Guard the good deposit

Chatswood Baptist Church

2 Timothy 1:1-14


Has anyone given something to you to hold on to or look after? Has anyone entrusted you with something that they thought was valuable or precious? Did they choose you because they knew that you would be reliable and that you would look after what they had given you and not lose it or give it away?

  • Me

Often in a family an older member of the family will look to entrust a younger member of the family with the family memorabilia. These are the things that they believe are important for someone in the family to hold on to. A parent or a grandparent will pass down something that they themselves might have received from their own parents. They choose someone who they think will value it and hold on to it and take care of it and just won’t throw or give it away and who they themselves will one day pass down to the next generation.

I have a few pieces of family memorabilia that my grandmother and mother has passed down to me. I’ve got the original of the photo which was taken of my great grandmother and her parents and siblings standing outside the family home in Middlesbrough. I also have their family Bible. The Bible might be old and falling apart, but it was important to my grandmother and her mother and her mother before her and it’s become important to me. It’s got no monetary value but something like it needs to be held on to and passed on to someone who will also value it and hold on to it so that we don’t forget the place that the Scripture have had in our family for many generations.

  • Timothy

Today we start a series of talk looking at Paul’s second letter to Timothy. Paul wrote this letter to Timothy because he believed that his time had come to depart this world and he wanted Timothy to to guard what had been entrusted to him by the apostle. Paul wrote…

2 Timothy 1:14

14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.[1]

The good deposit is referred to in number of ways in these opening verses. In verse 1 it is the promise of life that is in Christ. In verse 8 it is the testimony of our Lord. In verse 10 it is the gospel that brings life and immortality to light. Of this gospel, Paul said that he was appointed a herald and apostle and a teacher. When he talks about what Timothy heard from him in verse 13 he is talking about the teaching of the gospel of Christ. This was the good deposit that Timothy was entrusted with and that later he is told to entrust to others. This is what he was to guard. Today/tonight we will begin to explore what holding on and guarding the gospel looks like.

  • Paul had fought the good fight and had finished his race

Some refer to this letter as Paul’s last will and testimony. This letter was probably one of the last letters that the apostle wrote. At the time Paul was in chains and in prison in Rome. Unlike the other times when Paul wrote from prison, this time, the apostle didn’t believe that he would be released from his chains alive. He believed that he had come to the end of the road. He wrote in chapter 4 that he had kept the faith and finished the race.

2 Timothy 4:6-78

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

  • Timothy had to continue fight the fight

Paul wrote this letter because although his race was over, Timothy race wasn’t, and Paul wanted him to keep on running it. Paul’s fight might have been over, but Timothy’s was still going, and he wrote this letter to strengthen Timothy’s resolve to keep on with the work of the gospel guarding the good deposit he had been given[2].

This letter, therefore, is a very personally heartfelt letter from Paul who is now an old man, somewhere in Rome in prison awaiting his execution. In verse 2 Paul referred to Timothy as his dear (or “beloved”) son. Timothy had been like a son to the apostle through coming to faith through his ministry and then working alongside him in the work of the gospel for around 15 years. When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said of Timothy that he had no one like Timothy. He wrote that “Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel” (Philippians 2:22).

  • The importance of the work of the gospel

The greeting of an ancient letter was usually where the introductions were made. The writer would first introduce him or herself and then he or she would mention the person to whom he or she was writing. But in this greeting (verse 1 and 2) Paul not only introduced himself and Timothy, his beloved son in the Lord, but the importance of the work of the gospel that Timothy was to guard.

2 Timothy 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul wrote that he was an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God to remind Timothy that the work of the gospel was really the work of God. God had commissioned Paul to be the apostle of Christ and the message was God’s message and was nothing less than the promise of life that is in Christ. Whatever Paul or Timothy might suffer now in this life for the sake of the gospel was not worth comparing with God’s gift of grace, mercy and peace and life that is found in Christ Jesus.

Guarding the good deposit

Having made the introductions in the first few verses of the letter Paul quickly moves on to how Timothy was to guard the good deposit and get on with the work of the gospel. Paul gives Timothy three specific instructions (or commands) before the fourth and final command to guard the good deposit which brings them altogether before moving on to the next section. Today, I just want to spend most of my time on these three instructions that in some way were all part of guarding the good deposit: 1) fan into flame the gift of God (v6) and 2) do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord (v8) and 3)  or lastly what you heard from me keep as the pattern of sound teaching (v13).

  • Fan into flame the gift of God

The first instruction is for Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God (v6). This exhortation comes after Paul lays the ground work for it by telling Timothy how he thanks God for Timothy and his faith in verses 3 to 5. Paul said that he prayed for Timothy constantly night and day and when he did, he thanked God or was grateful to him.[3] After telling Timothy of how much he longed to see him Paul went on to say how he was convinced that the faith that he saw in Timothy’s mother and grandmother also dwelt in him.

