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My Son in the Faith: A Pattern of Biblical Discipleship

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It is well said that the church is always one generation away from extinction. Without passing on the faith to another generation, as believers go to be with the Lord the church would quickly dwindle until there are none left. The biblical model for passing on the faith is discipleship. But the model of discipleship is less like a teacher imparting academic data or bare practical skills, but more like that of a parent and child. As such the model of discipleship is first and foremost a model of a biblical home, but also provides a Biblical model for passing on the faith as well. One of the most well known examples of biblical discipleship is the relationship between Paul and Timothy. A brief survey of his life as it appears in Scripture will help us understand what the Biblical model of faith really looks like and the responsibilities involved in doing so. This is why I have entitled my sermon

Who was Timothy?

Acts 16:1 ESV
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.

My Son in the Faith: A Pattern of Biblical Discipleship

Timothy was probably converted to faith in Jesus Christ on Paul’s first missionary journey. We don’t meet him until Paul’s second missionary journey in , but by then he has been saved long enough to have a reputation. On his first missionary journey Paul had visited the cities of Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium, and had met Timothy in one of them. Paul reminds Timothy of his struggles in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra in and here in Timothy is either from Lystra or Derbe. So timothy was probably from Lystra. Lystra was not a great place to find a faithful believer. When Paul first preached in Lystra, he performed a miracle there that had the totally opposite effect that Paul wanted (). Miracles were supposed to prove that Paul was genuinely God’s messenger. In the mostly Jewish contexts that Paul had been preaching in, the miracles really helped to convince people that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But the people of Lystra were so ignorant of the God of Israel that instead they thought Paul and Barnabas were the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes and tried to sacrifice to them.

I. Passing on Your Faith in a Faithless World

Yet despite living in a society totally ignorant of the true God, Timothy himself was a faithful believer. I submit that this was no accident. Timothy didn’t get that way because by being sent to some Rabbi for advanced training - No Rabbi would have taken him because he was half Gentile. Nor did he just pick up faith accidentally when Paul came through. Instead his faith grew by observing the godly instruction and lifestyle of his mother Lois and grandmother Eunice.
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
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.
Judges 2:10 ESV
And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.
Clearly Lois and Eunice were passionate about passing on their faith to the next generation. Now it is obviously not possible to pass on your faith to your own children unless you have true faith yourself. The attitudes and behaviors that you model in your home, the things you make important are in most cases going to be the things that your children consider to be important too. Therefore if the things you push your children to do and the things you talk about are primarily about succeeding in the business world, then your children will often believe that it is more important to be successful than godly. It is rare that the good teaching they get in church is enough to counteract a home environment that implies something else besides God is more important.
How could this happen to a whole generation when previously the whole nation saw the mighty works of God? The parents failed to teach their children the ways of God as God commanded
Deuteronomy 6:1–2 ESV
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.
But instruction of godly parents is of such benefit to children. The attitudes and behaviors that you model in your home, the things you make important are in most cases going to be the things that your children consider to be important too. Therefore if the things you push your children to do and the things you talk about are primarily about succeeding in the business world, then your children will often believe that it is more important to be successful than godly. It is rare that the good teaching they get in church is enough to counteract a home environment that implies something else besides God is more important.
Deuteronomy 6:6–8 ESV
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
Deuteronomy 6:6–7 ESV
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

