Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Heroes
Chapter 4 – Three Generations of Faith 2 Timothy 1:5
by Bob Burridge ©2014
It’s never been easy to live in or to grow up in
this world after the fall of Adam.
Today with all our 21st century advancements and advantages it isn’t any easier than in earlier times. We are surrounded by the influence of self-centered attitudes, glorified violence, terrorism, sexual immorality, crude language, drug addiction, manipulative politicians – just to name a few of the serious challenges we face.
Modern technology brings these influences into our minds through movies, videos, and games where it’s hard to distinguish what’s real from computer simulations. Our cellphones, cable TV, and the ever-present internet are constantly there making it hard to escape worldly influences, peer-pressure and temptation.
With all that, some tend to glamorize living in New Testament Bible times.
Growing up in the ancient Roman Empire
wasn’t easy for God’s people.
There were many challenges culturally, morally and religiously. Immorality was the way of life in the Empire. Homosexuality, drug use, and prostitution were legal and encouraged, even a part of state religion. The violence in arena sports made modern wrestling, boxing, football, and hockey look tame. Competitors sometimes battled to the death with swords and clubs. There were idols and false god’s everywhere, and they were honored at the public sports events.
Christianity was little known and seen by most people then as just a fleeting Jewish cult. Judaism itself had become corrupted. It was no longer faithful to Scripture as its authority.
Good biblical parenting was a difficult challenge back then. Children wanted to fit in and take part in the fads of the day. They were exposed all the time to the god’s and immoral practices of Rome. Teens saw their parents ways as old fashioned and out-dated.
Of course, that all sounds familiar because many of the same pressures are there today. And now it’s all complicated by the technology that brings the world into the home, hands, and heads through our televisions, cell-phones and computers.
In every era, there have been faithful families who trusted in and lived by God’s promises.
One of those good families in ancient Rome
was the one in which a boy named Timothy was raised.
He was destined by God’s grace and in his providence to become a great leader of the church. When he was growing up he faced the same things other children faced. But he had an advantage — he was raised in a home where he was exposed to God’s Covenant.
His Greek name was Timotheos (Τιμόθεος)). We call him “Timothy”. His name literally means “honor/value God”. It was a common name in his day. There were other boys named Timothy. To the pagan Greeks the name honored the Roman and Greek gods. To the devoted Jews and early Christians the name honored the true God, Jehovah.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he reminded him of the faith that was in him, the faith that was first in his grandmother, then in his mother.
The letter begins by Paul explaining to Timothy why he thanked God for him. He told him that he prayed for him day and night longing to see him being filled with joy. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul wrote,
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
There was a division among the Jews at that time.
Some were merely Jews outwardly. They were born into the Covenant People of Israel, and followed the Jewish traditions. They were not regenerated in their hearts. These superficial Jews compromised God’s truth with the pagan ways of their culture, or followed the corrupted religious teachings of the Rabbis. Their faith didn’t really rest their hope and lives on God’s word. They lived comfortably with things forbidden by God, but that fit in well with their modern culture.
There was also a remnant, a faithful group of Jews whom God had redeemed by grace. Before the time of Christ, they didn’t see the sacrifices as just rituals. They understood them as symbols of God’s yet-to-be fulfilled promise. They believed that God would one day send the Messiah. He would die for their sins, and create a greater Israel, one that included all the nations.
In those days before Jesus came, they didn’t fully understand how those promises would be fulfilled. However, they believed in spiritual deliverance because God put a true and living faith in their hearts by undeserved grace.
Paul’s letters to Timothy were written after the resurrection of Christ. The Jews chosen by God’s redeeming grace joyfully received the Gospel when it came to them. The rest, those who were only Jews outwardly, continued to trust in the corrupted religion of the Rabbis. Paul explained about these two kinds of Jews in Romans 2:28-29.
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
God had given Timothy to a godly Jewish mother.
