The Form of Sound Words

2 Timothy

The Form of Sound Words

September 28th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Timothy 1:13-14

9-28-58    10:50 a.m.



You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  You are listening to the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning hour’s message entitled, The Form of Sound Words.  It is a message on the doctrine of the faith. 

In our preaching through the Bible last Sunday evening, we left off at the twelfth verse of the first chapter of 2 Timothy, and the message this morning is the thirteenth, the fourteenth verses of the first chapter of 2 Timothy, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us."  And the text, "Hold fast the form of sound words," he is speaking there of the words of God.

I can hold them in my hand.  In a long discussion with a prelate one time, he asked me if I didn’t build my faith also as he did his.  I said, "No, not at all.  For my faith is built not upon superstition, or dogma, or enunciation of a man, or the decree of a college.  It’s built upon something I can hold in my hand.  I can read.  I can see it for myself.  I can test it and try it;" the words of God. 

When John saw the apocalypse, the unveiling, he looked upon the marvelous personage around whom all history and eternity gather, and He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God.  That word, logos, used here, used all through the Scriptures – the incarnate Word, the spoken word – the written Word. 

A man and his word may be two different things, but not God and His Word.  God’s Word is like Himself – the same yesterday and today and forever.   The words of God.  I mean what I can hold in my hand and read with my eyes.  The words of God.  We are saved by that Word.  We are saved out of a Book.  The truth is revealed to us in a Book.  A Book I can hold in my hand, that I can read for myself.

There is a knowledge that is academic and theoretical.  A man can read academically.  He can know intellectually and be lost.  But no man can know in his heart, can love and receive in his heart, the words of God, the revelation of the truth of God and not be saved.  John 17:3, "This is life eternal.  To know thee, the only true and living God and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hath sent."  First Peter 1:23-25, We are "born again. . .by the Word of God which liveth and abideth forever and this is the Word which by the gospel is preached unto you."  James 1:18, "Of His own will, begat He us by the Word of truth."  We are saved by a saving knowledge of the words of God.

We are sanctified by the Word of God.  John 15:3, "Now, ye are clean through the Word, which I have spoken unto you."  John 17:17, "Sanctify, sanctify, through Thy. . .Word.  Thy truth is the Word," and "Thy Word is the truth."  "Sanctify through thy truth, through thy Word."  Ephesians 5:26, "Now, ye are sanctified, ye are cleansed with "the washing of water by the Word."  We are cleansed.  We are sanctified by the Word of God. 

We are lost by refusing to receive the words of God.  Second Thessalonians 2:10-12, "Because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God shall send them a strong delusion to believe a lie."  Because they receive not; because they believe not, the truth.

It is, indeed with holy awe and with trembling reverence that we open God’s Book and read God’s Word.  We, who are lost, condemned creatures, we, who in our unregenerate state are miserable, dying people and have no other deliverance except that which is revealed to us by the words of God.

"Hold fast the form of sound words."  Then we have not only the words of God, but they are described as being sound words, sound words.  Hugeaio is the Greek word meaning to be well, to be in health.

And this is a participial, adjectival form of that verb.  And it means helpful, wholesome.  So when Paul says, "Hold fast the form of sound words," he means that God’s words are health-giving, life-giving.  We use that word "sound" to refer to a man’s orthodoxy.  He’s a sound preacher; a sound teacher.  Well, it has that connotation, a sound message, a sound sermon, a sound preacher.

This thing of flaccidity, of belief and opinion would be anathema to the Apostle Paul.  He had a deep, deep doctrinal conviction and commitment.  A body without bones to Paul would be useless and certainly not beautiful.

The bones of the body of Christ are the doctrines upon which are hung all of the things of the Christian faith.  We don’t want only bones.  But without them, the body has no stature.  It has no perfection.  It has no strength.  It has to have the doctrines to stand.

Now, Paul says that those doctrines are composed of life-giving words, the words of God.  They are sound.  They are life-giving because they are God’s words.  They are His words, who is the author of all life and health and well-being.

