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.
I. THE SPIRITUAL GIFTS POSSESSED BY TIMOTHY. "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance to stir up the gift of God which is in thee by means of the laying on of my hands."
1. He refers to the special gift received by Timothy with a view to his niece as an evangelist. It was not anything either natural or acquired, but something bestowed by the Spirit of God which would fit him for teaching and ruling the Church of God.
2. It was conferred by the hands of the apostle along with the presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14).
II. THE NECESSITY OF STIRRING UP THIS SPIRITUAL GIFT.
1. It is possible there may have been some slackness or decline of power on Timothy's part, arising from various causes of discouragement, to make this injunction necessary.
2. The gift was to be stirred up by reading, meditations, and prayer, so that he might be enabled, with fresh zeal, to reform the abuses of the Church and endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. - T.C.
Stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
(J. Barlow, D. D.)
(J. Barlow, D. D.)
(J. Barlow, D. D.)
(J. Barlow, D. D.)
(J. Barlow, D. D.)2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5). Evidently the apostle is anxious lest even the rich gifts with which Timothy is endowed should be allowed to rust through want of use. Timidity and weakness may prove fatal to him and his work, in spite of the spiritual advantages which he has enjoyed. The apostle's anxiety about the future of the Churches is interwoven with anxiety about the present and future conduct of his beloved delegate and successor.
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
(A. Plummer, D. D.)De Legibus 11:8). The failure of the flame was regarded as an omen of dire misfortune, and the watchers, if they neglected the duty, were punished with the severest penalties.
(H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)
(Life of Paley.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(A. Tynman.)I. It seems worth our while to remind ourselves that the source of all holy or vicious conduct is a virtuous or a depraved WILL.
II. Next, in the review of our daily practice, it may be regarded as certain that we are wanting in our use of the most ordinary helps to a holy life, IF WE ARE INFREQUENT AND IRREGULAR IN PRAYER, AND IN OUR STUDY OF THE BIBLE.
III. The present may further be a very fitting season for A STRICT EXAMINATION OF OURSELVES WITH REFERENCE TO ALL THOSE SEEMINGLY INDIFFERENT HABITS, ON WHICH (as a very little attention shows) THE VIGOUR OF OUR SPIRITUAL, LIFE MAINLY DEPENDS. It is a point often overlooked by thoughtless persons, that a slow and undecided manner — habits of procrastination — sloth — want of punctuality and method — that these things, and the like of these, are fatal to the operations of the best-regulated will.
(J. W. Burgon, M. A.)
I. Now, according to St. Paul, A CHRISTIAN IS ONE IN WHOM THE SPIRIT OF GOD — the personal Spirit, God the Holy Ghost — HAS TAKEN UP HIS ABODE, AND BECOME, AS IT WERE, A RESIDENT AND INMATE. What constitutes a temple is the inhabitation of Deity. It is just so with ourselves. Excellence of character and beauty of disposition are not things to be despised, but they only constitute the empty habitation; and the man is not a Christian unless the Spirit of God is dwelling within him. But, again, according to St. Paul, the Spirit of God does not supply to us the place of our spirit; but leaving the man in his completeness, pervades, animates, directs, that part of. his nature by which he holds communion with the Divine. This gift of God "which is in us" is in the direction of "power, and of love, and of a sound mind." What does he mean? He means this. The office of God the Holy Ghost is to take of the things of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to "show" them to the true disciple. In other words, the Holy Ghost imparts to the soul a right understanding, a correct perception of Christian truth, and enables us to realise our own personal concern and interest in the things that are explained.
