Three Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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

Power, Love, Soundness of Mind

ALTHOUGH the Bible mentions various gifts of God, and outstanding among these is the gift of his beloved Son to be the Redeemer and Savior of the world, we are not considering here this “unspeakable gift.” (John 3:16; II Cor. 9:15) But there are other gifts of God which we are going to consider—three gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that his Heavenly Father is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him than earthly parents are to give good gifts to their children.—Luke 11:13

In the text quoted above, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. These three gifts of the Holy Spirit are closely related, since power, love, and a sound mind are outgrowths of the operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. They are also evidences that the Holy Spirit is operating in our hearts in the way the Lord has desired and designed. Paul contrasts these evidences of Spirit begettal with the spirit of fear, which, he emphasizes, is given to us by the Lord.

1. The Spirit of Power

Fear, should it enter the Christian life, has a very blighting effect. Satan is the great instigator of fear. The Apostle Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Pet. 5:8) The roaring of a lion seeking out its prey instills fear in the animal being hunted. This fear, it is said, virtually paralyzes the animal so that it is incapable either of escaping or of putting up resistance.

And fear will do this to us, the followers of the Master, if we allow it to take possession of our hearts. Peter gives us the antidote for this fear engendered by Satan’s attacks. He wrote, “Whom resist steadfast in the faith.” (I Pet. 5:9) Steadfastness in the faith means a firm confidence in the outworking of the divine plan in our lives, a knowing and believing that Satan cannot harm us as new creatures in Christ Jesus. If Satan’s roar at times emphasizes the weaknesses of our flesh, we are to remember that these are common to all men, and are no evidence that God has deserted us.

Regardless of the origin or object of our fears we are to remember that they do not come from God. To keep this always in mind, and to believe it with all our hearts will enable us under all circumstances to proceed in the narrow way, doing those things which we believe the Bible indicates to be the Lord’s will for us, knowing that the Lord will take care of us, not necessarily from a physical standpoint, but as new creatures in Christ Jesus.

Peter wrote, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (I Pet. 3:13) ‘That which is good’ is the Lord’s will which we are endeavoring to do. Peter assures us that no harm can come to us as long as we walk in this pathway of obedience to the Heavenly Father’s will. But this does not mean that we will not have difficult experiences, for in the next verse Peter adds, “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.”—vs. 14

We know Jesus always did those things which were pleasing to his Heavenly Father, yet he suffered for righteousness’ sake, and his enemies did all they could to terrify him. At the end they spat upon him, they beat him, they hung him upon a cross, and heaped ignominy upon him; and yet, as Peter assures us, they could not harm him. Oh yes, they killed him as a man; but he came through that experience unscathed as a new creature. So it will be with us. Peter admonishes us that in the face of difficulties, from whatever source they may arise we are not to be afraid of their terror, knowing that fear is not of the Lord, but of the Devil, in his efforts to turn us aside from our course of faithfulness in the narrow way.

We frequently gain a fuller meaning of a text when we consider the setting in which it appears. We believe this is true with respect to Paul’s reference to the spirit of fear. Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, in which this expression is used, was written from Rome, where he was being held a prisoner. Apparently Paul felt reasonably certain that he would soon be executed, and he wrote: “Watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 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. Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: for Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me.”—II Tim. 4:5-11

In II Timothy 1:15, we find Paul saying, “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” The evidence seems clear that Paul felt quite alone, and believed that a visit from Timothy would be of great value to him. Since Paul had been training Timothy to carry on with the ministry after his own departure in death, Paul no doubt felt that it would be a great blessing to this spiritual son of his if they could talk matters over face to face.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “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.” (II Cor. 1:8) Some of Paul’s friends had forsaken him because they were ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. They were in a difficult position, for to be friendly with this prisoner exposed them to danger, and yet, despite this, Paul invited Timothy to visit him, knowing that for him to do so could lead to complications with the Roman authorities.

It was against this background that Paul reminded Timothy that the spirit of fear is not of the Lord, that instead, the Lord gives strength, the “spirit of power.” From the standpoint of the flesh, journeying to Rome to visit Paul, a man who had already been condemned to death, would not be an easy task. Paul knew, however, that the Lord would give Timothy the necessary strength to do this. Being a follower of the Master is never an easy task. It requires courage and strength beyond our own. But we have the blessed assurance that the Loa does give power, and every follower of the Master can testify to the truthfulness of this promise.

