Timothy's Character



Dan Petty

It was apparently Timothy’s character and reputation that first attracted Paul to him. The text in Acts 16 tells us that Timothy was “well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium” and for this reason Paul decided “he wanted this man to go with him” as a companion and fellow-worker (Acts 16:2-3).

Timothy continued to prove his worth to Paul. He accompanied the apostle on his next two missionary journeys. After Paul left his beloved brethren in Thessalonica, he decided to send Timothy—“our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel”—back to that city “to strengthen and encourage” the brethren there (1 Thess. 3:1-2). After his arrival in Corinth, Paul’s spirits were lifted when Timothy came with good news about the Thessalonian brethren (1 Thess. 3:6-7). Later Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to do a very difficult and stressful work in the midst of controversy (1 Tim. 1:3). Paul wanted him to remain there because he had confidence in his ability and character. One of the last requests the apostle ever made—when he was in prison and facing the end of his life—was that Timothy would make every effort to come to him before winter, and to bring along with him some urgently needed things (2 Tim. 4:9f).

What did Paul think of Timothy? Paul expressed his unwavering confidence in Timothy’s character in writing to the Philippians: “But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know of his proven worth that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father” (Phil 2:19-22).

From these facts we can begin to form a picture of Timothy’s character. A person’s character is the sum of what he thinks, says, and does. Timothy had the reputation of being a trustworthy person and a man of integrity, and his actions suggest that was his true character. He was apparently a tender-hearted man, since Paul wrote that he remembered the tears Timothy had shed at some time in the past. He was the kind of person who was genuinely concerned for the welfare of others. Paul always knew he could depend on Timothy to do the right thing. If he gave his word, you did not have to doubt that he would be true.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Timothy’s character was his faith. Paul said, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well” (2 Tim 1:5). The point here is that Timothy’s faith was sincere—that is, unfeigned, real—and it was his. Timothy was tested in his own faith. He was chosen by Paul, left his home, preached a message that his fellow Jews considered to be scandalous and that others considered to be foolishness, and faced persecution and sufferings. Yet Paul was convinced that Timothy’s faith was the real thing.

It was a wonderful thing for Timothy to be blessed with a godly mother and grandmother who loved the Lord, respected His word, and sought to set the right example for young Timothy. His spiritual heritage was something he could draw strength from and for which he could thank the Lord. But Timothy was not useful to Paul and to the kingdom of Christ because of the faith of his mother or his grandmother. He was useful to the Lord because of his own sincere faith.

What about us? What kind of character and faith do we possess? We each must decide for ourselves to be the right kind of person. Decide for yourself to do the right thing. Decide for yourself to serve the Lord. For young people, this is especially crucial. It finally will not matter what your parents or others have done, or not done. Your character and your faith are ultimately qualities that you must find for yourself and develop in yourself. Look into God’s word. Form your own convictions. Commit yourself to the Lord. Have your own faith.