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In 1 Timothy 1, after alluding to what “sound doctrine” is not, Paul moves on to expound what “sound doctrine” is. And in contrast to the fraudulent and counterfeit doctrine being proclaimed by these false teachers, “sound doctrine” is chiefly concerned with sinners. Paul knew this deeply because his life is a living testimony to the “sound doctrine” of God.
In Mark 1, we learn that Jesus was not opposed to benevolence in his earthly ministry; he healed countless lives, after all. However, I seriously doubt all those in crowd with “diverse diseases” were seeking him for his doctrine. And rather than merely being known as one who performed miracles, Jesus was desirous of being known through the fundamental elements of his ministry: death and resurrection.
In Psalm 119, David’s weakness is obvious to him. His time in the Word has made him honest about his life. Throughout the stanzas, but especially the fourth, he doesn’t cushion or embellish who he is — rather, he readily confesses his weakness. He readily admits that his soul is addicted to dust.
A few weeks ago, I commented on the stunning story of the recent “overcrowding epidemic” that afflicted the slopes of Mount Everest. The mass of people striving to reach the summit is putting the climbers’ lives at great risk. What was once considered such an achievement that upon completing the climb you would be knighted by the queen herself is now being attempted with such frequency there are too many people trying to reach its peak. And so it is that our penchant to do the impossible exposes our foolish errand of self-salvation.
Throughout Mark’s Gospel, the evangelist demonstrates a propensity to use the “immediately” or “straightway” to indicate his message’s urgency. Employing this term gives the entire account a sense of pace and the feel that the narrative is constantly churning forward. In chapter 1 alone, there are seven uses of “immediately” or a synonym for it. This is indicative of Mark’s entire Gospel, which has often been called the “Gospel of action.”
Psalm 119 is Kind David’s own testimony of learning the absolute sufficiency of God’s Word, moment by moment. I imagine David composing this magnum opus over the course of several years, recording new truths as they struck him. The entire psalm is an affirmation that there isn’t the briefest scrap of our lives that isn’t utterly held by God’s hands. Such is what we are lead to consider in the third stanza.
The theme of Paul’s first letter to Timothy is a resolute charge to hold fast to the truth of God in the midst of the swirling storms of falsehood. Paul’s commission is to stay firm in promoting and proclaiming the doctrine with which he entrusted the young pastor. Timothy was undoubtedly enduring severe ministerial trials as the burgeoning philosophies and theosophies of gnosticism were threatening the church. Such is why Paul aims to affirm the indefatigable truth of God’s gospel by contrasting what was being taught, the false versus the true.
From the outset of Mark’s Gospel, we are told Jesus’s true identity. He is the “beloved Son” of God. The entire Gospel, in fact, is bookended with affirmative declarations of his deity (Mark 1:1, 11; 15:37–39), as if the evangelist is saying, “This is who he is, and this is what he did, this is what he has done.” Such is what forms the basis and ground of all Christian hope. The fact of the gospel as a record of human history is what steadies and stabilizes our faith. It is the incontrovertible good news that the God’s own Son has come to bring everything to completion as the Divine Solution, as the True and Better One.
In Psalm 119, King David is praising his Lord and finding the Word to be his only recourse and refuge from life’s troubles. His varied terms for the Scriptures point us to their unceasing relevance. The entire psaltery, in fact, reveals how infinitely suitable God’s words are for us in every moment of life. In every season, God’s Word speaks to us. Such is what David is learning in the second stanza of the longest of psalm. He’s learning to make the Lord’s testimonies his life’s treasure.
In the Pastoral Epistles, the apostle Paul is passing the torch as the primary doctrinal voice for the church to a new generation of pastors and preachers in both Timothy and Titus. Paul anticipates the frailty of his life and senses the winds of change that are coming for the nascent churches with which he spent his life laboring for the sake of the gospel. A new phase of pastoral ministry is looming: a defense of the faith. That which was fresh and new and took the churches by storm in the first wave of apostolic preaching has given way to discontent and falsehood. Such is why Paul is adamant in his resolve to Timothy and Titus to keep the faith and hold fast to sound doctrine.
Mark’s Gospel is the simplest and shortest of the canonical Gospels by a fairly wide margin. John Mark seldom inserts editorial comments that might further explain the narrative and, to a large degree, foregoes the inclusion of Jesus’s discourses which are so common in the other Synoptics. This makes for a short, quick, hard-hitting Gospel of action. The evangelist seems to have recorded Jesus’s movements rather than his words, no doubt deliberately, as he strove to show Jesus as the unexpected Messiah who came to serve — as the unlikely King who came to die.
It is, indeed, a huge understatement to say that the life of King David was one that was full of trial and suffering and hardship. David’s own testimony in the Psalms, let alone the historical accounts of his life, bear this out in vivid fashion. The man after God’s own heart was also a man of war, of conflict, and of struggle. Such is why the Psalms are, perhaps, the most relatable book in all the Bible, seeing as its lines were written during some of life’s most intense griefs and struggles. They contain David’s (and others’) most heartfelt, honest cries for mercy in the midst of life’s severest trials.