Timothy, the Youthful Minister
“TRAIN up a child in the way he should go; and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6, AT) Among the many good examples of the validity of that Scriptural rule is Timothy, the very young minister who lived in apostolic times. Termed by the apostle Paul as his child in the faith, his fellow worker and God’s minister, Timothy also served as a traveling representative and agent of the governing body of the early Christian congregation.—Rom. 16:21; 1 Thess. 3:2; 1 Tim. 1:2, NW.
Timothy received his sound Scriptural training, not from his father, who was an unbelieving Greek, but from his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois, both of whom had real faith in Jehovah God. As a result of such training Timothy from infancy knew the holy writings which are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in connection with Christ Jesus.—Acts 16:1; 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15, NW.
The apostle Paul met Timothy’s mother and grandmother at Lystra in Asia Minor on his first missionary tour, and as a result of his preaching both of them became Christians. And doubtless, just as they had taught young Timothy what they understood of the Hebrew Scriptures according to the law of Moses, they now instructed him regarding the promised Messiah who had come. Incidentally, these two women, instead of rebelling at their restricted sphere of activity in the Christian congregation, applied themselves diligently to the privileges that were theirs, and the Lord blessed their efforts.
Regarding the first reported meeting of Paul and Timothy at Lystra about A.D. 49 we read: “And, look! a certain disciple was there by the name of Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman but of a Greek father, and he was well reported on by the brothers in Lystra and Iconium. Paul expressed the desire for this man to go out with him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for one and all knew that his father was a Greek.”—Acts 16:1-3, NW.
It may seem a little strange to some for Paul to have Timothy circumcised, particularly in view of the fact that the two were about to go on a tour in which they would advise the Christian congregations about what the governing body at Jerusalem had concluded about circumcision’s not being necessary and just what they should observe. (Acts 15:19-21; 16:4) However, there was no inconsistency here on the part of Paul. He merely had Timothy circumcised so as to avoid arousing needless prejudice, since it was known that Timothy was of mixed parentage.
Timothy must have been quite a young man, doubtless still in his teens at this time, for more than ten years later Paul, in his first letter to him, makes more than one reference to Timothy’s youth. “Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” “Do not severely criticize an older man. To the contrary, entreat him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters with all chasteness.”—1 Tim. 4:12; 5:1, 2, NW.
Seemingly Timothy was a rather diffident youth, otherwise Paul would not have found it necessary to counsel him not to let anyone look down on his youth. This is further borne out by Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians: “However, if Timothy arrives, see that he becomes free of fear among you, for he is performing the work of Jehovah, even as I am. Let no one, therefore, look down upon him. Conduct him part way in peace, that he may get here to me, for I am waiting for him with the brothers.”—1 Cor. 16:10, 11, NW.
Timothy’s diffidence may have partly been due to his poor health. Paul’s counsel to him showed that Paul was concerned in Timothy’s being both physically and spiritually strong. “Do not drink water any longer, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent cases of sickness.” “I remind you to stir up like a fire the gift of God which is in you . . . For God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.” “You, therefore, my child, keep on acquiring power in the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 1:6, 7; 2:1, NW.
Timothy received much instruction through Paul, as well as the gift of the spirit. That Timothy made good use of the instruction and the gift given him is quite apparent from the report Paul sent to the congregation especially dear to him, the Philippians, regarding Timothy: “For my part, I am hoping in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I may be a cheerful soul when I get to know about the things pertaining to you. For I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. For all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.”—Phil. 2:19-22; 2 Tim. 1:6, 13; 2:2, NW.
From the foregoing we can readily appreciate why Timothy was so beloved by Paul, he repeatedly referring to him in terms of endearment, “my child,” “a beloved child,” “a genuine child in the faith.” That Paul’s affection for Timothy was like that of Jonathan for David, unselfish and based upon principle and not mere sentimentality, is apparent from Paul’s further words to Timothy: “I never leave off remembering you in my supplications, night and day longing to see you, as I remember your tears, that I may get filled with joy. For I recollect the faith which is in you without any hypocrisy, and which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, but which I am confident is also in you.”—1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2-5, NW.
TIMOTHY SERVES WITH PAUL
Upon joining Paul at Lystra Timothy accompanied him on his second missionary tour through Phrygia, Galatia, and on to Troas, where one night Paul received the call to come to Macedonia. In that province a congregation was started at Philippi. After traveling through several other cities they came to Thessalonica, where another congregation was established; persecution, however, cut their stay short. Success at their next stop, Boerea, again aroused the Jews to persecute them. But here it was thought best to have Paul go on alone to Athens, while Silas and Timothy remained behind.—Acts 16:1 to 17:15.
At Athens Paul sent word for Timothy to return to the Thessalonians to encourage them: “When we could bear it no longer, we saw good to be left alone in Athens, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s minister in the good news about the Christ, in order to make you firm and comfort you in behalf of your faith, that no one might be swayed by these tribulations.” This Timothy did, and later met Paul at Corinth, from which place Paul wrote his two letters to the Thessalonians, in the first one of which he reported: “Timothy has just now come to us from you and given us the good news about your faithfulness and love.”—1 Thess. 3:1-3, 6, NW.
Thereafter Timothy was sent with Erastus to Macedonia and was back with Paul as he again visited Philippi, where he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. He also accompanied Paul as he journeyed through Asia on this, his third missionary tour. While at Ephesus Paul sent Timothy on an important mission to the Christian congregation at Corinth. Timothy was also a helpful companion during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome. In eleven of Paul’s fourteen letters Timothy is either referred to or directly addressed. Indicative of Paul’s appreciation of his assistance is his appeal to Timothy during his second imprisonment: “Do your utmost to come to me shortly.”—2 Tim. 4:9, NW.
Because of Timothy’s devotion to Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, the apostle Paul, under the guiding influence of the holy spirit, appointed Timothy to serve as an agent of the governing body of the Christian congregation in his day; being authorized to appoint mature men as overseers and assistants in the various Christian congregations. (1 Tim. 1:3; 3:1-15, NW) In this capacity Timothy pictured or represented the instrument that Jehovah God is using today, the Society of footstep followers of Christ Jesus, which likewise appoints servants in the Christian congregation in keeping with Jesus’ promise that he would set his faithful and discreet slave over all his belongings.—Matt. 24:45, NW.
Paul gave Timothy much good counsel, which all ministers today will do well to heed: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season.” “Keep your balance in all things, suffer evil, do missionary work, thoroughly accomplish your ministry.”—1 Tim. 4:13, 16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16, 17; 4:2, 5, NW.
Truly Timothy was a good example of the results of proper Christian training of children. Let all Christian parents be diligent to follow the example of Lois and Eunice in training their children. And let all young ministers manifest becoming humility as did Timothy, but at the same time remember Paul’s counsel to Timothy: “Let no man ever look down on your youth.”