Timothy was born to a mother who was part of of that godly remnant of Jews. Her name was Eunice. In Greek her name is Eu-NI-kae (Εὐνίκη “Good Victory”). She had been raised by her believing mother whose name was Lois (Λωΐ́ς from Λωιων “more desirable, better”). Lois was Timothy’s grandmother, and evidently had a good influence on his life too.
These women were among those who believed that God would send a Messiah. Instead of relying on their own good works to earn salvation, they knew it had to be provided by God’s grace. Back in the earliest days of human history, right after the fall in Eden, God made a promised to Satan,
Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
This would be the Suffering Servant of Jehovah that Isaiah had written about. He would fulfill all that the Temple and its sacrifices represented. The ancient Jews waited for the Promised One to come. In the time when Timothy lived, they saw that promise fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
It appears that Timothy’s father was an unbelieving Gentile. The only direct mention of his father is in Acts 16:1-3 where it tells about Paul’s visit there. It was then that the Apostle first met Timothy, and it briefly tells about his family.
1. Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.
2. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium.
3. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Timothy’s father was a Greek rather than a descendant of Abraham. He’s contrasted with his wife who it says was a believer, implying that the father was not. It was probably because of Timothy’s father that his child-hood circumcision was neglected. Paul corrected that oversight and circumcised him.
Acts 15 tells about a Council which was called at Jerusalem to deal with an issue that was dividing the new church at that time. Some in the Synagogues believed the Gentiles couldn’t join with the Covenant People without being circumcised and honoring all the Ceremonial rites of the old Mosaic form of the Covenant.
At that Council, the Apostles testified and demonstrated from Scripture that the time had come when God was bringing the Gospel of Redeeming Grace beyond the Jews. The rituals of the old Mosaic ways were no longer binding since they were fulfilled by Christ.
It was a transitional time while the Jews raised under the ceremonial Laws were learning God’s truth. The new Gentile believers also needed to learn to avoid offending the Jews during this transitional time. They were to respect some of the ceremonial practices but not to keep them as if they were required by God. It would be unwise of them to flaunt their liberty offending some unnecessarily.
It would have been wrong to circumcise Timothy as if it was needed to obey God or to join the Covenant People. But in this case it was to avoid a barrier to the Jews as they were evangelized. If Timothy as a Jewish child was not circumcised, he would not be welcomed in the Synagogues. He could not take the Gospel there where it was needed to be taught. So it was not a compromise as if it was still necessary. It was something indifferent done to remove a barrier to those not yet fully informed in this transitional time.
Timothy and his family probably lived in Lystra. He is first introduced in that Acts 16 passage. Verse 1 tells us that Paul met Timothy when he came to two Lyconian cities, Derbe and Lystra.
From that we can say he was living in either Derbe or Lystra. The next verse explains that Timothy had a good reputation in Lystra and Iconium. Derbe isn’t mentioned, even though it was mentioned in the first verse. If he lived in Derbe it would be strange that his reputation was primarily in the other two cities. A reasonable inference is that Timothy lived in Lystra where he was well known.
Acts 20:4 lists Paul’s companions along with their places of residence.
Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus.
Timothy is distinguished from “Gaius of Derbe”. If both were from Derbe it would more likely say “Gaius and Timothy of Derbe”
Timothy was raised as a child of God’s Covenant.
In spite of his mother’s mixed marriage, Timothy grew up under the influence of God’s Covenant with Israel. Eunice didn’t use her unbelieving husband as an excuse for neglecting her own parenting duties before God.
Timothy’s childhood training prepared him with a good knowledge of Scripture.
2 Timothy 3:14-15, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul was confident that the faith of his mother and grandmother had been passed on to Timothy. It wasn’t passed on by genetics. He had seen evidence in Timothy’s life and faith that God’s grace had acted on him too. The Holy Spirit used the faithful parenting of these two women who were heroes of God’s Kingdom.
There is a covenant promise in Scripture that benefited Timothy ….
