Guard the Good Deposit (2 Timothy Sermon 3 of 9)
October 25, 1998 | Andrew Davis
Preserving the Gospel
I. Introduction: Guarding the Treasure
That's a marvelous song. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. And I have the joy and privilege of Bringing good news to this morning. In this passage, we have a fantastic description of the gospel itself and I'm looking forward to being able to explain to you just how beautiful is the Gospel that we cherish and that we treasure.
Perhaps you didn't know this, but 30 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky, there's a treasure as well, a treasure more vast and more measurable than any of you can imagine, greater than Bill Gates and Ted Turner put together. Probably you never thought of Louisville, Kentucky in this way. I didn't either, until we went there and realized that we were just 30 miles north of Fort Knox. So, we wanted to go down there and see all that gold. Christi and I got the kids, and we put them in the car and we drove down to see bricks of gold. I don't know why I wanted to see that. I saw a National Geographic article on it, so we drove down there and there's a military museum and some other things down there.
But when we came to the place where the actual gold was held, we were somewhat disappointed, because instead of a visitor center we saw a guard booth and instead of some kind of a museum or some tour that we could take, we saw barbed wire and an ugly blockade look, reinforced concrete, sunk below the surface of the earth, impervious to bombing and also in impervious to visitors. So, we had hoped to visit this gold and see it, but we had no chance of doing so. There was going to be no visit that day.
And nor is there a visit at Fort Knox any day. And why is it so protected? It's because the federal government has the majority of their gold holding there. Now, we're not on the gold standard anymore, but they understand if that gold were somehow to be tampered with, if it were to be stolen, that the United States economy and the whole world economy would be devastated. And so they think they will stop at nothing to protect it. There's no length that they'll go to protect it.
But we have a treasure in the gospel that is of far greater worth than all those bricks of gold. And in the passage this morning, the Apostle Paul charges Timothy to spare nothing to protect that gospel message. To spare nothing to cherish the words of the gospel that we're entrusted to Paul by Jesus Christ himself, and then through Paul to Timothy, and through Timothy and others ultimately to us. Spare nothing to protect that message.
This is Paul's third charge to Timothy. What I'm going to do is I'm going to read the first 14 verses of Chapter One, just to get a start and then we're going to look more carefully at the beautiful, the good deposit that was given to us. We're going to survey it. We're going to feel it’s worth and its value, and then we're going to look at how it is we are to protect it. So listen out of verses one through 14.
"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. I thank God whom I serve as my forefathers did with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I've 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. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. 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 who 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. But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and brought life, and immortality to light through the Gospel. And of this gospel, I was appointed a herald and an apostle, and a teacher. That is why I'm suffering as I am. Yet I'm not ashamed, because I know whom I believed and I'm convinced that He is able to guard, what I have entrusted to him for that day. What you have heard from me keep as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you, guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."
II. Paul’s Circumstances: Persecution under Nero
What a charge. The third charge that Paul gives to Timothy. Now let's remind ourselves of the context. Paul was suffering persecution at the hands of the insane Roman Emperor Nero. As you remember, Nero head for one reason or another, burned half the city of Rome, and had decided to blame it on the Christians. This was the first persecution by the Roman government of the Christian people and the Apostle Paul was to die under that persecution, and Paul knew it. When he sat down to write this letter, he knew he was going to die, he'd already had his first trial. Second trial was coming up very soon. And he knew he was going to die.
And so he wants to write a final letter to Timothy, to entrust to Timothy a serious charge, the Gospel ministry. That charge have been entrusted to him by Jesus Christ and now he was going to entrust it with all seriousness to Timothy who had been his right-hand man on his missionary journeys. We've already looked at the first charge that Paul gave to Timothy in verse six. He says, "Fan your gift in the flame." We know that this is Timothy spiritual gift of preaching and teaching. The second charge, we discussed a couple of weeks ago. Namely that Timothy should never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or of Jesus Christ or the people of Christ, but rather, with boldness, with fearlessness, he should preach this Gospel message.
