George Booker
What Are The First Principles?

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



Titus 2:11-15


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 analyses.)

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 this approach.

2. One God:

“There is one God” (1 Tim. 2:5).

“...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. 4:10).

“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:

“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. 2:11).

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 in him.

4. Jesus the man:

“The man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

“Women will be saved through childbearing [literally, the birth of the child]” (1 Tim. 2:15).

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:

“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 sinners.

6. The resurrection of Christ:

“[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 Christ:

“[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 Christ:

“Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).

The true hope of a believer is not heaven-going at death, but immortality at the coming of Christ.

9. The resurrection and judgment:

“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 Abraham:

“...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 David:

“[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. 1:13).

“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 doctrines:

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 Family.


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.

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