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Insights on 1 and 2 Timothy, TitusSwindoll's New Testament Insights
By Charles R. Swindoll
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2010 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.
Chapter One1 TIMOTHY
It had been a long five years. Half a decade on the sidelines, forbidden to travel, unable to conduct ministry among the churches. Five years of lawyers, courts, politics ... and the hardest of all, waiting. For a man of action like Paul, the waiting must have felt unbearable, but the Lord knew His tireless apostle needed rest after three missionary journeys. Robbers, exposure, stoning, flogging, prison, riots, murderous plots, renegade disciples, and fickle fellowships (2 Cor. 11:26-28) had taken their toll. After more than ten years and twenty thousand miles logged-some by sea, mostly on foot-any traveler would be weary and need time to recharge. For two years, Paul waited in Caesarea as Governor Felix teased Jewish officials with the prospect of execution (Acts 24:27). Further trials under Governor Festus forced an appeal to Caesar in Rome (25:1-12), leading to a treacherous journey and two more years of house arrest in the seat of Roman power (Acts 27-28).
As God would have it, and given Paul's relentless drive, the time didn't go to waste. Paul's captivity in the governor's palace in Caesarea gave him plenty of time to receive visitors and to reflect on his experiences, which he described freely with Israel's rulers (Acts 24-26). Then a relatively comfortable sojourn in Rome allowed him unprecedented access to the political elite in Nero's court (Phil. 1:13). And, of course, he wrote. He celebrated the supremacy of Christ to the Colossians. He praised the Philippians for their constant prayers and generosity. He reasoned with Philemon to receive his runaway slave, Onesimus, as a new brother in Christ. And he urged the Ephesians to affirm their unity in the love of Christ as well as to stand firm against the Adversary's attacks.
After five years on the sidelines, however, Paul was released from his house arrest, his freedom and energy returned, and he was ready to resume his plans. Before the Jewish officials in Jerusalem had forced him into protective custody, Paul planned to visit Rome and then spearhead an evangelistic tour of the Western Empire, as far as Spain (Acts 19:21; Rom. 15:28). During his absence, however, false teachers had filled the vacuum he left in Macedonia and Asia, polluting the gospel with gnostic-like philosophies (Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 6:3; Rev. 2:6, 15). Moreover, his brief visit to Crete on the way to Rome revealed a great need for structure (Titus 1:5), as leaderless congregations had fallen prey to the Judaizers' legalism and Greek dissipation (Titus 1:10-14). Before launching anything westward, Paul would have to stabilize these troubled churches.
The time between Paul's first and second imprisonments in Rome remains a mystery. We can arrange only tidbits from his letters to Timothy and Titus to form a hypothetical timeline. He most likely departed Rome for a kind of farewell tour (refer to the map, "Paul's Farewell Tour"), during which he deployed his assistants for long-term assignments. After several weeks on Crete, he left Titus there (Titus 1:5), taking the rest of his entourage with him to Miletus, where he left a sick Trophimus in the care of friends (2 Tim. 4:20).
Before departing, Paul probably sent for Timothy, whom he had sent from Rome to serve in Ephesus. He most likely avoided visiting the city to reduce the possibility of becoming entangled in local affairs (cf. Acts 20:16). Regardless, he "urged" Timothy to remain on in Ephesus, originally intending him to serve there for the rest of his life. Paul sailed from Miletus to Troas, where he probably spent the winter of AD 64, taking time to write Titus. As soon as weather permitted, he departed for Macedonia (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea), leaving his cloak and books behind (2 Tim. 4:13), perhaps with instructions for Carpus to send his belongings to Rome via ship after the apostle himself arrived there.
After a brief visit with the churches that he had established during his third missionary journey, Paul intended to turn south for Corinth and then over to Nicopolis, where he planned to spend the winter with Titus (Titus 3:12) before setting sail for Rome again. But something interrupted his plans. Troubling news arrived from Ephesus. During his brief visit with Timothy in Miletus, he implored the younger minister to remain at his post, but the difficulties Timothy faced required a letter of support and then a personal visit by the apostle (1 Tim. 3:14-15; 4:13). He probably cut short his visit to Macedonia and then retraced his steps through Troas and over to Ephesus.
