People who equate orthodoxy with authenticity find it hard to even consider the possibility that, despite the correctness of all their doctrinal positions, they may have missed the deepest reality of the authentic Christian life. But we must never forget that true Christianity is more than teaching--it is a way of life. In fact, it is life itself. "He who has the Son has life," remember? When we talk about life, we are talking about something that is far more than mere morality, far more than doctrinal accuracy. Life is a positive quality, not negative--a description of what we fundamentally ARE, not what we are not. The eternal life that Jesus brings to us is radical, not superficial. It is humble, not self-promoting. It is compassionate, not indifferent. It is courageous, not timid or retiring. It is a far cry indeed from the mild compatibility, agreeability, and affability that passes for Christianity in thousands of churches across the land. In fact, the Great Imitation is so widely accepted as genuine Christianity that the real thing is often regarded as a threat or a heresy whenever it appears. ("Authentic Christianity," by Ray C. Stedman,

Why a Timothy?

Last July while visiting Grants Pass, Oregon, I was invited to speak to a Saturday Men's breakfast on the topic, "Why a Timothy?" My host explained that he had noticed I always traveled with one or more young men in tow when I was away from home speaking.

One good reason I take people with me when I go somewhere to speak is that this was regular lifestyle and example of the leaders in the early days of my home church, PBC. Ray Stedman, Dave Roper, Bob Smith and the founding elders were always dragging unsuspecting laymen with them to the constant succession of conferences and retreats they were always called to conduct. After all, the "work of the ministry" was in the hands of the people of the church not just that staff, (see Ephesians 4) so we all needed some "in-service training" -- as Ray called it. Though green and inexperienced, we neophytes gained confidence in God's ability to use us when we were suddenly thrust into speaking situations or asked for a public testimony. When the traveling team was more than two, we quickly saw the vitality and power of praying together as a group so that we operated together with the mind and power of the Spirit. Another great advantage of traveling with men like Ray was the available quality time for questions and answers about the Bible and ministry. Surely there is no better way to see how mature Christians live and what they know than to travel with them away from their usual back-home busy schedules? Well anyway, I assumed this team work and mentoring was what was expected of all Christians when they were learning to walk with God and to serve Christ, it was, I thought, part of the "normal Christian life."

"One shall chase a thousand, but two shall chase ten thousand," always comes to mind when I've been privileged to take part in a team ministry. Everyone contributes, we all pray together, and the diversity of our spiritual gifts comes into play. I firmly believe that "Lone Ranger" ministries are not very effective. It's also important for more mature Christians to mentor the younger members of the faith. The Christian faith has, after all, been transmitted down to us from the original apostles person to person. We are obligated to deliver the whole content of the faith intact to the next generation, "to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all time delivered to the saints," (Jude 3)

Ray Stedman goes into more detail on these matters of basic ministry in his classic book, "Body Life" ( Also recommended are his studies in Second Corinthians, (

As I explained to the men at the Grants Pass breakfast, much of my life had been a search for the father I was never very close to as a boy. After I became a Christian I was amazed to see how easy it was for me to sense the Father-heart of God towards my brothers and sisters in Christ. I remember vividly an amazing testimony by Ray Stedman about his own lonely childhood after his father had abandoned the family and Ray was handed from relative to relative. His mother was in ill health and too poor to care for him. Rather than testifying, as one usually does, about the companionship of Jesus Christ while he was growing up, Ray gave a marvelous testimony of how wonderfully God had proven to be a Father to him--more than making up for the deficits of a lonely childhood and lack of good role models. [I am happy to say that my father and I developed a much closer relationship after I became a Christian in 1963 and prior to his death in 1980. Although my initial friendship with Ray Stedman had been strained and difficult at times, God changed us both a lot--Ray became a wonderful example of a godly father and loyal personal friend in his later years before his home-going in October of 1992.]

Even before I became a Christian I realized that there was a severe shortage of "fathers" in our society today. (See "God Our Father," At the men's breakfast I admitted that a major theme running through my whole life had been my own search for a father. That recollection brought to mind a curious verse in First Corinthians 4. Paul tells that church that there were among them "not many fathers." Why should this be so, since God is clearly described throughout the Bible as our heavenly Father?

