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 do not suppose that by this it is intended that Paul ever wrote out for Timothy a list of doctrines; or that be gave him a small abstract of Divinity, to which he desired him to subscribe his name, as the articles of the Church over which he was made a pastor. If so, doubtless that document would have been preserved anti enrolled in the canons of Scripture as one of the writings of an inspired man. I can scarce think such a creed would have been lost, whilst other creeds have been preserved and handed down to us. I conceive that what the apostle meant was this: — "Timothy, when I have preached to you, you have heard certain grand outlines of truth; you have heard from me the great system of faith in Jesus Christ; in my writings and public speakings you have heard me continually insist upon a certain pattern or form of faith; now, I bid you, my dearly beloved son in the gospel, Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus."
I. What is a "FORM OF SOUND WORDS"? Ten thousand persons will quarrel upon this. One will say, "my creed is a form of sound words"; another will declare that his creed also is sound, if not infallible.
1. We will not, therefore, enter into all the minutiae which distinguish creeds from each other, but just simply say, that no system can be a form of sound words unless it is perfectly Scriptural.
2. But since it is said that texts may be found to prove almost everything, we must remark that a form of sound words must be one that exalts God and puts down man.
3. We think, also, that we may judge of the soundness of doctrine by its tendency. We can never think a doctrine sound, when we see plainly upon its very surface that it has a tendency to create sin in men.
4. We shall, perhaps, be asked, what we do regard as a form of sound words, and what those doctrines are which are Scriptural, which at the same time are healthful to the spirit and exalting to God. We answer, we believe that a form of sound words must embrace, first of all, the doctrine of God's being and nature, we must have the trinity in unity, and the unity in trinity.
5. Now, we hold, that a form of sound words must look upon man aright as well as upon God aright; it must teach that man is utterly fallen, that he is sinful, and for his sin condemned and in himself altogether hopeless of salvation.
6. And next, we think that a doctrine that is sound must have right views of salvation, as being of the Lord alone,
II. Now let me show you THE NECESSITY OF HOLDING FAST THIS FORM OF SOUND WORDS, AND KEEPING IT FOR YOUR OWN SAKE, FOR THE CHURCH'S SAKE, FOR THE WORLD'S SALVE.
1. First, for your own sake, hold it fast, for thereby you will receive ten thousand blessings; you will receive the blessing of peace in your conscience.
2. "Hold fast the form of sound words," because it will tend very much to your growth. He who holds fast the truth will grow faster than he who is continually shifting from doctrine to doctrine.
3. I would beseech you to hold it fast for your own sakes, from a remembrance of the great evils which will follow the contrary course. If you do not "hold fast the form of sound words," listen to me while I tell you what you will do. In the first place, every deviation from truth is a sin. It is not simply a sin for me to do a wrong act, but it is a sin for me to believe a wrong doctrine. If it be a sin of ignorance, it is nevertheless a sin; but it is not so heinous as a sin of negligence, which I fear it is with many.
4. "Hold fast the form of sound words," because error in doctrine almost inevitably leads to error in practice. When a man believes wrongly, he will soon act wrongly.
5. And now, for the good of the Church itself, I want you all to "hold fast the form of sound words." Would you wish to see the Church prosperous? Would you wish to see it peaceful? Then "hold fast the form of sound words." What is the cause of divisions, schisms, quarrels, and bickerings amongst us? It is not the fault of the truth; it is the fault of the errors. There would have been peace in the Church, entire and perpetual peace, if there had been purity — entire and perpetual purity — in the Church. Going down to Sheerness on Friday, I was told by some one on board that during the late gale several of the ships there had their anchors rent up, and had gone dashing against the other ships, and had done considerable damage. Now, if their anchors had held fast and firm, no damage would have been done. Ask me the cause of the damage which has been done to our Churches by the different denominations, and I tell you, it is because all their anchors did not hold fast.
