A Spirit of Power.

2 Timothy 1.

Great blessing may be derived at the present time by the consideration of certain truths in 2 Timothy, and the words of the inspired apostle come to us with as much power and reality as in the time of Timothy himself.

It has very often been noticed that things were going wrong amongst the mass of Christians and professors at the time when Paul wrote the second epistle. Outward order in the church was lost, and many were openly giving up the special heavenly testimony of Christianity: there was a general turning away from him who preached the gospel of the glory.

Two things at the very beginning of the first chapter are worthy of all our attention. First of all, the promise of life in Christ Jesus, the endless resources of the God of glory, when everything apparently seemed to be lost; and, secondly, a certain character of godliness - true God-fearing piety which should be found in those standing in the breach under the enemy's fire.

It is not scientific knowledge or theological exactitude that is required (it is good to be exact in the truth), but a pure conscience and unfeigned faith (such as had characterized the two men in the breach before us, Paul and Timothy); and I have no doubt of the design of the Holy Spirit in bringing forward this moral character at the very beginning of the epistle. What is needed, in order to occupy so critical a place as that to which Timothy was called, is not a bold, reckless courage (Timothy was naturally timid), but "faith, prayers, tears," the true signs of dependence upon God in an evil day. Boldness and profanity very often go together; but here is a broken will and true godliness, an habitual walk with the Lord.

We recollect, as an illustration, the true story of an officer in the Crimea rebuking a corporal for ordering a sapper to stand in an exposed position in the trenches, in which he dared not stand himself. Paul did not act thus; he exhorted his beloved son Timothy to stand well in the breach, setting first of all the glorious example.

Now comes a part of the passage which applies to us all (it might be said that the sixth verse applies especially to Timothy, though surely the word to him to stir up the gift of God is a word to all who have received such); I allude to the seventh and following verses. God has not given us a spirit of fear; that is, one might almost render it, of cowardice; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

The godly dependence being there, the tears for the church of God, the deep, true exercise in the sense of the utter inability to meet the storm, this character being in the man of God, there follows that "God hath not given us a spirit of cowardice." Our minds go back to poor, trembling Jeremiah, who had to meet the haughty faces of the pretentious Jews, and we compare with this the difficult position of such an one as Timothy (nothing is harder to bear than the scorn of those who oppose on religious grounds), and the assurance rejoices our hearts. Be not afraid of their faces! There is nothing to fear! The position is a difficult one, impossible to hold but in dependence; but, being in it, there is not one single enemy to be dreaded. This is true liberty and confidence - being in the breach for the Lord, a peculiar service, but none the less secure.

But there is that which is positive. God has given us a spirit of power; we know the victorious Christ and His might: and whilst all strength resides in Him, we are given so to know Him that, by the Holy Ghost, His power is ours. Oh, wonderful gift! How many of those who sing -

"Lord of all power and might!"

have any real understanding of it? There is with this, love, and a sound mind - that love which works without seeking a recompense or worthy objects, and the sober sense, wise and godly, which is the very reverse of rash fanaticism. Thus equipped, we may be able to stand in the most difficult position in the whole line, though the breach be wide and the fire well sustained, and though many, who ought to be defending the rampart against the enemy, be principally occupied in trying to throw down their friends into the ditch.

That which follows will help us to understand our subject. The spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind being there, the exhortation follows, not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of the apostle who was in prison for His sake. It needed divinely given courage not to be ashamed of a man who was in prison; we shall not be tested perhaps in this way, we shall not probably have the privilege of going to visit in prison some faithful witness to the Lord; but it is nevertheless true that there will always be more opprobrium to bear as we go on, and I do not think that there can be true faithfulness even today without the faithful ones being traduced and thoroughly despised. We are called upon not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, at the very time when opprobrium is connected with it. I once heard of a routed army destroying or hiding the regimental colours for shame; but however much the enemy may seem to have triumphed, this is never to be our case.

It is here that I wish to call attention to the power of God, and the context will lead us into a deeper sense of the "spirit of power" in connection with the present struggle between good and evil.

"Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God."

This needs our attention; for again it is not here a rude and bold spirit that can go into the fray without feeling the blows, but one, dependent upon God, which meets afflictions according to His power. This is developed with great precision: "According to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel."

The power of God is connected here with His purpose and grace, and the accomplishment of His counsels by the death and resurrection of Christ. His own purpose and grace! This is entirely outside of anything in man, and the manner in which this was accomplished is worthy of all our attention. Apparently the enemy had triumphed; as we sing -

"By weakness and defeat
He won the meed and crown,
Trod all our foes beneath our feet,
By being trodden down."

So, in a small measure, the principle is true for us, that it is just where defeat and weakness are felt that God intervenes in His power to deliver and bless. Of course, all will understand that I am not comparing our blessed Lord's expiatory sacrifice with our difficulty or suffering, but merely noticing the fact that where apparently the enemy gains the victory, and the cause is lost, there the power of God shows itself superior to all.

His mighty power shone out in the resurrection of Jesus; and there, when death had done its utmost, the Victor rose, who hath abolished death (destroyed its power), and brought to light life and incorruptibility through the gospel. It is here that God's power is known, for we are already brought spiritually into that place where life and incorruptibility are fully known. It is an order of things where all is light and vigour, and where no serpent can enter with corrupting poison. Once in the realization of such glorious truths, we begin to see the true force of the "spirit of power." It is connected with a risen, glorified Christ in an incorruptible sphere of splendour, and is known and manifested in the deepest experiences of sorrow and weakness here. In speaking of sorrow, I do not mean our own private difficulties, but such sorrow as called forth the tears of Paul and Timothy, the heart-felt grief at the state of things in the church of God, and true desire that the saints might retain, in dependence on the Lord, the true Christian calling.

If we feel more and more the weight of the state of things in Christendom, and our own utter inability to meet the need, or to open doors, the more shall we understand the apostle's words in this passage, where the spirit of power, and the participating in the afflictions of the gospel by the power of God, are brought before us.

May we know daily more and more of His might, who hath abolished death and brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel. E. L. Bevir.