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A TRIBUTE TO DR. TIMOTHY LIN

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, October 18, 2009

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).


Dr. Timothy Lin (林道亮) was a Chinese-born Old Testament scholar, master of biblical languages, seminary professor, pastor, and president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taipei, Taiwan.

Dr. Lin was born into the family of an Episcopal minister in Chekiang, China, on January 18, 1911. He passed away on Sunday morning, October 11, 2009.

Timothy Lin was taught to read the Bible when he was six years old. His father would often put him on the top of a table to preach even before he was six. However, Dr. Lin was not born again until he was nineteen. At that time he came under conviction and confessed his sins in detail, even writing them down and going over them again and again, until he became aware that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed him “from all sin” (I John 1:7). He did not want to enter the ministry, but one day an old pastor pleaded with him, with tears in his eyes, to do so. Lin took this as a call from God and entered a seminary in Nanking to prepare for the ministry. However, he discovered that the seminary taught liberalism, using the “historical critical method” to discredit the Bible. He was a first-rate student. When he protested against these criticisms of the Bible, he was told by the president of the seminary, “Be quiet, Timothy, and we will send you to Oxford.” But Lin did not compromise. He left that seminary in 1934 due to its modernistic teaching.

He became the pastor of Jubilee Church in Shanghai until 1937. From 1938 to 1939 he was the principal of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Bible Institute of Kwangsi. It was here that his wife Daisy and daughter Beibei were killed by gunfire from the Japanese Imperial forces, and Timothy Lin broke his neck while guiding the Bible Institute students to safety during the attack. In 1940 he came to the United States for the first time to study Hebrew and Greek at Concordia Theological Seminary and Washington University.

During World War II, Timothy Lin was in charge of Bethel Orphanage, and was principal of Bethel High School. He also became the dean of Shanghai Bible College. After the war he was invited to be the president of the East China Theological College at Hangchow, which was affiliated with the China Inland Mission.

In 1940 Dr. Lin married Gracie Wu. They had one son in 1945, Dr. Samuel Lin, who is a surgeon in Maryland. Gracie Lin passed away on September 13, 1967. In February, 1969 Dr. Lin married Miss Lily Wong, who pre-deceased him.

In 1948 he returned to the United States for advanced study, receiving the B.D. (today’s M.Div.) and S.T.M. (Master of Sacred Theology) from Faith Theological Seminary, then located in Wilmington, Delaware. He then earned a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Cognate Language from Dropsie University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (now merged with the University of Pennsylvania and known as the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies). In addition to his Ph.D. in Hebrew and Cognate Language, Dr. Lin was awarded several other earned as well as honorary degrees.

In the 1950’s Dr. Lin was a professor in the graduate school of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, where he taught Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Old Testament Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, Classic Arabic, and Peshitta Syriac. Later he taught at the Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California; and at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Deerfield, Illinois. Dr. Lin was also one of the translators of the Old Testament portion of the New American Standard Bible. Beginning in 1980 he succeeded Dr. James Hudson Taylor III as the president of China Evangelical Seminary in Taiwan. Upon his retirement in 1991, the “Timothy Lin Chair of Biblical Interpretation and Church Growth” was created at China Evangelical Seminary.

In 1961 he became the interim pastor of the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles, a small, struggling church of about 80 members. In 1962 he became the permanent pastor. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the church experienced revival and, in a few years, had over 2,000 in regular attendance on Sunday. Under Dr. Lin’s guidance, the Los Angeles congregation started several mission churches in Crenshaw (a part of Los Angeles), Sacramento, Calexico, Fountain Valley, Walnut, and Monterey Park. Each mission church began with more than 300 in attendance.

Dr. Lin was also a popular Bible conference speaker, being in great demand by ministers, teachers and church leaders for training in biblical interpretation and church growth. He traveled extensively to speak in many parts of Asia, North America, Australia and Europe.

Dr. Timothy Lin passed away in Monterey Park, California, on October 11, 2009, three months before his 99th birthday. (This sketch is adapted from Dr. Timothy Lin’s biography at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Lin).

My wife, Ileana, our deacon Dr. Chan, and our Chinese translator Mr. Winston Song went with me to see Dr. Lin in the hospital the day before he passed away (October 11, 2009). I read aloud his life verse, Philippians 1:6, and Mr. Song translated it into Chinese. Dr. Lin opened his eyes and raised his eyebrows in recognition.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

God was faithful to Dr. Lin throughout his long life of 98 years and nine months. God brought him under conviction of sin as a nineteen-year-old boy and he spent all night confessing his sins, even writing them out on paper, and weeping over them, until early in the morning he came to Christ and was cleansed from his sins by the Blood that He shed on the Cross. That was the beginning of Dr. Lin’s Christian life. May you also come to Jesus Christ and be washed clean by His precious Blood. That is our prayer for you! Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Philippians 1:1-6.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Amazing Grace” (by John Newton, 1725-1807).