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Teaching Missions; Eunice & Lois - 2 Tim 1:1-5
Division #1: Timothy is invited to go “On Mission” with Paul.
16 Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2 The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Anytime a study on missions is done, one name that repeatedly appears in Paul’s writings is the name Timothy. Two books of the Bible are named after him, and he was one of Paul's longest working associates. Today, we will take a look at the two people who were the most influential in Timothy’s life and were responsible for making Timothy the man of faith that he became; namely his mother, Eunice and her mother Lois. They are both worthy of special note, because according to Scripture, they accomplished their tasks under difficult circumstances, and they did it using tried and true principles that may be an encouragement to Christian moms today who find themselves in similar tough circumstances.
The first mention of Timothy comes during Paul's second missionary journey. This is the same trip that started with Paul and Barnabas parting company, Barnabas taking young John Mark as his assistant to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas as his assistant. Paul headed north over land and throughout southeast Turkey, visiting the churches that he and Barnabas together had started. Here the story picks up in Acts 16 and in verse one we read “where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer”.
Verse 16 tells us that Paul had just arrived in Lystra from Derbe, and this was where Timothy lived. He was the son of a Jewish woman, who was also now a believer in Jesus. It appears both of his mother’s parents were Jewish, because she was identified by the local community as being Jewish as well. We also learn that this was an unequally yoked home. Luke records for us that Timothy’s father was a Greek. It does seem however, that the operative word in the sentence is “but”. His mother was “Jewish and a believer, but……”. This seems to point out that not only was his father a Greek, but his father was an unbeliever. There seems to be some delineation between Timothy’s mom and his dad because of that word, “but”.
We do not know for sure, but it appears that his mother, in her teen or early adult years, wandered from the faith of her parents. We are told that her husband (Timothy’s father) was a Greek. So she had committed herself to a marriage relationship that is in clear violation of Biblical principles. Her violation was not so much her marriage to someone outside of Judaism; even in the Old Testament that was allowed, so long as the one she married embraced the faith of Israel. To prove this, there are two gentile women in Jesus' family tree, Rahab and Ruth, and they were notable women of faith and commitment to the God of Israel. However, such was not the case of Timothy’s father. We don't know his name, and it may be just as well that we don't.
We frankly cannot know what her reasons were for marrying an unbeliever. It may not be as I have suggested, that she was at that time in a period of open rebellion against the faith and morals of her parents. She may, as many women foolishly have done, met a very nice man whom she thought she might convert by marrying him. And it was obvious that by the time their son Timothy was an adult, her husband still had not converted.
Timothy’s mother may have married an unbeliever at a time when she was careless in her own moral standards, and she might have afterwards had an awakening, as many do in that state, when she became the parent of a young child. Her religion and morality was no longer a private matter, now that she had the responsibility of raising a little boy named Timothy. It is also quite evident that she and her husband did not see eye to eye on the critical point of religion. She did, however, draw on the Biblical training that had been instilled in her during her own youth, and she made some very wise decisions.
First, she committed herself to teach Timothy by word and example the truth and wisdom of Scripture, even if she would not be allowed to do it in a culturally Jewish way. Second, she committed herself to remain loyal to her husband, even though he seemed to express no interest in converting to Christianity. It appears he also may have “put his foot down” with regard to Timothy’s circumcision, as we see in the later verse that this had not been done when Timothy was an infant. Timothy’s mother could have been secretive and defiant, taking baby Timothy to the Rabbi for the rite of circumcision anyway. She could have easily given her husband a dozen reasons to divorce her. However, she remained committed to her vows, and made family decisions in consideration of the wishes of her unbelieving husband.
In verse three, Luke says that Paul wanted Timothy to continue on the trip with him. Paul had been quite impressed with Timothy, and apparently saw in him the same potential that Barnabas had seen in John Mark. So as Barnabas elected to be Mark's mentor, Paul took Timothy as his apprentice. Throughout his ministry, Paul used Timothy quite extensively, sending him to places where Paul himself wanted to go but couldn’t; enabling Paul to do what most pastors wish they could do - namely being in two places at once. The only way Paul could trust Timothy to convey the message as if he saw in him maturity and a good understanding of the Scriptures. Not merely having a broad knowledge of the Old Testament, but having a depth of wisdom in the Scripture's application to life and doctrine. It is evident that Timothy had demonstrated his maturity before Paul met him.
