Guarding the Deposit
“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (v. 20). - 1 Timothy 6:20-21
First Timothy opened with an exhortation to beware of “different doctrine” and to avoid unprofitable speculations (1:3–4), and it closes with a final charge to Timothy to “guard the deposit” and “avoid irreverent babble” (6:20). But while Timothy is the chief addressee of this letter, these commands are really given to the whole church, for the “you” of “grace be with you” in verse 21 is plural, indicating that the entire church has a responsibility to attend only to reverent teaching — the truth delivered to the saints once for all (Jude 3).
Paul’s reference to “deposit” (1 Tim. 6:20) is important as it conveys the unchanging Word of God. In the original Greek, the construction was used of the solemn obligation of having been entrusted with another person’s possession with the responsibility to keep it safe and return it to the owner in the same condition in which it was received. In light of the Christian faith, this means the deposit of truth is “on loan” to the church who must keep it safe so that it can be “returned” to the Lord unchanged at the last day. Again we see that we are never permitted to water down the truth or make its content inoffensive to the world around us; rather, we are to guard it with our very lives. Dr. John MacArthur says, “Every Christian, especially if he is in ministry, has that sacred trust to guard the revelation of God” (The MacArthur Bible Commentary p. 1,800).
After a final warning that turning from the deposit will end only in apostasy, the apostle concludes his letter with a prayer that grace would be with Timothy and the Ephesian Christians, which is the same way he ends all of his other letters except Romans. Notably, Greek writers usually ended their epistles with an admonition to “be strong,” and commentators believe Paul intentionally echoes this in his closing words, changing “strong” to “grace” to remind us all that we have no strength in ourselves but must rely on Christ for all things. The fifth-century biblical scholar and church father Jerome comments, “For the goodness and mercy of our Savior have saved us, not by reason of good works that we did ourselves but according to his mercy, in order that, justified by his grace, we may be heirs in the hope of life everlasting” (ACCNT vol. 9, p. 227).
None of us is seeking to live in conflict with the people around us, and so we are always tempted to make the gospel inoffensive in order that we might preserve the peace. But the gospel is a “stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23), and so the elect of God show their faith by trusting a message that runs contrary to the lies of our culture. If what is called the gospel (not the messenger) never offends, it is not the true gospel.
Passages for Further Study