II. The apostle tells us THAT THIS GIFT OF GOD WITHIN US MAY BE ALLOWED TO WANE — may require to be "stirred up." Yes; interest abates; novelty ceases to be novelty; variety is sought for; the first flush of early love passes away; the impulse which set us a-going is expended; duties become wearisome; regularity is monotonous. And are we always aware of the process that is going on within us? Not always. We attribute it to others — to causes that are outside ourselves. I have frequently visited consumptive patients. The poor fellow, with his wasted frame, and hectic flush, and racking cough, tells you that he is a little worse to-day — A little feebler; but then he knows how to account for it — he sat inadvertently in a draught yesterday. On the occasion of your next visit he is worse; but then — he took something at one of his meals which disagreed with him. The next time he is still worse; but he sat up too late — he overstayed his usual hour of retiring to rest. He has always a reason to assign that is not the real, the right, the true one. You, watching him pityingly, can give a better account of the matter. You know that the bodily frame is decaying, — that death is stretching on with rapid strides to claim his victim. So with the symptoms of spiritual declension. The man has one excuse or another to account for his decaying interest, for his waning spirituality, for his neglect of Bible study, for his less frequent attendance at the house of God or at the table of the Lord. "Business has increased"; "his health is not what it used to be"; "the preaching is not so interesting as it once was." Well, that is his account of the matter, as the poor consumptive patient has his account of the matter. You, looking on, know that the chill torpor of worldliness has seized upon the soul, and is threatening to bring it into the icy stillness of spiritual death. I fear we are all of us subject to the waning of the life within us. Let us be on our guard, then. The "gift of God" may be in us still; but it may need "stirring up."
(G. Calthrop, M. A.)
I. First, then, WHAT GIFT IS THERE IN US? In some there are gifts of mind, which are accompanied with gifts of utterance. The stones in the street might surely cry out against some religious professors who make the Houses of Parliament, the council-chamber, the courts of justice, the Athenaeum, or the Mechanics' hall ring with their voices, and yet preach not Jesus — who can argue points of politics and the like, but not speak a word for Christ — eloquent for the world, but dumb for Jesus. If you have the gift of the pen, are you using it for Christ as you ought? I want to stir up the gift that is in you. Letters have often been blessed to conversions; are you accustomed to write with that view? Another form of gift that belongs to us is influence. What an influence the parent has. Many of the elder members of the Church have another gift — namely, experience. Certainly, experience cannot be purchased, nor taught; it is given us of the Lord who teacheth us to profit. It is a peculiar treasure each man wins for himself as he is led through the wilderness. May you be of such a sort as a certain clergyman I heard of the other day. I asked a poor woman "What sort of man is he?" She said, "He is such a sort of man, sir, that if he comes to see you you know he has been there." I understood what she meant: he left behind him some godly saying, weighty advice, holy consolation, or devout reflection, which she could remember after he had left her cottage door. Another gift which many have is the gift of prayer — of prayer with power, in private for the Church and with sinners. There is another gift which is a very admirable one. It is the gift of conversation, not a readiness for chit-chat and gossip — (he who has that wretched propensity may bury it in the earth and never dig it up again) — but the gift of leading conversation, of being what George Herbert called the "master-gunner"; when we have that, we should most conscientiously use it for God.
II. And this brings us, secondly to the consideration of — HOW WE ARE TO STIR UP OUR GIFTS.
1. First, we should do it by examination to see what gifts we really have. There should be an overhauling of all our stores to see what we have of capital entrusted to our stewardship.
2. The next mode of stirring up our gift is to consider to what use we could put the talents we possess. To what use could I put my talents in my family?
3. But, next, stir it up not merely by consideration and examination, but by actually using it.
4. And then, in addition to using our gift, every one of us should try to improve it.
5. And then pray over your gifts: that is a blessed way of stirring them up — to go before God, and spread out your responsibilities before Him.
III. WHY IS IT THAT WE SHOULD STIR UP THE GIFT THAT IS IN US?
1. We should stir up the gift that is in us, because all we shall do when we have stirred ourselves to the utmost, and when the Spirit of God has strengthened us to the highest degree, will still fall far short of what our dear Lord and Master deserves at our hands.
2. Another reason is that these are stirring times. If we are not stirring everybody else is.
3. And then, again, we must stir up our gift because it needs stirring. The gifts and graces of Christian men are like a coal fire which frequently requires stirring as well as feeding with fuel.
