As we consider things that have been said by a variety of people over the centuries and recorded for our consideration, among those are the “sayings” by those who have believed in God, His Son, Jesus, the Holy Spirit He gave us, and of course “sayings” by each of these persons of the Trinity. As an example; while teaching on the subjects of divorce and celibacy, Jesus said this to the disciples and others in his presence: “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matt. 19:11 NKJV)
There is something basic we see from this account. Sayings, no matter the source, are either accepted or they are not. Non-acceptance of sayings on any subject can be for reasons of indifference, ignorance, misunderstanding, or in some cases, outright rejection. In this case, it was the saying of Jesus. God forbid that we would not accept His sayings. The truth is, some sayings of Jesus are hard to accept. In fact, at one point when Jesus was speaking about His own body and blood were to be considered real food and real drink (John 6:55), the disciples of Jesus upon hearing it exclaimed, “This is a hard saying, who can understand it?” (John 6:60 NKJV) or said another way “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (NIV) Those of us who now have accepted His gift of salvation understand that we celebrate a new and living way, and Christ’s body and blood served as the perfect sacrifice under the new covenant.
Have you ever wondered what might qualify a saying to be considered a trustworthy saying, or as is stated in some Bible versions, a faithful one? More than that, for the Bible itself to include “trustworthy sayings” as acknowledged directly within the scriptures passages themselves, what might we expect to find? After all, is not all of scripture trustworthy? What might be so extraordinary or crucially important, if anything, to specifically acknowledge as a trustworthy saying in the Bible?
As peculiar as it may seem, not once did Jesus ever say, “This is a trustworthy (faithful) saying” to those He taught. At the very least, it is not recorded for us if indeed He ever did say it that way. However, there are numerous times in which He said “Verily, Verily I say unto you…” (KJV) which might be better stated, “Most assuredly I say unto you” (NKJV) or “Truly, truly” (NIV). Perhaps this is just as potent as if He had said, “this is a trustworthy saying”? In either case, we somehow get the sense that in these particular moments, we are admonished to pay close attention or to give special heed to what is said.
Even though Jesus is not recorded as saying this, we do find however that Paul the Apostle included it in just three of his letters to two different individuals.; Timothy & Titus. Not only so, but as far as we have record, although Paul may have said this in person to other individuals or groups, he only recorded it five times in all of his letters that we find in scripture. Not once did he announce that he was sharing a trustworthy saying with the churches that he wrote to, such as Ephesus or Rome. However, I do not hesitate to say that most of what he wrote would qualify today as faithful sayings!
He did, however, make this announcement to Timothy and Titus, two pastors whom Paul had appointed over churches started early in his missionary journey. Perhaps it would help if we were to review these “trustworthy sayings” (NIV; faithful sayings in the NKJV) together, and to see what benefit this would produce. Here are each of the scripture references where Paul introduces these faithful sayings:
I Timothy 1:15; I Timothy 3:1; I Timothy 4:9; II Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8
Two of these times announcing trustworthy sayings, Paul adds this caveat: This is deserving (or worthy) of full (all) acceptance! This can be taken one of two ways, both of which are valid - perhaps intended:
- This trustworthy saying is worthy of full acceptance by the individual receiving it.
- This trustworthy saying is worthy of acceptance by all of the people receiving it.
Because Paul is writing letters to individuals when he uses these terms, we might conclude that he means it in just the first way mentioned. It is possible that Paul knows Timothy and Titus well enough to know their respective areas of doubt or timidity, or areas where he believes that they need special emphasis. It could also mean that he wants them to bring special emphasis about these things to others that they teach. In that regard, to both Timothy and Titus (respectively) he emphatically says to “command and teach these things” (I Timothy 4:11) and “I want you to stress these things” (Titus 3:8).
Therefore, whether pastor or parishioner, we are cautioned to fully accept these trustworthy sayings. They are deserving of any or all of our full embrace, of our careful contemplation, or of our whole-hearted commitment. Although perhaps we find it natural to discover and embrace favorite verses of scripture, books of the Bible, Proverbial quotes, or some other segment of the whole counsel of God, I am reminded by these examples that we need the Holy Spirit to continually reveal to us what, at any given moment, might be the trustworthy saying that is deserving of our full acceptance at that moment?
I have certain life verses, passages of scripture I find myself coming back to time and time again. I have certain passages that somehow the Holy Spirit has given as personal promises, whether they relate to my prodigal sons or some other subject matter. I have favorite psalms and proverbs also. However, I have been a believer long enough now to recognize that sometimes the trustworthy saying that is NOW worthy of MY (OUR) full acceptance can be in addition to what already is trustworthy. This is God’s sole prerogative. He knows that, in reality, the sayings are His and that they ALL are worthy of my (our) full acceptance. He knows which ones I (we) wrestle with, or doubt and question at any given time.
For some of you, today the trustworthy sayings are simply the ones we eluded to – Paul’s original words to Timothy, Titus, or both. For some of you, today the trustworthy saying, deserving of your full acceptance (rather than a partial) is one you are already familiar with, but have wrestled with or are troubled about. It has not become a faithful saying to you because your faith, for whatever reason, has not yet tested it. These sayings are trustworthy and faithful because God is! These sayings and the truth behind them have stood the test of time and trust, ridicule and rejection, experience and eternity. Perhaps the trustworthy saying that is worthy of your acceptance today is one that has not been easy to accept. Others may have accepted it, but for whatever reason, you have not. It has been a trustworthy saying all along, but today it deserves your acceptance, and now you will find it worthy.