"For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church"

Paul had established the church at Corinth some five years earlier--laboring there for 18 months and paying his own way by making tents (Acts 18:1-18). He was moved to write the letter of 1 Corinthians when brothers from Corinth (1 Cor. 16:17) came to him in Ephesus to tell him of the many problems that had arisen since the Apostle left them. Paul addresses the problems in the church one by one, he goes on to defend his authority as an apostle, and then in Chapter 4 reminds them in the clearest terms possible that they are to follow his teachings but also to imitate his lifestyle! Since they had not been doing that at all, he contrasts the comfortable, complacent way the Christians were living in Corinth with his own life style which he considered the "normal Christian life."

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things. {1 Cor 4:9-13 RSV}

Ray Stedman notes:

What a stark contrast! "There is the real world," Paul says. "It is tough and ruthless and cruel. On the surface it can appear to be kind and responsive, but underneath the velvet glove is the iron fist that can smash and crush without compunction. You and your dream world are just kidding yourselves. This is a battleground, and we apostles are fighting the battle. We are living in the real world, and it is not like yours at all." So Paul brings them back to reality.

Notice three things here that he teaches us about the apostles: First, "We apostles," he says, "are pattern Christians, in effect. God has put us on exhibit in order that we might demonstrate certain things. He has exhibited us as last of all, like men sentenced to death, we have become a spectacle..." Now the word "spectacle" is the word from which we get our word "theater" -- "We have become the theater of the world, and when you look at us you will see what the world is really like," he is saying.

That is why the apostles are so important in the New Testament and to all the Church ever since. They are "pattern" Christians. They are not, as we often imagine, super saints who live up at a level that no one else can hope to attain. They were sent out into the cruel, rough, ruthless world, the worst of all, and, like our Lord, they lived in the very teeth of reality of life in order to show us how to handle it.

And notice that Paul calls them "men sentenced to death." Now men sentenced to death never deal with trivialities; they do not get caught up in secondary things. Men sentenced to death use their time to proper purpose. If you were sentenced to death, you would not concern yourself with where your next ice cream cone was coming from. You would want to see that your relationships with others were right, and that your property was properly disposed of. You would be concerned with what was coming, and what you could do about it, and what would happen after you were gone.

Paul says that was the way the apostles lived -- in the reality of life, not dealing with trivial things, but putting their time on the things that count. I am sure he is thinking of the gladiatorial combats that were held in the great Coliseum when, as a final act, two gladiators, both of them condemned to death, would engage in mortal combat. They would stand before the great assemblage and salute the Emperor and say, Morituri te salutamus ("We who are about to die salute you.") Paul is thinking of that as he writes about himself, "We are set forth as men who have already died, in a sense, so we are not piddling around; we are not wasting our time; we are dealing with reality. We love not our life unto death; we want to make every moment count."

Notice that apostles, he says, are persecuted Christians, Verse 10: "We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute." By this he indicates that there is something about the gospel that will always make us unpopular in some crowds. This is the problem, isn't it? Nobody likes to be unpopular. We all want to be accepted, and sooner or later we are going to be put in a spot where if we are going to be true to what our faith says, true to our Lord, true to the things we have learned in the Word of God, we are going to find people ridiculing us, sneering at us, laughing at us, mocking us. Now nobody likes that, but it constitutes the great test of life -- whether we are willing to bear reproach for Christ's sake.

These Corinthians had sold out. They had so accommodated, so compromised with the world around that the world was not persecuting them anymore. The world did not laugh at them. They had adjusted their teaching so that worldly wisdom penetrated everything they said and did, and the world thought it was great. They had adjusted their actions so that nobody was offended by them, and they never had to tell anybody that something was wrong. As we will see in the succeeding passages, the Corinthians accommodated to it all; they put up with anything in the church; they never told anybody they were doing wrong. So, Paul says, "The world calls us fools and treats us with dishonor, but you, you are treated as wise and as understanding, as strong, and we are weak."

