Timothy was already a “disciple” (v.1), so how can Paul call him his “son” (ITim.1:2), a name reserved for men he led to Christ (cf.Phile.1:10)? Paul led Tim to the Lord during his first visit in Acts 14:6,7. He had help from Tim’s mom, who prepared his heart by teaching him the Scriptures (IITim.3: 15). Her mom prepared her (IITim.1:5), so she could prepare him. Finding Tim saved, Paul began to prepare him for the ministry, so he in turn could prepare others (IITim.2:2).
Since Grandma Lois raised Tim’s mom Eunice in the Jewish faith, she would have taught her not to marry a Gentile (Deut.7:1-3). But Eunice didn’t listen (Acts 16:1). And when verse 1 described her as “a Jewess which believed,” but doesn’t describe her husband as a Greek who believed, he must not have been saved. That’s why Acts 16:1 says “behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus.” Great men of God don’t often come from a marriage of mixed faith, but Eunice overcame that disadvantage by teaching her son the Word of God!
Since it had been 7 years since Paul led Tim to the Lord, he had time to become well known among the brethren in two cities (Acts 16:2). Part of that was Paul’s doing, for Paul visited Tim’s town a second time to confirm him (Acts 14:21, 22). So by the time Paul made this third visit, he saw so much he liked in Tim, he decided to take him with to preach in other cities (Acts 16:3) to train him for the ministry.
Picking a half-Jew/half-Gentile to help him was a picture of what was happening in Acts. Paul’s first helpers, Barnabas and Silas, were fully Jewish, Tim was half Jewish, and later Paul picked a full Gentile named Titus to help him. That pictures how God’s servants went from being Jews to Gentiles, as they are today. Tim typified the Body of Christ, made up of Jews and Gentiles (ICor.12:13). He needed wine for his sickliness (ITim.5:23), a type of how the early church needed the wine of the gifts of the Spirit (cf.Acts 2:4,13) until the Bible was complete.
Tim probably got saved at age 5 and began training seven years later at age 12. That’s the only way 12 years later he could still be called a “youth” (ITim.4:12). Twelve is the age Jewish boys had their bar mitzvah, and were considered old enough to begin apprenticing for their life’s work.
But why’d Paul circumcise Tim (Acts 16:3)? It was because the Jews in that area knew he wasn’t circumcised, and would not let him in their synagogues when Paul came to preach to them. So Paul let Tim become “as” a Jew to win them (ICor. 9:20-23), as James advised us all to do (Acts 15:19-21).
But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be baptized so Baptists will let you teach in their church, so you can win them to the grace message! Circumcision gave a Gentile a new nationality: Jewish. So Paul circumcised Timothy to make him acceptable to Jews as a member of the Hebrew nation, not to make him acceptable as a member of the Hebrew religion. But no one is a Baptist by nationality, so the only reason to be baptized would be to join the Baptist religion.
Later, Paul refused to let his Gentile helper Titus be circumcised (Gal.2:3-5), because that wouldn’t gain those Jews to Paul’s faith, it would join Titus to the Jews’ faith, and obligated him to keep the law (Gal.5:3cf.Rom.6:15).
The “decrees” (Acts 16:4) were the ones James made in Acts 15. Paul was delivering them to Gentiles, and he could now point to Tim as a living example of doing things not to offend the Jews! Paul established those new Gentile members of the Body of Christ (Acts 16:5) with the mystery (Rom.16:25).
All of that ended up being the first step in Tim’s training. Lesson #1 was how to be respectful of the convictions of others. Sad to say, many grace believers haven’t learned it!
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “Paul Begins To Train Timothy” Acts 16:1-5