The Spirit of a Sound Mind

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” —II Timothy 1:7

AT THE time of writing this second epistle to his beloved Timothy, the Apostle Paul was nearing the end of his ministry. He was not only in prison but had been abandoned by many of the brethren. He was, of course, under strict surveillance by the authorities. Anyone who visited and cared for Paul would himself be subjected to close scrutiny and possibly to arrest. Yet, in spite of the obvious risks, the Apostle did not hesitate to ask Timothy to visit him and give him much needed comfort and fellowship.

From the viewpoint of a worldly person this action by the Apostle Paul would seem to be unwise in exposing Timothy to almost certain arrest and persecution. It would seem that Paul was not showing the real spirit of love and sacrifice. But the Apostle associated his request with the enlightenment of mind that resulted from God’s Holy Spirit being operative in Timothy’s life. In verse 6 of II Timothy 1, we read, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

The laying on of hands was the means whereby the apostles were authorized by God to convey the Holy Spirit to those whom the Lord had called. (Acts 8:17; 19:6) And apparently Paul desired to remind Timothy of this great gift he had received and the responsibility associated with it. The responsibility stems from the enlightenment of the mind with respect to God’s plans and purposes, especially as these apply to the individual who has been blessed with the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul expresses the thought thus: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”—I Cor. 2:16

There is no greater example of the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind than the one we see in the experience of Jesus. We do not have much information concerning him as a young man. The only scripture we have is found in Luke 2:52, which reads, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” But this text speaks volumes if we read between the lines. It is evident that he was looked up to and was respected by his elders and his peers. To be in favor with God would seem to indicate also that Jesus was able to, and in fact did, keep the precepts of the Law. But he was a man and, even though perfect, was limited to human reasoning and understanding.

When Jesus came to John at the River Jordan to be baptized, John recognized Jesus as one set apart, for he said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) And when Jesus was immersed by John in the waters of the Jordan, the scripture states that the heavens were opened unto him and that John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting upon the Son of man. The thought implied in the heavens being opened to Jesus is that, because of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the hidden things with respect to God’s plans and purposes were revealed to him. Because of his perfection of mind as a man, we believe that he was thoroughly familiar with all that was written in God’s Word. But he did not understand the true meaning of the types and shadows and the prophecies until it was revealed to him as the result of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 40:6 is a prophecy concerning Jesus at the time of his baptism and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.” The Hebrew word for “opened” is karah, which Professor Strong states has the meaning “dug.” This is the only time this word is used in the Old Testament. Professor Rotherham elaborates on the meaning of the word, stating that it is: “With allusion to the cavity of the ear … thou hast given me the means of hearing and obeying thy will.” The thought is that the opening of the inner cavity of the ear pictures the revealment of truths which had previously been hidden.

This new discernment caused Jesus to understand that the sacrifices and burnt offerings performed under the ordinances of the Law were not really what God wanted and that they did not accomplish God’s ultimate purpose. It was also revealed to Jesus that he was the one pictured in the many sacrifices offered for sin under the Law and that, to fulfill the type, it would be necessary for him to die as the great and only efficacious sacrifice for sin. The reaction of Jesus to this revealment of God’s purpose for him is stated in Hebrews 10:9: “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first [order of sacrifice], that he may establish the second [the better sacrifice].” And so Jesus immediately set about laying down his life in the prescribed way, day by day, which finally ended in death on the cross.

These are some of the thoughts the Apostle Paul wanted Timothy to call to mind. By the Lord’s grace he had been one whom the Lord had called to be part of the spiritual seed of Abraham and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The word of God had been opened to him so that he could discern the will of God for him and be enabled to extract the spirit of the words, which is God’s Spirit. This is the same spirit that motivated Jesus to obedience even unto death, and it is the same spirit that Paul urged Timothy to stir up within himself.

As the apostle states in our theme text, this spirit that the Lord has given to us through his Word is not the spirit of fear. What did Paul mean by the spirit of fear? The word fear in the Greek is deilia—it is used just this one time in the New Testament and it means “timidity.” Timidity carries the thought of lacking courage, or boldness, or determination. The meaning we should derive from the text is that anyone who really has the Lord’s Spirit does not lack a strong persuasion or belief in his purpose and that his determination to carry out the Lord’s instructions will never falter, regardless of the consequences.

When Jesus sent his disciples out into the various towns and cities of the Jews to preach “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” he knew they would meet all kinds of opposition, even violence. Since the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus felt it was necessary to instruct them how they were to act under stress.

In Matthew 10:23-28 we read: “But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another. … The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul [being] and body in hell [Gehenna, death].”

The instructions that Jesus gave manifest a mind controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is dominant over the natural fleshly inclination to escape from pain, suffering, and confrontations; for to avoid those things under the circumstances would manifest the spirit of fear. And what have the footstep followers of Jesus to fear as far as violence to their bodies is concerned? Their bodies of flesh are already reckoned dead!

The apostle states in our text that we have been given the Spirit of power. The word power is the Greek word dunamis, and it means “miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself).” (Strong’s) The power of the Holy Spirit and its influence over the minds of the footstep followers of Jesus through enlightenment is truly a miracle. For one thing, it reveals to us our true relationship to the Heavenly Father. In Romans 8:15-17 the Apostle Paul expresses the thought in this way: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [sonship] whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; … if so be that we suffer with Him [Christ], that we may be also glorified together.”

