Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2 Timothy 1:1-14 Fire up God’s Gift

KEY TEXT: 2 Timothy 1:6-7 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 God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (NIV: self-discipline).

KEY THOT: Just as water is God’s chosen means of grace to cleanse us from our sins and put to death our old self, so God has chosen to use the laying on of hands as a means to impart spiritual gifts to believers. Some teach that this practice refers only to the ordination of elders or pastors of the church. However, the biblical evidence seems to suggest it is a common practice for many situations than ordination. In the OT, priests lay their hands on the heads of animal sacrifices and confess Israel's sins over the animals to transfer the guilt to the animals before they are sacrificed. There is therefore a sense of spiritual impartation or transfer through this act of laying on of hands in the OT. In the NT, the laying on of hands is often associated with impartation of spiritual gifts: “they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:18), “Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit” (Acts 8:17). Paul seems to imply this act when he writes to the church in Rome: "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you" (Rom. 1:11).

And this practice of laying on of hands is not limited to the apostles or elders, since Jesus’ commission in Mark 16:17 suggests that all believers will do it: "these signs will accompany those who believe… they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." In other words, all believers are commanded to lay their hands on the sick to impart the grace of healing to the sick. Furthermore, there is a specific example in Acts 9:17-18 when a disciple Ananias was called to pray for Paul to be filled with the Spirit by laying his hands on him: “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit’." 

And in Hebrews 6:1-2, the “laying on of hands” was considered an “elementary teachings about Christ”, together with repentance, faith and baptisms (John and Jesus' baptism), resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (NIV). In churches, we teach repentance, faith, baptisms, resurrection and eternal judgment, but we often skip the “laying on of hands” because it is associated with the charismatic branch of Christianity whose doctrines we cannot fully endorse. But God’s Word tells us categorically that it is foundational because it is one of the "elementary teachings about Christ”--both in our teaching and our practice. To ignore it is to remove a foundational stone in our Christian life and ministry.

However, it’s one thing to have received an impartation of spiritual gift through the laying on of hands; it is quite another to keep it “fired up”. So Paul has to remind Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). One way to do it is to exercise the gift already in us—whether the spiritual gift be teaching, evangelism, prophecy or healing. Another way to keep the fire burning is to add fuel to the fire. For believers, the fuel that keeps our fire burning is worship and the word. If we neglect worship (personal and corporate) and the meditation on God’s word, the fire will die down. On the other hand, the more we exercise our gift, the more “hungry” we become for worship and the word because the fire quickly consumes the spiritual fuel derived from our worship and word that is powering our passion. 

Therefore, the more we exercise, the bigger the flame. The bigger the flame, the more "hungry" we become for the fuel to keep the fire going. The converse happens too. The less we exercise, the smaller the flame gets. And the less hungry we become for worship and God's word.

But how do we know we are "fired up" for God? There are three indicator lights that are turned on when the engine is firing: “power and love and self-control (NIV: self-discipline)” (v.7). Instead of a “spirit of fear”, the believer who is fired up for God experiences spiritual power in his ministry, divine love for believers and non-believers alike and a self-discipline in his or her walk with God and ministry. When these indicator lights are dim, they tell us that our fire is dying.

So let’s not bury our gifts: let’s fan them into flame of revival by exercising them and by topping up our spiritual tanks daily through personal worship and the study of God’s word.

Father, stir up the spiritual gift within us and help us fan it into flame by Your Spirit we pray. Amen.

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