III. Assessing the Good Deposit (vs. 8-10)
So, now we come to the third charge that he should guard the good deposit. Now, we need to survey this deposit in order to understand what Paul was commanding Timothy to do. Thankfully, in a beautiful way, Paul condenses the Gospel in just a few verses. In verses 8-10, we can survey the whole good deposit. There we see the character of our salvation, we see the source of our salvation and the ground of our salvation.
In verse eight, it says that God has saved us, and He's called us now to a holy life. And then in verse 10, it says that Christ has destroyed death, and brought life, and immortality to light through the Gospel. He has saved us. I could say He is saving us now and He will save us in the future. The character of this gospel message is that it's comprehensive. It's a total salvation from sin.
The character of salvation
Some people have summed it up into three P's. That Jesus Christ has saved us from the penalty of sin. He is saving us now from the power of sin and some day he's going to save us, we who are his children, from the very presence of sin. Oh, what a day that'll be. No more temptation, no more suffering, or struggle with sin, what a day. To be totally free from sin, and all of its manifestations.
It's a comprehensive salvation. Well, when we say that Jesus Christ has saved us from sin's penalty, what are we saying? Romans 6:23 tells us what that penalty is, it says the wages or what we deserve for sin, is death. The wages of sin is death. What do we mean by death? Well, we all know about physical death, physical death is the separation of the soul from the body. Now, we know from Romans 5 that death entered the world because of sin, physical death. We don't say that people die because they committed this specific sin, but just death entered and hangs over all of us because of sin.
But the scripture has more to say about death than just physical death, there's a spiritual death as well. Ephesians chapter two tells us about that. It says in Ephesians two that all people who do not know Jesus Christ are dead in their transgressions and sins while they live. That's somewhat of a paradox, dead while you live, living dead. If you don't know Jesus Christ, you're dead in your transgressions and sins, and you can't respond to God, you can't understand what he's saying to you. You're like a spiritual corpse until Jesus Christ, by His power, raises you from the dead you won't respond, but he has that power.
And all of you who are born again who know Jesus Christ, you know what I'm talking about. The power of God to raise you from the dead, spiritually. But there is a more serious death, and it's where that spiritual death that we experience now, when we don't know Jesus becomes permanent, eternal, final on Judgment Day. It's what scripture calls the second death. Revelation Chapter 20:14 says that the lake of fire is the second death. Jesus Christ came to save us from that, to suffer on the cross so that we would not have to suffer eternally away from God. He came to save us from sin's penalty and by His death on the cross, that's what he's done.
But he's also come to save us from sin's power. It says that He has saved us and has called us with a holy calling. He's called us to a holy life. He's called us to be different, to come out of the world and to be different. The church of Jesus Christ is to be a holy church. We're not to be like the world. We're to imitate, to follow Jesus Christ and all of His ways. He's called us with a holy calling. Are you taking that calling seriously?
If you're a born again Christian, you should be holy, you should be growing in holiness, you should be more holy a year from now than you are now. More faithful in putting sin to death. This is the holy calling, that He's called us for. And in the end, He will save us from sin's very presence. He will save us from the existence of sin in our lives. 1 John 3 says that when we see Him, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. When you see Jesus Christ face-to-face, all sin will be removed forever, there'll be no more temptation and no more suffering under temptation, and under sin.
So, this is the character of our salvation. And isn't it comprehensive? Isn't it beautiful? It's a total salvation from sin. It's a salvation in the past, because Jesus died on the cross. We have been saved from sin's penalty. Salvation in the present, as God's power works in us. Holiness and righteousness and it will be a salvation in the future, when Jesus Christ comes back and we see Him face-to-face and all sin is removed. The character of our salvation.
The Source of Salvation
But what is its source? Where does it come from? As we look at the river of our salvation.Where are the headwaters? The cataracts of this? As we trace it back, what's the origin of it all?
