January 12, 2021 – Tuesday
Acts 16:1-2 NIV
1 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.
2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.
3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
The initial verses of this chapter are really about Timothy. Even though we learn in the next two verses (4-5) as mentioned yesterday that, As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers. But we did not mention Timothy went with them as they traveled. And he was part of the team delivering the messages from Jerusalem for Gentile believers to follow. Thus, he likely was part of reason the churches were both strengthened and grew in numbers.
Who was Timothy though? We learn from the verses above he was a disciple of Christ and lived in Lystra. He probably became a follower of Christ during Paul’s prior visit. He probably witnessed or at least knew of what happened when (14:19-20), some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium [in opposition to the gospel] and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.
Beyond this we know Timothy’s mother was Jewish and a believer in Christ. We learn in 1 Timothy 1:5 that Paul thought of him as a man of sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. So, his mother and grandmother had much to do with his knowledge and faith walk. His father we know little of except that he was a Greek, a Gentile. It is unlikely he was a convert to Judaism as Timothy was not circumcised. If his father had been, it is likely Timothy would have been as well.
Timothy must have been a very serious and devout young man for The believers at [both] Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. As we don’t know much about his father, this was most likely due to the upbringing from his mother and grandmother. For so many believers to speak well of him in two separate cities his devotion must have been truly noteworthy. From this it is understandable why Paul wanted to take him along on the journey that would continue onward.
Not so understandable is why he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. After all, he had spoken much on how circumcision was not necessary for one to follow the gospel. More specifically Paul had spoken how it was unnecessary for a Gentile to be circumcised to become a follower of Christ. However, Timothy as the son of a Jewish woman was considered Jewish even with a Gentile father. With this in mind, Elllicott’s Commentary for English Readers makes the following point how Paul sought to guard against the difficulties which he would have encountered from those whom he sought to win to Christ, had they seen, as one of the travelling company, an Israelite who was ashamed of the seal of the covenant of Abraham. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible takes a similar viewpoint which I find convincing. Namely that, It was an act of expediency for the sake of peace, and was in accordance with Paul’s uniform and avowed principle of conduct, 1 Corinthians 9:20, “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.”
The reality is Paul did not let ‘doctrine’ get in the way of presenting the gospel. Plus, this was six years after Paul’s first visit so Timothy had a choice as an adult and chose to follow his mentor’s desire here.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – Please help us stay focused on Your will for our lives and how we should proceed, not letting any policy or rule get in the way of Your direction. – In Jesus name. Amen.