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2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV):

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

What did Paul mean when he advised Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands"? How was Timothy supposed to apply Paul's advice to his life?

My educated guess is that Paul is probably using figurative language, similar to the "go buy more oil to keep your lamp burning" of the parable of the ten virgins (that's my own way of paraphrasing it by the way), to mean the gift of the Holy Spirit that Timothy probably received by the literal laying on of hands by Paul (like the many examples in the book of Acts) and that Timothy should seek to give himself more fully to the control of the Holy Spirit, although the exact concrete way in which he was supposed to do that is not yet clear to me.

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  • What did Paul mean ? - Paul is currently unavailable. – Lucian May 16 at 3:03
  • @Lucian - that can be said of any Biblical author. I guess you could rephrase it as what did the Holy Spirit, through Paul, mean ... – Spirit Realm Investigator May 16 at 4:01
  • Did you consult the translations and commentaries before asking? biblehub.com/parallel/2_timothy/1-6.htm = fanning flames, stir up the gift, revive the gifts/grace. theidioms.com/fan-the-flames -- also bother to study or read about motivation, encouragement, reproofing of the churches in the epistles. – Michael16 May 21 at 9:32
  • probably using figurative language - ???? – Michael16 May 21 at 9:41
  • @Michael16 - see this, unless you are saying that Paul meant to literally fan a literal, physical flame (????) – Spirit Realm Investigator May 21 at 10:06
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Many of the answers provided to this question have hit on pieces, but so far have not completely connected the dots. The key is the second half of the verse where Paul told Timothy that God did not give them a spirit of fear, but of power.

The gift which Paul gave to Timothy through the laying on of his hands was one of the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit of prophesy, speaking in foreign languages, healing, etc. all of which miraculous powers enabled the people to believe the words the Apostles and disciples spoke of the gospel of Christ. All of the miracles of the Holy Spirit were given in order to confirm the word.

"...a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, ..." (Acts 2:22, KJV)

The power of the Holy Spirit was for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Christ. If Timothy became fearful, and let the scoffers and scorners intimidate him then he would not be able to let the power of the Holy Spirit work.

The prime example that comes to mind is David and Goliath. When confronted with the giant, all of the men of Israel became very afraid and did not trust in God to allow His power and strength to be displayed (1 Sam. 17:11, 24). Until a small boy showed them how God works through the weakness of men.

"David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." (1 Sam. 17: 37, KJV)

David had to show up for the battle, to step forward without fear. Only then could God use him to defeat Goliath, an adversary.

"Fan into flame the gift of God" meant that Timothy should not sit on his hands and let fear rule him, or keep him from going forward. The work of the Spirit to confirm the word could only happen if Timothy went to the battle.

Even though today we do not have the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, we have the word of the Holy Spirit which was confirmed by those miracles in the 1st century AD. The word can only go forward if we boldly speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). (See Note)

And notice the first on the list of condemned in Rev. 21:8,

"But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." (KJV)

because fear prevents us from doing what is commanded. And, that was the point Paul was making to Timothy. We have to show up for the battle so that God can do His work.

Note:

The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit poured forth on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 were time limited.

"For the promise is unto you, and to your children,.." (KJV)

The gifts were not an automatic result of baptism / immersion but from the laying on of the hands of the Apostles or those they appointed such as Timothy. This is evident from Acts 19:1-6 where the Holy Spirit came upon those disciples of Ephesus only after Paul laid his hands on them. Also evident from Peter's interaction with Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-13.

Paul explained that the miraculous gifts of prophesy, speaking foreign languages, etc would fade away in 1 Cor. 13:8ff, but that love / charity would remain. So as the Apostles died off the laying on of hands ceased, and the pouring forth of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased. Today, we have the word in the books of the NT which was confirmed by those miracles.

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  • "Even though today we do not have the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit [...]" - I would like to know the basis for this claim. Otherwise, this is a great answer (+1) – Spirit Realm Investigator May 21 at 10:13
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    The basis @SpiritRealmInvestigator for that belief is purely theological. called cessationism. If you research about the miracles among Christians, there are literally people raised from the dead by new convert; blinds seeing; countless miracles like recorded in the NT. The Spirit never ceased its miracles. The people conclude that God left on a vacation based on the lesser witnessing of the miracles compared to NT, and having no miracles experienced in their own lives. – Michael16 May 21 at 10:18
  • Acts 2:39, " for to you is the promise, and to your children..." time limited. Paul confirms that the miraculous gifts would fade away in 1 Cor. 13:8ff. B/c the gifts were not a result of immersion / baptism, but of the laying of the hands of the apostles (Acts 19:1-6), so that as the Apostles or those they appointed such as Timothy died off in that generation there could be no more laying on of hands. The miraculous gifts eventually died out. – Gina May 21 at 10:20
  • @Gina - would you mind editing your answer to include those references? – Spirit Realm Investigator May 21 at 10:21
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    @Gina today's miracles too are not solely for individuals in their secrecy. I mentioned the testimony of a converted man raising the dead; it was not done in secrecy; but it caused controversy in his village. All such big miracles still happen, maybe less frequently compared to the apostles; doesn't mean anything has changed bec of the writing of the book. God is not contained in a book. – Michael16 May 23 at 8:14
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In 2 Timothy 1:6, what did Paul mean by “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands”?

Take this illustration: A student in school starts taking classes in art. Within the first week, the student begins to show an aptitude for drawing portraits that is greater than anyone else in the class. Does the student drop out of the class or continue on? Of course, the student will continue in the class in order to refine and amplify his ability, or gift, so as to become a better and accomplished artist.

