The Scriptorium

Good Thing, Those Sound Words

Hold them fast, keep them close. That's the ticket. 2 Timothy 1.13, 14

The Pastoral Epistles: 2 Timothy 1 (5)

Pray Psalm 71.17, 18.

O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 1.13, 14.


1. In what sense is the “pattern of sound words” to be found in Christ Jesus?

2. How would you explain the meaning of “hold fast” and “keep”? 

Many Christians today have little use for doctrine. They consider doctrine to be abstract, academic, and a means for showing off. 

Paul would vigorously disagree.

Yes, there are those who treat doctrine in the way many believers find repellent. But Paul says some important things about doctrine – “sound words” – in these two verses.

First, note the various ways these two verses parallel one another. Parallelism is a way of asserting and reinforcing an idea to make it “sticky” for the readers. The “pattern of sound words” parallels “That good thing”. Similarly, “which you have heard from me” parallels “was committed to you”. And “faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” parallels “by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us”. Finally, “hold fast” and “keep” are two strong verbs that anchor this whole passage. Paul has made a tight weave of these verses, precisely because he wants to emphasize the importance of doctrine – sound words – as a good thing.

But why is doctrine a good thing? Because all true doctrine resolves in Jesus Christ. He is the Treasury of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2.2, 3). All Biblical doctrine leads to Jesus, helps us in knowing Him, and empowers us to be transformed into His image. If we receive doctrine by faith, it will issue in love (1 Tim. 1.5). That’s certainly a good thing.

And there is a kind of pattern to sound words, a system of doctrine, a way of learning Biblical truth that fits all the doctrines of Scripture together. As we hold fast to and keep that pattern, it shapes us into itself, the end product of which is increasing Christlikeness. We must hold fast to and keep the whole pattern of doctrine, and not just a pet doctrine or two, if we would grow in Jesus.

The Spirit of God, Who dwells in us, is the operative power of sound words. He uses doctrine to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18); and He empowers us, in our Personal Mission Field, to be more consistent as His witnesses.

So those sound words of doctrine are a really good thing. Hold them fast, keep them faithfully, and you will grow in Jesus.

1. Why do some people find doctrine distasteful? Is it hard to learn doctrine? Should that put us off?

2. Doctrine must be received by faith if it is to issue in love. Explain.

3. How does the Holy Spirit use sound words to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ?

After the manner of artists, Paul is saying, I have impressed on you the image of virtue, fixing in your soul a sort of rule and model and outline of all things pleasing to God. Hold fast to these things, whether you are meditating on any matter of faith or love or of a sound mind. Form your ideas from this pattern in the future.. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on 2 Timothy 3

Help me to see Jesus in Your Word today, Lord, so that He may live through me as I…

Pray Psalm 71.17-21.

We are called to make disciples, and this involves sharing with others what God has taught us from His Word. With whom will you share from the sound words of Scripture today?

Sing Psalm 71.17-22.
Psalm 17.17-22, 3 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
O Lord, I praise Your righteousness, Who me from youth have taught and blessed.
Forsake me not when I am old, ‘til I Your mercies all have told! 
Refrain, v. 3
A Rock of Habitation be, command Your Word to rescue me.
My Rock and Fortress ever be!

Your righteous deeds are great and true. O God, there is no one like You! 
Though many troubles I have seen, You will revive my soul again! 

Increase my greatness, comfort me, and unto You shall praises be. 
Your truth I will exalt full well, O Holy One of Israel! 

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.