Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where he found a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman and a Greek father.
I. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH.
1. To encourage and develop Christian talent. When Paul went to Lystra he found the Church there speaking well of a young disciple, Timotheus. This convert was "well reported of by the brethren" (ver. 2), and "him Paul would have to go forth with him" (ver. 3). The Church praised him who was praiseworthy; and the minister trusted and encouraged him who was trustworthy, leading him on to higher things, and placing him in a position in which his consecrated powers would have freer range and extended usefulness. The Church of Christ seldom does better than when it nourishes youthful piety, and paves the way for the exercise and development of growing talent.
2. To make timely concession. "Him Paul took and circumcised because of the Jews" (ver. 3). Paul thought these men wrong in their views, but he consulted their sensibilities for the sake of concord and progress. The true triumph is, not to work well with those with whom we are in full sympathy, but to co-operate, without friction, with those between whom and ourselves there is variance of view or difference of disposition. There is no possibility of rendering any considerable service in the cause of Church organization, without a large measure of the conciliatory spirit, and without a considerable amount of actual concession. Not the man who carries his point by obstinate persistency, but he who yields at the right time and in the right spirit is commended of his Lord.
3. To be faithful to all compacts. (Ver. 4.) Probably Paul and Silas might have safely said nothing about the decision at Jerusalem; the people of Asia Minor would have heard nothing about that. But they were scrupulous to carry out the compromise in all its particulars. Fidelity to an undertaking is a clear and urgent Christian duty; the Church or the minister who should slight it would be doing something which is not only unworthy but discreditable, displeasing to Christ, injurious to itself or himself.
4. To keep in view consolidation and extension: to preserve a fair and wise proportion between these different branches of Christian work. Under the hand of Paul and Silas the Chinches of Asia "were established in the faith, and increased in number" (ver. 5). The missionaries were not more desirous of extending the line of active evangelization than of securing the ground which they had taken. This is Christian wisdom. The two complementary works should always go together; one will minister to the other; one cannot shine without the other.
II. THE REWARD OF THE CHURCH. This is twofold.
1. To glean individual results. True and keen must have been Paul's gratification to find such a disciple as Timothy at Lystra. Well was he recompensed for the cruel stoning he received in that town by gaining such a "beloved son" and valuable helper in his work of faith and love. And it is the individual results of the Christian teacher's labor which are his most appreciated reward now. The recovery of that lost one; the decision of that vacillating one; the consecration of that promising one; - these are his joy and crown.
2. To witness general progress. To find that "the Churches are established," and that they are "increasing in number;" to know that the cause of Christ is advancing, that his kingdom is coming, that his name is being honored, and his praises sung by those who had been ignorant of his dying love; - what joy, what intense and pure satisfaction, is this! Other sources of delight may pass, or they may leave a stain rather than a tint behind them; but this is a gladness that abides, and which purifies and ennobles the heart of him who is made happier thereby. - O.
I. TIMOTHY'S BEAUTY OF CHARACTER IS TRACEABLE THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE. He was not converted from sin and shame in mature life. From a child he knew the Holy Scriptures experimentally, as well as being the founts of doctrine and the rules of conduct. A young man, just budding into strength and freedom, he became a Christian, whose character endeared him to the community of which both his grandmother and mother were distinguished ornaments, and whose gifts, exercised and proved, commanded the Church's admiration. Every way it is important that the young should feel that their youth belongs to Christ. It is contrary to the spirit and intention of our holy religion to treat them as the subjects of a depravity which must have its way, and consign them to years of separation from God. A young soul may be rendered hopeless of spiritual good through misrepresentation of the actual facts of life. Children naturally fall into what you say they are. The Saviour of men is the Saviour of the young. He who took them in His arms and blessed them, is always longing for the homage and affection of fresh, young hearts. He deprecates one hour spent in the service of evil. The history of Timothy proves the possibility, and shows the beauty of Divine life in youth.
Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus.1. The first of Paul's missionary journeys reached its furthest limit at Lystra — the most uncivilised place he ever visited. Even here, however, he left a Church which he now found standing steadfast, and among its members a youth of peculiar promise, who bore the now famous name of Timothy.
2. On the mother's side Timothy was a Jew. Both mother and grandmother were devout, and it is therefore surprising that "his father was a Greek," and probably a heathen. Mixed marriages were held in horror by orthodox Jews. At Lystra, however, Jews were few, and the rigour of custom must have been relaxed. Timothy had never been circumcised. But what might escape remark in Lycaonia, would prove a scandal elsewhere; and with his usual practical judgment, Paul "took and circumcised him" before he led him forth to work.