II. Passing on Faith without a Father

Timothy’s mother and grandmother were the kind of people that were passionate about teaching him genuine faith. This is the reason he had such a good testimony despite the pagan world he lived in.
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
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.
It is obviously not possible to pass on your faith to your own children unless you have true faith yourself. Now God has often demonstrated his power to save people out of all kinds of ungodly backgrounds. Many here can testify that they did not grow up Christian. My point is that God can be gracious and overrule even the most secular homelife to build children into god-honoring sacrificial servants of Christ. But instruction of godly parents is of such benefit to children. The attitudes and behaviors that you model in your home, the things you make important are in most cases going to be the things that your children consider to be important too. Therefore if the things you push your children to do and the things you talk about are primarily about succeeding in the business world, then your children will often believe that it is more important to be successful than godly. It is rare that the good teaching they get in church is enough to counteract a home environment that implies something else besides God is more important.
It is obviously not possible to pass on your faith to your own children unless you have true faith yourself. Now God has often demonstrated his power to save people out of all kinds of ungodly backgrounds. Many here can testify that they did not grow up Christian. My point is that God can be gracious and overrule even the most secular homelife to build children into god-honoring sacrificial servants of Christ. But instruction of godly parents is of such benefit to children. The attitudes and behaviors that you model in your home, the things you make important are in most cases going to be the things that your children consider to be important too. Therefore if the things you push your children to do and the things you talk about are primarily about succeeding in the business world, then your children will often believe that it is more important to be successful than godly. It is rare that the good teaching they get in church is enough to counteract a home environment that implies something else besides God is more important.
Yet we should not imagine that we must have a perfect home to pass on our faith to our children. Timothy’s home was not perfect. Most likely his father did not believe - certainly the man was not a practicing Jew as his mother and grandmother had been.
Passing on your faith is more than just Bible quizzing. Think about why you have them do what they do. Make Jesus the center of your life. If you communicate that the reason to do well in school is to make a lot of money, don’t be surprised if your kids want to make money instead of serving Jesus. There are a lot of movies and TV shows that have an implicit message that directly opposes God and his Word. I am talking about wrong ways of thinking, not about dirty shows. I assume you make sure your kids don’t see dirty stuff. But it is almost impossible to avoid seeing and hearing wordly anti-god philosophy. Don’t be afraid of that, but instead use it as an opportunity to have a spiritual conversation about what God says and how it is different that what you just saw.
Another way to have intentional conversations about God is to find out what your kids learn in school. If they go to a public school, while a lot of it is just good information, there will be unChristian ideas mixed in with it as well. Evolution is a big one. Another one is the flawed ethics of the world. Sometimes teachers or textbooks will confuse kids with emotional or complicated ethical situations that make God’s way seem weird or wrong. Make sure you know what they are learning. It may be that the scenario confuses you too, and you don’t know how to answer it. In that case please admit to yourself and your kids that you don’t know, and get help. Josh or myself would be overjoyed to assist you. There are answers to all of these things, so please make sure you find the answer.
I hope you never have to experience the pain of seeing your children walk away from God. But some of you have adult children who do not know the Lord. Know this - the choices of your children do not necessarily mean you have failed in your responsibilities. Children are not robots. They have free will, and sometimes they choose to abandon what they have been taught, despite all the good instruction from their parents. God knows how you feel. He created Adam and Eve, yet they chose to disobey him. But what can you do now? Of course you no longer have the influence over your children that you did when they were at home. You know your kids. Be wise about how you bring up spiritual things. There is a right time and place to speak. But do not fail to exhort them. Remember that the prayer of a righteous person has great power (). Never stop praying for them. As long as there is life there is hope.