A Christian lawyer friend, who lives and works right in the midst of the world and who yet has a very deep commitment to the things of God and of Christ, and I were discussing some of the ways that people -- especially other Christians who long for the favor of the world -- look at Christians. He said to me, "I get so tired of being treated like the village idiot every time I try to take the Bible seriously." Now, that is the treatment you will get, but you have to be ready to be the village idiot, and not mind it at all, because it is the other group that is wrong. Paul points that out here.

I think this is what lies behind most of the issues being debated in the church in our day, this unwillingness to be laughed at by the world. Behind the inerrancy issue that is raking the church, behind the evangelical feminist issue, behind the homosexual issue, and the issue of women elders, etc., is this love of the world's approval, this desire to be like others, this unwillingness to bear reproach for the name of Christ. But Jesus himself told us that it would be there -- "in the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world," {cf, John 16:33}.

The third thing the apostle points out is that apostles are "peculiar" Christians -- they do not act normally. Listen to this again:

To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world [trash, rubbish] the offscouring [the scrapings of the plates after a meal, the garbage] of all things. {1 Cor 4:11-13 RSV}

That does not sound like us does it? When you are treated like rubbish and garbage do you try to get even? Do you try to reply in kind: "I'll give as good as I get. I'll let him know how it feels?" Or do you, as the apostle learned to do, try to work it out and try to heal the hurt? That is authentic Christianity; that is a true Christian life style. (From "Expository Studies in 1 Corinthians,"

To bring home his point about his genuine and personal love for the Corinthian Christians, Paul has his beloved son in the faith, young Timothy, personally deliver the letter to Corinth. Then Paul reminds them that if necessary he will visit them in person to bring them back to the warm, open, loving and personal walk with God that he had taught them when he had personally "fathered" all of them spiritually. He had led them to the Lord, introduced them to Christ and God their Father, and his love and devotion for them was ongoing. Their wholeness in Christ was always on his heart, "My little children for whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed in you," he wrote to the Galatians (4:19).

What does all this have to do with the question I was asked to speak on "Why a Timothy?" For one thing, I was reminded that the church of Jesus Christ is a family, and it is God's place of reparenting for many of us. In order to become whole, new men and women we all need close family ties and these fade away when a church becomes formal, complacent and programmed to run on auto-pilot. Most of us are broken people when we come to Christ, we are all sinners and God has a lot of work to do to "conform us to the likeness of His own Son." We need each other for this to happen!

The greater issue which I see in Paul's relationship with Timothy is the task of mentoring which all Christians need. The Father we all long for and need is God. Even the best of human fathers, the best of pastors, counselors and friends can at most point the way. In order to know the Father we need only to know His Son Jesus--since Jesus is the one who shows us the Father. But when considering the life of Jesus, His example and the way He lived is for us to follow with the same seriousness we devote to understanding and responding to His teachings.

Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, `Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. 1"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you." I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Jesus answered him, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me." These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 13:6-27)

As I was thinking about the relationship Paul had with Timothy and the need we all have to be mentored, fathered and nurtured in the faith, I thought about the profound relationship which exists within the godhead between God the Father and God the Son. It's a subject I never hear much discussed in church. The fact that God's revelation of Himself calls special attention to this Father/Son relationship within the Trinity surely has strong bearing on who we were created to be, the image we bear as male/female, and the underlying basis of all our interpersonal relationships.

"Be imitators of me," says Paul, "as I am of Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1)

We are to follow Paul's example and lifestyle, because he, Paul, is following Christ, and Christ is following His (and our) Father and God. The life of Jesus shows us what normal humanity is all about--because "normal humanity" is indwelt by God. The writer of Hebrews calls Jesus our "Trailblazer" (archegos). We are to follow Jesus daily into new territory in order to be given back all we have all lost in Adam's Fall. And, we are not alone on our journey (as strangers and pilgrims in this present world) -- God has given us wonderful traveling companions. Paul discovered this in his young friend Timothy.

See also Doug Goin's outstanding sermon on 1 Corinthians 4, "A Crisis of Complacency."

