Guard the Truth!

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

The end of an important letter can be some of the most important words in the letter. In 1 Timothy, Paul has written so many important words, truths that have been preserved by God for over two thousand years. Words that are for us, for His church, and that show us a glimpse into the very heart of God.

Paul ends this letter with very strong words of summary. He ends with an impassioned plea. In verse 20 he says, “O Timothy.” Can you feel the emotion in that address? O Timothy. It is like a father to a son or a husband to his wife or a dear friend addressing you. It is not just Timothy, he is not just trying to make clear to whom he is addressing, it is more than that. He adds passion, he adds an additional measure of care, of emphasis. “O Timothy.”

He is saying, “O Timothy, my son in the faith, listen carefully, hear my words, take this in and let my words inform your mind and direct your soul.” This is important, what will follow is important. “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.” Paul is urging Timothy to guard the truth. The deposit is the truth and this truth has been entrusted to Timothy specifically as it had been entrusted to Paul. In 2 Timothy we see that Paul and Timothy both have this high calling to guard the truth.

11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:11-14)

The picture we get here is that God Himself has acted. He has given Timothy something to be guarded. And what God has given him to guard is very valuable, and what God has given is truth that shows and explains the way of life, truth that answers the question of mankind’s great dilemma. In its pure form it answers the questions of life, it tells of our God and His purposes. It tells of us and our needs. It resolves the conflicts that reside in our souls. It leads to abundant and to eternal life. In its unadulterated form that has been guarded and passed down it is what we need to actually know God and to be saved from our sins and to live forever. This truth that is to be guarded tells of our Savior and of His love for us. It tells us that our Savior goes with us, helps us, encourages us, leads us, protects us, provides for us. This truth gives us meaning for life. With so much at stake, it is easy to see why Paul, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, would say, “O Timothy, guard this!”

Now I said that in its pure form it is all of these things. However, if it is not guarded and if it is not pure, if it is adulterated and if error is mixed with it, then it can become none of the things I listed. It can lose all its power. When error is mixed with truth it can become useless, and even worse it can do the opposite of what God has given it to us to do. We see this happening all of the time. We hear things like, “Well yes God says to do this or that, but what He really means is this other thing.” Or, “God says this, but surely He means something else.” Or we hear someone say, “God says this,” when God said no such thing. Words are added to what God has said, words are omitted from what God has said, words are incorrectly interpreted from what God intends and all of the sudden people are speaking words on behalf of God that God never said or intended. And when this happens men and women speak with authority as if from God when in reality it is not from God and is against God.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

When it is handled rightly, here is what we have:

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

When it is not handled rightly here is what happens, here is what happens when error is mixed with truth and false teachers spew what is false:

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2)

Words of truth and life are spoken or words of error and death are spoken. Much is at stake! And thus the reason for Paul’s passionate plea, “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you”

Guard the truth in this way: “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,””

“Timothy, avoid what is counter to the truth of God’s Word.” Standing for truth includes avoiding what is false. It is staying away from what is opposed to God. Much of what is opposed to God is seen in our culture as wise and true when in fact it is not wise or true. It is just that it appeals to us and others, so we want it to be true. Many things appeal to our flesh and we desire what appeals to our flesh so we argue and want to believe it is true and good. This is a great mistake. It is believing lies. It is a false knowledge, it is what Satan did with Adam and Eve in the Garden, he appealed to their flesh with lies and they wanted to embrace what appealed to them, so they did. They chose lies over truth. It is what Satan did with Jesus when tempting Him after His baptism. Satan promised Jesus fame and power and riches. They were all lies and Jesus rightly rejected them.

This is always the problem, when we begin to believe lies we spiral down a dark path. We begin to believe that happiness comes through certain relationships or certain power or possessing of things or physical pleasure or beauty or whatever. We go after these things because we want to be happy and we find that they do not deliver the happiness that we so desire.

Here is why this is so crucial. Here is why we must hold to truth, here is why we must labor to reject what is false. It all is so crucial and here is why. Verse 21: “for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.”

What is the consequence, the ultimate consequence for accepting what is not true by rejecting God’s truth? A swerving from the faith.

Some will lay claim to what is false, that is professing what is false, and in doing so will sever or depart from or go astray from the faith.

Think about this. We don’t take this seriously enough. Young and old please listen. Are you carefully and faithfully evaluating what you believe? Do you just accept what feels right? Do you just go with what you sense is right and okay? Do you just go with the majority or the cool crowd? Do you watch just what appeals to your senses, do you just listen to what makes you feel good? Do you simply do whatever you want to do, fill your minds with whatever you want to and think all will be fine in the end?

Let me say, if you do, then you are living on the edge of eternal condemnation. You are living dangerously close to what Paul is talking about here of those who will swerve eternally from the faith.

You and I cannot just believe whatever we want to believe and think all is well and will be well. We are foolish to do this. That is how pagan nonbelievers live who are headed to hell. We don’t have that right. We are bound to live by God’s truth, by His Word or face dire consequences. This is what I am talking about.

This goes back to what Paul said in 1 Timothy 4:1-2 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”

The process is always the same. Believing lies leads to departing from the faith which leads to life without God. Isn’t it true that every unbeliever is living according to lies believed? This is why what Paul says is so important. Each of us must hold to truth.

We are to be collectively, so as a part of the church of Jesus Christ, we are to be the pillar and support of the truth. That is our calling.

How do we uphold truth? Three ways I want to mention.

First, we can uphold the truth by carefully studying God’s Word. We can read the Bible in search for truth. That means we don’t read it to simply confirm what we want to be true, or with our minds already made up on truth. No, we study it asking God to help us understand it, simply to discover what is true. Too often we just want confirmation of what we hope is true.

Secondly we can speak truth once we understand it. Jesus said this:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Having learned truth we can share truth. This is making truth known for God’s glory, that is, so He will be glorified.

Another way we can uphold truth is by living it out consistently for those around us to see. It is a powerful message to see others live out God’s Word. It is powerful to see someone praise God even while in pain or to trust God even when confused or to be joyful when times are tough. When we choose to live for God in all circumstances we are saying to a watching world, “My God is big, He is trustworthy, He is true, and He loves me.”

Paul ends this letter with words of final encouragement for Timothy, and I believe for us as well. “Grace be with you.”

If any of us read this letter and come away thinking, “Well okay, sounds good, I can live this out,” then we must be warned that these things are beyond our ability on our own. None of us are able to live lives pleasing to God, upholding the truth, living out the truth always on our own. There is no way. We need help. We need constant help. As we try we will become very aware of our weaknesses. So what do we need? We need God’s grace.

We need God’s unmerited favor which enables us to live for Him. We absolutely need the grace of Jesus Christ. We are not designed to live apart from His grace. We will fail apart from His grace. For most of my life I have wrongly believed that I could do whatever I set my mind to do. That if I want something badly enough I can do it. Here is the truth. God reigns over heaven and earth and He reigns over me. If I am to do anything good at all it must be His work in me. My works are evident.

6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. (Isaiah 64:6-7)

This is us without the grace of Christ. We are helpless to uphold truth, we need the grace of Christ. But with the grace of Christ – and this is truly amazing – we can represent God well, we can guard truth for His glory.

As we conclude this book, we must evaluate our lives and be certain we are in the faith, understanding this world and our God rightly according to His Word. If we are not, we are doomed, if we are we have the gift of life, we are His children, we are in the light for now and forever.

Where do you stand? What do you believe? Is it God’s truth?

20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)