe (specifically Macedonia) to preach the gospel.*[2]

During this missionary trip, Timothy was not the primary speaker—it’s possible that he didn’t do much preaching at all while in the company of Paul and Silas—but he was visible as part of Paul’s company, preachers working for Jesus Christ.  This is seen in the many times Paul would send Timothy back to different congregations to check on them or to serve in his place for a time.*[3]

After arriving in Philippi (in Macedonia), Timothy met a devout woman named Lydia who because the first recorded convert in Europe.  It is in her house that Timothy stayed for a number of days, along with Paul, Silas, and Luke.*[4]  It was while they were in this city that a possessed slave-girl began to follow them, proclaiming that “These men are the servants of the most high God, which show to us the way of salvation!”*[5]  Paul cast the demon out of her, which upset her owners greatly because they had used her as a source of income.  The owners grabbed Paul and Silas and drug them before the magistrates before having them beaten and thrown in prison.  Timothy and Luke were either deemed to be not as important by these men, or they were able to run and escape.*[6]  Timothy stayed in Lydia’s house that evening, and the next day he left with Paul and Silas towards Thessalonica.*[7]

In Thessalonica, Timothy had the opportunity to see Paul in action at the local synagogue, reasoning from the Scriptures that Timothy knew so well.*[8] The response was encouraging at first, with several Jews obeying the gospel and a “great multitude” of Gentiles doing so as well.   But there was a group of Jews in the city who greatly resented the teaching of these missionaries and gathered a mob to find them.  Jason, most likely a recent convert, had welcomed the traveling trio into his house, and it is to his home that the mob went.  Where Timothy was at the time they reached the house isn’t stated.  It’s possible he was among the brethren that were taken from Jason’s house and placed before the rulers of the city,* [9] but was released after posting bail,*[10] allowing him to flee the city by night with Paul and Silas to Berea.*[11]

In Berea, Timothy got to witness a much different response.  There in the synagogue of Berea, the Jewish congregation was open-minded to what Paul and Silas preached, checking everything by their copies of the Old Testament Scriptures to verify what they were being taught.*[12]  Unfortunately, some of the Jews who had caused such trouble for Paul in Thessalonica heard he was preaching in Berea and came to stir up the people.  Paul was sent quickly to the sea, on his way to Athens, but Timothy and Silas chose to stay behind to help the congregation.*[13]  After perhaps two to three weeks, they received word from Paul, telling them to get to Athens as quickly as possible to meet up with him.*[14]  So they went.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *Note the change in pronouns from “they” to “we” and “us” from Acts 16:6-10.

[2] *Acts 16:6-10.

[3] *Timothy was sent to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:1-6), Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17), Macedonia (Acts 19:22), Philippi (Philippians 2:19), and left in Ephesus to guide the congregation there (1 Timothy 1:3).

[4] *Acts 16:14-15.

[5] *Acts 16:16-17.

[6] *No explanation is given in Scriptures.  It is probable that since Paul and Silas were the ‘leaders” of the group, the men simply grabbed them.  Some have suggested that Timothy might have been spared because of his young age, though that still doesn’t account for how Luke escaped.  It must be remembered that they were probably preaching to a sizable group at this point, and the owners of the slave-girl wouldn’t be too interested in trying to capture a group that outnumbered them by several times.

[7] *Luke evidently stayed behind in Philippi (notice that Luke uses “they” to describe the company that left, Acts 16:40, 17:1).

[8] *Acts 17:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:15.

[9] *It is also possible that he was safely elsewhere during this time.

[10] *Acts 17:9.  The word “security” (KJV) is often used of money to pay off a debt or bond.

[11] *Lange disagrees, saying “Timotheus, who is not mentioned in Acts 17:10 (compare 17:14), probably remained at Thessalonica, and, at a somewhat later period, repaired to Berea” (notes on Acts 17:9).

[12] *Acts 17:11.  Paul and Silas were prophets, and could easily have performed miracles while they were in Berea to confirm their message, but these Jews were “people of the book” who would not be swayed unless they could see it in the Scriptures for themselves.

[13] *Acts 17:13-14.  The fact that Silas and Timothy stayed behind, even for a month (long enough for Paul to be taken to Athens and for someone to return with a message), shows that (1) Timothy and Silas loved the congregation in Berea, and (2) that they weren’t in any serious danger in Berea.  It appears that the Jews from Thessalonica were mostly interested in Paul, and once he left, they lost interest.  It is also plausible that their attempts to intimidate the new converts failed because they had been convinced through the word of God that what Paul taught was the truth.  Thus, though the people were “stirred up,” it doesn’t appear to have lasted long.

