…The HARD TRUTH with Dr. Kennedy Musonda, Ph.D.
IN last week’s article, I discussed the ancient Jewish father/son relationship to draw lessons for the metaphoric spiritual father/son.
We learned that a father made huge investment in the son in the ancient Jewish culture on a long-term basis. It is important to note that calling somebody a spiritual son is not child’s play because of the huge demand placed on the spiritual father.
Based on the Jewish culture of father/son relationship and Paul’s relationship with Timothy, you can only call someone as a son if you have a long-term relationship with such a person and have mentored such a person.
Also, it would help if you have made plans for him to take over from you when you retire by age or by death, or you want him to take up significant responsibility in the ministry. Let’s draw lessons from the father/son relationship between Paul and Timothy.
Like a biological father and son, Paul had a long-term relationship with Timothy. One scholar estimates that Timothy’s relationship with Paul lasted at least for a decade, during which period Paul mentored Timothy.
Even when Paul was not physically with Timothy, he continued to mentor him remotely (1 & 2 Timothy). During this period, Timothy proved himself as a son in the Lord to Paul.
“But you know Timothy has proved himself because as a son with his father; he has served with me in the work of the Gospel” (Phil. 2:22). Paul and Timothy met for the first time in Acts 16:1 at Derbe and Lystra after a sharp disagreement with Barnabas over John Mark, who had deserted them on their first missionary journey. Paul needed a second assistant since he only had Silas (Acts 15:36-41).
Paul picked Timothy as a second assistant based on four major characteristics. First, Timothy was a disciple (Act. 16:1). In other words, Timothy was a learner and disciplined person. Second, Timothy had a good testimony among the believers as they spoke well of him (Act. 16:2).
Third, Timothy was obedient because he did not refuse to go with Paul, nor did he refuse to be circumcised as an adult (Act. 16:4) when Jews circumcised children when they were eight days old (Gen.17:12; Lev. 12:3). Fourth, Timothy went with Paul everywhere (Act. 16:4-5), and he was faithful in the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17). As a disciple, Timothy heard and learned all the teachings of Paul as he taught leaders and other believers (2 Tim. 2:2).
Paul started sending Timothy on important missions as his ambassador as a good son would be sent by a father, and he would ably represent him. He did this because he proved that Timothy was of like mind as Paul (Phil. 2:20-23). There are several documented missions on which Paul sent Timothy to represent him.
Apart from remaining at Berea when Paul fled persecution (Act. 17:14-15), he sent Timothy and Silas to Macedonia (Act. 19:22). Paul sent him to Thessalonica (1 The. 3:2a).
He also sent him to Corinth (1 Cor. 4:17). He was also planning to send him to Philippi (2:19). Some men of God call people spiritual sons, who have never even accompanied them on a single ministry assignment or trip, and yet they use Paul’s example of calling Timothy, son, to call their church members spiritual sons.
When Timothy had fully matured, Paul co-authored four books with Timothy – the book of Philippians, Colossians, and first and second Thessalonians (Phil. 1:1; 1; Col. 1:1; The. 1:1 & 2; The. 1:1). How many of today’s Papa’s can co-author books with their spiritual children when they want all glory to go to them? How many of today’s spiritual children can ably represent their Papas as Timothy did? And how many of today’s papas can trust their spiritual sons to represent them at other churches?
It is also important to note that Paul did not just call Timothy his son, but he also called him by other designations. He called him his fellow bond-servant of Jesus Christ (Phi. 1:1) – a term that has profound implications. Paul also called Timothy “our brother, minister of God and fellow laborer in the Gospel (1 The. 3:2).
In Romans 16:21, Paul called Timothy “my co-worker.” Therefore, calling a person a spiritual son or even a spiritual daughter is not a casual statement. It is a statement laden with responsibility and long-term commitment of seeing one mature, take over or at least get a significant portion of responsibility from you.
Author: Dr. Kennedy Musonda an international development consultant holds a Bachelor and Master of Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts in Theology, a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and a Ph.D. in Business Administration.
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