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1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

 

Verses 1-3 tell about Paul recruiting Timothy for his team.

16:1

Then he came to Derbe and Lystra.

At the beginning of his second missionary journey, Paul came from Syria, then from Cilicia, to Derbe and Lystra to check on the well-being of converts from his first trip there (five years earlier). These cities were in the province of Galatia.

And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

Timothy was from the city of Lystra. His mother was a Jewess but had become a believer earlier, and his father was a Gentile. Timothy was already a disciple of the Lord. He may have been a convert from Paul’s first visit to his hometown. He may have been at the scene where Paul apparently lay dead on the first journey. Timothy’s Jewish/Gentile background gave him an opening to both groups.

16:2

He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

Timothy was a young man with a good reputation among the churches in Lystra and Iconium. His mother was Eunice, and his grandmother was called Lois (2 Ti 1:5; 3:15). His excellent reputation was essential for Christian leadership.

16:3

Paul wanted to have him go on with him.

Paul wanted Timothy to go with him and Silas on the second missionary journey. Timothy was a special team member to Paul; he may have led him to Christ on the first journey (1 Co 4:17).

And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

Timothy had not been circumcised because his father was a Gentile, and that fact was well known by the non-believing Jews. An uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother was considered an apostate under Judaism. Paul circumcised him because it was necessary for his mission to the Jews. Timothy had the advantage of coming from both a Jewish and Gentile background. Timothy did not need to be circumcised because of the Jerusalem Council’s decree (Acts 15:22-29), but Paul circumcised him to better reach the Jews.

Paul later agreed that circumcision was not required of believers for their salvation (Ga 2:3-5). The situation in Acts was different because the issue in Galatians was doctrinal, but the case in Acts was a matter of unnecessarily offending the Jews (1 Co 9:19-23). To have a member of the gospel team who was Jewish but not circumcised would have been highly offensive to non-Christian Jews.

Paul did not circumcise Timothy as a requirement for salvation but so that he would not hinder Jews coming to Christ. Timothy was half Jew and half Gentile. His Jewish background required this step to reach the Jews.

PRINCIPLE:

Those in ministry need authentication from strong Christians.

APPLICATION:

Once the Jerusalem Council established the principle of salvation by grace and that circumcision was not necessary for salvation, Paul circumcised Timothy to give him an opening to Jewish unbelievers.

A primary principle in foreign missions is acculturation; missionaries must fit into the culture of the people they attempt to reach. This is the principle of expediency, which attempts to remove any stumbling block to those without Christ.

Timothy became close to Paul throughout their ministry (2 Co 1:1; Php 1:1; Col 1:1; 1 Th 1:1; 2 Th 1:1; Phlm 1). Paul called him a “dear son” (1 Co 4:17; 1 Ti 1:2).

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