Notes on Timothy:

And 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 brethren at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions which had been reached by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily. {16:1-5 RSV}

Paul is back at Lystra, the city where he had been stoned, where he had encountered the most severe opposition of his first missionary journey. There he had led a young man to Christ on that first occasion, who now was still a boy, only about sixteen years old. Paul thought he observed in him various gifts -- gifts of ministry, perhaps of wisdom and of knowledge in the Scriptures, of teaching, of preaching. He wanted to take Timothy with him, using that marvelous means of discipling which has never been superseded, the process and method by which Jesus himself trained men, taking him along with them and teaching him as they ministered together. So he took him as an intern on the rest of his journey.

But there was a bit of a problem. Timothy was half Jewish, half Greek. His father was a Greek but his mother was a Jew, and, according to the Jews, this made him a Jew. The Jewish people had a very practical way of thinking about this. They said anyone knows who a man's mother is, but you can't be as sure of his father. So they reckoned the line of descent through the mother and Timothy was therefore considered a Jew.

The amazing thing is that Paul circumcised Timothy, while earlier he had refused to do the same to Titus. This is not recorded in Acts, but from a parallel passage in Galatians we have learned that he had taken Titus, who was a Greek, with him up to Jerusalem. The Jewish brethren there wanted to circumcise Titus, but Paul absolutely refused. He was adamant because to have permitted it would have been a concession to the idea that you had to become a Jew in order to become a Christian.

So here is another marvelous indication of how to know the mind and will of God. In any situation involving customs and rituals, cultural matters, the governing rule is to find the great underlying principle at stake, and to act accordingly. In the case of Titus, it would have been devastating to have circumcised him. It would have meant yielding to the whole concept of legalism, and baptizing it as a Christian teaching to have allowed this young man, wholly a Greek, a Gentile, to be circumcised. But the case of Timothy is different. Timothy is looked upon as a Jew, and in order not to offend the Jews among whom he must labor, in order to open the door of acceptance by them, Paul submits to this Old Testament ritual and circumcises Timothy. Because here the governing principle is, "I became all things to all men, in order that I might win some," {cf, 1 Cor 9:22}. This approach may result in two seemingly contradictory actions, but all is reconciled as you see the great principle underneath. (


Additional Notes on Timothy: From the account in Acts and the allusions in the Pauline letters, Timothy seems to have been one of the most constant companions of the Apostle Paul. The first reference to Timothy is found in Acts 16:1-3 at the beginning of Paul's second missionary journey when he revisited Derbe and Lystra in Lycaonia. It seems probable that Paul had met Timothy earlier during his visit to this area on his first missionary journey (Acts 14). This young man made a good impression upon Paul and had a good reputation in Lystra and Iconium (16:2), suggesting that he was a resident of Lystra, rather than Derbe. Later Paul suggests that certain prophetic utterances confirmed Timothy's appointment (I Tim. 1:18; cf. 4:14). Concerning his parentage it is recorded that his father was a Greek and his mother a devout Christian Jewess (Acts 16:1). His mother's name was Eunice, and his grandmother was Lois (2 Tim. 1:5), who faithfully instructed their offspring (plural) in the OT Scriptures.

Timothy's mixed parentage motivated Paul to have him circumcised (Acts 16:3). This seems contrary to the decision of the Jerusalem Council held shortly before the second missionary journey (15:27-29) and the vindication of Paul's position is demonstrated in the fact that Titus was not compelled to be circumcised (Gal 2:3) This mixed parentage, however, could have become an occasion for serious offense in Jewish circles if he had remained uncircumcised, and apparently Paul judged that this concession would be necessary for the maximum effectiveness of Timothy's work. That Timothy was rather young when he joined Paul is suggested by Paul's exhortation, "let no one despise your youth" (1 Tim. 4:12), which was given some fifteen years later.

Timothy is not mentioned in connection with the experiences and imprisonment of Paul and Silas in Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). Possibly because of his youth Timothy was not imprisoned. Likewise, he is not mentioned in the account of Paul's ministry in Thessalonica (17:1-9). However, Acts 17:14 indicates that Silas and Timothy remained in Berea after Paul's departure, although Paul requested that they join him as soon as possible (17:15). According to Acts 18:5, they rejoined Paul at Corinth. However, I Thessalonians 3:1-3 indicates that Timothy at least was with Paul in Athens and that Paul, being anxious about the believers at Thessalonica, sent Timothy to Thessalonica. This suggests that, during Paul's ministry at Thessalonica, Timothy (who seemingly was present) was not directly involved in the work, so that the "ban" placed on Paul and Silas ("security," "bail,"[Acts 17:10]; cf. I Thess 2:18) did not apply to Timothy. Upon his return to Corinth where Paul was (I Thess 3:6 and Acts 18:5), he informed him about the situation in Thessalonica. In response Paul, with Silas and Timothy as co-writers, sent 1 Thessalonians. Shortly thereafter, while still at Corinth, these three men sent 2 Thessalonians.