3. The spiritual ancestry of Timothy is as clearly marked as the natural. Prepared for the willing reception of the gospel by the godly education of his childhood, he became Paul's "own son in the faith." In the interval between the two visits he had advanced to a character of marked ability and usefulness. Paul, always on the watch for helpers, saw the materials lying ready for a noble missionary life. "Him would Paul have to go forth with him." And with this period we connect the numerous allusions to his ordination service. The Church appears gathered in solemn assembly. He makes "a good profession before many witnesses." Then the apostle explains the labours and the risks of the Christian warfare, and charges his "son" to be brave, patient, and believing. The laying on of hands succeeds; and the prayer of the Church rises to heaven on his behalf. Nor in vain; for to that moment is referred the special anointing of the Spirit which fitted the young man for his future ministry. And, amid smiles and tears, we see him going forth into the great world, in the footsteps of the Captain who had chosen him to be a soldier.
4. Timothy's work constantly widened in range and in importance. Very young when he went out with Paul, it was fitting that he should at first remain in the background. But, from references in the epistles, we discover how usefully and industriously he was employed. From Corinth he is sent to the Thessalonians, "to establish and comfort them in their faith." From Ephesus he is sent to the Corinthians "to bring them into remembrance" of the truth they seemed to have forgotten. He passed through his apprenticeship in a loyal and loving spirit; and presently rose to be a master, with enterprises of his own. Still comparatively young, he is left at Ephesus with an Herculean task on his hands. He becomes the recognised successor of the great apostle, invested with an authority hardly inferior to his own. When that apostle's end draws near, and he seeks someone to be his comforter and executor, it is to Timothy that the summons is sent; and we learn, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, that he was imprisoned for Christ, and, if tradition is to be trusted, he died at last a martyr's death in the streets of his own turbulent Ephesus.
5. With little beyond allusions to guide us, it is difficult to decide on Timothy's qualities. His bodily health was feeble, and required stimulants; his natural disposition appears to have been as sensitive as Paul's, and perhaps deficient in forwardness and courage. The situation of affairs at Ephesus was at the time extremely difficult and even dangerous. The bravest might easily have lost heart in such an atmosphere, and would have needed to sustain him every motive which an apostle could supply. Paul did not think meanly of his follower. On the contrary, he speaks of his unfeigned faith, his unwearied service, his strict fidelity. He declares that in all the chosen hand of his fellow labourers there is none so disinterested, so full of sympathy, so much after his own heart. More dazzling names than his are to be seen in the firmament of the early Church; Apollos flames across the sky, leaving behind the brilliant sparks of his Alexandrian rhetoric: but the star of Timotheus brains on with a gentle, gracious, and unfading lustre, holding forth the word of life.
6. Whatever the contrast between Timothy's mission and ours, his character is one which, in its strength, its modesty, and its devotedness, may be ours. Character is a building of which God is the architect, and all the designs are His. But the building rises stone on stone, and is the work of many different hands; and it is useful to inquire what influences we can trace as helping to make this man what he was.(1) One was the Bible. "From a child" it had been his great lesson book. And now, in this great age of making books, where, by common confession, is there a book that will do for character what the Bible does?(2) No less helpful were personal influences. The Bible is the best of books; but the character of those who teach it adds immensely to its power. Now the earliest Scripture lessons of Timothy were mingled with the happy associations of hours spent at the feet of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. When they and he were parted, the same good work was carried on by apostolic hands. How much may be done to impart interest and impressiveness to the Word of God! The desire to see her child become another Timothy lives in many a Christian mother's heart: does not the power to make him so, under the Divine blessing, lie largely in her hands? The Bible class, wisely conducted, becomes the very garden of the Lord, where the young plants are nourished to a full stature and strength.(3) Yet, after all, the main human force at work in the formation of Timothy's character was Timothy himself: for the determining will was his own.
(W. Brock, jun.)
II. THE SACRED INFLUENCE OF A MOTHER'S PIETY. Eunice was a Jewess — and to "the unfeigned faith which dwelt in her" is to be traced the spiritual development of Timothy. How many of the most renowned of the Church's heroes have been born again through the prayers and example of pious mothers! We think of Jochebed, Hannah, Mary, Salome, etc. As a mother is her child's world, it is evident that on her must depend its first impressions. As she is kind and gentle, graceful and sweet, pure and devout, or the reverse, so will her child's life be. How mothers should cultivate their own hearts and watch over their own doings!
