Meditation for Sunday, May 13.

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me. 2 Tim. 1:13.

I think that Paul commands Timothy to hold fast the doctrine which he had learned, not only as to substance, but as to the very form of expression; for the word which Paul employs on this occasion, denotes a lively picture of objects, as if they were actually placed before the eyes. Paul knew how ready men are to depart or fall off from pure doctrine. For this reason he earnestly cautions Timothy not to turn aside from that form of teaching which he had received, and to regulate his manner of teaching by the rule which had been laid down; not that we ought to be very scrupulous about words, but because to misrepresent doctrine, even in the smallest degree, is exceedingly injurious.

Hence we see what kind of theology there is in Popery, which has degenerated so far from the pattern which Paul recommends, that it resembles the riddles of diviners or soothsayers rather than a doctrine taken from the word of God. What taste of Paul’s writings, I ask, is there in all the books of the schoolmen? This licentiousness in corrupting doctrine shews that there are great reasons why Paul invites Timothy to hold fast the original form.

In faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus I am aware that the preposition ἐν, agreeably to the idiom of the Hebrew language, ב is often taken for with; but here, I think, the meaning is different Paul has added this as a mark of sound doctrine, in order that we may know what it contains, and what is the summary of it, the whole of which, according to his custom, he includes under “faith and love.” He places both of them in Christ; as, indeed, the knowledge of Christ consists chiefly of these two parts.

Those who translate it, “with faith and love,” make the meaning to be, that Timothy should add to sound doctrine the affections of piety and love. I do acknowledge that no man can persevere faithfully in sound doctrine unless he is endued with true faith and unfeigned love. But the former exposition, in my opinion, is more appropriate, namely, that Paul employs these terms for describing more fully what is the nature of “sound words” and what is the subject of them. Now he says that the summary consists in “faith and love” of which the knowledge of Christ is the source and beginning.

by John Calvin

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