In 1860, a British man, named James Hanningspeak traced the Nile River back to its origin. Now this had been a problem that had eluded people for 2000 years. They wanted to know what was the source of the Nile. And so they had traced it from Egypt up, following along into Sudan, but they reached physical difficulties, they couldn't keep following, it was too hard and no one knew where the Nile came from. Well, James Hanningspeak found that it originated in what he called or named Lake Victoria in the center of Africa. 4150 miles away from where it's spilled out into the Mediterranean sea, longest river on earth.
As we look at the river of our salvation, we trace it back to its origin, where is it? Well, Paul answers that, both negatively and positively. Negatively in verse 9. He says, it's not because of anything we have done. Not because of anything we have done. This message of salvation is not about what you have done, or have accomplished, it's not about your actions at all. It's about what God has done through Jesus Christ, on the cross. That's the origin.
It's not anything that we have done. Paul taught the same thing in Ephesians 2:8-9, it says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It's a gift of God, not by works. So that no one can boast." I won't stand any boasting before Him on that great day. Salvation is His gift, He offers it freely. It's not because of anything we have done, negatively. He says. But positively, he says it is because of God's purpose and His grace. God's purpose means his will, his reason, his decision, it's what he wanted to do.
You look at the first verse of the entire book, he says Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus, what, "By the will of God, God wanted me to be an apostle, and that's what I am." The will of God. Each one of you who is a Christian, you're a Christian because the will of God. His purpose, also His grace. What is grace?
We sing that wonderful hymn, Amazing Grace. What's so amazing about grace? Well, let me say, if you meditate on sin and understand yourself before a holy God, you'll see what's so amazing about grace. Grace is amazing. Why should He give His beloved son for you? Because He loves and not because of anything He sees in you or me, just because He loves. That's what's so amazing about grace, it's His purpose and His grace. But when was this grace given to us? When was this plan worked out? Well, here's a mystery, but it says that this grace was given us in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time. Before the beginning of time.
I was reading a book recently by what many people consider to be the most brilliant man alive, today, Steven Hawking, some of you have heard of Stephen Hawking, he's a British physicist. Confined to a wheelchair because of Lou Gehrig's Disease, but his mind is active and sharp.
And he wrote a book called "A Brief History of Time." A Brief History of Time. Many of you perhaps have seen it, it was on the New York Times Best Seller list. It's physics made simple for people like you and me who are laymen, don't really fully understand physics.
But what he sought to do and he spent about 30 or 40 pages doing is proving that time had an origin. Many Physicists believe that there is no origins of time, that the universe has always been here, and will always be here, etcetera. That time had an origin. He proves it through mathematics and through observation and other things like that. Well, sometimes I think this is really wonderful. Physicists are somewhat like mountain climbers, climbing up the mountain of truth. And when they get to the top, they find that the theologians were already there, especially believers. All you need to do is read it in the Bible. This grace was given us when? Before the beginning of time. Time had a beginning and before that, God was active, He was doing thing. He was giving you grace.
Well, how can that be? I wasn't even made yet. In the mind of God, you were. God has been having a relationship with you, if you're a Christian, before the world began. Jeremiah 31:3 says, "Since I have loved you with an everlasting love and therefore in love and kindness, I have drawn you." Our salvation comes out of an everlasting changeless love of God. Your relationship with God is not like the stock market going up, going down. Up, down, up, up, up, down, down. I think about that.
I think, "Is my relationship, is God's love for me affected by how I behave?" No, there's a settled assurance on God's part that I'm a child of God and that He is going to bring me into His very presence at the end of the world, and he made up his mind about this, if we can speak in that kind of language, before the world began, before there was a sun shining in all its radiance, before the moon reflected the sun's light, before there was an earth to walk on, before there was a Nile River flowing down from the center of Egypt into the Mediterranean, God gave us his grace in Christ, Jesus. That's what it says.
