Wholesome Words
1 Timothy 6:3-5
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ…

The opposite of wholesome in our common speech is that which tends to produce disease; but the opposite of the Greek word, of which this is a translation, is that which is already unsound or diseased. The thought of the apostle is, that there is nothing morbid or unhealthy about the words of Jesus. The words of the Lord are healthy, having nothing of the disproportion of monstrosity, or the colouring of disease about them; and therefore they are wholesome, so that all who believe and obey them become thereby stronger, nobler, and sounder in all the qualities of moral manhood. Now let us see how this statement of Paul may be verified and illustrated.

I. We may take first THE MATTER OF CREED, and we shall find, when we come to investigate, that in this department the words of the Lord Jesus were distinguished by two qualities which mark them as pre-eminently healthy. The first of these is their positive character. The Lord was no mere dealer in negations. Dr. Samuel Johnson complained of Priestley, as a philosopher, that he "unsettled everything and settled nothing"; but no one can read the four Gospels without feeling that in meeting Jesus he has come into contact with One who speaks in the most positive manner. On subjects regarding which the wisest minds of antiquity were completely uncertain, He has the fullest assurance. We may wade through volumes of metaphysics, from those of Aristotle to those of Kant, without getting any distinct notion of God, but "when we hear Jesus say, 'God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,' we feel that God is a personal reality; and though Christ does not define the nature of spirit, yet when He speaks of God as thinking, loving, willing — His Father and ours — we understand Him better than the philosophers, though He penetrates to the depth of a nature which they had vainly sought to define." He has settled our minds upon the subject, not by argument, but by awakening in us the God-consciousness which is one of the instincts of our being, and so bringing us to say, "It must be so, for I can rest in that." In like manner, when He enforces duty He evokes the conscience within us to a recognition of its responsibility. So, too, in reference to the future. He does not argue, He asserts with the speech of One who knows whereof He affirms, and forthwith the natural longing of the heart for immortality finds its craving satisfied, and settles in the certainty that "dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul." Akin to this positive characteristic of the Saviour's words concerning creed is the discouragement which they give to all indulgence in speculations about things which are merely curious, and have no bearing upon our character or conduct. Thus, when one of His disciples asked, "Are there few that be saved?" He declined to answer the question, and fixed the attention of His hearers on the vital and urgent matter of individual duty, saying, "Strive ye to enter in at the strait gate," Everything that is profitless and without bearing on life and godliness He brands as unworthy of consideration or discussion, and all mere logomachies are unsparingly condemned by Him. Now in these two things you have the symptoms of mental and spiritual health. The man who accounts nothing certain never focuses his mind on any. thing; while he who runs after every sort of speculation, scatters his mind over everything. The one never gets ready to do anything; the other attempts so much that he really accomplishes nothing. Is it not, precisely, in these two respects that the unhealthiness of much of the thinking in our own age manifests itself?

II. But now, passing from the domain of creed TO THAT OF CHARACTER, WE ARE EQUALLY STRUCK WITH THE HEALTHINESS OF THE SAVIOUR'S WORDS in reference to that.

1. For in dealing with that subject He is careful to put supreme emphasis, not on that which is without, but on that which is within. He distinguishes between the head and the heart, and never confounds intellectual ability with moral greatness. Now the healthiness of all this is apparent at a glance, for it goes to the root of the matter, and only One who was Himself whole-hearted could thus have prescribed for diseased humanity.

2. Again, in reference to character, the healthiness of the Saviour's words appears in that He insists, not on asceticism in any one particular, but on full-rounded holiness. He does not require the eradication of any one principle of our nature, but rather the consecration of them all.

3. But looking now, to the department of conduct, we have in that another equally striking exemplification of the healthiness of the words of the Lord Jesus. He was very far from giving any countenance to the idea that religion is a thing only of sentiment. He insisted, indeed, as we have seen, on the importance of faith in the great central doctrines; and He was equally emphatic in declaring the innerness of holiness. But He dwelt on both of these only that He might the more effectually reach that conduct which one has called "three-fourths of life."

4. But another illustration of the healthiness of Christ's words in regard to conduct may be seen in the absence of all minute and specific details. He lays down great principles, leaving it to the conscience of the individual to make the application of these to the incidents and occasions of life as they arise. The words of Christ are not like the directions on a finger-pest at a crossing, or the indicators of the cardinal points upon a spire, which are of service only in the places where they are set up; but rather like a pocket compass, which, rightly used and understood, will give a man his bearings anywhere. Nothing so educates a man into weakness and helplessness as to be told in every emergency precisely what he must do. That makes for him a moral "go-cart," outside of which he is not able to stand, and the consequence is that he can never be depended upon. If the teacher shows the pupil how to work each individual sum, he will never make him proficient in arithmetic. The man who is continually asking himself, as to his food, what he shall eat and what he shall drink and what he shall avoid, is either a dyspeptic or a valetudinarian. He is not healthy. And in like manner, he who in the domain of morals is continually inquiring of somebody, may I do this? may I go thither? or must I refrain from that? has never rightly comprehended the healthiness of Christ's words, and is far from having attained the strength which they are calculated to foster. Here is the great law, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;

WEB: If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn't consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness,

The Health of Religion
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