By David Faust
A wise axiom says, “You cannot train a horse with shouts and expect it to obey a whisper.” In healthy families, parents speak truth to their children, but they do it in love. In healthy churches, leaders set the tone by communicating well. In healthy workplaces, employees understand their company’s mission and core values.
People are fed up with divisive creeds and silly slogans, but they are hungry for substantial nuggets of truth, lovingly delivered. In the pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) the Bible refers to these pithy statements as trustworthy or faithful sayings.
How They Help Us
Faithful sayings stick in our minds. First-century Christians didn’t own printed Bibles conveniently divided into numbered chapters and verses. Short, memorable truth-summaries helped them to recall the apostles’ teachings, and they do the same for us.
Faithful sayings overcome negative talk. There was a lot of unfaithful conversation going around when Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus. Negative talk can destroy a congregation, so Paul said to watch out for “myths and endless genealogies” that “promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work” (1 Timothy 1:4). Faithful sayings stand in sharp contrast to the “meaningless talk” (1:6), “old wives’ tales” (4:7), “nonsense” (5:13), “controversies and quarrels about words” (6:4), and “godless chatter” (6:20) that were spreading through the church. Paul insisted, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23).
Faithful sayings convey spiritual truth. Because they encapsulate “the pattern of sound teaching” (2 Timothy 1:13), the Bible’s faithful sayings can help church leaders “hold firmly to the trustworthy message” so they “can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).
Five Faithful Sayings
Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus contain five sections the apostle identifies as faithful or trustworthy sayings.
A saying about salvation. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).
A saying about leadership. “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task” (3:1).
A saying about hope. “Godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God . . .” (4:8-10).
A saying about perseverance. “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).
A saying about God’s grace. “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying” (Titus 3:4-8).
According to Jesus, we will be accountable on Judgment Day “for every empty word” we have spoken (Matthew 12:36). In our homes, workplaces, and churches, are we spreading negativity or sowing seeds of faithfulness?
1. What good advice or wise sayings often guide your decisions?
2. What faithful sayings are you passing along to the next generation?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for August 10, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Timothy 3:11–16
1 Timothy 4
1 Timothy 5:1–15
1 Timothy 5:16–25
1 Timothy 6:1–10
Nehemiah 1, 2
1 Timothy 6:11–21