ASK Commentary
July 28, 2003 

Paul’s Faithful Sayings

Commentary for July 28, 2003 — What Did He Mean?

All of the epistles or letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, and even the epistle of Philemon, have to do with service and responsibility toward other people, but particularly to other believers. Within these epistles Paul highlighted some points for particular attention.

In the letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus the apostle Paul used the phrase, “faithful saying” to highlight information that was to follow. The words making up the phrase are plentiful in the New Testament, “faithful” is the adjectival form of the Greek word for faith piston, which means believing or faithful in English. The word “saying” is the common Greek word for “word,” logos. The expression “faithful saying” marked to the readers (Timothy, Titus and the larger audience of the ekklesia) that they are to pay attention to what was to come next. If they were important for Paul to mark them for attention, they are important for us to examine them.

Timothy

In the first instance Paul is discussing the purpose of Christ’s coming and how it related individually to Paul and hence to each of his readers,

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting [eonian, for the age].”

1 Timothy 1:15–16

Later in 1 Timothy, Paul begins a longer discussion about rulership in the ekklesia or church. He makes a specific declarative statement. One wonders if Paul’s readers had previously questioned the value of being a supervisor in a church. What was the benefit? Remember that all the ekklesias were house churches and not corporate entities like today. They were not even like synagogues because they appear to be even more loosely organized and particularly freer in the responsibilities and restrictions of women in the ekklesias than in the synagogues.

“This is a true [pistis, faithful] saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop [a supervisor], he desires a good work.”

1 Timothy 3:1

Paul then goes on in Timothy 3:2–7 to explain precisely what the qualifications of a supervisor in the ekklesia should be. Basically the man should be sober, honest, able to teach, have experience in the ekklesia and have a good reputation in the community. But the important thing is that it is such a good thing to desire the position of supervisor in an ekklesia to the extent that Paul states it as a “faithful saying.”

In the next instance Paul repeats not only the phrase “faithful saying” but also the phrase “worthy of all acceptation,” that he used earlier in 1 Timothy 1:15. In this verse Paul reiterates the salvation of all men stated in 1 Timothy 2:4–6.

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach.”

1 Timothy 4:9–11

In 2 Timothy Paul discusses how we are identified with Christ even in our suffering. Paul had just discussed in 2 Timothy 2:9–10 his own suffering on behalf of those chosen of God. Paul writes (set out in poetic form),

“It is a faithful saying: for
If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: If we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself.”

2 Timothy 2:11–13

[In 2 Timothy, his last epistle before his death, Paul encouraged Timothy to have a pattern of sound words in faith and love contained in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13–14) that Paul previously gave directly to Timothy. This was particularly significant because we know from 2 Timothy that the churches in Asia deserted Paul’s teaching (likely due to the teaching of The Mystery, see Dr. Martin’s Restoring the Original Bible). Paul indicates in 2 Timothy 1:15, that everyone in the province of Asia (composed of most of modern Turkey today) had left Paul. This meant that the ekklesias in Asia deserted Paul and his teachings; including the ekklesias of Colossae, Ephesus and Laodicea. The few people still faithful to Paul were mentioned at the end of 2 Timothy.]

Titus

As in 1 Timothy 3:1, Paul explains to Titus the qualifications of a supervisor of the ekklesia. Titus was written before 2 Timothy, after Paul had visited Crete (Titus 1:5). It is important that such an ekklesia supervisor maintain the “faithful saying” delivered while Paul was there. The “faithful saying” must be such a part of the supervisor that he should be able to teach others sound doctrine.

“For a bishop [a supervisor] must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word [logos, saying] as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”

Titus 1:7–9

In the last instance of Paul’s usage of “faithful saying” he adds the admonition to Titus to “affirm constantly” the things that Paul writes to him about the need for good works, and things for people to avoid.

“This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic [a sectarian] after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself.”

Titus 3:8–11

Conclusion

What is the sum total of these “faithful sayings” that Paul puts forth? They should be read and understood individually and collectively. They were apparently the basics, the fundamentals of Paul’s mature teaching given to impart his final knowledge about personal relationships to the ekklesias just before his death. In that sense the apostle Paul was a “fundamentalist” in that he had core beliefs and “sayings” that he considered very important. We should do the same. We should know our core beliefs and scriptures so well that we can recite them without reference to Scripture.

David Sielaff
david@askelm.com

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