What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (NIV)
NIV says to keep the teachings. Some versions say to follow, some hold on or retain. What is the difference and why would one translation use one option of the Greek translation over another? While the Greek could be translated in all these ways, follow would not normally be my first choice in translation. However when we consider how many times Scripture commands us to be doers of the word and not just hearers (Matt 7:24, James 1:22-24, Rev 1:3), we understand that holding on requires us to be followers of the Word. Keep is a good choice as we normally understand what it means to keep the rule, to follow or obey them. The point of it all is that we can’t just know the teachings; we must let them change our hearts and behavior.
I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she is your life. (Prov 4:11-13 NKJV)
The life of a person who has been taught and holds on to good teaching reaps many benefits. The first is to be able to live righteously. We often talk about how deceitful our hearts are. Some of that stays with us even when we are born again. However, we can overcome that deceitfulness by holding on to instructions that teach us to live godly lives. When that happens we will not be side tracked by sinful habits (steps hindered) or even occasional sins (stumbles). We will be running the race of life the way God has intended us.
Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Cor 10:12 RSV)
We need to take hold and keep on hanging on to the sound teachings. It is dangerous to think that we know it all and that we have mastered all the instructions. Hanging on implies that it is so close that we don’t have lapses in judgment leading us to sin. The longer we go without sinning, the easier it is to become proud of our accomplishments and slip into sin again. The problem is that we are then depending on our own ability to stay righteous instead of God’s ability to keep us. Certainly, we need to do our part and that is holding on and that is where faith and love in Jesus is needed.
Where does sound teaching come from? What is it like? Obviously, the teaching that we have comes from the Bible. Paul’s letters to Timothy are loaded with warnings, instructions, and theology. Without a doubt, these all came from the Holy Spirit or we wouldn’t have them preserved for us today. However, Paul described them as a pattern.
NT:5296 hupotupoosis, hupotupooseoos, hee
a. an outline, sketch, brief and summary exposition
b. an example, pattern:
From this definition, we can understand several things about the doctrines that Paul taught. The first is that it isn’t comprehensive. It is an outline or summary. Now some would shout and say that the Bible is all we need as guide for life and I agree, but God doesn’t tell us how to live every minute. Just as a child must color between the lines, so we must live our lives between the lines of the outline God has provided for us. We get to choose the color which gives us a wide variety of ways to live and still be within God’s will. But we can’t go outside the lines without going contrary to His will.
A pattern is familiar to people who sew clothes. The fabric of our life must be cut according the pattern of the wholesome teaching found in the Bible. When we make up our own patterns or misuse the patterns given to us, we end up with an ill-fitting garment. When we mess with God’s pattern for life found in the Bible we end up with a life that is distorted and dysfunctional. We may think we are doing well but looking from the outside, from God’s perspective, He sees someone stumbling along life’s path because the pants don’t fit or the hem is too long. He sees illness and injury because there is improper covering when the weather is cold or the sun is too strong.
Faith and Love
It seems that each translation has a slightly different twist on what Paul was saying about faith and love. One implies that faith and love, the result of knowing Jesus, are needed for Timothy to follow the command. Another implies that faith and love in Jesus is another command in addition to following sound teaching. Another implies that Paul’s pattern of sound teaching is shaped by faith and love that Timothy or Paul has. A paraphrase says that the faith and love that Jesus offers is the most important sound teaching. It just might be all of these.
Paul taught Timothy by example as well as by word. That example was delivered with faith and love that can only come from Jesus. It is impossible to follow biblical teachings without faith in Jesus. If we don’t believe that Jesus is our Savior, God, and Lord, then we won’t believe the doctrines and will ignore them. If we don’t have His love, then the teaching will only be a bunch of rules that suck the life out of us instead of build the life of Christ in us.
Guard the Deposit
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 3 KJV)
These sound teachings, the deposit, which Paul referenced, include the way of salvation. As it happened with Jude and is happening today, evil people are subtly invading the church to change doctrines which distort and change how a person can be saved. Paul ran into perversions multiple times in his ministry. He had to battle those that claimed a person must be circumcised in order to be saved (Gal 2:1-3), those who required Jewish believers to follow the Mosaic Law to be saved (Gal 2:14-21) and avoid association with Gentiles. He made it plain that no one can be saved by his or her good works.
