Some Christians use the King James translation of 2 Timothy 1:7 to conclude that conversion automatically results in mental health, so that it is impossible for Christians to suffer from mental health problems that would require psychiatric intervention for effective treatment. It reads:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
The AKJV, KJ 2000, Young’s Literal Translation and Webster’s translation also provide such a reading. But is this an accurate translation? Let us look at the entire passage.
First, note that this “sound mind” is contrasted with a spirit of fearfulness. The Greek word is δειλία, which is used frequently in classical Greek and refers to cowardice. Although it occurs only here in the NT, it is used in the LXX, where it means cowardice, and is a term of reproach. The passage resembles that used in Rom. 8:15, and refers to the kind of attitude or attitudes which the Holy Spirit endows Christians with.
Next, the text says that the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of power (δύναμις); an attribute frequently attributed to the Holy Spirit (Lk. 4:14; Acts 10:38; Rom. 15:13; 1 Cor. 2:4). As the Pulpit commentary notes, many other passages speak of this attribute being communicated to Christians indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 6:8; Eph. 3:16). The conjunction of “power” with “love” emphasizes that the power of the Holy Spirit is only ever used in conjunction with love rather than domineering power.
Finally, we come to the word “discipline” (σωφρονισμοῦ), which is translated as referring to a “sound mind” in the King James. The Pulpit commentary suggests that “correction” or “sound instruction” may be nearer to the meaning. Timothy, who had to be reminded that the Holy Spirit protects us from cowardice and provides us with power instead, was in danger of being overly timid, as might be the temptation of someone with a gentle spirit, and so Paul encourages him to exercise appropriate reproof for those who might be in doctrinal error, as is fitting for those who are being truly loving.
Indeed, Timothy may have mistakenly thought that love is only ever gentle and bearing all things, even serious doctrinal error or behavioral problems. Paul assures him that the Holy Spirit instructs us that love works in power and that this love and power works in such a way that it allows us to appropriately reprove those who are in error, for their own good, rather than in such a way as to dominate them. The force of a “sound mind,” therefore, refers to appropriate judgment in exercising discerning discipline to those in error, rather than mental health as relevant to the possibility of requiring psychiatric intervention.