“You’re too young.”
“Maybe when you get a little older.”
“Go outside and play while the adults talk.”
We have all heard these words at some time or another in our lives, have we not, young people? Most often they have come to us from our concerned and protective parents. And usually they are right. There are some things that children and young people should not know or do until they grow more mature. There are certain things that require a level of maturity and sensitivity sometimes lacking in young people. As we grow older we tire of hearing our parents tell us we are too young, but in most instances our parents are correct. They have our best interests at heart.
However, young men and young women, there is one area in particular in which we as young people are not too young. We are not too young in things pertaining to salvation. We are not too young to be active members in the church of Jesus Christ. Our Baptism Form makes abundantly clear that both young and old, gray-haired saint and newborn babe are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. “Infants,” we read, “are to be baptized as heirs of the kingdom of God and of His covenant.” In the Prayer of Thanksgiving at the end of the Form we pray, “Almighty God and merciful Father, we thank and praise Thee that Thou hast forgiven us and our children all our sins…received us through Thy Holy Spirit as members of Thine only begotten Son, and adopted us to be Thy children.” One of the many blessed truths that we as Protestant Reformed Churches maintain is that children as well as parents are members of Christ’s church and co-heirs of eternal life.
In this article and a few others to come, D.V., we will look at how God has worked mightily in the lives of young people like ourselves. At certain times in history God has been pleased to use young men and women to preserve and build up his church. God often uses wise old men and women for such important work, but he uses young people as well. It is quite astounding to read of what these young people were able to do by the grace of God while only in their twenties. It is my hope that these articles will instill in us thankfulness for the work of God in these young people and embolden us to do the work of the Lord even at a young age.
We begin with Timothy. Timothy was the young pastor to whom the apostle Paul wrote two books of the Bible (I & II Timothy). The New Testament Scriptures tell us a bit about the background of young Timothy. We know from Acts 16:1 that Timothy’s mother was a Jew, but his father was a Greek. This verse also makes special mention of the fact that Timothy’s mother was a believer. His father was most likely not. From II Timothy 1:5 we know that Timothy’s mother’s name was Eunice and his grandmother’s name was Lois. In this verse Paul says that he is filled with joy “when I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee [Timothy], which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Later in the same letter Paul writes that “from a child thou hast know the holy scriptures” (II Tim. 3:15). Timothy was reared in the truth by his God-fearing mother and grandmother. They taught him the Scriptures already when he was a child. God used these faithful mothers to prepare Timothy for his work in the church.
This is encouragement to you, young women. While this and subsequent articles speak of the work of God in young men, they are not intended only for the young men of the church. They are intended for you young women also. You too have a place in the church. An important place! An absolutely crucial place! Without you there is no future for the church. You must aspire to be like Lois and Eunice. You must rear and teach the next generation of believing children. That unfeigned faith that rests within you must be imparted to the next generation. Without Eunice and Lois there can be no Timothy. And the church needs more Timothys.
We know from several passages in the two letters that Paul wrote to Timothy that, at the time of his work with Paul, Timothy was a young man. Paul addresses both letters to “my own son” (I Tim. 1:2) and “my dearly beloved son” (II Tim. 1:2). In I Timothy 4:12, Paul makes reference to Timothy’s youth. He exhorts, “Let no man despise thy youth.” A little later Paul writes, “Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren” (I Tim. 5:1). Clearly Timothy was still just a young man. How young? The Bible does not tell us. Many scholars speculate that he was between 25 and 35 years old, but these are merely educated guesses. All that we know for certain from the Word of God is that Timothy was quite young, especially for the work which he was called to perform.
For Timothy was called to do important work, work that from an earthly point of view would seem to be reserved only for older, more experienced men. But young Timothy was qualified for this work by God. We see evidence of this already when we first encounter Timothy in the Word of God. We first read of him while Paul was traveling on his second missionary journey. Soon after leaving Antioch, Paul stopped in the cities of Derbe and Lystra (in present-day Turkey) were he met young Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul must have immediately recognized what an exceptional young man he had before him. He no doubt saw the work of God in this boy’s life. Here was a young man of God! Here was a young man who “was well reported of by the brethren!” Paul could not leave without this exceptional young man. “Him would Paul have to go forth with him.” This young man must be used in the service of God’s kingdom. And Timothy selflessly agreed. He even allowed himself to be circumcised (vs. 3) so that he might not be an offense or a hindrance to the spread of the gospel.
From this point forward Timothy was a faithful and tireless laborer under Paul. Apart from all of the places where he worked with Paul, the Scriptures tell us that Timothy went, often on his own, to many places throughout the Mediterranean establishing churches and building up the faith of the believers. He remained in Berea after Paul was forced to leave by the ungodly mobs (Acts 17:14). He was sent by Paul into Macedonia to preach the gospel among the people there (Acts 19:22). We also are told that Timothy probably went by himself to the Philippians (Phil. 2:19), to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 3:2, 6), and to the Ephesians (I Tim. 1:3). Paul, rather than going to the Corinthians himself, sent Timothy “who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ” (I Cor. 4:17). Later in the same letter Paul says that Timothy “worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do” (16:10). All this from the mouth of the great apostle Paul! What a remarkable young man Timothy must have been! Here was a twenty-something year old man traveling throughout the ancient Roman world instituting churches and preaching the gospel to the saints. God was working in him mightily, even at such a young age.
Paul was not oblivious to Timothy’s age and the difficulties this might cause. In that well-known passage (I Tim. 4:12), Paul says, “Let no man despise thy youth.” Timothy’s youth should not be a hindrance to the reception of the gospel. The Word preached cannot be denied because of the youthfulness of the one bringing it. Age makes no difference. The Word of God is not changed. We too must remember this, young men and women. Yes, we are young. Yes, we still have much to learn. But this does not mean that we cannot be active members of our churches. This does not exclude us from bringing God’s Word to our fellow saints, even those who are older than us. While not eligible to hold a special office in the church, we do hold the office of believer, and we must faithfully carry out the duties of this office.
But we must also heed what Paul writes to Timothy in the rest of this verse. “Let no man despise thy youth; But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Paul is making a strong contrast here. No man may despise our youth, young people, but we must not give them a reason to despise it either. We may not think, “No man may despise my youth, so I can go and do as I please.” Paul is not giving Timothy or us an excuse to sin and do whatever we want. We must be an example in every aspect of our life. The call to live a godly life does not wait until we think we are ready. It does not wait until we are older and ready to settle down. It is the calling of every child of God, no matter what age. Do you want no man to despise your youth? Then be an example. Timothy was an example. Yes, he was a sinner just like you and I, but he was an example to the believers in his youth.
His example is one which we must follow, young people. And by God’s grace we are able to do so. Just like Timothy, each one of us “from a child…hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15). Timothy was not too young. Neither are we.