It is difficult to find people who are both characteristically bold and humble at the same time. Bold people are usually not humble and humble people are usually not bold. Boldness and humility seem to be mutually exclusive character qualities—unless, of course, the boldness or humility evident in an individual is the result of the gospel’s activity. Only the gospel can produce people who are both bold and humble at the same time.

2 Timothy 1:6-12 is a text that is marked both by boldness and humility. In verse 7, Paul says to Timothy, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” He then exhorts Timothy not to “be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…but to share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8). That’s bold talk, really bold talk. God gives power, love and self-control so that we need not be ashamed but able to share in suffering. Then, in verse 9, Paul tells Timothy that God did not save them because of their works “but because of His own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). That’s humble talk, really humble talk. Paul says, “God did not save us because we are or have done anything special. No, He saved us because of His own grace.” So, on the one hand, Paul’s words to Timothy are bold words. On the other hand, those bold words are marked by deep humility. 2 Timothy 1:6-12 has much to teach us about Christian boldness—a boldness that is not lacking but excelling in humility. So, I want to answer three questions from 2 Timothy 1:6-12 regarding boldness.

1. What is the enemy of Christian boldness?
2. What does Christian boldness look like?
3. How do we grow it?

What is the enemy of Christian boldness?

2 Timothy 1:5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Notice that Paul exhorts Timothy to kindle afresh the flame of God’s gift of grace to him, which seems to refer to his ministerial office. Timothy had been ordained by God through the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6b) to the pastoral ministry, and the pastoral ministry as we learn from Ephesians 6:19-20 calls for boldness.

Why did Timothy need to rekindle this flame? The answer is found in verse 7.

2 Timothy 1:7 For [because] God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

Timothy needed to rekindle this flame because he had a propensity towards timidity or fearfulness. Apparently, Timothy did not have a particularly strong personality. His natural bent was to be timid rather than confident. So, it seems that the enemy of Christian boldness is a natural propensity to fear or be timid.

So what is this fear or timidity that undoes boldness? Let me define it this way, it is inwardness. It is self-preoccupation. In other words, when we lose in our struggle with fear/timidity, our thoughts predominately orbit the words, I, me, and my. For example, fear/timidity in a witnessing context might evidence itself in thoughts like these:

I know he is going to think I am boring.”
I’m going to look like an idiot.”
“He/she is not going to want to talk to me.”
“He/she is going to pick up on my social clumsiness.”

When our thoughts are predominately I-me-my thoughts, then we can be confident that we what we are primarily concerned with is what we are doing and saying and how other people are evaluating us. Our primary concern is not with God and His purpose in our conversation. What we need to realize is that we can be involved in making the Gospel known to another individual and yet be inward in our thinking. So though we may be doing the work of a witness, we are not exhibiting true Christian boldness. There is a blessed self-forgetfulness in Christian boldness. This leads us to our second question:

What does Christian boldness look like?

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

What is the God-given opposite of the problem of timidity? It is the power, love, and self-discipline to comes to us by the Spirit (note: I understand spirit to be referring to the Holy Spirit). Notice that Paul does not just say, “the spirit of power.” He adds love and self-discipline. Christian boldness is not just characterized by power. It has power, but it is a power that is mixed through and through with love and self-discipline. So lets briefly look at this triad of Christian boldness.

Power—Paul is referring to divine power here. It is power that is given by God (1:7a) and relates to the internal rather than the external. In other words, it doesn’t make you stronger physically. Being physically strong does tend to give one confidence, but it is a shallow confidence. What happens to THAT confidence when you are talking to someone who is much stronger than you are. No, Paul is referring to an inner strength, a strength of character. It is an inner strength that overpowers natural timidity. How can it do that? Well, it’s divine power.

Love—Paul is talking about 1 Corinthians 13 love. Listen to the description of love found here.

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient [always patient], love is kind [always kind]. It does not envy [never envies], it does not boast [never boasts], it is not proud [never proud]. 5 It is not rude [never rude], it is not self-seeking [never self-seeking], it is not easily angered [never easily angered], it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Let me illustrate 1 Corinthians 13 love in this way: It always thinks in terms of he/she or his/her. In other words, instead of thinking, “Boy, I know he thinks I’m a dork,” 1 Corinthians 13 love thinks, “What a thrill it is to talk to another image-bearer.” Instead of thinking, “I can’t believe I just said that,” love thinks, “He loves life and I can’t wait to tell him about the abundant life to be found in Christ.” You see Christian love seeks for the good of another without self-preoccupation.

Self-discipline—Paul is referring to sense and sensibility here. To be self-disciplined means that you have a mastery over your emotions, your passions, your thinking, your desires. In other words, to be self-disciplined is to be sensible. You are not overly this or overly that.

It means you don’t come on too strong or too weak. It doesn’t mean that you will have a great sense of humor, but that you are real with people. There is a balance to your life that is noticeable and attractive, a balance that is better than being “way cool.” It is a balance of substance.

How do we grow in this Christian boldness?

Now what we need to be careful that we do not do is separate the God-given “power, love and of self-discipline” from the Holy Spirit as if it is not the direct result of His ministry. You see the text here is very ambiguous as to whether Paul is using spirit to refer to the Holy Spirit who is characterized by power, love, and self-discipline or spirit in the way we would use it to say “she has a sweet spirit.”

For a few different reasons I am inclined to think that Paul is referring to the Holy Spirit who is characterized by these three things. But whether you agree with me or not, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who is the author of this power, love, and self-discipline. It comes from the One who indwells us.

So let me begin to answer our question by rephrasing it: How does the Spirit fill us with power, love, and self-discipline? John 16:13 and 14 will help us answer that question.

John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.

The Spirit’s great passion is to glorify Christ, to make Christ known to us! So how does the Spirit fill us with power, love, and self-discipline? He does it by making Christ known to us. He does it by pointing us to Jesus. In Jesus we see divine power displayed in weakness (the cross), a power so great that it defeats through suffering. In Jesus we see a love for the unlovely, a love so great that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us. In Jesus we see a self that was mastered, a self that . . .

Isaiah 53:7 [though] He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

The Spirit’s great passion is to show us that Christ did all of this for us! We are the weak, the unlovely, the undisciplined. We are the ones who need saving and Jesus has done it! When we see Jesus through the Spirit’s eyes, we see how God can use us in our weakness (we don’t have to be afraid to admit how weak we really are!), we see how loved by God we actually are (seeing the love by which we are loved frees us to take relational risks), we see one whose self was so mastered that through His suffering He offered no physical or verbal resistance. He went to His death with a calmness reflecting not an ignorant but a submitted mind. This He did for us!

What must we keep in mind if we are to grow in Christian boldness: We will grow in Christian boldness as we see that Jesus did all of this this, that he is this kind of Savior for us! We must see Him as being this for US personally. Martin Luther defined saving faith as “seeing that Jesus died FOR YOU”—PERSONALLY. You see this is where Christian boldness comes from. It comes from seeing the power of Jesus, the love of Jesus, and the self-discipline of Jesus for us!

If you don’t see Christian boldness in your life, don’t despair. Just look at Jesus! The Spirit works to change you into the image of Jesus as you look at Him.