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Paul's Letters To Timothy

A brief consideration of the background of the sender and the recipient of these letters should help us. Saul, later called Paul, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, was a citizen of no mean city; a Pharisee, and the son of a Pharisee; of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; circumcised the eighth day; trained as a tent-maker; educated at the feet of the great Gamaliel; as touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless; honoured with Roman citizenship.

Timothy lived in Lystra, on the north side of the Taurus mountains. His father was a Greek. His mother, Eunice, a Jewess, and his grandmother, Lois, were women of unfeigned faith, and they sought to instruct Timothy from childhood in the sacred writings. He was uncircumcised.

What was it brought these two men with such dissimilar backgrounds together to work, with others, as a remarkable team in the spread of the message of the gospel? We know that the experience of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road was the turning point in his life (Acts 26:12-19). In the case of Timothy, one wonders if this young man witnessed the scenes in Lystra during the apostle's first visit to that city. "They stoned Paul, and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead" (Acts 14:19). Was Timothy one of the disciples that stood around the seeming lifeless Paul, and witnessed his miraculous recovery? Years later the apostle reminded Timothy of the sufferings which befell him at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra (2Tim.3:11).

It was during Paul's second visit to Lystra with Silas that he found Timothy, who was well reported of by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium, and him would Paul have to go forth with him (Acts 16:2, 3). Thus was forged a link between Paul and Timothy which became stronger as the years passed.

"My beloved and faithful child in the Lord" (1 Cor. 4:17); "I have no man likeminded" (Phil. 2:20); "My true child in faith" (1 Tim. 1:2); "My beloved child" (2 Tim. 1:2). These are but some of the apostle's references to Timothy which show the close bond that existed between them.

There is little to help us to determine when and where the first letter to Timothy was written. We learn from 1 Tim. 1:3 that Paul exhorted Timothy to remain at Ephesus while he journeyed into Macedonia. The letter was written in the hope that he would soon return to Ephesus (1 Tim. 3:14). We therefore suggest that it was written before his final visit to Miletus when he sent for the elders from Ephesus and conveyed the sad news that they would see his face no more (Acts 20:38).

The letter contains guidance to the young man Timothy on a wide range of matters associated with the house of God; exhortation to prayer, qualifications to be looked for in overseers and deacons, the attitude of servants to masters and masters to servants, and much else besides.

"I appeal unto Caesar" - these words were uttered before Festus when Paul exercised his right of appeal as a Roman citizen to the supreme tribunal of the Emperor at Rome (Acts 25:11). The second letter to Timothy was written under the shadow of his. appearance before the Emperor, and the possible outcome of his appeal.* That Paul was still chained to a Roman soldier is borne out by his reference to the frequent visits of Onesiphorus, "For he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me" (2 Tim. 1:16,17).

This letter bears the stamp of a man already under the shadow or sentence of death. He writes, "I am already being offered, and the time of my departure is come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. 4:6,7). We have little difficulty in deciding when and where this letter was written; its value is enhanced by the fact that it is probably the last extant letter from the apostle Paul.

It would seem that Timothy was still at Ephesus, and he must have been deeply touched upon receipt of this letter. There is a measure of urgency in the apostle's request to him, "Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me" (2 Tim. 4:9). His request is made more urgent by the words, "Do thy diligence to come before winter" (2 Tim. 4:21).

(* Some think that his appeal had been determined in his favour, and that his last imprisonment was under Nero consequent upon Rome's own later policy of persecuting Christians. 2 Tim. 4:13 suggests a recent visit to Troas and arrest there, and verse 20 a recent visit to Miletus.-Editors)