Others of you still have children at home, or perhaps you are a young couple who plans to have children soon.
2 Tim 1:
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
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.
Acts 16:1 ESV
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.
2 Timothy 3:14–15 ESV
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 3:15 ESV
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.
Timothy’s father was a Gentile, so probably did not worship the God of Israel. Now there were godfearers that tended to hang around Synagogues and worship the God of Israel. Cornelius was an example of one such person (). They weren’t circumcised, but they did have genuine faith. But if Timothy’s father was one of these godfearers, then Paul would have certainly mentioned him as part of Timothy’s godly heritage. But there is a conspicuous absence of a faithful father in 1 or 2 timothy.
The reason Timothy had such a good testimony in a godless society is the faithful testimony of his mother and grandmother. Timothy did not come from a perfect home. His father was a Gentile, and since Paul does not mention him as Timothy’s godly heritage, Timothy’s dad probably did not believe.
Acts 16:1 ESV
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.
There is no doubt that the lack of a believing father was difficult for Timothy. It is always difficult when the father lacks faith. I remember when I was a kid and my father was planting a church in a little country town. There was another kid in our church, and his dad was not much of a Christian. Jamie’s dad was a bit of a wishy-washy Christian. Sometimes he was up, and would faithfully go to church. And sometimes he was down and wouldn’t come. It broke my heart to hear my friend ask people to pray for his dad when we had prayer meeting. Sadly, as Jamie got older he took after his dad, and as far as I know today Jamie does not walk with God.
Fathers, do not underestimate your influence on your children. This is why the Scriptures command us
Ephesians 6:4 ESV
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:2 ESV
“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),
But if the father in your home does not know God, do not despair. That was Timothy’s home, and it was his mother’s faithful example and Biblical teaching that first instilled faith in his young heart. Many families back then had multiple generations living under the same roof, so it makes sense that his grandmother Lois had a formative influence on his life, too. Timothy is living proof that God can overrule in imperfect situations so that children can turn out faithful, godly people even when one - or both - parents have no faith to pass on. This also means that you can never use your own parents as an excuse not to follow God, or to be saved. God always makes available enough grace to do what is right - no matter what your background.
Timothy’s background certainly involved a faithful life, as Paul indicates that the faith they had was “sincere.”
2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
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.
The Greek word here is literally “unhypocritical.” That is, the faith of Timothy’s family was real, as opposed to the so-called faith of a hypocrite. You may remember how Jesus described hypocrites. They would “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” (). A gnat was the smallest unclean animal according to the OT food laws, so sometimes Jews would pour their beverage through a strainer to make sure that a gnat didn’t accidently get in it so they wouldn’t accidentally eat an unclean animal. But a camel was the largest animal they knew about that was unclean according to those same food laws. The hypocrites would first carefully strain out their beverage to avoid breaking the law, then shove a full-size camel into their cup and guzzle the whole thing down. Well, not literally of course. Jesus meant that they omitted the most important things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness while carefully keeping the tiniest minutia of the law. Imitating a hypocritical faith is dangerous.
The Greek word here is literally “unhypocritical.” That is, the faith of Timothy’s family was real, as opposed to the so-called faith of a hypocrite. The word “hypocrite” used to denote an actor on a stage, so it came to be used whenever someone’s public appearance failed to match their real purpose and beliefs. A hypocrite is someone who is so concerned about saving face that they will lie, cheat, and deceive in order to look like the perfect family, but they do not put effort into actually pleasing God and being the kind of people they ought to be.

