1 Timothy: Timothy’s Biography

1 Timothy 2013, Timothy, Paul’s Disciple and Fellow Worker

Tod Kennedy, March 2013

  1. Timothy’s early life (up to about AD 50).
    1. Timothy was from Lystra, a Roman colony in Lycaonia, in southern Galatia (Acts 16.1). Paul was stoned at Lystra (Acts 14:19-20). A Roman colony was a small piece of the city of Rome that was geographically separated from Rome.
    2. Timothy had a good reputation where he lived (Acts 16.2).
    3. Timothy’s father was a Greek (Acts 16.1). We do not know anything about him. The implication is that he was not a believer or if he was he was not living the Christian way of life. His mother was a Jew (Acts 16.1) named Eunice (2 Timothy 1.5). His grandmother was named Lois (2 Timothy 1.5).
    4. His spiritual heritage came through his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1.5). He became a believer during his childhood, and they taught him the Scripture from the time that he was a child (2 Timothy 3.15).
  2. Timothy’s early training under Paul (about AD 50-64).
    1. Paul might have met the young man Timothy in Lystra during his first missionary trip (Acts 16:1-3). He was already a believer, probably due to the instruction from his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15).
    2. Paul met Timothy again on his second missionary trip (Acts 16:1-3). Paul wanted Timothy on his team. He circumcised him and ordained him (Acts 16.3; 1 Timothy 4.14; 2 Timothy 4.5). From then on Paul taught, trained, encouraged, and delegated authority for ministry to Timothy (1 Timothy 1.2; 1.18; 2 Timothy 1.2; 2.1-3; 4.2). Circumcision itself was religiously indifferent. The problems came when it was performed as a legal religious obligation to gain salvation or to be spiritual as in Galatians 2.1-5 and Galatians 5.1-6. This was not the issue with Timothy. Paul circumcised Timothy in order to remove a false issue from Jews to whom they would witness. Paul refused to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2.1-5), a Greek, because salvation, spirituality, and service by grace was already an issue.
    3. Paul was Timothy’s pastor, teacher, and seminary professor. He taught Timothy the Word of God and trained him through personal involvement in the ministry. This was a continuing priority for both men. Bible doctrine was the instruction for Timothy’s thinking and acting (1 Timothy 3.14-15; 6.20; 2 Timothy 1.13; 2.2; 3.14-17). Paul also delegated, supported, and served with Timothy (Philippians 2.19-23; 1 Timothy 1.3-4; 4.11; 2 Timothy 1.13-14, 18; 2.2, 14-15; 4.2-5).
  3. Timothy’s life as a member of Paul’s missionary team (about AD 50-68).
    1. Timothy traveled with Paul on the second missionary trip (Acts 16.1-4; 17.14-15; 18.5) and on the third missionary trip (Acts 19.21-22; 20.1-6). He was not with Paul all the time on these trips. For example, he stayed in Berea with Silas for a short time while Paul went on to Athens (Acts 17.13-16).
    2. Paul, during his travels and imprisonment, sent Timothy on missions to different churches, such as when Paul left Timothy in Ephesus while he continued on to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). In this capacity Timothy carried messages, gathered information on the health of the church, encouraged believers in the Christian way of life, taught, and solved church problems (Acts 17:13-14; 18:5; 19:22; 1 Thessalonians 3.1-6; 1 Corinthians 4.17; 16.10; Philippians 2.19,23; 1 Timothy 1:3-7)).
    3. Timothy spent Time with Paul during the first Roman imprisonment. He is included in 10 of Paul’s 13 epistles. Note that Timothy is included in the greeting of three of the four prison epistles, and is clearly said to be with Paul (Philippians 1.1; 2.19-22; Col 1.1; Philemon 1). Timothy was also included in the greeting of other epistles by Paul: Romans 16.21, 2 Corinthians 1.1, Philippians 1.1, Colossians 1.1, 1 Thessalonians 1.1, 2 Thessalonians 1.1, Philemon 1.
    4. During part of the time between Paul’s first and second Roman imprisonment (about AD 62-66) he left Timothy at Ephesus. The geographical church at Ephesus was experiencing turbulence. Paul refers to this in 1 Timothy 1. Paul went on to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3) from where he wrote 1 Timothy. Timothy stayed in Ephesus to teach, organize, correct, and challenge the Ephesian churches (1 Timothy 1.3-11). From Macedonia Paul went to Crete, then Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Paul’s next stop was Troas (2 Timothy 4:13) , and was then arrested and taken to Rome from where he wrote his second letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:2; 4:9). Paul was then soon executed and Timothy was left to carry on the ministry.
    5. Timothy became a good assistant to Paul (especially Acts 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:19-23; 1 Timothy 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2).
      1. Timothy was teachable. Paul taught him day after day. Bible doctrine was the springboard for his life so Timothy’s thoughts and actions were directed by God through His Word (1 Timothy 6.20; 2 Timothy 1.13; 2.2; 3.14-17).
