2 Timothy 1:7 is a widely known and often quoted verse among believers.
This verse says:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control.”
However, even though it is widely known and quoted often, most believers do not know the meaning of this verse as it relates to the context.
By understanding its context, we can have a deeper understanding of the verse and a greater appreciation for it.
Let’s take a look at its context.
2 Timothy was written by Paul to Timothy.
Timothy was Paul’s missionary companion whom Paul poured his heart and mind into.
2 Timothy was the last letter Paul would ever write.
Soon after Paul wrote this letter, he was beheaded by Rome.
Paul knew his life on earth would soon end.
He was extremely concerned about the preservation and communication of the gospel of grace.
Therefore, in handing the baton of grace to Timothy, he writes this letter to Timothy to encourage him to fearlessly and lovingly teach the good news of the gospel of grace.
1 Timothy 1:6 says,
“For this reason I [Paul] remind you [Timothy] to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
Timothy had the gift of teaching.
Paul, through the laying on of hands, commissioned Timothy to be a teacher of the gospel of grace.
In this letter, Paul references the teaching ministry of Timothy on several occasions (2 Timothy 1:13-14; 2:1-2, 4:2-5).
Timothy spent much time learning from Paul as he listened to Paul teach about the gospel of grace (2 Timothy 1:13).
It was the gospel of grace that Jesus sent Paul to tell others about:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”
Paul writes about the gospel of grace in 1 Timothy 1:8-12:
“So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me [Paul] his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. THIS GRACE was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of THIS GOSPEL I [Paul] was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
In these verses, Paul tells Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony about the Lord but to join with him in suffering for telling others about the gospel of grace.
God saved Paul and Timothy by grace, then called and set apart (holy) each of them for the purpose of telling others (testify) about God’s grace.
The grace they were set apart and called to tell others about was given to all of us in Jesus before time began and then revealed to the human race when Jesus appeared on earth ((2 Timothy 1:9-10).
The good news of God’s grace is death has been destroyed through the death of Jesus when he died for all sins for all people and through his resurrection Jesus has brought eternal life to the human race.
NOTE: Grace is what God did for us in Jesus. Faith in Jesus receives what God achieved for us by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It was this gospel that Paul “was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.”
Paul suffered greatly in telling others about the good news of Jesus and his grace to the human race.
Yet he was not ashamed to tell others about God’s grace given to us in Jesus or about his death and resurrection, even though he suffered greatly as a result.
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul told Timothy to keep teaching the truths of grace, which he learned from Paul, and to guard [protect] these truths.
Paul told Timothy to teach others the truths of grace who then could teach others (2 Timothy 2:1-2).
As we read 2 Timothy, we get the sense that Paul is very concerned about the message of grace being proclaimed in the present generation and preserved for future generations.
He knew there would come a time when people would not put up with the sound doctrine (truths) of grace (2 Timothy 4:3).
That is why Paul exhorts Timothy to teach about grace, protect the truths of grace, and be willing to suffer for these truths.
To do this, Timothy would need to be courageous...fearless.
That is why Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, ““For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self-control.”
It would take great boldness by Timothy (power) to teach the good news of God’s grace in a hostile environment where suffering was assured.
Along with boldness, Paul encourage Timothy to teach the good news of God’s grace in a spirit of love and self-control (keep his head, stay in control, do not argue, be kind, and gently instruct - 2 Timothy 2:23-26; 4:5)
This boldness, love, and self-control came from God.
The context of 2 Timothy 1:7 flows from Paul telling Timothy to “fan into flame” his gift of teaching the good news of God’s grace, which had been given to us in Christ before time began and that appeared to us when Jesus came to earth.
His teaching was to be done powerfully (with boldness in view of the suffering he would endure), but done in love (kindness and gentleness) and with self-control (staying calm, cool, and collected).
This boldness, love, and self-control in teaching the gospel of grace came from God who gave Timothy a spirit of courage, not fear, and a spirit of love and self-control.