Last month I spent a few days in Brisbane helping my dad to downsize, and among the piles of papers and memorabilia from several lifetimes of collecting were the architectural plans for the house my grandparents built on what was, in the 1940s, vacant land at Warrawee.
They were detailed plans, not only for the rooms and facades, but also the placement of trees and shrubs, garden beds, and a tennis court. They moved from there in 1970, when I was two, and I have no clear memory of the place.
But those plans show precisely how the house was to be built, and where everything was intended to go. The same principle, says Paul, applies to Scripture. “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me,” he writes to Timothy (2 Tim 1:13). In verse 14 he calls it the “good deposit.”
The writers of the Gospels use this same word, “sound,” to describe the healing and wholeness experienced by those whom Jesus healed from sickness and disability.
Here, Paul claims that the words of Scripture, through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit, can make us all sound, or whole. The words themselves are “sound words” (v. 13), or “good” words (v. 14). The word of God is “sound teaching” (2 Tim 4:3). There is nothing else like it, calculated to expose the very worst of our spiritual sicknesses and moral disabilities, to heal us and make us whole.
Notice that Paul urges Timothy to “hold on to” this wonderful resource. There is a danger that Timothy will release his grasp on the words of life, or perhaps hold them with one hand and grasp something else entirely in his other hand.
“No!” says Paul. “Take hold of the sound words with both hands, and don’t let go.”
There is something else to observe here too. It’s not merely “sound words” but “the pattern of sound words.” The divine author, the Architect, has given us an outline, a blueprint, a key to building something that will last and prove to be a blessing – a life, a family, a vital church, a spiritual heritage.
Paul’s teaching is to be Timothy’s guide or map. If he discerns and faithfully follows the pattern of sound words, as Paul has done, all will be well. The churches will grow and flourish, and people everywhere will encounter the grace, mercy and peace of God.
Then, in verse 14, Paul urges Timothy to “guard” this apostolic teaching, a word used elsewhere in the New Testament to describe guarding a palace against intruders or protecting possessions against thieves (Lk 11:21; Ac 22:20).
The danger is real. “There were heretics abroad,” writes John Stott, “bent on corrupting the gospel and so robbing the church of the priceless treasure which had been entrusted to it.”
What has this to do with us? Well, each of us needs the healing and wholeness that comes only from God, through his word. We too need Jesus, the one who reveals God to us, and reconciles us to God, and rules through grace and truth. We too need to “hold on to” the pattern of sound words in the Bible, and guard it faithfully.
How do we ordinary people do this? Firstly, by reading the Bible, letting its truth sink into us, discovering how all the parts fit together to make one great story, inviting God to make his truth clear to us.
Secondly, help others to read and apply the Bible, through participation in your small group, through being an active member of your church, and through service to institutions such as Moore Theological College, which aims to provide excellent theological education for women and men who will go from this place, well prepared, to serve God and take his word to a multitude of places, cultures, and situations of human need.
Thirdly, be willing to suffer as you grasp and guard the words of life—following a noble path, the path of Paul, and the path of Jesus, who suffered in unique ways to bring us to God.
In case Timothy needs reminding, Paul has already provided a short and brilliant summary of the pattern of sound words, in 2 Tim 1:9-10.
Talk 778 copyright © 2022 Rod Benson. Preached at staff devotions, Moore Theological College, Australia, on 24 January 2022. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2020).
 John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy (Leicester: IVP, 1973), 44.
Image source: CK