Acts 16:1-4: Timothy Joins Paul

Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” – 1 Cor. 10:32-33

opened bible on wooden surfaca

First, I’d like to say thanks to all who continue to show love and support for me. Thank you for reading! I appreciate you!

We’re now in Acts chapter 16, and there’s so much to delve into that we will review it in a few different posts. We saw from the latter part of chapter 15 that Paul took Silas with him on his journey. At the start of chapter 16, we see Timothy enter the picture. It’s the Timothy to whom Paul wrote 2 letters of the New Testament.

The text says that he was “the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek” and he “was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:1, 2). Paul said of him, “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” that he would be filled with joy (2 Tim. 1:5, 4).

So, Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him and Silas on their trip. But Paul “took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek” (Acts 16:3).

Why did Paul make Timothy get circumcised when the Jerusalem council had just met (Acts 15) and concluded that circumcision was not necessary for salvation? Let’s consider a few ideas.

  1. Timothy’s maternal side was Jewish. Under the Mosaic law, before he had become a Christian, he would have had to have been circumcised just considering his mother’s heritage (Acts 16:1; Gen 17:10; Lev. 12:3).
  2. There had already been debate among Jews that Gentiles should be circumcised, which caused a big stir. So, it’s possible that Paul wanted to avoid any contention. He said in 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 to strive not to offend anybody – neither Jew nor Gentile, but seek to please men that they may be saved. If Timothy getting circumcised would help persuade people to be saved, then that’s probably why he did it.
  3. Sometimes, we have to meet people where they are. And, the Jews were not under the law of Christ because they had not obeyed the gospel and were still following the law of Moses. Notice what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19-21:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law.”

Paul wasn’t making Timothy get circumcised because it was necessary to keep parts of the law of Moses. It wasn’t. Paul, along with the other apostles and the elders of the church had just said that circumcision wasn’t necessary for salvation. To add to that, after he was circumcised, they went about teaching the people “the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem” (Acts 16:4).

Christians are no longer under the law of Moses. We don’t have to keep the Sabbath or offer animal sacrifices or abstain from certain foods in order to be saved. We follow the law of Christ. It’s the law of freedom.

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” – Rom. 2:28-29

Sometimes, we have to use that liberty in Christ to simply meet people where they are in order that they might be saved. That might mean attending a Saturday service with the Seventh-Day Adventist in order to open the door to teach them the truth about freedom from the law and how we are not obligated to keep the Sabbath. It may mean, simply, finding common ground with unbelievers in order to get to a place to teach them the gospel of the circumcision of the heart.

Has your heart had spiritual surgery from the Lord?

Believe in Jesus, repent of your sins, confess that He is Lord, and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you can be saved from eternal damnation, you can have life everlasting, and you can be a Jew of the heart.

“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.” – Gal. 4:28

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