After stabilizing the church in Ephesus, Paul left Timothy in charge and then resumed his original plan to winter in Nicopolis with Titus. The following spring (AD 65), he departed for Rome, intending to launch his mission westward, but tensions between Nero and Christians escalated out of control. Paul eventually landed in prison again, where an executioner took his life, the same fate experienced by many believers during that awful time at the whim of a crazed emperor.
"A TRUE CHILD IN THE FAITH"
Paul first encountered Timothy in the early months of his second missionary journey. He arrived in Lystra to hear the elders speak with such glowing praise of a young man that the apostle felt compelled to meet him. Born of a believing Jewish mother and a Greek father (presumably an unbeliever), Timothy was an ideal pupil for Paul, an individual much like himself: an evangelist with one foot in the Jewish world and the other in the Gentile.
As the years passed, Paul also found in Timothy a kindred spirit-studious (2 Tim. 3:14-15), emotional (2 Tim. 1:4), dedicated (Phil. 2:22), and resolute (1 Tim. 1:18). From his youth, Timothy had been steeped in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, thanks to his mother, Lois, and grandmother, Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15). In return, Timothy found Paul to be a worthy model, a man gifted in many ways, but called to fulfill a mission ill-suited for his natural inclinations. Paul had not been trained to speak publicly, his appearance and demeanor apparently lacked polish, and his poor health made traveling a burden (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:3; 2 Cor. 10:10; 11:6; 12:7; Gal 4:13-14). Both men would have to carry out their ministries through a shared dependence on God to equip and direct them.
For Timothy to become a part of Paul's ministry, he had to be circumcised (Acts 16:3)-not for spiritual reasons, but for practical ones. While Paul considered himself an apostle to the Gentiles (Eph. 3:1), he always first took the gospel to the synagogue when entering a new region (Acts 13:46; 17:2-3), and only then to the marketplace. Paul preached to Jews first because it was right, not because it was easy or even effective. Timothy had heard the stories of Paul's first visit to the lower Galatian region. The Jews in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium had persecuted Paul and Barnabas, eventually stoning Paul and leaving him for dead (Acts 14:19). Nevertheless, Paul returned, employing the same methods that had earned him such hardship before. Timothy, by now a dutifully circumcised Jew, stood alongside his mentor in the synagogues.
In time, Paul came to see Timothy as an extension of himself, sending his "true child in the faith" to solve problems he normally would have undertaken. On his second missionary journey, when Paul worried that the churches in Macedonia-Thessalonica in particular-might have succumbed to Jewish persecution, he sent Timothy into the unknown to "strengthen and encourage" the members of the church (1 Thess. 3:1-2). During his third missionary journey, he sent ahead Timothy (and Erastus) from Ephesus to prepare the churches in Macedonia and Greece for his visit (Acts 19:21-22). Then, in final preparation for his long-anticipated journey to Spain-he never expected to see most of his pupils again-Paul placed Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus, the most strategically important congregation in Asia and the church most susceptible to corruption.
"REMAIN ON AT EPHESUS"
Of all the cities in the Roman Empire, Ephesus would have been one of the most difficult places in which to lead a "tranquil and quiet life" (2:2), let alone to lead a tranquil and quiet church. This port city sat alongside the Aegean Sea at the mouth of the Cayster River near the intersection of two important mountain passes. Ephesus, therefore, commanded a strategic position, offering access in all directions from the sea, making the city an unusually busy and affluent economic hub for the Roman province of Asia. Materials and knowledge flowed into the city from all over the world, feeding its voracious appetite for more wealth and new philosophies.
"Epigraphic, numismatic and literary evidence reveals that the people of Ephesus worshiped up to fifty different gods and goddesses." None, however, challenged the economic and mystical power of the towering temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Worship of the Earth Mother had become a huge attraction, combining tourism and sensual idolatry with such success that it fueled the city's core economy (Acts 19), despite its already burgeoning import-export trade.
Excerpted from Insights on 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus by Charles R. Swindoll Copyright © 2010 by Charles R. Swindoll. Excerpted by permission.
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