Timothy was a teenager when he met Paul. His family lived in Lystra so he was a Galatian. His father was a Greek man; we know nothing of his faith. But, Timothy’s mom and grandmother were faithful Jewish women who taught the Old Testament scriptures to this boy they loved so much (Acts 16:1; 2 Timothy 1:5). As the women heard Paul preach, they believed in Jesus, and so did Timothy. Timothy may have seen Paul heal a lame man in his town. That would have been exciting! He may also have watched as an angry mob threw stones at Paul and left him for dead (Acts 14:8-20). Yet, he also knew Paul survived. When Paul came back to Lystra a couple of years later on his second journey, Paul invited Timothy to travel with him.
Timothy helped Paul to establish churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea (Acts 16:1 – 17:14). When Paul left Berea to go to Athens he left Timothy and Silas behind, but later sent word for them to join him (Acts 17:13-15). Timothy was sent to Thessalonica to strengthen the faith of believers there (1 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Timothy was a trustworthy friend who carried money collected by the Philippian church to care for Paul’s needs in Corinth. During the 3 years Paul was in Ephesus teaching them about the amazing power of God, Timothy was there, too. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome for two years, Timothy was right alongside him much of the time unselfishly taking care of Paul’s needs. By now, Timothy was a young man of about 30 who for at least 13 years had been learning how to teach about Jesus and serve God’s people well as he watched Paul do it. Paul thought of Timothy not only as a very faithful friend but also as his spiritual son.
After Paul’s release from prison in Rome, Timothy and Paul traveled to visit friends in the churches they had founded. When they got to Ephesus, Paul recognized some men in the church were teaching error about Jesus saying that Jesus could not have been a man and God at the same time. Paul wanted to go on to visit his friends in Macedonia, but he didn’t want to leave the Ephesian church in turmoil. So, he left Timothy to teach truth to the church there while Paul went on to Macedonia. As an “apostolic representative, Timothy had the authority to order worship (1 Timothy 2:1-15) and appoint elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-3). Paul thought he’d get back to Ephesus soon, but that didn’t happen. He was concerned about what was going on in Ephesus, so he wrote Timothy the letter called 1st Timothy around AD 64 from Rome or Macedonia.
Six of Paul’s epistles include Timothy in the salutations. The most tender and moving of Paul’s letters was his last one to Timothy. He was a prisoner in a Roman dungeon when he wrote 2 Timothy, approximately AD 67. He knew he had a short time to live, so the letter is his spiritual last will and testament – his “dying wish” – to encourage Timothy and to request that Timothy join him during his final days of imprisonment (2 Timothy 1:4; 4:9, 21).
According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which was written several centuries later (originally published in 1563), Timothy remained in Ephesus until AD 97. During a pagan celebration of a feast called “Catagogian,” Timothy severely reproved the people in the procession for their ridiculous idolatry. This antagonized the partygoers who beat him with clubs “in so dreadful a manner that he expired of the bruises two days later.”
During Paul’s first missionary journey, a young man named Titus heard Paul preach about Jesus. Titus was Greek—he had not grown up worshiping the God of the Bible. As he listened to Paul, Titus’ heart responded to the message, and he believed in Jesus. Paul brought him to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-4) to show the apostles and other Jewish believers how a Greek non-Jew could love God just as much as they did. Titus represented all the other non-Jewish people who became Christians and were completely accepted by God through their faith in Jesus Christ—like most of us!
Titus continued to travel with Paul on missionary journeys, helping in the work of sharing the gospel. During the 3 years Paul was in Ephesus teaching them about the amazing power of God (third journey), Titus was there. Then, Paul sent him to Corinth to alleviate tension there (2 Corinthians 7:6, 13-14) and to collect money for the poor (2 Corinthians 8:6, 16, 23). Paul thought of Titus not only as a very faithful friend but also as his spiritual son because he had led him to trust Christ.
After Paul was released from the Roman prison where he had been for two years, he and Titus traveled to the island of Crete. Paul and Titus taught the people, called Cretans, about their need for God and the good news about Jesus (Titus 1:4-5). Soon there were enough believers to start churches in several towns. Paul wanted to go visit the church in Corinth so he left Titus to continue teaching the new Christians and to appoint church leaders for each new church. Someone came to replace him in Crete so Titus met Paul in western Macedonia and continued his missionary work northward into what is now Albania (2 Timothy 4:10). The gospel was really spreading into Europe, wasn’t it!
Back in Crete, though, Titus was a busy man as he cared for all the new Cretan believers, especially because the people just didn’t know how to do what is good in God’s eyes. Paul knew Titus needed some encouragement and reminders of what was important to teach the people. Paul wrote to Titus soon after writing 1st Timothy, probably while Paul was in Macedonia, on his way to Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). Paul hoped to join Titus again, but there is no way of knowing whether that meeting ever took place. Tradition has it that Titus later returned to Crete and there served out the rest of his life.