Lois and Eunice are mentioned by name only once in scripture. In the beginning of his second letter to the young pastor Timothy, the apostle Paul writes,Lois and Eunice
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. (2 Timothy 1:5, ESV)Since he names these two women, Paul must have known them personally. Perhaps he met Timothy, his mother Eunice, and grandmother Lois, on his first missionary journey when he visited Lystra where they lived (Acts 13:13-14:21). It may be that Paul, along with his fellow-missionary Barnabas, led them all to Christ during this visit.
What we know for sure is that when Paul returned later to Lystra, Timothy was already a respected disciple:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.We can gather a little more about Eunice’s life from these verses, too. She was a Jewish woman who was (or had been—some think she was a widow) married to Greek man. Hers was a mixed marriage: a faithful Jewish wife and an unbelieving Gentile husband. That her husband was Greek was the reason Timothy had not been circumcised.
(Acts 16:1-3, ESV).
Lois, who was probably Eunice’s mother, was a believer, too. She may have lived with Eunice, helping her bring up young Timothy. At the very least, she was involved enough in Timothy’s life to be part of his heritage of faith. Paul tells us that as a young child, Timothy learned the truths of the Old Testament:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV)The “whom” in verse 14 is plural, which makes me think that both Eunice and Lois were involved in Timothy’s religious education. Because of their faithful teaching, Timothy was familiar enough with the Old Testament to be “wise for salvation.” When he heard the gospel—the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus—he recognized it as the fulfillment of the everything God had promised in the scripture his mother and grandmother taught him.
Lois and Eunice were ordinary women in ordinary circumstances who were faithful in a rather ordinary way. Their situation was not ideal: They were raising a child who either had no father or an unbelieving one. Still, they taught young Timothy God’s word, and God’s word, as always, accomplished what he purposed for it. In this case, their teaching was an instrument God used to work genuine faith in their son’s and grandson’s heart, paving the way for him to become Paul’s right-hand man and a New Testament pastor. What’s more, two thousand years later, we know the names of these two ordinary women, and they continue to teach us through their admirable example recorded for us in our scripture.
The obvious lesson from a study of Lois and Eunice is that God intends for mothers and grandmothers to be teachers, teaching their children and grandchildren God’s word, and that he may use their faithful witness to bring the children to faith.
But there’s another lesson, too. Like Lois and Eunice, what we teach from the Old Testament should cause our children to recognize salvation in Christ as its fulfillment. Yes, there are morality tales there, and lists of dos and don’ts, but even those point beyond themselves to the truth that everyone needs a Saviour. And throughout, there are all the promises of God that find their Yes in Christ. May we teach the children in our lives—and anyone else we have opportunity to teach—from all the scripture, Old Testament included, in a way that makes them “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”