Hold Fast to the Truth
Based on a sermon by Aun-Quek Chin—Singapore
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in
faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed
to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim 1:13–14)
When Paul wrote 2 Timothy, he knew
that this would be his final letter. In his parting words to the leaders and
the believers of the church, he urged them to hold fast the pattern of sound
words. He himself was more than qualified to give this exhortation: for the
sake of upholding the truth, Paul surrendered the status he once had in the
Jewish community and the privileges it conferred; he lost his friends among the
Pharisees; and eventually, he even lost his life. Yet Paul never regretted the
course he took and was able to boldly proclaim at the end, “I have fought the
good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is
laid up for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Tim 4:7–8).
What about us? Can we hold fast to
the truth that we have received? Can we finish the race, fight the good fight,
and face our Lord, blameless like Paul?
PATTERN OF SOUND WORDS
Today, every Christian claims
Jesus as their only Lord and Savior and upholds the commandment to love one
another, which are certainly important aspects of the truth. But how many hold
fast to the Lord’s commandment to be baptized, have our feet washed, and
partake in the Holy Communion? Not that many.
In the early church, the apostles—Peter,
Paul, and John—preached the same truth of salvation, a common set of beliefs
that all the churches adhered to. However, before long, others began preaching a
different gospel. This was why Paul wrote to encourage Timothy, as well as the
other believers, to hold fast the pattern of sound words that they had heard.
To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy and peace from
God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. (Tit 1:4)
Paul says that Titus was a true
son born of the gospel and emphasizes that he came to believe because of their “common
faith.” The latter would have gone beyond just believing that Jesus was their Savior
and keeping His command to love others. We know this to be the case because we see
Paul asking the believers in his days, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when
you believed?” (Acts 19:2), and “Into what [baptism] then were you baptized?”
(Acts 19:3). We also see that he instructed the church in Corinth to partake
the Holy Communion in a worthy manner (1 Cor 11:27–29). All these matters were
core elements of the common faith preached and meticulously perpetuated by the
THE UNCHANGING AND COMPLETE TRUTH
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Mt 28:19–20)
From Jesus’ words, we understand
that Christians of all generations have to obey Jesus’ teachings. He further
teaches that not all those who call Him, “Lord! Lord!” will be saved, but only
those who do the will of the heavenly Father and keep the Lord’s command (Mt
The phrase “to the end of the age”
tells us that the truth cannot be changed. Nothing can be added or taken away to
fit a new era or to please a new generation. Christians should continuously
adhere to the teachings that the apostles had received from Jesus. Hence, Jude
reminds us “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered
to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
today, many Christians do not completely obey the Lord Jesus and His commands relating
to baptism, Holy Communion, footwashing, and receiving the Holy Spirit because
they consider these as “mere” doctrines. To them, it is the gospel, not the
doctrines, that saves.
However, we must understand that
the apostles preached what the Lord Jesus had commanded. The Lord commanded
them to conduct baptism (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15–16), Holy Communion (Lk 22:14–20), footwashing (Jn 13:1–17), and to pray for the
promised Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–5). He set an example for them in keeping the
Sabbath holy (cf. Lk 4:16; 6:6,9,5).
Hence, the gospel of the cross includes all the teachings and doctrines that
Jesus commanded through word and deed. We cannot separate the gospel from the
doctrines, for they are one. So we need to ask ourselves: do we believe in the
complete gospel and preach it?
Today, the five doctrines preached
by the True Jesus Church are the commandments of Jesus. These were the words
that the apostles had been preaching and keeping, and we should do likewise to the
end of the age.
HOLD FAST TO THE TRUTH WITH FAITH
(a) Follow the Word of God and Not of Men
How do we maintain this pattern of
sound words? Paul encourages us to have faith in Christ Jesus. This means that
we have to establish Jesus Christ as our foundation and obey His words. The
challenge is, if the words we hear from people around us are different from
what Jesus taught, who do we choose to accept?
The Lord says, “He who believes
and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16).
But people may say, “Belief is the most important thing, because it is your
faith which saves; whether you are baptized or not is irrelevant.”
The Lord says, “If I do not wash
you, you have no part with Me” (Jn 13:8).
People may say, “The Lord did not wash the apostles’ feet so that they will
have a part in Him. Rather, it was to teach them to wash their feet so that
they will be humble and will forgive one another.”
