In this passage Paul likens preaching to a gift. When he was ordained with the laying on of hands, he was set apart for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel.
And Paul writes this to encourage Timothy to use that gift. And he does so by saying that we must “fan it into flame.” Some of the versions will say, that it must be “stirred up.”
The idea is that the gift is analogous to a small spark or a little ember that is in danger of burning out.
But what I want you to see is that in this passage Paul provides some kindling for preaching God's word. That is to say, there are two things that are said here that should encourage us to be vigorous in our preaching.
You'll note that one of the things that Paul says is that the gift of preaching is divinely given.
I. The Gift of Preaching is Divine in its origin
Paul highlights this when he says that this gift is “of God.” Now, you should understand that he didn’t have to add this. He could have simply said, “fan into flame the gift that is in you.” But he didn’t do that. He found it necessary to underscore the fact that there is something inherently supernatural about preaching. It is "of God."
That it is something that is imparted to us by the Holy Spirit should help offset the burden of responsibility that is placed on us. We are to fan it into flame. That’s our responsibility, and a great one at that! But here is a reminder that this gift is not something that is natural to us or based on our ability. It isn’t derived from our personal expertise or some inherent eloquence with which we were born.
Being that its origin is found in the kind hand of the Holy Spirit, we can rest in knowing that ultimately it is not our skill that will make it effective.
A lot of people struggle with the whole divine sovereignty-human responsibility matrix. The Bible posits both truths and really doesn’t try to explain them. You know, “Work out your salvation, for it is God who works in you to will and to do his good pleasure.” The Bible states this interchange very matter of factly. And a lot of people struggle with how that can comport intellectually.
I admit, there are a lot of things in Scripture I don’t really understand. That whole trinity thing, how Christ can be fully God and fully man. I just haven’t been able to grasp those yet.
Well, this is another one. But instead of being something we get in a mental tussle over, it is laid forth as a means of comfort to us.
I think that is what Paul is doing here. Hey timothy, you need to fan into flame this gift. It is your responsibility to preach and not let this thing be snuffed out.
But here’s the good news: This is God’s gift that you are stirring up. This thing that you are doing is something that is heavenly, and you can be sure that the Spirit who put it there will be right there to help you all along the way.
So, in order to help us stir up our gift, Paul reminds us that it is divinely given. But you’ll notice that he doesn’t just hint at how divine it is. He gives us a small indication of how powerful it is.
II. The Gift of Preaching is Overwhelming in its Potency
Paul tells us that we need to “fan in to flame the gift of God.” And it is by no means a stretch of the metaphor to say that preaching is a fire. When it is kindled it carries with it an inherent power to destroy and effect God’s purposes.
You might hear the echo here of what God says through the Prophet Jeremiah, “Is not my word like a fire, says the Lord. Like a hammer that breaks the rock.”
This is just another confirmation that the primary way we effect reform is through the simple preaching of the gospel. The Bible talks about how foolish preaching seems. And it does seem so foolish. It is so simple. It is so plain. But it is powerful.
And Satan would love nothing more than to squelch every trace of preaching. It is a complete menace to him and it vexes him because it is like a cannonball crashing down upon his kingdom.
And you can think of preaching as the incinerator of sin.
I am a die hard Calvinist. As such, I have a very bleak view of human nature. This is how much I believe in man’s depravity: For a while, whenever I got a new Bible the first thing I would do is take a highlighter and turn to Romans 3 and highlight the passage that says, “No one does good, not even one.”
And in the face of such calloused depravity, how in the world are we going to accomplish anything? How is it that the kingdom of God can be advanced at all? The answer is right here. It is through the firestorm of preaching.
And so, brothers, I would encourage you to kindle again the gift of God that is in you. If you are a man ordained to the office, let your lips burn hot with the truth of Christ’s word and may you make it your goal to melt the pews every time you enter that pulpit.
Kindled Fire is dedicated
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.