4. If we will but stir our selves, or rather, if God's Holy Spirit will but stir us, we, as a church, may expect very great things.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE ETHNIC OR RACE GIFT. No people can have enjoyed a larger gift in this regard than our own. "God hath not so dealt with any nation." See how this island-race is spreading over the earth! God has said to this nation, "Stir up the gift which is in thee — in thee by the slow deposit of My providence, by the sewings of centuries — stir up that gilt, and use it for the world's good."
II. THERE IS ALSO THE FAMILY GIFT. All men receive from their ancestors something which goes into and becomes part of themselves, and this something has in it both help and hindrance. But to us, to most of this Christian assembly, the balance is largely on the side of help. It might have failed; for faith is not something mechanical, nor is it essentially and of necessity transmitted with the natural life. It might have failed, but it has not — "And I am persuaded that in thee also." "First in thy grand mother." Young men and maidens are apt to smile at the name of "grandmother." But the Scriptures glorify old age. So do the great poets. Seventy years ago some one lived, and loved, and was wedded, and listened to the music of her children's feet, from whom you have inheritance. Something lived in her which lives in you. "Stir up the gift which is in thee." Let the good thoughts of that far-off time live again. Let the tears then shed be a present tenderness in your breast. Let all the love of the old time have fulfilment and transmission, so that your children and your children's children may arise to call you blessed. In this life you are not atoms, units, severed personalities; but branches, links, conductors; receiving and giving, reaping and sowing, reaching back to the Eden behind you, and forward to the day of God that is coming.
III. THERE IS TO EACH ONE A GIFT FROM GOD DISTINCTLY PERSONAL. There is something given to each, inhering in his own nature alone, not diffused, not shared by others, not flowing through his life from lives behind to lives before — something that begins and ends with himself. It is himself — the inner real self which presides over all outer relations of hereditary and historical kind. Stir up this gift of immortal life that is in thee by the creating Spirit, by the personal inbreathing of God. Be thyself. When a man is born, God gives him power to be something for his fellow-creatures and his God. That something may be like treasure "hid in a field," but never found. We know how certain great men have lived; how they became great by developing the inward energy. How then can a man truly and in the highest sense stir up his personal gift? Attila the Hun, "the scourge of God," had from God the gift which he developed, so that his life became like a stream of scorching fire. Napoleon had all that was masterly in his spirit from the God who made him; but the apostle would not have allowed that he stirred up his gift aright. And now, society is vibrating through and through with the action of various human gifts; statesmen striving against each other, and serving their country in the strife; prolific writers, working up to the full bent of their genius; merchants, making a very science of their commerce, and reaping ample harvest of the same. But beyond the stir and strife lies the question of spiritual motive, aim, tendency. From what fountain springs all this activity? To what goal is it tending?
IV. THE CHRISTIAN GIFT. It is expressed in such a word as this: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Or this: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Or this: "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away, and all things are become new." And: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." Full religious development must take the form of Christian consecration. How much a mad — any one of you young men — might do, would, I believe, be a discovery even to yourself. Now and again God gives us to see this, to see how much one can do, not by great original powers, not by the help of favouring circumstances, but just by consecration, by stirring up the gift — it may be a gift composed of many gifts, a general capacity of service. What in you is its measure? How far will it reach? How long will it last? How much will it achieve? I cannot tell, no more can you, until you try. Timothy the lad in Lystra knows nothing of Timothy the bishop of Ephesus. We all go on to meet, and as we go we make, our future selves.
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
I. ITS SUBJECT. To be enthusiastic it is obvious that we must have something to be enthusiastic about, and something worthy of our enthusiasm. The enthusiasm of the Christian worker, like that of the poet, may be "fine frenzy," but, like the poet's, again, it is not aimless frenzy. It gathers round a definite object, which has sufficient force o! attraction to draw towards it the whole interest and strength of the man over whom it throws its spell. In Timothy's case this subject was a gift for the office of bishop and evangelist. Notice, then, that this capacity is —
1. "The gift of God." We take the greatest pride in the products of our independent genius and industry, or in the purchases of our wealth. But here we have, as the bestowment of a generous benefactor, what all our money could not buy, and what all our skill could not fabricate. We serve God just because God has given us the ability to serve Him. In Christian work, therefore, boasting is shameful, and vanity ridiculous.
