COMPROMISE OR WISDOM (ACTS 16:1-3). Paul wanted to take Timothy, spoken well of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium, along on the journey. His mother was a Jewess and a believer, but his father was a Greek. Therefore, Timothy was uncircumcised so Paul circumcised him because of the Jews, who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
Can this be true? Did Paul actually circumcise Timothy because he was afraid of criticism of the Jews? Can it be possible that this is the same Paul, who had everywhere preached salvation by grace plus nothing else? Can this be the same Paul, who wrote:
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6)?
Unbelievable, but true! He just compromised what he fought so hard against at the Jerusalem Conference. There are those who defend Paul’s action by saying he merely accommodated himself in order to win his critics by “becoming all things to all men.” Not even Paul has a right to violate the truth, to compromise the Gospel, to water down the message and cut corners in order not to offend those he is trying to save. Paul is not infallible; he wrote infallible letters inspired by the Holy Spirit, but he made some mistakes after he was saved. Keep in mind that no one is perfect!
The Bible tells us of Noah who walked with God, but it also records his drunken stupor. Abraham, the friend of God, lied. It records Moses as the meekest man, but also tells of his rebellion and temper. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murdered. Do not expect perfection this side of glory. Paul is no exception. The purpose of the Bible is not to exalt the perfection and goodness of men, not even the godliest of saints, but to exalt the grace of God.
Why did Paul circumcise Timothy? Paul’s concern with Timothy was not his salvation but his fitness for service. Timothy would be working with both Jews and Gentiles in the churches, and it was essential that he did not offend. Being born of a Jewish mother, the young man was viewed as an illegitimate Jew if not circumcised. Once circumcised, Timothy could preach in the synagogues.
Was circumcising Timothy wisdom or compromise on Paul’s part?
Certainly, Paul did not make a mistake in choosing Timothy; he did not flicker as Mark had done. The timing of the Lord was perfect. No better time could have been chosen for Paul to find his beloved Timothy. Paul’s heart must have been heavy. Just a few weeks before he had experienced one of the most bitter disappointments of his life. A faithful, beloved companion had forsaken him for Mark. Paul lost Barnabas, but God gave him Timothy, who proved to be a more loyal friend, who never wavered or forsook him.