Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
Paul & Timothy
What constitutes a hero? In generations past that did not seem like a difficult or controversial question. But now, Fame, fortune and power seem to be the dominant requirements needed to achieve role model status. But should a sports figure ever be considered a role model simply because they play a game well? Should society look up to an entertainer simply because they act, sing, or perform music well? Should we consider someone to be of superior nature because they managed to be elected to office or have a lot of money? The answer to all these questions should be no, but much of our society considers such folks to be good role models and even heroes regardless of their actual character which might also include being any of the following: drunkard, drug addict, womanizer, sexual pervert, liar, deceitful, slanderer, extortionist, greedy, thievery, sadistic, evil and even murder. Regardless of popular culture, such people are not true heroes. They are not appropriate role models.
True heroes are those who demonstrate character qualities and integrity beyond what is normal in accomplishing something that is for the benefit of others. We think of soldiers that are extraordinarily courageous in war, or statesmen that stand for what is right regardless of its popularity or personal cost, medical personnel that risk their own lives in caring for the sick, explorers that go into the unknown to open doors for other men to follow, and some examples we will talk about today, missionaries that go to foreign and dangerous lands to bring the gospel message to people with strange languages and customs. These are the people that should be held up by society as role models, but even if the rest of society does not, we as Christians should up hold as our heroes those who demonstrate both faith in God and Christ likeness in character.
This morning we begin our exposition of the book of Philippians by looking at its opening salutation that explains who the letter is from and who it is written to along with a greeting. Phil. 1:1,2 states, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” A simple salutation, yet full of rich meaning. We will spend the next two weeks going through it.
This morning we will concentrate on just the author, Paul, and his co-worker, Timothy, by giving a brief examination of each of their lives. It is important that we understand the life of each of these men, especially that of Paul, in order to understand the book of Philippians. We will gain an understanding of why Paul and Timothy can rightly be considered heroes. We will gain a glimpse into the way that God works in the lives of individuals. God calls individuals to Himself and He does so in different ways. Paul and Timothy are radically different in how God called each to Himself and His service. God also uses individuals according to their gifts and abilities. Paul and Timothy differ greatly from each other, yet God uses both to glorify Himself. We will find great encouragement in their examples that God can and will use us if we will follow the willingness and obedience to follow the Lord that we will see in the lives of these two men. We can also be heroes of the faith even if it is only to the few that personally know us.
Paul was not always called Paul and neither was he always an apostle. We first meet this Benjamite in Acts 7:58 when he is young man called by his Jewish name, Saul. We find in that passage that a man named Stephen, who was a Christian “full of grace and a power” (Acts. 6:8) was in trouble with the religious leaders because he had been performing great wonders and signs among the people while proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the same hatred that had controlled them a few months earlier when they murdered Jesus, they now were seeking to kill Jesus’ followers. We find that Saul is present guarding the coats of those who were busy stoning Stephen to death. Acts 8:1 states that “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him (Stephen) to death.”
In Acts 8:3 Saul of Tarsus picks up where the mob left off, for he was very zealous for the Mosaic law. He had studied under the premier Rabbi of the day, Gamaliel. Saul was by his own admission a “Pharisee of the pharisees.” In his fervency for his religion he began to persecute all the Christians he could find. Acts 8:3 states, “Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
In Acts 9 we find Saul on his way to Damascus in Syria. He had obtained special permission from the high priests to continue the persecution against the disciples of Jesus in distant cities. He was to find those who were followers of Jesus and bring them back to Jerusalem where they would be either imprisoned, beaten or killed. As Saul approaches Damascus a special measure of grace is given to him, and he sees the light. Look at Acts 9:3.
“And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, 6 but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.” 7 And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. 8 And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank
When Paul arrived in Damascus a disciple of Jesus named Ananias met Saul and told him what the future would hold. Saul would be a witness for Jesus Christ before the Gentiles and before kings and before the Jews, and he would suffer many things for Jesus’ name sake (9:16). Within a few days Paul began to proclaim Christ in the synagogues of Damascus with the remarkable God given ability not to just say what happened to him, but to confound the Jews there by proving that Jesus is the Christ (9:22).
