Stir Up The Gift
2 Timothy 1:6-12
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
Christians should use spiritual gifts feverently
Sounds a lot like a couple of the lessons we just concluded in Essentials for Living in the 21st Century!
2 Timothy 1:6
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
The last couple of verses from our last lesson dealt with Paul’s thanksgiving to God for Timothy and the apostle’s joyful memories this thanksgiving brought to mind in the cold jail cell. While we speak of the apostle following the general pattern of letters of his time, it is difficult to be precise where the apostle moves from his "thanks" portion into the body of the letter. "Therefore" or "wherefore" are always connector verbs designed to highlight a change in thought in the apostle’s letters. If Paul were writing today, he might use "now then."
We have a "therefore" here at the start of v6 and another one at v8. And, while v13 does not have a "therefore," it provides the meat behind the apostle’s statements in v8-12. So, you may take your choice as to where the transition from thanksgiving to teaching actually occurs. My preference is here at v6.
These few verses all point to the need to use our spiritual gifts for God’s kingdom. While Paul does not specify Timothy’s gift or gifts, it is clear the apostle sees his young general having such gifts.
We can see from other letters the pagan nature of Ephesus was clearly recognized by Paul (Acts 19; 1 Tim 1:3-7, 19, 20). Some commentators (including the Leaders Guide) view Timothy’s gift as burning low in need of growing (1 Tim 4:14). It is clear that Timothy was young (1 Tim 4:12) and apparently timid (1 Cor 16:10). As such it is very possible the difficult situation combined with his potential health issues (1 Tim 5:23) caused stress and burn-out resulting in a dying of the spiritual flame.
This is very possible. The verb translated as "stir up" means to "stir into a living flame" or to "set ablaze." This is the only place in the New Testament where this verb is used. The KJV translates this verb as "kindle afresh" and it properly means to kindle up, inflame one’s mind, or to have strength or zeal. As such, other commentators view the apostle as telling Timothy to continue to stir up the spiritual gifts he is already using ("fan the flame"). This would then be a command to continue to make use of his gifts.
In either case, the apostle provides words of encouragement to Timothy to remain bold in his ministry. It is a charge to continue. As indicated, there are no clear Scriptural statements concerning Timothy’s gifts. Certainly, Timothy’s gifts included pastoral ministry since he is called to preach (4:2-5). These same verses call upon Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. This may or may not have been a different gift in Paul’s mind. Further, Timothy must have the gift of administration since all three of the Pastoral letters imply the need to appoint others to various church positions. This is clearly an administrative function.
"Which is in you" speaks to the presence of spiritual gifts (especially of the implied presence of the Holy Spirit) a sure sign Timothy is a believer.
The "laying on of my hands" as well as the hands of the elders (v6; 1 Tim 4:14) would be a symbolic acknowledgment of these gifts by the church. The church is recognizing what the Holy Spirit has already accomplished.
However, Paul’s next comments lead many commentators to suggest the gift in mind here is not a "grace gift" (1 Cor 12) but rather the salvation gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells Timothy he must exercise his "grace" or "spiritual" gifts because of the initial gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s grace provides us the power to accomplish our tasks for His Kingdom. This gift provided Timothy’s own spirit the ability to react not in "fear" but in "power" and "love" and a "sound mind" (v7).
Some see the reference to not exercise the gift in "fear" as a reference to Timothy being timid and open to responding to situations in "fear." This may be reading too much into the letter, although if all Scriptural references to Timothy are considered, Paul goes out of his way to "encourage" his spiritual son. The Greek word translated "fear" means timidity, fearfulness, and cowardice. Various versions translate the word as "fear," "timid" or "timidity," "cowardice," and "no craven spirit."
"Power" is the ability to go forward with God by you side. Early in the churches history, God’s answer to prayer was "boldness," a power to go forward (Acts 4:31). This boldness would enable Timothy to say "no" to the false teachings invading the church at Ephesus. Power allows all of us to hate sin and say "yes" to righteousness. Such power must come from the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31; Eph 3:16).