How does the Lord give strength to his people? One way he does this is through his promises. Just to know that God has promised to help us in every time of need is in itself a great source of strength. Isaiah wrote, “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”—Isa. 40:28-31

The Lord also gives strength to his people by the providences with which he surrounds them. To know that the Lord, through our guardian angels, and in other ways, is shaping our providences for our very best good as new creatures in Christ Jesus, is a wonderful source of strength! Besides, we know that, when necessary, the Lord will directly imbue his people with strength to help them through experiences in which in their own strength alone they would falter and fall.

Paul spoke of the “exceeding greatness” of the Lord’s power which raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him “to his own right hand.” (Eph. 1:28-30) He indicated that this mighty power which raised Jesus from the dead is now being exercised on our behalf; and in his letter to the Philippians he expressed his willingness to suffer the loss of all things, that he might know or experience this power working in him.—Phil. 3:7-10

There is no question of God’s ability to care for his people and there is no question about his desire to do so, because he has promised it over and over again. But we do need to exercise faith in God’s promises. Peter could walk on the water until his faith wavered; and so can we go through any experiences, or remove any ‘mountains’ which may loom up in front of us, if by faith we continue to hold on to the Heavenly Father’s precious promises.

Satan will endeavor to instill doubts and fears into our hearts on the ground that we are not worthy of God’s continued love and care. When we think of self, of all the imperfections we know we have, we could begin to tremble. If this happens we should remember that God is not dealing with us according to the flesh, but according to our heart intentions, and that our fleshly imperfections are all covered by the robe of Christ’s righteousness.

The Scriptures say, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (II Chron. 16:9) If our hearts are pure then we know that the Lord will continue to strengthen us by giving us the spirit of power.

2. The Spirit of Love

What is a pure heart, a heart that is perfect before the Lord? It is a heart that is emptied of self, and filled with love. And this again is one of the provisions of the Lord, for he not only gives us the spirit of power, but also the spirit of love. Paul wrote that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us.” (Rom. 5:5) It is through the Word, which reveals the plan of God for the church and the world, that we learn about God’s love. Through the Word we learn that God delights to exercise loving kindness in the earth. (Jer. 9:23,24) There, too, we learn about the loving gift of God’s Son.

This knowledge, when properly appreciated, begets the desire to be like God. So we earnestly strive to eradicate selfishness from our hearts, and to be filled instead with the spirit of love. With God’s love shed abroad in our hearts, we are motivated by this spirit in all that we do. If Timothy were to go to Rome and visit Paul, love would need to motivate him to do this, else he would not be specially blessed by the Lord. Paul wrote that though we give our bodies to be burned, and have not love, it will profit us nothing. (I Cor. 13:1-3) How important, then, that we open our hearts to receive God’s gift of love!

3. A Sound Mind

The third gift of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in our text is the spirit of a sound mind. A sound mind is one that can reason correctly, upon the basis of available knowledge, and reach proper conclusions. Among members of the fallen race there are no perfectly sound minds, for all minds are biased to some extent; and many individuals are so unsound that we speak of them as being emotionally unbalanced, or mentally ill. And even among the minds which are considered sound by accepted standards, there are many degrees of intelligence.

But when Paul speaks of a sound mind he does not refer to human standards of soundness, but to a mind that is regulated by the will of God. And here again the Word of God comes into the forefront as the principal source of instructions which produce soundness of mind from the divine standpoint. To the extent that we forego our own reasoning and accept for our guidance the instruction of the Lord, we have the soundness of mind referred to by Paul.

The Apostle Paul speaks of “casting down imaginations [Margin, ‘reasonings’], and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing … every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:5) The mind of the flesh is prone to set up its reasonings against the knowledge of God and by this means endeavors to induce us to be disobedient to his will and to the will of our Head, Christ Jesus. The reasonings of our fleshly minds are not unsound from the human standpoint but they do not reflect the spirit of a sound mind which is given to us by the Lord.

After the Apostle Paul had testified to Festus, a Roman governor, of the many difficult experiences through which he had passed as a result of accepting the leadership of Christ, “Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself, much learning doth make thee mad.” But Paul answered “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” (Acts 26:24,25) Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus, suffering and dying with him, are often considered warped in their viewpoint and unsound in their conclusions but actually they are only following the words of truth and soberness which are in the Bible for their guidance.

Paul sets forth the true viewpoint again, saying “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom. 12:1) As we have seen, a sound mind is a reasoning mind, and from God’s standpoint the reasoning and conclusions must be based on his instructions if we are to have the spirit of a sound mind mentioned by Paul. We have been invited to lay down our lives in sacrifice, a sacrifice that was illustrated in the services of the ancient Tabernacle by the burning of animals on literal altars. In this Gospel Age we do not present animals in sacrifice, but we present ourselves; and this, Paul says, is a reasonable service, that is, it reflects sound reasoning from the divine standpoint.