Time and again in the Holy Scriptures, it says, "And the Word of God came to" such an writer, such an prophet, such an apostle.  It does not say, "And the Spirit of God came."  That’s correct.  Does not say, "The suggestion came."  That’s correct.  Does not say the idea came or the thought came.  The Book says, "The Word of God came."  The Word came.  Paul says that in 1 Corinthians, the second chapter and the thirteenth verse.  "Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but in the words which the Holy Spirit teacheth."

In Jeremiah 23, "`My Word is like a fire,’ saith the Lord, `and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.’"  These are God’s words.  They are not only sound because they are God’s words, but they are sound because they have been tried and tested in the fire, the fire of human experience, of human history.

In the twelfth Psalm, in the sixth verse, "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tested in the furnace of earth, purified seven times."  Now, the words of the Lord are tahowr, tahowr — that word tahowr, translated pure, is used here in this Old Testament I do know how many times.  More than thirty times.

It is used to refer, for example, to the gold used in the tabernacle.  The seven-branched lamp stand was made out of tahowr gold.  The mercy seat, the cherubim, the golden altar of incense, the same word is used all the time.

You have it translated pure, pure gold.  Now, you have another word translated pure.  In the one hundred-nineteenth Psalm and the one hundred-fortieth verse, "Thy Word is very pure," translated "very pure" there.  In the thirtieth book of, thirtieth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, same word is used there again, tsaraph, translated very pure.  Tsaraph means put in a furnace, heated, purified, burned, tried.

God’s Word is like that.  It has been purified.  It has been tried.  It has been in a furnace.  It is God’s tried and tested Word.  There it is that I hold in my hand.  Sound words, "Hold fast the form of sound words."

Now, he says another thing.  This is the heart of the passage, "Hold fast the form of sound words." Then, God’s words have a form.  Let’s look at that word, form.  Hupotupaio is to delineate, to outline.  And the substantive form of that verb, hupotuposis is a summary, an outline, a pattern, a model, a type.

So, that word translated form there, hold fast the form of these, God’s sound, life-giving words.  He refers there to this fact, that God’s words put together summarized, outlined.  They have a form.  There is a doctrinal, systematic treatise.  I don’t use the word creed because we don’t like the word creed.  But to some people, what I’m saying they’d call a creed.  God’s words put together form an outline, a delineation.  They are a – there’s a pattern to them.  There is a logic in them.  There is a systematic presentation to be made of them, "Hold fast the form of sound words."

From all ages, men have stood up with a Book in their hands to declare the message of God.  Moses did.  Jeremiah did.  Ezra did in his high pulpit.  Jesus did.  There was placed in His hands the Word of God, and he preached out of the book.

Paul did.  Our religion is a religion of the Book, and our faith is a faith of the Book.  And when one preaches the Book, and he declares the whole counsel of God, there emerges out of his preaching, out of the Book, there emerges a – what he calls here – what the King James Version translates "a form."

There emerges a pattern.  There emerges a model.  There emerges a summary.  There emerges a great doctrinal presentation, a great theological thesis.  Now, somebody will stand up to say, "Now listen here.  Listen here.  Listen here.  You can prove anything out of the Bible – anything – prove anything out of the Bible."  First of all, I categorically deny it.  You can’t do that.  What you can do out of the Bible is the same thing you can do out of any man’s speech or out of any man’s deliverance.  You can twist it like a nose of wax, if you take one unrelated paragraph or sentence or saying.

For example, I read about two weeks [ago] a tremendous sermon denying the deity and Sonship, Godhood of our Lord Jesus, and the sermon was built on this passage in Timothy, "There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus."  And the tremendous sermon, and it was that, was delivered on that one thing, "The man Christ Jesus."

You can prove that all men are to be saved by taking a phrase.  "He is the Savior of all men.  That by the grace of God He should taste death for every man," therefore all men are to be saved.  Or can you say men are saved by works, "Was not Abraham justified by works?"  Or you can deny the Trinity, "Hear. . .the Lord thy God is one Lord."

You can take one phrase, one passage of the Bible, and you can prove anything.