2. A constitutional gift. God has invested us with two classes of gifts — gifts external and gifts internal — gifts which go to make up what a man has; gifts which constitute him what he is. Our capacity for Divine service is one of the latter class. It is "in" us. It is a soul faculty. It entered into the original plan of our being. Further, this capacity —
3. Assumes different forms. It is a common gift, but the idiosyncrasies of the individuals to whom it is given invest it, in each case, with a peculiar shape. Thus painting and architecture, music and science, philosophy and poetry, statesmanship and wealth; that subtle thing called influence, and that dreadful thing called war, that prosaic thing called trade, and that humble thing called home, have each and all been pressed into the service of illustrating our text. And so Raffaelle in the Cartoons, Wren in St. Paul's, Handel in the "Messiah," Newton in the "Principia," Bacon in the "Novum Organum," Milton in the "Paradise Lost," Wilberforce in his Parliamentary achievements, Peabody in his munificent benefactions, Shaftesbury in the example he set before society, Gordon in the heroism with which he defended Khartoum, Moore in his work in the London warehouse, Susannah Wesley in hers in the Epworth rectory, and others in what they have done in the house, in the shop, or in the field, all seem to say, "There, that is what I mean by the gift that is in me." And that we should ascertain what our special talent is, and in what our capacity should be employed, is of the utmost importance for many reasons. How often do we hear the remark applied to some social failure — and true it is — "he has missed his calling." A man who might have made something out in a walk in life for which he was suitably endowed, makes nothing out, because he has chosen one for which he is totally unqualified. Once more, this capacity —
4. Is intended for and must find employment in the service of the Church. St. Paul's injunction carries with it the broad principle just laid down, but we must remember that the apostle had in view the interests of Christ's Church, and urged Timothy to promote those interests in the way for which he was Divinely qualified.
II. ITS NATURE. We have the gift; with what shall we kindle it?
1. Like the capacity it has to kindle into flame, Christian enthusiasm is the gift of God. No man ever purchased it; no man ever created it. It is not from beneath and human, it is from above, and Divine; "God hath given us the spirit... of power, of love, and of a sound mind." And that a Divine person should provide the materials for the kindling of a Divine gift arises out of the necessities of the case. Like produces like, and fire kindles fire. You have in your grates blocks of a cold black mineral, the last things in the world, as far as appearances go, from which you would expect light and heat. But you know that fire lies imprisoned and slumbering there. And you know, also, that neither the most careful arrangement of the coals, nor the most vigorous use of the fire irons, will be of the least service in awakening the element and setting it free. What you do, however, is to apply a light, and then the cold black mineral becomes fervent and radiant heat. Eighteen hundred years ago a few weak and unlettered peasants formed all that there was of the Christian Church. Who would have given them credit for a world-converting capacity? But within them lay dormant the Divine gift. They formed no elaborate organisation; they made no violent stir. They simply waited and prayed; and by: and by fire from without met its counterpart within. The Holy Ghost fell upon them, made them enthusiasts for Christ, and thus enabled them to kindle their gift into flame.
