Paul & Timothy

Scripture: 1st Timothy 4:6-16


Title: Paul & Timothy



  • Introduction
  • Paul’s belief in Timothy
  • Paul’s guidance for Timothy
  • Conclusion



I have here a guitar with six strings

–         For the strings to work (to make a sound) they need to be held in tension

–         To create the tension one end of the string is firmly tied to the main body of the guitar while the other end of the string is attached to a tuning peg

–         This end is fixed – it doesn’t change

–         This end can and does change

–         With just the right amount of tension the string sounds the right note

–         If there is no tension at all then there’s no sound

–         But with too much tension the string is out of tune and at risk of breaking


Today we continue our series on inter-generational relationships in the Bible

–         That is, relationships between people of different ages or generations

–         The focus of this morning’s message is the mentoring relationship between the apostle Paul and his protégé Timothy

–         Mentoring relationships are a bit like guitar strings

–         With mentoring we need to hold two things in tension: belief & guidance

–         On the one hand we need to have a rock solid belief or trust in the other person – that’s like this end of the string which doesn’t change

–         At the same time we need room to make adjustments by giving & receiving guidance – that’s like this end where the string is tuned

–         Belief and guidance – two things held in tension – both needed to keep the relationship in tune


As a father in the faith (a mentor) to Timothy, Paul believed strongly in Timothy – he trusted him with significant responsibility and difficult tasks

–         But Paul’s trust wasn’t abdication

–         He didn’t blindly leave Timothy to his own devices

–         Rather Paul trusted his young protégé and gave him guidance

–         First let’s consider Paul’s belief in Timothy


Paul’s belief in Timothy:

In thinking about this idea of believing in people let me tell you a personal story

–         When I was in my late 20’s I attended a Baptist church in Tauranga

–         Little by little the leadership of the church trusted me with responsibilities

–         After a while I became a house group leader

–         Then one day the pastor asked me to preach on a Sunday morning

–         Afterwards he gave me some guidance – 54 minutes is too long for a sermon (apparently I’m not that interesting to listen to)

–         But the pastor believed in me enough to ask again and next time I followed his guidance and made the message shorter


My faith really grew in that church because people older than me believed in me and they cared enough to give me guidance and feedback


After watching me in action for a couple of years the pastor of the church told me he believed I had a call to pastoral ministry

–         Some others said the same thing around the same time so we went to Carey College to get more guidance, which is how we ended up here


The basic point I’m trying to make is that when you are mentoring people you need to believe in them and provide them with guidance

–         It doesn’t work to do one without the other

–         Belief & guidance go together


To expound that point a little more…

–         You don’t just tell people you believe in them – you show them by trusting them with real responsibility


This is how it was with Paul & Timothy

–         Paul demonstrated his belief in Timothy both with words of prophecy and with actions – that is, by trusting Timothy with real responsibility


To give you some context, Paul’s first missionary journey took him through Timothy’s home town of Lystra

–         We can’t be sure but it is possible (perhaps even likely) that Paul led Timothy to Christian faith during that visit

–         What we do know for certain is that Paul enlisted Timothy’s help on his second missionary journey. In Acts 16 we read…


Paul travelled on to Derbe and Lystra, where a Christian named Timothy lived. His mother, who was also a Christian, was Jewish, but his father was a Greek. All the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. Paul wanted to take Timothy along with him…


It appears that Timothy’s mother was a Christian but his dad wasn’t

–         This meant Timothy had a difficult choice to make

–         In becoming a Christian he was aligning himself with Jesus

–         The risk was that he might alienate his father in the process

–         Nevertheless Timothy took the risk


It also appears Timothy had some special quality to him because all the believers spoke well of him

–         Most likely Timothy had showed promise as a preacher and had an easy personality so he got on well with people generally


Evidently Paul saw something in him too because he invited Timothy to accompany him on his second missionary journey

–         Paul was a clever guy – perhaps he saw Timothy’s mixed parentage (half Jewish / half Greek) as making him an ideal candidate for mission work

–         Timothy would be able to act as a bridge between Jews and Gentiles

–         In any case the fact that Paul was keen to recruit Timothy is saying something because Paul wasn’t easily impressed


At the end of Acts 15 we read how Paul wouldn’t take John Mark (the writer of the gospel of Mark) with him because Mark didn’t go the distance on their first mission trip

–         Essentially Paul didn’t believe in Mark but he did believe in Timothy

–         And he demonstrated that belief with words & actions – he spoke words of prophecy over Timothy and he asked Timothy to join them

–         (The words of prophecy aren’t mentioned in Acts but Paul does remind Timothy of them years later in both his letters to Timothy [1])


The life of a Christian missionary in the first century was pretty dangerous – there was a good chance of being whipped, thrown in prison or even killed

–         Timothy, for his part, responded to Paul’s belief in him by taking the risk and submitting to Paul’s guidance

–         Timothy was most likely in his late teens or early 20’s at this stage, which makes Paul’s belief in Timothy even more remarkable in that cultural context where the younger you were the less respect you got, generally


