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Timothy was apostle Paul’s disciple. He was an uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father, Timothy was the last person one would have expected Paul—a former Pharisee—to choose as his disciple. He later became the pastor of the church at Ephesus.
The fact that Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage would have been enough cause for a scandal among his fellow Jews. It was probably Timothy’s father who kept him from being circumcised as a baby—Gentiles in the Greco-Roman world considered it a mutilation of the male human figure, which was revered as one of the highest forms of beauty. In any case, Timothy’s uncircumcised state is a strong indicator that his father was not just a Gentile, but a pagan as well.
Without the mark of the circumcision, Timothy probably was not fully welcomed by the Jewish community in his hometown of Lystra, in present-day Turkey. He may have been labeled a mamzer—regarded as an illegitimate child in the eyes of his fellow Jews. Nevertheless, Timothy devoted himself to the Old Testament scriptures, aided by his devout mother and grandmother, Lois.
When Paul—who had once believed that circumcision and the law were all that mattered—arrived in Lystra, Timothy caught his attention. Hearing nothing but praise from the Christians already present there, Paul decided that Timothy should accompany him on his journey. In order not to cause unnecessary offense among the local Jews, Paul had Timothy circumcised—apparently this is the kind of thing that becoming “all things to all men” involved. Perhaps more than anything else, the fact that Timothy was willing to undergo such a painful procedure as an adult indicates the depth of his devotion to Christ and His church.
Timothy went on to become the pastor of the church at Ephesus, approximately 250–300 miles west of his hometown. The assignment brought its share of challenges, but Timothy had the writings of his mentor, Paul, to encourage him along the way.
Timothy is a well-known reminder that age is not a barrier to serving God’s kingdom. Paul famously encouraged Timothy, who was by this time assigned to the church at Ephesus, not to “let anyone look down” on him because of his youth. Anyone—no matter how young—can set an example for all of God’s people.