III. Passing on Real Faith

Eph 6:4
But if the father in your home does not know God, do not despair. That was Timothy’s home, and it was his mother’s faithful example and Biblical teaching that first instilled faith in his young heart. Many families back then had multiple generations living under the same roof, so it makes sense that his grandmother Eunice had a formative influence on his life, too. Their instruction certainly involved a faithful life, as Paul indicates that the faith they had was “sincere.” The Greek word here is literally “unhypocritical.” That is, the faith of Timothy’s family was real, as opposed to the so-called faith of a hypocrite. You may remember how Jesus described hypocrites. They would “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.” (). A gnat was the smallest unclean animal according to the OT food laws, so sometimes Jews would pour their beverage through a strainer to make sure that a gnat didn’t accidently get in it so they wouldn’t accidentally eat an unclean animal. But a camel was the largest animal they knew about that was unclean according to those same food laws. The hypocrites would first carefully strain out their beverage to avoid breaking the law, then shove a full-size camel into their cup and guzzle the whole thing down. Well, not literally of course. Jesus meant that they omitted the most important things like justice, mercy, and faithfulness while carefully keeping the tiniest minutia of the law. Imitating a hypocritical faith is dangerous.
Timothy’s family was not like that. Timothy watched his mother and grandmother living a life that fit the faith they said they had. As a child he imitated them, and soon the life of faith that they had was his too. So because their faith was genuine, when he copied them his faith was genuine, too. In spite of his ungodly dad. Whether or not a faith is genuine is very important, because kids will pick up on it.
Matthew 23:15 ESV
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Phony faith can only pass on phony faith. It takes real faith to pass on real faith. But when that faith is real, kids will pick up on it.
Jesus also said that Timothy’s family was not like that. Timothy watched his mother and grandmother living a life that fit the faith they said they had. As a child he imitated them, and soon the life of faith that they had was his too. In spite of his ungodly dad.
But Timothy’s mother and grandmother did more than just model godly faith. They actively taught the Scriptures to him
Most of you, I think, know how important it is to pass on your faith. You do passionately desire for your children to know God. So what are you doing to intentionally pass on your faith? I urge you to have regular times when you talk with your children about the Bible. If you have young children, look for some good children’s Bible story books, and read them to your kids. That will help you stay on track. With older children, show them how to take notes on the sermon or on the lesson. Ask them afterwords to see the notes and ask them what the passage means. If your kids are in my class, I would be happy to give you my own notes for you to look over. Ask me about it. Encourage your kids to memorize scripture. Make sure they understand the verse, too. If they have memorized a verse, go over the verse a few weeks later to make sure they understand it.

IV. Passing on a Knowledge of the Scriptures

But Timothy’s mother and grandmother did more than just model godly faith. They actively taught the Scriptures to him
2 Timothy 3:15 ESV
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.
Most of you, I think, know how important it is to pass on your faith. You do passionately desire for your children to know God. But you need to be involved in teaching them the Bible, too.

So what are you doing to intentionally pass on your faith? I urge you to have regular times when you talk with your children about the Bible. If you have young children, look for some good children’s Bible story books, and read them to your kids. That will help you stay on track. With older children, show them how to take notes on the sermon or on the lesson. Ask them afterwords to see the notes and ask them what the passage means. If your kids are in my class, I would be happy to give you my own notes for you to look over. Ask me about it. Encourage your kids to memorize scripture. Make sure they understand the verse, too. If they have memorized a verse, go over the verse a few weeks later to make sure they understand it.
Passing on your faith is more than just Bible quizzing. Think about why you have them do what they do. Do they have enough time for God in their schedule? if they do, do they spend some time in God’s Word and prayer? Make Jesus the center of your life. If you communicate that the reason to do well in school is to make a lot of money, don’t be surprised if your kids want to make money instead of serving Jesus. There are a lot of movies and TV shows that have an implicit message that directly opposes God and his Word. I am talking about wrong ways of thinking, not about dirty shows. I assume you make sure your kids don’t see dirty stuff. But it is almost impossible to avoid seeing and hearing wordly anti-god philosophy. Don’t be afraid of that, but instead use it as an opportunity to have a spiritual conversation about what God says and how it is different that what you just saw.
Acts 16:1 ESV
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.
Another way to have intentional conversations about God is to find out what your kids learn in school. If they go to a public school, while a lot of it is just good information, there will be unChristian ideas mixed in with it as well. Evolution is a big one. Another one is the flawed ethics of the world. Sometimes teachers or textbooks will confuse kids with emotional or complicated ethical situations that make God’s way seem weird or wrong. Make sure you know what they are learning. It may be that the scenario confuses you too, and you don’t know how to answer it. In that case please admit to yourself and to your kids that you don’t know, and get help. Josh or myself would be overjoyed to assist you. There are answers to all of these things, so please make sure you find the answer.

