Tom Bentley, Ballymena, N. Ireland
The first notice of this companion of Paul in the Scriptures is in Acts 16. 1. No wonder Paul, who no longer had Barnabas and Mark with him, but only Silas, felt that God had raised up Timothy as a fresh and promising companion, and 'him would Paul have to go forth with him'. Timothy, a disciple and 'well reported of by the brethren' not only at Lystra, but at the more important city of Iconium, was the one whom God had been preparing for this moment of crisis, and, indeed, for the life of service which lay before him in the purpose of God. These studies of key men have shewn us that God is never taken in an emergency, and that He always has a vessel ready for His use to meet the crisis. May we have such an experience of God that we may be available to Him when occasion demands.
It is significant that the term 'man of God' used by the apostle in addressing Timothy occurs only twice in the New Testament and in both cases it is applied to Timothy (see I Tim. 6. 11 and 2 Tim. 3. 17). The two passages where the term occurs indicate clearly the true character of the man of God. He is one who is free from the love of money and the snares and temptations thereof, one who pursues holiness, fights the good fight of faith, and one whose life and service is regulated and controlled by the Word of God. Such men arc needed everywhere today. Shall we not apply these tests to ourselves, and learn whether we arc in reality and truth men of God?
The believer is safe only as he cleaves to the Lord and to His Word. The present world conditions may well disturb and daunt the careless and worldly-minded, but they will serve to arouse and stimulate the true servant of God to greater zeal and faithfulness in the service of the Lord, and inspire him to a deeper devotedness. Let us make sure that we at least have the inner reality. Let us see that the Word of God effectually works in our hearts, 1 Thess. 2. 13, and that it is leaving its impress upon our character, Rom. 6. 17.
From the very beginning of Timothy's association with Paul until those closing scenes recorded in 2 Timothy 4, it is evident that their intimacy and fellowship in the things of God were holy and undisturbed. Of all of Paul's companions and fellow-helpers, he seems to have been not only the best beloved, but the most trusted by him. This desirable state in brotherly relationships is readily discerned in the affectionate references Paul makes to Timothy in his letters. He writes to the Philippians: 'But ye know the proof of him, that, as a child serveth a father, so he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel', Phil 2. 22 R.v. Moreover, he had written in the same spirit respecting him long before to the Corinthians: 'my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, who shall put you in remembrance of my ways which be in Christ', 1 Cor. 4. 17 R.v., and again in the same Epistle, he adds: 'he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do', 16. 10. Well may the apostle bid him to use all diligence that he may come to him, for he had scarcely a friend left to comfort him as the time of his 'departure' drew near, 2 Tim. 4. 9-10. The glory of God and the ultimate good of the testimony is best served when such cordial relationships prevail amongst the servants of God. There is no record of Timothy's spoken ministry. His imprint in Scripture remains because of what he was and what he did. He is either spoken of or spoken to - the one always to his commendation by those who knew him best; the other revealing his submissiveness with respect to divine and spiritual authority. He had both ability in and capacity for the work to which he had been appointed. The gift, given through prophecy, 1 Tim. 4. 14, 2 Tim. 1. 6 - the voice of God announcing it, and the hand of the presbytery acknowledging it - was operative, even though there appeared to be a certain timidity which called for the exhortation of Paul in 2 Timothy 1. 6.
The young believer in Christ is now, as then, in need of ministry which will establish him and comfort him concerning his faith. It was for this reason that Paul, greatly burdened with anxious care for the persecuted Thessalonian believers, sent Timothy, who as 'God's minister in the gospel of Christ', 1 Thess. 3. 2 K.v., would strengthen them and ascertain the condition of their faith and thus assure him that his work was not in vain. Assemblies today have those believers who, as babes in Christ, need such as will be gentle in their midst. As a nursing-mother would cherish her own children, so would such pour out their own souls to those who, having become dear to them, arc exhorted and encouraged to 'walk worthy of God'.
The ministry of a key man is varied and responsible, requiring him to face each spiritual emergency with Spirit-given resource and power. As Paul would remind Timothy, 'For God gave us not a spirit of tearfulness; but of power and love and discipline', 2 Tim. 1. 7 R.v. What spiritual fortitude would be required when Timothy would come to Corinth! How delightful to be found in Thessalonica, whose industriousness in the gospel had brought them right to the frontiers of the province to which Timothy would now come. Things were sadly different in Corinth. We arc unhappily familiar with the conditions and mournfully regret their repetition in assemblies today. Paul sees in Timothy a man who, imitating his own ways which be in Christ, is spiritually capable of bring-ing to the remembrance of the erring Corinthians those things they had conveniently forgotten and had sadly neglected. How can we help the people of God today unless we too possess this knowledge of Paul's ways in Christ? What spiritual qualities are needed! What faithfulness and courage demanded!