The Jews there responded by plotting to kill Saul, but the plot became known to the other disciples and they helped him escape by lowering him over the wall in a basket because it was not safe for him to leave through the city gates. Paul explains what occurred next in Galatians.1:11, For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but [I received it] through a revelation of Jesus Christ. From Paul’s comments in verse 17 & 18 it is thought that he learned the gospel from direct revelation he received from Jesus Christ while he was in desert of Arabia, where he may have been for three years.
It was out in the desert that Saul became the apostle Paul, the bond servant of Jesus Christ. An apostle, in its most general sense, is simply someone sent by someone with authority. It’s specific sense is attached to who did the sending. An apostle of Jesus Christ had to meet certain qualifications among which were: 1) Called into that office directly by Jesus (Acts 1:2), 2) Be an eyewitness to the resurrection (Acts 1:22), 3) Be given direct revelation of God’s Word to proclaim authoritatively, 4) be able to perform signs, wonders and miracles – healings, casting out demons, etc. as proof of their authority (2 Cor. 12:12). Paul met all these criteria through the direct revelation of Jesus Christ to him in Arabia.
Paul identifies himself here in Philippians as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus. Paul understood clearly the grace given to him by God. Because of Paul’s former persecution of the church he considered himself to be the “chief of sinners” (1 Cor. 15:9; 1 Tim. 1:15). He understood clearly that his life was no longer his own, but was now bound up in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20), and so he identified himself as a bond-servant (douloV / doulos) in the sense of Exodus 21:5,6, a slave that loved his master and did not want to depart, so he willingly made himself as permanent slave.
Paul returned to Damascus and then went to Jerusalem where he spent 15 days with Peter and met James, the Lord’s brother, but he did not meet any of the other apostles (Gal. 1:18-19). Paul was again so effective in preaching that the Jews in Jerusalem soon plotted to kill him (Acts 9:28), so the disciples sent him away to Tarsus.
Paul was known by his Hebrew name, Saul, until he began his missionary journeys which took him into the gentile regions. After Acts 13 he is only called by his other name, Paul. What had been foretold about him came to pass. Paul was faithful in witnessing to his countrymen, but he became a missionary to the gentile nations.
Each of Paul’s missionary journeys expanded the area in which God used him to spread the gospel. Acts 13 and 14 record his first journey including the commission that he and Barnabas received from the church in Antioch in recognition of the Holy Spirit setting them apart for this ministry. On this first trip they took the gospel to the south-central portion of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) including Cyprus, Pamphil1a, Pisidia, and Lycaonia.
Acts 15-18 records Paul’s second missionary trip through a larger portion of Asia Minor and then over into Macedonia and Greece. On this trip Paul traveled with Silas and others while Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus. Paul and his team went through Syria, Cilicia, Lycaonia (Derbe, Lystra), Phrygia, Galatia, Mysia, through Samothracia to Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea), Greece (Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea), across the Aegean sea to Ephesus and then sailed to Caesarea.
Paul’s third missionary journey is recorded in Acts 18-21. In this journey he again goes through Galatia and Phrygia to Ephesus, and then through Macedonia back into Greece, then returned through Macedonia and Philippi to Troas, Assos, Mitylene, Samos, Miletus, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Caesarea and then Jerusalem.
To some these journeys sound like exciting adventures, and in many ways they were, but they were also filled with many hardships and were at times life-threatening. Paul speaks about some of this in 2 Corinthians 11 in which he defends his apostleship. Starting in verse 23 he says, ” in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine [lashes.] 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 [I have been] on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from [my] countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 [I have been] in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from [such] external things, there is the daily pressure upon me [of] concern for all the churches.”
