In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul says “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” On Sunday, we considered that Timothy’s adult faith was simply a continuation of what he had been taught as a child, and how the faith of his mother and grandmother had been passed on to him.
But on a bigger scale this verse reminds us of the continuity of faith between what we might call “Old Testament” Judaism and “New Testament” Christianity. It reminds us that our faith in Jesus is not a brand-new thing but is rather a continuation of what God had been doing with Israel for centuries.
After all, the “sincere faith” that first dwelt in Lois and Eunice was, most likely, a faith in God which they had before they knew about Jesus. It was a faith like what we read about in Hebrews 11—a faith which believed God’s promises without fully knowing what those promises were going to look like when they were fulfilled.
Just think of Timothy as a child, being taught the Scripture like every other Jewish boy at the time (2 Timothy 3:15). Through those Scriptures, he was being taught to look for the Messiah, and as an adult he came to see that those sacred writings had been talking about Jesus all along. This means that when Timothy learned about Jesus and became a Christian, he didn’t become a follower of a totally new religion. Rather, he simply came to understand that Jesus was the fulfillment of the story of Israel, the one to whom the Scriptures had been pointing, and the answer to the promises they had been holding on to all along.
Paul points to this same experience in 2 Timothy 1:3: “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience.” Paul served God, just like his Jewish ancestors did. They served God in the era of promise, and He served God in the era of fulfillment, and his faith in Jesus was simply the natural continuation of what had come before him.
This all reminds us that after Jesus was crucified and resurrected, God did not press pause on His plan for Israel and spin up a whole new project called “The Church.” Instead, what God is doing in this era of history is simply a fulfillment of everything He had already promised to do. (Remember, even the word “church” itself is an Old Testament word, being used in the Greek Old Testament to refer to the assembly or congregation of Israel. To a 1st century Jew, “church” was just a standard Bible word for the gathered people of God.)
For Paul and Timothy and Lois and Eunice, following Jesus was simply the continuation of the faith that they had been a part of all along. And if you’re a Gentile like me, it’s important to be humbled by the reminder that we’ve been grafted in to the ancient tree of God’s promises to Abraham (Romans 11:13-24). The Bible is one big story that fits together beautifully, we are a part of something old and wonderful, and our walk with God will be enriched the more we remember this.