Timothy accompanied Paul & Silas to Macedonia

–         The next time we hear about Timothy is in Acts 17

–         After arriving in Berea there is trouble and Paul has to leave but Silas & Timothy stay behind in what is a hostile situation – most likely to instruct the new believers in the faith

–         By leaving Timothy in Berea Paul is demonstrating his belief in Timothy

–         Eventually Timothy & Silas catch up with Paul in Corinth


Over time Timothy becomes Paul’s right hand man – he is to Paul what Joshua was to Moses

–         Paul continues to show he believes in Timothy by sending the young protégé as his representative to teach and encourage some of the churches Paul had planted on his various missionary journeys


For example, while Paul was in Athens, he sent Timothy to the Thessalonians to establish them in their faith and encourage them through teaching & preaching [2]

–         Although the Thessalonian believers received Timothy positively the city of Thessalonica was not a friendly place

–         The young church was experiencing persecution there – but Paul had confidence in Timothy that he could handle the challenge

–         Timothy would have needed to be a calm presence, providing comfort and strength to the believers there


Sometime later, while Paul was establishing the church in Ephesus during his third missionary journey, he sent Timothy to the Corinthian church

–         This was also a challenging assignment for Timothy but in a different way to Thessalonica

–         The Corinthian believers had got off track by listening to false teachers and following bad theology

–         Paul sent Timothy into that situation to correct dodgy doctrine and immoral behaviour

–         Paul writes about Timothy’s purpose in his letter to the Corinthians saying…

Therefore I sent Timothy to you, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church [3]


Here we catch a glimpse of the closeness there is between Timothy & Paul

–         Paul loves Timothy like a son and Timothy knows Paul’s ways like a son knows a father


Timothy is often portrayed by preachers as a bit timid, a bit sickly and not particularly robust, always in need of encouragement

–         But there isn’t much Biblical evidence for this stereotyping of Timothy

–         In actual fact the New Testament shows us that Timothy was faithful, resilient and steadfast under pressure

–         You don’t send someone you love into difficult situations if you don’t think they can handle it

–         What’s more you don’t keep going back into hard places if you are timid


Paul believed in Timothy but it wasn’t blind belief – it came with guidance


Paul’s guidance for Timothy:

Earlier I told you a personal story of my pastor believing in me – that was when I was in my late 20’s

–         Let me tell you another personal story of something that happened when I was about 10 years younger than that – this story is a little bit different


So there I was, 18 and full of confidence, sitting in church with my best friend when the director for Youth For Christ (YFC) came up to my friend and asked him if he would like to be a youth leader

–         My friend wasn’t really that keen – he said he’d think about it which meant ‘probably not’

–         The funny thing was the director didn’t ask me – even though I was sitting right there beside him when he asked my friend

–         Not sure why that was – I suppose it’s because he didn’t really believe I’d be suitable – he was probably right

–         But that didn’t stop me from saying, “I’ll do it”

–         I could tell by the way he stumbled over his words that he wasn’t expecting me to volunteer like that

–         Clearly I wasn’t his first choice but he must have been desperate because he agreed to take me on, with guidance


Now in that little story I brought belief while the director brought the guidance

–         I believed in the mission of YFC, I believed in the director and I believed in myself, even if no one else did

–         I worked with YFC for a number of years part time and did eventually earn the director’s trust – we got on well together

–         However, a big part of earning his trust was my willingness to follow his guidance


Towards the end of Paul’s life, while he was in prison, he sent Timothy to the church in Ephesus, once again as his representative to sort out some issues there

–         It was while Timothy was in Ephesus that Paul wrote two personal letters to him, which we know as 1st & 2nd Timothy

–         Among other things these letters contained some guidance for Timothy


Please turn with me to 1st Timothy chapter 4, verse 6 – page 262 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         This is one of those passages where Paul gives Timothy guidance 

–         By this stage Timothy has worked with Paul for something like 13 to 15 years (thereabouts)

–         Which means Timothy would have been in his late 20’s or early 30’s

–         One of the things we notice about Paul’s guidance is that isn’t coercive

–         Paul doesn’t force his way with Timothy

–         Rather he offers Timothy the benefit of his experience & example, then allows Timothy room to choose for himself

–         From 1st Timothy chapter 4, verse 6 we read…


If you give these instructions to the believers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, as you feed yourself spiritually on the words of faith and of the true teaching which you have followed. But keep away from those godless legends, which are not worth telling. Keep yourself in training for a godly life. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way, because it promises life both for the present and for the future. This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed. 10 We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all and especially of those who believe.


11 Give them these instructions and these teachings. 12 Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity. 13 Until I come, give your time and effort to the public reading of the Scriptures and to preaching and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift that is in you, which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all. 16 Watch yourself and watch your teaching. Keep on doing these things, because if you do, you will save both yourself and those who hear you.


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us


Quite often when professional sports people are interviewed on TV prior to a big match they get asked a question which is a bit provocative or controversial and you hear them respond by saying something like…

–         “We’re not thinking about that. That’s outside of our control. We’re focusing on what we can control.”