This idea, this doctrine should produce in us simply two things, deep humility and total security. Deep humility because our salvation is not based on any achievement on our part, nothing we can boast about. The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin made that makes it necessary. But it should also produce in us total, complete security in Christ. We will be saved when that great and final day comes. We've seen the character and now we've seen the source of our salvation.
The Ground of Salvation
What of it's ground? What's it based on? What's the structure of our salvation founded upon? It says this grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed, or it has now appeared through the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ. When Jesus entered the world, in Bethlehem born as a baby, born of a woman, born under the law at just the right time, God's salvation plan became evident.
And as he grew and lived a sinless pure life, and as He did the things He did, and said the things He said, performed those great miracles. And as He was nailed to the cross, suffering for sin. And as He was raised from the dead on the third day, God's salvation plan has become explained and made known, and that story is the ground of our salvation.
It's the foundation on which we rest. It was hidden and now it's revealed. Now, that ground again, Paul describes both negatively and positively. Negatively, he says that Jesus Christ has destroyed death. Positively, he says that he has brought life, and immortality to light through the Gospel. Now, what does it mean negatively when he says that he's destroyed death? Now, I talked earlier about the three kinds of death, we see that. But this word "destroyed" is very interesting. You could say, some translations say abolished. I prefer to look on it as rendered impotent, strip the power away from death. You can imagine a scorpion for example, with its tail curving up over its head, with that stinger ready to strike, deadly poison.
But then an expert coming and removing that stinger, the scorpion has no sting. There's no power left to death or you can imagine, perhaps, a man, in a rumpled German private officer May 21st, 1945, very end of World War II. Trying to make his way through the British lines, had 11 other men with him. Just trying to get back to his homeland in Bavaria. They pull him off to the side, begin to question him, find out that he's Heinrich Himmler. Heinrich Himmler was the leader of the Gestapo, one of the most feared, one of the most evil man in history. Two or three, four years before then, he had all his power, all his army around him. And he could do all of his evil deeds. But now, he's been stripped of his power by the Allied victory, the military victory. He had no power left, he was a rumpled man. No power. Still alive, still there, but no authority.
This is what Jesus Christ has done to death and all of its evil power, its ability to terrorize. And here is the Apostle Paul seated in this prison cell, waiting to die. Is he terrified of death? Oh, absolutely not. "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." He just wants to finish his earthly work, he knows he's being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for his departure. He's not afraid of death at all. There's no fear in Paul, he just wants to finish his work. Jesus Christ has abolished death, he's pulled the stinger out of it. We as Christians have no need for fear of death any longer. That's negative.
What about positive? He's brought life, and immortality to light through the gospel. Jesus said, "I came that they may have life and they might have it abundantly." Jesus came to show us a life that apart from Him, we would never know. A life of joy, a life of fellowship with God. John 17:3, he says, "This is eternal life, that they may know you. The only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Knowing God, walking with Him, living with Him, that is life and Jesus alone can give it, and He does give it freely.
The word "immortality", which we translate immortality, you could translate or say as freedom from corruption or surrounded by rust, withered flowers, things that age. The life that Jesus gives is free from all that. Jesus holds on to it and protects it. Paul says, "I know whom I believe, and I'm convincing that He is able to guard what I've entrusted to Him." What you entrust to God is safe. Your life is hidden with Him in God. Protected and safe.
But I love what it says that he has brought this life, this immortality to light through the Gospel. A beautiful illustration of this. King's chapel Cambridge, England, has the most magnificent display of stained glass in all of Europe. Made in the 15th and 16th century, 13,000 square feet of it. Can you imagine? I don't know how many square feet there are here in this sanctuary, but I doubt it's 13,000 square feet. But these are spectacular stained glass windows. Well, during World War II, they thought it was wise to remove the stained glass and get it out of the chapel, bury it, so that it wouldn't be destroyed by the Luftwaffe, by the German bombers. And so that's exactly what they did.