Love is the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22). God loves us so that we may love others. The great commandments are to love God and love our neighbor (Matt 22:37-40). The Holy Spirit produces love in our lives (Rom 5:5). This is another example of God empowering the believer.
"A sound mind" is a translation of a Greek word meaning an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control. Many modern translations translate the word as either "discipline" (NASB) or "self-discipline" (NIV, NLT). Paul writes in Romans for the need to disciple our mind.
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is the desire to obtain the Mind of Christ. In the context of 2 Timothy, Paul is telling his field commander the way to a sound mind is via sound doctrine. A believer who fills his mind with Scripture and evaluates all events against the Bible will come to the truth of all situations (2 Cor 10:5; Psalm 119:105)
Having instructed Timothy to be enabled by God’s Word and Spirit, the apostle now advises Timothy about the need for sound doctrine and God’s power. Timothy, as with all disciples of Christ, will suffer for the Gospel message. Remember Paul is in prison and Timothy may be timid or shy. This is true of most of us. Yet, God’s power does not allow us to be anything but "bold" about His Gospel message.
Paul’s language demands that Timothy be bold rather than "ashamed" and to "share with me [Paul] in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God." Paul suffers in prison for the Gospel. Timothy should expect to suffer as well, and, he should not sit back and attempt to avoid the suffering. It would be easy to be ashamed of Paul as a prison of the empire. Public opinion sways us more often than we would like to admit. This is true of us today and of Timothy 1900 years ago. This would "justify" not preaching in order to avoid a similar fate. Paul tells Timothy that the opposite is what is expected. He is to join the suffering.
As a Christian, we may express our "fear" of Christianity in three ways:
- We may be ashamed of Christ by not relating to Him in our speech and lifestyle
- We may be ashamed of other Christians by not fellowshipping with them and supporting them.
- We may be ashamed of the Gospel message by not relating to or identifying with the its message. For example, we may have a poor view of the authority and priority of the Bible.
Reading this entire passage, v12 makes it very clear that Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel message. Jesus warned His followers that persecution and tribulation would follow them (John 15:18-20; 16:33). Paul is proud to be suffering for accomplishing the task assigned to him as a preacher and apostle of Jesus (v11). This is the attitude he attempts to convey to Timothy, and through this letter to each of us.
Note that v8 makes it clear the shame we are to avoid is the shame of both Jesus and Paul – "testimony of our Lord, nor of me." Paul will shortly use the analogy of a soldier (2:3) in his efforts to explain his fight for the Lord. Many would consider Jesus nothing but a dead Jew, a criminal at that. Certainly the Jewish people view Christ in this fashion. But, Paul sees Jesus in a different light.
Paul frequently includes a "mini-Gospel" message in his letters. The apostle writes about the same Gospel in this, his last letter, as he did in Galatians, his first letter. Paul’s message has not changed in the course of his ministry! Romans 1:3-4 is a prime example. Here Paul sums up the Gospel story in two verses, vv9-10. Paul leads into this summary by first making it clear that we cannot endure suffering in our own power but must rely "according to the power of God" (v9). God Himself uses His power to offer us salvation.
"who has saved us" – salvation is the offering of life with God in eternity rather than a life of suffering. Salvation is deliverance from sin. In God’s plan, we are delivered from the penalty of sin upon being "born again." This spiritual birth provides us with ability to walk in the "power of God" and avoid the power of sin in our lives. Ultimately, salvation will be completed at the Second Coming of Jesus and we will be delivered from the presence of sin as we abide with God in Heaven.
"and called us" – the italicized "us" indicates this word is not in the Greek, but is inserted in most English translations for better understanding. It is God who draws us to him (John 6:44). We do not have the power to go to God on our own. Sin is too strong for us.
"holy calling" – We are called by God to be holy. We are called to be "saints." This means we are set apart TO God and FROM sin. The setting apart to God is the process of our new birth. The setting apart from sin is the process of sanctification and is a never-ending process until we die or Jesus returns.
