Some spiritual gifts were given by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18). If Timothy could neglect his gift (4:14), it must mean a man could choose to use his gift or not. The Corinthians were told to choose not to use the gift of tongues when there was no interpreter (ICor.14:27,28), and not to use the gift of prophecy if someone was already using it (ICor.14:29-32). When Paul tells Timothy not to neglect his gift, it suggests he was choosing not to use his gift.
What was his gift? Well, it was given by the laying on of hands, and so was the gift in II Timothy 1:6-8. The gift there seems to have been the gift of “apostle” (ICor.12:28). That gift gave Paul the boldness (Rom.1:15) he later lacked when the gifts faded (Eph. 6:19), and when Paul told Timothy to stir up his gift of apostle, it was to counter “the spirit of fear.” He was an apostle like Barnabas (Acts 14:4,14).
But we know the gift of apostle included all the gifts, for Paul could speak in tongues, heal the sick raise the dead, etc. In the context here, Timothy was probably neglecting to do what the previous verse said, give attention to reading the Bible and exhorting people to obey its doctrines. That’s the gift of ministry (Rom.12:6,7)! Even today elders lay hands on a man to ordain him to the ministry, although only to identify with him. They cannot impart a gift of ministry.
At Timothy’s ordination his gift was given, and prophecies were made on him (ITim.1:18), probably that he would “war a good warfare” since Timothy was told to do so “by” those prophecies. When men began to teach the law (1:7) and that the resurrection was past (1:20 cf. IITim. 2:16,17), a timid man like Timothy found it easier to neglect his gift than to teach the Word and encourage people to obey it.
Paul also told Timothy to “meditate” (4:15). The world meditates by emptying their mind, but we meditate by filling ours, usually with the Word (Ps.119:15,23).Here Timothy was to meditate on “these things,” a phrase Paul uses 8 times in this epistle to mark off sections. Since it is used in 4:11, he’s being told to meditate on the things in v.12-15.
If he would, his profiting would appear “to all.” That was the purpose of the gifts, to profit “withal” (ICor.12:7). When used properly they profited the one with the gift and others around him in the church. But we know by this time the gifts were fading, since Paul couldn’t send Timothy a blessed handkerchief (Acts 19:11,12 cf. ITim.5:23). But as the gifts faded, men like Timothy could still profit by meditating on those things and giving himself “wholly” to them (4:15) so his profiting could appear to all and profit them. That’s why I try to give myself wholly to studying and teaching and not get distracted by politics, etc.
Most pastors give heed to their people to see if they are giving themselves to spiritual things, but Paul tells Timothy to take heed to himself (4:16). If he would also give heed to “the doctrine” he wouldn’t give “heed to…doctrines of devils” (ITim.4:1). The way to not be seduced by false doctrine isn’t to study false doctrine (Jer.10:2). You might just fall for false doctrine that way! (Deut.12:30). The way to not give heed to false doctrine is to study Pauline doctrine. God wants us “simple” concerning those that teach false doctrine (Rom.16:17-19). Don’t be studying Islam to try to help Muslims! Paul says to “avoid” them, not study them!
If you want to know how important it was for Timothy to “continue” in those things (v.16), where do you think we’d be if Paul hadn’t (Gal.2:5)? Where do you think we’d be if Timothy hadn’t? Where do you think the next generation will be if we don’t? If Timothy would give heed to the doctrine, he would “save” himself from the doctrines of devils, and from all the misery and heartache that comes from not giving heed to Pauline doctrine. And this would save his congregation from those things as well.
If Timothy had an extraordinary miraculous gift, yet was told to avail himself of ordinary means, how important it is for people like us, who don’t have a gift, to avail ourselves of reading the Scriptures and meditating on those things, etc. And while you may not have any miraculous gifts, you have natural gifts God can use, as He used Esther’s beauty, and David’s ability with a sling. Just don’t neglect to use your natural gifts for the Lord!