The Form of Sound Words

2 Timothy

The Form of Sound Words

October 12th, 1980 @ 8:15 AM

2 Timothy 1:13

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

2 Timothy 1:13

10-12-80     8:15 a.m.



It is a gladness for us to share this hour with you who by the thousands are listening on the two radio stations that bear the message.  This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And we are in, in these morning hours, a long series on the great doctrines of the Bible.  Next Sunday it will be another message on bibliology, on the Scriptures, entitled The Self-Revelation of God.  Next Sunday also in the evening hour will bring to us another in the series of sermons on the problems of human life.  Next Sunday night it will be David:  Sexual Drives.  Now, tonight at seven o’clock, the sermon will be Eli:  Trouble in the Home.  And it would be a blessing if you could be here, seven o’clock tonight, Eli:  Trouble in the Home.  And the message today:  The Form of Sound Words; another in the series on bibliology.

The message today, the doctrinal message this hour, is based upon one of the most unusual words to be found in the epistles of Paul.  In 2 Timothy, chapter 1 and verse 13, Paul writes to his son in the ministry, "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 Spirit which dwelleth in us" [2 Timothy 1:13-14].  Now the background of the message: "Hold fast the form of sound words."  The word "sound," "sound words"; we have an English word "hygiene," and it is taken from this Greek word that is used here, translated "sound."  Hugiano, the "u" becomes a "y" when it becomes an English word, "hygiano." Hugiano means "to be well," it means "to be in health."  So the substantive form of it means "healthful, well being," what ministers to our spiritual strength.  Now, the word came to refer to orthodoxy.  For example, in 1 Timothy 1:10, Paul will refer to "sound doctrine"; and we use the word in that connotation.  You will sometimes refer to a man who is a "sound preacher."  You mean by that that he is a true and faithful and orthodox preacher.  Well, that’s the way the word is used here:  "sound words, true and faithful and orthodox words" [2 Timothy 1:13].

Paul was a very rigid, uncompromising believer in the true revelation of God.  Flaccidity, flabbiness of belief was anathema to Paul.  Paul would say that as the body, the human frame, without a skeletal structure is a heap, meaningless and useless, so he would say that a system of teaching, of doctrine, that did not have in it great commitments, spiritual revelations, rigidity of truth, would be nothing but flabby sophistry.  So he uses the word "sound," referring to orthodox, faithful to the truth of God.  Now do you notice he puts that word "hugiano" with the word logos, "words," "words"? [2 Timothy 1:13].  What a discussion we’re having now in the length and breadth of our Zion over words, the words of the Bible.  Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but words which the Holy Spirit teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things."  Do you notice the words?  "Not that man’s wisdom has conjured up, but words which the Holy Spirit teacheth."  That is a remarkable observation to be made about the revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures:  that the revelation comes to us in God’s words, in Christ’s words, in words which the Holy Spirit teacheth, speaketh, useth [1 Corinthians 2:13].

Now when you read the Bible, you will find those ideas expressed just as Paul has avowed it here.  The expression is so often found in the Bible, "And the word of the Lord came to," and then a certain speaker, or certain prophet, or certain author or writer, "the word of the Lord came to him."  Now you look at that:  not "the idea" came to him, or "the suggestion" came to him, or "the programming" came to him, or "the experience" came to him, or not even "the Holy Spirit" came to him; but "the word of the Lord came to him."

"Which words we speak; not the words of man’s wisdom, but the words which the Holy Spirit teacheth and speaketh and useth" [1 Corinthians 2:13].  That’s a remarkable thing.  When we have in our hands the Holy Scriptures, we hold in our hands the words of God.  So Paul writes here, "sound words" [2 Timothy 1:13].  Then he uses a term that will employ the rest of our message, which is entitled The Form of Sound Words:  "Hold fast the form of sound words" [2 Timothy 1:13].  Now that is an unusual expression to me just to look at it in English.  The words of God have a shape, they have a form, they follow a certain paradigm, or a certain pattern, or a certain summary, or a certain outline, or a certain design; and that is the word that is used here, translated "form."  The Greek word is "hupotupao"; and that actually means "to delineate, to outline."  And the substantive of the word "hupotuposis" is "a pattern, a model."  "Hold fast the form of sound words" [2 Timothy 1:13].  When we study the words of God, the Holy Scriptures, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Comparing spiritual things with spiritual, which things God speaks to us; not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth," when we compare God’s words, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, when we do that, when we take the whole revelation of God and study all the words of the Lord, out of it will emerge a pattern, a form, a summary, a paradigm, a model, a doctrinal statement.  And it is proportionately beautiful.  If we don’t add to it, if we don’t take away from it, but if we present it as God has spoken it to us and revealed it to us, it will emerge.  Comparing spiritual things with spiritual things, the words of God with the words of God, there will emerge a doctrinal summary that is beautiful and proportionate – if we don’t change it.