[14] *The journey from Berea to Athens is approximately 200 miles—one way.  By sea, it is only a few days’ journey.  By land, it is around 10 days (when you take into account the Sabbath Day restrictions that Paul likely observed).  Some commentators argue that the phrase “as it were to the sea” means that it was an act of trickery, and that they were trying to throw the Jewish persecutors off their trail, then traveling by land.  McGarvey takes the position that when they left, they didn’t know exactly where they were going to take Paul, which is why he had to send word for Timothy and Silas to come to Athens (as opposed to somewhere else).

Biography of a Young Preacher (Part 1)

From our upcoming book, “Who Were the Apostles?” we present to you a biography of the life of a young preacher named Timothy.  This biography will be presented in seven sections.

The Selection of Timothy

The very first thing said in the Bible about Timothy was that he was a disciple from the Derbe/Lystra area.  That is, he was a Christian when Paul arrived there with Silas on his second missionary journey.  It is generally assumed that Timothy was converted by Paul, because the apostle calls him “my own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).*[1]  If this is indeed the case, Timothy must have been converted some years earlier during the first missionary journey, either around the time when Barnabas and Paul were thought to be Greek gods,*[2] during their visit to Derbe,*[3] or their return visit to Lystra.*[4] Regardless of when it took place, Timothy owed his spiritual mindset to his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice, who made certain that he was familiar with the Scriptures from the time he was a child.*[5]  It was from this knowledge of the Scriptures that he was “thoroughly furnished into all good works.”*[6]

This young man,*[7] before Paul’s arrival on the second journey, had already become well-known among the brethren in his hometown of Lystra,*[8] but also in Iconium, some 30-40 miles away.  According to McGarvey, this is a strong implication that Timothy had already begun preaching the gospel in local congregations:

…he was well spoken of by the brethren.  The fact that he was thus attested not only at … Lystra, close about his home, but also at the distant city of Iconium, renders it probable that he was already a young preacher, and that the imposition of hands by the elders of the church, which is mentioned later [1 Timothy 4:14], had already taken place.*[9]

Even though Barnabas was no longer with Paul, his effect was still being felt.  The apostle Paul looked at Timothy as someone who would be useful in spreading the gospel to Jew and Gentile alike—just like Barnabas viewed Paul (Acts 11:20-26).  Timothy was already well-known and well-respected by the local brethren, but Paul decided he needed another co-worker, and Timothy was the man he chose.  This wasn’t a slight to Silas, any more than the addition of Luke less than ten verses later was a slight to Timothy.  Paul was always looking for Christians who could be of help in spreading the gospel and encouraging new congregations.

Timothy was much like the church: he was half-Jew, half-Gentile.  His mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek.  That obviously wasn’t an issue with the brethren in Lystra and Iconium (with whom he was well-respected), but it was an issue with many of the non-Christian Jews who knew that his father was a Gentile (Acts 16:3).  So, in order to eliminate a possible point of contention with the Jews they wanted to convert, Paul circumcised Timothy.*[10]

It is interesting that immediately after Paul circumcised Timothy, we’re told that they went around to the cities delivering the decrees from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem—the letter that said Gentile Christians did not need to be circumcised to be right with God.

-Bradley Cobb

[1] *The validity of this translation is not as certain as many have assumed.  Paul does not use the word “my,” nor is there anything in the text to show possession.  The New King James Version renders it more literally: “a true son in the faith.”  It is possible that Paul is simply calling Timothy “a true [or genuine] son [of God] in the faith.”  2 Timothy 1:2 says “my beloved son,” but just like with 1 Timothy 1:2, there is nothing in the Greek to demand the word “my” be added.  It literally says, “To Timothy, a beloved son” (see the NKJV).  However, Timothy is called (in Greek) “my son” by Paul (2 Timothy 2:1) and his relationship with Paul is described as “a son with the father” (Philippians 2:22).

[2] *Acts 14:6-18.  Some have suggested that when Paul was stoned and left for dead, he was brought to Timothy’s house, causing a deep impact on the younger man and a desire to help Paul in any way he could.  No evidence was given for that suggestion, and so it remains in the arena of supposition.

[3] *This preaching visit in Derbe (Acts 14:20-21a) seems to be the least likely of the three suggestions for the time of Timothy’s conversion.  Though Paul and Silas met up with Timothy in “Derbe and Lystra,” the young disciple was well-reported by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium—no mention of his being known in Derbe.

[4] *Acts 14:21b-23

[5] *2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15, Acts 16:1.