2 Timothy 1:5

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

It was because Paul knew that Timothy’s faith was genuine that he knew he could call on him to fan into flame the gift of God that he had been given through the laying of hands.

  • The gift of God was his preaching and teaching

Exactly what this gift was isn’t mentioned here. But I believe that this gift would be the gift of preaching and teaching of the gospel. In Paul’s first letter Paul told Timothy to devote himself to public reading of Scripture and to preaching and teaching right after which he went on to tell him not neglect his gift in the next verse (see 1 Timothy 3:13-14)[4]. Further, the burden of the whole letter is for Timothy to keep on preaching the gospel. Paul will call upon Timothy to preach the Word (4:2) and he also told him to do the work of evangelist, discharging all the duties of his ministry (4:5).

Timothy was to use the gifts that God had given him to get on with the work of testifying about the Lord. I think Paul makes it clear in verse 8 that these gifts were being used for this purpose – to testify about the Lord. Verse 8 is closely linked to what he has just said by the word “so” or it also could be translated “therefore”. It is in light of what the apostle had just said that Timothy was not to be ashamed to testify about our Lord (literally =of the testimony of our Lord). Timothy was to fan his gift into flame so that he could get on with the work of testifying about our Lord – of preaching and teaching the gospel like the apostle Paul.

  • Fanning it into flame meant getting on with exercising his gifts

The idea of fanning something into flame came from lighting a fire using kindling or else keeping a fire stoked to keep it going. When you are out in the bush someone always needs to keep an eye on the firer if you don’t want it to go out. If you don’t pay attention to a fire it will soon go out. You must keep at it, adding wood, moving it around wot where it is needed so that it doesn’t go out and you have to do this especially when the weather is unfavourable. When it is a little damp, and everything is wet you’ve got to be even more diligent, paying attention to what you are doing.

Now, I don’t think Timothy’s fire had gone out, but he needed to take steps to keep at it especially in the difficult conditions that the believers found themselves living in. I don’t think this was a word for Timothy just because he was more timid than others, but rather a word that anyone might need to hear because the situation was difficult and so many had already succumbed to the pressure. Timothy is being encouraged to go on preaching and teaching  the gospel, doing the work of an evangelist despite the pressure that he and the other believers were facing at the time.

We all need to keep the fire stoked so that it doesn’t go out especially in these times we are living in. All of us need to keep on stoking the fire getting on with the job of using whatever gifts the Lord has given us so to testify to the Lord Jesus and hold out the promise of life to people. We might not have the gift of evangelism or preaching and teaching but we all in some way by our words and deeds bear testimony to the Lord Jesus. This is what we are called to do.

The old saying that says if you don’t use it you lose it perhaps has an element of truth to it. If you don’t try to live out and share your faith, the harder you will find it to do so and the likelihood increases that you won’t. But the more you give it a go, the better you get at it and the more likely you will be to do it.

  • The Spirit of God is there with us to help

But we shouldn’t just think that it is just all up to us. The Spirit of God is there with us to help us. Paul wrote that the Spirit of God isn’t a spirit of timidity (or cowardice ESV) but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline. The Spirit is there to strengthen us and to help us to exercise the sort of love and self-discipline that we need to get on with doing the things that God would have us do. What we as Paul says in verse 14, we do with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  

Friends, we might not have the gift of being an evangelist, but we all have a part to play in the work of the gospel, bearing witness to Jesus in our words and deeds and you and I are be getting on with what we can do and not let the fire go out. Sadly, I think many of get so distracted today by our careers and just going about our every day lives that we lose sight of our calling to be a holy people set apart for God and his work. We tell ourselves that we will get around to it as soon things settle down in our lives and before you know it our lives have developed a rhythm about them that treats the things of God as though they were the distraction or just we fit in where there is a little time left over.

Friends, we have been called to run the race and fight the fight and keep the faith. That race isn’t over until God calls us home or that day has come when we are all standing before him. I think the Lord through these words to Timothy is encouraging all of us to keep stirring up the fire to use our lives and whatever gifts that we have been given to be working for the sake of the gospel. Maybe we have even been fanning the wrong fire! Today you might need to think about what those things are that God has equipped you to do that you could be doing that you haven’t been fanning into flame. It might be time to start fanning the fire again.

Don’t be ashamed to testify about our Lord

Paul in verse 8 spells out the implications of what he just said to Timothy by commanding him not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner but to join Paul in suffering for the gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8

So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God…

What this verse suggests is that what often stops us from testifying about the Lord is that we aren’t willing to suffer for the gospel. We aren’t willing to bear the shame of being associated with a message that many will think foolish. What might tempt Timothy from getting on with the work of testify about our Lord was the threat of suffering and shame. Paul wrote later in the letter that “in fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted” (3:12).

