May. 10, 2022

The Giver, The Gift That Keeps On Giving

 

2 Timothy 1:6,7. “… Stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.”

We usually think of spiritual gifts (plural), such as healing, casting out demons, or power over “serpents and scorpions” and the like, as if they are separate things. In a sense they are. But what if we were to see them as facets of the gift of God Himself, and His authority, which are bestowed in the laying on of hands? The Gift of the Holy Spirit!

There’s always a tendency to see them as separate components (tongues or other sign gifts), but what is given is the very gift of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. Consequently, since it is the Almighty Himself who deigns to dwell within the believer - receiver, the use of spiritual gifts is never about fearfulness. He desires to reveal Himself in and through all who receive Him as power, love, and a sound mind.

Yet, as Paul reminds his younger protege, Timothy, that it is up to the recipient of the Gift to stir Him up.

Across the various translations this “stirring up” is sometimes phrased fan into flame, kindle afresh, or kindle anew, etc. It has to do with an ember being set ablaze. These are worthy translations of Strong’s G329 “anazopyrein”. Stirring up doesn’t quite do it. That’s for blenders! It’s about Fire! Can we see a very important word within that word, anazoPYREin? As in a pyre. Maybe even a funeral pyre, where the corpse meets its demise. 

Our God Who imparts Himself to us through His Holy Spirit is a consuming fire! Hebrews 12:29. When He is fanned into flame (in exercising the gift/s He has imparted to the recipient), that fire consumes the “adversary”. Hebrews 10:27. Within us, and for those who receive the benefits of the exercise of His gifts, the adversary of the flesh and residual “constructs” of the devil and the fall are consumed. Especially in the one who stirs up the Gift!

It is worthwhile to consider all the passages throughout Scripture having to do with our God being a consuming fire. There are many!

This may be a new idea about the purpose of exercising spiritual gifts. Fanning them into flame by reason of practicing them (Him!) - may be related to not only blessing those who benefit in the Body of Christ, but in the purification of the recipient exercising / stirring up the Gift of the Holy Spirit. As surrendered recipients to our Lord, the Fire increases, and the old sinful Adam decreases. We participate in stirring up the Holy Flame - resulting in less of me and more of Thee! Participation in the Gift is, it could be said, a “synergistic” activity.

Yet it is amazing how, in the churches across the board, the spiritual gifts are essentially demonized. Consider who might be behind that? Yet Freemasons are allowed to do as they please even at higher levels, in churches that supposedly forbid membership in Freemasonry or any lodge or secret society! No one confronts them. Go figure.

But I digress. Sort of.

The context of this passage is that of the younger pastor Timothy, facing opposition of the pagan world, in its very seat at Ephesus. A daunting task in itself. He knows that his mentor Paul will soon leave this world. This foreshadows for Timothy a great challenge, not only in the opposing world, but also within the church continually under assault from that world. There is also opposition to his youthfulness within the church.

Paul therefore encourages Timothy about stirring up the Gift of God within him, in terms of love (“agapes”), power (“dynameos”), and a sound mind (“sophronismou”) - which may also be translated as prudence and / or self discipline. 

What does not come with the Gift of the Almighty Himself is a spirit of timidity (deilias), also strongly identified as fear or cowardice. This ought to be obvious, considering Who and What the Gift really is. It should be humbling as well, that God would choose us earthen vessels to inhabit, and that this would glorify Him.

Paul always advocated for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, while making it clear that love, orderliness, and the edification of the saints must be the governing factor of manifesting gifts of the Spirit, since God - Who is the Gift - is Love! (See 1 Corinthians 13 and surround chapters on spiritual gifts.)

Not everyone has the same gifts, although the Giver is one and the same. It is up to us to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking for the Holy Spirit. We are also to be watchful and to recognize which gift or gifts He may desire to manifest in and through us. As we grow in spiritual comprehension, we will increasingly become sensitive about His prompting as to when, where, and how to apply His gifts, in remembering to keep stirring up that flame.

Orthodox Christians can argue on behalf of Chrismation - as the beginning point of experiencing the Holy Spirit, following holy Baptism - as the “prayer” for bestowal of the Gift Himself, assisted by the priest and all in attendance. 

It is God’s will that we receive the Holy Spirit per Jesus Himself, yet it does not appear to be a “one time” event. See Luke 11:5-13. For indeed we are “set apart” (holy, sanctified) to be the temple of the living God. This is both an individual matter as well as for the Church as a whole, as one with her Head Jesus Christ, for the purpose of the salvation of all who will receive Him as Savior and Lord. He has won claim to them by the sacrifice of His holy Precious Blood.

But this can never be taken for granted. As Paul admonishes, the Gift is to be fanned into flame. This is also why Jesus Himself says to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep trusting! Anticipate.

God, He says, will never give a snake in place of a fish, nor a stone for the required and petitioned for bread. He desires to give Himself to us.

In the parable from Luke 11, the petitioner - at a most inconvenient time - asks at midnight (a very dark time) for three loaves of bread. Why three? Might this mean the fullness of the Holy Three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Of himself the petitioner has nothing to offer, but he must persist in asking for and securing What he needs for the sojourner who has arrived at this most inopportune time. It is because of persistence, not the basis of friendship or neighborliness, that the request is granted. That relationship is not taken for granted.

What has happened in the churches is a great taking for granted of the Gift. I’m born again, so I have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh at Pentecost, so I have Him. I’m baptized, so I have Him. I’m chrismated, so I have Him. Pick your theological paradigm; it all amounts to the same “blessed assumption!” I have Him! I assume because of a ceremony or a prayer given once that I have Him. 

Not so fast, pilgrim.

Where is the stirring up of the Gift?! We can go through mumbling of rote prayers, and perform all sorts of physical posturing and prostrating, as well as countless repetitive rituals and prayers, without any awareness of our need for “three loaves” and what it actually takes to acquire them. We assume that because there is a prayer for the Holy Spirit in the Liturgy that we have Him. Yet how often do we miss when it’s being said, because our minds are on brunch and who we’re meeting with after church? … This is how we ask for the Living God to dwell in us and grant His gifts to and through us? Such a fickle and half hearted approach?

Where is the holy desire for Holy Fire?

What is our felt need that determines our demand for what God alone can supply? How much do we fan the smoldering Ember into full and glorious flame? Are we aware of Who the Gift is that has been bestowed? Is there some inclination toward desire for Him and how He wished to fill His temple (our body!).

Still just playing church? Woe be unto all such trifling!

What may be the gifts which the Giver and Gift chooses to bestow specifically in and through each of us, for the edification of the Body of Christ, with a view to the salvation of the world, which is rightfully to be under the reign of the Prince of Peace - Who rules with the scepter of righteousness?

Does our specific congregational context allow for the acknowledgement and development of His gifts among the Faithful, or is it all relegated to the professional clergy? Or is it just business as usual, with concerns about expanding or improving physical real estate properties, rather than fasting and prayer for the Giver and His spiritual gifts? Why do we exist as a “Church”?

These and more are questions which need to be pondered. May we never fall into smug lip service indifference, complacency, or arrogance about “having it all."

 

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