The force of this text is that it is emphasizing the reality of our sonship and the necessity for suffering to realize our hope. An adopted child may partake in all the privileges of the family, and yet it is not begotten and born in the family. But we are begotten of the Spirit (John 3:6) and are therefore sons of God by spiritual generation. This in itself is a miracle. And thus it is the real Spirit of sonship that enables us to cry Abba, Father. Abba is the Aramaic word for Father, and we understand that slaves or adopted members of the household were never allowed to use the word Abba. Strictly, therefore, it can be applied only to those who have received the gift of begettal to the spirit nature by God. The word was also used by our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36) The expression conveys a feeling of closeness, of love, and of confidence and trust.

The power of the Holy Spirit on our minds is evidenced in everything that we see or understand. God has revealed himself to us through his Word, and we see his character in qualities of justice, love, wisdom, and power demonstrated in the Divine Plan of the Ages. And everything—the handiwork of creation, or our experiences in the narrow way—we relate to this divine arrangement which has so graciously been revealed to us and of which we have been invited to partake.

The Apostle Paul, in Ephesians 1:8-10,13, expresses the thought in a most eloquent way: “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; even in him. … In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

This Holy Spirit of promise is God’s Holy Spirit—we have been sealed with it, or set apart, so that henceforth we are part of his family and privileged to share his thoughts. In sharing the thoughts of the Father we are expected to bring our own thoughts into full harmony with his.

In our theme text the apostle also states that we have received the Spirit of love. The Spirit of love, in its essence, is another way of identifying God’s Holy Spirit. As a result of being endowed with power—or having been spirit begotten—we were given the ability to recognize and appreciate true love. We saw it manifested in its highest form in the Heavenly Father’s plan of redemption for the world and our Lord’s selfless sacrifice of his own life on, the cross in order to provide the means for that redemption. This was done that the beneficent purposes of God toward his creation, man, might be realized.—Rom. 5:8,9

It follows that anyone who truly has the Lord’s Spirit will feel compassion and love toward the poor groaning world of mankind and will earnestly desire to be a part of the arrangement that God has designed to alleviate the world’s suffering. More than this, the desire to be an agent of blessing becomes a strong power which greatly assists us in our determination to conform our lives to the divine pattern. The Apostle John, in defining this highest form of love, states, “By this we have known love, because he laid down his life on our behalf; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (I John 3:16, Diaglott) Jesus said: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12,13) It is by conforming our lives to this pattern that we are qualified to be an instrument of blessing in the Lord’s hand in the next age.

The Spirit of love manifests itself by works devoid of self-interest. We do this by serving the brethren and doing good as far as possible to all men. Because of our love for the Heavenly Father and his plan of salvation, we are constrained to witness concerning his love and to tell others about the kingdom; and this could bring to us suffering and persecution.

We rarely think of love in this setting, and yet in the final analysis the activity that the highest form of love motivates in us will prove us as footstep followers of the Master. The Apostle Paul exemplifies this when he states in Colossians 1:24, “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Here the apostle surely had in mind some of the experiences such as are recorded in I Corinthians 4:11-13: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it.” And again in II Corinthians 11:24-28: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”

Is it any wonder that the apostle could properly admonish the Corinthians, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”? (I Cor. 11:1) All the experiences recounted came as a result of his ministering to the brethren and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. And his zeal was fired by his love for the Heavenly Father, the brethren, and the Gospel. It was in this way that he was partaking of the afflictions of Christ, not that his suffering added anything to the efficacious merit of Christ’s sacrifice, but rather that Paul and every other potential member of the body of Christ must suffer. It is through suffering that we learn to be submissive and to develop the fruits and graces of the Spirit. All will not have the same experiences, but all must suffer in, or because of, the service of the Lord. Jesus said in Mark 8:34,35: “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

The Spirit of power and of love that has been given to us by the Lord enables us to overcome the spirit of fear and has prepared our spiritual minds to develop in a way that will enable us to make prudent judgments on matters that are spiritual. Professor Strong indicates that the Greek word translated “sound mind” has the meaning of discipline, or self-control. This implies a mind that has complete control over the selfish propensities of the flesh.

The process of attaining a disciplined mind is outlined for us in Romans, the 12th chapter. And when attained, it will result in far-reaching and sweeping changes of viewpoint. The Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2 states, “And be not conformed to his world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” From the context of this chapter, especially when the first verse is considered, it is obvious that the renovation of our minds is associated with a complete reversal of our previous way of thinking. For who among our friends in the world would think of yielding himself as a living sacrifice, especially for the cause of Christ? And as we delve farther into the lessons of the chapter we find that those facets of character the apostle stresses we are to strive for are, in many instances, quite contrary to those which are approved by the world.

In I Corinthians 1:26-31 (RSV) the apostle stresses this very point. “For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written,Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.’”

The point that is so important to the lesson is that we as the footstep followers of Jesus have been figuratively beheaded, and we have accepted Jesus as our Head instead. His wisdom in matters concerning the things of the Spirit becomes our wisdom if we have been completely severed from the things of the world.

And so the Apostle Paul further admonishes Timothy in II Tim. 1:8, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the Gospel according to the power of God.” Paul’s request gave Timothy the opportunity to manifest his love for the Heavenly Father, the truth, and his brother in Christ—the Apostle Paul. If the Spirit of power and of love were sufficiently in control of Timothy’s heart and mind, he would exercise the Spirit of a sound mind—or a disciplined mind—and come to visit and minister to Paul. And this in spite of the consequences, considering that the experience was his “reasonable service.”

May we who have named the name of Christ “stir up the gift of God” which is in us, putting aside the spirit of fear, and exercise the Spirit of power, and the Spirit of love and the Spirit of a sound mind, to the end that we might share in his glory in the kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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