DUNCAN/Guard what God has given you


Please turn to 1 Timothy 6:20-21. Paul’s letter to Timothy is designed to show us how we are to live and minister together in the local church today. And in this brief sentence and benediction, the Apostle Paul sums up in two phrases all his concern for the integrity of the gospel, and all of his horror of the danger of deviating from the truth of God’s Word. Specifically, he provides an exhortation to Timothy and us to do four things. First, Paul tells us to retain the truth. Then, he calls on us to refrain from being entangled in false teaching. Next, Paul urges us to realize the danger of false teaching. Finally, he encourages us to rely on the grace of God. 

I. Retain the Truth. 

In verse 20, Paul says, “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” He is telling Timothy that he has the responsibility to value and defend the truth of the Christian faith. Paul is serious about orthodoxy. He is serious about us holding on to those great truths of the Christian faith which have been expounded through Jesus and His apostles, and which have been enscripturated in the Word of God. In 2 Timothy 1:13-14, Paul says, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” The Christian message is not something which the church’s minister works out for himself. It is a divine revelation which has been committed to his care, and which is his bounden duty to pass on unimpaired to others. Therefore, Paul is saying, “Timothy, you did not invent this message, but your job is to guard it, to hold onto it and retain it.” 

And notice how he tells Timothy to treat God’s Word. He says to Timothy, “guard what has been entrusted to you.” The word deposit, or that which has been entrusted to you, meant in Paul and Timothy’s day something that was a treasured possession entrusted to someone else. It is important to remember that God’s truth will endure. It is truth unchanged and unchanging. It is unconquerable truth. But if we do not value it and protect it, we are in danger of losing it. And so, Paul says not just to Timothy, but to you and to me, we have to value, and protect, and defend, and retain the truth of the Christian faith which has been entrusted to us.

II. Refrain from Worldly Talk.

But Paul does not stop there. In verse 20, Paul also says that we are to refrain from “worldly and empty chatter and opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’.” Now, it is remarkably interesting that the people who were propounding this new and deep and spiritual teaching in the Christian church no doubt thought of themselves as wiser than Paul and Timothy and the Christians in this congregation. They thought they had insights that none other could grasp. Yet, Paul describes their teaching as “worldly” and “empty” and “opposing” and “false.” In other words, Paul is saying, “Let me tell you about this ‘wisdom’ and this ‘knowledge’ that is being taught by false teachers. It does not come from God. It comes from this world. And it’s not only worldly, it’s empty. It claims to be profound and weighty, but it’s a vapor. And it contradicts the clear teaching of God’s Word.” Thus, Paul tells Timothy that he is to refrain from being entangled in empty and speculative theological chatter. 

III. Refrain from False Knowledge. 

In verse 21, Paul says that some have claimed to have this false knowledge, and even though they have professed faith in Jesus Christ, they have “gone astray from the faith.” Paul is saying that there are some people in this congregation who have professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have professed to believe the Christian truths which had been taught by Paul and the apostles. And yet, because they became entangled in these false teachings, they had gone astray from the faith. You see, Paul is saying that bad theology leads to spiritual ruin. And he is saying, “Timothy, the reason that I warn you against false teaching is because I am concerned for the lives and the souls of men and women, and boys and girls.” This is not the first time that Paul has given this warning, yet his warning is urgent here. It is written in his own hand, and it is the last thing that he is going to say in this particular letter to Timothy and to the church. And his final words in this letter are that false teaching leads to spiritual disaster. That is why we need to retain the truth and refrain from becoming entangled in the study and the curious discussion of these false teachings, and we need to realize that this false teaching leads to spiritual destruction. 

IV. Rely on God’s Grace. 

At the end of verse 21, Paul concludes with a benediction. Specifically, he says, “Grace be with you.” Paul calls on Timothy to rely upon the grace of God. Indeed, he calls upon the whole congregation to depend upon God’s unmerited and strengthening favor. This little phrase indicates the greatest blessing of them all which is God’s favor to us through Jesus Christ. It is God’s blessing on those who are undeserving of that blessing purchased at the cost of the death of His own Son. 

In Numbers 6:24-26, the Lord instructed the Aaronic priests to bless the people of God by saying, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The Lord lifting up His face and making it to shine upon you and being gracious to you is giving you His favor. Receiving the Lord’s favor creates the reality of the enjoyment of peace; not cessation of physical warfare in this world, but peace with God and  reconciliation with Him wherein we receive all the benefits which He has intended for us in His mercy. 

And when Paul says, “Grace be with you,” he is reminding you and me of that gift which God has given to all those who trust in Jesus Christ. Paul is reminding us that that message of grace is not just for those who are unbelievers; it is a message for Christians too. Just as those who are apart from Jesus Christ need the grace of God if they would be saved, so believers need the grace of God to live the Christian life. May we thank God for the mercy that He has given us in Jesus Christ and for the truth which He has committed to us in His holy Word. 

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