Yes, Timothy had received a "gift" through the laying on of hands, but that gift works in different ways. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 tells us that "there are different gifts, but there is the same spirit". Each individual is impelled through the spirit to do various activities as Paul mentions there in chapter 12. Person "A" may be a great reader and read in a way that motivates and encourages, but he may not be able to do it in many languages. Person "B" may be able to prophesy, but is a stutterer and cannot express himself well.

Paul was therefore advising Timothy to focus on the particular gift that he had (the scriptures do not tell us what gift that may have been).

1 Corinthians chapter 14 talks about the different gifts of the spirit. Notice that it talks about different people having different gifts. Imagine what it would be like if we all had the same gifts, it would be redundant. So just as we as humans differ in size, color, and demeanor, the gifts in spirit come to different ones based on their individual aptitudes. But only if each one is willing to accept that invitation and act upon it.

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Paul had told Timothy before in his 1st letter. 1 Timothy 4:

14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

Apparently, Timothy did not smart up. So Paul wrote again in his 2nd letter with more detail in 2 Timothy 1:

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

Paul saw the earlier days of Timonthy who cried with sincere faith.

5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame [G329] the gift of God

Paul wanted to remind Timothy not to let the earlier enthusiasm died. "Fan into flame" is the opposite of quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). This was not just a piece of advice but a reminder.

Thayer's Greek Lexicon

STRONGS NT 329: ἀναζωπυρέω
a. the remains of a fire, embers;
b. that by which the fire is kindled anew or lighted up, a pair of bellows; to kindle anew, rekindle, resuscitate,

What did Paul mean when he advised Timothy to "fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands"?

It was more than just a piece of advice. It was a remainder after Paul first told him about it. Don't let it died.

How was Timothy supposed to apply Paul's advice to his life?

Don't neglect it. Don't let it fall into disuse. Exercise it. Be disciplined. Work hard at it. Don't be timid about it.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

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  • I believe this is a very strong answer. To me, the first thing I notice is "fan the flame" refers to rekindling. If one is totally on fire for God, one wouldn't need rekindling. To me, he's essentially telling Timothy to "gird your loins" in bible speak. – user42370 May 20 at 17:46
  • Agreed. Good point. – Tony Chan May 20 at 19:52
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Difficult question. Tony has referenced the occasion when Timothy had the gift imparted via laying on of hands. This gift seems to be a pastoral gift, to ‘pastor’ the church. But that’s not your question.

Difficult because as yourself, we can only offer an ‘educated guess’. So here is mine ..

My ‘guess’ is that the only way Timothy himself could ‘stir it up’ would be via speaking in tongues, as this is the only gift that Paul says that you can use to edify yourself. Timothy himself was told to do ‘the stirring up’.

**1 COR 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself

‘Edifies’ from the Greek oikodomeō’ - which can mean ‘to restore by building, to rebuild, repair’, ‘build up’ [Strongs G3618]

Paul is writing and telling Timothy himself to stir himself up. And clearly in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says that speaking in tongues can do this. But, this topic of ‘tongues’ has differing interpretations so there may well be other thoughts on how Timothy might stir himself up.

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Short Answer:

Given the whole Chapter's two themes my best educated guess is that Paul was referring to keeping growing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, here's why below:


Long Answer:

If you keep reading, it becomes clearer. Paul's advice (in Chapter 1) applied to Timothy's real life would be:

  • Do not be ashamed of making testimony for the Lord, nor Paul being a prisoner
  • Get ready to suffer for the Gospel

Let's look at the context here:

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)

Up until this point, the readers will scratch their heads and ask: why did Paul mention specifically fear? What is there to fear?

(BTW "of power and of love and of a sound mind" sounds very similar to the fruit of the Holy Spirit)


Let's keep reading:

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (NKJV)

Ah... so Paul was saying: share the testimony and get ready to suffer for the Gospel, just like Paul himself did. Indeed, those two things can only be accomplished with the Spirit of God.


Verse 9 and 10 was describing the grace of Jesus Christ. Now verse 11 says:

11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (NKJV)

Paul's setting up an example by himself here, he indeed shared the testimony and suffered for the gospel.


Then Paul urges Timothy to remember what was taught to him and keep it to the heart, out of faith, with the Holy Spirit.

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (NKJV)


Then again, Paul gave another 2 examples, one negative one positive.

15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. (NKJV)


As you can see there are 2 things that were frequently mentioned:

  • don't be ashamed
  • be ready to suffer

That would be actionable advice from Paul.


Now what is the Gift of God?

To get ready to suffer, you need to keep growing the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)

To make testimony for the Lord which is a ministry activity, you can benefit from the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Thus I make my educated guess: given those 2 themes in Chapter 1 (don't be ashamed and get ready to suffer), looking at verse 6~7 together, I would say Paul was referring to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

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  • Two things: (1) where is the word 'power' mentioned in Galatians 5? The concept of 'power' is rather found in other contexts, such as Acts 1:8, 1 Cor 2:4-5 and Rom 15:19. A very closely related concept is 'boldness' for preaching, found in Acts 4:29-31. None of that is mentioned in Gal 5. (2) What is your understanding of the phrase "which is in you through the laying on of my hands"? – Spirit Realm Investigator May 20 at 14:16
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator the term "laying hands" reminds me of baptism / indwelling with the Holy Spirit, which occurs in the Book of Acts quite a lot. – Daniel Deng May 20 at 14:28

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