The concept of a "sound mind" has more to do with our attitude than we may realize. If our mind is sound, it is not cluttered up with the cares of this world. Its processes start with God and end with God. It recognizes the power of God and His love for us. However, having and maintaining a sound mind requires constant work, a positive approach, and an acceptance of both the good and the bad. It needs continual stirring, like a simmering pot on the stove. We have to guard it and exercise it at all times.
A sound mind recognizes that we are special to God, not from our own strength but because of the gift of His Holy Spirit. Even though we may be only one person and insignificant, we must have the kind of mind that takes charge of itself and moves forward, not in retreat as many of God's people are doing today. God is a very positive God, who looks forward to the future and the promises of having us as a key part of His creation.
Small, But Significant
The apostle is talking about a spirit that has been “given [to] us.” It is identified here as a “gift of God” that can be “stir[red] up.” It is bestowed through the laying on of hands, as we see throughout Scripture. Paul says that God's Spirit is not about human fear. Later in this letter, he reproaches Timothy for being ashamed of the gospel message and of Paul. The younger man seems to have been in some danger of letting down and needed to be admonished to be strong and to endure hardship. All of this is part of the fear to which Timothy was apparently inclined.
Paul contrasts the frame of mind—the spirit—that would curtail Timothy's effectiveness with the Spirit given by God. Paul calls the latter “a spirit . . . of power and of love and of a sound mind.” As in I Corinthians 2:12-16, God's Spirit is linked with mind. If we are yielding to His Spirit, then our minds will be sound; they will be disciplined and self-controlled. Our minds will be sensible, sober, balanced, and restrained, and we will have wisdom, discretion, and solid judgment. Through the guidance of God's Spirit, our minds will operate in a way different from, and often incomprehensible to, those in the world, because we are being impelled by the essence of God's own mind, which is the absolute epitome of sound-mindedness and the opposite of the course of this world.
The Spirit of God is also a spirit of love. We can combine this with Romans 5:5: “. . . the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” Along with that, the first element of the fruit of God's Spirit is love (Galatians 5:22). Godly love is an action—doing the right thing toward God or another person, regardless of the personal cost involved. Its foundational definition is in the commandments of God. A fear of sacrifice—a fear of giving up what is valuable to us—comes from the spirit of the world, but God's Spirit enables us to love through doing what is right and trusting that God will work things out.
The remaining attribute listed here is power. It is the Greek word dunamis, which can also be translated as “ability,” “strength,” or “mighty works.” Dunamis is the capacity for achieving or accomplishing. The Holy Spirit gives a person the capacity for God's will and work to be done through him. But this is not a personal power. Even the miracles with which Jesus Himself is associated were actually performed by the Father (John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10). Thus, the power of the Holy Spirit is the outworking of God the Father, rather than something we can use for our own ends.
It is critical to understand that the power of God's Spirit is under the constraint of the love and sound-mindedness of God's Spirit. In other words, it is not simply power for the sake of power, nor is it for self-gratification or self-glorification. The evident power in the Acts 2 account of Pentecosthas given rise to churches that seek after similar supernatural displays, yet those displays are entirely divorced from the love and sound-mindedness of God.
People can seek this power for the wrong reasons, and it can be misused. Simon Magus tried to buy the power of God to use for his own ends (Acts 8:9-24), and even the congregation at Corinth had to be admonished because they were not using their spiritual gifts for the benefit of the Body (I Corinthians 12). In the midst of his discussion of God's various gifts, which are simply the outworking of God's power, Paul spends a whole chapter explaining godly love (I Corinthians 13), implying that the Corinthians' approach to those gifts did not include enough love or sound judgment.
He spells out that anything they received—such as spiritual wisdom or the ability to heal or do other miracles, to prophesy, to discern spirits, to speak in tongues, or to fulfill the office of apostle, prophet, or teacher—whatever the spiritual ability, God's Spirit is the source of it all, so there is no ground for boasting. The use of the power of God has to be constrained by the love and sobriety befitting the Most High God, so that He is the focus, not the individual.
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Holy Spirit?
An indication of Timothy's personality comes through in this verse. Apparently, Timothy was an introverted, retiring personality who of himself would not do what he would be called upon to do. By the end of the book, Paul knows that he is going to die. From all indications, Timothy would bear the weight of responsibility for preaching the gospel after Paul's death. Paul knows what Timothy is like because he had spent years with him, travelling around the Mediterranean region. The apostle, concerned about Timothy having the mind, the personality, the will, to carry out his responsibilities, reminds him that God's Spirit is one of power and of love and of soundmindedness.
And so it is with each person God calls. He gives whatever gifts one needs to carry out his responsibility within the body. Most will find certain parts of the Christian life uncomfortable or the requirements that God has established difficult to meet. But there is no need to fear, for the power is available, or God is not God. He has promised that He will finish what He starts (Philippians 1:6). We can do whatever He asks because He does not require more than can be accomplished with the gifts we already have. He always works within the framework of His knowledge of each Christian.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!