V. Passing on Your Faith means having a Spiritual Son

But you may be sitting here thinking, “passing on my faith to my kids would be great, except for one problem - I don’t have any.” Remember that Timothy was not Paul’s literal son. Look at
2 Timothy 1:2 ESV
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Timothy 1:1–2 ESV
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Timothy’s father was a Gentile, but Paul was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (). Yet Paul calls Timothy his son several times. In addition to our passage also see ; ; ; .
Paul
:
1 Corinthians 7:7–8 ESV
I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.
Yet Paul calls Timothy his son several times. In addition to our passage
2 Timothy 2:1 ESV
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,
1 Timothy 1:2 ESV
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Philippians 2:19 ESV
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.
Philippians 2:21 ESV
For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:22 ESV
But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.
Philippians 2:20 ESV
For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.
So if Timothy wasn’t Paul’s literal son, what does it mean for him to be a spiritual son? Let’s consider other terms for spiritual relationships. Paul calls Timothy a brother several times (; ; ; ), but brother or sister can be used to describe anyone in the church, because the church is supposed be full of the close caring relationships you expect of family.
1 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.
So if Timothy wasn’t Paul’s literal son, what does it mean for him to be a spiritual son?

A. Brother?

Paul calls Timothy a brother several times (; ; ; ), but brother or sister can be used to describe anyone in the church. Paul had never even been to the church at Rome yet he says
Romans 1:13 ESV
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
So every Christian is your brother or sister in Christ. The term is supposed to imply that we treat other Christians with the love and concern we ought to show to our own family members. Therefore we must “love one another with brotherly affection” () and “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” )
1 Corinthians 1:26 ESV
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

B. Coworker?

Another term Paul uses to describe Timothy is “coworker”
1 Thessalonians 3:2 ESV
and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith,
Paul calls no less than 13 men and women his co-workers, most of which he does not call his children [see passage list συνεργὸς]. By coworker Paul means those who helped him in spreading the Gospel [BDAG]. “Coworker” implies a slightly smaller group of people than “brother.” While there is no room in Paul’s theology for a “brother” that fails to work for the kingdom of God, yet Paul never uses the term to describe someone he has not met and worked with personally. So every Christian is our brother, but “coworker” describes those Christians we directly work alongside for the sake of the gospel.
Paul calls no less than 13 men and women his co-workers, most of which he does not consider his children [see passage list συνεργὸς].

