Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,
To Timothy, my dear son:
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.
May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.
- 2 Timothy 1:1-18
Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments
On ‘in Lois, in Eunice, and in you’: “Mention of their names suggests that Paul knew them personally, perhaps because he (with Barnabas) led them to faith in Christ during his first missionary journey (cf. Acts 13:13-14:21). The women were true OT Jewish believers, who understood the Scripture well enough to prepare themselves and Timothy (2 Tim. 3:15) to immediately accept Jesus as Messiah when they first heard the gospel from Paul.”
On ‘fan into flame the gift of God’: “This seems to indicate Paul was unsatisfied with Timothy’s level of current faithfulness. ‘Stir up’ means lit. ‘to keep the fire alive,’ and ‘gift’ refers to the believer’s spiritual gift (see Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; regarding Timothy’s spiritual gift, see 2 Tim. 4:2-6; 1 Tim. 4:14). Paul reminds Timothy that as a steward of his God-given gift for preaching, teaching, and evangelizing, he could not let it fall into disuse (cf. 2 Tim. 4:2-5).”
On ‘laying on of my hands’: “See 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; cf. 6:12. Paul might have done this at the time of Timothy’s conversion, in which case it would have corresponded to when Timothy received his spiritual gift. The expression may also refer to an extraordinary spiritual endowment, which was received or enhanced at some point after his conversion.”
On ‘Spirit … does not make us timid’: “The Gr. word, which can also be translated ‘timidity’ [fear], denotes a cowardly, shameful fear caused by a weak, selfish character. The threat of Roman persecution, which was escalating under Nero, the hostility of those in the Ephesian church who resented Timothy’s leadership, and the assaults of false teachers with their sophisticated systems of deceptions may have been overwhelming Timothy. But if he was fearful, it didn’t come from God.”
On ‘power’: “Positively, God has already given believers all the spiritual resources they need for every trial and threat (cf. Matt. 10:19, 20). Divine power – effective, productive spiritual energy belongs to believers (Eph. 1:18-20; 3:30; cf. Zech. 4:6).”
On ‘love’: “See 1 Tim. 1:5. This kind of love centers on pleasing God and seeking others’ welfare before one’s own (cf. Rom. 14:8; Gal. 5:22, 25; Eph. 3:19; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 4:18).
- John MacArthur, One Faithful Life
2 Timothy 1:3 ‘thanking God while remembering Timothy’: “For this Paul thanks God. He never forgot to pray for Timothy, and it is a matter of thankfulness. When we feel moved to pray, though it is for another, the spirit of prayer is essentially the same, whatever its object. And we ought to be thankful when we feel continually able to pray for a friend. Oh, but it is a good thing sincerely to follow after God. May we be helped to do so.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
2 Timothy 1:6 ‘using the gift God gave you’: “When I was six years old, my father built us a house. Architectural Digest didn’t notice, but my mom sure did. Dad constructed it, board by board, every day after work. My youth didn’t deter him from giving me a job. He tied an empty nail apron around my waist, placed a magnet in my hands, and sent me on daily patrols around the building site, carrying my magnet only inches above the ground.
”One look at my tools and you could guess my job. Stray-nail collector.
“One look at yours and the same can be said. Brick by brick, life by life, God is creating a kingdom, a ‘spiritual temple’ (1 Peter 2:5). He entrusted you with a key task in the project. Examine your tools, and discover it. Your ability unveils your destiny.”
- Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life
2 Timothy 1:6 ‘gifts’: “There are many kinds of gifts. All Christians have some gift; some may have but one talent, but all at least one. Every living saint has his charge to keep, his talent over which he is a steward. A measure of gift is in all of us, needing to be stirred up. These should be used well. That which is expended in the Master’s service is laid up in heaven where neither moth nor rust can corrupt.”
2 Timothy 1:9 ‘Grace … before time began’: “How plain it is that he earnestly believed in the eternal election of believers – in their being in Christ and in their possession of grace in Christ. God’s love to his people is not a thing of yesterday! He loved them before the world was made, and he will love them when the world has ceased to be.”
