Most scholars agree that Paul wrote 2 Timothy just before his death. As he sat in a Roman prison awaiting the inevitable, he penned this final charge to his child in the faith, Timothy. In fact, these are Paul’s last recorded words.
There’s a sadness to this letter. A raw humanity. A farewell. But there’s also a clarity that can come only from the lips of a dying man. An ability to boil life down to its true essence.
What would you have said to Timothy? If you had only one shot to communicate your heart, what final charge would you have left him?
Paul’s message is clear: By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you (1:14).
In other words, God has trusted you, Timothy, with the priceless jewel of the gospel. The message of eternal life for all the nations. The power of God for salvation to all who believe. The revelation of the love and holiness of the eternal God. Nothing is more valuable than this jewel! So guard it, Timothy!
But what does this look like? Paul tells Timothy at least 2 ways to guard the gospel.
1. We guard the gospel when we faithfully teach it. One of Paul’s chief concerns in the letter has to do with false teachers. He compares their teaching to gangrene, which spreads until it kills the body (2:17). Just as Jesus flipped over the tables of the money changers, so these false teachers are flipping over the faith of Christians (2:18). Apparently, many of these teachers would worm their way into the church and prey on vulnerable women (3:6).
But it’s not as if false teachers are the only one’s to blame. Paul also warns Timothy of coming days when people won’t put up with sound teaching. Instead they will pile up teachers who will play into their lustful desires.
We see these scenarios play out all around us today, from those who preach a health and wealth pseudo-gospel to the way many Christians undiscerningly embrace anti-biblical cultural ideals.
Because of this threat, Paul urges Timothy to faithfully and patiently preach the word (4:2). He must alway be ready to bring the word to bear on any situation (4:2).
Christians are constantly under attack. The the world, the flesh, and the devil continually crash like waves against the people of God, seeking to drown them in lies. But the faithful preaching of the the Word of God anchors Christians in the gospel.
2. We guard the gospel when we entrust it to others. Every local church is just one generation away from extinction or apostasy. And unfortunately, no one man can ensure the continuing faithfulness of any given local church. It’s not as if a church can just write up an orthodox confession and expect that the confession itself will ensure future faithfulness to the gospel.
So how do we guard the gospel for future generations?
Paul’s answer is found in 2 Timothy 2:2: entrust it to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others.
Though this verse teaches a principle of discipleship relevant to all, I think Paul is actually talking about local church elders. Paul is telling Timothy to entrust the gospel message to faithful elders who will pass the message on unadulterated to the body of Christ. Furthermore, these elders will then seek to raise up more faithful elders to whom they will entrust the message. And on and on the cycle will go.
This is one reason why it’s so important to slowly and carefully raise up local church elders. A man may be able to help the church fill and important need in the short-term. But if he is not a well-tested, faithful man, he will inevitably dilute the gospel in the long term.
Question: What are some other ways we can guard the gospel?