Advanced Bible Study
"Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 1:13).
These were the words of Paul, the older preacher, to Timothy, the younger preacher. Timothy had been Pauls companion for many years, and Paul had come to love him as a son. Paul knew that he did not have long to live and that Timothy would have to carry on much of the work which Paul had begun. He wrote this letter to the young man to charge him to "be strong" (2 Timothy 2:1), to "continue in the things which you have learned" (2 Timothy 3:14), and to faithfully "preach the word" (2 Timothy 4:2).
By "sound words" Paul meant the pure, true, wholesome words of the Gospel which he had preached. Paul was "not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16); he called it "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" (1 Timothy 1:11). He knew its source, and he had written to the churches, "But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12).
We read much about the works of Paul in the book of Acts. He had been chosen by God to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard it (Acts 9:15). He immediately began this work, and it carried him on three missionary journeys. Many to whom Paul preached heard, believed, and were baptized (Acts 18:8). Those who were saved in those days were called Christians (Acts 11:26), and through Pauls labors, churches of Christ were established throughout the Roman world (Romans 16:16). Paul was not alone in these efforts. Other men went throughout the world preaching the same Gospel. Several of them wrote their words by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and their writings make up the 27 books of the New Testament. By studying these writings, we can know what they preached.
By the words "hold fast," Paul meant to hold securely, to retain, to keep. Paul so admonished Timothy because he knew that, "...the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Paul knew that since the Gospel came from God, no man had a right to add to it, take from it, or change it in any way. To do so would take away from it the power to save man. Therefore, he wrote: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9).
John the apostle later taught the same thing when he wrote: "Who-ever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 9-11).
The tragedy of the New Testament church is that they heard the truth, but they did not heed the warning. "For certain men have crept in unnoticed " (Jude 4), and from among their own selves men arose "speaking perverse things" (Acts 20:30). "By smooth words and flattering speech" they deceived "the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:18). They were "teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain" (Titus 1:11). Jews were bringing over into Christianity the elements of Judaism; the Greeks, the elements of human philosophy and paganism; and the Romans, the elements of Romanism. The simple organization of the church was lost, and the "elders in every church" (Acts 14:23) were replaced with a single pastor. The pastors in a city chose a chief bishop, and when the chief bishop of Rome had himself declared the Catholic pope, the eastern churches divided from the western churches. The church of Rome became the major influence in the West. It became so powerful and corrupt that it persecuted to death all who would not submit to its rule. During this time, brave and noble men arose and challenged the authority of Rome. They attempted to reform the church by writing creeds for their own peculiar beliefs. The result was further division into numerous sects and denominations. These divisions are still multiplying to this day, and most of that which is called Christianity is not what Christ taught at all.
Paul told Timothy to "Hold fast the pattern of sound words" (2 Timothy 1:13). In other words, Pauls teachings were to be used as a pattern for Timothy so that he might teach the same things. He further instructed Timothy that "...the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Timothy 2:2). The church went into apostasy because men failed to follow the pattern of sound words. From time to time, men have returned to sound words and the church has been restored.
Obedience from the heart to the teachings of the Bible is all that is necessary for you to become and remain a faithful Christian. Paul told Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is no need to add man-made creeds to the Bible.
Neither is there a need to divide the church into man-made denominations. Before Christ died on the cross, He prayed concerning those who would believe on Him, saying, "That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:21). Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). We can be one in Christ today if we will speak where the Scriptures speak and be silent where the Scriptures are silent. Peter taught the same thing when he wrote, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11). The same seed planted in good soil will produce the same fruit regardless of where or when it is planted. The same Gospel received in good hearts will produce Christians in the 20th century, just as it did in the first century. If we will preach what they preached, believe what they believed, and do what they did, we will be what they were. We will be Christians, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.
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