Meditations in 1 Timothy: 1: Timothy, a true son
1 Tim 1:1,2 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Over the years the letters to Timothy from Paul have meant much to me. There have been times when I have been seeking the Lord and found myself in Timothy where a sense of freshness has lifted my spirit. It may be the personal nature, one man writing to another man, I don’t know. As so often Paul identifies himself as an apostle, called by God. It may be that his particular designations about himself flow out of the thoughts he has in the back of his mind about the recipients of his letters.
He comes, even to Timothy, mindful that he is an apostle, a called and sent one. He is clear about that; he knows who he is and perhaps in this he seeks to model to Timothy assurance – know who you are! And part of his ‘knowing’ is knowing that he is what he is because God the Father, and Jesus the Son called him. No doubt he always has in the back of his mind that memory of that fateful journey to Damascus when the Lord stopped him in his tracks and he was blinded (Acts 9:3-9) and then surely Ananias would have shared with him what the Lord had said about him (Acts 9:15,16). Oh yes, Paul knew who he was! Later in the letter we will see that he seeks to remind Timothy of his calling so that he too may be assured by knowing who he was before the Lord.
But there is more in this initial greeting because he speaks of “Christ Jesus our hope”. Hope is always about the future and when there are question marks over the present, the future is always important. When you are a leader in God’s church as Timothy was, there will always be question marks over the present and so we always need encouraging about the future. When he speaks of this hope he is reminding us that when we look to Christ, we remember all he went through and so know that even death is not the end as far as the Father is concerned. We may be threatened by life circumstances but even if we are, that is not the end. Jesus’ death and resurrection tells us that death is not to be feared.
But there is yet another dimension to this hope because Jesus is now seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven, ruling and overseeing the end time plans of the Father. Your life and my life, as Christians, are in his hands. He has plans for us (Eph 2:10) and therefore whatever we are experiencing at the moment is only part of the story; there is much more to come. God has much more for us in His plans that Jesus is administering. We will not stand still, change is the name of the game! He will be there tomorrow to bring change. Whatever the present circumstances, they are not fixed because His presence and power is here to move us and the circumstances on. That is the hope we have for tomorrow.
And yet, there is a third dimension to this hope. There is an end game. God is working towards a finale. Life is not haphazard so that the world ends in a spiral of self-destruction, as so often appears the case. Jesus, we said, is overseeing these end times (see Rev 5) and he is working his purposes out and he is working towards an end goal and you and I are part of it, whether it happens in our lifetime or not.
These are the confidences that come through subtly in Paul’s writing here, but then he addresses Timothy as, “my true son in the faith.” Interestingly he also calls Titus this (see Titus 1:4). He also refers to Timothy as his son in 1:18 and in 2 Tim 1:1, 2:1 as well as in 1 Cor 4:17. Now he doesn’t explain this but as he is unmarried (1 Cor 7:8) we know that neither Timothy nor Titus could be physical family and that is confirmed by the description of being a son “in the faith”. Now interestingly in his letter to Philemon, Paul refers to “my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains.” (Philem v.10) giving a clear indication that he had been instrumental in bringing him to Christ. It is fairly reasonable to suppose that the same thing had happened in respect of Timothy and Titus, and therefore he has a special affection for them.
Now when he says “my true son in the faith,” we don’t know if the emphasis is on ‘my’ in describing ‘son’ or ‘true’. If it is the former he is emphasizing the reality of the bond between them because of having been instrumental in bringing him to the Lord. If it is the latter he is emphasizing the reality of Timothy’s faith. Whatever the true meaning of the phrase, it does emphasize the depth of relationship between Paul and Timothy. When someone speaks in such positive terms there is feeling behind it that has both past history and future intents. Thus what we have in this letter is help, encouragement and guidance from the father figure to the younger man. It is said that an apostle is always a father figure to the church and so in this letter we see an excellent example of the apostolic ministry at work.
As with most of Paul’s letter, he opens with a blessing, his desire in the Lord for Timothy: “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” Grace is the divine enabling that helps us cope in daily life, to live as the children of God, mercy is what we rely upon that reminds us that it is all of God and none of us, and peace is the end product of living in the power and blessing and guidance of the Lord, knowing His power and presence with us. Timothy needed all this and so do we!