When Paul exhorts Timothy to fan into flame the gift that is in him, he is referring to his genuine and sincere faith, something that was passed down to him from his mother and grandmother (cf. 2:5). Then when he concludes the exhortation with a charge to guard the deposit that is entrusted to him he means the truth of the gospel and the gift of faith. Paul is reminding Timothy of what God has placed in him, in his heart, faith and the truth. Timothy was to guard it, but from what?

Paul draws a picture of Timothy’s faith as something that dwells in him, like we reside in a house. You can live in house and it be quiet and not very obvious! But Paul encouraged Timothy to fan his faith into roaring flame (2:6). In fact, the word means to reactivate, rekindle, and implies that to some degree and in some sense, Paul considered Timothy’s faith to have gone dormant. It was in need of being stirred up, reactivated, rekindled. It was not enough to have the faith dwelling in him. It needed to be burning in him, provoking him to action in the kingdom of God. Paul even hints that Timothy’s faith was dormant because of some kind of timidity on his part, some kind of fear that held him back from bold action on behalf of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul had certainly taken his lumps for the gospel. He was in prison awaiting execution. This letter turns into one of the most personal Paul ever wrote, when he pleads for Timothy to come to him, to bring his cloak and books (4:13)! Paul urges Timothy to be bold and more aggressive in serving God. He urged him not to be ashamed of him, but to be willing to own Paul as a fellow disciple and to share in the work of the ministry and kingdom, while being willing to suffer if need be for it (2:8).

This gospel called us from sin to a holy life, a radically different life to the kind of life that is all around us in this world. The gospel of the kingdom and of salvation is a culture of life, transformed life, holy life, powerful life, victorious life, eternal life. The world thrives on a culture of death. It is violent, dispirited, harsh, selfish, grabbing, murderous, lying, immoral and opposed to God who is life. The gospel confronts the sin and culture of death in our world, with the message of life in Christ Jesus who conquered death by his resurrection, and who now imparts life to those who believe in him (2:10). Jesus has no just overcome death, but he has established life. He trounced death, and utterly defeated it. The victory is not just a negation of death, but the powerful and aggressive establishment of life, not just any life, but eternal life and immortality, holy life, life with God forever!

He has made us heralds of that message (2:11). Those who have discovered life are to become aggressive, passionate and bold proclaimers of the gospel that brings life. Sure we will meet resistance and hardship (2:12a). However, just as God has made a deposit in us, so we have put our hope of eternal life on deposit with him, and he will keep and guard it until the day of its full realization (2:12b). It will not fail. We don’t have to be timid and fearful, as though our faith and place with God will be ripped from us. It is on deposit with him, and he is on guard to protect the integrity of our investment until we cash it in when Jesus returns.

The gospel promotes a culture of life, passionate, enthusiastic and bold life. There is no room for the culture of death and fear in the kingdom of God, that holds back or is waiting for something better to come along. The culture of life seizes the opportunities afforded by the Holy Spirit and aggressively serves God by proclaiming good news to the world. The church cannot exist in a culture of death that is simply content with quietly glowing embers. It must fan the flame, rekindle it, reactivate the passion to do the will of God.

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