Timothy is Called to the Work of Preaching

After leaving Lystra and Iconia, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria and “re­hearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). The introduction of many Gentiles into the faith caused some unrest, with a number of Jews from Judaea who urged that Gentile believ­ers must keep the law and be circumcised (Acts 15:23–29). To resolve the matter, a conference was convened in Jerusalem, where it was established that those rites were not necessary for salvation. After the conference, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch and, with them, two faithful disciples, Judas and Silas. Paul subsequently suggested to Barnabas, “Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do” (Acts 15:36). Paul understood the responsibility of true ecclesial shepherds in taking care of the flock: “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds” (Prov 27:23). Paul’s example holds true for brethren who aspire to be overse­ers, whether locally or in mission areas. Are we genuinely attentive to those newly baptised or do we rejoice in their baptism and then leave them to fend for themselves? “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the ecclesia of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

There was a difference of opinion on the execution of this work so Paul chose Silas to accompany him to return to Galatia while Barnabas took Mark to Cyprus. This raises the question: what were the qualities Paul saw in Silas that fitted him for the work of being his fellow-labourer in the gospel? Paul may have told Silas of his stoning and the violent opposition he had faced so that Silas would be under no false impression: the work before them would not be like a peaceful country holiday. But Judas and Silas were “men that had hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). Both these men were prophets and capable to give exhortation (Acts 15:32). Mission work was for neither the faint-hearted nor the novice, though young brethren can certainly can certainly support mature brethren in the work and learn from them as we will see Timothy did.

Timothy – Well Reported of

These two brethren left Antioch, “being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” (Acts 15:40). Preaching work should be wholeheartedly supported by us all, whether it be the ecclesial lectures and seminars in our local area or preaching and support conducted in the wider field of mission work. We may not be able to attend all that is organised but there are many ways we can give support. Seeking God’s blessing on the work and giving material support shows we are “fellow-labourers in the gospel” with those personally involved.

Paul and Silas “went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the ecclesias” and arrived at Lystra. Here we are introduced to Timothy. We have already con­sidered his family background and his instruction in the Scriptures from childhood but now we learn that Timothy was highly esteemed by the brethren in the area. He was “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). Lystra and Iconium were 40 km apart, a walking journey of about 7–8 hours. Timothy obviously made the journey often to support ecclesial activities so that he was known and highly regarded by all. It is a simple matter for a young brother to gain a poor report in the ecclesia by being involved in worldly interests such as sport, music and entertainment. His language and topics of talk are superficial and empty as he does not have his mind immersed in the holy and upright things of the Word of God. Conversely, for a young brother to be “well reported of” his interests are spiritual and wholesome and his conversation is seasoned with the salt of the word of God. He is devoted to reading and medita­tion on the word of God. He is active in duties that give support to the ecclesia and willing to do menial duties for the wellbeing of others. Such a person is a valuable support to the older members of the ecclesia. this young brother, Timothy, so impressed Paul that he took him to “minister” or attend to him in the work of the gospel (Acts 19:22).

Paul and Silas had gone out to deliver “the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4). these decrees were in response to the challenge that had been put that it was necessary to keep the Law of Moses and circumcision, yet before taking Timothy with him, Paul had him circumcised. Is there a conflict here? No, Paul did this “because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). We are familiar with the fact that Paul would go into a city and first preach the gospel in the synagogue and then turn to the Gentiles when opposed by the Jews. Paul explains how and why he was flexible in some things, saying, “unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law” (1 Cor 9:20–21). Circumcision was not necessary for salvation but it allowed Timothy free access with Paul into the synagogue to preach salvation to others. Paul said to the Galatians, those in the area from which Timothy came, “in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal 5:6).

The Experiences at Philippi

Leaving Lystra and Iconium Paul, Barnabas and Timothy travelled on to Troas where Paul had the vision calling him to “come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). Paul was obedient to the call and the first city where we have a record of Paul’s preach­ing is Philippi. Here, Timothy was to experience the joy of the Truth believed and obeyed in baptism by Lydia and her household, as well as witnessing again the suffering that those who preach the gospel could experience. Paul and Silas suffered a fearful public beating for healing the demented girl, who had been openly proclaiming to the citizens, “these men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17). Following the beating came imprisonment, which was terminated by the earthquake, and then followed the conversion of the jailer and his household. We know the events but let us pause and consider the responsibility that fell on Timothy during this fearful ordeal.

Here we have a young brother in his late teens, left to comfort this new ecclesia in its infancy, while Paul and Silas were suffering in great pain in the jail. We can imagine the discussion and perplexing questions that would be asked, the prayer that no doubt Timothy would offer for the little ecclesia and the individual prayers of Lydia and the others. If you are a parent of a young brother of a similar age to Timothy, how well do you think he would cope, comforting and being a spiritual strength during that ordeal? Possibly the deranged girl who had been healed was there, feeling it was her illness that had caused the suffering for Paul. No doubt they were still awake at midnight in a very prayerful and anxious state, when the city was rocked by an earthquake: a terrifying experience to add to the anxiety they were already enduring. When we read this account, we know what the end result was the next day and so we can easily minimise the stress that these events would have placed on all, and especially Timothy, as he endeavoured to comfort, encourage and strengthen this new little ecclesia. Imagine their relief and utter amazement as Paul and Silas came to the house of Lydia and introduced to that little company the jailer and his household as their new brothers and sisters in the Lord. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Timothy Commended to the Philippian Ecclesia

Timothy’s role in Philippi left a lasting impression upon the ecclesia. When writing from his imprison­ment in Rome, Paul includes Timothy in the greeting to the Philippians, as Timothy was with him there. Speaking of Timothy, he wrote: “I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, 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 ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel. Him therefore I hope to send presently, so soon as I shall see how it will go with me. But I trust in the Lord that I also myself shall come shortly” (Phil 2:19–24). They knew that Timothy would be “genuinely concerned for [their] welfare” (ESV), just as he had been from the beginning. Paul reminds them, “You know Timothy’s proven worth” (ESV) and this they certainly did. If there were newer members in the ec­clesia who asked about Timothy we know that, “as he had been well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium”, he now would be well reported of by these brethren in Philippi also.

The responsibility of those of us who are older in the Truth is to impress upon the younger brethren and sisters the need for dedication in service to Christ and his body, the ecclesia. Such dedication is motivated by constant attention to the word of God and prayer. It will lead to the decimation of the ecclesias if those to whom the future work of eldership falls lack a robust faith based upon a deep and wide understanding of the word of God and its practical application in life. Are we overstating the matter? From Paul’s words to Timothy we certainly are not: “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine … Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all (1 Tim 4:12–15).

From Philippi, Paul, Silas and Timothy went on to Thessalonica and we shall go there with them in our next article.