It is exactly like, say, a five-pointed star:  you can expatiate upon it, you can extend its lines to infinity, but if you don’t change the angles, however it is extended; it will always be a beautiful and proportionate five-pointed star.  Now, the form, the paradigm, the model, the shape, the doctrinal summary that is revealed to us in the Word of God is like that.  As long as we don’t change its lines or its angles, but present it exactly as it is, it will always be beautifully proportionate, it will have a beautiful form.  But if we change the angle, and if we change the lines, then we distort God’s revelation.  That’s why in human life a man is what he believes.  And if you change the beliefs of the man, you change the man.  That is true of a preacher:  if he changes his doctrinal stance, you change the preacher.  And that is true of a church.  If a church changes the angles and the lines of its doctrinal commitment, you’d change the church.  If the preacher and if the church and if those who love God receive the whole Word of the Lord, it will be a beautiful and harmonious whole.  It has a form, an outline that is proportionate and beautiful.

All right, a second thing about that form, that doctrinal summary, that paradigm, that model, that example:  when you look at it, the whole doctrinal revelation of God, you will find that it is always harmonious, it is always self-consistent, it is always factually, heavenly, spiritually true.  That is, the whole revelation of God is homogeneous; it’s the same all the way through.  It does not say, for example, something is true here, and then later on, it will say that something is false here; but it is truth all the way through.  Or, could I say it like this:  the paradigm of God, the form of sound words is truth eternal.  It is true always [Isaiah 40:8; 2 Timothy 1:13].

Now let me illustrate that.  In the Word of God, as we study it, and as the revelation, the self-disclosure of God in the Holy Scriptures, is made to us, hell is not one thousand six hundred years ago something, but today it is something else.  Hell is not, say, "everlasting in the last century, but today it is a period of probation, or doesn’t exist at all."  In the paradigm of God, in the form of the great doctrinal summary of God, it is the same, it doesn’t change.  If there was a hell one thousand six hundred years ago, there’s one today.  And if it burned then, it burns today.  And if it is awesome then, it is awesome today.  The Word of God doesn’t change with changing attitudes or cultures; it remains the same forever [Psalm 119:89].

It is thus with human depravity.  Human depravity, that is, the doctrine that all of us are fallen, we’re fallen in our minds, we’re fallen in our emotions, we’re fallen in our wills, we are fallen in our actions, we are a fallen people, the doctrine of human depravity is "not a truth yesterday, but today it is a truth."  The great paradigm of God, the form of sound words, is true forever.  It’s always true.  Take again atonement.  Atonement is not one thing in the days of the blood of the Passover lamb [Exodus 12:3-13], and then another thing in the New Testament, when it says, "And the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin" [1 John 1:7].  Atonement is the same all the way through.  In Leviticus 17:11, the Mosaic legislation will avow, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar as an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul."  Now, the word "altar" and "sacrifice" and "atonement" and "blood" is the same all the way through.  That’s the reason God gave us the types, that He might make us to understand heaven’s nomenclature.  And atonement in Christ [Romans 5:11], and the altar upon which He was slain, and the expiation of sins in the pouring out of the crimson of His life [1 John 2:2; Hebrews 2:9], all of that doctrine is the same all the way through.  Or could I take just one more?  We can’t spend hours on these things.  Election, election is not one thing in Genesis 12 [1] or 15 [1] when God calls out Abraham, and it’s not another thing in Romans when God speaks of the elective purpose of God in Israel [Romans 11:5, 7, 28], nor is it another thing about the Christian people in the first chapter of Ephesians [Ephesians 1:3-14], nor is it another thing today.  But the great doctrine is always, it doesn’t change.  What was true yesterday is true today and is true forever [Psalm 119:89].  The form, the paradigm of sound words, the great doctrinal statements of God are eternal.