2. Christian enthusiasm is not "the spirit of fear." This is obvious. Until that spirit is laid there can be no enthusiasm. It can only be conquered by the Divine Spirit, who, as He subdues the craven or the diffident temper, will make us instinct with that Christian enthusiasm which is —(1) The spirit of power. And being this, it is distinguished from excite. merit, which is the spirit of weakness. The two may, indeed, be confounded for a time, just as a meteor may, at first, be mistaken for a star. No; Christian enthusiasm is not a transient spasm of excitement; it is power, and that means stability, persistence, inexhaustible resources, unwearied and inextinguishable force. The spirit of power, however, although the first and basal element in Christian enthusiasm, is not the only one. For power, by itself, will make a man not an enthusiast, but a fanatic. Fanaticism is by no means weakness, it is force, often of the most vigorous kind, but force without regulation and control. Christian enthusiasm is, therefore —(2) The spirit of love. We all know the mighty part that love has sustained in the purest human enthusiasms. Love of children; for what heroisms has that not qualified the weakest of mothers? Love of country; what flames has that not kindled in the most phlegmatic of citizens? Love of man; for what endurance and what effort has that not nerved some of the feeblest of our race? Analyse any given case of noble enthusiasm, and you will find the very life of it to be love; either the love which manifests itself in devotion to a person, or the love which finds expression in consecration to a cause. In Christian enthusiasm both of these loves find play, for it is first devotion to a person. Christian love is love to God, and if I love God I must cling to Him. But Christian enthusiasm is also(3) The spirit of a sound mind — A fact that is most frequently overlooked. Hence, by many, it is regarded as a symptom of goodness of heart, possibly, but certainly of weakness of head. In the world the enthusiast is not a mad speculator or simple dreamer; he is the man who, by the sagacity with which he lays his plans, the common sense lines on which he works them, the alertness with which he seizes every opportunity, and the tenacity with which he retains his hold on every advantage, builds up a colossal business and amasses a vast fortune. And we refuse to recognise as a Christian enthusiast the man who, by his wild vagaries neutralises the good of which he might have been otherwise capable, or the man whose sanguine temperament is imposed upon by impossible ideals. We claim for Christian enthusiasm rational as well as emotional qualities. It demands the consecration of the intellect at its freshest and its best, that it may help the body to render "a reasonable service." And what is this sound-mindedness? It is the self-control which conserves its energies, the patience which bides its time, the discernment which perceives that its time has come; it is the knowledge that understands its work, the judgment that determines where the work can be best done, the wisdom that suggests how to do it in the best way; it is the prudence which prepares for difficulties, the resolution which faces them, the tact which threads its way through them, or turns them to its own account. In one word, it is the mind in full health, in the health which consists of the wholeness, vigour, and harmonious activity of all the rational faculties; the intellect filled with the Holy Spirit of God.
III. ITS MOTIVES. We have the gift; by what considerations are we urged and encouraged to kindle it?
1. Timothy was reminded of his responsibility in the very terms of our text.
2. Timothy was reminded of his ancestral traditions. Men of noble lineage are supposed to have stronger motives to do nobly than those of meaner origin. They have a family as well as a personal reputation to sustain.
3. Timothy was reminded of his share in the great salvation. That we might kindle our gift, God, if I may so say, kindled His.
4. Lastly, Timothy was reminded that he had been honoured with a Divine call to stir up his gift. He was "called with a holy calling." There was nothing meritorious in him, as the apostle is careful to remind him, to occasion this call. It was of God's grace, and God, who had entrusted him with the gift, now laid formal claim to the use of His own.
(J. W. Burn.)
I. WHAT THE GIFT IS WHICH WAS IN TIMOTHY, AND MAY STILL BE SUPPOSED TO BE IN ALL THOSE WHOM GOD CALLS TO THE SAME OFFICE. I shall particularise, the gift communicated to Timothy; and if we take St. Paul for our guide, we shall find this gift was a Divine power vouchsafed to this man of God, which enabled and disposed him to teach, and live, and act, and do, answerable to the duties incumbent upon him, as a governor of the house of God. The apostle in the following verse calls it the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind; the spirit of Christian fortitude, of charity, and of sedateness and tranquillity of temper.
1. The spirit of fortitude, which consists in being undaunted at danger, fearless of the frowns of men while we do no more than our duty, and a steady freedom to vindicate the truth of the gospel and the honour of Christ Jesus, whatever may be the effect or consequence of it.
2. The spirit of love. It was not without very great reason that our Saviour asked St. Peter thrice, "Lovest thou Me?" and "Lovest thou Me more than these?"
3. The spirit of a sound mind. This seems to be a temper able to curb the passions, inordinate lusts, desires, and perturbations of the mind, an admirable spirit! To know when to be angry, and when to be calm; when to be severe, and when to be moderate and gentle. The mind is then sound when it keeps the lower faculties in good order, and it is an argument of wisdom to judge of things without heats, or prejudice, or prospect of self-interest, and to keep the wild desires of corrupted nature in awe, and to do things with prudence and moderation.
