Timothy, whose name means “honoring God,” was one of the apostle Paul’s close friends and coworkers. Timothy was from Lystra, a city in the Roman province of Lycaonia and in the central and southern part of Asia. It is possible that Timothy was converted to Christianity during Paul’s first missionary journey, for Paul and Barnabas ministered there (see Acts 14:6-23).
Timothy, however, is not mentioned by name until Acts 16:1. On Paul’s second missionary journey the apostle “went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek.” We learn elsewhere that Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois respectively, instructed Timothy in God’s Word from the time he was quite young (see 2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).
In Acts 16:2-5 Luke continued, writing this about Timothy: “The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe [see 15:6-32]. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”
While it is clear that Timothy already was a believer when he became Paul’s missionary associate, it’s possible, as we have indicated, that Paul was instrumental in Timothy’s conversion to Christianity. Paul referred to his young associate as “my dearly loved and faithful son in the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 4:17, “my true son in the faith” in 1 Timothy 1:2, and “my dearly loved son” in 2 Timothy 1:2.
Paul not only allowed Timothy to minister alongside him; he also sent him on numerous important missions (see Acts 17:14-15; 18:5; 19:21-22; 20:1-4; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19; 1 Thess. 3:2,6).
The apostle wrote two personal letters to Timothy. Paul’s protégé was pastoring in Ephesus, and the apostle wrote 1 Timothy in or around 63 AD to encourage him regarding his work and ministry. Among other things, Paul instructed the young pastor about opposing false teachings with sound doctrine. Later, the apostle wrote 2 Timothy from Rome during his last imprisonment. He knew he soon would die, so this letter is often thought of as being akin to Paul’s spiritual “last will and testament.” Twice he implored Timothy to come to visit him if he could (see 2 Tim. 4:9,21). Although we do not know the details, Timothy also was imprisoned at some point, but he was released (see Heb. 13:23).
Additional evidence of the close relationship between Paul and Timothy can be seen in the inclusion of Timothy’s name at the beginning of six of Paul’s letters—2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.