It was wanting to avoid the public shame and suffering that had probably been the reason why many had deserted the apostle. But here Paul calls on Timothy to not be ashamed to testify about our Lord or of him the Lord’s prison but to join him in suffering for the sake of the gospel by the power of God. Paul then goes on to explain why we shouldn’t let the fear of shame and suffering prevent us from living out and speaking the gospel.

  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation

We shouldn’t fear because the gospel is the power of God for salvation. Paul writes that it through the gospel that God saves us and calls us to live a holy life. Having mentioned the power of God in verse 8 Paul went on to say that God…

2 Timothy 1:9-10

has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Paul reminded Timothy that the message of the gospel is a message of grace and life and immortality. It is through the gospel that God reveals his purpose and grace. This grace God chose to show us before the beginning of time, but it has only been made know through the appearing of Christ who has destroyed death. God now brings life and immortality to light through the gospel. When we believe this, we know that there is nothing to be ashamed of and even though now for a little while we might have to suffer in this world, we know that nothing can take away the life that is ours in Christ.

  • We are to trust God with our lives

Paul never gave up fighting the fight because this is what he believed. Having explained that he was suffering because of his appointment as an apostle, a herald and teacher of the gospel in verse 11 he goes on to say …

2 Timothy 1:12

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.

Paul is confident in the one who he had believed in and he was convinced that the Lord would guard what Paul had entrusted to him. While some think this could be the gospel that he has entrusted to God, I think Paul is speaking about his life. Paul has entrusted himself to the Lord until that day when suffering and death will be no more. Paul was fully convinced that on that day God would deliver him. As Paul writes at the end of this letter:

2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heaven kingdom.

This is what you and I are to do. We are to trust God with our lives and get on with bearing testimony to our Lord knowing he will take care of us.

Keep the pattern of sound teaching

The last instruction that Paul gave to Timothy was to keep the pattern of sound teaching that he had heard from him.

2 Timothy 1:13

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.

Paul wanted Timothy to keep the pattern of sound teaching that he had heard from Paul. This pattern of sound or healthy teaching was that which accords with the gospel of which Paul said in verse11 that he had been appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of. Here Paul wants Timothy to live out the gospel – to live in a manner worthy of it. He writes that you keep it with faith and love in Christ Jesus. For Paul faith and love are the fruit of knowing Jesus and the real evidence of the Spirits’ work in our lives (see 1 Corinthians 13:13). Guarding the gospel is not just a matter of watching our words but also our lives. We are to be people who live by faith and love and in this way we testify to our Lord for these things are his work in us.

Guard the good deposit

Sometimes when someone entrusts something to you, they just don’t won’t you to hold on to it, but they want you to use what they have given you. Before my dad died, he mentioned that he wanted to pass on some of his electrician tools to one of his grandsons (my nephew) who had had said that he wanted to be an electrician like my dad had been. Dad didn’t want him to have those tools just as a keep sake or to sit in his garage forever but because he believed that he would use them.

Sometimes being entrusted with something means more than just hanging on to what you have been given but using it the way it was meant to be used. For Timothy guarding the good deposit was not just a matter of knowing the gospel but living it out.  It’s both speaking and living out the gospel – as Paul said in the first letter – he was to watch his life and his teaching closely (4:16). Holding on to the faith meant living a life of faith and love that comes from knowing Christ. He was to do this in spite of the shame and suffering because the gospel is the promise of life. Like Paul, Timothy knew who he had believed in and that the Lord would guard that which he had entrusted to him for that day.

You and I likewise have been entrusted with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus. If like Timothy, we have genuine faith then we have been called to a holy life. We are to testify to the Lord in all we do and say by living life of faith and love. We aren’t to hang on to this life as though this is all there is. We are to join Paul in suffering for the gospel for if our faith genuine then we know who we have believed, and we know that is able to guard what we’ve entrusted to him for that day. So fan into flame what gifts you have been given and don’t be ashamed to testify about our Lord. Join in suffering for the gospel because ours is the promise of life. Keep the pattern of sound teaching – keep it with faith and love that is found in Christ. Friends, guard the good deposit that has been entrusted to you.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated all Scripture citation are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984). (electronic edition., 2 Ti 1:13–14). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] Paul told Timothy to do his best to come to him quickly. But Paul didn’t know how long he had and so what this letter did was to outline for Timothy much of what Paul needed to say to him about keeping the faith and running the race and fighting the fight, just in case Timothy didn’t get there in time to hear it with his own ears from Paul. Paul didn’t want Timothy to be tempted to throw in the towel like some had already done.

[3] This doesn’t mean that Paul was always praying for Timothy 24/7 ever moment of the day but that he regularly prayed for Timothy daily in his morning and evening prayers. Paul said that in those prayers he thanked God whom he served as his forefather’s had served.

[4] Admittedly in the first letter Paul talked about the body of elders laying hands on Timothy but there is no reason to think that Paul wasn’t among them leading what was going on and that he was talking about the same event.