"not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace" – We looked at grace last week. This is God’s unmerited favor toward us. This grace is provided in God’s own plan and for His own purposes. We are fully assured by Scripture that this plan exists (Rom 8:28; 9:11) but we are only given small glimpses into the descriptions of this plan. We may rest assured, however, that our salvation is a major part of God’s plan. This assurance comes from the knowledge that the plan …
"was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" – The process of salvation is not an after-thought. Salvation is firmly rooted in God’s design. Forgiveness (grace), holiness, and immortality (v10) are all part of salvation.
Paul continues the mini-Gospel in v10:
God’s plan "has now been revealed" – This revelation comes in two forms, first in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and second in the Words of Scripture. The revelation of Jesus is the next part of this verse – "by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ is God appeared on earth as Man. This is the heart of Christian teaching.
"who has abolished death" – Paul continues to describe the Work of Christ. First, on the Cross, Jesus abolished death (Rom 6:23). Christ’s death paid the penalty for sin so that we are no longer under sins penalty (Rom 6:6; 1 Cor 15:55-56). Jesus’ work at the Cross overcame physical death, spiritual death, and eternal death for the believer. But the work of Jesus was more than just abolishing death. Jesus also . . .
"brought life and immortality to light" – This life is intimate fellowship with Jesus – with God! This is spiritual life renewed and rekindled immediately with the promise of physical immortality in the future.
John 17:3 (NKJV)
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Jesus came to give life – abundant life – to believers, to those who know God.
John 10:10 (NKJV)
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Included in this abundant life is what Paul here describes as "immortality." This means that death has been defeated and the believer will live forever with God in new incorruptible bodies (1 Cor 15:54-55). This is the final goal of salvation.
"through the gospel" – This entire plan was accomplished via the Gospel, the Good News. The "light" was Christ, the message of the "Gospel." This message was entrusted to Paul as a preacher, teacher, apostle, and evangelistic (v11). Paul’s task, the task of all believers, is to spread the Gospel message via our own "testimony" and via the testimony of Jesus Christ. Christ’s testimony is a part of each believer’s testimony. It must be, for the testimony of Jesus is the basis for the spiritual rebirth of each and every believer.
Just as Paul admonishes Timothy to exercise boldness, so too, each believer should exercise boldness for the Gospel. Each believer may draw upon the same source that Paul uses to encourage Timothy. Paul’s faithfulness to his assigned duties as a Christian led him to many sufferings (2 Cor 4:7-12; 11:22-33). He has now been in Roman prisons twice. The first time was over "religious" matters and was caused by the Jews. This second occasion is more serious. The Romans arrested Paul, probably on a charge of being a seditionist or as a traitor, failing to recognize Caesar as God. His prison cell may be nothing more than a large hole in the ground.
So, in the last verse of today’s lesson, Paul assures Timothy as to the foundation of his faith and efforts. He sums up all of the lessons of these verses:
"For this reason I also suffer" – He suffers for the Gospel
"nevertheless I am not ashamed" – But he is not ashamed, just as he has encouraged Timothy to be unashamed.
"for I know whom I have believed" – Because Paul has believed whole-heartedly in Jesus Christ, just as he has preached the Gospel message. Paul believed in a Person ("whom") not a religious system. The messenger has displayed the message, a point to be covered in more detail in chapter 2.
"am persuaded" – The verb means to trust, have confidence, and be confident. Paul is absolutely certain about God!
"He is able to keep what I have committed to Him" – What did Paul commit to God? This phrase has produced a lot of discussion. Was it Paul’s salvation, his life, his ministry, his daily walk? Or, something else? Most likely, it was all of these things, but it really matters not what Paul had in mind. Paul gave to God all of his precious things, whatever they may have been in the mind of the apostle. The encouragement comes from knowing that God is the perfect guardian. God will preserve us until "that day" (John 10:28-29).
"that Day" – The day of Christ’s return (Titus 2:14; 1 John 3:2), the day Paul, and all of us, will receive "immortality" (v10).
The lesson here is obvious. We all must deliver to God our entire being and allow Him to guard it for us. We must use Paul as the example of our daily walk. Everything – our job choices, our spouses, our living choices, the little things of the day and the big things of life, must be committed to the power of God. God’s grace will sustain us and guide us through all of these decisions and experiences. God will keep us safe!