After Jesus’ ascension, believers spread the gospel around the world in widening ripples.
Daniel N. Balge
As the power of Pentecost rippled across Rome’s empire, not everyone who came to know Jesus as Savior was new to the faith. Some of those learning about Jesus for the first time already had faith in the true God. The Holy Spirit had already created their faith in God’s forgiveness through God’s promises in the Old Testament. So they weren’t strictly converts, but they did learn the news that Jesus had come and was the Messiah promised by the prophets.
A son’s strong faith
Such longtime and now better informed believers included a Jewish woman named Lois, her daughter Eunice, and Eunice’s son Timothy. The apostle Paul met them in Lystra in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), probably on his first missionary journey and certainly on his second.
That first visit (Acts 14:6-20) had been tumultuous. Because Paul healed a crippled man there, he and coworker Barnabas were mistaken for Greek gods. Soon hostile Jews from earlier stops on the first journey reached Lystra and incited locals to stone Paul. So thorough was the assault, that these Lystrans pronounced Paul dead and dumped his body outside the town. But after a group of believers gathered around Paul, he revived and returned to Lystra. The next day he and Barnabas moved on to Derbe.
Timothy may have been in that circle of Lystran believers. Paul’s second letter to Timothy hints at that (3:11). What is certain is that, when Paul returned to Lystra (Acts 16:1-5) on his second journey, this time with Silas, Timothy was described as a “disciple.” He was so well regarded by local Christians and so impressive to Paul and Silas, that Paul took him along on this journey and the next as a coworker.
Indeed Timothy was at Paul’s side in good times and bad. He sometimes served also as an extension of Paul’s ministry, going ahead of him to Macedonia or taking up work where Paul could not be (Corinth, Thessalonica, Ephesus, and likely Philippi). Whether with him or not, Timothy was always close to Paul’s heart. Paul loved him like a son (1 Timothy 1:18; Philippians 2:22) and longed to see him again as Paul was finishing his race in a cold jail cell (2 Timothy 4:7,9).
A mother’s example
And what had made Timothy such an asset to Paul and to the gospel? Paul knew: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Because Timothy’s father was a Greek, apparently not a believer, it had fallen to Lois and Eunice to train this child in the way he should go. Because of their efforts, blessed by the Holy Spirit, Timothy had “from infancy . . . known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
No one in ministry ever has had the mentor and model that Timothy had in Paul. But even that unparalleled example only built on what Timothy heard first from his mother’s lips as he sat on his grandma’s lap.
Contributing editor Daniel Balge, a professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota, is a member at St. Paul, New Ulm.
This is the third article in a 12-part series on lesser-known New Testament witnesses.
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Author: Daniel N. Balge
Volume 103, Number 7
Issue: July 2016
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