What would it be like to spend time with history’s greatest theologian? Imagine if you had access to the greatest theological mind since Christ, not just for an hour or a day, but for years. Think of all the questions you might ask. Think of all the ways you could observe and imitate a life lived full-out for the glory of God.
There is one young man who had the remarkable privilege of being the protégé of none other than the Apostle Paul. He traveled, pastored, prayed, worshipped, and suffered alongside the man who wrote nearly half of the books in the New Testament. The two grew so close that Paul considered him a son and referred to him as “my true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Truly, Timothy was a man who enjoyed a remarkable opportunity, an opportunity for which many in his day would have longed.
So what made Timothy stand out? Paul pointed to Timothy’s genuine concern for others’ welfare and sincere faith (Philippians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:5). Yet when he spoke of his protégé’s faith, he gave credit to those who had influenced Timothy long before they had met: his mother and grandmother. As we come to the close of this collection of articles on “Christian Men and Their Godly Moms,” it is only fitting that we turn to the earliest example of a Christian man whose most formative influence was his mother.
Meeting His Mentor
Paul was always deliberate in his approach to evangelism and church planting. He would prayerfully plot out a route, then embark on long missionary journeys, stopping in town after town to preach the gospel, plant churches, and establish leadership. His first journey began in Antioch, where he and Barnabas were set apart by the Lord for the missionary work. They first sailed to Cyprus, then back to the mainland where they journeyed through several regions and planted a number of churches. Then they at last returned home to encourage their sending church with news of how God had worked.
Quite a long time passed before Paul said, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are” (Acts 15:36). Sadly, he and Barnabas had an argument, so Paul set out with Silas instead, traveling through the regions of Syria and Cilicia, visiting the fledgling churches there. When they arrived in Lystra they discovered an unexpected joy: “A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:1-2). What a joy it must have been to find a young man who was, by consensus, especially godly and mature in his faith. Paul was immediately impressed by this young man and convinced that God had called him to the ministry. In fact, Paul soon wanted Timothy to join him in his travels.
Yet there was one matter he felt he needed to attend to in order to prepare Timothy for the unique time and culture in which they ministered. “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek” (Acts 16:3). Because Timothy’s father was non-Jewish, he had never been circumcised. While circumcision was not necessary to mark Timothy as a Christian, it would be important for effective ministry to Jews. Hence, Paul circumcised his new friend, then ordained him to gospel ministry. When Paul finally set out from Lystra, he was accompanied by both Silas and Timothy.
Together they traveled through Macedonia, preaching the gospel and establishing new churches. Timothy witnessed Paul and Silas being beaten and thrown in prison in Philippi, he watched the Philippian jailer come to faith, he saw a great number of Thessalonians believe the gospel while a great many more instigated a fierce riot. With Paul and Silas he slipped out of the city by night to venture to Berea, where they met noble people who eagerly listened to them and diligently compared their words to Scripture. Then, to avoid causing even more trouble, Paul departed to Athens, leaving Timothy and Silas to carry on the work in Berea. All of that in only the first few months of Timothy’s ministry!
Timothy’s name appears again and again in the New Testament as one of Paul’s most loyal friends and most trusted companions. He was there when Paul wrote his magnum opus, the book of Romans, and at the conclusion Paul says, “Timothy, my fellow worker, greets you” (Romans 16:21). He was with Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and both letters to the Thessalonians. At some point he was imprisoned, for the book of Hebrews celebrates his release: “You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon” (Hebrews 13:23). Timothy was a stalwart defender of the faith against early heresies, a man whose character set an example of godliness, and indisputably one of the most important leaders of the first-century church.
A Sincere Faith
What was it that suited Timothy for such a ministry? Did he have a towering intellect and a world-class education? Did he have a wealthy and powerful father who padded a few pockets to ensure his son got a step up on the competition? The Bible highlights just one great privilege: The faith of his mother and grandmother. Timothy had the immense privilege of being raised in a Christian home.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy he reminds him of this: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15). From childhood, Timothy had been acquainted with the Scriptures through the care and attention of his godly mother and grandmother. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well” (2 Timothy 1:5).
Timothy had the privilege of being raised in a home that was distinguished by a commitment to Scripture. It is important to consider: What was it that Timothy’s mother had done that earned Paul’s praise? It was not having Timothy study and memorize his catechism, though that is a very good thing for a mother to do. It was not teaching him systematic theology, though that, too, is important.
Paul says only this: that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had introduced him to the Bible. And the Bible had done its work in him. The Bible had made Timothy “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” It had saved his soul and transformed him into the man he had become. Timothy was a man of the Word because he had been raised by a woman of the Word. Her trust in Scripture had become his trust in Scripture. Her love for truth had given him a deep love of truth. The faith of a godly mother (and grandmother) had become the faith of this young man.
No Greater Accolade
It seems fitting to conclude this series with so simple and straightforward an example of a godly mother. We know nothing more of Eunice than her commitment to Scripture and her willingness to share it with Timothy. The Bible leaves no other record of her life. She has gone down in history as a godly mother who was privileged to see her son grow up to be a great Christian man, as a true woman of the Word. There is no greater accolade than that.