[6] *2 Timothy 3:15-17.

[7] *There is no consensus on what his actual age was.  The estimates range from late teens to early 40s.  The word translated “youth” (1 Timothy 4:12) speaks of the earliest years of accountability in the other places where it appears in the New Testament.  It is said that men were considered “youths” or “young men” until around age 40 [some say closer to 30].  Paul says “let no man despise your youth” (1 Timothy 4:12) around AD 60-63.  The events in Acts 16 took place closer to AD 48-50.  Using the information at hand, knowing that at least a decade after Timothy joined Paul (more likely closer to 15 years), he was still called a “youth,” it leads us to the conclusion that Timothy was most likely in his late teens or early twenties when we first meet him in Acts 16.  Barton W. Johnson, in his The People’s New Testament with Notes, suggests that he was twenty years old.  The apocryphal Acts of Timothy claims that he was killed around AD 97 at the age of 80, which—were it true—would mean he was born in AD 17, and was 31 when Paul met him, and in his mid-40s when Paul called him a “youth.”  While this is possible, it doesn’t agree with the general usage of the word in Greek, nor elsewhere in the New Testament.

[8] *Given that Timothy was well-known in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:2), and that Luke records that Timothy was a disciple that was in the area of “Derbe and Lystra” (Acts 16:1), the most logical conclusion is that Timothy was from Lystra.

[9] *J.W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles, Vol. 2, p. 79.

[10] *This was done, not as a matter of doctrine, but as a matter of expediency.  As a half-Jew, he would have been tolerated in the synagogue as a spectator, but because he was also an uncircumcised half-Gentile, he would not have had the opportunity to speak there.  The non-Christian Jews in the area would have looked down on him as no better than a Samaritan (half-breed).  Later on, Paul refuses to circumcise Titus, who was a full-blooded Gentile, because that would have been trying to bind the Law of Moses on a Gentile.


What About the Rich?

Christians and riches–can the two coexist?  Can a Christian be rich?  These questions can bring all kinds of responses.

Some people try to bind poverty as the only way a true Christian can live. Others claim that the only way to show you’re a faithful Christian is if God’s making you rich!

What is the truth?

In I Timothy 6, Paul shoots some advice to a young preacher–some advice on how to deal with the topic of riches.  This apostle told his son in the faith that there were some who did not consent to the “words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:3). One of the ways they did not agree to Christ’s teachings was that some “supposed that gain is godliness” (6:5). There were some people back in the first century who believed that getting rich was a sign that God was pleased with them. The same philosophy exists in many religious organizations today, and is referred to as the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”

Is this a valid view of riches? Paul sure did not think so!

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, tells Timothy to avoid those people. He says this in no uncertain terms: “from such withdraw thyself” (6:5). He’s telling Timothy, as well as us today, that we’re to stand separate from such people, because they’re in error, not agreeing to the words of Christ.

Paul said that true gain (riches) comes from being godly and being content with what we have (6:6). We weren’t born with money in hand, and when we die, we can’t take it with us. Because of this, we should be content with the food and clothing that we have.

Are you content with the things you own?

But what of those who seek to be rich? Should the Christian seek after earthly treasure?

Jesus spoke of such things many times, all of which are well stated in the words “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [material needs] will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The one who wants to follow Christ won’t put his focus on gaining money and riches, but on gaining heaven. The ones whose desire is for money are in trouble–“they fall into a temptation and a snare” (I Timothy 6:9). Immediately afterwards, God says “the love of money is the root of all evil” (6:10). Those who covet after money have “erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Being rich is not a sign of God’s approval, but neither is it a sign of his disapproval. The Bible shows what happens to those who put their focus on material wealth instead of spiritual wealth, but does that mean it is wrong to have money?

No it does not.

What this does mean is that the rich are to “not be high-minded, nor put their trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17). The rich are to “do good” and “be rich in good works, ready to distribute” to needs that arise (6:18). This is to be done so that they may “lay hold on eternal life” (6:19).

Jesus commands that those who follow Him must lay up “treasures in heaven” and not “treasures upon earth” (Matthew 6:19-20). This is talking about priorities. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). If seeking money is your goal, your heart will be on earthly things. If you are seeking primarily after God, all of your physical needs will be supplied (Matthew 6:33).

What better life could there be than knowing that all of your needs will be taken care of here on earth, plus knowing that after death, you will have a home in heaven? It’s not wrong to have money, but when that becomes the priority in your life over following God, your soul is in jeopardy. Where are you seeking treasure?

-Bradley Cobb