6. Keep to your faith, I say again, for the Church's cake, for so you will promote strength in the Church. I saw lying between Chatham and Sheerness a number of ships that I supposed to be old hulks; and I thought how stupid Government was to let them remain there, and not chop them up for firewood, or something else; but some one said to me, those ships can soon be fitted for service; they look old now, but they only want a little paint, and when the Admiralty requires them, they will be commissioned and made fit for use. So we have heard some people say, "There are those old doctrines — what good are they?" Wait; there is not a doctrine in God's Bible that has not its use. Those ships that you may think are not wanted, will be useful by-and-bye. So it is with the doctrines of the Bible. Do not say, "Break up those old doctrines, you can do without them." Nay, we want them, and we must have them.
7. "Well," says one, "I think we ought to hold the truth firmly; but I do not see the necessity for holding the form of it; I think we might cut and trim a little, and then our doctrines would be received better."
8. Again, I say, "hold fast the form of sound words," for the world's sake. Pardon me when I say that, speaking after the manner of men, I believe that the progress of the gospel has been awfully impeded by the errors of its preachers. I never wonder when I see a Jew an un-believer in Christianity, for this reason, that the Jews very seldom see Christianity in its beauty. For hundreds of years what has the Jew thought Christianity to be? Why, pure idolatry. He has seen the Catholic bow down to blocks of. wood and stone; he has seen him prostrating himself before the Virgin Mary and all saints; and the Jew has said, "Ah I this is my watchword — Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord; I could not be a Christian, for to worship one God is the essential part of my religion." So the heathen, I believe, have seen a false system of Christianity, and they have said, "What! is that your Christianity?" and they did not receive it.
III. And now, LET ME WARN YOU OF TWO DANGERS. One is, that you will be very much tempted to give up the form of sound words that you hold, on account of the opposition you will meet with. But the greatest obstacle you will have is a sort of slight and cunning, trying to pervert you to the belief that your doctrine is the same with one which is just the very opposite.
IV. I am to tell you of THE GREAT HOLDFASTS, WHEREBY YOU ARE TO HOLD FAST THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL,
1. If I might be allowed to mention one or two before coming to those in the text, I should say, in the first place, if you want to hold fast the truth, seek to get an understanding of it. A man cannot hold a thing fast unless he has a good understanding of it. I never want you to have the faith of the collier who was asked what he believed; he said he believed what the Church believed. "Well, but what does the Church believe?" He said the Church believed what he believed, and he believed what the Church believed; and so it went all the way round." Let me exhort you, parents, as much as lieth in you, to give your children sound instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel of Christ. I believe that what Irving once said is a great truth. He said, "In these modern times you boast and glory, and you think yourselves to be in a high and noble condition, because you have your Sabbath-schools and your British schools, and all kinds of schools for teaching youth. I tell you," he said, "that philanthropic and great as these are, they are the ensigns of your disgrace; they show that your land is not a land where parents teach their children at home. They show you there is a want of parental instruction; and though they be blessed things, these Sabbath-schools, they are indications of something wrong, for if we all taught our children there would be no need of strangers to say to our children, 'Know the Lord.'" I trust you will never give up that excellent puritanical habit of catechising your children at home. Any father or mother who entirely gives up a child to the teaching of another has made a mistake.
2. But then, Christian men, above all things, if you hold fast the truth, pray yourselves right into it. An old divine says, "I have lost many things I learned in the house of God, but I never lost anything I ever learned in the closet." That which a man learns on his knees, with his Bible open, he will never forget.
3. But the two great holdfasts are here given — faith and love. If ye would hold the truth fast, put your faith in Jesus Christ, and have an ardent love towards Him. Believe the truth. Do not pretend to believe it, but believe it thoroughly. And then the second holdfast is love. Love Christ, and love Christ's truth because it is Christ's truth, for Christ's sake, and if you love the truth you will not let it go. It is very hard to turn a man away from the truth he loves.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.