|(a) Acts 16:1-3|
(b) 1 Timothy 4:12
(c) 2 Timothy 1:1-8
(d) 2 Timothy 3:10-17
Our first meeting of Timothy and his mother come during Paul's second missionary journey. This is the same trip that started with Paul and Barnabas parting company, Barnabas taking young John Mark as his assistant to Cyprus, and Paul taking one of the prophets of Antioch, Silas, as his assistant. Paul heads north, overland, through southeast Turkey, visiting the churches that he and Barnabas together started.
Here the story picks up in Acts 16:
Luke says that Paul wanted Timothy continue on the trip with him. Paul was quite impressed with Timothy, and apparently saw in him the same potential in him that Barnabas had seen in John Mark. So as Barnabas elected to be Mark's mentor, Paul took Timothy as his apprentice. As we shall see in our future study of Timothy, Paul used Timothy quite extensively, sending him to places where Paul himself wanted to go, enabling Paul to do what most pastors wish we could do - namely being in two places at once. Paul could trust Timothy with these responsibilities only if he saw in him a firm grasp of the Scriptures - not merely having a broad knowledge of the Old Testament, but having a depth of wisdom in the Scripture's application to life and doctrine. It is evident that Timothy had this maturity before Paul had met him. Where did he get it? Paul himself tells us in his Second letter to Timothy,
2 Timothy 1:
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day,
4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy,
5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.
Ah, so here is her name: Eunice. Frankly I find it bit odd, from my own cultural perspective that Paul would reference Timothy's mother and grandmother by name in this way. But I am most certainly glad he did, otherwise, we wouldn't know their names.
What do we know about these two ladies, Lois and Eunice, other than they were Timothy's grandmother and mother? Already we know quite a bit.
First we know that Eunice was raised in a Jewish home. It appears both of Eunice's parents were Jewish, for she is herself identified by the local community as being Jewish. However, the name she bears is not a Jewish name. Eunice is a Greek name. As we have already seen, this adoption of Gentile names by Jews living among Gentiles was not uncommon. However, as is also common, the children of religious parents living in an irreligious culture tend to drift from the faith and values of the parents toward lower standards of the culture. Your Old Testament Sunday School stories are full of examples - the children of Job, the daughters of Lot, the sons of King David, just to name a few.
It appears that Eunice, likewise, in her teen or early adult years wandered from the faith of her parents, and committed herself to a marriage relationship that is in clear violation of Biblical principles. Her violation was not so much her marriage to someone outside of Judaism. Even in the Old Testament that was allowed, so long as the one she would married embraced the faith of Israel. Two gentile women are in the Lord Jesus' family tree, Rahab and Ruth, and they were notable women of faith and commitment to the God of Israel. However, such was not the case of Eunice's husband. We don't know his name, and it may be just as well that we don't.
We frankly cannot know what were Eunice's reasons and rationalizations for marrying an unbeliever. It may not be as I have suggested that she was at that time in a period of open rebellion against the faith and morals of her parents. She may, as many women foolishly have done, met a very nice man, whom she thought she might convert by marrying him. And it was obvious that by the time their son Timothy was an adult, her husband still had not converted.
If my first scenario is a correct one, namely that Eunice married
unbeliever at a time when she
was careless in her own moral standards, she would have had an
as many do in that
state, when she became the parent of a young child. Her
religion and morality no longer was a
private matter, now that she, with her husband, had charge of the raising and training of this little boy named Timothy. And it is quite evident that she and her husband did not see eye to eye on this critical point.
So what did she do? She couldn't get on the phone and call Doctor Laura and receive a well deserved scolding. She did, however, draw on the Biblical training that had been instilled in her during her own youth, and she made some very wise decisions.
First, she committed herself to teach Timothy by word and example the truth and wisdom of Scripture, even if she would not be allowed to do it in a culturally Jewish way.
Second, she committed herself to remain loyal to her husband, even though he seemed to express no interest in converting, nor did he want his son to be circumcised as a Jew. Eunice could have been secretive and defiant, taking baby Timothy to the Rabbi for the rite of circumcision anyway. She could have easily given her husband a dozen reasons to divorce her. She remained committed to her vows, and made family decisions in consideration of the wishes of her unbelieving husband.
