Eunice and her mother Lois lived in Lystra in southern Galatia (modern-day Turkey). They were Jewesses, but, by the time we read about them, Eunice had married a Greek and had a grown-up, but uncircumcised, son called Timothy, Acts 16. 1. According to Old Testament teaching, Eunice should not have married a person who had no interest in the things of God.1 The fact that Timothy was not circumcised might indicate that his father’s permission was withheld, thus demonstrating his antagonism to spiritual truth. How-ever, there seems to have been a concession with regard to Timothy’s name, which means ‘honouring God’.
However wrong Eunice might have been with regard to not marrying a Jew, it seems that the birth of her son Timothy reminded her of her obligations and, although not circumcising him, she does ensure that he had a spiritual name and that he, as soon as possible, got to know the Old Testament, probably with his grandmother’s encouragement. As Paul said to Timothy much later, ‘From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures’, 2 Tim. 3. 15. The scriptural injunction to Jewish children was ‘Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father’, Prov. 4. 1. However, as the father seems to have had no interest in spiritual things, the mother fulfilled the obligation to ‘teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up’, Deut. 11. 19. The end result was that Timothy could eventually say with the psalmist, ‘O God, thou hast taught me from my youth’, Ps. 71. 17.
Eunice and Lois were probably converted during Paul and Barnabas’ first visit to Lystra, on the so-called first missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas then travelled east to Derbe, but visited Lystra again on their return journey, Acts 14. 6, 21. Eunice and Lois were converted before Timothy, 2 Tim. 1. 5, who therefore might have been converted on the return journey. However, by the time Paul and Barnabas left Lystra, they knew for sure about the real and sincere (unfeigned) Christian faith of Lois, Eunice and Timothy.
The lesson we should learn is that, even if we have made mistakes, it is possible to do what we can to rectify them, with the Lord’s help. What a great support she and her mother would have been to Timothy, who was commended as a disciple and well reported of by the local Christians, Acts 16. 1-2. Even though she would lose his company, Eunice was no doubt delighted that God was using her son in His service and that he was living up to his name and ‘honouring God’ when he went along with the apostle Paul as a helper in the work, v. 3.
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