Or another thing, somebody arises up and say, "Now listen, Preacher, when you say, when you present the whole truth of God’s words, there emerges a certain form, a certain pattern, a certain doctrine, a certain theological thesis.  All right, preacher, you tell me this.  How is it that people read God’s words, and one of them stands up, and he says, ‘I’m thus and so and that denomination,’ and another one reads it, and stands up and says, ‘I am thus and so.’ and another one reads and he says, ‘I stand up and I am thus and so.’  How do you explain that?"

I have a very simple answer.  Nobody reads the words of God and stands up and says, "I am a theosophist or I am a Christian Scientist, or I count beads."  Where did you get that out of the words of God?  These many, many, many delineations are historically conditioned.  They go back to a woman somewhere.  They go back to a development somewhere.  No man reads the words of God and comes up and says, "I am thus and so."  Because, when you read the words of God, a pattern emerges, a form emerges, a certain doctrinal thesis emerges.

May I give you an illustration?  One of the tremendously great, great presidents of a seminary was asked one time, "You are so committed to the Word of God, and you believe in the words of God.  Why is it that you sprinkle babies?"  And his reply was, and it is a classic, "I have in my library thirty-two lexicons, thirty-two lexicons, Greek lexicons.  All thirty-two of those Greek lexicons say that the Greek word baptizo means immerse.  But all thirty-two of those lexographers were pedobaptists.  They all sprinkled babies."  That was his reply.  Therefore he sprinkles babies.

That is very typical, very, very typical.  I know that the words of God say thus and so, but my fathers, my forefathers, my teacher, my grandparents, my pastor, by church, my denomination, they are all historically conditioned.  They arise out of the opinions.  They arise out of the teachings of men.  But when you leave it alone and leave it out and turn aside from those opinions and those speculations and those persuasions, and take the words of God, there emerge from them a form; a hupotoposis, a pattern, an outline, a summary, a creed, if you please.

There are certain things that God’s Word teaches, and when you present the whole words of God, those outlines become very distinct.  And those patterns become very plain and most lucid.  To declare the whole counsels of God and to present the whole words of God, there emerges – now, let’s make a comparison.  Let’s say a beautiful, five-pointed, perfect star.  Now, in a star, as long as the angles stay the same – as long as the lines are proportionate, you can project that star on and on and on and out and out.  But it’ll always remain the same.

On the inside of it, you may find ten thousand different things.  But as long as the angles are the same, and the lines are in proportion, the star always remains just the same; a beautiful five-pointed star.  But if you change the angle, and if you change the proportion of the lines, the star will change.  So it is with the truth of God.  If you will present the whole truth of God, however much you may learn, however much you may discover, the star will remain the same.  But when you change the doctrine, when you elongate or shorten a line, you change the appearance of the star.

In our generation, it seems as though the star of God’s perfect revelation will almost be lost.  But don’t ever worry, down the line, in another age, in another generation, it may be a pagan people who will be evangelized.  But wherever that happens, and the truth of God again is preached, there will always emerge that same pattern, that same model, that same system of theology, that same star.

They have buried it back there after the third century.  They have buried it in the Middle Ages.  They have buried it today, almost, under liberalism and modernism, socialism.  But, wherever the gospel is preached in any language, in any age, that same star will appear.  The same proportion will be seen.

Another thing about this form, "Hold fast the form of sound words" – that summary, that outline.  The concomitant of all the revelation and truths in the Word of God.  Another thing it cannot, it does not contradict itself, but the great truths of God never change.  They are eternal.  They are verities written by the Lord God in heaven and they are as fixed as the throne of God Himself.

Oh, you can illustrate that easily, in the realm of one of God’s sciences, one of God’s revelations – mathematics!  Two times two equal four.  And that is true all through the whole science of mathematics.  No matter how far you go, how the angle may be extended, how the line may be projected.  Those things never vary, they are the same.  That thing, that axiom is true arithmetic.  It is also true in geometry.  It is also true in trigonometry.  It is also true in calculus.  It is also true in the hyperbola.  It is also true in the parabola.  It is also true in the ellipse.  It is true in every degree.  No matter how far in advance on and on you go, that great fundamental truth never changes.

