Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.
These words of the apostle Paul were penned to his beloved Timothy.
Paul is in prison in Rome awaiting death for the gospel’s sake. He sends this final letter to Timothy, instructing him in his work as minister of the church in Ephesus and summoning Timothy to come to him in Rome.
Paul begins this epistle by assuring Timothy that he remembers Timothy in his prayers day and night. This reminder of Timothy stirs up Paul’s desire to see him. Then Paul elaborates on his memory of Timothy. He remembers Timothy’s tears, evidently tears shed the last time they parted from each other. And Paul remembers Timothy’s unfeigned faith, a faith which was first in his grandmother Lois, and then in his mother Eunice. Evidently something happened in Rome to remind Paul of Timothy’s faith.
Every covenant parent earnestly desires that his children show the unfeigned faith of Timothy.
Interestingly, the faith found in Timothy was first found in his grandmother and mother. This is no coincidence but reflects the pattern of God’s work of salvation in His covenant. It also reflects the faithful labors of a godly grandmother and mother to instruct young Timothy.
When godly parents provide the same instruction to their children and grandchildren, they can expect the same results.
We first come to know of Timothy on Paul’s second missionary journey.
Timothy was the son of a Gentile father and a Jewish mother named Eunice. Timothy was probably converted to Jesus Christ under Paul’s ministry, for the apostle refers to Timothy as his “beloved son and faithful in the Lord” (I Cor. 4:17) and his “own son in the faith” (I Tim. 1:2). This conversion probably took place on Paul’s first missionary journey as he labored in Lystra or Iconium. Timothy was held in high regard by the churches of these two cities, who then recommended Timothy to Paul.
Timothy became Paul’s friend and chief associate. Timothy played a prominent role in Paul’s missionary journeys. He was present more than once as Paul composed his epistles to various churches and is mentioned no fewer than six times as joint sender of these epistles. Timothy also was a companion of Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome.
In keeping with all this Paul now speaks of Timothy’s faith.
True faith is both knowledge and confidence.
Faith is knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. This knowledge is first an intellectual understanding of what God has revealed and a hearty consent to its truth. But faith is more than head knowledge; it is a knowledge of the heart. It is an intimate knowledge of love whereby one comes to know God as the God of his salvation in Jesus Christ, embraces this God and His salvation, loves this God, desires to serve Him in gratitude, and is deeply grieved when in weakness he fails.
Faith is also confidence in God. Faith leads one to rely upon God for all things and to rely upon what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ on the cross. One who lives in faith relies upon the cross for his righteousness before God, for the power to overcome sin, for the power to be obedient, for comfort in time of sorrow, for peace in time of upheaval….
This faith Timothy had.
Paul speaks of an unfeigned faith. Unfeigned means not fake, not pretend, not hypocritical, and therefore genuine, sincere. Paul uses this negative term, “unfeigned,” to suggest that there were many in the church whose faith was feigned or fake. For various ulterior motives they put on a show of faith and joined themselves to the church. Perhaps they did this for business reasons, perhaps for the praise of men, perhaps for acceptance, or even for marriage. Most often a feigned faith is exposed. This is true especially when the way of faith requires sacrifice or brings persecution or when one no longer derives the “benefits” he sought by pretending faith. Then one whose faith is feigned will quickly abandon his “faith.” There was evidently a great deal of that in the early church, just as there is in the church today.
Paul was persuaded that Timothy’s faith was unfeigned.
Paul had known Timothy, worked with him, and observed him for a number of years. During the course of time Paul had become persuaded that Timothy’s faith was unfeigned, not fake, but genuine. This was no doubt evident to Paul in a number of ways. There was Timothy’s faithfulness to the gospel, when so many had departed. There was Timothy’s willingness to suffer for Christ’s sake. There was Timothy’s loyalty to Paul, even in prison. This did not mean that Timothy was without fault. Paul’s instruction to him indicates that he was often fearful. He was too timid. He also struggled with youthful lusts. Nevertheless, Timothy had proven himself by his devotion to the Lord and perseverance in that devotion to be a man of faith.
It should be the prayer of every covenant parent that his children have and show the faith of Timothy.
Paul indicates that the same faith that Timothy had first dwelt in his grandmother, Lois, and then in his mother, Eunice.
This faith was initially the faith of the Old Testament saints. In the Old Testament the saints knew God from the Old Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament Scriptures pointed them forward to the time when the great Savior of God would come to secure their salvation and give to them the fullness of salvation, which they then had only in part. By faith the Old Testament saints laid hold of these promises and looked for the coming Savior, upon whom they pinned all their hopes. This had been the faith of Lois and Eunice.
But when Paul came to their community with the gospel that the Savior had come in the person and work of Jesus, they embraced this gospel and believed on Jesus as their Savior.
The faith of these two was an unfeigned faith, not hypocritical but genuine. We do not know much about Lois and Eunice. But Paul evidently did. This is suggested by the fact that he refers to them by name. And Paul had become persuaded also of the genuine character of their faith.
Now Paul indicates that he is also persuaded that the faith that dwelt in Eunice and Lois also dwells in Timothy.
How is it to be explained that the faith of Eunice and Lois is also found in Timothy? Is this just coincidence? This is the inevitable conclusion of those who embrace the doctrines of free will. According to this view the decision to believe in Jesus as Savior rests not with God but with each individual sinner who hears the gospel. The inevitable conclusion to this must be that to find faith in three generations is quite a coincidence.
But this is not the case. The beautiful situation in Timothy’s home has been repeated over and over again in the history of the church. What happened with Eunice, Lois, and Timothy is not a coincidence, but a well established pattern!
This pattern is to be explained by the sovereign work of God’s grace in salvation.
Salvation is not dictated by the will of man but by the will of God. God has eternally determined whom He will save in Jesus Christ. Those whom He has chosen, He also saves in Jesus Christ. He secures their salvation in the cross. He irresistibly brings them to a genuine faith in Jesus Christ by the power of His Word and Spirit. In that faith He draws them to Christ, the fountain of their salvation.
In this great work of salvation God normally saves families in their generations. Very seldom does God bring faith and salvation to only one member of a family. Generally God brings faith and salvation to families in their generations. No, God does not always save every member of a family. Yet, His work of salvation is found in families and in their generations. This is in keeping with God’s covenant promise to Abraham, the father of all the faithful: And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (Gen. 17:7).
And so it is that the same faith found in grandmother, Lois, and in her daughter, Eunice, was also found in Timothy.
What an encouragement to us as covenant parents.
As godly parents we want many things for our children. We want to provide them with food and drink, clothing and shelter. We want a good education for them, etc. But above all we want for them something that is not in our control, namely, the faith of Timothy.
What an encouragement to know that God is the One who works faith, not us. And He works faith in family lines! We can expect therefore that the faith we have in Jesus Christ will also be worked by God in our children, and their children, and their children….
But bear in mind that God gives the faith of the parents to their children through means. And the chief means He uses is the Word.
This is how the Lord brought Timothy to the faith of his mother and grandmother. In this same epistle (II Tim 3:14-15), Paul also writes to Timothy, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” From childhood on, Timothy had been taught the Old Testament Scriptures by his mother and grandmother. Paul suggests that Lois and Eunice not only taught Timothy what the Scriptures reveal but also taught by their own example how the Scriptures are to be lived. This God used to bring the faith of a godly grandmother and mother to the heart of Timothy.
And God uses the same means also today.
Let godly parents take heart as they raise their children in these evil days.
Let them bend every effort to teach their sons and daughters, their grandsons and granddaughters, the holy Scriptures from childhood on.
Then they can expect to see their faith in the hearts and lives of their own children and grandchildren.