It is comparatively simple to help the young and somewhat more testing to adjust the erring, but what about adding to the inheritance of the spiritual? We can the more readily meet spiritual needs than add to spiritual joys. The Lord will give grace and glory. He has riches of grace to meet our needs and fulness of glory to add to our spiritual joys. The saints in Philippi are obviously mature. The ministry of Christ is such that their spiritual capacity is enlarged, their experiences enriched, a truly godly company. Paul would, however, have no doubt but that Timothy could minister to their spiritual advancement and enrichment. 'I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state', says Paul knowing that as he sends Timothy they have in their midst one who knew in practical experience the mind of Christ. To be able to give ministry that enriches; to impart spiritual gifts to the people of God for their establishment; to be helpers of their joy; to preach Christ and to teach the truth so as to present believers fully grown in Christ; this should surely be the Spirit-begotten desire of every labourer in the Word.
The man of God is now in Ephesus, abiding there as exhorted by Paul. No other centre had been privileged with such a long period of the apostle's labour, and as a result the work knew much benefit. Spirit-raised overseers were among the flock, shepherding them on the behalf of Him who had purchased them with His blood. While there, Timothy receives a letter from Paul which reminds him of that charge committed to him by the Spirit. If he would be a good minister of Christ Jesus he would then put the brethren in mind of those things which would order their behaviour in the house of God. Timothy receives the 'form of the house', Ezek. 43. 11. Precious deposit! He was to guard it, and hold it inviolate for faithful men who would teach others also. 'The preservation of the truth' said one, 'is best served by propagation'. We cannot help but be impressed with the spiritual reach of this youthful servant, truly a key man available to God and fulfilling the exhortations he received in being a vessel 'meet for the master's use'. The man of God today is thereby urged to abide in the truth imparted to him and to hold fast his convictions, ascertaining that the teaching he receives is based on the Word of God, the God-breathed Scriptures of truth.
We might feel ourselves far removed from all that existed in the day when God raised up a Samuel, a David, an Elijah or even a Paul. This feeling of remoteness may have prevailed as we read the studies of these key men in sacred history. But such an emotion cannot prevail as we listen to Paul in his second Epistle to Timothy making three references to things that should be known.
I. THE PERILS OF THE LAST DAYS, 3. 1 R.V.
'But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come.' There were valued leaders in an ancient time, who 'had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; . . . and all their brethren were at their commandment', 1 Chron. 12. 32 R.v. These leaders clearly perceived the nature of the times, and knew the moment had come to join themselves to David. The gift of foresight was in evidence with these leaders of the tribe of Issachar.
One disappointing feature about much of the present day teaching and preaching is the lack of definiteness, yet there never was a time when it was so necessary to be clear and definite. There is a great need of leaders for the people of God possessing spiritual insight in regard to the times, and able to warn and guide the flock of God.
Today there is far too much vagueness where there ought to be certainty, and on vital questions where the Word of God is explicit there is shuffling and evasion. Surely this is unworthy of a true minister of Christ Jesus. Is it the fear of committing themselves that makes so many teachers and preachers of the Word of God so non-committal and indefinite in regard to those truths that need to be stressed? Is it the fear of becoming unpopular?
The problems confronting young believers today are such that leaders of this non-committal school will be of little real use or help in the solution of those problems, which do not lend to get easier as man's day draws to its close.
2. THE FEATURES OF A FAITHFUL TEACHER, 3. 10
'But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, . . .'
Let us get to know Paul in his teaching and manner of life, and not as some did in Asia 'turn away' from him.
3. THE SACRED WRITINGS, 3. 14, 15 R.V.
'But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.'
Prayerful study of the Word of God, 2 Tim. 2. 15, and meditation therein, 1 Tim. 4. 15, will bring this threefold knowledge, when combined with the heart's willingness to do His will.
Well may an aging Paul, sensing the approaching end, entreat the man of God to 'do thy diligence to come shortly unto me'. Who would not want to end their days in the company of such a man - a key man?