      2. Timothy humbly served Paul and with Paul (διακονεω, to serve, aid, help, support, Acts 19.22; δουλουω, to serve under obligation, to serve his master, like a child his father, Philippians 2.22) in whatever way Paul asked. Humility includes an understanding and acceptance of authority.
      3. Timothy was Paul’s kindred spirit, spiritually compatible, (Philippians 2:20).
      4. Timothy was dependable and responsible ( 1 Timothy 1:3; Acts 17.10-15; 1 Corinthians 4.17; 16.1-11; Philippians 2.19-23).
      5. Shared Paul’s purpose—the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 2:22 with Romans 1:14-17)
      6. Timothy gained the characteristics of a good assistant. He became humble, teachable, authority oriented, supportive, responsible, dependable, a team player, a servant, proven, interested in the churches without interfering, occupied with Christ while some were occupied with details of life, accepted delegated tasks, kept the purpose and goals of the leader before himself, and was a kindred spirit (ισοψυχος) with Paul (Philippians 2.19-23).
    6. Paul loved Timothy as another believer and because they had personal ministry rapport (1 Corinthians 4.17; Philippians 2.19-23; 2 Timothy 1.3-4).
  4. Timothy’s personality, struggles, and growth in the Christian way of life.
    1. Timothy had tests, areas of weakness, and failures just like all believers. For example, he was a timid young man and needed to learn to stand firm against problem people. Paul supported him (1 Corinthians 16.10-11; 2 Timothy 1.6-8). When in Ephesus Timothy may have been discouraged and even neglected his ministry (1 Timothy 4:14 αμελεω see Hebrews 2:3 for this word).
    2. A study of Timothy reveals that when he was a young man he traveled with Paul (Acts 16.3-4). Soon he carried messages, gathered reports, taught the Word, and took other responsibility (1 Thessalonians 3.6; 1 Corinthians 4.17; 16.10; Acts 19.22). Timothy spent time with Paul while Paul was in prison and Paul sent him on important assignments (Philippians 2.19,23). He was dependable and loyal to Paul (1 Corinthians 4.17; Philippians 2.20-22; 2 Timothy 3.10-11). Paul placed him in charge of the Ephesian churches with the authority and responsibility that was part of that assignment (1 Timothy 1.3-5, 18; 3.15; 4.6; 6.20; and others). Paul, in the later part of his own life, entrusted Timothy with greater authority and responsibility. He expected much from Timothy (2 Timothy 1.13-14, 2.1-3, 14-15; 3.14; 4.1-5, 9).
    3. Timothy, like Paul, was arrested. He spent Time in prison and then was released (Hebrews 13.23). This probably occurred about the time of Paul’s execution. We do not hear any more about Timothy after this.
  5. Some general principles from this study.
    1. Personal—Timothy demonstrated spiritual growth over time and loyal service to the Lord, Paul, and believers.
      1. The pattern for the believer’s life is illustrated by Timothy. One must begin with a desire to know and follow the Lord and His Word. This is the beginning of humility. Humility makes a person teachable and therefore able to grow and serve. Any believer preparing for Christian service must be teachable. Timothy learned from Paul and others. One who is humble and teachable also understands and rightly works within the proper authority.
      2. The believer starts wherever he is and steadily advances by learning, by confidence in God and His doctrine, and by application of the learned doctrine. This will bring about genuine humility, confidence, spiritual growth, usefulness, and sense of mission. See the pattern in Romans 6 and James 1. This teaches genuine growth and application which leaves out prideful intellectual superiority that can often come from much learning.
      3. There will be tests, setbacks, and failures. We can benefit from these and must not give up.
      4. It takes time to grow up spiritually, to be able to properly use authority and responsibility, and to have important tasks delegated to you.
      5. Spiritual growth will guard against natural timidity or bravado.
      6. If you are an assistant under authority be the best for the Lord and the leader.
    2. Ministry—Timothy was a student in Paul’s traveling seminary and served with Paul in the ministry. From their ministry we can learn lessons for our own ministries.
      1. It is helpful to define the ministry’s purpose, authority, doctrine, and policy. A Biblical ministry needs recognized authority, doctrine, sense of mission, operational policy and procedure, and resources.
      2. The people must be in agreement with the purpose, authority, doctrine, and policy. They must be willing to work within this framework to accomplish the purpose.
      3. People in an organization, and especially a Christian organization should be teachable, humbly serve, of kindred spirit, dependable and responsible, and share the purpose.
      4. There needs to be initiative and the freedom to work within the organization, and opportunities to serve and achieve right goals.