One of the Apostle Paul’s closest friends and co-workers was a younger man named Timothy. Following his disagreement with Barnabas over John Mark (see Acts 15:36-41), Paul moved on to Syria and Cilicia with just Silas. He revisited some of the churches he had founded to strengthen and encourage them. However, when Paul came to Lystra he met Timothy. We are told in Acts 16:1-5 that he was already a disciple and had a Jewish believing mother and a Greek Father. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul speaks of Timothy’s “sincere faith”, which he had seen in both his mother (Eunice) and Grandmother (Lois). Paul now had vacant spots on his ministry team and so he chose to take Timothy with him.
Over the years , Paul and Timothy developed a very close relationship. Indeed, Paul came to describe him as his “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) and he said Timothy had proved himself “as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Phil 2:22b). In what is likely to be Paul’s final letter (2 Timothy), Paul wrote some staggering verses to his dear son Timothy. In them Paul is recalling all that he had done for him. Here in this post I want to work through each of the things Paul mentions here:
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings – what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.2 Timothy 3:10-11
1. My Teaching (v10):
The first thing Paul says that he had passed on was his teachings. He had entrusted him with what he called “the good deposit” (2 Timothy 1:13) of the gospel. Paul had built deep foundations into his life and he told him to watch both his life and his doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16). Notably, Paul commanded Timothy to entrust all the things that he had heard him say, to others who would in turn be able to do likewise for others (2 Timothy 2:2).
The thought of passing on these kinds of things is a real challenge and brings a certain urgency to knowing both our Bibles and the teaching found within it well. I wonder how we are doing with this and whether like Paul, we could describe ourselves as “workers, who correctly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
2. My way of life (v10):
The second thing Paul mentions is his way of life. Paul is saying that Timothy has seen his life first-hand as they have lived, travelled and spent time together. We see this idea of sharing lives together in what Paul (alongside Timothy) says he had done with the Thessalonians:
“…Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.”1 Thessalonians 2:8
For Paul this is all about imitation. My friend Marcus Honeysett recently said that “Discipleship is an imprint of a life on a life.” Paul often calls the various churches to whom he writes to follow his example. As we demonstrate our way of life for others, there is so much potential for transformation in the lives of others.
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.Philippians 3:17
3. My Purpose & Faith (v10):
The next thing that Paul says that he has shared with Timothy is his purpose and goals: namely the things he is trying to accomplish in and through others. For example we often see Paul telling the churches what he is praying for them and we also have some clear purpose statements such as the verses below.
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”Colossians 1:28-29
Paul was also eager to point out how he had shared his faith with Timothy: namely some of the ways that he was growing and living in faith. I wonder what others would say about your faith and your sense of purpose in life. Paul was intentional in allowing Timothy into his life to see and observe these things.
4. My Patience & Love (v10):
Patience is a somewhat surprising inclusion in this list. Paul mentions it in his letter to the Galatians as part of the fruit of the Spirit, but other than love, none of the other fruit are mentioned:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22
In 1 Timothy 1:16 Paul says that he was shown mercy so that in him (who he describes as the worst of sinners), “Christ might display his immense patience”. It seems that Timothy got to experience first-hand something of this patience at work in Paul. Secondly, Paul also includes Love which is perhaps a more obvious choice for inclusion. After all, Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
5. My Endurance, Persecutions & Sufferings (v10-11):
I have grouped the final three things Paul mentions because I think they go together. Paul needed to endure because he was facing persecution and suffering on a daily basis. Paul did not seek to isolate Timothy from any of this, but it is clear that Paul simply took him along with him. For example, Timothy was with Paul when they faced opposition in Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:1-15) and he was with Paul before he faced rioting at Ephesus (Acts 19). In 2 Timothy 2 Paul calls Timothy to join with him in suffering for Christ.
“Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”2 Timothy 2:3-4
An Example for others to follow:
When we disciple others we are trying to help them to walk in line with God’s purposes for their lives. We become fellow workers and we are in a process of becoming like God. As we make disciples we are calling people to come and join us as we follow and serve God. That is why setting an example is so powerful – we need examples to follow and it is imperative that we live out all that we are trying to teach people. With Timothy (perhaps more than with any of Paul’s other friends/companions), we see Paul’s clear intention to set an example for him to follow in all of life. Their relationship is life on life and its about the whole of life. Their relationship is an inspiring example of what any one of us can accomplish in and through the lives of others as we too share our lives.