1 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 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 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.
4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Are the names Derbe and Lystra familiar? They should be. We’ve traveled here with Barnabas and Paul when Paul was very sick. The locals thought they were Zeus and Hermes, but when they preached against false gods like Zeus and Hermes, the people stoned Paul and left him for dead.
So Paul heads back there to preach, like you do.
When he was there before, many people became believers that were Jewish and Gentile. They were encouraged, at some point in the last year or more, by his cyclical letter that we know as The Letter to the Galatians.
After reading Galatians, it might come as a shock to hear that Timothy would get circumcised before he went and traveled as a missionary with Paul. This is where you can really appreciate that Christianity is about following Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by rules and laws.
As a child of a Jewish woman and a Greek man, Timothy would have been allowed to not get circumcised on the 8th day of his life if his father didn’t want him to. At the same time, he was still raised in all of the Jewish teachings by his grandma and his mom.
Along with this family, he became a Christian, probably during Paul’s last trip through the area. While Paul’s main message to them in person and in his letter was that Jesus freed them from the Law of Moses, something compelled them to do this most basic and foundational act from the Law of Moses.
It could be a missional strategy. After all, Paul said later “to the Jews I became a Jew, to win the Jews.” Timothy could claim to be Jewish through his mother’s side, so it wasn’t like he was a Gentile getting circumcised to become a Christian.
This could also be like the modern trend of people being raised in the non-denominational world choosing more liturgical denominations as they grow up. As they pursue Jesus into adulthood, they leave the strums and drums of the mega-church and choose the smells and bells of “high church” and liturgy and long-held traditions. It could be that as Timothy learned more about the things that Jesus fulfilled, he wanted to dive deeper into that prophetic history.
Either way, as Paul loses 50-something Barnabas as a traveling companion, he gains 30-something Timothy. They continue through these cities with young churches, encouraging, teaching, and increasing.
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