During his extended residence in Ephesus on his third missionary journey, Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to deal with the vexing problems in that church (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10). It appears that he was not successful in this mission and returned to Paul at Ephesus. Prior to Paul's departure from Ephesus, he sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22). Later when Paul joined him in Macedonia, they jointly wrote 2 Corinthians, after Titus seemingly had successfully dealt with the problems in the church (2 Cor 1:1; cf. 1:19). When Paul wrote his letter to the Romans during the following winter while at Corinth, Timothy, identified as a "fellow worker" (sunergos), was among those who sent their greetings (Rom 16:21).

Timothy accompanied Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). It is not indicated that Timothy accompanied Paul on his shipwreck voyage to Rome, but Philippians 2:19, 20 (if written from Rome) suggest that Timothy was sharing Paul's first Rom. imprisonment. Likewise, Timothy was included with Paul as author of Philippians (1:1), Colossians (1:1), and Philemon (v.1), traditionally considered with Ephesians as the Prison Epistles, written from Rome.

Two of the Pastoral Epistles, written after Paul's first Roman imprisonment, were addressed to Timothy. The intimate relationship that existed between Paul and Timothy is very evident from these letters. Paul refers to Timothy as "my true child in the faith" (I Tim. 1:2), "my son" (1:18), "my beloved child" (2 Tim. 1:2). In these two epistles Paul uses a special term (found only in these two epistles in the NT) to describe the responsible task or consignment that the preacher has. This term, paratheke, "deposit," "consignment," is found in I Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:12, 14. Twice Paul urged Timothy to guard this phulasso (I Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1: 14). This is also what had been entrusted or consigned to Paul (2 Tim. 1:12) the preferred interpretation of the text). Paul virtually identified his ministry with Timothy's ministry. This continuation of Paul's ministry in the work of Timothy underlies the various exhortations of the Pastoral Epistles.

First Timothy was written from Macedonia while Timothy was at Ephesus. Heterodoxy had infested the church--a kind of legalism (1 Tim. 1:6ff) and a kind of speculative theology based on myths and genealogies (I Tim. 1:4). It was also in this period that ecclesiastical organization was developing, and Timothy was enjoined carefully to supervise the appointment of qualified officers. Personal godliness is a necessary qualification of an effective minister (e.g., I Tim. 6:11-16).

Second Timothy was written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, apparently the second time. The future looked very bleak for him and he wrote this letter to Timothy to urge him to come to Rome for these last days. Whether he reached Rome before Paul's death is not recorded. This epistle has been aptly called Paul's Swan Song. It is the picture of a man passing the torch to his successor. Paul's confidence and trust in Timothy as a worthy successor are very evident. It is not indicated where Timothy was apparently in western Asia, possibly at Ephesus, since he would be passing through Troas (2 Tim. 4:13). Although Paul was at the point of death (4:6) and had been abandoned by certain followers, e.g., Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15), Demas (4:10), Alexander (4:14), nevertheless he expressed an assurance and faith to Timothy which must have made a formative impression on this young minister and have been an enduring inspiration to him.

A study of these epistles addressed to Timothy gives the impression that he was a fairly young man who was somewhat retiring, perhaps even a bit shy. He appears to be sincere and devoted, but at times perhaps frightened by his opponents and their teachings. This perhaps is also reflected in his apparent inability to cope with the problems in the Corinthian church.

The last reference to Timothy in the NT is in Hebrews 13:23, where it is reported that Timothy was recently released from prison. Timothy was known to the recipients of this epistle (whose identity is debated) and the author (obviously not Paul) intends to bring him along on a proposed visit. Timothy's name does not occur elsewhere in the early Christian literature. (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia, 1978)
October 1, 2000