Both Timothy and Titus were trusted companions of the apostle Paul, each of whom he regarded as a true “son” or “child” [téknon] in the faith (1 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). While indicative of a close relationship, this may also suggest Paul’s role in having led them to Christ. Circumcision is a key issue when both Timothy and Titus are first introduced in the biblical record (Acts 16:3; Gal. 2:1-3). They labored as Paul’s coworkers (Rom. 16:21; 2 Cor. 8:23), and he had enough confidence in them to be his personal delegates (1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 12:18). Both served as capable evangelists in areas where false teachers had to be confronted and the local church needed to be more firmly established and organized (1 Tim. 1:2-3; Tit. 1:4-5). Preserved in our New Testament is inspired correspondence from the apostle Paul addressed to each of these men.
Despite these similarities, however, there are significant differences between Timothy and Titus.1
· Timothy plays a major role in the historical narrative of Acts (Acts 16:1–20:4ff.), while Titus is not named at all. It has been suggested that perhaps Luke (the author of Acts) and Titus were brothers, which, for modesty’s sake, would explain why neither name appears in the document.
· Timothy was half-Jew/half-Greek (Acts 16:1); Titus was full-blooded Greek (Gal. 2:3).
· Paul determined that Timothy ought to be circumcised (Acts 16:3), though adamantly opposed to Titus being circumcised (Gal. 2:3). Since Timothy was half-Jewish, this was culturally expedient, thereby enhancing his effectiveness in advancing the gospel among fellow ethnic Jews (cf. 1 Cor. 7:19; 9:19-23). Titus, on the other hand, was a Gentile, whose concession to this Jewish rite would have compromised the Christian faith and set a dangerous precedent (Gal. 2:3-5).
· Timothy appears to have been somewhat timid, sickly, and subject to disregard. The Corinthians were instructed, “if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear … let no one despise him” (1 Cor. 16:10-11);2 Timothy himself was admonished, “Let no one despise your youth …” (1 Tim. 4:12); “use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23); “being mindful of your tears .... For God has not given us a spirit of fear [timidity] ... Therefore do not be ashamed …” (2 Tim. 1:4, 7-8). Titus, on the other hand, was apparently just the opposite. The Corinthians were told, “he remembers the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling you received him” (2 Cor. 7:15); “being more diligent, he went to you of his own accord” (2 Cor. 8:17; cf. 12:18).
· Timothy, it seems, needed elaborate commendations from Paul (1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Thess. 3:2), probably to help bolster his confidence and promote acceptance and respect. Titus, however, did not need such hefty commendations (cf. 2 Cor. 7:15; 8:17; 12:18).
· There is no clear record that Timothy and Titus were ever together in the same place at the same time, although Macedonia while 2 Corinthians was being drafted is a possibility (see below).
· Timothy is named as co-sender of more Pauline letters than any of the apostle’s other coworkers (2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Philem. 1), while Titus is the explicit co-sender of none. The only writings in the Pauline corpus wherein Timothy is not named are the letters to the Galatians, the Ephesians, and Titus, two of which mention Titus by name. The only Pauline document to record the names of both Timothy and Titus is 2 Corinthians. Paul's mention of “all the brothers with me” in Gal. 1:2 could have included one or the other or both.
· In the New Testament canon, two letters are addressed to Timothy, and only one to Titus.
· Timothy was commissioned to help build up a local church on the mainland of Asia Minor (1 Tim. 1:2-3; 2 Tim. 4:5), while Titus worked with multiple churches on the island of Crete (Tit. 1:4-5).
· According to tradition, both Timothy and Titus died at an advanced age, although Timothy reportedly suffered a violent death as a martyr, whereas Titus died of natural causes.
The point of these comparisons is to illustrate the fact that no two people in the Lord’s kingdom are exactly the same, yet all have the potential of great usefulness in the Lord's service. Whether one is timid and vulnerable, like Timothy, or bold and commanding, like Titus, God can and will accomplish incredible things through anyone who steps out in faith as his faithful servant.
--Kevin L. Moore
1 The name Títos (Titus) is of Latin derivation and was a common praenomen among the ancient Romans. The name Timótheos (Timothy) is a Greek name with a Jewish connotation, meaning “of value to God.”
2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV.
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