“ ... Guard the deposit entrusted to you... ” - 1 Timothy 6:20
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul exhorts his young charge to take action. To guard the deposit! To keep the trust. A commentator put it this way:
You have received gold, make sure that what you hand on [to the next generation] is gold. there may be progress, but not change - let it be purer gold, but not some other thing.
We find this exhortation repeated in 2 Timothy 1:14, which reads, "by the Holy Spirit who dwells within you, guard the good deposit entrusted to you, Timothy".
What is this deposit? 2 Tim 1:6 speaks of an inheritance of faith - a faith that dwelt in Timothy’s grandma, then his ma, and one that now dwells and is alive in him. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes how we have this treasure in jars of clay (aka our doughy bodies), and how we are always carrying in the body the death of Jesus. The deposit is the gospel, it is our faith in the gospel, it is the precious love of God displayed in Christ and His death on the cross.
But consider also 2 Timothy 1:12 - Paul too is a keeper of the same treasure, and Paul’s confidence is that “He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me”. So who is the real guard here, God or us? It would seem that Paul is once again unfolding a piece of the mystery of "union with Christ"! This is the attitude/posture that we should adopt in partnership with Christ - we are called to zealously keep the trust and to guard the gospel/faith, yet to also rest in the conviction that it is ultimately God who guards and preserves and keeps His Gospel.
This might feel puzzling or redundant at first read, but consider the tightly knitted, inseparable partnership that it points to! This is intimate fellowship with God. Having believed in Jesus, we are now in God’s embrace, we are clothed with Christ, and we have His Gospel within us.
We can choose still to turn and struggle and swim upstream, or even to be lackadaisical and listless about our faith, or we can run and run to Christ with all our might and plead “more Lord, more of You and less of me, He must increase but I must decrease, I press on to the upward call”. And whichever option we may choose now, God is still working out His gospel.
So God, to Paul, is both supreme sovereign and loving Father. He is both ultimate and intimate; in control, yet deigning to rope us into His plan. And Paul models out this mystery for Timothy in both urging Timothy to act, and also affirming that God is the final actor and guardian of the Gospel and of our faith, not us. This frees us to work mightily for the advancement of the Gospel, and yet to rest when the day's work is done. We can rest because we know that God will not let His Word return void, but when we rise and work - what a joy! What a delight, to spend the rest of our lives about our Father's business.
Meditations and musings of Joseph Tay.