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Timothy

 

        Timothy could hear Paul even over the pounding of his heart in his ears. There was an urgency in Paul’s voice, a voice he had heard for so many years but one now echoing from the script of the scroll before him.

     Never had Paul sounded so desperate to his understudy. Never had Timothy felt so desperate to see him.

     The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith . . . Make every effort to come to me soon . . . Only Luke is with me . . . When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments . . . Make every effort to come before winte. . . .

     So ends the scriptural account of the unique bond between the apostle Paul and his "beloved son," Timothy. Paul produced this pained writing known as II Timothy while shackled in an increasingly cold and damp dungeon during his second imprisonment in Rome. All his friends save Luke had deserted him, and Timothy remained a long sail away at the Ephesus church to which Paul had appointed him.

     It is uncertain whether Timothy ever received Paul’s letter, the last that he is known to have written before being executed by Emperor Nero. Yet Timothy perhaps not only received the letter but made great haste to see the man who had become the father Timothy never really had enjoyed. Timothy was half Greek and half Jew and is believed to have accepted Christ in his hometown of Lystra during Paul’s first missionary journey. On Paul’s second journey, he learned of Timothy’s great growth in his walk with Christ and took in the young man as his aide.

     Still, no one knows whether Timothy made it to Rome before Paul died.

     Paul was so fond of Timothy that the New Testament is salted with clues as to the personality and faithfulness of his dearest apprentice. But 2 Timothy is a most personal letter that reveals the meat and gristle in Timothy’s character. We can see ourselves when we view Timothy, perhaps the reason this last letter of Paul resounds so through the heart.

     Perhaps it was Timothy’s reticence, or a more severe concern, that caused Paul to admonish his understudy to "kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you" (II Timothy 1:6). Nero’s persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire was reaching a crescendo, and Timothy already was in a boiler. Paul encouraged Timothy to eradicate the false teaching surfacing within the Ephesian church, but it is impossible to know whether Paul was surmising the possibility or knew for a fact that Timothy was shrinking from duty.

     Paul reminds Timothy that his grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, had reared him in study of the Scriptures. Paul himself had laid hands on Timothy to ordain him for ministry though Timothy was only in his late teens or early 20s at the time. (II Timothy 1:5-7)

     Surely Paul’s concerns for Timothy, however warranted, were exacerbated by his looming death sentence. Scripture gives no reason to doubt Timothy’s commitment to Christ; to the contrary, it reveals a man who early in life devoted himself to the Lord and then spent his young adult years traversing the modern world to share the Gospel.

     Timothy’s name means "one who honors God," and Paul trusted him with the toughest of assignments in Ephesus, Corinth, Macedonia, and Thessalonica. In an ultimate show of commitment, Timothy as an adult submitted to the painful procedure of circumcision for the expediency of Paul’s preaching to Jews. (Acts 16:3) The writer of Hebrews reports that at some point Timothy also was imprisoned. (Hebrews 13:23) Timothy quite obviously was a man mighty in spirit and adept at kindling the gift of God within him.

     Isn’t it just like Paul to use his last apostolic breath to fan the flames of Christ’s fire in the hearts of Timothy and millions after him? Point by point, Paul hands Timothy the keys to his ministry. Who among the timid Timothys of the world would not respond to such a call as in 2 Timothy?

     "It is the last will or testament of the writer addressed to his favorite disciple, and contains his final wishes, written under the shadow of approaching death, and bears the stain of his blood," writes Herbert Lockyer. "Such a poignant letter must have led him to yield his life more unreservedly to the Savior, whom his beloved father in Christ had so faithfully and sacrificially served."

     Whether Timothy reached the imperiled Paul in Rome we do not know. Yet it will prove quite the reward to someday greet them in heaven and get both sides of the story. No doubt where we find one, we’ll find the other.