The 5 Faithful Sayings
Apr 5, 2016 · Courtney Jacob
Five times in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes “Here is a trustworthy saying...”
Frankly, the first time I encountered the phrase I was a little confused. It brought me back to a freshman year speech class where the professor warned us against using the phrase “let me honest with you.” The professor warned that this particular phrase has potential to produce the opposite effect on an audience than is intended. As a speaker, I may be trying to indicate intimacy or that I’m bringing my audience into my inner circle, but it also leaves open the possible interpretation that the other things I’m saying may be less than honest.
So, what is Paul getting at with this phrase? Are these sayings more trustworthy, more faithful, more true than other things he says? Why the emphasis?
The 5 Faithful Sayings in Early Christianity
Do you remember growing up when teachers would teach pithy sayings or rhymes to help us remember a fact or concept?
- The rhyme In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, makes it easier to remember that historical date.
- The saying I before E except after C is supposed to help us remember the order of vowels while spelling...nevermind there are many exceptions to that rule!
These types of mnemonic devices aid in memorization. Paul’s repeated use of the phrase “trustworthy saying” in the pastoral epistles, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, fulfills a similar function. Scholars believe these epistles were written later than Paul’s other works and by the time they were written the Church had begun developing short, creed-like phrases to help people remember the gospel. Paul’s trustworthy sayings are the existing short, creed-like phrases with which his original audience was familiar. When Paul quotes them and says "this is a trustworthy saying," it’s like his stamp of approval affirming that these phrases accurately reflect the gospel.
Why the 5 Faithful Sayings of the Early Church are Worth Studying
Paul’s 5 Faithful Sayings are both faithful to the gospel message and worthy of our trust. They are also windows into the early church. Studying these sayings can help remind us of the foundations of our faith. Returning to these apostle-approved trustworthy sayings can return us to the core essentials of the gospel.
What are the 5 Faithful Sayings
We’ve summarized each of the five sayings in the titles of each Groundwork episode of our series The 5 Faithful Sayings:
- Christ Came to Save Sinners - 1 Timothy 1:12-17 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”
- A Noble Task - 1 Timothy 3:1-7 “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”
- The Value of Godliness - 1 Timothy 4:8-10 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”
- He Remains Faithful - 2 Timothy 2:11-13 “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
- Saved by Grace. Now What? - Titus 3:1-8 “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”
Faithful or Trustworthy?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that the title of our series is The 5 Faithful Sayings, but that the phrase Paul uses in the above scripture references is “this is a trustworthy saying” (emphasis added). Why did we choose “faithful” for our title if Paul says “trustworthy”?
The simple answer is tradition. The Greek word Paul uses in each of these cases is pistós, which can be translated as faithful, trustworthy, or believing.
Traditionally, Bible translators chose to use the word ‘faithful’ in early English translations like the King James Version (KJV). Based on this famous translation, these texts have come to be known as Paul’s 5 Faithful Sayings.
However, when Groundwork references scripture, we use the 2011 New International Version (NIV). In these 5 instances, modern translators decided ‘trustworthy’ was a more fitting translation of Paul’s use of pistós.
Ultimately, both faithful and trustworthy are accurate translations of pistós, which is why you’ll hear us use the words somewhat interchangeably in these episodes. And regardless of which word we use, a thoughtful study of the 5 Faithful Sayings and how they impact our understanding of the gospel message in as relevant today as it was to those in early church. So, join us as we discover more about The 5 Faithful Sayings.