Now, there’s one other thing to be observed about that.  It is not only eternal, but the great truth of the revelation of God in these Holy Scriptures is universal.  It applies everywhere in all time.  Could I give an illustration of that?  The great truths of God, all of them, are like that, whether you read it in God’s book of nature, in God’s book of the heavens [Psalm 19:1-3], or whether you read it in God’s Book of the Bible I hold in my hand, or whether you read it in God’s book in your own life and experience.  The great truths of God never change [Psalm 119:89]; they are universally applicable [Psalm 19:1-3].  They are everywhere the same.  Now to illustrate it: two plus two equal four is not true just in Europe, it’s also true in America, and it’s also true in the Hawaiian Islands.  It is universal.  Nor is there any place or any time when the truth of God is not the same and always applicable.  No matter how high you go in mathematics, the truth is always the same:  two plus two equal four in arithmetic, it’s the same thing in algebra, it’s the same thing in geometry, it’s the same thing in trigonometry, it’s the same thing in parabola, it’s the same thing in hyperbola, it’s the same thing in ellipse, and however far you go in mathematics, if a same truth is always true, it is universally applicable.  Nor do you reach any place where it is not true.  Now that does not mean that there is not progress in our understanding.  That does not mean that we don’t know more and that more light is not coming to us as we continue to study and understand.  But the truth of God is like this:  whatever new truth we may learn, it never contradicts the old truth; but it is built upon it.  It is always universally applicable.  That is God, and that’s God’s Word.

God’s homogeneity, the universality of His truth, can be illustrated in this world of creation.  Dr. Stephen Weinberg, he’s the professor of physics at Harvard University and recently awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.  In 1977 he published the book entitled A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe.  And of three things he avows in that book, I want to point out two of them to you.  One of them:  he says the universe is governed by a cosmological principle; meaning there are definite and observable laws throughout the creation which are uniform and universal.  He says, I quote, "The universe is isotropic and homogenous.  By saying it is isotropic; we mean that it appears the same in all directions.  By saying that it is homogenous, we mean that it appears the same to all observers."  Then he avows,


The cosmological principle is the foundation for all scientific research.  When we sent our men to the moon, we did so believing that on the moon the same laws prevail that we’d find on the earth.  The laws throughout the universe are uniform and universal.  If we sent that man to Mars, or to Jupiter, or to the sidereal spheres, wherever the man is in the universe, it would be everlastingly the same; just as we have down here.


Now his second observation is, "The universe is a unity; it is more than a huge conglomeration of atoms and molecules wildly gyrating and randomly colliding with each other.  It has cohesion, and therefore it has meaning."  Now that’s exactly God’s Book here that I hold in my hand:  it is universally the same, and it is universally applicable.  And the laws and the revelation of God that we find back here, we find over here.  We just know more as the days multiply and as we study and pray and grow in the experience of the Lord.  There is a form of doctrine, of sound words [2 Timothy 1:13].

All right, another thing about it:  that form of sound words, that summary of doctrine, that paradigm, that model that we find in the Bible, it is God-breathed; it comes from the Lord.  As 2 Timothy 3:16 calls it, "theopneustos, God-breathed," it is from Him; God did it, just as God did this; and we’ve spoken of how the universe exhibits homogeneity.  It’s the same everywhere, those same laws, doctrines, apply.  So in this Book God has written:  it also is homogenous; it is the same all the way through, and it has a beautiful proportion.  And when it is presented, it has a marvelous applicable meaning to all of our hearts.  Now we’re speaking of the fact that it comes from God; it is God-breathed, it comes from Him [2 Timothy 3:16].

