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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
Sunday, February 13, 2011

4 - Timothy, an Example of Grace [B]

Colossians 1:1-2 by Robert Dean
Series:Colossians (2011)
Duration:44 mins 46 secs

Timothy, An Example of Grace. Col. 1:1-2

Colossians 1:1 NASB "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

Timothy is included here, as he is in some other epistles, in the opening salutation. He is an example of God's grace in the life of an individual and there are many lessons that we can learn from studying Timothy's life. He is mentioned in the salutation of five other epistles—2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Philemon. If we go back through the book of Acts from the time that Paul first begins to associate Timothy with himself and trace his journeys on the second and third missionary journeys we discover that these particular locations—Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth—were place where Timothy also had a significant ministry as a representative of the apostle Paul. So there is a close person al connection there between Timothy and those congregations. We also learn as we study through the passages of Scripture where Paul talks about Timothy that Timothy was very close to the apostle Paul. Paul looked upon Timothy who was much younger than he as his true son in the faith, and it was Timothy more than any other associates of Paul who meant more to Paul, that he poured more of himself into and relied upon more than others. And it was Timothy as well as a few others, but Timothy more than any others, who stood firm with the apostle Paul and did not desert him. So Timothy was very special to the apostle Paul and it is in Timothy that we see some character traits that are praised by the apostle Paul that should be evident in any believer.

We also come to understand the difference in personality. It is striking that the apostle Paul on the one hand had been raised in a strict Pharisaical home in Tarsus, went to Jerusalem when he was 13 or 14 years of age and was trained under the greatest of all the first century rabbis, Gamaliel, was focused in the wrong way, and after he was saved he understood grace and was focused on that. We get the sense from Paul that despite some physical maladies he is strong. He has an extremely strong personality, the kind that when he would walk into a room everybody would stop and know that he was there; not that he was physically so great and imposing but just because of his personality. And yet when we read about Timothy we find a personality that is very much different from the apostle Paul. We find a man who seemingly had a number of physical illnesses, that he did not have near the degree of self-confidence or confidence in God that Paul had, and in terms of personality they were poles apart. Yet the apostle Paul loved Timothy, was extremely dependent upon Timothy, and he trusted him because the issue is never personality, the issue is always our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It doesn't really matter what another personality is. If their goal and objective in life is to know the Word of God and to live that out in their life we can get along with just about anybody, because personality isn't the issue. Personality is only an issue when we are not walking by the Spirit and are not focused on the things of God.

Timothy's background. What was his family like? We don't know anything about his father other than that he was a Gentile. Acts 16:1, he was Greek. His mother and grandmother were Jewish, and we get the impression that they were very devoted to what God had revealed in the Old Testament. Both were believers in the Old Testament sense. The apostle Paul came to where they lived in the area of Derbe and Lystra, the area that now central Turkey but was then the southern province of Galatia. On that first missionary journey Paul, as was his standard procedure, went first to the synagogue and began to explain how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies related to the Messiah. There were many within the synagogues in those two villages who believed and trusted in Jesus as their Messiah. But then there were others within the Jewish community who reacted to that and caused riots and antagonism and spread lies and rumors about the apostle Paul. And so there was always that reaction that would come from those who were just set on maintaining their Jewish traditions that had developed in the second temple period that put more emphasis on the overt rather than the inner spiritual makeup of the individual. 

When Paul left on his second missionary journey he went back to visit those same churches he had established on the first journey. He goes back to Derbe and Lystra again and this is where we first hear of Timothy in Acts 16:1. What we learn about him being identified by Luke as a disciple is that Timothy had followed in the footsteps of his mother and his grandmother, and that he, too, had trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior during that first visit of Paul's. 2 Timothy 1:5 NASB "For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that {it is} in you as well." In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul makes the statement to Timothy NASB "and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings…" So it is very likely that Timothy, as well as his mother and grandmother, was a believer in the Old Testament sense until Paul came to their home town and explained the gospel, and then he became a believer in the New Testament sense of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

So Timothy was a believer, he was positive, he wanted to grow and mature, he was demonstrating this in his life and his character so that when Paul returned in Acts 16:1-3 we are told that Timothy had a good reputation among those in the church. We are also told in these verses that when Paul came back on his second journey he met Timothy and it was his desire to take Timothy along with him as an assistant on his trip. What Paul had in mind was that he was going to mentor Timothy. Another word that we would use is that Timothy would be an apprentice to the apostle Paul. This is a good idea and one of the best ways a pastor can train young men who believe they have the gift of pastor-teacher and want to go into the ministry. We have developed a system over the centuries of sending young men to seminary, but seminary is not a substitute for that apprenticeship mentality. There are many things that a pastor needs to learn and understand that don't have a whole lot to do with the academics of seminary.

