“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Tim 1:7
The context of this stunning statement is that Paul is instructing Timothy, in the previous verse, to stir up his gift, and in the next verses, to prepare himself for suffering. We do not know when we will be called upon to suffer for the gospel. If we are in His will and obedient to his voice, it is likely that we are already suffering much for Him. Equally, we don’t know when suffering will just hit us, that kind of teeth-grating, silent-scream suffering that you read about happening to others and assume will never happen to yourself. Timothy is told to be a faithful minister of the gospel, and it seems that the man had some weaknesses, so that Paul was obliged to reassure and encourage him. How fortunate for us! Paul is addressing believers, but anyone who calls on God and appropriates this promise will find it bears dividends.
The word ‘fear’ means cowardice and timidity in the Greek – never the kind of reverent fear that it is good to have before God. The word ‘spirit’ means breath, as it normally does in Scripture. Then we get a ringing tripartite sequence, three attributes that God has ‘given’ to us, that we acquire from him. Power is ‘dunamis’, love is ‘agape’, (which contains meanings such as benevolence, affection, love-feast, dear love) and a sound mind, best of all (and most distinctive in this verse) is ‘sophronismos’, which according to Vine’s means literally ‘saving the mind’, and ‘self-control’. This is not something we can summon for ourselves, but something that God has given us.
You might also like to look at other verses in Scripture to see the truth of this promise here. For example, in Romans 8:15 we are informed: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.'” In contrast, as we are taught in 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Zechariah 4:6 speaks puts power in context: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” 2 Timothy 1:7 clarifies this, as in the truth stated above, that power by itself is not God’s will for us. God’s ‘agape’ love, and self-control, is a stay on abusive and self-aggrandising power of all kinds. Rom 5:5 “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us”, and 1 Pet. 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” We find the ‘sound mind’ employed in Luke 8:35: “Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.” Similarly, in Luke 15:17 when the Prodigal Son ‘comes to himself’ and thinks that he could be working for his father as a hired servant.
If we take this verse in summary, we can learn that:
1st: God has given us of his spirit, his breath, his life
2nd: that we do not have a spirit of fear or weakness
3rd: that we have a spirit of God’s benevolent love
4th: that we have a spirit of miraculous power
5th: that we have a spirit of discipline and self-control
6th: that power must be yoked with love and self-discipline
7th: that if you are not in Christ you do not have a sound mind
8th: that timidity has no place in the kingdom of God
9th: that these three anointings come from God, not from ourselves
10th: that fear is the opposite of love, power and a sound mind
11th: that these anointings belong to all believers
12th: that God’s miraculous power is required to free us from fear
13th: that a sound mind guards us against fear
14th: that love guards us against fear