What did Young Timothy See and Hear?

By: O. Palmer Robertson | Date: April 23, 2020

Paul the Apostle to the Nations travelled overland to Derbe and then to Lystra on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1).

Due to his disagreement with Barnabas about having John Mark come again as their missionary companion, Paul journeyed with Silas this time.

In the town of Lystra Paul met a young disciple named Timothy, who had a good reputation with the brothers from both Lystra and Iconium. Timothy was ideal as the third member of this missionary team that would wholeheartedly embrace converts from all nations as a result of the decision of the church’s first “General Assembly” of apostles and elders. For Timothy had an Israelite mother and a Greek father.

But how would Timothy respond to an invitation to join this duo of rather controversial itinerants? He had no external compulsion to cast his lot with them. As a young man with his future just now opening to him, what had he seen and heard of this man called Paul?

Because this was not Paul’s first visit to Lystra, Timothy had seen and heard quite a bit! He may have witnessed first hand Paul’s healing of the man born lame in Lystra during Paul’ first missionary journey (Acts 14:10). No doubt he heard the whole city break into shouts of adoration, to the point of even attempting to sacrifice bulls to them as though they were gods. He may have seen their dramatic response of rushing into the crowd and disclaiming godhood in any sense.

Then he almost certainly saw the citizens’ mood turn ugly. One moment they adored Paul as though he were a god; the next moment they dragged him outside the city, stoned him and left him for dead (Acts 14:11-13, 19). Timothy then very likely witnessed an amazing feat of fortitude and courage. Paul, covered in bruises and blood, got up from the ground and walked right back into the city—the same city whose populace had just stoned him and left him for dead. Then he saw Paul move on to the next city of Derbe, where he preached the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and discipled a significant number. The next thing Timothy knew, Paul was back in his home town of Lystra, encouraging them to remain true to the faith despite many hardships (Acts 14:21, 22).

That’s what young Timothy saw and heard. He saw the wonder of God’s gracious working in the healing of a man born lame. He heard the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. He felt the acceptance of himself by other Christian disciples throughout the area, despite the fact that his mother was an Israelite and his father a Greek. He witnessed the exultation and then the stoning of a choice servant of God. He saw an unbelievable act of courage through loyalty to the gospel.

So how did it affect young Timothy? How does it affect you?

Timothy stood ready to join this little apostolic band. By submitting to circumcision, he took an action that made it impossible for him to turn back. Not knowing the future, he displayed unswerving trust in the God of his future. He joined that little apostolic band and eventually proved himself to be a faithful follower of Jesus Christ.

In Africa and other parts of the world today, young people like Timothy are hearing and seeing the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are leaving all to follow him. One young believer in Uganda wept when the church delayed her Christian baptism until another Sunday, even though she knew she would be forever ejected from all family connections and required to live under a perpetual threat of death due to her conversion to Christ.

What about you? What about me? We have seen so many demonstrations of God’s power in this world through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Are we prepared to sacrifice all to follow Christ, as was Timothy?

O. Palmer Robertson

Dr. Robertson is a teaching elder. He is the author of several books and articles, primarily viewing the scriptures from the perspective of the history of redemption.

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