That is the way it is in the words of God.  The great, fundamental truths of God never change.  When a thing is categorically stated, it stands categorically there forever and forever.  Could I say?  When it speaks of hell, hell doesn’t mean hell for the first sixteen hundred years and then for the last three hundred years it refers to a second probation.  If God’s Word says hell, gehenna, damnation, perdition, two thousand, four thousand years ago, that stands today.  It doesn’t change.

Depravity; if there was human depravity revealed in the Word of God in a thousand years ago, that depravity is true of the human race today.  A depraved a lost, a dying humanity.  If election was true in the twelfth chapter of Genesis – If election was true in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans – if election was true in the days of the Apostle Paul,


According as He hath chosen us in Him, before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Christ Jesus to Himself, according to this His own good pleasure,

[Ephesians 1:4, 5]


and on.  If it was true in Paul’s day, it is true today.  It never, never changes.

So with all of the doctrines of the Scriptures however you project them on and on.  However you may learn about them, they never change.  Not if you present the truth of God.  We may learn more.  We may advance more.  But however we may learn in mathematics and discover new worlds and new fields, those great four fundamentals of arithmetic – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division never change.

So it is with the truth of the words of God.  They remain fixed forever.  Now, we must turn to this appeal, "Hold fast the form" – the doctrine, the summary, the delineation, the outline, the pattern, the model – "hold fast the form of sound words,"  eche, hold, hold.

In the Hebrew letter two and one, "Lest at any time you – let us give heed, the more earnestly to these things that we have heard lest at any time we let them slip." Cling to them, grapple them with hooks of steel.  Like Jude about the third verse somewhere, "Contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints."  Hold, eche, hold fast, cling to it, the form of sound words, the doctrines of the faith.

Now, our modern pulpit, our generation, they say we need a new arithmetic.  We need an enlarged geometry.  We need a greatly extended calculus and trigonometry.  The old arithmetic is to be cast away.  Two times two, in other words, do not equal four any longer.  They equal six and seven-eighths or maybe twenty-five.

What we need is not a new religion, a new arithmetic.  What we need is the implementing, the implementation of the power that we now have, the truth of God as it is revealed to us now.  Already have it.  Already possess it in the Book, written there on the sacred page.

You haven’t changed humanity because we have discovered a few electrical gadgets, and we have learned to employ the force of jet propulsion.  You listen to me, if by the providence of God, by and by, in our generation, men land on the moon, if they fight here in the earth, they’ll be fighting on the moon.  They carry with them the seeds of depravity, of greed and hatred, of war and battle.  You haven’t changed them because we’ve been able to project the line out there two hundred ninety-five thousand miles.  That star of God never changes.  A man may think the angle changes and the line is changed but its projection.  Not so.  We are still the same people.  However we may electrically discover new fields and through propulsion invade new spheres.  We’re still lost.  We still need to be saved.

If it was atonement there in the twelve chapter of the book of Exodus, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you;" if it was atonement in the first chapter of 1 John, "It is the blood of Christ that cleanseth us from all sin;" it is atonement we need still.  It doesn’t change.

Could I say it almost facetiously?  Here’s a fellow that woooo through the sky in a jet plane, and he breaks the sound barrier.  And here’s a fellow in an old wagon, behind a flop-eared, flea-bitten old mule.  And both of them land in the hospital, and to a doctor, they look just the same.  They’ve got ears and eyes and nose and feet and legs and bones and gizzard and everything else that goes along with them.  They haven’t changed.  They haven’t changed.  There’s not any change, not any change.  Hold fast the doctrine, the form, the summary, the outline of God’s words.

When you change a man’s belief, you change his character.  You change his life.  You change the man.  When you change a preacher’s beliefs, you change his character.  You change his sermons.  You change the man.  When you change a church’s beliefs, you the change the church.  You change the character.  You change the people.  "Hold fast that form of sound words which thou hast heard of me"…in Christ Jesus.  Cling to the truth once for all delivered unto the saints.

Isn’t this a marvelous new day in its attitude about the great eternities of God?  The spirit of the modern day and of the modern pulpit is this: Why, one opinion is as good as another, or no opinion at all is as good as an opinion.  Wonder what the martyrs would think about that?  They who suffered, were burned at the stake, rotted in dungeons, paid the price of life and suffering just because they believed something about God.  Wonder what the great Reformers would think about that, who strode manfully, courageously, into the very jaws of the Inquisition?  "One opinion is as good as another.  Do whatever you want to think, whatever you want to believe, or no opinion at all."

