The Expository Files


Following The Pattern Of Sound Words

 2 Timothy 1:13-18


Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes.  May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. – 2 Tim. 1:13-18

Timothy cannot fulfill his ministry, cannot be pleasing to God, cannot be effective as a spiritual nourisher – if he doesn’t “follow the pattern of sound words.” The pattern was conveyed to Timothy through Paul. The complete verse is: “Follow the pattern of the sounds words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” The message Timothy is charged to deliver, must be the same message he received “from” Paul. God, through Paul, gave Timothy ONE MESSAGE, one doctrine (see 1 Tim. 1:3). It is what we have on the pages of the New Testament.

The idea of a pattern should not seem strange to any Bible reader. In God’s relationships with people, throughout the ages, He has always expected people to respect and comply with the patterns He has revealed. There was a pattern of behavior God gave to Adam and Eve; to Cain and Abel; Noah; Abraham; Moses; the Israelites.

In the New Testament, there is a pattern from God, one can embrace first, to become a Christian, and then to remain faithful. Timothy was to deliver this pattern. We are to comply with it (see also Phil. 4:9).

Further Paul said (v.14), “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” There isn’t any doubt – when the entire New Testament is read – that every Christian sustains on ongoing relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). As we live in Christ, all three dwell in our lives. Paul may be making reference to this here in 2 Tim. 1:14.

Or, he could be referring to the special inspiration of the Spirit God endowed on these men during the apostolic era. Based on that endowment, Timothy was enabled to know the truth. To this endowment, Timothy would supply his commitment to follow the pattern of sound words.

It was a time of great spiritual peril and apostasy, as men turned away from the pattern and from Paul, like Phygelus and Hermogenes (v.15). Yet, there were encouraging examples like the family of Onesiphorus (vss. 16-19).


Excerpt from Sewell Hall

All of this suggests that there was a definite body of teaching that was accepted in the very early days of the church. T. Croskery in Pulpit Commentary states it this way: “This injunction implies that the doctrines of the gospel had been already molded into a certain shape or system which was easily grasped by the popular mind.”


It is interesting to note that in the scriptures the word doctrine never appears in the plural when it refers to teaching of divine origin. There was one body of truth from the very beginning. It may have been revealed gradually, but it did not develop gradually. It “first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him” (Heb. 2:3). It is significant that the Lord did not allow those “who heard him” to report on what He had taught until they were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit was to bring to their remembrance the things that He had said (John 14:26) and to instruct them further in the things they could not absorb while He was with them (John 16:12–15).


At first, this truth was only available to the church in oral form. The early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). Brethren in various churches had the gift of prophecy which enabled them to speak God’s truth and to guard against error. There was also the gift of “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10) to make certain that the message was truly from God.


Very soon, however, the truth began to be written, and by the time Paul wrote to Timothy more than half the New Testament had been put into writing. The pattern of sound words that Timothy was to guard had been received both in spoken (2 Tim. 1:13) and written form (1 Tim. 3:14). All truth was revealed to the apostles within their lifetime (John 16:13), and since they died we must depend on scripture. But with this, the man of God is “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17).[1]


  By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 22.7; July 2015