Once regenerated by the Holy Spirit from the Father, we must continually be led by it, bearing spiritual fruit throughout our lives. If we are producing the fruit of the Spirit, which exhibit a sound mind, we know it is working in us. The Spirit is the mind and essence of the divine nature, and through it God carries out His will. It empowers the mind to comprehend spiritual matters, producing conversion. It gives us the strength, will and faith to overcome our sins.
Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit
God's Holy Spirit imparts to us His love, giving us the power to obey His laws in their full spiritual intent. The repentant sinner is then a changed person - his whole outlook and purpose is changed as he is led by the Spirit.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation
The Holy Spirit is described generally as the power of God, which is certainly correct, but power comes in a number of forms. There is a flowing power caused by the movement of an object. Thus God uses water to illustrate an aspect of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). There is healing and nourishing power, so God uses oil to symbolize His Spirit. Words, symbols we use to represent ideas, the raw material of our thoughts, have awesome power to influence. Thus God says through Jesus that His words "are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
Words give us the power to communicate ideas from one mind to another or to many minds. They carry the power to instruct, encourage, discourage, mollify, anger, vilify, inspire, exhilarate, create, or destroy. They can make a person change his mind, motivate him to stop or move, do, undo, or redo. The power of words is almost limitless.
If we examine the fruit of the Spirit, we find that they all have something to do with our minds. Words are a large portion of the mind's working material and therefore play a huge role in what the person produces with his life. It is no coincidence that Jesus is the Word of God, and the Bible, the written revelation of God and His purpose, is also the Word of God! God is trying to tell us something. He is concerned about our minds because what goes into them will determine what we produce with our lives. Will it be fruit leading to eternal life or fruit leading to death?
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit
It takes the Spirit of God to produce a truly sound mind. This verse also implies that, as long as the mind is devoid of God's Spirit, it cannot be considered to be truly healthy. Any mind that lacks the Holy Spirit will, like Esau's, be limited in its outlook, unstable to some degree, and focused on itself. It may be very sharp regarding material things, but it will be deficient in the ability to cope with life in a godly manner because it cannot see things in a proper, righteous-or-unrighteous context. Instead, it will have a strong tendency to twist situations toward its own self-centered perspective. This does not make for good relationships.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Three)
According to Strong's Concordance, the final word of verse 7 is a noun meaning "discipline" or "self-control." Most modern translations render it as "self-control," but "sensible," "sobriety," "self-discipline," "self-restraint," "wise discretion," and "sound judgment" are also used.
God gives His Spirit to us to begin the spiritual creation that will bring us into His very image. Here, Paul ranks self-control right beside seemingly more "important" attributes of our Creator, such as courage, power, and love. Remember, however, that the "fruit" of God's Spirit is written in the singular; it is one fruit, a balanced package needed to make a son of God whole.
These verses tell us what kind of men God is creating. Men of courage, power, and love - and men who are self-governing, sensible, sober, restrained, and disciplined in their manner of life. These qualities are products of God's Spirit in us.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Self-Control
Receiving the Holy Spirit does not instantaneously make one courageous and full of love. One has to grow in these qualities by yielding to God and using His Spirit.
Standing Up for God
Love, power, soundmindedness—these qualities of God's Spirit. Love's greatest challenges are to overcome laziness and fear. There is no way around them; they must be met and conquered. God has given us the Spirit to enable us, but we have to be willing to put ourselves on the line, to stir ourselves up, and risk losing some part of this human nature. We must quit protecting it.
Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God will never leave us, never forsake us, that He is always our Helper. We are admonished, then, to be content. Contentment has its foundation in knowing God. We can never reach that point unless we put ourselves out to love Him and challenge this fear, to overcome the inertia and entropy that is working in everybody's life. That is where the hard work comes in, challenging the fear and the laziness.
If we are willing to do this on a day-to-day basis and put aside our fears and make the effort, our confidence in Him will grow. The fear will dissolve, diligence will cause discipline to appear, and we will meet our responsibilities in loving God and loving men.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Greatest Challenges
The Holy Spirit is the power of God—not a personage, entity, consciousness, or part of the Godhead or a trinity. The Bible speaks of the Spirit as the power or mind of God, the power of love and of a sound mind. It emanates from Him and thus can be said to be "poured out" (Titus 3:5-6), "breathed" (John 20:22), and used to "fill" (Acts 2:4) and "anoint" (Acts 10:38).
Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit
Special spiritual gifts are given through the laying on of hands. Usually, the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of an elder's hands, confirming baptism. However, Acts 8:14-17 says that the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit after baptism, while Acts 10:44-48 says that it fell upon Cornelius' household before baptism. Sometimes God makes exceptions to work out His own will and plan.
Timothy received special spiritual gifts from the hands of the elders, including the gifts of wisdom and teaching. Paul reminded him that ordination bestowed such gifts upon him and that he needed to stir up God's Spirit to use them.
Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Laying On of Hands