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).

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