It has been seen time and time again that a young man goes to seminary and goes through four years of training, and the level of knowledge about the Scriptures takes off like a rocket, but his spiritual growth and maturity is still just barely moving along. One of the greatest dangers to pastors becomes evident in young men in seminary, and that is arrogance. Often young men think that they know more than any pastor they ever listened to because they have just been exposed to the latest, greatest views of theology and exegesis that these seminary professors have communicated to them and they don't have the humility at that point to recognize that they need to stay under the authority of a pastor who is seasoned, has matured, and has grown through these processes. There are always going to be times in a young man's life when he thinks that the pastor under whose authority he sits doesn't quite understand it right yet. But in most case it has been found that these pastors have learned and forgotten more about the topic or whatever the issue is than this young man thinks at his time of growth. That is why it is important to have this personal apprentice-type of ministry. This is the kind of situation that Paul set up with Timothy as well as Titus and a number of others such as Epaphras.

So Paul wants to take Timothy with him. But he realizes that because Timothy was raised in a home where his father was a Gentile he was never circumcised, and that this may become an issue in his ministry. There are those who see some sort of contradiction between Paul's emphasis on Timothy being circumcised before he can accompany him on his journey and the fact that Paul did not allow Titus to be circumcised as he relates the episode in Galatians chapter two. What is important to recognize is that these things happen at almost the same time. In Paul's first missionary journey he first went to Cyprus and then the southern part of the Roman province of Galatia where were the towns of Derbe, Lystra and Iconium. When he left there he went back to Antioch and when he was there he discovered that he had made some enemies in southern Galatia. These enemies were these Jewish leaders in the synagogues who opposed the gospel of Jesus Christ. They said it wasn't enough to believe in Jesus, you also had to be circumcised. This developed a huge conflict within the early church. There are always those who want to add something to faith and have rejected the idea that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

Galatians 2:1 NASB "Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also." Titus, like Timothy, was one of the young men who Paul was mentoring in the ministry. This trip to Jerusalem is identified as Paul's second trip when there was a famine in the whole area and so he is taking some financial gifts to the church in Jerusalem in order to help distribute food and other necessities to those who were impoverished. While he was there he had a private meeting with the other apostles, asnd this is what he states in verse 2: "It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but {I did so} in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain." So he says he sat down with the other apostles and explained to them the gospel that he preached. They were in complete agreement and did not require anything else or any change. [3] "But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised." His point is that the apostolic body is agreed that this is the gospel—belief in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. There is no need to add anything to it, there is nothing of spiritual value in coming under the Mosaic Law and the strictures of rabbinical Judaism.

In Acts 15 we have the record of a meeting that took place in Jerusalem some time after that second visit when they finally figured out that they needed to have a more official decision in relationship to what was going on with these Judaisers within the early church.   

Acts 15:1 NASB "Some men came down from Judea and {began} teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" So it is very clear that their message was that faith in Christ was okay but it is not enough, you have to also become circumcised. The issue here is salvation. This is the issue that occurred first of all in Galatia which was where Timothy's home town was. It started because of the Jews who rejected Jesus as the Messiah and were really trying to bring these Christians back under the Mosaic Law and the legalistic interpretations of the Pharisees in that area where Timothy has been since Paul's first missionary journey. So why is Paul having Timothy circumcised? The issue as explained in Acts 16 had nothing to do with the gospel problem that is at the core of Galatians 2 and Acts 15. Remember, Titus was a Greek and there would not have been that emphasis in him being circumcised, but if it became known that Timothy—because he was Jewish and his mother and grandmother was Jewish—was not circumcised it may have become an issue. Rather than having a non-issue become an issue Paul insisted that Timothy should first be circumcised. That way when Paul went to the synagogues and Timothy was with him it would not be a distraction to the message. So the issue in having Timothy circumcised had nothing to do with a doctrinal issue or with the content of the gospel. It simply had to do with the fact that we have to recognize at certain times when we are trying to witness to people we have to make sure we avoid things that are not issues.

In Acts 16 we also learn that Timothy had a good reputation among the brethren, and this is important for a leader in the church. That is one of the requirements of a pastor and a deacon in 1 Timothy chapter three, that they have a good reputation among those who are in the world. Timothy went with Paul to Macedonia, Philippi and Thessalonica, and these are all epistles in which Paul mentions him in his opening salutations. But when Paul left Berea and went to Athens he left Timothy and Silas behind to establish the church. So we see this pattern where he takes Timothy along with him, teaches him, gives him instruction and a little bit of responsibility here and there, and as Timothy fulfils that responsibility he is now at a place where Paul can leave him on his own for a short time. So he stayed behind at Berea for a time while Paul went on to Athens. Later Timothy and Silas rejoined Paul at Corinth. Apparently Timothy stayed at Corinth for some time after Paul left and we don't see him mentioned again until we discover him again with Paul in Ephesus during Paul's third missionary journey. Timothy functioned as one of a series of pastors who pastured in Corinth.

