Let the Fire of the Gospel Burn Bright - 2 Timothy 1:1-7

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Near the end of his life Paul was imprisoned in Rome for preaching the Gospel. From that prison, knowing that he would soon be killed for his allegiance to Christ, Paul wrote a letter to his friend and son in the faith, Timothy.

As Paul writes this uniquely personal letter he is aware of his impending death, but that’s not his focus. His focus is on encouraging Timothy to remain faithful. He writes to call on Timothy to press on and to keep doing the work in spite of the difficulties. He tells his friend and partner in the Gospel not to be ashamed of the testimony about the Lord, to guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to him, and to be a worker who has no need to be ashamed. He calls on him to guard the Gospel, to suffer for the Gospel to continue in the Gospel and to preach the Gospel.

While this is a letter from Paul to Timothy, it is also an important letter for us. As God’s people we need to remember that we are called to faithfulness. As much as ever the Gospel needs to be guarded, preserved, proclaimed and passed on. We have a call to stand in the Gospel and for the Gospel and to be faithful to share this message of salvation with every person, no matter what difficulties may come.

2 Timothy is a good help for us as we consider our calling both individually and as a church, and what it means to be faithful. 

Paul’s Greeting – A Gospel Focused Letter to a Beloved Son (1:1-2) 

  • From Paul – Set apart by God and for the sake of the Gospel (v. 1) – As Paul introduces himself he doesn’t focus on his imprisonment or his impending death. Instead, he reiterates his calling from God and the purpose for which he’s been set apart. Paul continues, even in the hardest of times, to find his identity in Christ and to remain committed to the work of the Gospel (the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus). 
  • To Timothy – A beloved son (v. 2a) - Paul is the one, from a human standpoint, who called Timothy into the ministry. And Paul has spent years teaching Timothy and preparing him for the work of God. He is his son in the faith, whom he loves.
  • A prayer for God’s provision – Grace, mercy and peace (v. 2b) – While this sort of blessing is common in Paul’s letters, it is also genuine. Very soon in the letter Paul is going to admonish Timothy and encourage him to do hard things, but first he prays for God’s enablement and blessing for Timothy.

Paul’s Gratitude – An Expression of Gratitude and Love for a Faithful Brother (1:3-5)

  • The genuineness and faithfulness of Paul’s gratitude (v. 3) – Before getting to the main purpose of the letter Paul expresses his gratitude to God for Timothy. He gives thanks both constantly and with a pure conscience (his gratitude is sincere and true). 
  • The reason for Paul’s gratitude (v. 4-5)
  • The joy of Gospel partnership (v. 4) – Paul and Timothy have shared years of hard and fruitful ministry and God has knit their hearts together. Paul thanks God for the joy he receives from this friend and Gospel partner. As the people of God, we should regularly take time to thank God for those whom He has given us to serve alongside. 
  • The faith of Timothy (v. 5) – A second thing that Paul is thankful for is Timothy’s sincere and genuine faith. It’s a faith that was taught to him by his mother and grandmother, and it’s a faith that he has made his own (Acts 16:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:14-15). As the people of God we should always consider the responsibility we have of passing our faith on to the next generation.
  • This letter is both timely and timeless. For what can be more important today than to rightly guard and give the Gospel to the next generation? It is often said that we are one generation away from losing the Gospel. If the Gospel is assumed in one generation, it will be neglected, ignored and/or abandoned in the next. We must keep guarding, suffering for, continuing in, and proclaiming the Gospel.[1] 

Paul’s Charge – A Call to Boldness in Gospel Ministry (1:6-7)

  • The appeal – Fan the flame (v. 6) – Now we come to the crux of why Paul is writing: He is calling Timothy to Gospel faithfulness. Timothy has been set apart for Gospel ministry, but there is some aspect of his work that is diminished or hindered. Paul is writing, in part, to encourage Timothy to return to the place where the fire of his ministry is burning bright.
  • The reason for the fading flame (v. 7a) – It seems that in some way Timothy is being hindered by fear.
  • The response – Remember the equipping you have from God (v. 7b) – While Timothy is fearful, Paul reminds him that God has fully equipped him for the work to which he has been called. While the temptation is fear, he has been granted power and love and self-control. This is to say, God has given him the spirit he needs to serve with boldness and courage. The same is true of us, God will give us what we need to serve Him faithfully.

[1] Tony Merida, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, Christ Centered Exposition, Eds. Platt, Akin, Merida, Holman, 2013.