The Meaning of 2 Timothy 1:6: Stir Up the Gift of God

Paul urged Timothy to “stir up” the gift he received. What was that gift that Timothy received? Can we receive that gift today? If so, how do we “stir it up”?

What does 2 Timothy 1:6 say?

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

Paul wrote the books of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy to encourage his young protégé Timothy in his ministry and service to God and His people.

Paul called Timothy “a true son in the faith,” “a beloved son” and “my son” (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2:1). Reading these letters gives us a sense of Paul’s personal affection for Timothy, as well as his personal desire to see Timothy succeed—both as a minister and as a Christian.

Reflecting on his relationship with Timothy, Paul recalled “the genuine faith” that was in Timothy, just as it had been in Timothy’s mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Then Paul wrote the following:

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

What is the “gift of God” Paul referred to? Did it just apply to Timothy, or can we receive it today? And, if we can receive it today, how can we “stir up” this gift?

What was the gift Paul referred to?

An important clue to identifying “the gift” is found in the fact that Paul said it came through the laying on of his hands. In the New Testament Church, ministers laid their hands on people for four reasons:

  • For anointing the sick (James 5:14).
  • For blessing little children (Matthew 19:13-15).
  • For receiving the Holy Spirit after being baptized (Acts 19:6).
  • For ordaining people to a religious office (1 Timothy 4:14).

The first two items clearly didn’t apply. Timothy was an adult—not a child—and the context is not about sickness.

The last two items did apply. Timothy had hands laid on him to receive the Holy Spirit when he was baptized and also when he was ordained into the ministry of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 4:14). When people are ordained, the laying on of hands is done to ask God to help these people fulfill their new responsibilities. God empowers people through His Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13, 19).

For both baptism and ordination, the laying on of hands is a request for God to grant the Holy Spirit, or an additional measure of the Holy Spirit, to empower an individual to serve.

For additional information on this topic, read “Laying On of Hands.” 

The gift of the Holy Spirit

Following Christ’s death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit became available to all who would repent, be baptized and have hands laid on them by Christ’s ministry. This first occurred on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31. It was no longer restricted to only a select few individuals, as it was under the Old Covenant.

The Holy Spirit also allows us to understand spiritual matters and empowers us to live a righteous life.Receiving the Holy Spirit is truly a gift from God. The Holy Spirit within us identifies us as “sons of God” (Romans 8:9, 14) and seals—or marks—us for redemption at Christ’s return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s “guarantee” that He will fulfill His promise to make us immortal “children of God” (2 Corinthians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 15:49, 53; John 1:12).

In addition to these wonderful gifts, the Holy Spirit also allows us to understand spiritual matters and empowers us to live a righteous life (John 16:13; Ephesians 3:20).

In his message to Timothy, Paul was undoubtedly referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit. He wanted Timothy to use this power to its fullest extent in his personal life and in his ministry.  

To learn more about the Holy Spirit, read “What Is the Holy Spirit?” and “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?

What does it mean to stir up the gift of the Holy Spirit?

The Greek word for “stir up” is anazopureo.

According to Thayer’s Definitions, it means “to kindle up, inflame one’s mind, strength, zeal.” This is the only place this word is used in the New Testament and is thus referred to in textual studies as a hapax legomenon (a word occurring only once in a document).  

When a fire began to die out, the coals could be stirred, and kindling could be added to rejuvenate the fire. 

Sometimes the meaning of a hapax legomenon can be challenging to understand because there are no other usages to compare it to. But in 2 Timothy 1:6 the meaning is fairly easy to understand.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the Bible explains that anazopureo “is used metaphorically . . . where ‘the gift of God’ is regarded as a fire capable of dying out through neglect. The verb was in common use in the vernacular of the time” (“Stir, Stir Up”).

When this was written, fires were the primary source of heat. When a fire began to die out, the coals could be stirred, and kindling (often small pieces of wood or other flammable material) could be added to rejuvenate the fire. Everyone knew the meaning of this word.

Paul wrote of the opposite concept in another letter, admonishing believers, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

There are some important lessons in this simple reference to stirring up the Holy Spirit within us as a person might rekindle a fire. There are strategies we can use to allow it to work more effectively in our lives.

How to stir up the Holy Spirit in your life

What can we do to avoid quenching the Spirit and, instead, stir it up to work more powerfully in our lives? Here is some guidance from Paul on how to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

  • Strive to avoid “the works of the flesh.” Those works are: “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (verses 19-21).
  • Cultivate “the fruit of the Spirit” in your life. This fruit is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (verses 22-23).
  • Develop a genuine “love of the truth.” We can do this by studying the Bible and striving to live by it every day. Paul wrote that a “love of the truth” is crucial to salvation and avoiding deception (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
  • Work hard to provide for your family and others. This is a basic, but essential, key of Christian living (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:12; 1 Timothy 5:8).
  • Live a life of giving. You also stir up God’s Spirit by giving to “him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28; compare Galatians 6:10). An attitude and lifestyle of giving is essential to Christian growth.  
  • Regularly assemble with other Christians. The Bible says we can “stir up love and good works” by the “assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:24-25). 

Stir it up!

Now that we’ve considered the background and meaning of Paul’s message to Timothy, what can we conclude 2 Timothy 1:6 means for us today?

Like Timothy, we, too, should strive to “stir up the gift of God which is in [us].”

In other words, stir up the Holy Spirit in your life!

That is the meaning of 2 Timothy 1:6!

Topics Covered: Christian Living

About the Author

David Treybig

David Treybig

David Treybig is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Teddi, have two grown children and seven grandchildren. He currently pastors the Austin, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He has served in the pastoral ministry for over 40 years, pastoring congregations across six states.

Read More

Ask a Question