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No Room for Cowards in The Ministry

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) … “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Though what is said in this verse could be applied to all Christians in a general sense, Paul is referring particularly to God’s ministers, especially himself and Timothy. Our ability to minister is always based upon what God has given and has not given to us. We could do nothing effective without God’s gifts.

Paul says that God did not give to His ministers a spirit of fear. In this passage the word “spirit” does not refer to the Holy Spirit nor to the mere human spirit; it is rather the human spirit as it is affected by the presence and work of God’s Spirit in the life of His servants. The word for “fear” does not mean “fright, terror, or alarm” (Greek phobos), but rather “cowardice, absence of courage” (Greek deilia). There is no room for cowards in the ministry. There are too many enemies of the gospel who would constantly keep a coward on the run. This is what God has not given to His ministers.

He has given, instead, a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. “Power” (Greek dunamis) refers to the ability to do the job, to perform the ministry which God has called us to. It is God’s enablement. Unmitigated power, however, can lead to arrogance and pride. To prevent that, God has also given us love as the ability to use our power with an attitude of mercy and compassion. The best example of power and love combined is in God Himself. He has the power to destroy us, to cast us immediately into eternal Hell (Mt. 10:28), but His love caused Him to make the greatest sacrifice, sending His own Son to die for us (Jn. 3:16).

The third gift which God gives us, relating to our spirit or attitude, is that of a “sound mind.” Though this is the only time this word occurs in the N.T. (Greek sophronismos), its cognates (words with the same root) occur frequently in the Pastoral Epistles. The word used here has the connotation of “wisdom,” “common sense,” or “discernment.” The minister who has it knows how to mingle power and love for their best and most lasting effect. He knows how to keep these two essentials of a successful ministry in proper balance, when to emphasize one and when the other.[1]

[1] Outlaw, W. S. (1990). Commentary on the Books of 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy & Titus. In R. E. Picirilli (Ed.), 1 Thessalonians through Philemon (First Edition, p. 306). Nashville, TN: Randall House Publications.

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