Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. – 1 Timothy 1:1-2
At first glance, the beginning of the book of 1 Timothy seems anything but profound. Paul, as he does in most of his writings, introduces himself as an apostle and greets his audience by reminding them of God’s mercy and peace. What’s different about his introduction this time around is how he describes his audience.
The first intended audience of 1 Timothy wasn’t an entire church like the book of Romans, nor was this a letter initially written to be circulated around a region much like Peter’s first letter. Instead 1 Timothy is penned for, as Paul describes, “my true son in the faith” a man named Timothy.
Timothy was not Paul’s biological son. In fact it appears they didn’t meet until well into Paul’s first journey as a missionary, when he came to Timothy’s hometown when Timothy was likely somewhere in his late teens to early twenties. While we can’t know for sure if it was Paul who shared the Gospel with Timothy at the time that he believed, it is clear that he was a major force in Timothy’s journey from a young boy to an Elder and Pastor in the early church.
After the onset of their relationship, Paul took Timothy alongside him as he traveled and preached; he mentored him and taught him in the Gospel. It’s no wonder why reading through the book of 1 Timothy there’s such a warm and familiar tone unlike any other of Paul’s writings.
Recently my wife Sarah and I found out that our fourth child due to be born in a few months will be our third son. When we were told we’d be having another boy a thought sprang into my mind that was new to me. I thought “how wonderful would it be for each of my boys to grow up and work alongside me in vocational ministry!” This was particularly exciting for me as we’re in a season of life in which we are now preparing to move and plant a church in Grand Rapids, MI – a church which we hope will be the place from which I’ll some day retire.
This thought was quickly followed by the realization of how far the Gospel has often called me to travel from my family and friends; from Michigan, to Chicago, to Texas, and back again now to Michigan, each time leaving close friends and family behind.
Why, if Paul’s relationship was so deep with Timothy, would he send him away to minister so far from himself? Why not keep Timothy close in order pastor a church alongside him? I think the answer is both simple and difficult. It is this:
The Gospel calls us to Go.
When we are captivated by the truth of the Gospel: that God would send His son Jesus to die on our behalf, that He would take our sin upon Himself in order to restore our relationship with Him, and that through faith in His death and subsequent resurrection we would be given new eternal life (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:1-10). We are, and should be, compelled to go and take this message to those without it.
This going thing is not just for apostles like Paul, or pastors, or church planters like me. It’s the call that Jesus gave to all of us.
The actual “go” can look pretty unique depending on our situation. The Gospel may call you to go halfway around the world to East Asia to plant a church or translate the Bible. It may call you to move to a new city to join a church planting team or it may just call you off your couch to meet your neighbors for a cookout.
For me, right now this means leaving Riverview, which is filled with friends who are like family and men who have pastored me well, for Grand Rapids. It may in the future mean sending my kids across the street or around the world.
Every go is hard.
A “go” requires Gospel goodbyes as we like to say around here. If you take a further look, behind every go there is a hope and prayer that God would work through us to have the Gospel take hold in the lives of people around our city, our state, and the world.