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Summary: Weighing the salutation of Paul's Second Letter to Timothy to discover hidden gems.

“To Timothy, my beloved child:

“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” [1]

We tend to rush past the introductions and greetings of the letters included in the canon of Scripture. Perhaps we modern believers imagine that we know all there is to know about those who were to receive the missive. Perhaps we imagine we need no further information to assist in understanding what was going on when the letters were written. I believe it is a serious error when we are in such a great hurry that we fail to think through these matters. Knowing to whom a letter was penned, knowing the situation they faced and knowing the impact the letter may have had will give us greater confidence in God’s work then and now.

MEETING TIMOTHY — Let’s refresh our memories of Timothy so that we can focus on his time with the Apostle. When we embarked on this extended excursus through the Pastoral Letters, I presented a study of Timothy. [2] That message was delivered almost two years ago. At the very least, a refresher study will be beneficial; it will help to ensure that we remain on track for our continuing studies through these letters.

Some five years have passed since Paul wrote the first letter to his erstwhile companion. When he wrote that first letter, Paul had been freed from prison; and he was anticipating going to Ephesus to visit Timothy [see 1 TIMOTHY 3:14, 15; 4:13]. As he writes this letter we are now studying, the aged saint is imprisoned and facing imminent execution. Moreover, the weight of the churches presses more heavily than ever on his heart. Perhaps his relationship with Timothy has changed as well. We would hope that the love these men shared for one another has been strengthened; but Paul’s concern for the battles Timothy faces is growing more apparent.

You will remember that previously we learned that Timothy was the son of a Gentile father and a Jewish mother [see ACTS 16:1]. Apparently, the young man’s mother and grandmother were sufficiently concerned about his religious training that they invested time in him so he would at least be familiar with the Scriptures. We can guess that either his Gentile father did not object to his wife and mother-in-law training the boy in the ancient texts, or his father was for some reason removed from the life of the lad. Actually, nothing other than the fact that he was a Gentile is known of Timothy’s father.

It is probable that Paul met Timothy on his first missionary journey, but it was during the second missionary journey that Paul took Timothy with him. We read in the account of that second missionary tour, “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” [ACTS 16:1-3].

Since the brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy, it is probable that he lived in Lystra rather than Derbe. This information supports the idea that Timothy came to faith in the Son of God at some point during Paul’s first preaching venture in Lycaonia and grew in faith prior to Paul’s return to Lystra and Iconium. I draw this conclusion in great measure because the Apostle identifies Timothy as “my beloved child” here in our text and speaks of him as his “true child in the Faith” in 1 TIMOTHY 1:2. When he wrote the First Corinthian Letter, Paul said he was sending “Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord” [1 CORINTHIANS 4:17]. Focus on the fact that Timothy was sufficiently well-known to the saints to be recommended to Paul as dependable. This would indicate that the young man had been in the congregation and likely engaged in observable service for a period of time that permitted the assembly to recognise his commitment to the Faith.

Paul circumcised Timothy because the Jews knew his father was a Greek. This has occasioned controversy for centuries. [3] What it does say is that his mother and grandmother, committed to the Scriptures though they were, did not have sufficient influence to bring Timothy for circumcision at any point prior to meeting up with the missionaries. It is interesting because Titus was not compelled to be circumcised [see GALATIANS 2:3]. His mother and grandmother did, however, unite to instruct Timothy from childhood in the Scriptures. [4]

What appears to be a contradiction to some scholars is resolved by appeal to the Apostle’s affirmation delivered to the Corinthians Christians. “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” [1 CORINTHIANS 9:20-23].

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