“Timothy of Lystra!” (My last time, seriously.)
No one was dearer to Paul’s heart than Timothy. He was Paul’s protege and chief assistant. From a grungy prison awaiting his execution, Paul penned his last writing and it was to this young disciple, “Timothy our brother” (Phile. 1:1).
Timothy was raised by his mother and grandmother in the city called Lystra. His father is never mentioned in the Bible, but we know him to be a Greek. His mother was a Jew. (Acts 16:1) Therefore, he was raised to have “sincere faith” since he was likely taught the Hebrew Scriptures. This faith was actualized when he was converted under the ministry of Paul. (Acts 14:6) Would anyone doubt conversion under Paul?
Growing in faith, even as young as he was, Timothy secured an excellent reputation. Luke wrote that “he was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:2). For this reason, Paul took him as an apprentice – but not like the kind with the light saber, although that would be “cool”.
He was with Paul during most of his missionary trips and is listed as a co-sender of many of Paul’s letters. He was referred to by Paul as “my fellow worker” (Rom. 16:21), “my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:17), “our brother” (2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 1:1; Phile. 1:1; Heb. 13:23), “servant of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1), “brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:2), “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2, 18) and “my beloved child” (2 Tim. 1:2). Timothy would have been the envy of many heal-grabbers today. He was cherished by Paul. In fact, there are no troubling remarks concerning him in all of the 26 times his name is mentioned. And no other non-apostle is mentioned more times in the New Testament.
Timothy was loving. He reflected God’s grace. According to Acts 16 when Paul took him as his apprentice, he was voluntarily circumcised for the sake of the Jews, his pain for their gain. They knew that his father was a Greek and were already in an uproar saying, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). In order to assuage their troubles and keep peace with the Jews, he set aside his Christian liberties. This is a rare gem of godliness, but it was apparently strong in Timothy. He put others before himself – even his comfort and freedom (ouch).
Timothy was also useful. When Paul was sent out of Berea because the Thessalonian Jews were stirring up crowds against him, Timothy remained and continued ministering. (Acts 17:14) Later he was sent to Macedonia while Paul remained in Asia. (Acts 19:22) He was Paul’s ambassador to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10) and to Ephesus, where he served as a pastor (1 Tim. 1:3) and defender of the faith. (1 Tim. 6:3-10)
Timothy was faithful. As Paul wrote: “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father, he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me” (Phil. 2:19-23).
Timothy was submissive. He humbled himself to both God and Paul. Much of the instruction on church government and responsibility from Paul was written to Timothy. He was good to follow those instructions and do as he was told. And instead of rushing into ministry, knowing he was called by God, he did only as he was ordained to do by the leaders of the church. Even his formal ordination was submitted to their decision. (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6)
Although he had many more godly characteristics, Timothy was young and notably fearful. In fact, Paul had to encourage him. He wrote, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul also exhorted him to “not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14). And lastly, warned him about youthful passions (2 Tim. 2:22).
Timothy was so cherished by Paul, that he was the recipient of Paul’s last will and testament. In 2 Timothy, Paul shares his deepest and most sincere thoughts with his young apprentice. He speaks of the gospel and the privilege of carrying, protecting and proclaiming it. He commends Timothy and reminds him of his genuine faith. He calls him a worker approved by God and tells him to continue preaching the word. And in his final words, Paul urges Timothy to do his best to visit him. What was the inheritance that Paul left behind to him? It was the greatest treasure known to man – the gospel – as well as the greatest honor man can have – suffering for the gospel. (Although this may sound like I’m joking, I’m not.)
While standing on his own as a great disciple of God and pastor of the church, Timothy is an extension of Paul. What we know of Paul was true of Timothy. He was a spiritual son to Paul and he followed in his footsteps. He suffered as many prisons and outrages from the Jews and Romans, as Paul.
Again, as Philemon gazes upon the name, Timothy, he considers some of these things. Since Lystra was near Colossae, it is possible they knew each other even before Paul’s ministry. Nevertheless, they knew each other at this time. First Paul, and now Timothy. Philemon knew this was no ordinary letter. (Had it been me, I might have fainted already.)
From the book, Forgiveness: A Commentary on Philemon, by Jacob Abshire