Now, there are those who are – I call them "liberals" and "higher critics" – who say that the Bible is nothing other than an antique, a collection of antique literature written by an obscure and primitive people.  Well, if that is true, if the Bible is nothing but a collection of antique literature written by an obscure and primitive people, in our progression, why can’t we write a better Bible?  Now, this Bible was written by men who belonged to a tiny despised race.  And they lived in the hills of a country not as big as one of our Texas counties.   They had no printing presses, they had no vast libraries for research, they had no jets and no steam ships to bring them information from the ends of the earth, they had no wire services like AP and UPI, and no newspapers to spread before them the news of the day.  And certainly they didn’t have that science that has unlocked for us the secret of the rocks beneath us and the stars above us.  They were so circumscribed in their lives and lived in such a tiny spot in the earth.  Well, why can’t we write a better Bible today, with our enlightenment and our progress and knowledge and in science and understanding and discovery, why can’t we write a better Bible today?

  Why can’t we call together a collocation of the finest professors in the greatest universities of the world, and why can’t they, studying in their laboratories, and with these vast libraries at their command, why can’t they come up with a better Bible, why can’t they?  Could it be, could it be that maybe, after all, this Book came from a source other than what a man could think for?  Might it be?  Or why can’t they write a better Bible?  Surely, surely, according to their doctrine man is not retrogressing, he’s not going back.  You see, they are evolutionists; we are progressing, we are coming up from the beast and evolving, as they say, and reaching upward and onward, they say.  Why can’t we write a better Bible?  Why can’t we?

When you look at the humanist, and at the secularist, and the materialist, and the evolutionist, and the pseudoscientist, when you look at them you can’t help but be reminded of those false prophets of Baal who cried in their frenzy, "Baal,  Baal, send the fire, send the fire" [1 Kings 18:22-29].  And these humanists, and pseudoscientists and materialists, they cry to inanimate matter, "Reveal to us," they cry, "the meaning of life.  Where did we come from?  And what is our destiny?  And what are the true values of life?  Tell us, inanimate matter, tell us!"  And they cry to blind force with a frenzy beyond anything you read in the prophets of Baal, "O blind forces of the universe, open our eyes that we can understand the meaning of life and destiny!  Speak to us, blind force."  And they involve themselves and clothe themselves with a faith and a credulity that puts me to shame and my fellow religionists to shame.  They have such an infinite faith and credulity in their matter and their blind forces as to overwhelm me.  They say that out of those blind forces and out of that inanimate matter has come intelligence, and morality, and all the things that make a man a man.  It’s beyond my understanding.  You know, they cry and they say, "Darkness, darkness, night, night, turn to light for me!"  And all the while, all the while, the sun is shining in its meridian strength if they would just open their eyes to read and to see.

 It’s a marvel to me.  The form of sound words [2 Timothy 1:13], they come from God, it is a revelation of God; and outside of that revelation you will never know, you will never perceive, you will never understand, you will grope all the days of your lives.  If you turn aside from the revelation of God, you will never find any meaning in life, you will never find origin or destiny or purpose, never.  It’s only in the revelation of God that we find these answers that are so desperate for us [Acts 4:12].

In the time that remains, may I say just one other thing?  The form of sound words, this doctrinal paradigm, or summary, that emerges when we study all of the words of God, they are sufficient and they are adequate for all human needs.  God made it that way.  There are men in the world of the academic especially, who say, "What we need is a new arithmetic.  We need an enlarged geometry.  We need a greater trigonometry."  They say to us, "We need a new theology.  We have outgrown, and we have outworn the old theology of the Bible.  We need a new and enlightened faith."  That’s what they say.  Well, that would be fine if we had changed.  If back there men were thus and so, and the old theology was sufficient for them, but today we have a new creation, a new world, a new humanity, and we need a new theology for this advanced and enlightened and progressive generation.  The trouble with that is we haven’t changed.  We are the same fallen, depraved people today as they were back then.  A man can fly through the air in a jet, or he can ride in an old wagon behind a flop-eared, flea-bitten mule; but when both of them, the pilot from the sky and the critter riding behind that old mule, when they both land in the hospital, they look exactly alike, just exactly alike, they haven’t changed at all.  Nor do we change.  Nor do the great revelations of God that concern us change.  Sin is always sin, and judgment is always judgment, and death is always death, and damnation is always damnation, and it is always the same devil that is stirring us up, always the same.

