Holding Fast

“Holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” —Titus 1:9

PAUL’S statement to Titus concerning “holding fast the faithful Word” is contained in his outline of qualifications for “bishops,” or more correctly to us, “elders.” However, holding fast the faithful Word is of vital concern to every consecrated child of God whether or not he may be considered a teacher in the church. Paul gives us a similar admonition in Hebrews 2:1, which reads, “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.”

Holding fast to the truth of God’s Word is one of the essentials of true Christian living. We know that the history of the church from Pentecost to the present time has been one of falling away from those precious truths of the Word by which we are sanctified. The apostles warned of this. In presenting circumstances which would develop from his time to our Lord’s return, Paul wrote, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.”—II Thess. 2:3

Church history records the fact that this falling away from the faith once delivered to the saints did occur following the death of the apostles, and while at first it probably did not involve radical changes of viewpoint and of practice, it finally reached the point where the pure Gospel of the kingdom was completely set aside by the prominent denominational church leaders. Instead of waiting for the return of Christ to establish the long-promised messianic kingdom, the pope assumed the position of vicegerent of Christ, establishing his own kingdom, using for authority and power the military arm of the state.

Individual Tests

In Jesus’ Parable of the Sower we are again reminded of the importance of holding fast the faithful Word. In this parable the “seed” sown is “the Word of God.” (Luke 8:5,11) The sowing of this seed has been in progress throughout the age, although on a much greater scale at the beginning and at the end of the age. The parable represents the effect of the truth, not so much upon the church as a whole, but upon individuals; showing, that is, how individuals react to the Word when they hear it, and the difficulties they encounter as they endeavor to be faithful to its principles.

According to the parable, when the “seed” is sown some falls “by the wayside.” This portion of the seed is “trodden down, and the fowls of the air” devour it. Jesus’ explanation of this is that “those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the Devil, and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”—Luke 8:5,12

We can appreciate this and other aspects of this parable more fully by comparing them with our own observations and experiences. We know that when the truth is presented—whatever methods may be employed—the vast majority pay no attention to it at all. These are not mentioned in the parable, for even the seed that falls by the wayside enters to some extent into the hearts of these. They show some interest, and a degree of appreciation, but “the Devil … taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”

Just how the Devil accomplishes this is not indicated, but we know that he has many devices to snatch the Word from the hearts of those who, when they receive it, do not hold fast to it. He deceives—directly, or through false teachers. He also instills fear in the heart and thereby causes many of those who hear to decide that it would not be wise to accept and act upon the Gospel of the kingdom.

Shallow Ground

“And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.” Jesus explained, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (Luke 8:6,13) In Matthew’s account of the parable we have a more detailed explanation of the experiences of the stony-ground believers. We quote: “He that receiveth the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended.”—Matt. 13:20,21

That which Luke refers to as “temptation” that comes to the stony-ground believers, Matthew describes as tribulation and persecution which result from believing the Word. One has to have a considerable depth of heart soil in order not to be moved by these difficult experiences which result from his belief. The natural mind reasons that one who has accepted the truth, and is doing what he can to abide by it, should have some protection from tribulation and persecution. Actually, of course, the Bible gives no assurance that such will be the case.

On the contrary, the Bible explains that it will be only through much tribulation that anyone can hope to enter the rulership phase of the kingdom of Christ; that it is only those who suffer and die with him who will be worthy to live and reign with him. But the heart must be fully and enthusiastically in harmony with this condition of joint-heirship with the Master in order not to “wither” when the tests come. If there is not the proper depth of soil there is sure to be a falling away from the truth, and a loss of its sanctifying power in the life.

The Thorns

“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.” “And they which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Luke 8:7,14) “Cares and riches and pleasures of this life” are the contributing causes of those in this category who fail to hold fast the faithful Word.

In this world of imperfection no one can escape cares, but the consecrated believer and footstep follower of the Master will not unnecessarily entangle himself in the cares of this life. This is very easy to do if we allow the desire for riches and pleasures to influence our thinking and planning, instead of at all times endeavoring to know and do the will of our Father in heaven. Paul expressed it clearly when he wrote, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”—Rom. 12:2

It should not be difficult to detect the evidence of “thorns” in our consecrated lives. As we have noted, there will always be a measure of the cares “of this life.” Nor is the Lord displeased with his people when they enjoy a measure of pleasure. Certainly he does not want his people to go through life with long faces, suffering from a persecution complex. We know that a certain amount of security is pleasing to the Lord. While we are not to be overanxious concerning our food, clothing, and raiment, the Lord does expect us to provide things decent in the sight of all men. He does not want us to be beggars.

But if we find that through an undue desire for pleasure and riches we have become enmeshed in burdening cares which are interfering with our spiritual growth, we should take heed. Are we being kept away from the meetings? Have we cut down on needed time for Bible study? Are we unable to take advantage of opportunities of service which once we enjoyed? These could well be some of the evidences that riches and pleasure have taken too great a hold upon us, and that our spiritual life is being choked out—that we are not really holding fast the faithful Word.