This last burden may indeed have been the greatest. Paul had planted churches all through the areas that he had traveled. He was genuinely concerned for their welfare and sought to help in several ways. He revisited them as he was able as we can trace in his second and third missionary travels. He wrote letters, some of which became part of the New Testament (Romans to Philemon). He left behind co-workers in some cities. I mentioned last week about the possibility that Luke stayed in Philippi. We know that he sent Timothy and Titus to several places as his envoys. Paul was always in the midst of several types of ministry. Bringing the gospel to the unsaved, strengthening the saved, and training up new leaders. These burdens weighed on him as much as any of the physical and emotional trials.
As I pointed out last week, when Paul got to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey, he went to the temple to fulfill a vow he had made. His enemies caused a riot seeking to kill him. Roman soldiers rescued Paul and held him in prison to find out the accusations. He was moved to Caesarea for his safety after a plot to murder him was discovered. He remained there for more than two years because Paul would not pay a bribe to Felix, the Governor. The next Governor, Festus, also kept Paul in prison as a favor to the Jews, and Paul finally appealed his case to Caesar. He was then eventually sent to Rome by ship where he was in prison for two more years awaiting trial. That is where he writes this letter to the Philippians,
What was Paul’s attitude about all these bad things that had happened to him? There is no bitterness or sorrow. He does not despair about any of it or even suggest in anyway that it was unfair. Instead, as he shows here in Philippians, Paul is joyful in the midst of it all. He sees God’s hand at work even in the hardships. He was in prison, but Christ was becoming well known throughout the praetorian guard and everyone else (Phil. 1:13). Some people were preaching because they desired to cause him distress, but Paul simply rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed (1:17,18). Paul had learned how to be content in humble means or prosperity, of being filled or going hungry, of having abundance or suffering need (4:12). In all circumstances, Paul had learned to trust God to glorify Himself though it, and that was the purpose of Paul’s life. Paul considered himself to have been crucified with Christ, so it was no longer his life, but Christ’s life living through him (1:21; Gal. 2:20).
In 2 Cor. 12 Paul speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” that was “messenger from Satan.” Paul had entreated to the Lord three times to remove it, but though the Lord has used Paul many times to heal others and cast out demons, the answer to Paul was no. The Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” How would you or I have reacted to that? How often do you and I get discouraged from difficult circumstances much less some of such an extreme nature as this. Yet Paul’s response was, ‘most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” ( 2 Cor. 12:9,10).
As I said last week, the book of Philippians is about rejoicing in Jesus in any circumstance. Paul is our example of what this means. We will learn to be like Paul and rejoice even when things are difficult. We will also learn, as he did, to be content in abundance or want and boast in our weaknesses that the power of Christ might be more greatly manifested in our lives. While we cannot become apostles, we can become heroes of the faith like Paul.
Tradition holds that Paul was released from this imprisonment and did do more missionary traveling, even possibly to Spain, but at some point Paul was again in prison in Rome and was martyred as were all the other Apostles except John. Because Paul was a Roman citizen, they would not crucify him, but instead, he was beheaded. For those with worldly thinking this was the final tragedy of a tragic life. But for Paul, all of it was gain. For Paul, as it should be for us, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. We, like he, continue in the flesh in the present because that is more necessary at present for the sake of other believers. We still have ministry to give to them and they to us until such time as God calls us home.
We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1-3. Paul is near the beginning of his second missionary journey visiting with the believers in Derbe and Lystra which are in south-central Turkey. Here he meets Timothy who is the son of a Jewish woman who is a believer and a Greek father. Timothy is referred to as a disciple and is well spoken of by the Christian community in both Lystra & Iconium (vs. 2). Paul wants Timothy to go with him. Timothy is apparently quite young since he is still called young some 15 years later in 1 Tim. 4:12. He may have still been in his teens.
Out of concern that the mixed parentage could be a stumbling block to the Jews, Paul has Timothy circumcised so as not to cause unnecessary offense. This is done voluntarily, not out of compulsion. Acts 15 already determined circumcision was not necessary for gentiles, but Timothy, being a Jew through his mother, would be a stumbling block to some Jews if he was not circumcised. This would be one of Timothy’s first lessons in Paul’s philosophy of “becoming all things to all men that by all means to save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). The godly man willingly limits his own freedoms for the sake of others.
