Timothy Joins the Team
Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.Acts 16:1-5
Did you notice the one other thing? Verse 16:10 marks the beginning of the use the first person plural pronoun “we” in the Book of Acts. It is curious that “we” is used in this this chapter from verse 10 until the end of the chapter and then appears again in 20:5 until the end of the book. This marks the part of the Book of Acts where Luke himself (the writer of Acts) joined Paul, Silas and Timothy. Luke knew the detail about these events from Cilicia to Philippi and from Acts 20:5 onward because he was present with those on the journey. Sometimes in English we call this use of the first person plural pronoun, the royal we. Hence my use of purple.
Notice how this chapter begins. It is curious also in that Luke wrote, Paul went first to Derbe and then to Lystra. . . Clearly Silas was with Paul but he doesn’t get a mention. The use of the singular rather than the plural appears to indicate that Paul was the leader. There is no switching between Paul and Silas, like there was with Paul and Barnabas. Paul is clearly marked as the leader between the two. Also interesting is the appearance of the word “behold” in the literal versions paralleling the Greek word ιδου (idou). Luke uses this word when he introduces a person for the first time in the narrative or when he singles out the person for special attention or to mark someone or something for a particular reason. Later in verse three we have “This one Paul wanted to go with him”. The use of the demonstrative pronoun (this one) here marks all that is said between verse one and verse three to apply to Timothy. Luke is making it clear that he is gathering up all that is written in verses 1-3 and applying it to Timothy.
It seems that Lystra was Timothy’s birth place. In all probability Timothy was converted on Paul’s first visit to Lystra. Timothy is not the successor to Barnabas (that was Silas). Rather Timothy replaced John Mark in his role in the team. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, was a Jewish woman while his father was Greek. The use of “Greek” here could be marking his father as a Gentile, not Jewish and therefore pagan or heathen. But for Paul to tell us so specifically that his father was Greek is a hint that according to the Mosaic Law the marriage of Timothy’s parents was not legal. Thus all children from this marriage were considered in Jewish culture to be illegitimate. Notice that Luke adds a further comment concerning Timothy’s father in verse 3 with the clause “all knew that his father was a Greek”. This comment indicates that Timothy was not circumcised. So we are told that Paul took him and circumcised him to legitimize him in the eyes of the Jews. Timothy would give offense to the Jews by his mere existence so Paul appears to have circumcised him to remove the offence and pave the way to advance the cause of Gentile freedom. The verb in this case is in the imperfect tense suggesting that Timothy’s father was already dead.
Now let’s explore the geography of the region and the location of these places in relation to one another. Remember I told you that Paul goes back to Cilcia at the same time Barnabas and John Mark head for Cyprus. Paul goes back home to Tarsus. Leaving Tarsus they have to cross the mountain chain of Taurus. To do so they have to pass through the pass called the “Cicilian Gates”. Literally it is a rent or fissure in mountains extending north to south through the mountains for over 100 kms. Paul and Silas stop first in Derbe. A glance at the map I have included will tell you why. It is the first town they come to after passing through through the Cicilian Gates. We have no idea of how long they stayed there because Luke doesn’t tell us that bit of detail. We can only assume they stayed there long enough to teach and strengthen the believers there. Then they passed on toward the west to Lystra.
It is in Lystra that they encounter Timothy and his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. Paul was to write later
I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.2 Timothy 1:5
This verse leaves us to conjecture as to the timing of this extended family coming to faith. There is clearly a time interval between the conversion of his mother and grandmother and Timothy’s own conversion. It seems from Paul’s comment that his mother and grandmother preceded him in coming to faith but it can’t have been too far beforehand. However, that is an assumption. I will leave you come to your own assumptions on this matter. I am just merely pointing some things out by way of background.
Now something for you to ponder related to what Luke wrote in verse 5.
Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.Acts 16:5
What are we to assume from this comment? Is it that Paul and Silas spent more time in and around Derbe and Lystra ministering in other towns not mentioned or is something else going on here? I will leave you to dig into the something else and will give you prior warning now. In a short time we are heading to Philippi. This is another of those connections between the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters. During our visit to Philippi we have another document to read in parallel. So take some time to do that before we get there. Enough said.
Life by the yard is hard, life by the inch is a cinch.Rick Godwin
Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.George Patton
The greatest fault is to be conscious of none.Thomas Carlyle
A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.John Ruskin
Truth is so heavy, few men can carry it.Jewish Proverb