Reading: 1 Timothy 4 – 6
What makes a “good minister of Christ Jesus”? (1 Timothy 4:6) Paul seems concerned for what lays ahead in Timothy's life and work, and Paul has a sober message for Timothy, for it seems a lot is at stake. At this letters conclusion Paul writes, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.” (1 Timothy 6:20) What had been entrusted to Timothy? What was he to guard? There are two possible answers.
Guard the Gospel
If we look ahead in to Paul's second letter to Timothy we see right off that he is exhorted to guard the good deposit that was entrusted to him (2 Timothy 1:13-14). There is seems clear in context that Timothy is to guard the Gospel, what he had learned from Paul. No doubt the Gospel was under attack. There was danger then, as now, of mixing it with false notions of the Gospel, and thereby changing the Gospel. We must guard or protect the faith—the Gospel. Is that what is being spoken of in 1 Timothy 6:20?
Guard the Church
Another way this word guard is used is found on the lips of Jesus. He prays, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.” The same Greek word is used where the NIV says, “kept them safe”. Jesus protected and guarded the disciples, the church in seed form, lest they be lost and doomed to destruction. Is there some sense in which Timothy is called to protect and guard the church from danger and destruction as the pastor of the church?
Though it is likely that 1 Timothy 6:20 refers to one or the other of these choices, it might not really matter which one we arrive at. Let me explain. In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul writes,
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Watch, though not the same word as guard, carries the same idea. Watch it closely so that it doesn't get away. Here Paul is telling Timothy, “Guard the Gospel (doctrine) and your life (how you apply the Gospel) in order to guard your church (save yourself and your hearers). In fact, much of this epistle from Paul to Timothy seems concerned with protecting the church from danger. Even how widows would be dealt with was done in order that the church would not be open to blame in the community (1 Timothy 5:7), and that the church would not be burdened unduly (1 Timothy 5:16). When instructing slaves, the chief concern was not how they could go about obtaining justice, but bringing about a bad report concerning the church of God (1 Timothy 6:1-2). One translation says, “This will prevent the name of God and Christian teaching from being discredited.”
Guarding the church is vital. Why? Because it is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). It is a lighthouse in the world providing the only truth about where danger is and isn't. Timothy, and every minister of Christ Jesus, has a vital task: guarding the Gospel, and guarding the church lest they be led astray from the Gospel. There is no task greater than this!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,