Lesson 23: "Hold Fast the Form of Sound Words" (II-Timothy 1:13)
Paul's Letters To Preachers. May I welcome you to lesson # 23, (beginning in v. 6 of II-Tim. ch. 1). In our last lesson, we began a textual study of II-Timothy. We said Paul's salutation was very similar to some of Paul's other books that we've covered. The apostle began by saying he thanked God for Timothy (v.3). Paul said he expressed his thankfulness for Timothy in every prayer and the apostle used this thought (i.e. the content of his prayers) as a springboard to begin this letter to Timothy, an approach that Paul had used in other letters, you will remember. The apostle said in essence that he was impressed with Timothy's unfeigned faith. We said that word "unfeigned" meant without hypocrisy. There was nothing put-on about Timothy. He was as dedicated as the day is long. Paul said he was reminded of Timothy's mother, Enuice, and Eunice's mother, Lois, i.e. Timothy's grandmother; because, they all possess that characteristic of an "unfeigned faith." I read into this that Paul and Barnabas had, back on their first missionary journey into Derbe, most likely taught and baptized this lady and her daughter and grandson, i.e. Lois, Eunice and Timothy. That had been only a few days after Paul had been stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14:19-20), a very impressionable time in the apostle's life. As he sat there in that Roman prison that day writing this letter to this dedicated brother in Christ, the apostle could not resist some reminiscence and retrospection of those former days. Let's begin this lesson by reading v.6 down through the end of chapter one (i.e. 1:18). Please put your eyes on the text, here we go (beginning in II-Tim. 1:6),
"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; who hath saved us, and called us with a 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 immortality to light through the gospel: whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee, keep, by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom is Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when I was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
What would you call that besides: straight talk? Under the circumstance, some of the most sentimental, mildest, cordial, gentle, warm and pleasant words in the whole bible, yet very doctrinal and very admonishing stuff. Notice how v.6 begins, "WHEREFORE I put thee in remembrance...' WHEREFORE is a summary-type word that ties this back into Paul's prayers, Timothy's "unfeigned faith" and Paul's reminiscence of former days. With these thoughts in view, the apostle admonishes this young gospel preacher (i.e. young as compared to Paul). The apostle admonishes him: keep shoveling, keep pushing, "stir up the gift of God, which is in thee..." This "gift of God," because it was imparted by the laying on of Paul's hands, I am inclined to think has reference to spiritual gifts, i.e. the way the Holy Spirit worked through the prophets before (and during) the time the bible was being written. Spiritual gifts were done away at the end of that period (I Cor. 13:10). Paul made reference to Timothy's gift of God in his first letter (back in I-Tim. 4:14). Several points could be made (just here). First of all, the Spirit, (I'm talking about the Holy Spirit) though in a miraculous way that we do not experience, worked through them very much as the written word works in us today. We are left to our own conviction, our own faith, our own initiative in obeying and applying the word. That word, called the Bible, which was given unto us by the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). By our own motivation, by our own self-discipline (brought on by our own study and faithfulness), we can stir ourselves (and we must stir ourselves) to obey and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not just happen in spite of our human spirit; but, only through the constant use and exercise of study, prayer, fellowship and devotion. This did not come even to the prophets like Paul and Timothy as a lightning strike or a sudden praying through (what ever that means), just as it does NOT come to us in that way. "The spirits of the prophets... [were] subject to the prophets" (I-Cor. 14:32), just as the spirits of Christians today are subject to Christians, even today. It required "remembrance" on the part of Timothy. It required initiative on the part of Timothy to "stir up the gift of God" in himself. What are we saying, it required of Timothy (and it requires of us) a commitment. Do you know what that is? A commitment. Paul finally gets down to a form of that word (in v.12).
Through these things Christians do not become timid, shy or withdrawn or develop a "spirit of fear," as the apostle calls it (middle v.7). To the contrary, Christians (real Christians) develop the opposite attributes (i.e. those attributes the apostle reiterated in the last of v.7): "of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." So, don't be ashamed Timothy! Don't be ashamed of the Lord Jesus. Don't be ashamed of Paul's chain. What does the word "shame" mean to you? The idea comes to me as possibly a combination of embarrassment, humiliation and/or disgrace. We don't like to be revealed to others as weak and inadequate. It's human nature to want to be accepted, shine and be sufficient in ourselves. However, on the other side of the coin, when the chips are down and we're dragging a chain (so-to-speak), it's easy to feel inadequate and succumb to imagined disgrace. Some are much more prone to surrender to peer pressure than others. Then, if we add to that the element of suffering, i.e. having to suffer for what's right, then more and more of us yield to depression, rejection and despair. Peter said (I-Pet. 4:16), "If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." Thus, to suffer for the gospel and what is right, glorifies the heavenly Father. Jesus said in one of his beatitudes: "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Jesus went on to explain the attitude we should have and how we are to react when this happens to us. He said: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven..." (this is found in Matt. 5:11-12). We should not succumb to depression and desperation. Yes, Timothy, some have "turned away from me" (v.15), some have "forsaken me, having loved this present world" (II-Tim. 4:10); but the implication is: the faithful (those with unfeigned faith), hang-in-there and develop those attributes of love and a sound mind (end v.7). That sentence beginning in v.8 and ending down in v.11, carries a lot of thought. Timothy, "be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel." Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to EVERYONE that believeth." (Rom. 1:16). The apostle reiterates that power-in-the-gospel thought (here in v.9). And, that's not some afterthought: this "was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (end of v.9). Other generations before Christ had not understood eternal life and death and immortality as it was made known through our Saviour Jesus Christ and as the Holy Spirit had recorded, preserved and has made known to us through the word. Timothy, that's my purpose, (now, I'm in prison, but) "I [Paul] am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles." Then in v.12, the apostle said: "I also suffer...I am not ashamed." Here's the reason: "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." Paul had a commitment. What was he saying to Timothy? Be committed! What is the Holy Spirit saying to us? Be committed! How do we do that? V.13! Here's the answer! "Hold fast the form of sound words," (i.e. doctrine, v.13). One translations says (here), "follow the pattern of the sound words." How do we do that? "In faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (that's the end of v.13). In the Roman letter the apostle said it like this to "so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ" (Rom. 6:3). He said, "ye have obeyed from the heart that form [i.e. that pattern] of doctrine which was delivered you." (Rom. 6:17). It's a commitment! Paul said, "I have committed unto him..." (v.12). Paul told Timothy, "that good thing which was committed unto thee keep..." (v.14). The commitment that Timothy was to keep was sound doctrine, the "form of sound words" that Timothy was to "hold fast," (mentioned up in v.13). We must all commit to sound doctrine, speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the bible is silent, call Bible things by Bible names and follow the word. Where is that word? It "dwelleth in us" (the last thing in v.14, do you see it?) The Holy Ghost, or the Holy Spirit dwells in us by the word, through the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read v.14 again! The other side of the coin as Paul wrote to Timothy (here) was that: doctrinal error(s) were rampant at Ephesus. And things have only gotten worse in America. Paul closed out his first letter to Timothy by saying: "0 Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith." Do you see where Paul WAS COMING FROM and where Paul WAS GOING on that fresh scroll in that old, stale, musty, smelly jail cell? Oh! Paul was fastened to a chain; but, the word, the gospel of the living God, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the good news to mankind cannot be shackled with bonds. The word can only be shackled by the extent of your commitment or the lack of it. And in all of this is implied the obligation to teach the great commission, pass it on. It's a commitment. Paul was committed. Paul was instructing Timothy to be committed and to teach others to be committed.
Then, v.15, 16, 17, and 18, have to do with example, an example of commitment or a lack of it. Some were not committed, some were not willing to suffer for the gospel. When the going got rough, they gave in, they gave up, they turned away. In v. 15, the apostle said: Timothy, you know, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me. They are not committed unto the gospel. When the going got rough, they turned away. Phygellus and Hermongenes are just two examples. Some kind of leaders, I sense, in some kind of a movement (I'm inclined to think), "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof..." (II Tim. 3:5). They turned away from Paul; but, they may have espoused some other FORM of doctrine, a softer form, a form that tickled their own fancy most likely. Over in ch. 2, the apostle mentions a couple other leaders, Hymeneus and Philetus, who were teaching another doctrine and overthrowing the faith of some (that's in 2:17-18, we'll get back to that). On the other hand, just like today, some hang-in-there even when the going gets rough. Paul didn't hesitate to call names. The apostle's example here was the household of Onesiphorus, the whole family of this man Onesiphorus. He is mentioned only (here) in II-Timothy, we know nothing else about Onesiphorus other than what is said here. Paul did salute this family or sent salutations over in 4:19; but, that's all we know. However, Paul goes ahead here to say, "he oft refreshed me..." What does that mean? Well, I would suspect it had more to do with encouraging words than material things. Although, he had ministered unto Paul at Ephesus (v.18) many times and in many things. Timothy was aware that many times Onesiphorus, in the years past, had provided, contributed, donated or supplied services to the apostle in some way or another. So, you can see that commitment here goes beyond just some mental consent or agreement. Commitment and suffering extends into the realm of caring for other people, seeking their highest interest. This man Onesiphorus had gone to a lot of trouble to find Paul when the apostle was in prison in Rome the first time. He refreshed Paul with words or whatever he could provide and he didn't let the fact that Paul was in chains influence him in the least. He was not ashamed. Onesiphorus was committed. What does this teach us? "Go and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:37). Do you remember what Jesus told the lawyer in the story of the Good Samaritan? Paul is saying here, follow the example of the household of Onesiphorus.
We have talked about Paul's style of writing before. Can you see the principle of Paul's style in this text? First, Paul commended Timothy for his unfeigned faith. The apostle appealed to Timothy's family, very gratifying to Timothy, I would suspect. Then the apostle laid down some spiritual principles: remember (v.7), stir up that which is in you (v.7), don't be ashamed of the gospel (v.8), don't be ashamed of the apostle or his chain (v.8), but be a partaker of afflictions, i.e. suffer where it is needed (v.8). Then the apostle used himself as an example, he said: "I have committed unto him," i.e. unto the Lord (v.12), "I also suffer..." (v.12). What's the spiritual principle? "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me." How do I do that Paul? "In faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (v.13). Keep that commitment! (v. 14). Then, the apostle illustrates with two examples. First, how not to do it, using Phygellus and Hermogenes. Then (#2), this is followed by an example of how it should be done by appealing to the example of Onesiphorus.
We said before, I-Tim., II-Tim. and Titus might be considered a preacher's manual, i.e. a text book for student preachers (if you will). He took those young preachers straight to the point. Paul didn't waste any ink. He told it like it was. If you'll stick to the text, the apostle makes it much easier for us to identify and recognize those self-serving blends of absurdity floating around today, called the New Age Movement, called the Judao-Christian alliance, called denominationalism and other hoaxes by other names. But, right now, it's time to say, have a good day.