C. Child

But the most intimate term Paul uses is “child,” and it implies a closer relationship than either brother or coworker. Besides Timothy Paul also refers to Titus as
Titus 1:1 ESV
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,
Titus 1:3 ESV
and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;
Titus 1:4 ESV
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
Titus 1:2 ESV
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
Paul says about the runaway slave Onesimus
Similarly the runaway slave Onesimus Paul says is
But even the multiple churches in the region of Galatia are described as his children
Philemon 10 ESV
I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.
Both Timothy and Titus are Paul’s Children according to the faith (; )
1 Timothy 1:2 ESV
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Titus 1:4 ESV
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
It was the gospel that created this bond
1 Corinthians 4:14–15 ESV
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
When one of Paul’s spiritual “children” falls into sin, he does more than just hurt with them as another brother in Christ. He shows the kind of fatherly anguish that a real father displays if his children wander away from God.
Paul became their father because he led them to the Lord. This was not just another notch on his belt, but a genuine relationship. Paul displayed the same kinds of emotions real fathers experience. He admonishes the church at Corinth because he is troubled by their sin as a real father would. He hurts when the Galatian churches fall into error.
When one of Paul’s spiritual “children” falls into sin, he does more than just hurt with them as another brother in Christ. He shows the kind of fatherly anguish that a real father displays if his children wander away from God.
When one of Paul’s spiritual “children” falls into sin, he does more than just hurt with them as another brother in Christ. He shows the kind of fatherly anguish that a real father displays if his children wander away from God.
But Paul’s description of two other set of his “children” help us understand that his “children” are those whom he led to Christ.
Galatians 4:19 ESV
my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
On a more cheerful note, when his children follow God is brings him great joy
Philemon 10 ESV
I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.
2 Timothy 1:3–4 ESV
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.
2 Timothy 1:3 ESV
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.
2 Timothy 1:3–5 ESV
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 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.
1 Corinthians 4:14 ESV
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.
1 Corinthians 4:14–15 ESV
I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
This kind of spiritual parentage consists of more than just getting them saved and leaving them. Paul displays concern and affection for them. The churches of Galatia cause him pain that he describes as being like childbirth because of how much he worries about their spiritual health, just as you would worry if your child started wandering away from God. He sends Onesimus back to Philemon, but describes that as sending back “my own heart.” (v.12). He longs to see Timothy []. Now in 2 Timothy Paul was in prison and alone, but his longing is nevertheless dependent on the relationship between them. Where does this affection come from? For none of these people are Paul’s literal children, yet he is glad when they are glad, he misses them when they are away, and is hurt when they do wrong, just as a real father would act toward his own children.
And when his children are away, he misses them. Now when Paul wrote second Timothy he was alone and in prison, so he was lonely. But the reason he longed to see Timothy was because of this bond of fatherly affection. Also when he sent back Onesimus, it was like sending back “my very heart.”
This kind of spiritual parentage consists of more than just getting them saved and leaving them. Paul displays concern and affection for them. The churches of Galatia cause him pain that he describes as being like childbirth because of how much he worries about their spiritual health, just as you would worry if your child started wandering away from God. He sends Onesimus back to Philemon, but describes that as sending back “my own heart.” (v.12). He longs to see Timothy []. Now in 2 Timothy Paul was in prison and alone, but his longing is nevertheless dependent on the relationship between them. Where does this affection come from? For none of these people are Paul’s literal children, yet he is glad when they are glad, he misses them when they are away, and is hurt when they do wrong, just as a real father would act toward his own children.
Philemon 12 ESV
I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
Philemon 12 ESV
I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart.
Now when Paul wrote second Timothy he was alone and in prison, so he was lonely. But the reason he longed to see Timothy was because of this bond of fatherly affection.
If you have children, then you remember what it was like when you saw your first child for the first time. For months you were thinking and praying about him or her, but now they are a real, separate person. what an amazing thing! I remember being amazed at the thought - that tiny little person over there - its mine and they are going to let me keep it! But what made that event so emotional? As I thought about it later, it was the choice to own James as my son. There are cases where say a father, or more rarely, a mother, refuses to consider their children to be their own. In that case, there is no emotion, no affection. Even though the child is biologically theirs, there is no parent/child relationship. On the reverse side of things, when a family adopts a child, they recon that child to be theirs. So there is a genuine parent/child relationship, even though the child is not biologically theirs. In other words recognizing a child as yours is what creates that relationship.
If you have children, then you remember what it was like when you saw your first child for the first time. For months you were thinking and praying about him or her, but now they are a real, separate person. what an amazing thing! I remember being amazed at the thought - that tiny little person over there - its mine and they are going to let me keep it! But what made that event so emotional? As I thought about it later, it was the choice to own James as my son. There are cases where say a father, or more rarely, a mother, refuses to consider their children to be their own. In that case, there is no emotion, no affection. Even though the child is biologically theirs, there is no parent/child relationship. On the reverse side of things, when a family adopts a child, they recon that child to be theirs. So there is a genuine parent/child relationship, even though the child is not biologically theirs. In other words recognizing a child as yours is what creates that relationship.
How did this fatherly affection develop? Paul is hurt when they do wrong, is joyful when they follow God, and misses them when they are away just like a real father feels for his own children.
If you have children, then you remember what it was like when you saw your first child for the first time. For months you were thinking and praying about him or her, but now they are a real, separate person. what an amazing thing! I remember being amazed at the thought - that tiny little person over there - its mine and they are going to let me keep it! But what made that event so emotional? As I thought about it later, it was the choice to own James as my son. There are cases where say a father, or more rarely, a mother, refuses to consider their children to be their own. In that case, there is no emotion, no affection. Even though the child is biologically theirs, there is no parent/child relationship. On the reverse side of things, when a family adopts a child, they recon that child to be theirs. So there is a genuine parent/child relationship, even though the child is not biologically theirs. In other words recognizing a child as yours is what creates that relationship.
3 John 4 ESV
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
When Paul led someone to Christ he considered that person his spiritual child, and took responsibility for his or her spiritual growth and wellbeing, just as you take responsibility for your children’s growth and wellbeing. So whether you have children or not, you may still have a son in the faith, just as Paul did. And it carries a similar burden of responsibility, but also a similar joy.
When Paul led someone to Christ he considered that person his spiritual child, and took responsibility for his or her spiritual growth and wellbeing, just as you take responsibility for your children’s growth and wellbeing. So whether you have children or not, you may still have a son in the faith, just as Paul did. And it carries a similar burden of responsibility, but also a similar joy.
If you also have literal children, then have you taken responsibility for their spiritual life in the same way that you already take responsibility for their physical and emotional wellbeing? The spiritual dimension is part of parenting. For Paul, it was basically the only dimension, but it was enough to create the deep bonds that we see.