Third, when her own husband would not support her in teaching Biblical truth and wisdom their son, she enlisted her own mother as her support system. In today's culture, this is quite extraordinary. Mothers and their young adult daughters are all too often at war with each other, the daughters in conflict over what they perceive as their mothers' attempts to control them, and the mothers' panicked over what they perceive as unwise or self-destructive decisions their daughters are making. Eunice and Lois certainly had all the ingredients for such a battle. And we don't know that they didn't. But when Eunice needed help for a task bigger than she could handle herself, she knew where to get it. And with Paul, we can offer high commendations for both Eunice and Lois for the way they worked together for Timothy's good.
How Lois assisted Eunice in instilling Biblical truth and wisdom in Timothy, we do not know. I may be in a better position to preach this part of the sermon after I gain some experience in the role of a grandparent, should the Lord and my own daughters grant me that at some future date. Some of you may have good stories to tell in the positive influence that your grandparents had in your lives.
Many have told me, "If I knew being a grandparent was going to be so much fun, I would have skipped having children, and just had grandchildren."
Thankfully, Timothy's grandma was nearby and knew how to graciously help her daughter in her difficult task, without intruding, without being controlling.
What did Lois and Eunice do with Timothy, and how did they do it? We don't know the details, but Paul gives us a hint as to the kind of training Timothy received that made him the man he was, the kind of training that won Paul's respect for this remarkable family.
2 Timothy 3:
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
A fourth thing that Eunice did in the matter of raising Timothy toward godly virtue was to enlist the help of Godly men in the congregation and in the community to reinforce the training he had received at home. The passage we read in Acts 16 speak of "the brethren" in the churches in Lystra and Iconium, who I believe helped to mentor Timothy. It was then the Apostle Paul himself who then became Timothy's teacher and mentor. And as we saw from they way Paul had dealt with John Mark, Paul would not have taken Timothy on as his apprentice had the young man not already had demonstrate the fruit of other people's training.
We do this kind of shared mentoring in the church today. I deeply appreciate the Christian men and women who have spent time with my son and my daughters to give them opportunity to exercise their God-given gifts, to give them opportunity to exercise in works the faith that Georganne and I have sought to instill in them. This spirit of shared mentorship is the prime reason Christians work together to establish Christian schools, that will reinforce Christ centered living and thinking in our children.
Back to Eunice, Lois, and Timothy for a final insight....
We do not know for certain when and how those three became Christians. The faith of their upbringing was the faith of Old Testament Judaism. The only Christ that they could know was the Christ of prophecy of the Old Testament. Their faith was in the God of Israel, who had made a covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, promising that one day that He would send a Savior-King, the Messiah, who would one day come as the full and final sacrifice for their sins - and for our sins - and that this Messiah would then reign as Lord not merely over the tribes of Israel, but as King of the universe, reigning in righteousness.
When and how Eunice, Lois, and Timothy learned that Jesus of Nazareth was the fulfillment of those prophecies, and the fulfillment of their hopes and expectation of the coming Savior, we don't know. However, we do have a hint. In Paul's second letter to Timothy we learn that Timothy - and I suppose, Eunice and Lois - first met Paul, not on his second missionary journey where Paul picked Timothy up as his apprentice. Rather, they were there when Paul and Barnabas came to town on their first missionary journey four years earlier.
2 TIMOTHY 3:
10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch (#2), at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
The events that Paul refers to here are described in detail in Acts 13 and 14. On his first mission trip into that region, Paul was literally chased out of Antioch and Iconium, but in Lystra, which I assume is Timothy's home town, hostile unbelievers stoned Paul, dragged his unconscious body out of town, and dumped him there, assuming that he was dead. You can read for yourself what happened next. (See Acts chapter 14.)
So Lois, Eunice, and Timothy were there to hear Paul's gospel message the first time he came to their town. And because they had be so deeply grounded in the Word of God, they could weigh what Paul had said about Jesus against the Old Testament prophecies and they found in Jesus the fulfillment of Israel's hope for the Savior. But beyond that, Eunice and Lois and Timothy, were also so firmly grounded in the Word of God that when they finally did trust Jesus as their Messiah and received the life changing power of the Holy Spirit, they each had a wisdom and maturity which enabled them to teach and counsel others.
The name Eunice is a Greek name, which means literally, "good-victor," eu-nika.
In her youth Eunice made some unwise choices that had life-long implications. Yet it was the God of her youth to whom she returned, and with the help of Godly men and women whom God brought into her life, she saw the answer to her prayers for her son fulfilled in a remarkable way.
In Paul's first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)
May God grant this also for us and our youth.