Now, for us to seek to find remedies and answers in our enlightened progressiveness is to come to absolute despair, abysmal failure.  We could look forever to the learning of man, but that does not find an answer for our sinful depravity.  Satan never will cast out Satan.  As long as we depend upon the arm of man to save us and to deliver us, we shall find nothing but absolute and abysmal despair.  What we need is the old theology, and the old gospel, and the old Book, and the old preachments.  What we need is to lift up the brazen serpent and to call to those who are dying in the camp, "Look, my brother, look, and live" [Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14-15]. 

We need to preach the cross in which we find remission of our sins [Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 9:22]; and in His resurrection [Romans 1:4], a hope for the world that is to come [2 Corinthians 4:14].  Our midnight darkness will never be chased away except by the rising of the sun, and our hope will never, will never blossom to the saving of our souls and the blessing of our lives until, as Malachi said in that same chapter the boy read out of, "The Sun of Righteousness shall rise, with healing in His wings" [Malachi 4:2].

 We haven’t changed, we’re still lost.  God hasn’t changed; He is still an able and wonderful Savior.  And the announcement of God’s blessed way of invitation and salvation hasn’t changed; it is ours forever [Romans 10:9-10, 13; Ephesians 2:8-9].  What a comfort, and what a consolation.  There is strength and stability, an unchangedness in the mighty self-revelation of God.

And that’s our invitation to you this day.  Not that you place your trust in opinions or possibilities or speculative propositions, but that you come to give your heart and life to a great and eternal God, to a Savior for whom the whole world of history was preparing, and since whose coming all of us are looking to see Him again in the grace and mercy of our dear Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16].  Thus, while we wait, and while we pray, and while in a moment we sing our hymn of appeal, to take Jesus as your Savior, or to come into the fellowship of the church, to follow our blessed Lord in heart and home and life, out of the balcony, on this lower floor, down a stairway, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, here I am, and here I come."  Do it now.  Make the decision now in your heart, and in this moment when we stand to sing our song, down that aisle, that first step, God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.


Dr. W.
A. Criswell

2 Timothy



I.          "Sound"

A.  Hugiano
– "to be well, to be in health"

Substantive participial form means "healthful, ministering to our spiritual

has come to mean "orthodox"(1 Timothy 1:10)

Flaccidity of belief anathema to Paul


II.         "Words"

A.  Sound
because they are God’s words, Christ’s words, the Holy Spirit’s words (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Distinctly, expressly stated "the word of the Lord came to…"


III.        "The form"

A.  God’s
revelation takes on a paradigm, model, form, pattern

1.  Hupotupoo
– "to delineate, to outline"

2.  Hupotuposis
– "a pattern, model"

B.  Comparing
spiritual things with spiritual, a harmonious whole develops(1 Corinthians 2:13)

A five-pointed star

C.  That
form is always self-consistent, never contradictory(Psalm

Hell – if there was a hell centuries ago, there is a hell today

Depravity – if true then, true now

3.  Atonement
– if needed in Exodus 12:13, 23, then also in 1 John 1:7 (Leviticus 17:11)

4.  Election
– if true in Genesis 12:1, then true in Romans 9, 10, 11:5, 7, 28, and
Ephesians 1:3-5

D.  Its
revealed truth is universal

Two plus two equals four in Europe and America

New discoveries will not obviate what we already have found to be true

Seen in the two books God has written

Nature – unity of the universe

i.  Dr. Steven

This Book

E.  It
is God-breathed(2 Timothy 3:16)

1.  Contrast
this with attitude of those who regard the Bible as a manmade book, a
collection of antique literature written by an obscure and primitive people

If this is true, then modern enlightened man ought to be able to write a better

Why not write a better Bible?

i.  It might be that
the Book came from a source greater than man

The humanists, secularists, materialists like the prophets of Baal(1 Kings 18:24-29)

F.  It
is God’s final, all-sufficient, all-adequate answer for all human life

Liberals, higher critics contend the time has come for a new arithmetic

2.  Problems
we face are just the same – we are a lost, dying, undone people

We must appeal to God for help, deliverance, salvation(John 14:6, Isaiah 45:22)

1.  Look and live(Numbers 21:8-9, John