VI. Passing on Your Faith by Kindling your Gift from God

Paul’s deep relationship with his spiritual son is what also forms the basis of his primary goal in the book - to encourage Timothy to keep on doing what he has been going.
2 Timothy 1:6 ESV
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,
Paul wants to pass on not just a set of beliefs, and not even a kind of godly behavior, but a vocational ministry. The gift of God came because Paul laid his hands on Timothy. First Timothy gives us additional information
1 Timothy 4:14 ESV
Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.
So it wasn’t just Paul that laid his hands, it was the elders of whatever church he was at - maybe his home church at Lystra, when he left to travel with Paul? So I do not think this gift involved miracles. A similar occurence happened in . There the Holy Spirit commands the church at Antioch to commission Paul and Barnabas to the work of the ministry. The church laid their hands on them, but this didn’t give Paul and Barnabas the Spirit, who they had already. What it did mean is that they were sent out under the authority and blessing of the church at Antioch. That is what the laying on of hand did primarily - it was giving authority to someone. So when Paul and the elders of that church laid their hands on Timothy, this meant that his work as missionary with Paul was done by the authority of Paul and of that church. This is the primary motivation for ordaining pastors. Ordination doesn’t give the pastor anything supernatural. A pastor can serve in a church quite effectively without it. But it does mean that his ongoing ministry is now done by the authority and blessing of the church(es) that ordained him.
Timothy’s gift may have been that of pastor, but as you well know everyone has their own role from God.
Romans 12:6–8 ESV
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Now a full description of a theology of spiritual gifts would take us too far afield, but in general notice that people have different roles or tasks assigned to them by God. Therefore we can do our job with a good attitude or a bad one. Everyone at some point must give, but they could give generously or grudgingly. Someone who gives to the poor could do it cheerfully or out of a hypocritical desire for praise. Someone can lead with zeal, or out of a sense of necessity. So you may not be a pastor, but you have a job to do. Teaching small children is often a thankless task, difficult and seemingly mundane - but if that is your job you should treat it as service to God.
The word Paul uses to encourage Timothy means to “kindle” [as in start a fire, not the electronic book service]. The image of starting a fire is picturesque, but what does that really mean when we are talking about God’s gift and not wood. The word is used only here in the New Testament, and in other literature it is always used in a metaphorical sense. Timothy is to revive his spirit to engage in doing his job. He should not just go through the motions. The word is used in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, when Jacob heard that his son Joseph was alive. At first Jacob’s heart sank because he didn’t believe his sons because he had believed Joseph was dead for 20 years. But when he saw all the wagons and supplies Joseph had sent to make moving easier, says that his spirit “revived” [that’s our word]. In other words, because Jacob felt encouraged, he was motivated to accomplish the task of moving to Egypt, because he now realized he could see his son there.
Now I don’t think that Paul asks Timothy to revive the gift as if he wasn’t doing it already. It wouldn’t fit with what we know Timothy to be. This is the one that Paul left in Macedonia with Silas when he was driven out of Berea (). This is the one that Paul entrusted to exhort the fledgling church of Thessalonica when Paul couldn’t be there (). This is the one that Paul trusted to go to Corinth to straighten out the many difficult problems in that church (; ). This is the man that Paul stated was unique in his selfless service, and so he was uniquely trusted to go to Philippi and help a divided church (). This is the one that Paul left in Ephesus to keep that church from wandering from the truth of God’s Word (). And this is the same one that the author of Hebrews informs us had recently been released from prison because of his faithfulness to God (). In short, Timothy has consistently been faithful to God from the first time we see in Acts until our last glimpse of him in the book of Hebrews. So Paul probably does not mean to imply that Timothy needs to start doing his job, he just wants to encourage him to keep doing it faithfully.
And to help Timothy be encouraged, he reminds him of the spirit - attitude - that God has given us.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:6 ESV
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,
God has not given us the spirit of “fear,” or another word for that would be cowardice. It is possible that Pastor Timothy was a somewhat shy and timid man - an aggressive, confident sort would need exhortations to gentleness and humility, something Paul is much less direct about even though gentleness and humility are extremely important qualifications for ministry. But Paul instead directly exhorts Timothy to not be a coward. But it is not enough just to tell someone to not be afraid. Everyone has to deal with fear at some point. It isn’t something you can just turn off at will. So what we need instead is something that will give us the strength to push through our fear, not to just be rid of it.
God has not given us the spirit of “fear,” or another word for that would be cowardice. It is possible that Pastor Timothy was a somewhat shy and timid man - an aggressive, confident sort would need exhortations to gentleness and humility, something Paul is much less direct about even though gentleness and humility are extremely important qualifications for ministry. But Paul instead directly exhorts Timothy to not be a coward. But it is not enough just to tell someone to not be afraid. Everyone has to deal with fear at some point. It isn’t something you can just turn off at will. So what we need instead is something that will give us the strength to push through our fear, not to just be rid of it.
So the Spirit provides three things that will build in courage [encourage] us to perform the task God has given us to do.

