Recently I’ve been thinking about the name of this blog (and this is not because I've been posting on it, as I'm sure those few of you who still check this blog out will be eager to remind me, just because I've been thinking about the phrase "hold fast"). Just to give you some background, the name was not my idea. In fact, I wanted to use the name conTrast with the middle T as a cross, to emphasize that we as Christians need to contrast with the world. But, as some of you may remember, this blog was originally started as a team blog, and the other guys (Josh and Peter--Peter never actually joined the blog but helped with the brainstorming) wanted the name HoldFast. I didn’t think it was that huge of a deal, so I went with them, and then the blog ended up being all mine after a few months. Slightly ironic, I suppose.
But as I’ve been reading my Bible since then, I’ve been amazed at how often the phrase “hold fast” appears in the Bible (by my count, about 25) and what significance it appears to carry. Today in my quiet time I decided to do a word study and see what I could find out. I compiled all the verses I could find (using ESV’s search function online) and actually went and looked at the Greek for the New Testament occurrences (the Greek would be a lot more useful if I’d taken any Greek, but Latin helps). And after all that reflection, I am so glad that HoldFast is the name of this blog, and I think you’ll see why.
My first question was, what is this word that continues to be translated “hold fast”? After going through the Greek, I found a few different words used, all of which seem to be compounds of the same word, echo, which means “to have, hold, possess.” But the different compounds carry different connotations: krateo means “to have power, to be master of, to get possession of”; katecho means “to hold back, detain, restrain, hinder, keep secret, get possession of”; and epecho means “to have or hold upon, give attention to, observe, attend to.” Basically, the verbs used imply an active grabbing onto, an attempt at possession. I like the translation “hold fast” because it gives the image of clinging for dear life.
The next question is, what are we supposed to hold fast to? I compiled this list from the different verses that I found:
your wife (Gen. 2:24)
the Lord your God (Deut 10:20, 11:22, 13:4, 30:20; Ps. 91:14)
integrity (Job 2:3)
righteousness (Job 27:6)
Wisdom (Prov. 3:18)
the words of your father (Prov. 4:4)
keeping the Sabbath and keeping your hand from doing evil (Is. 56:2)
love and justice (Hos. 12:6)
the Word of God (Luke 8:15)
that which is good (Rom 12:9, 1 Thess. 5:21)
the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2)
the word of life (Phil 2:16)
the Head who nourishes you (Col. 2:19)
our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Heb. 3:6)
our confession (Heb. 4:14)
the hope set before us (Heb. 6:18)
the confession of our hope (Heb. 10:23)
the name of Christ (Rev. 2:13)
what you have (Rev. 2:25, 3:11)
There are a lot of things here, but you’ll notice that what most of these have in common is the idea of holding onto the things that God finds valuable. In the Old Testament, these are primarily different virtues, like integrity, righteousness, love, and justice. But the most common one is holding fast to the Lord himself. Especially in Deuteronomy, this is extremely important. In Proverbs we are to hold onto wisdom, which is in essence a part of God.
In the New Testament it gets more refined. We are to hold onto God, his word, and our hope as Christians. But I think the defining passage is 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve… Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
We are to hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ! The reason I like this passage is that it goes beyond the other passages in a sense. Most of the other passages tell us to hold onto our confession and our hope, but this passage sets that confession and hope before us in clear detail. Our confession is that Christ died for our sins and rose on the third day. Our hope is that God’s grace reaches out to us, sinners that we are, and works through us to accomplish his grace, and his grace will not be in vain. That is the confession of the hope that we are to hold fast to. And what an amazing confession! What a strength-giving hope! The writer of Hebrews fleshes this out for us:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:19-23)
Note that once again, he first meditates on the gospel, that we are free to enter the presence of God through the blood of Jesus, and then reminds us that we don’t need to be afraid any more of God’s wrath! We are saved, now and forevermore! What a precious truth this is for us. So let us as Christian hold fast to the confession of our hope at all times, for it is the strength to get us through the day.
I’m providing below the verses that I found that mention the phrase “hold fast.” I know that, because this is a translation, some of the actual Greek words appear in other places than how it’s translated in the ESV, but I think this gives an accurate feel of the phrase, if not exhaustive.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. –Genesis 2:24
You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. –Deut. 10:20
For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves. –Deut 11:22-23
You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. –Deut 13:4
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. –Deut 30:19-20
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” –Job 2:3
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days. –Job 27:6
Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. –Psalm 91:14
[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed. –Prov 3:18
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” –Prov. 4:3-9
Thus says the Lord:
“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
Blessed is the man who does this,
and the son of man who holds it fast,
who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it,
and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” –Isaiah 56:1-2
So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God. –Hos. 12:6
As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. –Luke 8:15
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. –Rom. 12:9
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. –1 Cor. 15:1-11
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. –Phil. 2:14-16
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. –Col. 2:18-19
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. –1 Thess. 5:20-22
For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. –Heb. 3:3-6
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. –Heb. 4:14-16
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. –Heb. 6:17-18
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. –Heb. 10:19-23
I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. –Rev. 2:13
But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. –Rev. 2:24-27
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. –Rev. 3:10-12