“Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13)
When Paul wrote to his two young disciples, Timothy and Titus, he stressed, again and again, the vital importance of maintaining sound doctrine in their churches.
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome [same word as ‘sound’] words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3; see also 1:10). “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). “That he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Titus 1:9). “But you speak the things which are sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1; also 2:8).
If the great apostle was so concerned that his pastoral disciples guard the doctrinal integrity of their first-century churches, he would surely be even more exercised today. These are times when false doctrines are rampant, and when sound (that is “healthy” or “whole”) doctrines are often the object of compromise and distortion, or (even more commonly) simply ignored, even in evangelical churches.
Paul’s command was to “hold fast the form” of sound words. Not only the so-called “spirit” of the words in Scripture but the words themselves.
Such strict guarding of doctrine is vital for the spiritual health of the churches. Furthermore, such doctrinal integrity does not lead to cold orthodoxy, as some would allege, but is centered in the “faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” It is “the doctrine which is according to godliness.” It is doctrine that is not only sound in the faith but also “in charity, in patience” (Titus 2:2).
After all, it is the doctrine of Christ Himself, who is not only “the truth,” but also “the way” and “the life” (John 14:6).
Martin Luther’s prayer at the Diet of Worms
Almighty, eternal God! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in You!
O the weakness of the flesh and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength from this world, all is lost. O my God! Help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beg You.
The work is not mine, but Yours. I have no business here. I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Yours, my Lord; and it is righteous and everlasting! Stand by me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It would be vain!
You have chosen me for this work. I know it! Therefore, O God, accomplish Your own will! Stand by me in the name of Jesus Christ, who will be my shelter and my shield, yes, my mighty fortress, through the might and strengthening of the Holy Spirit.
I am ready, even to lay down my life for this cause, patient as a little lamb. For the cause is holy. It is Your own. Though this world be filled with devils, and though my body, originally the work and creation of Your hands, go to destruction in this cause — yes, though it be shattered into pieces — Your Word and Your Spirit they are good to me still! It concerns only the body. The soul is Yours. It belongs to You and will also remain with You forever. God help me.