“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
(2 Timothy 1:13)
The Bible displays two distinguishing features of an authentically inspired divine text. First, it is at once wonderfully concise and yet astoundingly rich both in theological truth and practical instruction. Secondly, we see a marvelous and mysterious continuity in the Bible’s treatment of a wide variety of subjects, including very controversial subjects. Today’s verse passage is a stellar example. In very few beautiful words, the inspired text displays an amazing richness in meaning that coheres nicely with the rest of God’s sacred library. The apostle instructed young Timothy, and by extension he instructs all of us, to hold onto the form (literally, the pattern) of sound words, which he had communicated to his favorite disciple. The pattern here speaks of a roughly modeled rock in the hands of a sculptor or a pencil drawing to be traced over in ink or adorned in color. Many Bible expositors see in Paul’s language reference to some summary statement, a distillation of the doctrinal essentials of the Christian faith. If this is the case, 1 Corinthians 15:3b-7 would make a good candidate, as would Philippians 2:5-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Romans 10:9 or some combination of them. The “Bible basics” form the pattern upon which we are to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), like a fruitful vine growing and flourishing upon a beautiful trellis. God’s words are sound words. Literally, they are healthy words. Just as we need to consume healthy food in order to stay fit, strong, and resistant to disease and infection, we must “consume” God’s sound words in order to maintain our spiritual health (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; 1 Peter 2:2-3; Hebrews 5:11-14). We are not only called to hold fast the form of sound words, we are called to do so in faith and love. We must always resist the temptation to drift from our first love, to make our religion a system of doctrinal statements and ritual observances. This tendency was exactly what the Lord confronted in the religious leaders of His day. “Ye hypocrites,” cried the Lord, doubtless with a heavy and troubled heart, “well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me’” (Matthew 15:7-8). Genuine, God-honoring faith and love among God’s redeemed image-bearers, so precious in the eyes of the Savior, are impossible goals apart from divine enablement. “Faith and love,” the apostle reminds us, are “in Christ Jesus.” Let us therefore remain in Him, and His words in us (John 15:4-10). Then and only then will we be able to take every thought captive to His obedience (2 Corinthians 10:5), a maximal expression of our faith in God, and of our love for Him and for His redeemed.
May God bless and encourage you today, dear saints,