Theme: Guard the Good Deposit
In this week’s lessons, we look at three important charges Paul gives to Timothy.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
What the Roman world found weak and therefore a cause of scorn Paul discovered to be the power of God that is mighty to the breaking down even of strongholds. This is why Paul does not want Timothy to be tempted to be ashamed of these things that the world despises. We ought not to be ashamed of Christ because he is the only Redeemer. Nor ought we to be ashamed of other Christians because, like them, we are sinners saved by grace. And if we see ourselves in this proper light as sinners saved by grace, then we can’t possibly be looking down on anyone else. You see, the reason why we are ashamed of other Christians is not because we recognize that they are doing something good and we’re not. Rather, the real reason is that we consider ourselves better than they are or at least we want the world to think so. We don’t want to be identified with someone suffering for Christ in prison, one who is disliked by both Jews and Gentiles. We want to be well-received by people, not scorned and mistreated. We don’t want to be seen as a friend of someone whom everybody’s making fun of for his or her stand for Christ. We want people to like us and have friends that impress other people who see us in their company. We don’t want to be lumped in with despised and lowly Christians who are seen as foolish by the world.
Of course, we don’t say or think this in precisely this way, but isn’t this the kind of attitude we can have? Aren’t there times when we are ashamed to be known as a Christian? The cure for this is to recognize our own sin, that we are nothing at all, that we are saved by the grace of God, and therefore we ought to stand and testify with all boldness to that God. Oh, that we might do that more effectively in our day!
Paul says something else here about shame. In verse 12 tells Timothy, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” You see here how his emphasis is on Jesus Christ. Jesus is the reason why Paul is not ashamed, even as he writes this encouraging letter from prison. Jesus is the reason why Paul was not ashamed as he evangelized throughout the Roman Empire and suffered for it. Paul knew that Christ is worthy of all honor and praise and that one day all will bow before him. In the meantime, until that great day arrives, because Paul marches in the service of such a King, he is not at all ashamed to commit everything to God’s safekeeping because he knows that God will vindicate Paul at the last day. Is that your testimony as well?
Now finally in verse 14, Paul gives Timothy his third charge of this chapter. He tells Timothy, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” Notice the interesting contrast between that and the verses that go before it. Paul writes in verse 12 that he has committed something to Christ and he knows he is able to guard it for Paul. Now he says in verse 14 that Christ has committed something to Timothy, and it is his responsibility to guard that.
Paul has committed to Christ his hope of salvation that Jesus has offered in the gospel. Christ has died for sinners, and Paul tells every Christian to commit himself or herself to him; and when they follow him, Christ will bless and keep them in both this life and for eternity. And Christ has given to us the gospel, the very gospel in which we believe and which we are entrusted to keep and pass on to others. It is our responsibility to do that with a faithfulness that is patterned after Jesus himself.
Now doing this is not always easy. Paul was aware of that and we are as well. That same gospel is under attack in various ways, including from those who seem to be part of the church but who then abandon the truth. Paul says our task is to guard and to proclaim that gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each genuine believer. Paul was very aware of how the ground of Christian witness to the gospel can be undercut by those who defect from the truth.
In Acts 19 we seem to have an example of people who deserted Paul. There was a riot in Ephesus, which is in Asia, concerning the gospel. Paul was condemning the city’s idols, saying that gods made by human hands are nothing at all. This caused a great uproar in a pagan city like Ephesus, and many continued their protest against Paul in the city’s theater. Paul wanted to address them, but was warned by friends of his not to do this, because he would be killed by the angry mob. These friends were described as “officials of the province” (v. 31). But in verse 15 of 2 Timothy 1, Paul writes that “everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me…” So apparently, even those considered Paul’s friends in Ephesians 19 were no longer so by the time Paul is writing to Timothy from his Roman imprisonment.
What are some wrong reasons why Christians might be ashamed of one another?
How can we combat this kind of thinking?
What examples from Scripture can you find of Paul being deserted by other Christians or mistreated by unbelievers?
Prayer: Ask the Lord to give you strength to stand up for Christ, to side with God’s people rather than distance yourself from them, and to be ready to suffer for your Christian testimony.
For Further Study: To learn more about how the church should function, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Love and Sound Doctrine.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)