For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 (GNB)
This is the 18th memory verse that I will use as a guide/focal point to writing these articles. The Table of Contents is available in the series introductory article.
Immediate Literary Context
For this memory verse, the paragraph context in which we find it is framed as 2 Timothy 1:3-7, which is the start of a whole passage on Thanksgiving and Encouragement:
3 I give thanks to God, whom I serve with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did. I thank him as I remember you always in my prayers night and day. 4 I remember your tears, and I want to see you very much, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith that your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice also had. I am sure that you have it also. 6 For this reason I remind you to keep alive the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control.
It seems reasonable to assume that the inner abilities that God gave Timothy for ministry – power, love, and self-discipline – were being weakened as a natural timidity began to take over. On this reading, in order to overcome a natural reticence to speak and act with confidence, Timothy needs to allow the spiritual gift to resume its dominance and restore a higher level of effectiveness in his ministry. This reconstruction takes into account all of the elements of verses 6 – 7.
Through a theme of continuity and succession, there is a bestowal of a gift of charisma from God, which was “through the laying on of Paul’s hands”. This may imply that Paul was one of the elders who laid hands on him (1 Tim. 4:14). There is a difference between this wording and that of 1 Timothy 4:14, where the bestowal of the gift was “through” prophecy, “with” the laying on of hands by the group of elders. It may be that Paul now wants to emphasize that his (and the elders’) role was not only to accompany the bestowal of the gift but to be involved in it as well.
Through Paul’s written words of encouragement to Timothy, Paul seeks to help Timothy understand his identity and his obligations by considering those who have gone before him. The letter construes Christian faith and ministry entirely in communal and familial settings, extended through time. This makes Timothy anything but an independent agent peddling new insights. His faith’s roots in the past make it reliable, proven. Timothy’s job, for the sake of the future, involves more preservation than innovation. Paul tells Timothy his faith and calling aren’t ancillary to his identity; they are part of who he is.
In 1 Corinthians 14:22 – 40, Paul teaches the regulation of spiritual gifts which shows that believers have a responsibility for exercising use of their spiritual gifts. The very word translated “self-discipline” means taking responsibility to be moderate or to act reasonably. It implies that the individual exercises control. For the Christian, the motivation and power to do this comes from the Holy Spirit, but we must respond by making the right decisions and taking the right actions.
The “spirit” mentioned in verse 7 is probably a reference to the Holy Spirit, not the human spirit. It is something God gave and was probably part of the gift mentioned in verse 6. The gift seems to have been a measure or kind of power, love, and ability to control oneself that is beyond our normal capacities, which comes only from the Holy Spirit. He is not the kind of Spirit who brings fear.
Wider Literary Context
Paul wrote two letters to Timothy. Timothy was born in Lystra, Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). When Paul and Barnabas first visited Lystra, Paul healed one crippled from birth, leading many of the inhabitants to accept his teaching. When Paul returned a few years later with Silas, Timothy had already grown to be a respected member of the Christian congregation, as were his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice, both Jews. Timothy was the recipient of two letters written by Paul, and along with Paul’s letter sent to Titus, the three Pauline epistles are known for their pastoral purpose and content. The three letters are generally discussed as a group (sometimes with the addition of the Epistle to Philemon) and are considered pastoral because they are addressed to individuals with pastoral oversight of churches and discuss issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.
As a second and final letter to Timothy, Paul requests Timothy to come to him before winter, and to bring Mark with him. Paul was anticipating that “the time of his departure was at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6), and he exhorted his “son Timothy” to all diligence and steadfastness in the face of false teachings, with advice about combating them with reference to the teachings of the past, and to patience under persecution (1:6–15), and to a faithful discharge of all the duties of his office (4:1–5), with all the solemnity of one who was about to appear before the Judge of the living and the dead.
Each of the four chapters lends itself to a structure:
- Paul the Preacher (Chapter 1)
- Paul the Example (Chapter 2)
- Paul the Prophet (Chapter 3)
- Paul the Prisoner (Chapter 4)
In Chapter 1, Paul calls himself an apostle, preacher and teacher. The chapter ends with a reminder for us all as believers that we should all NOT be a ashamed of the Gospel, for we know the true and have committed to the cause of Christ.
In Chapter 2, Paul uses seven figures of speech to describe the duty and activity of a disciple of the Lord:
- Sonship – believers should follow the example and teach others, so they may teach others (verses 1 & 2)
- Solder – believers are to “endure hardness” or hardships and avoid the entanglements of the world to please the One who made them a soldier (verses 3 & 4)
- Athlete – believers are to contend for the reward and abide by the rules (verse 5)
- Farmer – believers must labor before partaking of the fruit (verse 6)
- Student – believers must “rightly divide” the Word of God (verse 15)
- Vessel – believers must be clean to be usable (verses 20 & 21)
- Servant – a disciple is a servant, gentle, apt to teach, patient (verse 24)
In chapter 3 Paul speaks of “perilous times” that were coming to the church. The “last days” is often misunderstood to mean the “last days” of the Christian age, but in all other passages it refers to the “last days” of the Jewish system which came to its end in AD 70 with the destruction of the temple. After describing the perilous times, Paul then reassured us that the source of help and truth is the Word of God.
The final chapter of 2 Timothy is Paul’s set of “lasts”: a final charge, warning, testimony and then his literal last words. We can tell that Paul anticipated his imminent death and reality beyond in his valedictory found in 2 Timothy 4:6 – 8:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
We need to know the scriptures since they are inspired of God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The Scriptures throughly furnish one unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:17). Paul expressed in 2 Timothy 2:15 the need for “rightly dividing” the Word of Truth. The Scriptures teach us God’s plan of redemption. What is revealed in God’s plan will make us wise to our own salvation.
Five things separate the sinner from salvation:
- Faith: Redemption requires one to come to Christ in faith that He is the Son of God, the promised Savior and Redeemer (John 8:24, Luke 2:11; Mark 16:16). This faith comes by the process of hearing the gospel and being convinced of the truth to the extend one will commit himself to obey the faith (Romans 10:17; 16:26; Hebrews 5:9; Matthew 7:21).
- Repentance: God expects believers to turn away from a sinful course of life and live holy before him (Luke 13:3; 2 Corinthians 6:17). Believers must repent in obedience to the Lord (Acts 2:38).
- Confession: One must confess his faith in Jesus as Christ, Savior, and Lord (Romans 10:9,10; Matthew 10:32; Philippians 2:11)
- Baptism: Baptism is a “form” of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:14, 3-5). In baptism one’s state or condition is changed from being “out” of Christ to being “in” Him (Galatians 3:27; Colossians 1:13-14). In baptism one’s relation to sin is changed. Before baptism one is pictured as lost in sins (Acts 22:16) but after baptism one is pictured as “being then made free from sin” (Romans 6:17-18). Our sins are washed or cleansed by the blood of Christ (Revelation 1:5). Just as the Lord shed his blood in death when we are baptised in the “likeness” of his death our sins are washed away (Romans 6:3-5; Acts 22:16).
- Living a Faithful Life: When one is baptised as described in Acts 2:38 the Lord adds him to the church (Acts 2:47). There is only one church and that is the one to which the Lord adds obedient believers (Ephesians 4:4).
Therefore, the main application across the entirety of this second letter from Paul to Timothy is for us to put in place a strong resolution to follow God’s Word – with love, power and self-control. Applying “power” is an art itself – particularly not overdoing it. We need to stand strong against the devil, resisting evil and temptation whilst remaining humble and not head-strong. Let us apply the principles of love from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.