Paul closed his first letter to Timothy with some words of summary and some final charges. He is one marathon runner nearing the end of his grueling race writing to another marathon runner in the first few miles. The thesis statement to Paul’s charge is found in verse twenty, “Guard what has been entrusted to you.” This statement could easily summarize the whole letter! What is Timothy to guard? We, like Timothy, are to guard the gospel. Why does the gospel need guarding? Our lives- the way we speak, the way we live, the way we run the race- attest to the credibility of the gospel. How do we guard the gospel?
1. We guard the gospel by making a strong case for godliness (v. 3-6). Godliness means living with reverence toward God. It motivates righteousness (living rightly). The false teachers are evident for three reasons: 1) they contradict God’s Word; 2) they reject the correct teaching of Scripture; and 3) they lead unholy lives under the surface. Right teaching can be distinguished from false teaching by the presence of right living. Right living attests to and flows out of right teaching. Likewise, right teaching is discredited when there is not right living (v. 3).
2. We guard the gospel by making a strong case for contentment (v. 7-11). The credibility of the gospel is seriously tarnished if we fail to live godly lives but it is also seriously tarnished if we demonstrate that Christ is not all-satisfying! The Greek word for ‘contentment’ was used by the Stoic philosophers of the first century to describe one who was unmoved by external circumstances. Do we demonstrate that even when circumstances get hairy we trust God to always supply all we need in Christ Jesus?
3. We guard the gospel by making a strong case for faith (v. 12-16). Paul admonishes Timothy to flee from sin and pursue virtue by clinging to Christ in faith (v. 12). Faith in Christ is not blind. Timothy is reminded in verse 13 of Jesus’ stand against Pilate (Mat 27:11; John 18:37). Timothy is reminded in verse 14 of Jesus’ promised return (our faith is not in vain and our struggles are not permanent). Timothy is reminded in verses 15-16 of the glory of Christ that his faith might be encouraged as he remembers that Christ’s redemption is sure. Our faith testifies to the truthfulness of the gospel.
4. We guard the gospel by making a strong case for generosity (v. 17-21). When we see heaven as our home we begin to look at our place in this world differently. In verse 17 Paul charges wealthy believers to have a new perspective on their wealth- to remember that it is a grace not a guarantee. Use what God gives you for the work of the gospel. Live generously to uphold the infinitely greater value of Christ.