“It’s bad! It tasted nasty, mother!” exclaimed a bright healthy boy, as he hastily threw away an unwholesome nut. The little man was interrogated regarding his action, but, although not able to explain much, his features looked painfully nauseated and he had done wisely. Indeed, it would be well if we all acted similarly in more important matters, by having done with what is unwholesome and unsound.
How commonly it is said today, “So-and-so is unsound as to the inspiration of the Bible,” “He is unsound as to the atonement,” “He denies the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and so on. The very fact that the children of God have the Holy Spirit within them, causes them to shrink from the reaching and teaching of such men, and to reject their God-dishonouring doctrines. Yet, after a while, through becoming familiar with them, there is the awful danger of losing the keen dislike which was once divinely imparted to the soul, and of being consequently robbed in regard to the Truth.
Again and again in the three short epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, the Spirit of God emphasizes the importance of that which is “sound”—“sound doctrine,” “sound words,” “sound speech,” “a sound mind” and “sound in the faith” are all spoken of, in view of believers being preserved from the unwholesome opposites, and of being kept in the healthfulness of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
We will concisely consider the verses referred to.
1. “Sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10; 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1). In the very first verse we see where unsoundness in regard to the faith begins, as we read, “contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious Gospel.” Corruption starts as to God’s Gospel. Then it is foretold, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” for (as it now abounds), “They heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.” But, in healthy contrast, it is good when one is able to hold fast the faithful word, and “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” speaking the things which become sound doctrine”. To promote the good is the way to keep clear of the evil.
2. “Sound words” (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13). “If any man teach otherwise and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing.” Such have forsaken the ground where true knowledge and humility are cherished. Therefore the apostle says to young Timothy, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” The apostles used words “which the Holy Ghost teacheth,” not “the words which man’s wisdom teacheth” (1 Cor. 2:13). This should be remembered today when we are faced by boasted advance, modern scholarship and the latest expressions, so that more tenaciously than ever we may hold fast to sound and wholesome words.
3. “Sound speech” (Titus 2:8). Then what a fine exhortation is found here for a servant of the Lord! What an antidote to the temptation which ensnares many, when truth is sacrificed for delusive language or vain eloquence. “In doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say against you.”
4. “A sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). Granted that the behaviour of a faithful servant of the Lord leaves the enemies of the faith without one evil thing in his practice to condemn, but rather that a feeling of shame consequently takes hold of the opponents, nevertheless he himself is not to be ashamed of the Truth, nor is he to fear, however much they may oppose; so it is written, “God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (or “wise discretion,” for so it should read). “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” From God’s side the servant is equipped; on his side boldness, love and wise discretion in regard to the Lord’s testimony are to mark him.
5. “Sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13; 2:2). “Rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith . . . sober, grave, temperate, sound in the faith, in love, in patience.” In view of subversive teachings and corrupt influences, Titus was to forcefully bring home the Truth to believers that they might be found SOUND IN THE FAITH. True believers at the present time need the good—the positive Truth of God! It is not sufficient, though necessary, to be done with the bad—the unsound. Certainly “refuse the evil,” but feed upon “that which is good.”
The epistle of Jude instructs those who are “beloved in God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ” to build themselves up in the Faith, keeping themselves in God’s love, praying in the Holy Ghost—to get on together in “the faith once delivered to the saints,”—to be earnest as to this; not as to latter-day copies or developments of it, but as to that which is “from the beginning.”
God is revealed in Christ, and we are redeemed to God in Christ through His blood. Christ is glorified on high, and we are blessed in Him. The faith centres in the Son of God, and the Spirit enables the children of God to “abide in Him” in faith, affection and intelligence, that our joy may be full, while true edification in love is promoted according to the Word of God.