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Hebrew Forefathers in the Faith

By Mark R. Rushdoony
July 01, 1999
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; 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. —  2 Tim. 1:1-5

We tend not to look for meaning in something as simple as a salutation. But these are the words of the imprisoned apostle who wrote with a sense of urgency because he knew his death could be imminent. First, Paul's credential was that he was "an apostle." Timothy would not have challenged him, but those among whom Timothy worked might have. Paul's words were more than those of just a teacher or minister they were authoritative. Second, Paul was "an apostle of Jesus Christ." His authority came from Whom he represented; he had been chosen by Jesus Christ to be His "vessel" (Ac. 9:15). Third, this was "by the will of God"; Paul's authority was not open to dispute. Fourth, Paul's calling was "according to the promise of life" in Jesus Christ. Paul's responsibility was to proclaim the reality of that life in Jesus Christ. To do that, he had to urge the integrity of the pure gospel and its faithful dissemination. These are the themes of Paul's second letter to Timothy.

He addresses the letter to his dearly beloved son in the Faith. This was a commendation to express, obviously, his love for Timothy as well as to honor him. Just as Paul's credentialing himself in verse one was for the attention of others more than Timothy, so was this honor. Paul was making it clear that Timothy knew the pure gospel and his teaching; if you challenged Timothy you were challenging the apostle himself.

In verse three Paul says that his thoughts of Timothy led him to prayer, and his joy in his beloved son led him to thankfulness. When Paul thinks of Timothy he gives thanks for him night and day, reminding us of Paul's exhortation to the church at Thessalonica to "pray without ceasing." Paul may have had regular times of prayer, morning and evening. More importantly, he was always in a state of mind of devotion to praise and thank God for His grace and implore His mercy.

In verse three Paul thanked God. In doing so he makes a point of bringing in the faith of his forefathers as well. In verse five he also refers to the faith of Timothy's mother and grandmother. Paul's faith and that of other Jewish converts was not a departure from the faith of Abraham but rather its covenantal continuation. Paul served the God of Abraham and believed in his Messiah. Despite the unbelief and error that had come to dominate many in the Hebrew community, true piety and faith remained. Paul and those who believed in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, continued that covenantal belief. Those who believed in Jesus Christ had a fuller understanding of God's messianic promises than their forefathers, but all who believed were saints. Paul is saying that his faith was in line with the true faith of the Hebrews as children of Abraham. Those Jews who rejected Jesus Christ and, especially after the destruction of the temple, followed Judaism, were the real apostates. Paul made very clear that he, though accused of heresy, was the faithful believer: "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Ac. 24:14).

The Faith of Abraham
This claim of Christianity to be the real faith of Abraham is at the root of Judaism's contempt of Christianity; it goes beyond offense at our belief in Jesus as the Messiah. A pastor recently told me of a startling admission by an elderly rabbi. The pastor asked him publicly if they were not the only two in the assembly who believed in the law of God. The rabbi declared publicly and to the point, "You misunderstand Judaism. Judaism is not a religion of the Torah; it is a religion of the rabbis." But Paul not only knew he served the God of his forefathers; he could do so "with pure conscience." Paul worshipped the true God free of guilt because, as he could say, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (v. 12). Paul knew he believed in the

Messiah, that he was His apostle, and that his death might be near. He was, though a prisoner in Rome, secure in his faith and encouraged Timothy to be strong in his faith and ministry.

Timothy's devotion to Paul gave the apostle great strength. Paul, in writing what would prove to be his last epistle, fondly remembers his "beloved son's" tears and asks him to come to Rome to visit him. He later repeats this request (4:9) and even suggests he do so before winter (4:21). In Paul's last letter he asked one he loved to comfort him with a visit. Paul was, at times, badly abused by enemies both within and without the church. In his last days, he asked one he had loved for twenty years to give him joy by his presence. Paul was disliked by some; he was in both these epistles mindful of the burden that would fall squarely on young Timothy's shoulders at his death. The old apostle knew his time grew short and his thoughts on this were turned to hope for Timothy. Hence he recalls his tears (v. 4), his faith (v. 5), his ordination (v. 6), and his godly youth (3:15).

Paul refers also to Timothy's covenant heritage (v. 5). He speaks of the faith of Timothy's mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois. We know from Acts 16:1 that Timothy's mother was a Jewess who believed. We do not know if Lois was Christian. Having just referred to the faith of his Jewish forefathers as the antecedent of his own, Paul may be referring back to the same in Timothy's grandmother. We cannot know this for sure, but if we believe what Paul said about believing in the God of his fathers, it does not matter whether Lois died hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like Paul's believing forefathers, Lois might have believed on the Messiah without ever hearing his name.

This faith, Paul tells Timothy, he believes was "in thee also." This would be a strange statement by Paul if he was referring to faith in Jesus Christ. Paul would not have said he was "persuaded" of this belief by Timothy, for Paul wrote certain of his young disciple's faith. Paul may have used such a reference to say he was convinced of Timothy's adherence to the true faith of Abraham (as taught him by his mother and grandmother) before his knowledge of Christ's atonement. In other words, Paul may here be saying, "Timothy, your grandmother believed on God's salvation as promised to our forefathers, and I am persuaded you believed in it before you ever heard the gospel." If this is Paul's sense, he was reminding Timothy of his covenant heritage, just as he had referred to his own. This, in fact, would give a greater depth of meaning to Paul's words. He was telling Timothy that as he had grown in knowledge of the truth and in grace and mercy (v. 12), he must continue to grow and be faithful to the purity of the gospel and sound doctrine. Paul's love and concern for Timothy are very clear, but so to is the weight of the mantle the imprisoned Paul places on the young man. Equally weighty are our covenantal responsibilities passed on to us.


Topics: Epistles, The

Mark R. Rushdoony

Mark R. Rushdoony graduated from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Master’s College) with a B.A. in history in 1975 and was ordained to the ministry in 1995.

He taught junior and senior high classes in history, Bible, civics and economics at a Christian school in Virginia for three years before joining the staff of Chalcedon in 1978. He was the Director of Chalcedon Christian School for 14 years while teaching full time. He also helped tutor all of his children through high school.

In 1998, he became the President of Chalcedon and Ross House Books, and, more recently another publishing arm, Storehouse Press. Chalcedon and its subsidiaries publish many titles plus CDs, mp3s, and an extensive online archive at www.chalcedon.edu.

He has written scores of articles for Chalcedon’s publications, both the Chalcedon Report and Faith for all of Life. He was a contributing author to The Great Christian Revolution (1991). He has spoken at numerous conferences and churches in the U.S. and abroad.

Mark Rushdoony lives in Vallecito, California, his home of 43 years with his wife of 45 years and his youngest son. He has three married children and nine grandchildren.

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