Unashamed, Part 1: The Power to be Faithful – 2 Timothy 1:6-11
“6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh 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 timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.”
Understanding the intention of vv. 3-5 is crucial in understanding what follows. Many scholars look no further than the genuine faith of Timothy as the backdrop to the exhortation that follows, but this does not go far enough. The totality of Paul’s argument in vv. 3-5 is that his faith is deeply rooted in the OT and as such is not at all separate from the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. He then moves to Timothy and shows that his faith is also rooted deep in the OT Scriptures. If this is the case, then Paul can by no means be considered guilty of preaching a religio illicita or illegal religion because Judaism has been granted amnesty under Rome. But guilty or not, Timothy must understand that this firm connection to Paul guarantees trouble for him as well.
Paul now moves into direct exhortations as he is determined to ensure that Timothy knows two important details in regard to his faith and ministry.
Remember what has been given (vv. 6-7)
“6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh 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 timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”
The phrase “For this reason” points back to vv. 3-5. Paul is now reminding Timothy because of their joint connection with the OT promise. He now gives the reminder followed by the reason for it.
Remember Your Calling (v. 6) – There is a beautiful thread that connects this verse back to vv. 3-5. Three times we read of Paul’s memories or things he called to mind and here we read that Paul wants to remind Timothy of something: keep alive the gift from God that is within you.
The NASB reads kindle afresh as it translates ἀναζωπρυρέω. The word literally means to fan or reignite as in reference to a fire. The idea is that Timothy must not allow the fire of his gift to grow cold. Some commentators view this as an indication that Timothy had already begun to cool, that he was backing away from the gift of God that was within him. I think this is a gross presumption that bears no merit. Paul does not speak with a rebuke, but a warning. In the light of current events it would be only natural to warn Timothy not to slack off but to keep the fire of ministry burning brightly. This is, after all, a reminder. It comes in the form of a gentle urging to keep up the pace; not to quicken nor slacken, but to maintain.
But what is this gift of God? We also read that this gift came in conjunction with Paul laying hands on Timothy. This verse bears a remarkable resemblance to 1 Tim. 4:14 where Paul refers to Timothy’s ordination, the public recognition that God had set him apart for ministry signified by the laying of hands by the elders. Apparently, Paul was included in that group of elders, or was the single one laying his hands on Timothy as a sign that he recognized the work of God in this young man on behalf of the whole group. Either way, this is a reference to Timothy’s ordination.
Let’s be clear on a few things. First, ordination is the recognition and affirmation from the local church of the work of God. Churches and seminaries do not produce pastors and preachers. God alone gifts men as pastors, preachers, and teachers for the building up of His church (Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:11-13). Second, this gift (χάρισμα) is not attached whatsoever to a personality trait or talent. The very word itself is akin to the Greek word for grace (χάρις) and indicates something that is freely given and bestowed.
Upon conversion, every believer is given spiritual gifts for the singular purpose of building up Christ’s church and edifying His saints. Timothy’s gifts include the God-given ability to preach the Word of God and train up men. How do we know this? Because that’s what he was called to do. This is a reminder not to allow that gifting to grow cold, but to fan the flames and stoke the fire of that gift. How can he do this? By using it!
Consider Your Resources (v. 7) – I want to make a few comments regarding the text itself and then follow it up with a pastoral rant. The word timidity in the NASB is better translated as cowardice. God has not given any believer as a special gift through the Holy Spirit the spiritual gift of cowardice. A coward has but one thing in mind: self-preservation. A coward will do anything, say anything, and sell anything or anyone so long as he himself is preserved. But the Holy Spirit of Almighty God has endowed believers with gifts for the benefit of others, for the building up and edification of the saints. There is no room for cowards in the Kingdom of God.
Paul follows this up with what God has given us: a spirit of power, love, and discipline. Power (δύναμις) could also be translated as ability. We are not talking about potential or theoretical power, but power that actually and effectually accomplishes what it set out to do. God has given His children the ability to keep His commands and edify His church. This is followed by love (the volitional choice to place other’s needs and desires above our own) and discipline (the exercise of prudence and moderation). Dynamic personalities are easily mistaken for the God-given ability to proclaim the gospel. This ability comes with divine love that cares for others along with discipline that informs us not so much when to speak, but how to speak.
Now for the pastoral rant. Notice the most often repeated word in these verses (6-11). Paul uses the first personal plural pronoun (us/our) five times in this section. The meaning is that he includes himself with Timothy, but the implication is that this extends to all believers. God has not given Paul, nor Timothy, nor any of us a spirit of cowardice. In fact He has given Paul, and Timothy, and all of us the gifts of ability, love, and discipline. I say all of us as Paul does, referring to those who have genuine and unhypocritical faith that extends from Abraham through the prophets and the apostles. If you are a Christian, you have been given the ability to effectively minister to the local church. If you are not now doing so, it is either because you are not even attempting to minister and prefer to be a spectator, or you are not utilizing your resources as you depend upon your flesh rather than upon the Spirit within you.