III. THE HOME HINDRANCES OF TIMOTHY'S SPIRITUAL LIFE. "His father was a Greek," which indicates not only the diversity between himself and wife, as of different races, but that his wife believed, and he remained an idolater. This divergence had of necessity to be made manifest to the child. The mother taught him the truths of the religion his father despised. It is a picture on which, even in these days, we are often called to look. There was sometimes sorrow in the house, because there was no spiritual sympathy. The strength of his mother's faith and love were enough to overcome this hindrance. But it is not always so. Sometimes the dead weight of a godless husband or wife is sufficient to drag down and crush the goodness which is allied with it. The waters wear the stones, and sometimes the marriage bells ring the knell of the spiritual life and profession.
(W. H. Davison.)I. PAUL TOOK SILAS WITH HIM, but he could not give up a man like Barnabas and think no more about him. He who can forget old friends is no apostle of Jesus Christ. Besides, Paul was going "again" to the churches. The people would ask about Barnabas. We ask questions that open graves and heart wounds. The man who has not seen you for years asks you how that sweet little boy of yours is, and it seems to you incredible that a grief that filled your house with darkness had not made itself known to your friend. What must Paul's answer have been? He was a faithful man true as steel: he knew not the genius of equivocation and the fine art of telling lies. We have to account for old associations being ruptured, we have to explain new faces and new relationships.
II. Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, and found "A CERTAIN DISCIPLE NAMED TIMOTHEUS." Long ago we read about a young man whose name was Saul. We begin in obscurity, we are pointed at as hardly to be identified. If the foolish tree could be taking itself up in order to show its antecedents, it would soon be killed. All that we have to do is so to lift ourselves up in God's light and rain, as to bring forth fruit. We may be now nothing more than "certain disciples," but we may still be disciples.
III. TIMOTHY WAS THE SON OF A JEWESS AND A GREEK. Happy man, to stand between two civilisations! What must the boy have been? Two such fires meeting in his blood; two such histories recounting themselves in his memory! How able to look well round him and to understand the mystery of Law and the mystery of Beauty! His religion might go up into superstition, his philosophy might develop into scepticism and sneering; if he touched Christ, he touched One who to the Jew was a stumbling block and to the Greek foolishness, but to the believing Timothy the power of God and the wisdom of God. We ourselves see this double relationship sometimes in life. Your mother prayed — your father never prayed. You are a child of the night and of the day, and you feel it, and sometimes you are plunged in the darkness of the one parentage, and sometimes you are away on the bright broad wings of the other into the light. But is it possible that a Jewess could marry a Greek? I should have said, No, but for what you have done.
IV. TIMOTHY "WAS WELL REPORTED OF." Character is very subtle. Timothy never asked any man to speak well of him, and yet no man could speak ill of the youth. Do not appeal to one another's charitable judgment for a character, but so live that character will come. Live your character; do not be painted as good men, but paint your own character in your own blood.
V. "HIM WOULD PAUL HAVE TO GO FORTH WITH HIM." Paul could not do without youth. A young man can run, and is not burdened with a sense of his own respectability. God bless the young life! There are those who would snub the youthful soul, and never permit him to be seen or heard. Paul loved the young, and would never give them up so long as they were true; but if ever they began to prove themselves fickle, he would give them up and their uncle Barnabas with them. A soldier could not do with a coward; only be true, and Paul would be your lifelong friend.
VI. HE TOOK AND CIRCUMCISED TIMOTHY. This from Paul, who would not circumcise Titus! But the reason is given (ver. 3). It was therefore no breach of the apostle's stern policy that, under circumstances so peculiar, he should respect a temporary prejudice. Now they start, Paul, and Silas, and Timotheus (ver. 4). Do not be afraid of the word "Decrees"; they were decrees of liberty. What they signed was the Magna Charts of the Church; freedom centred in God and in the Cross. Christ's followers are not lawless; they have decrees to keep. The spirit of authority is the spirit of rest when it brings with it the assurance that the authority is not arbitrary but rational, not local but universal, not imperfect but Divine. VII. "SO WERE THE CHURCHES ESTABLISHED," etc. These are the true results which accompany every true mission — edification first, and evangelisation second.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(T. De W. Talmage, D. D.)
(T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)
(W. Landels, D. D.)
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