Yesterday we discussed that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim 1:7) As Paul was awaiting his execution, he wrote his last letter to his spiritual son that he mentored, not for his own legacy, but for the kingdom of God. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Tim 1:13-14)
Paul is mentoring, and so he is admonishing those who will guide others to hold onto sound words and doctrine, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus”. This concept of “soundness” comes through the Greek root word hugiaino, which refers to “health, safety, or wholesomeness.” The term is used here as a metaphor for accuracy, truth, and benefit. In other words, “sound doctrine” is God’s revealed truth, not the flawed opinions of mankind. Sound doctrine cannot survive unless it is understood, and then passed along to others (2 Tim 2:2).
In his letter to Titus, Paul spoke about the importance of character of elders (mentors) in the church, and it is important to us all. We may teach Sunday School, be in a Bible study, raise children, or show up in a secular environment where we have some influence. “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful Word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” (Titus 1:7-9)
Paul is careful to point out to Timothy how precious is the treasure that’s been entrusted to him as a leader: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” In the introduction to his commentary on 2 Timothy, John Stott said: “The church of our day urgently needs to heed the message of this second letter of Paul to Timothy. For all around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp of the gospel, fumbling it, in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether. A new generation of young Timothys is needed, who will guard the sacred deposit of the gospel, who are determined to proclaim it and are prepared to suffer for it, and who will pass it on pure and uncorrupted to the generation which in due course will rise up to follow them.”
As ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20), we must be like the Bereans, in order to correctly discern God’s truth. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the Word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Lately it seems like every week I’m being shown the error being taught by those whose studies I’ve studied, podcasts I’ve listened to, and whose books I’ve read. I’m truly saddened (and I know it grieves the Holy Spirit) because at one time these pastors were discerning and Biblical teachers who have gone astray, and unfortunately are taking others with them, even though they know they are held to a higher standard (James 3:1).
In an earlier letter to Timothy, Paul said: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Tim 6:3-5)
Author Tim Challies said, “God has given us the gospel in trust. He has deposited it to our account and expects that we will guard this priceless, precious treasure. God has entrusted to us something of infinite worth and unsurpassed beauty. He has not left us to our own devices, but he has provided for us the Holy Spirit, that with His help we may be faithful in guarding the gospel of Jesus Christ. Spiritual discernment allows us to keep the gospel central and allows us to see and guard against error. Spiritual discernment is absolutely crucial to the one who would understand and heed the gospel. Nothing less than the gospel is at stake.”
“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (2 Tim 2:14-17a)
Lord, thank You for the reminder that all wisdom and discernment comes from You. In order for me to have discernment and not fall for the wiles of the enemy, I must abide in You and ask for Your wisdom when I don’t understand or am confused. Keep me from worldly and empty chatter today, but instead keep my focus on the only thing that matters: where I and those I come across will spend their eternity. All else is but a vapor, and will not last into the next world, so there truly is no reason to choose to argue; and Your Word tells me not to do so. Thank You for Your guidance. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.