Lois was Timothy’s grandmother. Lois is the first of three generations of unlikely believers. Paul paid tribute to her and (presumably) her daughter Eunice in a letter to his young protégé Timothy.
Paul first arrived in Lystra, Lois’s hometown, during his first missionary journey. While there, Paul healed a man who was unable to walk from birth, only to be mistaken as the incarnation of the Greek god Hermes. Subsequently, Paul was stoned by an angry mob and left for dead. Apparently the visit wasn’t a total disaster, though. By the time he returned on his second missionary journey, Paul found at least three believers: Timothy, his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois.
Little is known about Lois, the family matriarch. Her daughter Eunice had married a Greek, which may have generated social friction between the family and the rest of the Jewish community in Lystra. (Mixed marriages with pagans were roundly criticized in the Old Testament.
Ezra, for example, was “appalled” at word that some of the returning exiles had taken Gentile spouses—see Ezra 9:4.) In any case, Lois’s grandson Timothy was a paradox—steeped in the Old Testament from a young age, no doubt thanks to Lois and Eunice, yet never circumcised, perhaps due to the influence of his Greek father.
In the end, it was Lois’s influence that prevailed, leaving a lasting mark on Timothy. Paul, impressed by Timothy’s devotion to Christ, became his mentor and eventually made him pastor of the church at Ephesus.
Lois serves as a reminder that it is not necessary to play a leading role in order to have a lasting impact. Mentioned by name just once in the Bible, Lois was nevertheless vital in shaping the character and convictions of one of the early church’s most influential young pastors. Those who serve God behind the scenes play no less an important role than those who serve for all to see.