One of the things we learn here is that Paul was sending different men to different congregations. Timothy would be somewhere for a couple of years, then he would move on and somebody else would follow him. We don't necessarily see these early churches pastured by one man for a long period of time. They were moving around. They would leave these churches to spend more time with the apostle Paul. If they ran into a problem and needed to learn some more they would have to take one of the men they trained and put him in the pulpit for awhile and they would either go by road or by boat to wherever Paul was an spend another six months or so getting some additional training by him. Then they would return to their congregation.

Today we have this tendency to think that we have one pastor and that is the only person we can learn from and that is the only person that we are going to go to church to listen to. God has brought hundreds of different personalities and individuals into the body of Christ and given them the gift of pastor-teacher, and we can learn something from all of them if they are solid in their teaching the truth.

We know that when Paul went to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey Timothy accompanied him as a representative of the churches in Asia and in Europe. We don't know how long he stayed with Paul. We don't believe from what we read in Acts that Timothy was there for all the time after Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and then imprisoned in Caesarea Philippi. He probably went back to Ephesus and continued his responsibilities as pastor and then at some point after Paul had gone to Rome and spent another two years in Rome Timothy apparently went to Rome with Paul and that is where we find him when Paul wrote both the epistle to the Philippians as well as the epistle to the Colossians.

At the same time Paul was writing to the Colossians he also wrote the epistle to the Philippians, and in that we see four or five verses that give us a real insight into Paul's love for Timothy. Philippians 2:19 NASB "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition." Timothy apparently at this later time goes to Philippi for a short time to represent the apostle Paul, as well as teach in that congregation. [20] "For I have no one {else} of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare." In other words, there were others but none as qualified, none who held to the same convictions of the Word that the apostle Paul did that he could send. Timothy was likeminded, solid in his understanding of the Word and solid in his teaching. Then Paul says about many of the others, [21] "For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. [22] But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child {serving} his father. [23] Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things {go} with me." In other places Paul also praised Timothy. He calls him a fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 3:2, and he sent him to Thessalonica to establish them and to encourage them in relation to their faith. Timothy then returned back to Paul and brought a good report on the church at Thessalonica.

In the two epistles that bear Timothy's name we learn a little more about Timothy's character. He tended to be timid, he didn't have the same confidence as the apostle Paul, and so Paul had to remind him in 2 Timothy 1:6, 7 NASB "For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." We know that Timothy had physical problems. He was sickly. Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:23 NASB "No longer drink water {exclusively,} but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."

Early on Timothy had the deal with the problem that he was viewed as being young. We think of him being in his twenties but if we do the chronology he is into his mid to late thirties and he was viewed as being young. He is not viewed as being mature in the faith, especially those coming out of a Jewish background where maturity came when a person was fifty or over. So he didn't always have the respect of those who were older. This is always a challenge to pastors who are young—to have the respect of those who are older. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:12 NASB "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but {rather} in speech, conduct, love, faith {and} purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." Timothy also seems to have been a little sentimental or emotional, for Paul writes to him in 2 Timothy 1:4 NASB "longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy."

Then Paul addresses the Colossians: Colossians 1:2 NASB "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ {who are} at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father." Some translations, the NIV for example, translate the word hagios [a(gioj], usually translated "saints," as "holy." There is a problem in our church culture with both of these words, saints and holy. Holy implies something that is morally pure and perfect and above everybody else, and the word "saints" has gained that same kind of idea. But the original Greek word indicates just those who are set apart for the service of God. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is set apart positionally for the service of God at the instant of salvation. Theologically we call this positional sanctification. Therefore every believer is a saint, is set apart to God for His service from the instant of salvation. Paul addresses this to the entire congregation; they are all saints who believe in Christ. Then the second word translated "faithful," pistos [pistoj] means that they have been consistent and have continued to persevere in the study and application of the Word in their life.

Paul closes with the salutation, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father." When he says this, this is Paul's typical way of taking the standard secular greeting, which he changes it to charis [xarij] because he is not just using the normal Greek greeting, he is using the word "grace" and connecting it with the normal Jewish greeting, shalom, or peace. By putting this together in Paul's unique way even his greeting takes on deep theological significance. He is saying "grace" first, then "peace." What we see here in light of the Colossian heresy is that it comes directly from God to us, not through various intermediary angels or spirits, which was the idea promoted within the Greek culture in the early stages of what later became known as Gnosticism.