- Matthew Henry
Consider some of the important lessons from Paul’s instruction to Timothy:
We see that believers need to be reminded of their duties. Compare Philippians 3:1 and 2 Peter 3:1. Timothy had served with Paul for many years. He was an experienced preacher. He had helped plant churches. He had instructed preachers. But he still needed to be put in remembrance of basic things. This is why it is important to be faithful to church and to the preaching of God’s Word and to study the Bible and read sound teaching materials privately. Even if we do not learn something new, we are reminded of things we already know, and this is a necessary part of spiritual growth and victory.
Timothy had a ministry gift from God. Seven gifts are mentioned in Romans 12:6-8--prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, giving, ruling, and showing mercy. Some spiritual gifts were temporary, and when the canon of Scripture was completed, they ceased to operate. Five of the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 are in this category: apostles, prophets, miracles, healings, and tongues. These were apostolic sign gifts (2 Co. 12:12). In 1 Corinthians 13:8 we see that the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge would pass away. These were revelatory gifts that are not needed with the completion of Scripture. There is an abiding aspect to “prophecy,” which is the proclamation of God’s Word, as described in 1 Corinthians 14:3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” But prophesying as the giving of revelation ceased.
Timothy’s gift was imparted by the laying on of Paul’s hands. The apostles could impart spiritual gifts (Ac. 19:6). This pertained to the signs of an apostle. Normally, spiritual gifts are imparted directly by the Holy Spirit. “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Co. 12:11).
The gift had to be stirred up. It means “literally, blowing up the coals into a flame” (Matthew Henry). Spiritual gifts must be must be kept “fired up.” Spiritual gifts can grow cold through disuse. The believer is responsible to stir up his gift by using it (Mt. 25:14-29; 1 Pe. 4:10-11). This is an image of continual revival through zealous pursuit of one’s calling. The verb is present tense, indicating continuous action. The stirring up of one’s spiritual gifts is not something that can be done once, or even once in a while. It must be done continually. If a spiritual gift is not being stirred up, it is growing cold. The second law of thermodynamics operates in the spiritual sphere as well as in the physical. Left alone, the cup of hot coffee grows lukewarm, then cold. Left alone, a spiritual gift and ministry does exactly the same thing.
Everything in the Christian life and family and church has to be stirred up. We have to stir up abiding in Christ, yielding to the Holy Spirit, walking in the light, holiness, Bible study, prayer, separation from the world, evangelism, godly family relations, child discipline, the holy priesthood, the “one another” ministry in the body, everything. We stir it up by preaching and teaching on it, by repeating it, by emphasizing it, by modeling it, by whispering it and by shouting it. It has well been said, “Nothing can be maintained without a campaign.” We think of Deuteronomy 6:7, which is how parents are to train their children. It is to be matter of full-time campaigning: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Every leader of the church and home must be a campaigner for all of the things that are emphasized in Scripture. This is the essence of spiritual revival. It is something that God’s people walk in, live in, not something they experience from time to time in a special meeting.
In 1911, Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote True Evangelism, and one of his concerns was that churches should not think of revival as something that happens in a special meeting. Chafer had a lot of experience. From 1890 to 1896 he traveled with evangelist Arthur T. Reed as a singer and choir director, and from 1897 to 1907, Chafer had his own evangelistic ministry with his wife as pianist.
“The modern ‘revival’--the work of the ‘revivalist’ who comes under the title of an evangelist, but works as a religious promoter in the organized church--is unexpected in the Scriptures, except as the word ‘revival' is used to denote a forward movement in the spiritual life of the church, without including the idea of attempting to regain some spiritual position once held, but now lost. The use of the word usually means, however, a getting up after having fallen down, or a waking after sleeping, or a coming to strength after a period of weakness; while, on the other hand, the Scriptures pre-suppose a continual erect, wakeful and aggressive position for service on the part of every Christian (Ephesians 6:10-17). A ‘revival’ is abnormal rather than normal. It may have a function when needed, but in no way should become a habit, much less a sanctioned method of work. Having regained vitality, believers are not warranted in returning habitually to an anemic state” (Chafer, True Evangelism, 1911).
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