“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16).
We ran an article in the May-June Grace in Focus magazine where Zane Hodges discussed 1 Tim 4:6-16. At the end of the article was a short paragraph in which Hodges said, “The word save in v 16 cannot refer to what is past for us (cf. Titus 3:5)…The thought here is that of Mark 8:34-38 and John 12:25-26. We save first ourselves, secondarily others” (p. 17).
The following email in my inbox caught my attention:
I received my Grace in Focus magazine today and have been more than pleased with the first three articles I read: Dressed for the Bema, Noah and Her Sisters, and a No-Guilt Look at Proverbs 31.
However, I need to bring it to your attention that the final paragraph of Teach the Truth by Zane C. Hodges, whether intentionally or not, misrepresents salvation by saying:
“The word ‘save’ in v 16 cannot refer to what is past for us (cf. Titus 3:5). The NT has much to say of the salvation of the soul (psuche) or life, which is achieved only by discipleship to the fullest extent.”
It should be made very clear that salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone. It is incorrect to describe the means of salvation as ANYTHING but believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If an unbeliever, having never heard the gospel, flipped to page 17 and the only thing he read in the whole magazine was that “[salvation of the soul] is achieved only by discipleship,” that unbeliever would not know salvation or the soteriological view of Grace in Focus.
Great point. We dropped the ball on this one.
I knew what Hodges meant. The problem is, as the reader points out, if an unbeliever read what he wrote, he would terribly confused. Even many believers could become confused.
When Hodges was speaking of the saving of the psyche, he was talking about gaining fullness of life by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Christ. That is what Matt 16:24-28 and Mark 8:34-38 discuss. When he says, “We save first ourselves, secondarily others,” he was talking about the gaining of fullness of life, not salvation from eternal condemnation.
Here is what I wrote in about 1 Tim 4:16 in our two-volume NT commentary:
4:16. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. To be a good example and a good teacher, Timothy must take heed to himself and to the doctrine, that is, the body of truth entrusted to him by the Apostle Paul.
Timothy was to continue in them. Why did Paul use the plural pronoun them when the word doctrine is singular? Surely Paul means for them to stand collectively for all the doctrines, plural. The church leader is not to advance beyond apostolic doctrine. He must continue in them. Otherwise, the flock and the leader himself will be hurt.
For in doing this [in continuing in sound doctrine] Timothy would save both himself and those who hear him. This verse is confusing for those who think that sōzō, the verb translated save, always, or even typically, refers to deliverance from eternal condemnation. Timothy and the believers he taught were already born again and did not need to do anything to stay born again.
The issue here is spiritual health. The basic sense of sōzō is well-being, wholeness, and health, either physical or spiritual.
The church in Ephesus was confronted by men who promoted false doctrines and false practices (cf. 1:6-11). To remain spiritually well, Timothy and his flock needed to be “saved” (delivered) from these false teachings and practices (Volume 2, pp. 979-80).
The issue of false teachers and their false teachings is found at the very start of 1 Timothy (cf. 1 Tim 1:3-11) and at the start of chapter 4 (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-8). We have the same problem today. Those who teach in the local church, as Timothy did, were to take heed to “the doctrine,” that is, the doctrine passed down to us from the Lord and His Apostles. If we teach Apostolic doctrine, then we will deliver our listeners from the destructive false teachings which are out there.
The point is this: doctrine is important. Very important. What we believe directly impacts what we say and do and whether we are pleasing or displeasing the Lord. Doctrine matters. A lot. Of course, once we are born again, our eternal destiny is set. But our fullness of life here and now depends on abiding in Apostolic doctrine.
I’m sorry for the confusion we created by not giving a bit more detail about what Hodges meant.