“I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:3-5.
All three of these verses are shown for context, but let us give our attention to the phrase “genuine faith”, in verse five. The marginal in my Bible has the word, unhypocritical as an alternate for genuine.
At first it would appear that, the apostle is talking about salvation, but in reality he is talking about the Christian life which takes place after true salvation (when someone has accepted Jesus Christ as payment for their sins).
Paul speaks here of genuine faith, an unwavering faith that is without hypocrisy, which stands up to trials and is a living principle within the believer.
This is the faith which was in the mother and grandmother of Timothy, and in the last phrase the apostle says, “I am persuaded is in you also”.
Timothy was sent out to strengthen and start churches; the apostle is not going to send out a young man to do this if he is unsure of his salvation. This is the second letter to Timothy so there can be no question that he was a true believer.
Unhypocritical faith then is not something that one acts out in church by being pious when around fellow Christians. Genuine faith is something that comes from complete surrender to the will of Christ.
This is not as common as we might think. The tendency is to look around at others and assume that because they are at church every Sunday and/or teach Sunday school, etc. that this qualifies them as some sort of spiritual giant.
For this reason, we tend to copy their behavior to fit in, or because it seems to be how Christians are. This is hypocrisy, and is what the Greek word hypocrite means, actor.
While it is true that we are to learn from Godly people, this is not the extent of our training, and in many churches, we still have a lock-step mentality where everyone is a clone of some important Christian within the church.
Often there may be an older Christian who will begin mentoring a new Christian just as the Apostle Paul must have mentored Timothy. But the real changes come from within.
This is the genuine faith here spoken of, the molding of the heart to the life of Christ. God begins this molding process by making us, a new creature in Christ Jesus upon salvation; we are also told that we are.
“…sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Ephesians 1:13b.
“…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13.
It is also God’s desire that we come to the full measure of a man in Christ Jesus, and to this end, God works in our lives to bring us to this point.
Nevertheless, things are not entirely passive on our part, for Paul says:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14.
Think of that, “I press on”, God does not give us everything on a silver platter, though that happens occasionally, no we must want the things of God and press into His kingdom if we want them.
“No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.” 2 Timothy 2:4-7.
In the same manner the Christian hones his skills through prayer, Bible study, and listening to the gentle voice of God. That gentle voice can be confusing at times because it is hard to hear over the racket of our own thought life.
This draws us back to genuine faith, without that desire, that hunger for God, the noise of our own self-centered desires will drown out the voice of God.
If you have a desire to know more of the mysteries of God, the key is here, genuine faith. Just as Jacob wrestled with a Man (God, Genesis 32:30) all one night, and would not release Him until He blessed him, so all who seek God with a whole heart must do.
The verse after the opening passage we are considering here is a curious one indeed.
“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.
It is a pity that this rite of laying on of hands to bestow a gift has been lost and in fact many church leaders would not know what gifts these are.
Disuse has resulted in a loss of this knowledge, or at best, misuse of it by individuals who consult their own heart rather than the Lord for direction.
Coming back to the point though, Paul tells Timothy to, “…stir up the gift of God which is in you”, too many of us have gifts that lie dormant within us. I might add that you do not necessarily need someone to lay hands on you to receive a gift; these are given to each one by Christ Himself.
These gifts are intended to build up the church, which is the body of Christ, and the lack of their use is one of the reasons that the church languishes today.
“Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.” 1 Timothy 4:14.
Since this is not a study on gifts I will not go into this in depth, however they are very real and are elaborated on in the Bible particularly in the books of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.
You can learn what yours is by studying these passages and by realizing that you are probably using them now.
When I say, by now, I mean that if you have the gift of teaching, you may already be leading Bible studies, or if you have the gift of mercy, you may already be working with the poor or the sickly or some such other outreach.
And when I say that you may be doing these things already I mean doing them with a sense of real fulfillment, if not, it just may not be your gift.
Once again we see that genuine faith is active not passive, we are told to stir up our gifts, and study to show ourselves approved, and pray without ceasing.
And we must not forsake the gathering of ourselves together, and present ourselves a living sacrifice to God. All of these things take real diligence born of love for God.
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3.
Unfeigned Faith, Part 1 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 6-17-15, updated on 1-25-19.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.