2 Timothy 1:14 ‘Holy Spirit in us’: “This is what we need. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we shall never trifle with the truth, and we shall press the doctrines of the Word of God and the Word of God, itself, nearer and nearer to our hearts in proportion as the Holy Spirit dwells in us.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
I listened to this chapter of 2 Timothy (audio files of a couple of translations, while reading along) several times before putting anything down on paper – the outline of what should be the focus of discussion. I was perplexed as to where to start. It seemed to be such a loving exhortation from Paul, the master, to Timothy, the pupil. It seemed to be a protracted greeting.
It took a while before the Holy Spirit got my attention. Beneath the surface, a veneer of greetings and exhortations, there lay a series of little nuggets.
Let me cover my personal nightmare regarding this chapter, thus the possible reason for needing extra effort for focus, and then we can cover what Paul was really saying. When I became a Christian, I was told that I was wrong and that my ‘testimony’ would be beaten out of me. Why? Because I had been brought up in a home that read the Bible every night and went to church several times each week, and I was saved by my parents, just like Lois and Eunice saved Timothy. But read the one verse. The faith was in Lois and Eunice who read the Scriptures and now, Paul thought the faith was within Timothy. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is said about coming to faith. And the Scriptures that Paul refers to is the Old Testament. Rev. MacArthur does a masterful job of dispelling the myth of simply reading the Bible a few times and then, “I saved myself.” No, a thousand times NO. God saves us when we enter into a meaningful relationship with Jesus, an unconditional surrender to Jesus. That might happen so early in life that we cannot remember the day, but there is that concept of surrendering our will to God’s will, otherwise, we are too prideful to be an effective witness. Most who espouse the 2 Timothy 1:5 “conversion” live lives as if they are in control and God has no say in the matter. After all, they saved themselves, and God had nothing to do with that. I am not saying that these people are not going to heaven, because we all have sin that needs resolving and jettisoning.
Ah, now that I have exorcised that demon, what is Paul really saying? I do not know if I can follow Rev. MacArthur in his fear that Timothy might not be using his spiritual gift(s) properly or has entered into fearfulness. There was ample reason to be fearful, as MacArthur points out, but could it be that Paul had seen others falter and did not wish for one of his favorite pupils to follow down that same road? Paul had a hard enough time in Ephesus (Acts 19-21). Timothy was given a hard job in a tough town. I see parallels here between the time of Nero and the church in Ephesus versus the Christians in Muslim nations and in Communist China today. Especially in China, with almost certain persecution, the church is growing. One could assume that they are using this charge to Timothy, to use their God-given gifts and using them boldly.
In reading Max Lucado’s story, I have had that very job, but in many modern construction areas, they do not seem to care about stray nails, but then aluminum tacks cannot be picked up by a magnet. On some construction sites, I have seen huge magnets carried by a small tractor through the site, but even in using those monster machines, the last nail that was found came from my car tire, on 2-3 occasions, in the designated parking lot. It is amazing how far those things can fly when poorly struck by a novice carpenter. And it is amazing how bad “luck” I seem to have in finding the nail that got away. And the puncture is always in the place where it cannot be plugged, thus buying a new tire.
But in looking at spiritual gifts, this past year, before the COVID lockdown, our Sunday school class did a spiritual gifts survey. Those that were vehement about doing the survey, and then maybe moving to a new subject away from the Holy Spirit, had ulterior motives. I remember reading a book by Charles Stanley where he related a story about a group of seven spiritual gifts, the number varies from one Scripture verse to another. While studying these spiritual gifts at a conference, this woman bragged about having six of them and by the end of the conference, she was sure that she would have the seventh. As Stanley listened to the woman, smiling, he was doubting if she had any of the spiritual gifts. It seems that those who have an abundance of one gift or another, never take inventory. They never notice. Why? They are too busy using that gift for the glory of God and the help of their neighbors. They had the gift. They listened to God, urging them on, and they obeyed. They did not take a survey and then bully their way into some leadership position that utilized the skill of leadership of people with that gift. As I took the survey, it seemed to confirm what God had been leading me to do in the first place. My “mission” in life did not change one iota.
