2 Timothy 1:13
Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
I. OF THE SYSTEM OF DIVINE TRUTH WHICH TIMOTHY WAS, and, consequently, all faithful ministers of the gospel are, to "hold fast," we remark, in the first place, that it is called a form. The great truths of revelation are scattered over the whole of the oracles of God; and in order to present those truths in a comprehensive manner to the bulk of mankind, who have neither time nor inclination to seek them out themselves, the Church has, in all ages, retained a summary of Christian doctrine like that which we call the Apostles' Creed. The apostles themselves knew well, that if they had left the doctrines of Christianity unguarded, or had depended on oral traditions to convey those doctrines uncorrupted to future generations, the Word of God would have been lost in an ungodly world, as was well-nigh the case with the Jews, who had made the Word of God void by their traditions. As it is, the truths of the gospel have had (if we may so speak) a narrow escape from the polluting hands of men. If our Reformers had not rescued the "form of sound words" from the errors of ten preceding centuries, we should not now be exhorting you, with St. Paul, to "hold fast the form of sound words which you have heard of us in faith and love." But whilst we see in the writings of St. Paul an authority for forms, we are far from attaching, any importance to a form as such. To recommend itself to the heart and conscience of a believer, it must not be a mere form of words, but it must be a "form of sound words" — "sound speech that cannot be condemned." In different places, and at different times, forms have been obtruded on the Church, framed according to man's device, and some peculiar interpretations of God's truth. But for a form to be worthy of being called "sound," it must be of sound words. We set up no standard of truth but the pure Word of God; but we do think that a form of doctrine taken from that Word is the readiest mode of preserving the faith; and the best and most precious legacy we can leave to our children is that sound form of words, in which we have been instructed — that sound form of worship, which, after all, is the glory of our land, and a powerful means of upholding Christianity amongst us.
II. ON WHAT PRINCIPLE, AND IN WHAT SPIRIT OUR ADHERENCE TO OUR FORMS IS TO BE MAINTAINED. Timothy was to "hold fast the form of sound words" heard of Paul, on the principle of faith, and in the spirit of love, "that is in Christ Jesus." The strongest objection we have ever heard against forms, even admitting them to be of "sound words," is, that they are liable to impart a false security to the worship. per, and to become lifeless to the greater number of those who profess adherence to them. We cannot deny but that there is a danger here: we must admit, that the very best system which could ever be devised for maintaining God's truth will be sure to have something in it to object to. But this is not owing to the form: we are always too ready to find the blame that belongs to us in anything but our own hearts. A man who holds fast a form, merely because it is respectable, and that other persons may be assured of his orthodoxy, does not hold fast the form on a right principle. He should hold it in faith. It should be something that has life, and not a mere body without a form. Unless we get to that which is within the ark, it matters but little to look at the bending cherubim. Unless our faith is exercised upon the object of all our hope, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ, our forms will but serve to condemn us. But, lastly, we speak of the spirit in which we should adhere to our forms. They are not to be held fast in the spirit of bigotry and exclusion. This is not the spirit in which St. Paul taught Timothy to "hold fast the form of sound words": he was to maintain his principles and his system of doctrine "in love"; in love no doubt to his Saviour who had loved him to the death, but of charity towards all those who might differ from him on certain points.
(R. Burgess, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.