For Timothy to continue with Paul on his mission trip, the situation dictated that Timothy be circumcised. Paul was clear in other writings that this was not a required thing to do to be a Christian. In plenty of other writings of Paul, Paul clearly settles the matter. Look in Galatians 2:30-5 and you will see that Paul refused to let Titus be circumcised. Paul said that in that instance, the truth of the Gospel was at stake. If Paul had conceded, then he would have contradicted that fact that we are saved by grace, and not of works. So what is the difference? There are a few points that make these different. First, Titus was a pure Greek, Timothy had a Greek father, but a Jewish mother, and since the Jewish line is carried by the mother, Timothy was a Jew by family line. Second, Timothy would have to be circumcised to go where Paul was going. Timothy was a Jew, and being an uncircumcised Jew would put a stumbling block in the way of their ministry. Timothy was already a believer, so getting circumcised would not have been an issue of his Salvation, this was rather a strategic move on Paul’s part to put Timothy in a better position to share his Christian testimony with other Jews.
1: Our reputation precedes us, and paves the way for God to use us.
Application Question: What can I change so that my reputation is one that points to Christ? How can I ensure that others would want me to assist them in going “On Mission”?
Division #2: Lois leaves a legacy of “sincere faith”.
2 Timothy 1:1-8
1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God.
These verses tell us that Eunice was Timothy’s mother, and Lois was his grandmother. The interesting thing here is that Eunice is not a Jewish name, it is a Greek name. It means literally, "good-victor," eu-nika. History shows that Jews living among Gentiles (called the Jewish diaspora) would sometimes take Greek names. Unfortunately, it is also common to see that the children of religious parents living in a pagan culture tend to drift from the faith and values of their parents, toward lower standards of the culture. It is this that parents of today need to be acutely aware. The culture outside the doors of our homes is drastically different than what we want our kids to mirror. Old Testament stories are full of examples – Job’s children, Lot’s daughters and King David’s sons, just to name a few. But we don’t just see this in the pages of the Bible and history: we see that same thing in the culture of today. And with the time our kids spend under the influence of today’s culture compared with the time they spend under parents, it is paramount that we use every moment to counter the influence the world has on our children.
We just learned in the first division that Timothy’s father was a Greek and probably a non-believer. When Timothy’s father would not support his mother Eunice in teaching Biblical truth and wisdom to their son, she enlisted her own mother as her support system. In today's culture, this is quite extraordinary. Mothers and their young adult daughters are all too often at war with each other, the daughters in conflict over what they perceive as their mothers' attempts to control them, and the mother is panicked over what they perceive as unwise or self-destructive decisions their daughters are making. Eunice and Lois certainly had all the ingredients for such a battle. We don't know if there was or wasn’t friction between them sometimes, but when Eunice needed help for a task bigger than what she could handle herself, she knew where to get it. We read that Paul’s high commendations for both Eunice and Lois about the way they worked together for Timothy's good, stands a firm testament that these two ladies were successful in their approach in his training.
How Lois assisted Eunice in instilling Biblical truth and wisdom in Timothy, we do not know.
But we do know that thankfully Timothy's grandma was nearby and knew how to graciously help her daughter in her difficult task, without intruding and without being controlling. I wish we did know the details and their training regimen so that we could mirror that with our children today. It seems that Eunice and Lois were very effective in training young Timothy to shun the lure of the world and focus on his Spiritual maturity.
These two Jewish women also must have taught Timothy to know God just as they had been taught. They had learned the wisdom of the Scriptures they knew. Today many houses have multiple copies of the Bible, in multiple translations. Back then they just had to memorize it. The priests also taught parents to not only memorize God's Word, but to also instill it into the hearts and minds of their children. God's Word was to become a natural part of daily life.
They would have been taught the Shema which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41. The portion that is applicable here is Deuteronomy 11:18-19 that teaches that you should teach your children about God and His ways while you sit at home, when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Basically, while you do everything, teach your kids about God. Lois and Eunice knew that if Timothy had a good spiritual foundation, he would grow strong in the way of God. Proverbs 22:6 says "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." They knew that in giving Timothy this foundation, he would have inner guidance that would never fail him. Proverbs 9:10 says that wisdom and understanding begins with the fear of the Lord.
Verse 4 also gives a brief picture of Timothy from Paul’s eyes, and if you stop and think about it, it's pretty cool. Timothy was the kind of person that you want to be around, and you miss when they’re not. Timothy was real. He was not a phony, and Paul knew that Timothy owed his demeanor to his mom and grandma. Paul, the major force for evangelizing the known world at that time, sought Timothy out to travel with him and take Timothy “On Mission” with him.