Paul reminds Timothy that he has been called as a preacher of the gospel. He urges him not to let that gift grow cold and encourages him that God has already given him the ability to maintain the fire.
Remember why it was given (vv. 8-11)
“8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.”
There is so much here, and I would love to spend an extra thousand words to dive deeply into these verses, but Paul speaks here almost in a single breath and I want us to have a solid grasp of his argument. I must use the text as Paul intended.
Exhorted to Suffer (v. 8) – This verse begins with a view back to what has been said. Therefore, in light of the fact that you will maintain the flame of God’s gift because it is He at work within you and not you yourself, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner.
This prohibition is not an indicator that Timothy had already slipped into an apostate attitude of shame. Again, this is exhortation not rebuke. He’s simply saying, “don’t’ go there.” With Christianity now illegal in Rome, the church’s Savior a known criminal who was crucified, and one of her main leaders a political prisoner awaiting execution as a convicted insurrectionist, it’s easy to see why Paul would write these words. Who would want to be associated with all of this?
Now Paul moves from prohibition to exhortation. Not only do I prohibit you from being ashamed of the gospel (the testimony of Jesus) or of me (His representative to the world), but I order you to join in suffering for the sake of the gospel.
Did you read that? Paul orders Timothy into the breach, directly into the line of fire. There is no room for fence sitting. Christianity is not a spectator sport. Timothy is ordered by Paul to, not just recognize the link that binds them together – the gospel of Jesus Christ – but to embrace it along with the suffering that comes along with it. Who would do this? One who is empowered and enabled by Almighty God for this exact purpose. This joining together in suffering is in accordance with the power of God. That is the same power that God has given His children. We do not endure suffering in our own strength but can rush to it knowing that God has given us the ability to do so.
Encouraged to Suffer (vv. 9-10) – Here is where the pastor in me wants to stop and open up the implications of this text. These two verses contain the best summary of the doctrines of election and predestination found anywhere in Scripture, and it’s used as a pre-understood reference. Paul describes the work of God in our salvation and the fact that He called us to Himself on the basis of His good purpose alone as an illustration of encouragement! Let’s grasp the argument, then I’m due for another rant.
These verses are supposed to encourage Timothy immediately following an order to be joined in suffering. Why would he do that?
1) Because God saved Timothy from His wrath and called Him to holiness for this very purpose.
2) Because this salvation was accomplished without Timothy contributing anything to the equation.
3) Because God purposed and designed Timothy for redemption and showed him grace as found only in Jesus Christ and was given to us from before the world began.
4) It is this grace that has been revealed in the incarnation, perfect life, obedient and atoning death, glorious resurrection, and victorious ascension of Jesus Christ.
In short, Timothy is to join in suffering because of the gospel. He contributed nothing to his own salvation and therefore should not expect to contribute anything to his ability to suffer well. Grace and ability/power are both gifts from God.
Now for another rant: theology matters. Doctrine matters. Paul crams a whole seminary semester’s worth of theology into two verses as an encouragement. Biblical discipleship is applying theology to our lives. But if we never teach doctrine, if we never plow up the hard packed ground of indifference and ignorance, then we will never see the fruit of maturity. The Word of God can only bring comfort and encouragement to those who understand, affirm, and cling to the doctrine it teaches.
Example of Suffering (v. 11) – This verse acts as a bridge as it concludes the thought began in v. 8 and leans forward to embrace the next verse. Paul places himself as an example of this very suffering for Timothy to see. This glorious gospel of a saving and calling God who bestows His grace to reveal Christ who nullified death and shone light upon immortal life is the gospel Paul preached. It was for this gospel that Paul was appointed by Almighty God to preach, declare, and teach. It is for this reason that he is now in chains and awaiting execution.
The force is easy to understand. Timothy, do not separate yourself from Christ or from me. Rather, join with me in my suffering for the gospel’s sake. Afterall, that is the whole reason that I suffer. Remember your calling and consider your resources. In your flesh you will fail. But He who began this work within you WILL complete it!
We must recognize that we do not possess the ability to remain faithful under the best of circumstances in our own flesh. But neither do we pretend to have the ability to save ourselves in our flesh. We depend completely on God for all. He has granted the ability, the power, to save and sanctify us. He holds us fast. So, what will we do? Will we succumb to the cowardice of the flesh? Or will we embrace suffering for the sake of the gospel as we stand unashamed in His power? What were we called to do? What were we gifted to do? Soli Deo Gloria!