Well, after the war was over and enough time had past, they knew it was time to bring these stained glass out of hiding and re-install them at King's Chapel, and so that's what they did. The workers covered them with shrouds and cloths to keep them protected, during their installment, and then at the right time when everything was prepared, everything was ready, the word went out and all the local populous came and they surrounded King's Chapel from the outside, and it was night.
And at just the right moment, the word was given and floodlights from inside the chapel were turned on and the light streamed out through those steamed glass windows and all the people gasped, they'd forgotten the beauty of the windows, the glory of all the colors. That is what Jesus Christ has done by His resurrection from the dead, and by the Gospel that we preach in His name. People walking in darkness see a great light, the light of life, freedom from sin, freedom from fear of death, eternal life forever.
The shining of the light, and that's what God has called us here at First Baptist Church to do, to shine that light. The light of this beautiful Gospel that he's entrusted to us. We've seen the character of salvation, how comprehensive it is, past, present, and future. We've seen the source of salvation, not anything that we have done, but God's own purpose and grace given us before the world began.
And we've seen the ground of salvation. In the past, hidden in the mind of God, but now revealed through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So now Paul commands Timothy, to guard this message because it's so precious. He says, "What you have heard from me keep as the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ Jesus, guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you. Guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."
IV. Guarding the Deposit
Well, what does Paul mean to guard this message? He said, "What you have heard for me, the words you heard from my mouth, hold on to them. They're precious, they're valuable, keep them safe." He says, "Guard them as a pattern." There's a sense in which he's given an outline, like an architect sketch, have you ever seen these architects sketch of what a building is going to look like? A pen and ink description? ] This is exactly what Paul did with the doctrine, he said "Timothy, color it in. Make it brilliant, but don't color outside the lines, stay inside those lines. Don't innovate, don't change it, don't rearrange it. Give them the sound doctrine that I've given to you."
Now, the word sound means, sound doctrine means healthy. Like, for example, when you have a last will and testament, you say, "I Andrew M. Davis being of sound mind do here by such and such." It means I've got a healthy mind. This is healthy doctrine and it strengthens and it gives life. "Don't change it Timothy, but stay with it."
Why does the gospel message need to be protected? Well, first and foremost, because it's from God, God gave it to us. Paul says in Galatians 1, he said, "I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I preach is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, rather I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. He revealed it to me, showed it to me, I got this message straight from him. And I preached it faithfully. Now you, Timothy, don't change it. Don't rearrange it, don't leave out unpopular parts of it, preach the whole message. You don't have a right to change it, it's from God."
This message is life. You also, it says, were dead in your transgressions and sins but you were included in Christ, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. These words are your life, protect them, hold them safe.
But we also need to protect it because Satan hates this message, he really does, he hates the Gospel, that I'm preaching in front of you today. He'll fight against it. He has in every generation throughout history, there's been an attack on the Gospel. Early on, false teachers came up and they questioned whether Jesus Christ was really man. Or, perhaps the question whether he was really God. God raised up faithful teachers to fight back against those heresies. In recent years however, there's a more subtle attack on the Gospel. It started in the enlightenment when a man named Emmanuel Kant came and said, "You know something, you really can't know truth as it really is, you can only know truth as it appears to you."
This other man, a theologian named Schleiermacher said, "That's especially true in religion. You can't know religious truth, the Bible is not full of religious truth but only people's spiritual experiences, that's all this is, just a record of spiritual experiences." And you also can't know the truth but only have experiences of religious fervor, etcetera. And so people come to church now and they come expecting to have some kind of religious experiences, they're not looking for truth.
All of this is an innovation, it's a twisting. It's ultimately a heresy, it's falsehood because there is a truth. The truth is that the tomb is empty, that Jesus Christ has in fact risen from the dead. Believe it or not, there was a theologian at the end of the 1800s, who said it really doesn't matter to me if Jesus ever lived or not. It doesn't matter if the tomb is empty, or full. All that matters is the life and the experience that we have from studying the Bible as it's come to us today. And his motto was, "Life not doctrine." Do you see what a changed this is? This is a perversion, it's a twisting.
