Minor characters

Minor characters

I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. – Romans 16:22

Philippians 2:20-22

 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.

 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.

Hardly anyone knows who Edward Kimball was. He certainly does not have his own Wikipedia page. For the world, he was an unknown man who lived in Boston in the 1850s. Seemingly, he is also a minor character in the history of the kingdom of God in 19th century America.

But the fact of the matter is, there are no minor characters in the kingdom of God. No children of the King are minor characters to the King Himself. Each is precious and the Father has kingdom work for every one of them.

Indeed Kimball was no minor character.  Through his acts of kindness and genuine concern for students, he leaps off of the pages of history. He left a legacy which actually changed the world. As a Sunday School teacher, he loved to encourage and share the message with his students of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the cross.

On April 21, 1855, Kimball went to the Holton’s Shoe in Boston to share the love of Christ with one of his students. This particular Sunday school student had shown little interest in God or the Christian faith. He found the teenager in a back room wrapping shoes. The young man listened carefully to what he had to say. On that day, he became a child of the King. Later he reflected, “I had not felt that I had a soul till then.” The young man recalled, “I was in a new world. The birds sang sweeter, the sun shone brighter. I’d never known such peace.”

He immediately began sharing his new faith with others. His family wanted nothing to do with his new beliefs. Undaunted, he went searching for young men like himself and shared his new faith with them. When he wanted to join the church, he was not accepted at first. Why? He was asked what Christ had done for him and being rather nervous he simply replied that he was not “aware of anything particular.” But eventually, things got straightened out.

That boy was D. L. Moody. Moody became one of the most prolific evangelists of the 19th century. It is estimated that he talked to 100 million people.

But that is only part of the story, the rest is even more amazing. Through his influence, F.B. Meyer became a child of the King and a chain of faith began. Through F. B. Meyer, J. Wilbur Chapman became a child of the King. In turn, Chapman influenced Billy Sunday, a prominent 20th-century evangelist. Through the work of Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham became a child of the King. Mordecai Ham became a preacher and evangelist. Through his efforts, in 1934, he led another young man to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: Billy Graham.

Sometimes very minor characters in the eyes of the world, play major roles in the kingdom of God. Edward Kimball’s story reminds us to never underestimate the result of sharing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ with just one person. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11)!

Ponder for a moment and play the “what if” game. What would have happened if, on that April day in 1855, Edward Kimball did not follow the Father’s leading and decided he had better things to do?

Minor characters are nothing of the sort in the kingdom of God. Each child of the King is a work of art, a masterpiece that demonstrates for all time and eternity the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

REFLECT & PRAY

There are no minor characters in the kingdom of God.

Father remind me again and again that I am precious in Your sight and You have kingdom work for me to do.

INSIGHT

Who are some New Testament “minor characters,” that are nothing of the sort?

First there is the writer of the book of Romans. Paul of course was the author of Romans, but he was not actually the writer. Rather Tertius wrote it.

Romans 16:22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.

In the first century, some individuals were professional writers, scribes. They were much like modern-day stenographers who use shorthand to take down the words of someone else. Many modern-day secretaries also play this role. They are called upon to “take letters.” Someone else dictates the message, and they write it down.

In the first century, scribal assistants were commonly employed to write down the words and thoughts of another. This person was called an amanuensis. The otherwise unknown Tertius is actually the writer of Paul’s magnum opus, the magnificent book of Romans. Not too bad for a “minor character!”

In the 21st century, now more than ever, post-COVID, it is hard to get good help. But it has always been so. Paul had a particular problem with this. Many people attended to his needs, helping him, providing comfort and aid. But he had only one go-to person.

Philippians 2:20-21

 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.

 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

Wow! Most folks don’t realize that extreme self-concern, self-absorption, a.k.a. narcissism, is referenced in the Bible. But according to Paul, lots of people are like that. Timothy on the other hand was the exception. He was one of the many ordinary minor characters, who was in fact, extraordinary.

What made Timothy extraordinary? The Greek word that is translated no one like him, kindred spirit, like-minded is isopsuchos. This is an extremely rare word and it is only used once in the New Testament. Isopsuchos comes from isosequal and psuchesoul, mind. It has the sense, to be activated by the same motives, of like character, like-minded. It could be literally translated “like-souled.”  

Paul is saying that at the deepest level, he and Timothy share something that Paul does not share with anyone else. You might say in colloquial English, “they were cut from the same piece of cloth.”

On the one hand, Paul and Timothy had the same passion and saw things the same way. They shared the same concerns and had the same priorities. And when it comes to other people, both of them were genuinely concerned about their welfare. They put others before themselves.

On the other hand, Paul is saying he could count onTimothy like no one else. He is certain that Timothy shared his deep concerns of heart and would carry out his wishes. “In some languages who shares my feelings is best rendered “who shares one heart with me.’ In other languages, one may say ‘he has my heart and mind,’ ‘he thinks the same in his heart as I do,’ or ‘my thoughts are his thoughts’” (UBS).

Putting it in other terms, there was no one as close to Paul as Timothy was. They were not like brothers, nor were they like best friends, rather they were bonded together like father and son. How many people have the luxury of such a wonderful friend, mate, or companion? Very few!

The practical outworking of this relationship was that when Paul could not go himself, he can count on Timothy to go in his place. It would be as though Paul went himself.

“Others might be consumed with selfish ambition, but Timothy’s one desire was to serve Paul and Jesus Christ. He is the patron saint of all those who are quite content with second place, as long as they can serve” (Barclay).

Timothy models for us, what we should aspire to be in our walk with the Father. He is the consummate “minor character.”

¯\_()_/¯

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