By Gregg Bing
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)>
What are these “sound words” the apostle Paul admonishes Timothy to “hold fast?” The word “sound” is translated from the Greek word “hugianos” which means to be in good health. The Greeks used it to refer both to physical health as well as mental health. Our English word “hygiene,” which Webster defines as “a system of principles for preserving health,” is derived from this same Greek word.
Paul uses the word “hugianos” eight times in his epistles, six in reference to “sound” doctrine (teaching) and two in reference to being “sound” in faith. All eight occurrences are found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Paul refers to these two young men as his “sons” in the faith (2 Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4). They labored faithfully with Paul in his ministry to the local churches. Paul’s letters to these young men repeatedly emphasize the importance of sound doctrine. This was the great need of the local churches at that time and it remains the great need of local churches today.
Which doctrine was Paul talking about? In 1 Timothy 6:3 Paul warns against those who “do not consent to wholesome words.” The word “wholesome” is translated from the same Greek word “hugianos.” Paul qualifies these “sound words,” as “even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Was Paul referring only to the words Jesus spoke while here on earth? Many people have the mistaken idea that Jesus’ earthly words were the only ones that He spoke. The Lord Jesus Christ is the very God of glory (Heb. 1:8); all the words of Scripture are His words (2 Tim. 3:16).
If not His earthly words, which “words of our Lord Jesus Christ” did Paul have in mind? Going back to our original text in 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul says the “sound words” are those “which you have heard from me.” In 1 Timothy 1:11 Paul says this “sound doctrine” is in accordance with “the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.”
The “sound words” or “sound doctrine” Paul speaks of is the revelation of the mystery that God gave to him for this present age (Eph. 3:1-5). It is the wonderful truth of the dispensation of the grace of God in which we are living today. It reveals God’s plan and purpose for His church, which is the body of Christ, of which all believers are members.
Though made known to Paul, these truths are not the words or teaching of a man, but those of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Paul made this clear when he said,
“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11-12)
The words and teaching given to Paul are “sound” because they are true and accurate. They are “sound” because they are healthy and life-giving (2 Tim. 1:1, Titus 1:1-3). They are “sound” because they are God’s instructions for His saints for this present age of grace. If we take heed to these “sound words,” they enable us to live “healthy” lives, spiritually, for the Lord.
Paul admonishes Timothy (and us) to “hold fast” to these “sound words.” We are to take hold of these truths mentally and spiritually and never let anyone or anything persuade us to let them go. We cannot do this on our own. This is why Paul further states in 1 Timothy 1:13 that we must do so, “in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” We must put our complete faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to be able to “hold fast” to these “sound words.”
Paul goes on to refer to these “sound words” as “that good thing which was committed unto thee.” The Greek expression used here means a beautiful deposit of truth. The beautiful deposit is, once again, the truth of the mystery. It has been committed to us to “keep” or guard or protect. This is necessary because the world opposes this truth. Even most Christians oppose the teaching of the “sound words” given to Paul.
Most believers will listen to the basic truths of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:3-4), but they turn away from the “preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25). Paul experienced this rejection in his own ministry. During the Acts period, before he had fully revealed the mystery, many people supported his ministry. By the end of his ministry, Paul had fully revealed the mystery in his prison epistles and many had turned away from him (2 Tim. 1:15).
Paul warned Timothy that this rejection of the truth of the mystery would continue.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. Once people turn away from the truth, they are easily turned unto fables by false teachers.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
What hope is there for these people? The only hope is in the “sound doctrine” itself. Paul told Titus that the only way he would be able to “exhort and convince the gainsayers” was by “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). This is why Paul’ final charge to Timothy was:
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4:2)
The world needs to hear and understand this truth. The only way this will happen is if those who know the “sound words” of the mystery of Christ (Eph. 3:4) are faithful to teach them to others. This work is not limited to pastors, teachers, evangelists, or missionaries, but for all who have come to see this precious truth (Eph. 3:9). Prayerfully consider these instructions that Paul directed to Timothy, realizing that they are given to us as well.
“And the things which thou has heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)