II. HOW THIS GIFT WAS ANCIENTLY AND IS STILL BESTOWED AND COMMUNICATED. By the putting on of my hands, saith St. Paul; and in 1 Timothy 4:14 he adds, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, i.e., of the whole apostolical college, or the greater part of the apostles, who it is like were present upon the place. This rite or ceremony of imposition of hands on a person designed for Church offices and the service of the tabernacle, Isidore and others derive from Isaac's blessing his son Jacob, which they suppose was done by the Patriarch's laying his hands upon Jacob's head; from Jacob's laying his hands on his grandchildren and blessing them; from Moses's laying his hand on Joshua, and communicating part of his spirit to him. The ancient Romans used to lay their hands upon their slaves when they made them free; and Numa Pompilius had hands laid on him when he was made High Pontiff; but it is probable that even these fetched it from the Jews. The Christian Churches, who retained what was good and praiseworthy among the Jews, seeing nothing in this rite but what was grave, and decent, and solemn, and serious, adopted it into their service. In sacrificing beasts to the honour of God the priest laid his hands on the victim's head, to show he dedicated it to God, and from common, separated it to a holy use, and dismissed it from the service of men into that of the most high God; all which significations did wonderfully well agree with the end of the ministerial function under the gospel, and therefore the Christians had no reason to reject this useful and decent custom. This imposition of hands was no physical cause of conveying the Holy Ghost, but an external assurance, that as surely as the hands were laid on the head of the person ordained, so surely would the spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, light upon his soul if he did not obstruct it by wilful departing from the living God. That this rite hath lasted in the Church from the apostles' time unto this day is what the concurrent testimonies of all ages witness.
III. HOW THIS GIFT IS TO BE STIRRED UP, AND WHAT IS THE BEST AND MOST PROPER WAY TO DO IT. In the original it is ἀναζωπυρε1FC0;ιν, which is as much as stirring up the fire, or blowing the coals, and making the fire burn that lies mingled with the ashes. So that the Spirit of God conferred upon sacred persons by the imposition of hands is lodged in the soul, as the treasure in the gospel was hid in the field, which required digging and searching to make it useful. It is like gold in the ore, which requires melting, and cleansing, and purifying; like a stock of money which requires improvement by trading; like seed sown in the ground, which requires watering and other labour and industry to make it come forth, and grow, and spread, and yield fruit, and strengthen man's heart. This stirring up of the gift of God respects either the means that are to be used, or the duty itself. The means hinted in this and the preceding Epistle are chiefly three — prayer, reading, meditating.
1. Prayer. Who can live without it? Who can act or do anything of moment without the assistance of this spiritual engine? Nature teaches mankind to begin their works of concernment with God; grace therefore must be supposed to press this duty infinitely more, on you particularly, the heirs of Timothy's office, in order to this stirring up the gift of God that is in you, by the imposition of hands. God that gives you talents intends not that you should bury them in the earth, or lay them up in a napkin, but occupy and traffic with them, and be gainers by them; and to do this His help is necessary, who gives strength to the weak and power to the feeble; and this help is not to be had without importunate cries and solicitations. These prayers must have fire; it is their fervour that unlocks the secret cabinet of the Almighty.
2. Reading. This the apostle expressly recommends to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:13) in order to his stirring up the gift of God. Reading what? No doubt the Holy Scripture, and therefore our Church proscribes, delivering a Bible into the hands of the person upon whom episcopal hands are laid. The great examples you meet with here, the industry of Moses, the zeal of Elijah, the fervour of St. Paul, the vigour of St. Stephen, the courage of St. Peter, the assiduity of Apollos, the sincerity of Barnabas, what are these but so many motives to stir up the gift of God that is in you? Add to all this the glorious, the precious, the large, the sweet, the wonderful promises, promises of Christ's assistance, promises of comfort, of support, of eternal life and glory, which will animate and enliven, and prompt you to blow up the fire of the sanctuary and the coal of the altar, that it may consume the dross and tin, not only that which cleaves to your own souls, but that also which sticks to others, that see and hear you, and converse with you.