It is important to note at this point that Timothy’s salvation experience was quite different from Paul’s very dramatic conversion. Timothy’s mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois, were both believers, and Timothy came to faith in Christ while he was young through their witness and teaching (2 Tim. 1:5). God draws people to Himself at different points in life and through different means. Some people have very dramatic conversions as adults. Their lives radically change from doing things their own way to suddenly understanding who God is and what Jesus has done and then fervently seeking to do things the Lord’s way. Many of you have testimonies of that nature. You finally heard the gospel and responded to it over a short time with a radical change of turning away from obvious sin to pursuing righteousness.
Others, like myself, have testimonies more like Timothy. We gained knowledge of the Lord over time through the faithful witnesses of those close to us. The change from sinner to saint is just as radical internally, for everyone who would be a Christian must at some point come to grips with the truth that he or she is dead in trespasses and sin and must be made alive through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There must be a turning from our sin and self righteousness to the mercy and grace of the Savior. However, the outward expression this type of conversion is less dramatic. The sins are just as heinous before God, but they are not as outwardly dramatic.
But regardless of whether your salvation was dramatic or quiet or something in between, God calls you to Himself and changes our nature. We become His servants instead of sin’s slaves. His gives our lives an eternal purpose instead of the temporal ones we had been striving after. God calls and works through those like Timothy as well as those like Paul.
Timothy goes with Paul and Silas on the rest of their travels through Asia Minor. Luke may have joined them in Troas and then they went on to Macedonia & Greece. Timothy is not mentioned in Phillipi or in Thessalonica, but he is mentioned as present in Berea. Possibly Timothy escaped imprisonment in Phillipi because of his age. Timothy & Silas are left in Berea for a short time (Acts 17:4) and were to catch up with Paul as soon as they could. We are not told why they stayed in Berea, but now Timothy is entrusted to Silas for a short time.
1 Thess. 3:1-3 indicates that Timothy caught up with Paul in Athens, and then was sent to Thessalonica to “strengthen and encourage them” that “no man may be disturbed by these afflictions.” Note that though Timothy is young, yet he is sent with a big responsibility to strengthen and encourage a new church. Paul had already found that he could trust Timothy with responsibility, and that Timothy could handle himself. This would also be training for more difficult situations later.
Timothy meets up with Paul & Silas again in Corinth (Acts 18:5). After Timothy had given his report to Paul about the situation in Thessalonica, Paul wrote the first letter to them noting Timothy & Silas as his co-workers and co-authors (1 Thess. 1:1). Then later, while still at Corinth, Paul writes a second letter to the Thessalonians and again notes Timothy as co-worker and co-author. I am not sure what the equivalent to that would be except perhaps a University Professor putting down an undergraduate student as the co-author of one of his papers – and they do not even do that for their graduate students who do most of the work.
It would appear that Timothy accompanied Paul on the rest of the second missionary trip and then went with him on the third missionary trip as far as Ephesus where Paul stayed for over two years (Acts 19:10). At some point Paul sent Timothy to Corinth to try and deal with some of the problems there. Timothy was supposed to remind them what Paul had already taught them about the ways of Christ (1 Cor. 4:17). Timothy appears to have been somewhat apprehensive for Paul warns the Corinthians to let Timothy do his work there without fear (1 Cor. 16:10). Timothy returns to Ephesus and then some time after the second year there Paul sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia.
Paul joins Timothy in Macedonia (Acts 20:1) and includes him as a co-author of Second Corinthians (2 Cor. 1:1). Paul reminds the Corinthians that Timothy had preached Christ to them (2 Cor. 1:19). Paul then writes his letter to the Romans and includes Timothy in his list of fellow workers (Rom. 16:21) that sent greetings to the Romans. Timothy is among the group that goes back through Asia Minor with Paul on his way to Jerusalem (Acts. 20:4).