But, maybe courses on the Holy Spirit are necessary. While the Pentecostal style of worship focuses highly on the work of the Holy Spirit, possibly to distraction, the more formal denominations tend to almost be afraid of the Holy Spirit – not wanting to associate with those folks down the road…
But, as a Presbyterian… You know, the Frozen Chosen. With one reference to God knowing and loving us from before the beginning of time and references to the Holy Spirit in this chapter, Presbyterians would have trouble getting dizzy reading 2 Timothy 1. “Chosen!” Ha! Proof! Right there!! And then, no, can’t use that “gift!” I might start to thaw a bit!!!
No, as a Presbyterian, I found it hard to realize the work that the Holy Spirit was doing in my life while I was ignoring Him, being comfortably “frozen.” You see, the Holy Spirit does His work whether we notice or not, but He does it more effectively when we acknowledge His presence and listen to His voice as He guides us. Our worship services can still be so frozen that you can hang meat in the choir loft during the service. Worship style does not matter if that is the style of worship that you are comfortable with. But we must acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s work to effectively grow as Christians. And, as Paul is exhorting Timothy, to stand firm in the faith and be bold. We cannot do that on our own steam, only with the power of God within us.
And one funny story to end with about “nearer and nearer” in the last Spurgeon quote. Whenever I read or hear “nearer nearer,” I will remember my last trip to India. My boss and I were in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, India, about two hours by train west of Kolkata near the eastern coast of India. Our driver learned that my boss and I were Christians. We only had one day off in the two weeks that we were there, on a Sunday. Our driver, instead of taking the day off, volunteered to pick us up and take us to church – while he waited in the car. It was a Church of Northern India church, but it used the liturgy of the Church of Southern India. My boss, being Catholic, kept up with the prayer book better than I did, but I did better with the hymns, all sung very slowly. One of the hymns was one of my favorites, I Am Thine, O Lord by Fannie Crosby. They pronounced everything in a thick British accent. “Nearer” had no “R” at the end and was four syllables long, Nee-ah-ah-rah. How could I tell all four syllables? We sang it very slow. I think that was simply the organist’s speed. For those who know about vinyl records, think playing a 78 rpm record at 33 and a third speed. And we sang every verse of every hymn that day. My favorite being an old hymn, I have only sung it once at a church service since then, and I laughed to the distraction of a few people around me.
Some Serendipitous Reflections
“1. When you first decided to follow Jesus, did you assume it would be a ‘bed of roses’ or a ‘bed of nails’? Why? What have you learned about the cost of following him since then?
”2. What are some pressures on you that shake your faith? What encouragements do you find in this passage as you face those pressures? How can you respond with the spirit of power, love, and self-control God has given you?
“3. Who are some role models of faith (like Lois, Eunice, and Onesiphorus) that you look to today?
“4. What is one gift you feel the group might help you to ‘fan into flame’?
“5. When it comes to living out your faith, what do you have in common with a soldier? What don’t you have in common with them?”
- Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups
The first question struck me as being odd, maybe because of my background. I was a church goer from early on. God convicted me of my sins as a Junior in high school and for over a year, I struggled, basically surrendering my resistance to God in my senior year. “Deciding to follow Jesus” is not the way that I would put it, like it was my decision without acknowledging what God did leading up to that point, and I might not be alone, even with others coming from vastly different backgrounds. Yet, coming to Christ, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, all these turns into a cliché after a while, especially when misused.
The second question is also a bit odd. Instead of “shaking” one’s faith, you might consider “testing.” Would that make a difference in your answer?
As for the fourth question and as I have written elsewhere, I feel that we may be the worst at acknowledging our own “gifts” but in a group setting, the others may be well aware of your “gift” by this point. They might answer the question for you better than you can.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Spot on, Mark.
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Thanks. It took me a while to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice for this lesson, and in a couple of weeks, we’ll see that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching. We just have to get to that quiet place to hear God speak on occasion.
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