1 Timothy 1:2a NKJV
To Timothy, a true son in the faith.
Paul talks about “a true son in the faith.” Timothy wasn’t his genetic son, but he was his spiritual son. How many spiritual children do we have?
We don’t talk much in churches these days about discipleship, though we should. And I think that’s the kind of “sonship” to which Paul was referring. Paul, previous to his conversion, had been trained as a rabbi. There was a unique relationship between rabbis and their followers (or disciples). The Hebrew word is talmid and carries with it the idea of completely imitating one’s rabbi. The rabbi lived in such a way that his life was worth imitating and the talmid lived in such a way to completely imitate the rabbi, even to the matters of what to eat and what to wear.
Twice in 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:16 and 1 Corinthians 11:1), Paul urged the Christians to imitate him (as he imitated Christ). This is a true sense of discipleship, much more than intellectual learning. And through this “imitation,” the disciple (or talmid) would become like Paul who himself was striving to become like Christ. In a very real sense, Paul was creating a spiritual genetic bond that mirrored the physical genetic bond of blood families.
How many spiritual children do we have? Are our lives such that another (younger) Christian would be safe to imitate us? Would they even want to?
The Lord Jesus described false teachers as ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15) and told us that we could discern them by their fruits. These “fruits” are the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (v. 22-23). Paul confirms that those who have crucified the flesh and its desires will walk in the Spirit and manifest this fruit.
We need to strive to become mature believers who are worthy of being followed. That means crucifying the desires of the flesh, regardless of its enticement in order to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The Church is, first and foremost, a family. We should be “birthing” new babes in the Lord and then raising them through discipleship as our spiritual sons and daughters. Do we get excited when new souls come into the Kingdom? I would hope that would be what we long for . . . more than anything else.