Online Bible Commentary
Fan the Flame
2 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus 2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. 6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)
Here, the Apostle Paul is writing his second letter to Timothy. Paul had been under house arrest in Rome from AD 60-62, when he wrote the Prison Epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and Philippians, with Timothy as his amanuensis.
He was a free man from AD 62-64, when he wrote two of the three Pastoral Epistles of 1 Timothy and Titus. It is believed that Luke was Paul’s amanuensis for the Pastoral Epistles.
The reasons are three-fold. Luke ended his writing of the Book of Acts with Paul’s release from house arrest, Paul mentions that Luke is the only one with him during the writing of 2 Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11), and Timothy had been dispatched to Ephesus.
Paul was again arrested, probably AD late 64-early 65, after Rome burned on AD July 18, 64, an event for which Nero blamed Christians, for political reasons. Paul was held at Mamertime Prison in Rome, basically a holding tank for prisoners awaiting execution.
The Pastoral Epistle 2 Timothy was likely written from this prison in A.D. late 65-early 66 since Paul urges Timothy to arrive prior to the winter with Paul’s writing materials (2 Timothy 4:21).
The Book of Hebrews refers to Timothy being released from prison (Hebrews 13:23), it is likely that Timothy was imprisoned for a short time after bringing Paul’s writing materials to Rome, but was released prior to Paul’s execution.
It is my opinion that Paul also wrote the Book of Hebrews, in collaboration with Luke. The horrid conditions in Mamertime Prison likely did not permit Paul to write this lengthy letter on his own.
The Book of Hebrews was probably Paul’s last writing. We know that Hebrews was written in the 60’s A.D. and prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Paul and Luke likely wrote it A.D. late 66-early 67, just prior to his beheading, as a last summary to his people, the Hebrews.
Paul was beheaded by Nero on June 29, 67 according to The People’s Chronology. The date is uncertain, but this date appears to be as good as any.
For sure, Paul was executed before Nero’s suicide on June 8, 68. We know that Nero was still alive when Paul was executed.
At the time of this writing, 2 Timothy, Timothy is working with the house churches of Ephesus, and is still contending with false teaching in the church. A purpose of this letter is to call Timothy back to Paul’s side for his final days.
Paul begins this passage by writing “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus 2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. thanking God” (vv. 1-2). This is a customary greeting from Paul.
Next, Paul presents the body of the letter. He writes “I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did” (v.3a). Paul recognizes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, whom his forefathers served, which was the emphasis of the Book of Hebrews, his next writing.
Paul’s “pure conscience” could be the clear conscience that we all have when we are committed to Christ. Or it could be his way of proclaiming his innocence, that he was imprisoned wrongfully.
He continues with “as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day” (v. 3b). Paul is praying for Timothy and his ministry in Ephesus, “without ceasing”.
Paul then writes “greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy” (v. 4). He recalls Timothy’s tears from their last parting and looks forward to the joy that would come from their reuniting. Paul and Timothy had a father-son relationship.
Paul continues by writing “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (v. 5). Paul is then reminded of Timothy’s sincere faith and attributes Timothy’s faith to his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.
Timothy’s mother was a Jewish Christian and his dad was a Gentile. His dad did not appear to be an influence on Timothy’s discipleship.
Next, Paul writes “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God” (v. 6a). The literal Greek translation of verse 6a is “For which cause I remind you to fan the flame of the gift of God.”
This “gift of God” is the spiritual gift of ministry which was given to Timothy by God. Paul is urging Timothy to “fan the flame”, a metaphor for rekindling a waning fire. He is to increase his devotion to the Lord.
He continues with “which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (v. 6b). This “gift of God” was recognized by the laying on of hands by Paul, and other elders.
Next, Paul writes “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, (v. 7a). So why should Timothy “fan the flame”? Because “God did not give us a spirit of fear”.
The word translated “fear” is the Greek word “deilia” which also means “cowardice”. It is good to be respectful of your elders, but, in this case, Timothy could not shrink from his duty to confront false teaching by some of the elders. Paul wants him to be bolder in dealing with the false teachers, to “fan the flame”.
Paul concludes this passage with “but a spirit of power, of love and of sound mind” (v. 7b). The literal Greek for verse 7b is “but of power and of love and of self control”. "Fear” comes from our human “spirit”, but power, love, and self control come from the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our “power” (Acts 2:8). Love and self control are fruit of the Spirit.
The Greek word for spirit is “pneuma” and it can be translated either “a spirit” or “the Holy Spirit” depending on usage. In this verse both usages apply.
In the world today, Christians are faced with false teaching and persecution at every turn. The teaching of this passage applies as much today as at any time in history.
As Christians, we must remain strong and confront false teaching and persecution. We have the Holy Spirit; the power, the love, and the self-control, to do so.
We must rekindle the waning fire. We must “fan the flame”.