In his final letter to Timothy, Paul faced almost certain death at the hand of Caesar, and so he took a final opportunity to spur on his beloved son in the faith, Timothy. He did this by writing a second letter to him in the form of encouragements, warnings, and other practical advice. Each exhortation he gave sprang from the motivating power of God’s work in Jesus Christ for mankind and this forms the basis of the simple but powerful thoughts in verses 6 and 7:

“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”.

Paul has declared his love and remembrance of Timothy in verse 2 and verse 5 and has shown the strong foundation that has been laid for Timothy’s faith through his mother and grandmother; a faith which Paul could honestly call “sincere.” He then continues, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God” (v6 ESV). This gift was given to Timothy by Paul by the laying on of hands and refers to the miraculous Holy Spirit gifts. We don’t have these special gifts today but we have been given other opportunities and abilities which we too need to fan into flame. The power of God through the gospel at work in us is far greater than the special powers of the first century (Rom 1:16) and this power has the ability to fully outwork in us a complete dedication to the Word of God, and all that this includes.

The word translated “gift” is charisma, meaning a “gift of grace”, or “free gift”. In Romans 5:15-18, where it is used twice (v15,16), we get a glimpse of the extent of God’s gift of grace. It is at this point in Paul’s letter to the Romans that he reaches the climax of his explanation of the Atonement and shows the impact of Christ, the Son of Man’s legacy, in contrast to Adam the man. All men through Adam have inherited mortality and a nature inclined towards sin, which in turn has resulted in our own individual transgressions. But as Paul shows, God’s gift of grace, given through the saving life of Jesus Christ, is more powerful because it has the power to bring to our lives forgiveness, justification (that is, being covered with a righteousness from God—Rom 1:17, 3:22), fellowship with God, and ultimately salvation to eternal life for all who will accept that covering.

All this is bound up in the charisma which all men have access to. What should this God-given salvation ignite within us? Paul tells Timothy plainly. God has given, through the gospel, a spirit or way of life, motivated to manifest power, love and discipline or self-control (v7). All these are crucial to overcome any sense of fear or shame in the face of opposition. These have always been crucial in service to God (Deut 30:15-20). What is important is that the strength to overcome, the discipline to resist, and the love to conquer, cannot be pursued alone through human effort. These must spring from a reaction to God’s calling to His holiness. We know clearly from James that true faith and works cannot exist except in unison. As Paul indicates, our life must be filled with an obedience springing from faith in those that belong to Jesus Christ (Rom 1:5). The need for a faithful obedience to the Word of God is timeless. It is needed today just as it was needed by Cain; just as it was needed by Saul (1 Sam 15:22). It was needed too by the first century ecclesia even though they had the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. The charismata (gifts of grace) had to have a moral influence on the believers as Paul shows the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13. We must understand that our service in the ecclesia (which could involve such things as preaching, exhortation, watching the signs of the times, performing welfare) must be performed in selfless love. Indeed, a discipleship not motivated by love, the grace given by God, and identification with the atoning work of Christ, is nothing.

Paul emphasises to Timothy that an appreciation of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, as well as a thankfulness for the love of God shown towards us in graciously justifying us, must be a strength to overcome all shame and all suffering (Isa 45:21; Rom 3:21). This is highlighted in verse 9 where he speaks of our holy calling. We have not been called by our own human effort but we have been called to a life of obedience in response to the grace and purpose of God. This response is not based on our own righteousness, but on the faith in what God has done for us; a response which identifies itself with the life and death of Christ. The Lord’s commitment showed itself in every action he performed as he wrought the will of God in love and complete self-control.

Christ leaves Timothy and us with the ultimate example. As we increasingly face a world which rejects and even despises God’s ways, we need to manifest the spirit of power, love and self-control, given to us by God through grace, that in our service to others, we may do all to the praise and glory of God.