–         The idea is, there’s no point in worrying about what other people are thinking or saying because you can’t do anything about that

–         The best you can do is control yourself and so that’s what you give your time and thought to

–         Making your tackles, reducing handling errors and giving clean passes

–         They’re the sorts of things you focus on because they are the things you can control – they’re also the sorts of things that silence your critics


As I said before Timothy was sent to the Ephesian church to sort out some problems there

–         False teachers had been spreading various heresies among the Ephesian believers and it was Timothy’s job to remind people of the truth

–         Paul wanted Timothy to stand for the truth

–         This meant Timothy was facing opposition from the false teachers

–         So people were thinking and saying all sorts of things that weren’t true both about God and Timothy

–         Paul’s advice (his guidance) for Timothy was don’t worry about what other people are thinking and saying – you can’t control that

–         Focus instead on what you can control


Don’t get caught up in pointless arguments over words and myths – instead read the Scriptures publicly and preach from them

–         Because by preaching from the Scriptures you make truth clear, giving people a pathway out of the confusion created by the false teachers


Don’t let people look down on you because you are younger than them but instead be an example to them

–         In other words, don’t worry about what other people think of you

–         Let your actions speak for you

–         Or as Ghandi famously said, “Be the change you want to see”

–         Because it’s your example which will silence your critics


As William Mounce observes…

–         “Many of the characteristics that Paul encourages Timothy to follow stand in contrast to the opponents’ characteristics

–         Timothy is to be an example in speech (the opponents are babblers)

–         Timothy is to be an example in conduct (the opponents have brought the church into disrepute)

–         Timothy is to be an example in love (which the opponents have abandoned)

–         Timothy is to be an example in faith (which the opponents have ship wrecked)

–         And Timothy is to be an example in purity (which the opponents have stained)” [4]


In short Paul tells Timothy to persevere in the truth because the truth will always prevail in the end, while that which is false cannot last

–         And the way to persevere in the truth is to watch yourself & watch your teaching

–         In other words, take care of your own relationship with Jesus first and practice what you preach

–         Don’t worry about what your opponents are saying or doing – it’s not your job to control them

–         Just focus on what you’re doing – keep your eye on the ball


It’s like when you’re driving a car – you need to be aware of other traffic but not distracted by it

–         Keep your eyes on the road – look where you’re going, otherwise you’ll go where you’re looking

–         If someone else is driving dangerously, give them a wide birth – you concentrate on driving safely

–         It’s the same principle for Timothy at Ephesus


So that’s a sample of Paul’s guidance for Timothy

–         In many ways its great advice for us too


Maybe you’re at work surrounded by people behaving badly

–         You can’t control them but you can control yourself

–         Be different from them (that’s what it means to be salt & light)


Or perhaps you have a husband or a wife or children or parents or friends who don’t share your belief in Jesus

–         That can be quite lonely at times

–         You might get on well enough but there is still a level of intimacy that you can’t share with them

–         Timothy understood what it was like to have a father who didn’t believe

–         We can’t control what other people think or believe

–         What we can do is pray for them, talk about Jesus and be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith & purity



As I said last week, one of our values here at Tawa Baptist is passing on our faith to the next generation

–         We want to see others continue to walk in trust with Jesus

–         One of the ways people learn faith is by having someone show faith in them – it’s in being trusted that we learn to trust

–         It’s when we realise that God believes in us that we are able to believe in Christ


The other thing we do in passing on our faith is we provide guidance

–         Guidance is not coercion, it’s not force

–         Guidance is offering the benefit of our experience and example in a way that leaves the other person free to choose

–         Jesus is the source of our guidance – he’s our prime example

–         But he’s not just a historical example – Jesus continues to guide people today by giving his Spirit to those who believe


Let me leave you with two questions…


Do you know that God believes in you?

–         He believes in you so much that he sent his only Son, in trust, that you would accept him


If you do know that, and you have accepted Jesus, then what guidance are you giving others by your own example?


Reflection questions:


1.)    What stands out for you in reading these Scriptures and/or in listening to the sermon?


2.)    Can you think of a time when someone believed in you?

–         How did their belief affect you? What difference did it make to you?


3.)    Is there someone younger (in the faith) than you that you believe in?

–         How can you demonstrate through your actions that you believe in them?


4.)    How did Paul demonstrate his belief in Timothy?

–         How did Timothy respond to Paul’s belief in him?


5.)    Putting aside the stereotype we often get of Timothy (as shy, timid, sickly, etc.) what picture does the New Testament actually give us of Timothy?


6.)    What do we notice about the nature of Paul’s guidance?


7.)    What advice (guidance) did Paul give Timothy in his letter? (from 1st Timothy 4:6-16)

–         How might we apply Paul’s advice to our own lives and situations?


8.)    What guidance have you found most helpful in your walk of faith?

–         What guidance are you giving others by your own example?


9.)    Do you know that God believes in you?

[1] 1st Timothy 4:14 and 2nd Timothy 1:6

[2] 1st Thessalonians 3:1-3

[3] 1st Corinthians 4:17

[4][4] William Mounce, Word Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, page 245.