Also available as MP3: Holding Fast the Form of Sound Words – 2 Timothy 1:12-15
When you pour concrete, you set up wooden forms into which you pour the concrete to shape it as it dries. Baby believers have always needed to be formed into mature saints. He used to use the Law to do that (Rom.2:17-20), but now He uses the form of sound words we hear from Paul (IITi.1:13). We are under law but under grace (Rom.6:15) because we’ve obeyed the form of doctrine given to Paul (Rom.6:17).
Timothy had to be told to hold Paul’s sound words fast for there were still those who wanted to use the law to form believers (ITim.1:7), and Timothy would notice they weren’t as persecuted as he was (Gal.5:3 cf. 6:12). It would be tempting to join them in preaching the sound words of the law, so Paul tells him to hold his words fast.
Job held his integrity fast even when he lost his wealth and family (Job 2:3), and his health (Job 2:7 cf. 27:6). We must hold Paul’s sound words fast in the face of loss as well.
We are to hold his words “in faith and love” (IITim.1:13), i.e., in faithfulness (faithfulness to Christ) and in love for Christ. If you love the Lord, you’ll be faithful to Him (Ps.31:23). If you need incentive, Paul uses that exact phrase “with faith and love which is in Christ” when he tells how God saved him (ITim.1:12-14). The Lord loved him enough to faithfully save him (like He promised He’d save all who trust in Him), so in asking Timothy to hold his words fast “in faith and love,” He’s just asking us to give Him the same faith and love He gave us when He saved us.
We know that “that good thing” (IITim.1:14) is another name for the form of Paul’s sound words when we compare the only other time that phrase is used. Jeremiah used it to describe the entire kingdom program (Jer.33:14-16), so when Paul uses the phrase, it must be to define the entire program of grace—the form of sound words given to him.
Paul reminded Timothy that it was “committed” to him (1:14), and then told him to commit it to others (2:2). They did, and now it is our job to keep Paul’s sound words. It’s the least we can do since the Lord keeps the soul and spirit we “commit” to Him (IITim.1:12).
Keeping it “by the Holy Ghost” means keeping it by the Word (Ps.37:23 cf. 119:133). The only other time the Bible talks about doing something “by the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in us” is Romans 8:11. “If ye live after the flesh” (v.13) your Christian experience dies (cf.ITim.5:6) and you need to “awake” and “arise from the dead” (Eph.5:14). But it is something we must do (Rom.13:11,12 cf. ICor.15:34), not the Spirit. But when we do, we do it “by the Spirit” because we use the Book the Spirit wrote to do it.
“All in Asia” would include the Ephesian church (Acts 20:16), a church dear to Paul (Acts 20:37,38), even friends who may have saved his life (Acts 19:31). If the “some” who had “turned” from Paul to the law (ITim.1:5-7) were the beginning of the “all they which are in Asia” who “turned” away from him, then the turning away of IITimothy 1:15 must be more than a turning away from him personally, but from the message he preached.
When you turn from the truth you soon err from it (IITim.2:18), then you resist it (3:8), then finally shut your ears to it (4:3,4). The reason we have to hold Paul’s sound words fast is because the “some” in Paul’s first epistle to Timothy (1:6,19; 5:15; 6:10,21) became “all” (IITim.1:15) because people didn’t hold Paul’s words fast.
When Paul first preached in Asia he turned them all away from idols (Acts 19:26), but now they had turned from him.
Finally, if all in Asia departed from Paul before he was even dead, this answers the question we are often asked, why the early church didn’t teach what we teach. They had fallen into apostasy, and so what they believed and taught cannot be looked to in order to obtain a guide as to what should be taught. The only reason you should ever believe and teach anything is because it is found in the sound words given to Paul.