The doctrine of salvation by faith though grace and not of ourselves is one of the key doctrines that Satan tries to destroy more than any other. Yes, he tries to get us to believe incorrectly about God and everything else in the Bible, but not having salvation is his goal for all of them. When we believe we can save ourselves by following rules or other forms of work, then Satan has accomplished his purpose. We are also an easy target for this deception because of our pride. We want to believe we are worthy of being saved.
Jude points out that contending for the faith is something that we all need to do. This isn’t something new and it isn’t a recent concept in the Bible. It was part of the Mosaic Law to teach your children diligently (Deut 6:6). Asaph spoke of teaching the next generation the decrees of the Lord and not hide them (Ps 78:1-8). The purpose of reaching the next generation is to make sure that they put their trust in the Lord. The danger for each generation is to ignore the teaching and become stubborn and rebellious (Ps 78:8).
This is exactly what we’ve seen in the U.S., Europe, and many other areas where Christianity was once practiced more widely than it is today. Somehow, we haven’t guarded the Gospel by entrusting it to the next generation. The result is a population that calls themselves Christian but don’t know Jesus. The current generation has gone one step further and don’t even call themselves Christians. If we look at the pattern of Israel and Judah, we see that we are doing the same thing they did. As faith in Jesus disappears, it is replaced in a myriad of religions, cults, and the occult. Atheism is also a result when we make ourselves a god – the only one to whom we must answer.
Holy Spirit Help
We can look at the current situation and feel hopeless and defeated, or we can remember that it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can guard the deposit.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)
And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him. (1 John 2:27 NASB)
These are two fundamental verses that should be significant for all Christians. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them everything they needed and remind them of His words. Does this apply to us today? I believe it should. Scripture is clear that the Holy Spirit lives in us. Would He live in us and not do what Jesus said? Would He just be along for the ride? I think not. But you may argue that Jesus didn’t speak to us, but only to those alive at the time. Well, doesn’t Jesus speak to us through the written Word, the Bible? Doesn’t the Holy Spirit bring those words to remembrance when we need them?
If this isn’t convincing, then we simply need to read what John told us. He says that we don’t need anyone to teach us because the Holy Spirit will do that. However, I admit that John’s explanation causes me some concern. It is quite evident that some people just don’t understand the Bible even though they are born again Christians. They imagine they are teachers and expound on what they think the Holy Spirit or God has told them. They don’t verify it against the Bible. Timothy warned us against these in 1 Tim 1:7.
Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thess 5:19-22 KJV)
I think the key to the problem is in mistaking what John said and what we think he meant. We don’t need anyone to teach us if we are truly anointed by the Holy Spirit. However, if we are quenching the Holy Spirit and not testing or proving things, we are susceptible to listening to our own lusts and desire or Satan’s prompting to distort and mislead. If we are walking in the Spirit and doing as Paul commanded by even abstaining from the appearance of evil, we should not need to be taught by anyone else. We should be able to go to the Word of God and be taught by the Holy Spirit.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food. (Heb 5:12 ESV)
The author of Hebrews affirms that we should all be advancing to become teachers but some just don’t get it and need to be taught the basics again. Hebrews goes on to explain that the mature Christian is able to distinguish good from evil by constant use. They have immersed themselves in the Word and from it flows righteousness.
I don’t have the seminary credentials of pastors or doctorates. So here’s the question: am I teaching what I don’t know or have I been anointed by the Holy Spirit? If you can’t discern the answer, then you need to dig into the Word until you can. If you believe what I’ve been writing here and in other postings, then they should help you in your Christian walk. If you think I’ve been just blowing off a bunch of hot air or worse, leading you astray then you should avoid this blog or learn how to contend for the faith and guard the deposit yourself.
 Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2000, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. PC Study Bible Version 5.0F