A. Ability

First God has given us the spirit of “power” or ability. That is, where God calls, he also enables. Don’t say - I can’t do it. Perhaps you can’t, but God will help you. Perhaps you are a parent sitting here and listening to the responsibilities of a Biblical home, and you are feeling overwhelmed. God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of ability. You can do it. How do I know? Because God called you to do it when you became a parent, and where God calls he enables. Perhaps you still wonder how to accomplish it. That’s where you should ask for help.

B. Love

The second thing that God has given us is “love” This is the motivation for service. When we remember that the reason we serve is to help others, that will energize your service. A loving church is a serving church. this is the exact opposite of the “consumer” mindset so prevalent in our culture. The consumer looks for a church that can meet his needs (what programs do that have for me, or my children?); The loving church member looks for a church that has a need he can meet.

C. Self-Control

The third thing that God gives is “self-control.” this is related to the word for wisdom - σωφρονισμὸς - but it means discipline or moderation. Some people may fail to find courage to do ministry not because of fear, and not because of selfishness, but because of a lack of the self-control necessary to actually accomplish the task. They fail to have a plan, or fail to work the plan they have, and as they say, failure to plan is planning to fail.
God has given every Christian a task to do - it is his grace that gives us the privilege of working for him. Every parent has the task of raising their children. Christian parents have the task of passing on their faith. This means taking on the responsibility for the spiritual well-being of your children. That ownership of spiritual responsibility is another name for discipleship, and discipleship is something you can do regardless of whether you have children or not. There is no need for fear - God has given us the ability to accomplish the task, or at least the ability to learn to accomplish it if we ask for help. The motivation for the task is love for others. The energy for the task is the discipline to actively plan and carry out the task. I charge you to kindle the gift of God that he has appointed for you.
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