Timothy Had Enough – Do We Need More?
“The Holy Spirit of God, in and through the word of God, establishes and strengthens the people of God.” David Helm
“God’s Spirit uses God’s word!” Mark Dever
What does a person need to advance in Christ-likeness; to move forward as a disciple?
We in the United States have so many resources and opportunities to facilitate gospel growth, and yet what do we have to show for it? In some cases there is much fruit to behold.
But we have many Bibles in many translations – do we need more when some have no Bible in their language? We have more books than anyone can read – except maybe Albert Mohler. We have instant access to the most gifted and successful pastors, leaders and speakers via the Internet. We have the best conferences and the ability to attend them. We have freedom to gather, fellowship, edify, teach and worship.
But are we any better off than the First Century Christians like Timothy?
Here’s a verse that jumped out at me as we have been methodically preaching through the book of Acts.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, name Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman (2 Tim. 1:5) who was a believer, but his father was Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium (20 miles a part).”
What’s here that’s worth a blog?
Consider this: Paul, on the First Missionary Journey, came through Lystra around 47 A.D. and preached the gospel. Timothy and his mother came to faith in Christ either during Paul’s mission through Lystra or shortly thereafter. Paul then returned to Antioch and spent “a long time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:28) He then made a trip to Jerusalem (331 miles) to solve a dispute with those who said the gentiles must be circumcised and follow the Custom of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1). After an undisclosed amount of time he came back to Antioch with Barnabas, Silas and Judas and stayed in Antioch teaching and preaching the word of the Lord (Acts 15:35). Around 49 A.D. Paul then decides to take Silas with him and go back to see the churches he planted on the First Missionary Journey.
Let’s suppose then that Paul returns to Lystra around 49 to 50 A.D. That means it has been anywhere from two to three years since Timothy has come to faith in Christ, and Timothy has not only come to faith in Christ but he has matured to the point that he is “well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” Remember Paul was run out of Iconium by Jews and stoned in Lystra because of the Jews. It seems likely that Timothy and other believers would have faced some opposition for their faith (2 Tim. 3:12). But not only does he possess gospel-character, but Paul sees potential in Timothy and wants to take him as a disciple and partner for the gospel. Consider for a moment that Paul refused to take another young guy (John Mark) with him on the Acts 16 journey.
Paul hasn’t been to Lystra in over two years and Timothy has gone from a newborn Christian to a maturing disciple. What did Timothy have that would cause him to grow in this potentially hostile environment?
- Timothy had the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14). Timothy was indwelt by and empowered by the same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11).
- Timothy had enough Spirit-inspired scripture. By this time, Timothy might have had access to Paul’s letter to the Galatian Churches, which would have been written around 48 A.D. at Antioch (Acts 14:27-28). Additionally, he also had some of Paul’s apostolic teaching since it was Paul that planted these churches and strengthened them on his way back to Antioch. And finally, Timothy no doubt had at least some of the Law and the Prophets.
- Timothy had the local church. On the way back through the cities of the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas appointed elders (Acts 14:23). That is worth stopping and thinking about because it means Paul won some disciples on the way through and then on the return trip had enough time to disciple them to be able to meet the standard of 1 Timothy 3:1-7. But the main point is that Timothy had a prescriptive biblical leadership that is an authenticator of a true New Testament Church.
What else did he have? I don’t know. But I am certain he had these three basic things and my guess is that this is about all that he had and needed.
We have programs, curricula, facilities, conferences, podcasts, elaborate strategies, marketing and every other 21st Century Advantage you can imagine. We have redeemed much of the culture to engage the culture and yet I wonder if we are any better off. I wonder whether we aren’t distracted by many of things that are not essential. It may be true that a lot of our disciple-making endeavors are culturally missional and it may be true that they are not bad things and they may be even helpful things, but they are no good to us if we abandon the essential components of God’s plan.
Whatever we do in the Christian life to make disciples, we cannot forget that God gave us the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Christ. He gave us the scriptures and the apostolic teaching. He gave us the local church with gifted leaders.
It was that simple and it is that simple, and it seems to have been enough for Timothy.
I’m not against all the things we do today. As a matter of fact, I like a lot of it and have benefited from it. I just think we need to think long and hard about whether we are distracted from necessary biblical things by lesser things. God gave Timothy enough, do we need more?