This brings us to the final point of this division. Lois and Eunice did one more thing that was a key to Timothy's development as a Christian and as a man, they made sure that his role model was a person worthy of being followed, Paul. Timothy had traveled with Paul, he served with Paul in ministry, he was taught by Paul, saw Paul in good times and bad, and Timothy saw that Paul, like Lois and Eunice, lived out his faith in every situation. Timothy grew up to be a faithful follower of Christ and would stay “On Mission” for all of his life, because of the training he got from his mother and grandmother. They had lived out their faith. They taught him God’s Word, and they made sure he had good role models.
2: Christians must be strategic and unrelenting in training their children to be a global force for God.
Application Question: What can I do to keep the training I am responsible for focused always on Jesus?
Division #3: Timothy was taught God’s Word from infancy.
2 Timothy 3:10-17
10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for Salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
We do not know for certain when and how those three became Christians. We are told that their faith during their upbringing was Old Testament Judaism. We don’t know for sure when and how Eunice, Lois, and Timothy learned about Jesus. We don’t know for sure when they learned that He was the fulfillment of all of those prophecies they had learned by their Jewish priests. We don’t know for sure, but we do have a hint. In Paul's second letter to Timothy, we learn that Paul may have met Timothy (and probably Eunice and Lois) not on his second missionary journey where Paul picked Timothy up as his apprentice, but rather, earlier when Paul and Barnabas came to town on their first missionary journey, four years earlier.
The events that Paul refers to here are described in detail in Acts 13 and 14. On his first mission trip into that region, Paul was literally chased out of Antioch and Iconium, but in Lystra, which is probably Timothy's hometown, hostile unbelievers stoned Paul, dragged his unconscious body out of town, and dumped him there, assuming that he was dead. You can read for yourself what happened next. Acts 14 tells of what happened after these events.
So it is entirely likely that Lois, Eunice, and Timothy were there to hear Paul's Gospel message the first time he came to their town. It is also because they had been so deeply grounded in the Word of God that they could weigh what Paul had said about Jesus. Comparing that against the Old Testament prophecies was where they found in Jesus the fulfillment of Israel's hope for the Savior. And on top of that, they were also so firmly grounded in the Word of God that when they finally did trust Jesus as their Savior, they each were given by the Holy Spirit a wisdom and maturity which enabled them to teach and counsel others.
Verse 14 - tis which is translated “whom”, which is plural. Both Eunice and Lois were involved in Timothy’s religious education.
Verse 14 has an interesting word usage, which gives us some more clues in learning about Timothy’s training. Because of their faithful teaching, Timothy was familiar enough with the Old Testament to be “wise for Salvation.” When he heard the Gospel - the good news of Salvation in Christ Jesus - he recognized it as the fulfillment of everything God had promised in the scriptures his mother and grandmother taught him.
Lois and Eunice were ordinary women in ordinary circumstances who were faithful in a rather ordinary way. Their situation was not ideal. They were raising a child who either had no father or an unbelieving one. Still, they taught young Timothy God’s Word, and God’s Word, as always, accomplished His designs. In this case, their teaching was an instrument God used to work genuine faith in their son’s and grandson’s heart, paving the way for him to become Paul’s right-hand man and a New Testament pastor. What’s more, two thousand years later, we know the names of these two ordinary women, and they continue to teach us through their example.
Verse 15 goes on to remind us that he had plenty of education in Scriptural knowledge, so he was able to connect the dots. Paul mentions that Timothy had been taught the Holy Scriptures from his childhood. Lois and Eunice had not been slack in taking care of Timothy's education. Timothy wasn't taught to be good for the sake of being good, or that he should "let his conscience be his guide," or that he should look at every situation and do what he thought was best; he was taught God's Word from a young age. Learning the Bible is not just a good idea - learning the Bible gives us the direction we need to make us the people God wants us to be.
The obvious lesson from a study of Lois and Eunice is that God intends for mothers and grandmothers to be teachers, teaching their children and grandchildren God’s word, and that God may use their faithful witness to bring children to faith.
But there’s another lesson, too. Like Lois and Eunice, what we teach from the Old Testament should cause our children to recognize Salvation in Christ as its fulfillment. Yes, there are morality examples there, and lists of do’s and don’ts, but even those always point beyond themselves to the Truth that everyone needs a Savior.
3: It is never too early, or too late, to learn God’s Word.
Application Question: When have I been cavalier about learning God’s Word, and what can I do to give it the attention it deserves?