“Keep Holding the Pattern of Healthful Words”
WORDS can pierce like a sword, killing friendships and stirring up trouble. Or they can be as pleasant as a honeycomb, imparting health and bringing friends closer together. “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” And another Bible proverb says: “Pleasant sayings are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and a healing to the bones.”—Prov. 12:18; 16:24; Ps. 55:21.
It is a fact! Upbuilding, encouraging words truly contribute to one’s sense of healthful well-being. Particularly can words of sound spiritual counsel result in healing. If they cause a person to follow a wise, honorable course of life, spiritual and mental health is realized, not to speak of the improved physical health that often results from following godly principles.
In his letters to the young man Timothy, the Christian apostle Paul emphasized the importance of heeding healthful words. First, he wrote: “Keep on teaching these things and giving these exhortations. If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up with pride, not understanding anything.”—1 Tim. 6:2-4.
Notice that the apostle identifies “healthful words” as those words “of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Following the teachings of that One results in a person’s having a sound mind, a loving disposition, consideration for others, yes, all the qualities that will merit God’s approval and the eventual blessing of everlasting life in His righteous new order. How vitally important, then, to heed the further counsel of the apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy: “Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus”!—2 Tim. 1:13.
Yet, today, many fail to pay attention to this advice. Some who claim to be Christians, or who once were followers of Christ, have let go the pattern of healthful words. Their lives are mixed up and confused because of having been led astray by false, diseased words. Thus there is a need to “keep holding the pattern of healthful words.” Ulysses V. Glass, an instructor of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, selected this counsel as the theme of his remarks to a recent graduating class of missionaries.
“Paul speaks of healthful words,” Glass explained, “because he is warning Timothy about false apostles who speak diseased words. And these words which they speak will not bring health and life, but are going to lead them in the way of death.” To illustrate, Glass pointed to the gangrene-like words of Hymenaeus and Philetus, of whom Paul wrote: “These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already occurred; and they are subverting the faith of some.”—2 Tim. 2:16-18.
Evidently these men were teaching that the rising of baptized ones to a newness of life was their resurrection, that it had already occurred, and, therefore, there would be no future resurrection from the dead. Paul said that this teaching was subverting the faith of some. Why? It was because those Christians had apparently ignored the pattern of healthful words.
According to Clarke’s Commentary this Greek word for pattern “signifies the sketch, plan, or outline of a building, picture, . . . and here refers to the plan of salvation which the apostle had taught Timothy.” So, if words or ideas are separated from the true pattern, they begin to lose some of their significance. Then it might be possible for men like Hymenaeus and Philetus to come along and present words in a different pattern, which sound reasonable, but which do not fit the overall picture that Paul painted. And if Christians forget the true pattern, they may be led astray.
As an illustration, think for a minute of Solomon’s temple. The pattern for that temple was divinely inspired. Jehovah God gave it to David, and David had to transmit it accurately to Solomon. Then the men Solomon used to do the building needed to have the pattern in mind. They had to have it so clear that when all the stones were fashioned and transported to atop Mount Moriah, each one would fit in place. Thus, it was not enough merely to have the measurements of all the individual stones in mind; these men had to have the overall pattern perfectly in mind as well.—1 Chron. 28:1-21.
So it is with the study of the Scriptures. We have to have the pattern of healthful words clearly in mind. This pattern Timothy received from Paul, a representative of the Christian congregation. The Ethiopian eunuch in power under Queen Candace was familiar with the Scriptures. Yet he did not comprehend the pattern until he was taught by Philip, another representative of the Christian organization. (Acts 8:26-38) Today we, too, need similar guidance and instruction to obtain this pattern of healthful words. But, at the same time, we must carefully analyze individual scriptures so that they fit properly into this pattern.
Once we have the pattern of healthful words, it is vital that we hold onto it. Otherwise, like with some of those Christians in the first century, our faith may be subverted. Men like Hymenaeus and Philetus may come along and present ideas in a different pattern. Their ideas may sound reasonable, but do not really fit into the overall picture. Therefore, unless we have the true pattern well in mind, we may be led astray.
How vital, then, to study carefully the healthful words spoken by Jesus Christ! Get the pattern of his teachings clearly in mind, and hold tightly to it! Never forget God’s counsel: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”—Prov. 4:20-22.