Paul follows up this admonition in verse two, which reads, “Be not conformed to this 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.” This tells us that to have the spirit of a sound mind from God’s standpoint, our viewpoints have to be transformed by a renewing of our minds. Our old and selfish viewpoints and the reasonings which supported them must give place to the new viewpoint, that is, to the will of God as expressed through his Word; and the will of God is that we lay down our lives in sacrifice.

Jesus is our exemplar, and it is interesting to note how his soundness of mind as a new creature guided him in the doing of the Heavenly Father’s will. From the very beginning of his ministry his enemies were seeking occasion against him. However, while Jesus knew that he was to lay down his life as the redeemer and savior of the world, he did not recklessly expose himself to danger until he knew it was the Father’s due time. Meanwhile he continued faithfully laying down his life in the service of others.

But when Jesus knew that the time had come for his sacrifice to be consummated he did not hesitate. We read, “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” Peter did what almost anyone governed by human reasoning would do: he endeavored to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem under such circumstances. He said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”—Matt. 16:21,22

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (vs. 23) By advising Jesus not to go to Jerusalem where he would be killed, Peter was obstructing the execution of the divine will, and, in this was acting as Satan would act. Jesus further explained that the viewpoint expressed by Peter was based upon human reasoning—“thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” Men and women today who deliberately put themselves in positions where they know they will be killed would probably be considered unsound of mind. Generally speaking, sound human reasoning attempts to stay out of danger.

But this, at the time, was not sound reasoning for Jesus—not from God’s standpoint. God’s will had been clearly expressed for Jesus, and Jesus had dedicated himself to the doing of that will; his Father’s will was that he should die, and the due time for his death had come. So there was only one reasonable thing that Jesus could do, and that was to present himself at the altar to be sacrificed, and that altar was in Jerusalem, so he went to Jerusalem.

Jesus took the occasion to teach his disciples that this same principle was to guide them. He said, “If any man 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: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:24,25) This would be strange reasoning from the human standpoint, but it is sound for those who have entered into a covenant with the Lord by sacrifice. They cannot reason any other way and be pleasing to the Heavenly Father.

In the case of Jesus, he had covenanted to give his flesh for the life of the world. To shrink from doing this would mean unfaithfulness. In that case, he would not be worthy of the divine nature; indeed, he would not be worthy of a resurrection at all, and when he went into death it would be the end, the loss of life entirely. So the only way he could find glory, honor, and immortality in the resurrection was to lose his earthly life in sacrifice, as he had covenanted to do. Since we are following in the footsteps of Jesus the same principle applies to us, and it is by faithfulness to this principle that we manifest the spirit of a sound mind.

It is quite possible that the Apostle Paul had this experience and lesson of Jesus in mind later when bonds and afflictions awaited him in Jerusalem. He said to the elders at Ephesus, “Behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there; save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”—Acts 20:22-24

Even as Peter had done with Jesus, so Paul’s friends tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem. Then Paul said to them, “What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21:13) Surely Paul was here following very closely in the footsteps of the Master. There is no prospect of our having an opportunity to suffer and die with Jesus in a literal Jerusalem, but we do have our symbolic Jerusalem’s. These are the opportunities that come to us to demonstrate our loyalty to the Lord and to our covenant of sacrifice by faithfulness in doing the Heavenly Father’s will, regardless of the cost.

Timothy had one of these opportunities when Paul invited him to travel to Rome and visit him before he was executed. Situations confront us in which decisions have to be made as to the course we shall follow, whether we shall do this or do that. What is the basis upon which we should make these decisions? Is it whether or not one way would be easier than the other and more pleasing to the flesh?

The basis of all our decisions as Christians should be what the will of the Lord may be—whether he wants us to go or to stay. We should be guided by his Word as far as possible, even in the little things of life. When we see the will of God in any situation, it should not matter whether the doing of his will may be difficult and entail suffering, or whether it may be pleasant and give us pleasure. The decision must be based on the will of the Lord. If we strive to follow this to the best of our ability, then we are being guided by the spirit of a sound mind

Let us be thankful to the Lord that his power helps us to overcome the spirit of fear, and that he gives us strength to walk in the narrow way, prompted by love, and that through his Word he guides us in that reasonable way, while we follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Thus will we save our lives in the heavenly phase of the kingdom, to live and reign with Christ a thousand years.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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