The expression of the Apostle's heart to Timothy, as well as his longing desire to see him, is but preparatory to the appeal contained in verses 6-8. It is indeed the groundwork on which he builds up his exhortations. He thus drew the heart of Timothy to himself, to prepare him to receive his message. "Wherefore," he says, "I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands." v. 6.
By the light of the first epistle we may understand the whole history of Timothy's gift. In 2 Timothy 1 we find that he had been pointed out as a chosen vessel of gift by prophecies (of course, in the assembly), and that Paul accordingly committed to him a "charge." 2 Timothy 4: 14 further teaches that the bestowment of the gift, "given thee by prophecy," was accompanied by "the laying on of the hands of the presbytery"; and now we learn that it was the Apostle himself, "the presbytery" being associated with him, who was the instrument or channel appointed by the Head of the Church for the actual communication of the gift to Timothy. It is the ascended Christ who, having led captivity captive, gave, and still gives, gifts to men, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. And Timothy was honoured, in the sovereign favour of God, in being made a vessel for the blessing of the saints. It is of this he is reminded by the Apostle, and charged at the same time to "stir up" the gift of God.
Previously he had been warned not to "neglect" it (1 Tim. 4: 14); now he is more urgently exhorted on the same subject. This points to a common danger. When there is a real action of the Spirit of God among the saints, when His power is demonstrated in edification and restoration, or in conversion, the ministry of the Word is welcomed and appreciated. But in times of coldness, indifference, and apostasy, the saints will not endure sound teaching, but after their own lusts they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they will turn away from the truth (chap. 4: 3, 4).
Then comes the danger to the servant of the Lord. Seeing that his ministry is no longer received, he is tempted to retire, to lapse into silence, or to resolve with Jeremiah not to speak any more in the Lord's name to the people (Jer. 20: 9). As knowing the heart and the tendency of Timothy, Paul provides against this snare by urging him to rouse himself, and to stir up by constant use the gift he had received for the correction and edification of the Lord's people. The greater the confusion and departure from the truth, the greater the need for a real and living ministry; but in order to maintain this, the servant must learn to draw his strength and courage, not from the faces of the people, but from abiding and secret communion with the Lord.
If the Lord, through His Apostle, summons Timothy to more diligent service, He also draws his attention to the source of his power. "For," continues the Apostle, "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." v. 7. The first clause, which might be rendered the spirit of "cowardice," reveals Timothy's especial weakness. He evidently was a man, like Jeremiah, of a timid, shrinking spirit - one who only with difficulty, unless under the sway of the Holy Spirit, could face dangers and opponents. But while the servant of the Lord "must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient" (chap. 2: 24), he must be also as bold as a lion in the defence of the truth, and in maintaining the honour, of his Lord. Timothy is therefore taught that the spirit God gives is not one of fear or cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
These are three remarkable words, and they require a little examination. First, it is a spirit of power; for if God bestows gift, He gives also the power to exercise it; that is, it should be added, if there is the state of soul for its use. It is indeed of the last importance to remember the connection between state of soul and the power of the Spirit. The gift may abide even in one who is unfaithful or indifferent; but the power to use it will not be present unless its possessor is walking in dependence upon God, unless he lives in the acknowledgment that power is outside of himself, and in the realization of his own utter weakness. This is the Apostle's point: "God," he says, "hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power." If therefore the servant, and Timothy was to learn it, is animated with fear or timidity, he should know that this is not the spirit God gives, for His Spirit is one of power.
These two things are to be noted - the source of the power, and the character of the spirit given. Moreover, the spirit is also "of love." The Apostle follows in this the same order as in 1 Corinthians. In chapter 12 he speaks of spiritual manifestations in the assembly; and, at the end of the chapter, of workers of miracles, gifts of healing, and speaking with tongues - all of which are connected with displays of power.
And then in the next chapter, he proceeds to speak of love, teaching that if anyone spoke with the tongues of men and angels, and had not love, he would become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal; for in truth divine power can only be wielded by the Spirit, through a divine nature; for of this it is that love is the expression. The flesh, man's sinful nature, can never be used in the Lord's service; and thus power and love - divine, holy love - can never be dissociated. There will also be, as a consequence of love, a sound mind, or, as it has been translated, "a wise discretion"; for when governed by the Spirit of God, the servant will always exhibit divine wisdom in his work, and be kept in quiet control and subduedness in the presence of God. He will know when to speak and when to be silent, when to be in season and when to be out of season; for he will be maintained in communion with the mind of his Lord.