The book of Acts ends with a mention of Paul’s two year house arrest in Rome. From what we can tell from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, he was released from prison after that time and allowed to travel once again. He returned to Ephesus where he preached for a while before going on to Greece and then to Crete. He spent at least a winter at the Greek resort town of Nicopolis, and returned to Asia Minor before being arrested once again and sent back to Rome.
At some point during these travels, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to help that church (1 Timothy 1:3).
Timothy was no newcomer to helping churches through difficult times. It had been his ministry virtually from the beginning. When we are first introduced to him (48 AD – Acts 16), Timothy is already highly respected by churches in the cities of Derbe and Lystra. Not long after meeting Paul, one of his first assignments was to help the fledgling Thessalonian congregation. On Paul’s third journey, Timothy was sent to deal with the division in Corinth. Paul had asked Apollos to go, but Apollos had refused (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:12). Just after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, he sent Timothy to deal with the division of the Philippian church. Paul wrote: “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself . . .”
First and Second Timothy are letters written twenty years after Paul first met Timothy. In the first one, we find a power struggle in the Ephesian church, and Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to deal with the issues, and to cultivate purity of heart, a sincere faith, and a clean conscience among the brethren.
Perhaps it was a mid-life crisis, or just discouragement at the enormity of his task, but for whatever reason, Timothy became a part of the problem rather than the solution. He took sides with the brethren’s quarrels and by the time of the first letter, he’d begun thinking in some fairly materialistic terms. Note the following instructions to him in the first letter: “ Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. . . I write these things to you hoping to come to you quickly, but if I am delayed, that you will know how to behave in the house of God . . . Stop neglecting your gift . . . Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them . . . Stop listening to accusations against Elders . . . keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism . . . do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. . . flee [the desire to get rich] and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. . . Turn away from godless chatter . . .
The letter to Timothy is a reminder to us all that Satan is alive and well, and even the most faithful among us is not immune to his attacks.