Personalities in the Pastoral Epistles
Howard A. Barnes, Bromborough, Merseyside
Those who were a delight to Paul: Timothy (continued)
Timothy never met Paul in Troas and in all probability he never got down to Corinth. In fact, when Paul arrived in Troas, he did not find Titus, but soon moved on to Macedonia where, eventually, Titus turned up. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Macedonia telling them of his joy at their positive reaction to his stern letter, no mention is made of Timothy having been in Corinth. However, he is mentioned as being with Paul then, 2 Cor. 1. 1, giving us the strong impression that Timothy got no further than Macedonia, i.e., Philippi, Thessalonica, etc.
Paul himself eventually arrived at Corinth, Acts 20. 2, and there he wrote his letter to the Romans. In it Paul sends the greetings of Timothy, his workfellow, Rom. 16. 21, who was obviously with him. Timothy then accompanied Paul and the other representatives of the Gentile assemblies to deliver the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem, Acts 20. 4. This is the final mention of Timothy in Acts.
The next news we have of Timothy is with Paul when he was imprisoned at Rome. When Paul wrote his Epistles to the Colossians, Philemon, and to the Philippians, he mentions Timothy, though not in Ephesians. To the Philippians, Paul wrote in his own name and that of Timothy as ‘the servants of Jesus Christ’, Phil. 1. 1; similarly to the Colossians he names Timothy as our (or the) brother, Col. 1. 1. However, to the Philippians he wrote much more about Timothy. First, he said he hoped to send Timothy to them shortly, so that he could bring back news of their spiritual state, Phil. 2. 19. Then, he tells them why Timothy was his special choice for the work. He stated that he had ‘no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state’, 2. 20. This is a remarkable statement for Paul to make, comparing Timothy with himself, but even more so when he contrasts Timothy with others, for ‘all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’, v. 21. This too is a remarkable statement for the very opposite reason. The general situation was that the things of Jesus Christ, e.g., the welfare of the saints and the gospel, were of no concern to the world and perhaps of little real interest to the majority of Christians, cp. 1 Cor. 10. 24, 33. The Philippians had firsthand knowledge of Timothy with regard to the gospel, for he had provided them with the proof in serving with Paul, as a slave son with his slave father. This is a vivid picture! In those days, if a slave had any skill or trade, he was duty bound to teach it to his son, so that they together could serve their master. For this reason, Paul was happy to send him as soon as possible, v. 23. However, he also hoped to come himself shortly, v. 24. With regard to Timothy’s interest in them, they were assured of this too.
It seems that Paul was eventually released, and during his busy few years of freedom, one of the places he visited was Ephesus. Timothy was with him and was left there to complete the work that he and Paul had been carrying out. In the letter that Paul wrote to him, he encouraged and instructed Timothy personally, and then gave him specific instructions for the assembly at Ephesus.
Not too many years before, Paul had warned the elders of the assembly at Ephesus, ‘after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’, Acts 20. 29-30. Spiritual decay was already setting in at Ephesus, and Timothy was being told how to protect the flock. Specifically, Paul reminds him, ‘I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith’, 1 Tim. 1. 3-4. Summing up, Paul wrote, ‘This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy . . . that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; holding faith, and a good conscience’, vv. 18-19.
With respect to the positive aspect of the teaching, Paul gives the reason for his writing to Timothy as, ‘If I delay, in order that thou mayest know how one ought to conduct oneself in God’s house, which is the assembly of the living God, the pillar and base of the truth’, 3. 15 JND. This behaviour in the local assembly covered, among other things, prayer (chapter 2) and, leadership and service (chapter 3). Then, in chapter 4, Paul told Timothy about problems that would arise in the future, so there follows another set of commands addressing Timothy’s suitable behaviour for such times, for his own integrity’s sake and in the best interests of the assembly:
‘these things command and teach’, v. 11
‘let no man despise thy youth’, v. 12
‘be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity’, v. 12
‘give attendance to [public] reading, to exhortation, to doctrine’, v. 13
‘neglect not the gift that is in thee’, v. 14
‘meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all’, v. 15 ‘take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee’, v. 16
In chapter 5, after dealing with some specific items of behaviour by members of the assembly, e.g., widows, Paul again exhorts Timothy with some final commands:
‘observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality’, v. 21
‘lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure’, v. 22
‘drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities’, v. 23.
Finally, in chapter 6, Paul finished his instructions:
‘O man of God, flee these things [e.g., love of money]; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness’, v. 11
‘fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life’, v. 12
‘keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ’, v. 14.
Collecting up all his entreaties, Paul finally exhorts, ‘O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust’, 1 Tim. 6. 20. What a charge!
Some time after writing his first letter to Timothy, Paul was re-arrested and taken back to Rome. From there he wrote another letter to Timothy in which he asked him: to come quickly, 2 Tim. 4. 9, at least before winter, v. 21; and to bring Mark with him, and also the cloak he had left at Troas, the books and the parchments, vv. 11-13. When we hear Paul saying, ‘Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy’, 1. 4, we have some more insight into the character of Timothy, since he was given to weeping, probably on the occasions when he and Paul had to part, cp. Acts 20. 37. On the other hand, we see the particular joy that Paul got from Timothy’s company. In this epistle, there are many commands for Timothy to comply with – some important ones are:
‘stir up the gift of God, which is in thee’, 2 Tim. 1. 6
‘be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner’, v. 8
‘be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel’, v. 8.
‘hold fast the form of sound words’, v. 13. ‘be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’, 2. 1 ‘commit thou to faithful men [the things that thou hast heard of me]’, v. 2.
‘endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’, v. 3
‘study to shew thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth’, v. 15.
‘flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace’, v. 22.
‘turn away [from ungodly men, vv. 2- 4]’, 3. 5
‘continue thou in the things which thou hast learned’, v. 14
‘preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort’, 4. 2
‘endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry’, v. 5
Along with many of these commands, Paul gave reasons for them being relevant and possible, for instance, Timothy was to stir up his gift because, ‘God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’, 1. 7. This three-fold benefit is indispensible for the servant of God. This promise also becomes the reason for the following command, ‘Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God’, v. 8. Whatever hesitation or even fearfulness there might have been in Timothy’s retiring character, this could be eclipsed by the new spirit of power within him from God.
Whether or not Timothy arrived before Paul’s eventual execution, we do not know, but even after Paul’s death, what a help these letters must have been to Timothy personally and to those to whom he passed on copies!
At some unknown place and time Timothy himself suffered imprisonment, for scripture records his release. Heb. 13. 23. Given the difficulty in knowing who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, or precisely when it was written, it is difficult to place Timothy’s imprisonment and release.