It is uncertain if Timothy went all the way to Jerusalem or if he later went with Paul to Rome. We do know that he eventually is in Rome with Paul, for Paul includes him as a co-worker and co-author in the letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Philemon which were written during Paul’s Roman imprisonment. Paul states in Philippians 2:19,20 that he wanted to send Timothy back to them so that he could learn how things were going with them. Paul trusted Timothy because he was a “kindred spirit” and genuinely concerned for their welfare.
Later on (during Paul’s second Roman imprisonment) Paul writes two letters to Timothy who is now at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). It is in these letters that we see the deep relationship Paul and Timothy had with each other. Note what Paul calls him in each of these verses.
1Tim 1:2 (NASB) to Timothy, [my] true child in [the] faith. 1Tim 1:18 This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight. 2 Tim 1:2 to Timothy, my beloved son.
Paul’s desire is that Timothy succeed in the tasks assigned to him. Paul recognizes Timothy’s strengths and weakness. Paul encourages him to fulfill the assignment (1:3f) and “fight the good fight” (1:18) and not lose faith or a good conscience (1:19). Paul gives Timothy specific instructions on how to accomplish his responsibilities in a variety of areas (prayer – 2:1f, women – 2:9f, leadership – 3, apostasy – 4:1f, being disciplined – 4:6f, widows – 5:1f, elders/ministers- 5:17f), as well as expressing his own heart in longing to come to Timothy (3:14). Paul desires to encourage and gives a vote of confidence in him though some considered him young (4:12). He encouraged Timothy to keep his life in order (4:12) and his spiritual gift stirred up (4:14). Paul also gave him practical advice concerning his physical condition (5:23) as well as how to keep spiritually fit by fleeing worldly pursuits (6:11 – notice Paul calls him a “man of God”) by guarding himself (6:20). The same sort of thing is seen throughout 2 Timothy. Paul loves his disciple and seeks to both encourage and warn, for he knows the weaknesses of his disciple.
The last mention of Timothy is in Hebrews 13:23 which mentions that he had been set free after being in prison and the author was hoping that he would come to him and then they together would go visit the Hebrews.
Timothy was discipled not just by Paul, but prior to that his mother and grandmother. Then by Paul and Paul’s many companions, but primarily by the Lord through these various people and through the various circumstances he met during his life. Timothy’s spirituality is seen in the many responsibilities placed upon him and his continued usefulness to the work of God despite his weaknesses. True spirituality will learn from others and keep going despite fear and weakness. As Proverbs says – the wise accept rebuke and seek counsel. They are not so proud to think they understand everything.
God can use anyone that will follow Him, and those that do will find eternal purpose for their life and a deep joy and peace that will be present in any circumstance. Are you willing to follow Him like either Paul or Timothy? It is the willingness to follow the Lord that is at issue here. That is what it takes to be a hero of the faith. While it may be unlikely that God will send you in the same way He sent Paul or Timothy, are you willing to be and do what the Lord wants and go where He wants? Are you willing to make the needed personal sacrifices to also be a hero of the faith?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times “Paul” or “Timothy” is mentioned. Talk with the example of these two men and what you learned from them.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Who are some of your heroes? Why do you consider them such? Who are some of society’s heroes? Why are they considered role models? Should they be? Why or why not? Describe Saul of Tarsus. How did he become the Apostle Paul? How did Christians initially react to him? How did he get trained in the gospel? Where were is initial ministries? How did he end up going on so many missions trips? What were the results of them? What were some of his hardships during them? What was Paul’s attitude about those hardships? What is your attitude about the hardships you face? Why is that your attitude? Describe Timothy? How was his conversion different from Paul’s? What was your conversion like? How else was Timothy different from Paul? What did God accomplish through Timothy’s life? How are you similar to or different from either Paul or Timothy? What do you think God wants to do through your life?
Paul& Timothy – Philippians 1:1
Saul – Acts 7:58; 8:3f
Conversion – Acts 9
Training – Galatians 1:11f
Hardships – 2 Corinthians 11:23f
Conversion – (2 Tim. 1:5)
Relationship with Paul (1 & 2 Timothy)
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