Acts 16:1-15 - Imitation, information and innovation
Imitation, information and innovation – we see all three in this special gospel relationship between Paul and Timothy. And along the way we see expressions of the same in the lives of others that Paul encounters. Paul and Timothy began their mission partnership together by ‘delivering’ the teaching of the apostles and elders, as contained in the letter that they (the Jerusalem council) had sent for this very purpose – to instruct, teach and encourage these new churches. What Timothy got along the way was more than information; he experienced life on mission, family on mission. Indeed, Paul likens their relationship to one of Father and son ( 1 Cor 4:17 & Phil 2:22). Timothy watched Paul as he discerned and responded to the Spirits prompting (vs 6-8) and especially as Paul received the Spirit inspired vision of a new mission path to take (vs 9-10). Learning to imitate Paul, to take in the information provided him began the process of Timothy also leaning how to step into innovative mission on the appointed time.
Significantly in Timothy’s ‘imitation, information, innovation’ cycle of mentoring, as they responded to the Spirits prompting, their gospel ministry into Europe for the first time, Timothy experienced Paul’s sensitive interaction with women in ministry and this must not be overlooked. At the outset of this Spirit driven and enabled evangelistic mission into European territory, Paul models positive, gospel focused ministry in partnership with godly, Spirit filled women. The description given by Luke as he writes this account, begins in our reading today and continues tomorrow, but it is all part of the continuous learning that Timothy gets as he watches, learns and applies the gospel modeled by Paul.
There is something else to pick up on in this reading today; the encounter between Paul and Timothy, his joining of the mission team and the special discipling relationship that follows commences hot on the heals of the difficult relational challenges reflected on in yesterdays devotion. I have no doubt that the heartache, challenges and learnings of Paul in relation to the disappointment of Mark deserting them in Pamphylia, would have been discussed with Timothy as they traveled so it is very pertinent to note that years later, as Paul writes to Timothy about his own situation (2 Tim 4:11) he urges Timothy to “get Mark and bring him to me because he is helpful to me in my ministry”. Throughout the intervening years there will have been discussions, happenings and experiences that connected Paul Timothy and Mark, resulting in such a request by Paul late in his life. At the start of their gospel relationship and friendship, Timothy would have appreciated the pain that was Paul’s with respect to Mark and now years later he experiences the reality of the results of reconciliation that is, the very heart of the Christian gospel.
Who is your ‘Paul’, and who is your ‘Timothy’? Even more so, who is your ‘Lydia’ – who is the someone who culturally would be seen as not valuable in your setting, yet under God and through the gospel, is shown to be invaluable, for there is ‘neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Gal 3:28).