7. The “Sayings of Faith” in the Pastoral Letters
Scattered throughout Paul’s letters to
Timothy and Titus is the refrain: “This is a faithful saying.” It
has been stated that the passages where this refrain occurs are citations from a
well-known collection of “Sayings of Faith” — in short, from
an early church Statement of Faith. (H.A. Whittaker, “Faithful
Sayings”, Bible Studies, pp. 316-321; A.H. Nicholls, Letters to
Timothy and Titus, pp. 49-51; Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles
(Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), p. 65). (The phrase is translated
“faithful saying” in the RV, “sure saying” in the RSV,
“trustworthy saying” in the NIV, and “words you can
trust” in the NEB. The key word is the Greek pistos.)
In addition, it is quite possible that other
“sayings of faith” are cited in the Pastorals without the standard
introductory phrase. (For example, some “faithful sayings” seem to
be followed by the set phrase: “I want you to stress these things.”)
A list of “sayings of faith”
passages, most of them definite but a few only quite probable, is given by H.A.
Whittaker in the article cited:
1 Timothy 1:15
2:11-15; 3:1a (together)
2 Timothy 1:9,10
What follows is an arrangement of these
“sayings of faith” into a comprehensive statement of essential
doctrines. (Again, the same basic order of doctrines is used as in the previous
1. The Bible:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly
furnished unto all good works”(2 Tim. 3:16,17).
This is the Bible’s most complete and
precise statement as to its own inspiration and reliability; its presence in
such a list of “faithful sayings” helps to confirm the validity of
2. One God:
“There is one God” (1 Tim.
“...Who desires all men to be saved and to
come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).
“We have our hope set on the living God,
who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim.
“The goodness and loving kindness of God
our Savior appeared” (Tit. 3:4).
There is but one God, a loving and merciful God,
who desires (if at all possible, consistent with His righteousness and holiness)
to save perishing man.
3. Jesus the Son of
“God was manifested
[phan-eroo] in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
“[God’s grace has been] manifested
[phan-eroo] through the appearing [epi-phan-eia] of
our Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:10).
“The grace of God has appeared
[epi-phan-eia] for the salvation of all men” (Tit.
There is a sameness about these three passages
that suggests a common origin. It is reasonable that the first should then be
explained and amplified by reference to the other two. Thus, it was not
God’s person but rather His purpose (grace!)
which was revealed in the flesh, for the salvation of all men who would believe
4. Jesus the man:
“The man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim.
“Women will be saved through childbearing
[literally, the birth of the child]” (1 Tim.
The purpose of God was manifested in the birth of
His Son, “the seed of the woman” (but not specifically of any man)
(Gen. 3:15; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23; John 1:12-14), and therefore a man like all
other men as to his essential nature.
5. The sacrifice of
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).
“[He] gave himself a ransom for all”
(1 Tim. 2:6).
“[He] gave himself for us to redeem us from
all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for
good deeds” (Tit. 2:14).
The man Jesus was tempted in all points like his
brethren, so that they might identify with him. The Jesus who was “Son of
God” was divinely enabled, through faith in his Father, to overcome
temptation and thus to conquer sin in the flesh (or the “devil”) on
behalf of all who believe in him. Finally he laid down his life — a
perfect, sinless life — as a sacrifice to redeem and purify
6. The resurrection of
“[Jesus, as the manifestation of
God’s grace in the flesh, was] vindicated by the Spirit” [in his
resurrection from the dead: Rom. 1:3,4], and “seen of angels” [in
his ascension] (1 Tim. 3:16).
“[Christ] abolished death and brought life
and immortality to light” (2 Tim. 1:10).
“Jesus Christ, risen from the dead”
(2 Tim. 2:8).
In his resurrection and glorification, Jesus
absolutely and completely conquered death on behalf of all men.
7. The mediatorship of
“[There is] one mediator between God and
men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
Having ascended to heaven, Jesus became the only
mediator between God and men. No other priests, intermediaries, or
“names” are needed!
8. The second coming of
“Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing
of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit.
The true hope of a believer is not heaven-going
at death, but immortality at the coming of Christ.
9. The resurrection and
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful
— for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Those who have not kept their faith will, of
necessity, be denied by Christ the Judge at his return: “Depart from me, I
never knew you.”
10. The promises to
“...So that we might become heirs in hope
of eternal life” (Tit. 3:7).
Admittedly, this is a rather vague reference to
the promises made to the fathers. Possibly the “blessed hope” (i.e.,
“hope of blessing” — cp. Gen. 12:1-3) of Titus 2:13 may be
seen as another allusion to the Abrahamic covenant.
11. The promises to
“[Jesus was] descended from David, as
preached in my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).
“If we endure, we shall also reign with
him” (2 Tim. 2:12).
The greater son of David will rule over Israel,
sitting upon his ancestor’s throne. Along with him will be the faithful
and glorified saints, who share with him the kingship!
12. Faith and baptism:
“[God] saved us, and called us with an holy
calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:9).
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which
thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim.
“If we have died with him, we shall also
live with him” (2 Tim. 2:11).
“The grace of God...[teaches] us that,
denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and
godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2:11,12).
“God saved us, not because of deeds done by
us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of
regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit... so that we might be justified by
his grace” (Tit. 3:6,7).
Included in the above statements are these
- Salvation not by works, but
by faith, through the mercy of
- Baptism as a
participation in Christ’s death (the crucifying of the flesh with its
- Baptism as the
means of rebirth, or regeneration (through new and godly
13. The one body:
There is nothing specific to be found on this
subject in the “faithful sayings”. However, it may be said in
summary that only those who believe the one gospel, and approach the one God
through the one mediator Jesus Christ, can be part of the one Body of His Divine
This approach to defining “essential
doctrines” is perhaps less conclusive than the previous two: Paul is
citing at random, throughout the three Pastoral Letters, “sayings of
faith”. He is not necessarily giving, even when all possible citations are
collected, a comprehensive list — but only quoting extracts to satisfy the
need of the moment. Yet it may be observed, from studying the preceding summary,
that the pastoral “sayings of faith” at least provide partial
corroboration of the results of our two earlier processes.