3. Meditating. This is also urged among the means, not to neglect the gift of God. "Meditate upon these things, give thyself wholly to them" (1 Timothy 4:15). The bare reading will make no great impression. Meditation digests and rouses the soul from her slumber. This quickens the faculties, sets all the wheels a-going, incites to labour, prompts to industry, and moves and even compels us to imitate the great examples set down in the Word of God, and to follow their faith, and wisdom, and hope, and love, and charity. But in what doth the stirring up of the gift of God consist? Chiefly in these three particulars.
1. Feeding the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. Ye are the captains, the generals in Christ's army, while you bear the heat and burden of the day, detract no labour, spare no pains, live like faithful stewards of the mystery of God, vindicate your Master's honour, act like persons who have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, and by manifestation of the truth commend yourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God; you make good the glorious titles and the names which are given you, such as angels, and stars, and lights of the world, and the salt of the earth, and a city set on a hill, etc.
2. Labouring and making it your business to reform abuses.
3. Enduring hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, a duty very warmly recommended to Timothy (2 Timothy 2:3). In discharging your duty faithfully, you must expect obloquy, and slanders, and reproaches, and other inconveniences.
(A. Horneck, D. D.)I. THAT THERE IS IN MAN SOME SPIRITUAL FORCE WHICH IS IN A SPECIAL SENSE "THE GIFT OF GOD." Indeed, our very existence, with all its physical and mental attributes, is His gift. But this spiritual force is something special, and it may be said to comprehend at least three elements.
1. The sentiment of religious worship.
2. The sentiment of moral obligation. He has an inbred feeling that there is an authority over him to which he owes allegiance, that there are laws which he should recognise and obey.
3. The sentiment of social love. The social love is something more than gregariousness, than mere animal sympathy, which seem to belong to all sentient life. It is benevolence, a well-wishing for the race. Indeed, our life, with all its attributes, is His gift, but this spiritual force is especially so. It is bestowed upon man only; it is something greater than intellect, imagination, genius. These it works as its instruments. It is in truth the substratum of his moral being, the former of his character, the controller of his destiny.
II. THAT THE URGENT DUTY OF MAN IS TO ROUSE THIS SPIRITUAL FORCE INTO RIGHT ACTION. To "stir up" into right action this spiritual force is every man's paramount self-obligation. He has to rouse up into right action the spiritual power that lies within him and which is God's greatest gift. The command implies —
1. That man has the power to do so. Every righteous obligation implies the existence of adequate power of obedience. But how can man do it?(1) How can he "stir up" the sentiment of worship into healthy action? By devout meditations on the moral excellencies of the one true and living God.(2) How can he "stir up" the sentiment of obligation? By contemplating the Divine will, which is the supreme law of life.(3) How can he "stir up" into right action the sentiment of holy love? By a devout study of the claims and needs of his fellow men. In this way every man can "stir up" this spiritual force, the gift of God that is within him.
2. On doing this depends his true dignity and bliss. Man can only become great by the right use of his great powers, by bringing out into right action all the great forces of his spiritual nature. The man who has not thus risen, has only risen as the stone has risen which has been hurled up into air, it must come down to the earth again. But he who rises by developing the spiritual forces of his nature, ascends heavenward, as the eagle that guides itself up from earth to heaven through clouds and sunshine. Conclusion: Man attend to thyself, not selfishly, and occasionally, but generously and constantly. There is an exhaustless field lying within thee fraught with countless germs of life and power. Throughout nature there are latent forces — fire mighty enough to burn up the universe sleeps in every atom of dust and drop of water. Powers sleep in the acorn sufficient to cover continents with majestic forests, and there is a spiritual force within us, rightly directed, that will build us into angels and lift us to the highest heavens of being. Let us, therefore, "stir up" this spiritual force, this "gift of God" within us.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
(J. P. Gledstone.)
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
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