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What is the spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7)?

spirit of love

In 2 Timothy 1:7, the apostle Paul encourages Timothy to renounce the spirit of fear: “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (ESV). The Greek term for “fear” does not mean “reverential fear of God,” as it does in Proverbs 9:10 and 1 Peter 2:18. Rather, the word refers to timidity or cowardice. The idea is that Timothy can boldly proclaim the Word of God because he has been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control.

To understand the “spirit of love,” we must first consider its immediate and broader context. In the preceding verses, Paul reminds Timothy of his heritage of faith, which was nurtured by his grandmother Lois and his mother, Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). Paul then exhorts Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” bestowed upon him by Paul’s laying on of hands (verse 6). It is in this context that Paul proclaims the nature of the spirit given by God, which is characterized by power, love, and self-control (cf. Galatians 5:22–23).

The Greek term used for “spirit” is pneuma, which can be understood as a person’s inner disposition or temper of mind. Thus, the “spirit of love” signifies a fundamental aspect of Timothy’s character produced by the Holy Spirit, who transforms sinners into people marked by love, selflessness, and compassion.

The expression “God gave us a spirit” highlights the divine origin of the spirit of love (cf. 1 John 4:19). It emphasizes that this disposition is a gift from God, imparted through the Holy Spirit and shared with the world. Hence, this disposition is not self-generated but is a supernatural endowment made possible by the grace of God.

Paul contrasts the spirit of love with the spirit of fear. While fear hinders believers from accomplishing the will of God, the spirit of love empowers us to live courageously and “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12; cf. 1 John 4:18).

This spirit encompasses not only love for God but also love for others (cf. 1 John 4:7). It is a spirit that compels believers to exude self-sacrificial love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy (see Philippians 2:1–11).

Furthermore, the spirit of love must be tempered by self-control. Believers ought to govern their thoughts, emotions, and actions according to the will of God (see Romans 12:1–2). In doing so, we can resist temptation and “keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world” (James 1:27; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).

Unpacking the meaning of the “spirit of love” (2 Timothy 1:7) has profound implications for believers. The spirit of love calls us to embrace a disposition and attitude that reflect the character of Christ. This means that love is more than a feeling or emotion. On the contrary, love is an action (John 15:13). In other words, it is about what we do for God and others. If we love God, then we will also love others.

Paul is an excellent example of someone who faithfully embodied the spirit of love: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The description of Jesus as the One “who loved me and gave himself for me” reminds us that our new lives are rooted in the selfless love of Christ, who willingly laid down His life for our salvation (John 10:18).

May the spirit of love empower us to live faithfully and courageously as ambassadors of Christ!

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What is the spirit of love (2 Timothy 1:7)?
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This page last updated: July 26, 2023