Thursday, March 22, 2018

Dare to be a Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:16-17)

“Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” (1 Corinthians 4:16–17, NASB95PARA)

Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers in this letter to be imitators of him, and to help forward that he also was sending a living breathing person to be his encouragement and example in the process. At the writing of this letter Timothy had not yet come. We know this from chapter 16 where we read, “Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am.” (1 Corinthians 16:10, NASB95PARA) But it was Paul’s intention that he would, and when he did they were to receive him really as if Paul had come himself. Timothy had spent considerable time with Paul, and he was at a point in their ministering together that Timothy could go and do without Paul being present. Paul spoke many times of Timothy’s faithfulness to that which he had seen and heard.

Timothy knew Paul. Right after Paul and Barnabas had separated to go on their own way in ministry, Paul went to Lystra where he met Timothy and immediately took him under his wing as Barnabas had done for Paul. “Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.” (Acts 16:1–5, NASB95PARA)

And throughout their time together Timothy would regularly be by his side observing, growing and serving. As time progressed Timothy reached the point that Paul would then leave him to continue a work or even send him to forward a work. Timothy had seen Paul in a wide variety of settings and circumstances. He had heard him teach and he had seen him endure hardship. Timothy knew not only Paul, but he knew and was encouraged in following the example of Paul.

Near the end of his life the apostle Paul wrote to encourage Timothy and urge him to come to Paul in prison, “Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:10-15, NASB95PARA)

The example Paul set for Timothy has been preserved for us in God’s Word and it is just as useful for us today in the midst of all that is going on as it was then. Paul continued in the next verses to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, NASB95PARA)

Here in these verses of 1 Corinthians, Paul was writing to the Corinthians believers to tell them that in the absence of him being able to come that he was sending a trusted son in the Lord who knew his example, lived it faithfully, and would be able to direct their steps as well. Paul had duplicated himself through personal discipleship and now he was sending to them a faithful disciple of Christ to multiply the work given to them both. The essential nature of this process is recorded for us also in Paul’s last letter to Timothy, where we read, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2, NASB95PARA)

Timothy demonstrates for us what it is to be a disciple, while Paul demonstrates what it is to be the one who disciples. Together we see from Scripture this process that God designed to continue His work of drawing people to Himself and ensuring that they have what is needed to help them grow. The Corinthian believers needed both the message and the example. The question for all of us is really whether we have committed ourselves to God’s way of living and growing His church. For me, one of the most exciting things is to see light-bulbs come on in people’s hearts and minds.

There is this phrase which has been used over the years, of which I am not certain its origin. It is, “Dare to be a Timothy.” These verses in a nutshell describe Timothy to us as a faithful disciple who had grown in the Lord and who was now able to teach others also. “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.” And, just as the Corinthian believers were to see Timothy in person, so are we able to see Him in the inerrant and inspired Word of God.

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