Paul’s exhortation to be strong in grace is no mere general encouragement. It is the secret of his walk, and a necessity for us all. Here is the practice of constant dependence on Christ in every aspect of the life of churches and individual believers.
What is the context of 2 Timothy?
Here is Paul. This is his second imprisonment. In his first imprisonment, he was allowed to live in a hired house. And he could be readily visited. This second imprisonment was much, much worse, under Nero. He was held in a dungeon somewhere, and he was chained, like a common criminal. And in fact, it proved evidently very difficult to find him. Because, when the messengers of the churches sought him, they failed to find him. And only one or two, eventually, through their persistence, discovered where he was held.
Several themes characterise Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy. One is the duty to stir up and keep alive zeal. It’s likely to go out and you have to be reminded to rekindle it, reignite it, and stir it up. It has a tendency to go out, and so it does in every one of us. Zeal for Christ, longing for souls, concern for the children in the Sunday school class. These things naturally die out, in the worst sense of the term. It’s a weakness of the flesh. And Timothy, who was a preacher and a pastor, one of the prototype pastors of the New Testament, had to have that rekindled.
Timothy’s particular gift was to proclaim the Gospel, and he had been commissioned by Paul and by the elders, according to 1 Timothy.
We all have a number of spiritual gifts distributed among all the people, and they have to be rekindled. We’re not referring to the gifts of revelation. (They were withdrawn when the Scripture was complete in the very earliest days of the Church.) We’re talking about gifts that continue, and are distributed among every believer. These abilities may have been apparent to some extent before conversion. A person who is a preacher may have been (before conversion) an unusually fluent person. But there’s no doubt that through conversion, and the imparting of a gift by the Holy Spirit, he is different. It is something that’s given to him which is much better. If you’re a shepherd among the people of God, whatever your gift, conversion will have greatly improved it, even if it was a natural capacity before.
But as 2 Timothy makes clear, you have to stir up the gift and exercise it – first of all by self examination. Am I doing what the Lord has called me to do properly? If I am a Sunday school teacher, am I praying with real concern, viewing in my mind those children who have been committed to my charge? Am I earnest? Do I speak earnestly to them? Do I long for souls? I need to stir up the gift that is in me, the gift of witness. Perhaps it’s been dormant. The Lord has blessed me and I can speak to individuals – and like Timothy with his gift, people listened to him and they were moved within. They were affected.
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Sermon: Indwelling Grace of Believers