Nearly everyone knows the Boy Scout motto of Be Prepared.
This motto is repeated to the young men over and over, encouraging them to think past their immediate circumstances. This simple phrase shifts their gaze to what the future may bring and instructs them to consider what they may need to do now in order to be prepared for various scenarios.
Similarly, when Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, he wrote to encourage his protégé to be prepared for all parts of his job as leader of the church in Ephesus. We have observed Paul writing things like I urged you and I am giving you this instruction…so that by them you may strongly engage in battle. Later we’ll see Paul write if you point out these things and be conscientious about yourself and your teaching.
And in the middle of his letter, Paul gives his thesis – his entire purpose for writing:
1 Timothy 3:14-15
I write these things to you, hoping to come to you soon. But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
Notice that Paul admits to not knowing the future. If anyone in Scripture was going to be clued-in by God as to what the future holds, Paul would be a good candidate. But God didn’t tell him what personal, day-to-day events were coming next. Peter wasn’t told those things, either. Moses, David, Solomon…nope, nope, and nope. While a vision or two was occasionally given by God to select individuals, those events happened only for very specific purposes. Even when we consider the extensive Revelation given to the exiled Apostle John while he was on Patmos, future events were foretold; however, John was not informed if (or when) he would get to leave the island.
Paul has plans to work with Timothy again in Ephesus, but just in case something happens to change his plans, Paul wants Timothy to be prepared to continue his mission.
Timothy’s purpose was to take those who are saved – those who have trusted Jesus for eternal life – and help them answer the question: “Well, now what?”. This is an incredibly important mission. If Timothy were not there, then most folks would probably just go back to whatever sin-focused lifestyle they had before they encountered Christ…because that’s all they knew.
They needed to build their new lives on the foundation of the truth. Timothy was to show them how to cut the wood, hammer in the nails, and make their home with Jesus. Paul wasn’t there to help them do that, and there was a chance that he could be delayed in doing this good work alongside Timothy. So Paul did the next, best thing. He still made an eternal contribution to the Ephesian believers (and us, too!) by writing Timothy a letter, making sure that Timothy was fully prepared to do the work God had called him to do.