The Good Ground

“And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.” “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:8,15) An important word here is “patience.” Perhaps this is the essential difference between the good-ground Christians and the believers in the other categories of the parable. The stony-ground believers did not have sufficient depth of soil to give them patience—they could not endure the heat of tribulation and persecution. Those who allowed the pleasures of this world to choke them could not patiently endure the privations brought about by presenting their bodies a living sacrifice.

But the good-ground believers had patience—they were able patiently to endure all the hardships of the consecrated life, whether tribulation, or persecution, or austerity. They were like Paul who wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:35-39

Need of Patience

Patient endurance is absolutely essential in order to continue holding fast to the faithful Word. Paul wrote, “Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:35,36) The “will” of God here referred to is evidently our original dedication to know and to do his will. But more than this is required. In the doing of his will there are severe tests and trials. It is only those who endure these experiences and faithfully maintain their spirit of consecration and loyalty to God and to his Word who will receive the crown of life.

In addition to our own individual experiences which require the exercise of patient endurance, patience is also required in our waiting for the outworking of the plan of God. This has been true of the Lord’s people in all ages. The question, “How long, O Lord, how long?” has risen from the hearts of the saints in times past even as now. Paul reminds us of this need of patience by his ensuing admonition: “For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”—Heb. 10:37

The Ancient Worthies looked for and longed for the coming of the Messiah. The church of the Gospel age—the “little while” mentioned by Paul—have likewise waited and longed for his coming, and this has required patience. And now that he has come, patience is still necessary as we wait for the fulfillment of all the kingdom promises associated with his presence. And this waiting places a test upon our faith as well as on our patience.

Again Paul wrote, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised.)” (Heb. 10:23) This test of patience is closely related to our holding fast the faithful Word. Paul wants us to realize that God’s Word of promise is sure, that the promises have been made by a God who is “faithful.” We should take this into consideration at all times. If the time seems long, or if elements of the divine plan seem to have been delayed, let us ever realize that the difficulty is ours, not the Lord’s. If what we expected did not occur, then the Lord did not promise that it would occur when we expected it, for “there hath not failed one word of all his good promises.”—I Kings 8:56


Jude wrote that we “should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (Jude 3) We should contend for the faith, or doctrines, of God’s Word, but we should not be contentious. Holding fast the faithful Word should be more than merely a passive effort to believe the truth as set forth in the Scriptures. We cannot hold the truth fast for ourselves, unless we are earnestly endeavoring to uphold it before others—the brethren particularly, but we need also to be witnessing the glorious truth of the divine plan to the world in general as we have and can make opportunities.

It is a mistake to suppose that we can cherish the truth for ourselves while doing nothing to present it to others. As we express the truth to others, it takes a firmer hold upon our own hearts and minds. Holding fast the faithful Word implies activity in the service of the Lord. If we are doing nothing to spread the truth we might well ask ourselves whether or not we are truly holding fast the faithful Word.

Not Static

The importance of Paul’s admonition not to “let these things slip” cannot be overestimated, but it can be misunderstood. It has been construed by some to mean that all our energies should be centered on simply holding fast, and that searching the Scriptures that we might grow in grace and knowledge would not be compatible with our holding fast. But this is an erroneous viewpoint. In this end of the age and the time of the Master’s second presence the Lord’s people have been given a clear understanding of the fundamental doctrines of the divine plan as they are set forth in the faithful Word. These doctrines can never properly be changed, but their luster and beauty increase as we prayerfully search the Scriptures.

There is so much said in the Scriptures concerning each of its precious divine-plan doctrines that a whole lifetime is insufficient for any one person to discover and analyze this voluminous testimony of God’s wisdom, justice, love, and power. The thought is expressed beautifully in one of the “Hymns of Dawn.” Concerning the Bible, the poet says:

“Tis a mine, aye, deeper, too,
Than can mortal ever go;
Search we may for many years,
Still some new, rich gem appears.”

It is the finding of these rich gems of truth related to and supporting and beautifying one or more doctrines of the divine plan that stirs us the more enthusiastically to hold fast the faithful Word. The Bible is a living Book. God’s precious promises which it contains are aglow with inspiration, and if we are living up to our privileges our study of the Word will be an experience which engenders hope and gives strength to endure patiently the trials and tests which might otherwise discourage us and cause us to “let these things slip.”

And when we refer to growth in the knowledge of the truth we do not mean indulgence in speculation. Knowledge of any aspect of the divine plan which is really worthwhile is knowledge that can be substantiated by the Scriptures, and it will always be harmonious with the fundamentals of the truth.

Satan has always endeavored to discount the importance of the fundamental doctrines of the divine plan, and he is continuing to do this. Let us realize that if we lose our enthusiasm for the fundamentals of the truth we are not holding fast the faithful Word, for it is God’s faithful words that reveal these precious truths by which we are sanctified. So let us continue to hold fast to the precious and scripturally established fundamentals of the truth, and may our enthusiasm for them increase as the days go by.

These truths—revealed so clearly in the faithful Word—serve as an armor of light; as food by which we grow as new creatures in Christ Jesus; as water by which we are refreshed; and as a glorious melody of praise, even the song of Moses and the Lamb, by which we are stimulated in zeal to continue laying down our lives in forwarding the great cause of God in which he has given us a part. Precious indeed is the truth which has been revealed to us through the faithful Word, and grand are the privileges which are ours in connection with it. Let us be faithful!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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