God has spoken.  We have the words of God in our hands.  And the appeal is to hold fast that doctrinal form of God’s words "which thou hast heard of me in Christ Jesus."

I close, and I must.  He adds a little thing there – how to do it, "Hold fast the form of sound words which thou hast heard of me.  Hold them fast in faith and in love, which is in Christ Jesus." We are to do it in faith and in love.  There is an orthodoxy.  There is a holding of the truth of God in rigidity, correctly, but starchily, self-righteously, unlovably.  You can be doctrinally correct and be harsh and unlovable and unsympathetic.  You can be cold and frigid and yet be doctrinally sound and theologically correct.

In love and in truth.  When we hold up the truth of God, and the doctrine of the faith, Paul admonished us to do it with a great sympathy and a great love and a great heart of warmth for our hearers, whether they agree with us, or whether they do not agree with us.  Always and at all times, as Paul said in the Ephesian letter, "Speaking the truth in love."  And how we all need that in our defense of the faith and in our seeking to hold up the truth of God.  It is so easy to become polemical, argumentative, unlovely, harsh, debative, forensic.  All of that, no.

As our Lord Who spoke the truth, and when He was smitten He smote not again.  When He was reviled, He reviled not again.  When He was discourteously entreated, He answered not; always speaking the truth in love.  And that is to be our spirit and our attitude as we read the words of God and as we see emerge from them these great doctrinal truths upon which our church is built as upon a rock.  Yet our defense of that faith and our promulgation of that truth is always in love, in sympathy, in kindest voice and manner, in attitude of prayer and concern.

I, as I read these ministers, the lives of some of these preachers, almost always, I feel I ought to resign.  They just tower so great and so mighty and so marvelous, and I am such a poor stick of a representative of a preacher of the unsearchable riches of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Now I will tell you what I mean.  There was an incomparable young preacher in Scotland by the name of Robert Murray McCheyne.  Oh, that young fellow.  He burned himself out when he was twenty nine years old, but he made a tremendous impression upon the whole Christian world, and is still looked upon as one of the most lovable, able, true preachers of the gospel of Christ who ever lived.  And this is a little thing in his life.  One of the men came from afar to find the secret of his power.  And there wasn’t anybody at the church but the old janitor.  And the visitor said, "I have come to learn the secret of the young preacher’s power."  And the janitor said, "You come with me."  Took him to the preacher’s study and said, "That’s his chair and that’s his desk.  Sit down in the chair." And the visitor sat down in the chair. And the janitor said, "Now, bury your face in your hands and weep.  Come with me," said the janitor. And the visitor followed the caretaker. And they went up in the auditorium and mounted in the pulpit.  And the caretaker said, "Stand there behind that desk."  And the visitor stood behind the desk. And the caretaker said again, "Bury your face in your hands and weep."

Orthodoxy is the bones on which the frame is hung.  Without the great doctrines of the faith our church is flaccid and spineless.  But what makes it beautiful and acceptable is the covering around the frame – all the beauty that God hath given and the color of the eye and the smile on the face and the clasp of the hand.  The truth in love.  Oh that God could somehow help us to be that, to equate those two things, to be straight and orthodox and sound and declare the whole counsels of God, and to do it with a heart of great love and sympathy and appeal!  This is the truth of God.

Come, come, come.

Well, it takes lots of praying, lots of soul searching, lots of giving ourselves to Him to achieve in any wise or in any major what will truly honor and glorify and adore the doctrine of God our Savior

Now we sing our song.  And while we sing it, in the balcony, on this lower floor, to give your heart in faith to our Savior or to come into the fellowship of His church; however God would say the word, would make the appeal, would you come and stand by me.  Come down these stairwells at the front or the back, or into the aisle and down here to the front.  "Here I am pastor and here I come. I give my heart to the Lord, I give my soul to Jesus."   Or, "We put our lives here in the church."  One somebody you, or a family you while we make this appeal would you come as we stand and sing.