The Lord says, “You have to pray
for the promised Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:4–5). When you receive the Holy
Spirit, you will speak in tongues (cf. Acts 2:1–4). And speaking in tongues is
the evidence that you have received the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:14–21). The
Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance in heaven (cf. Eph 1:13–14).”
People may say, “When we believed and at the point of baptism, we have already
received the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is just grace upon grace. If you can
speak in tongues, it is good, but it is not necessary to enter heaven.”
When faced with such counter-arguments,
will you have faith in Christ Jesus?
O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane
and idle babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by
professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen.
(1 Tim 6:20–21)
In the concluding verses of his
letter to Timothy, Paul reminded Timothy to guard what was committed to his
safekeeping, as some people were already straying from the truth. Today, when
the church faces such a situation, can we too be good custodians of the truth?
(b) Pass on a Pure Faith
Upholding the pure truth is so
very important because failure to do so means that we can no longer pass on a
pure faith to the next generation. If we cannot even hold fast to the truth, then
what we pass on will no longer be a pure faith. Such faith can save neither us
nor the generations after us. This is how devastating a heretical faith can be.
(c) Commit the Pattern of Sound Words to Faithful Men
And 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 Tim 2:2)
Just as Paul instructed Timothy to
commit the truth to faithful men who can teach others, so the church today
needs to do likewise to ensure that the believers are not led astray by errant
For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers,
especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who
subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of
dishonest gain. (Tit 1:10–11)
Paul was not referring to matters
outside the church. There were people in the church who taught “things which
they ought not,” subverting whole households. If this happens within the church
today, ministers have to deal with such matter.
(d) Stewards Must Defend the Truth
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed,
not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but
hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled,
holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by
sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
It is important for a steward of
God to have good conduct. But more crucially, he must be able to “hold fast the
faithful word as he has been taught” (Tit 1:9) and to teach it to others. And should
the truth be challenged, he must step forward to defend it.
How should ministers of the church handle such situations?
… that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort … (Tit 1:9)
When someone has been deceived by
deviant teachings, ministers should use sound doctrine to admonish him so that he
can come to differentiate truth from falsehood. Ministers must also “convict
those who contradict” (Tit 1:9b), telling them clearly that their teachings are
Ministers ought not shy away from
such duties and keep silent, lest the congregation think that the deviant
teachings are acceptable. Those who contradict are not subject to the truth.
They think that the truth is wrong, hence the need to convict them. Their
errors must be corrected.
In addition, Paul encourages
ministers to execute their authority as God’s stewards. If believers are no
longer willing to subject themselves to what is right in the house of God and
spread deviant teachings, ministers have to use their authority to stop them.
This may lead to unpleasant
backlashes, but as God’s faithful stewards, they need to stop wrong teachings.
Therefore, Paul stresses that the Lord’s servants must faithfully fulfill their
duty. They must exhort those who are deceived, convict those who contradict,
and put a stop to the actions of those who are insubordinate.
If anyone continues to teach heresies
that destroy the faith of the church, then ministers ought to put a stop to his
mouth (Tit 1:11) and not allow him to continue to preach. In Titus 1:13, Paul
even says, “Therefore rebuke them sharply.” Such harsh action is necessary
given the far reaching impact, which adversely affects the salvation of several
Thus, members need to understand
the role and responsibility of God’s stewards and why they have to exhort,
convict, and silence those who spread heresies. Their duty is to shepherd the
flock of God and protect their faith; if they shirk this responsibility, how would
they give an account to the Lord? When we understand these facts, we will not
assume that ministers are abusing their power. Instead, we will work in one
accord with them to overcome deviant teachings and to stand fast in the truth.
HOLD FAST TO THE TRUTH WITH LOVE IN CHRIST
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My
word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home
with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which
you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.” (Jn 14:23–24)
We may claim that our love for
Christ has never changed, but is our attitude towards the word of God the same
as before (1 Jn 2:24–26)? Apostle John said that if we hold fast to what we
have heard at the beginning, we are in Christ, because our love towards Christ
has not changed. Conversely, if we listen to the words of man and are drawn
away by wrong teachings, we are no longer faithful to the Lord or to His words
that we had received at the beginning.
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the
Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He
purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage
wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among
yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the
disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three
years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.
In this farewell address to the
Ephesian elders, Paul warned against men who would rise up from within the
church to destroy the faith of the believers. Today, we must constantly watch
and pray, and ask God for discernment. We must hold fast the pattern of sound
words to safeguard not only our own salvation but also the salvation of future generations.