The life we have in Jesus Christ comes from the teaching, from the doctrine. Well, how is Timothy to guard this life, this doctrine, how is he to protect it? Well, it says guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we guard this message. There are two threats that we have to fight against.
The first is surrounded by a culture of people who hate the message, surrounded by a culture of people who are drifting further and further away from Christianity, true Christianity. We are tempted to start to change the message a little bit, or maybe include some things that would be a little more popular, kind of broaden the tent a little bit, get the stakes a little wider. Include some things and leave out some other things, change it a little bit.
It's temptation, or there's another issue and that's something we would do knowingly by the way. Something that we would do ignorantly, where false teachers come in and deceive us, trick us and we begin to change the message because we didn't really know what the true message was and were tossed back and forth by every wind of teaching. Either one can happen. By the Holy Spirit, neither one needs to happen. In the first case, we realize by the power of the Spirit, we don't need to be afraid of what surrounding culture says. We don't have to be afraid of death or anything, we live to God, we live to Jesus Christ and we preach this message. People hear it, and they come and they are saved because it's a true message from Jesus Christ.
And we don't need to be afraid of false teachers coming in either because we're going to study the message, we're going to know it. We're going to understand what it says.
Last week, I was in Washington, and I met a man who was a member of the Capital Hill Baptist Church. And his profession is that he works for the Secret Service and I didn't know that much about the Secret Service. Of course, we know that they protect important officials, elected officials, but one of their original purpose, original function, after the Civil War was to discern true and false currency. They actually work for the Department of the Treasury, and they work against counterfeit money. Counterfeiters. So, I talked to him, I said, "Well, how do you go about doing this?" He said more than anything, "We study the genuine article. We study how the bills were made. We understand the ink, we understand the paper, the procedure." Now, I think you've seen the new bills with the watermark in it, looks like Monopoly money. I think it's kind of funny looking.
I actually look at it twice and think that it's counterfeit but it's a new dollar, you hold it up to the light and you see that watermark. I asked him how it was made, he said, "that's top secret". They can't tell what that is, that watermark. But what they do is they study the genuine bill so well that as soon as the counterfeit comes along, they know it and they recognize it.
So, it is with the church. We immerse ourselves in this book, we get to know the Scriptures. We memorize, we meditate on them and then as soon as the falsehood comes along, we say, "That's just not true." For it says in Galatians such and such, or it says over in Ephesians such and such. We recognize it immediately, and we have no fear of false doctrine. And that means that a next generation, the people who come in behind us, our disciples, our children, they're teaching the same doctrine that Paul taught. That's how it works. God has given this Gospel message, this beautiful deposit to us as a sacred trust. We are to proclaim it boldly, and faithfully, not to innovate or change it in any way, but to give it to the people so that they may have eternal life. We have to guard this message more faithfully than the gold is gone at Fort Knox. N
ow today, you've heard the Gospel message in the midst of this exposition. It could be that some of you have never heard the message preached in this way, it could be that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. But today is the day of salvation for you. If you feel the leading of the Spirit, don't resist, give your life to Jesus Christ. Let Him take the death penalty that hangs over your head if you're not a Christian. Let Him stand in your place and give you eternal life.
For all those of you who are Christians, re-commit yourself to the gospel ministry. You know that tomorrow night we are beginning our visitation ministry, it's a practical application. Come and be with us. 7:00, Morgan Hall. We're making a commitment to visit the visitors of our church, share the Gospel with them, find out what their needs are.
I've told people on my staff, I'm trusting God for one person to come on Monday night, a church member who's stepping out in faith and doing something that they've never done before. And I'm also asked them that that person come and tell me who he or she is. I'm that person that's trusting God to be here. I hope there's going to be a lot of people like that. But God has committed this Gospel ministry to us and we are to be faithful.