In 1 Corinthians 7:14 Paul gave advice to believing partners involved in marriages with unbelievers.
“For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.”
God’s word says that a child of even one believing parent is holy in some sense. The word holy [“hagios” (ἅγιος)] primarily means to be set aside as special.
It does not mean that these children are without sin or that they did not inherit guilt from Adam. No one except Jesus was born without sin. Most who have been parents find it easy to believe in inherited depravity.
It does mean that each covenant child is to be considered as belonging to the Lord. They are to be taught what the Bible teaches as they grow up, to be exposed to biblical worship and the fellowship of Christian friends, and to be encouraged to trust in Jesus alone as their Savior. They’re to be admonished to live a godly life by their parents and Elders of the church. They have the many advantages and promises explained in God’s word.
This biblical nurture surrounds them with good activities, and builds godly habits in our covenant children. These good things help crowd out bad activities and habits. We guard what they are exposed to, the things they’re allowed to do, see, and hear. With good teaching and examples to follow, God can use that to hold back rebellion and disobedience.
Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This verse is not a guarantee that a child trained well will always grow up obediently. But it does promise that if he later rebels, his lessons will haunt him and testify to him. A child raised in the covenant can’t depart from or escape those good lessons of his youth.
It’s tragically sad when our children drift away. But we still pray for them. We trust that if they are among God’s elect he will use his word to bring them back. Paul was converted at an older age – many are. We need to do our part and leave the rest in the hands of our all wise God. That’s not easy, but it’s right.
When Timothy learned that Jesus was the Messiah he believed the message. After he came to understand more about Jesus he became Paul’s helper on the 2nd missionary journey.
There’s great hope for our children
when they’re raised with God’s promises.
In the obedient covenant home children are nurtured in several ways. They are sealed into the covenant with the sign of baptism. They’re prayed for diligently and without neglect. They are taught what God says in the Bible, particularly about their need to repent and trust in Jesus as their Savior. They’re made accustomed to regular worship, and to life in the church as their extended family.
Parents, the best thing you can do for your child, is that you yourself grow to be a mature Christian. This is more important than how well they do in school, or what material advantages you give them. It’s more important than their careers, good looks, stylish clothes, memories of vacation trips — and so on. Give them a role model, be alert to God’s leadings as his word applies to the challenges you face. Deal with helping your children mature spiritually, rather than keeping them from interfering with your plans.
Timothy is a good example of what a covenant child can learn in his home, even in a divided home with only one believing parent and grandmother.
The principles here extend beyond just parents raising their children.
Even adults who newly come to Christ, or those who haven’t been taught well in the faith, need spiritual parenting by those who can be their guides and helpers.
They need a good diet of God’s word and lessons carefully derived from it.
They need to learn to rest confidently in Christ, and to come to him in prayer.
They need to develop godly habits of worship, morals, service and fellowship.
They need to be taught how God’s people get along with others for his glory.
They need good friends and encouragement as they struggle to grow up.
Paul at times referred to Timothy as his child. He meant that spiritually. He spiritually fathered this young man into becoming a great leader of the church.
Good spiritual parenting can be a challenging responsibility. Those young in Christ need guidance, and are easily influenced by the world. Their friendships, work-places, schools, and places they hang-out constantly tempt them to fall back into old habits, and into sinfully dangerous practices. God’s word gives an abundance of good advice, and good examples to follow.
We can be a heroes of God’s Kingdom too. Rather than looking first to our own personal comfort and fun, we should at times be ready to risk our own pleasures for the sake of someone else’s spiritual maturity.
Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”
Toward our children, guide them in building a solid foundation in Christ. Toward children of the church and your friends, encourage them. Toward new believers, help them take advantage of opportunities for real spiritual growth.
We don’t have to be perfect, Eunice made her mistakes too, even marrying an unbeliever. But by passing on what we’ve learned in a kind and humble way, we please God, while we help ourselves grow spiritually, and we help someone else toward a God-honoring and self-pleasing future.
Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.