(Deacons) must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. (verse 9)
“Keep hold.” What an evocative phrase, conjuring up images of hands on rope, hanging on for dear life, or arms embracing a young child, keeping them safe from harm, or treasured possessions locked safely in a secure place. The word Paul uses is actually quite basic, simply meaning “to have, hold, possess,” but the images capture some of the implied intensity.
Paul is giving particular instruction for the role of deacons in the church of Ephesus, where Timothy was living and serving. They are to be those who “have, hold, possess” the truths of the faith. It’s specific instruction for deacons, yes, but I want to apply it generally to all of us who seek to be faithful in Christ Jesus.
“Keep hold of the deep truths.” Grab tight and don’t let go. Paul isn’t talking about some secret knowledge available only to an elite class of initiates. No, he’s talking about the deeply rooted foundational teachings of our faith – teachings regarding Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the message of salvation in Jesus, and the importance of faith, hope and love, and the work of sanctification, and the fruit of the Spirit, and the community of the church, and on and on.
“If you hold to my teaching,” Jesus himself said, “you are really my disciples” (John 8:31). The teachings of Christ, and all subsequent teaching of the apostles flowing from Jesus’ life and ministry, provide this treasure trove to which we now hold tight. Jesus actually uses a different word than does Paul, giving a distinctive angle on what it means to “hold.” He’s wanting us to do something more than simply shelve the concepts in our brain – when Jesus says “hold to,” the word literally means “abide,” to live in it like branch in vine (same word as in John 15:4), staying connected and drawing life and sustenance from it. Although Paul uses a different word, the principle is the same – we are to so lay hold of the truth of the scripture that it’s teaching lays hold of us. It’s meant to take up residence in our very thinking and character and behaviour.
Paul wants this to happen “with a clear conscience,” speaking to the fact that scriptural truth, truly embraced, gets into the whole of our life, shaping us to be like Jesus. It parallels what Jesus himself said, namely that in holding to his teaching we “will know the truth and the truth will set (us) free” (John 8:32). These truths, held on to, are active and transformative as they live within us.
So, “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith.” Treasure them. Abide in them. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. With eyes on Jesus, become more and more like him.
May the mind of Christ, my Saviour, Live in me from day to day, By His love and power controlling All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly In my heart from hour to hour, So that all may see I triumph Only through His power.
May the love of Jesus fill me, As the waters fill the sea: Him exalting, self abasing, This is victory
Reflect: What step can you take over the next week to more keenly “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith”?
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