(2 Tim. 1:6) What was Timothy’s spiritual gift?

CLAIM: Paul tells Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6). What was Timothy’s gift, and why was it given through the laying on of Paul’s hands?

RESPONSE: Let’s consider each question separately:

The gift?

Paul never explicitly states the gift that Timothy had. Some believe that Timothy’s gift was his ministry. Truly, our ministry is a gift from God (Eph. 4:7, 11). In the context, Paul tells Timothy that God both “saved us” and “called us” according to grace (v.9). Therefore, our service for God is both a privilege and a gift from him.

Others argue that Timothy probably had the gift of evangelism. Later in the book, Paul tells Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). Moreover, in context (v.8), Paul returns to the subject of evangelism (“Never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord” NLT). Either view fits the language and the context of this passage. Perhaps, Paul even had both concepts in mind.

Fee argues that the gift “almost certainly has to do with his calling and gift for ministry as a preacher/teacher of the Word.”[1] While this could be the case, it is overstated to state that this is “almost certain,” as Fee contends.

Through the laying on of hands?

Personally, we’ve never seen someone receive a spiritual gift through the laying on of hands. Normally, God gives us gifts, when we meet Christ (1 Cor. 12:4-11). Often, it takes years of service for these gifts to be manifested or revealed. However, if we are going to stay faithful to the language in this verse, we need to admit that God gave Timothy some spiritual gift (through Paul), when he was being sent off as a leader. In his first letter, Paul explains, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you” (1 Tim. 4:14 NLT). This must have been an official sendoff meeting for Timothy, where all of the elders were present—similar to the anointing of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3).

Perhaps, in this specific situation, God knew that Timothy needed additional gifts to accomplish his ministry. While I don’t fully understand this passage, it is comforting to meditate on. It tells us that God will not give us more than we can handle. In fact, he will dish out extra gifts for us to accomplish the task in front of us, as needed.

[1] Fee, G. D. (2011). 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (p. 108). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.