We are looking at the important work Jesus Christ has assigned to His Church. Two of the primary directives are known as The Great Commission and The Timothy Principle. We looked at The Great Commission in the last part of our study, so we move now to The Timothy Principle.

The Timothy Principle

The Timothy Principle — 2 Timothy 2:1-2

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

2 Timothy 2:1-2

The Timothy Principle is the method Paul gave to one of the men who would continue Paul’s apostolic ministry after the apostle died. Paul revealed to Timothy and all Christians the supernatural process of spiritual reproduction. God inspired Paul to write these words to Timothy and through him to all believers. This is how Jesus wants to build His Church. It’s the method every Christian can use in following The Great Commission. Jesus commanded that His followers make disciples and teach them to obey His teachings. The Timothy Principle shows us how to do that.

Strong in Grace

Paul began The Timothy Principle by writing, “You therefore, my son.” The therefore points us back to what Paul wrote earlier in his letter to Timothy. You’ll see in chapter one that Paul addressed Timothy’s faith heritage through his mother and grandmother (vss. 3-5), then closed with these words of encouragement:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

Paul then told Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel (vss. 8-12). That’s interesting in light of the fact that Timothy had been involved in Gospel ministry for more than a decade when Paul wrote the second letter to him. Hebrews 13:23 mentions that “our brother Timothy has been set free,” which might be why Paul encouraged Timothy not to be ashamed of the Gospel. Paul may have realized that the combination of Timothy’s imprisonment and Paul’s impending death may have been challenging to the younger minister. The reminder of the importance of standing strong for the Gospel may have been an important encouragement to Timothy.

The next thing Paul addressed was the importance of holding fast “the pattern of sound words” Timothy had heard from Paul (vss. 13-14). Then, Paul mentioned how people in Asia had “had turned away” from him, but how the household of Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment and had sought him out in Rome to help refresh him. Paul also remembered how Onesiphorus had ministered to him in Ephesus (vss. 15-18).

The words “my son” are also important to our understanding of The Timothy Principle. The Gospel Ministry wasn’t just a Monday – Friday, 9-5 job to Paul. It was a Heavenly calling to participate with Jesus in building His Eternal Family. Paul looked at Timothy as a son in the faith. The apostle began his letter by referring to Timothy as “a beloved son” (2 Timothy 1:2). In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he referred to him as “Timothy, a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). Paul referred to Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 4:17. Timothy was family and that’s how we need to look at the people God gives us to disciple. We need to see them as members of the great Family Jesus is building for His pleasure and glory.

With that background to The Timothy Principle we can understand why Paul emphasized the importance of being “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Our strength for making disciples is not in ourselves, but in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The Greek word endunamoó means “to empower, be filled with power, made strong.” Paul was telling Timothy to look to God’s power in ministry rather than his own power. Paul had just reminded Timothy about the power of the Holy Spirit “who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). endunamoó is the same Greek word Paul used in his well-known challenge to Christians in Ephesians 6:10 — “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Strength for living the Christian life and making disciples must be the strength that comes from being in Christ.

What You Hear

“Hearing” God’s Word is where everything begins in making disciples. Here’s a reminder about the importance of hearing:

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Matthew 13:23

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

John 10:27

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

John 5:24

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13

Becoming a disciple of Christ begins with hearing the Word of God, but it doesn’t stop there. Hearing must be followed by obedience.

… teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:20a

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

John 15:14

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.

Acts 5:29

Paul also warned about disobedience to God’s Word.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

Galatians 3:1

You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

Galatians 5:7

And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.

2 Thessalonians 3:14

The Greek word for ‘obey’ is hupakouó. It means “to obey what is heard.” Hearing the Word of God should lead to obeying the Word of God. That’s an important aspect of discipleship. If a person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does not want to obey the Words of Jesus Christ, they can and should be questioned about it. As Paul wrote the Thessalonians, it a follower of Christ does not want to obey the Word of God, “note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Accountability is an important part of discipleship and should be established early in the relationship before moving to the next step in The Timothy Principle.

Commit to the Faithful

Paul told Timothy to “commit these to faithful men.” The Greek word for ‘commit’ is paratithémi. It means “to place close right beside.” It carries the idea of entrusting something important to another in a close and personal way. That is part of the relationship we build with those God entrusts to us to disciple.

‘Faithful men’ is the translation of pistos anthrópos and means “trustworthy, reliable, loyal, full of faith humans.” These are people who have proven themselves to be worthy of your trust. They are people who have learned from you, walked with you, ministered with you, prayed with you, mourned with you and rejoiced with you. You can trust them because of how they live out what they say they believe. You’ve seen their reliability and loyalty with your own eyes.

Paul spent more than a decade with Timothy. He knew Timothy to be trustworthy, reliable and loyal. Paul was able to commit important truths and tasks to Timothy. Paul was telling Timothy to do the same thing with people God gave him to disciple. Timothy didn’t have to concern himself with coming up with ways to make disciples. All he had to do was follow the simple path Paul gave him — thus the name — The Timothy Principle.

Who Will Teach Others

Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t stop with you or the people you disciple. Disciple-making includes training faithful people to teach others also. That’s a primary way the Church has grown through the centuries from a small group of people meeting together in Jerusalem to large numbers of people meeting together around the world. What did they teach?

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42

The ‘apostles’ doctrine’ is what the apostles taught. The apostles taught what Jesus and the Holy Spirit taught them. The reason we can trust the words of the apostles is because we can trust the Word of God they taught. That is what we must teach and what the people we teach must teach. There is no other way to make disciples correctly unless we teach God’s Word faithfully to faithful people who will teach others also.

Think about the Gospel process for a minute.

  • God sent His Son from Heaven to earth.
  • Jesus preached the Gospel and chose twelve men to carry on His ministry after dying on the Cross, rising from the dead and returning to Heaven.
  • The apostles preached the Gospel and made disciples. Those disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.
  • The disciples of the apostles preached the Gospel and made disciples. Those disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.
  • The disciples of the disciples of the apostles preached the Gospel and made disciples. Those disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.

[We know from the past two-thousand years of Church history that many people who claimed to be disciples of Christ did not continue in the apostles’ doctrine. We do not see those people as faithful men and women who were able to teach others. They are not the example of disciple-making to follow.]

That leads to you and me. Someone was involved in telling us the Good News about Jesus Christ. Someone was involved in telling that someone about the Good News about Jesus Christ. Someone was involved in telling that someone about the Good News about Jesus Christ. If the information was available, we could follow that line all the way back to the apostles and Jesus Christ. God saves through His Word and He uses faithful people to preach and teach the Word and make disciples. That is The Timothy Principle.

Final Thought

It’s interesting to note that The Great Commission and The Timothy Principle were shared at the end of life on earth. Jesus gave His disciples The Great Commission just days before He ascended back to Heaven. Paul gave Timothy The Timothy Principle shortly before dying as a martyr. We would do well to listen closely to the last words spoken by people who love God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength.

I hope you have experienced the kind of discipleship we find in the Bible. If you have, please pass it on to faithful people who will be able to teach others. If you haven’t, ask God to lead you to a godly person who is an example of being strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. When God leads you to them, or them to you, ask that person if they will help you become the kind of disciple who would hear and obey God’s Word and learn how to disciple others. It is the most wonderful experience on earth and we will be able to enjoy the fruit of our service to God forever in Heaven.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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