Friday, December 30, 2011

Guarding the Trust

When you hear the word “command,” what kind of impulsive feeling does it bring? Do you immediately have a sense of warm fuzzies when you hear it?

I can remember growing up hearing all kinds of commands from my parents that were intended for my good. I also remember having a nagging feeling that commands were a bad thing. I don’t know any kid who likes commands. Or adults, come to think of it. And that’s not a good thing.

Why? Because, among all sorts of other reasons, the Apostle Paul says that the law (he was referring to Moses’ law, which included all kinds of rules and commands) was actually “holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7.12). When law is not misused, it is a wonderful thing because it points us to the truth (see 1 Timothy 1.8). Which reminds me that my disdain for commands was wrong-headed. If they are motivated by love, issued in love, and if the goal of them is love, then commands are wonderful.

This all brings us to the closing words of Paul in his letter known as 1 Timothy. In this series we have seen that he was communicating to Timothy the importance of the gospel, and reminding him that the church is to be the community of truth, pointing people to Christ. Here at the conclusion of his letter, in 1 Timothy 6.11-16, 20-21, Paul again issues important instructions (commands) to Timothy, as he did in the opening section of the letter. He commands Timothy and the church in simple reminders for guarding the gospel with which we have been entrusted. There are certain things we must flee, follow, fight, and fulfill.

Flee (v. 11)

There are certain things we must run away from—individually and as a church. Paul tells him to flee from “these things.” What things? The greed and false teaching that were already rampant in their day, and which he just described in verses 9-10. He tells Timothy to be content, and run away from these earthly pursuits.

Follow (v. 11)

There are certain things we must run toward—individually and as a church. He tells Timothy that instead of earthly pursuits, he should pursue “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” These character traits need no explanation; they are obvious goals for the believer in his progress with the Lord.

Fight (v. 12)

There are certain things we must contend for—individually and as a church. Fighting may not seem like something you expect in this list. But Paul says that there are some things we must fight for. He reasons it this way in verse 12: Since you were called to the truth, and have confessed the truth, you must now contend for the truth. This means standing against deception wherever it may be found—especially fighting it when it rears its ugly head in the church. False gospels, which are not good news at all, must be exposed and eliminated. Lots of New Testament ink makes this obvious.

Fulfill (vv. 12-16)

There are certain things we must complete and keep—individually and as a church. Since he just described fighting for the truth, in verses 13-16 he reminds Timothy of what the true, good confession is. The church should “take hold of eternal life” (v. 12) and then keep clinging to our confession, while we wait together for the appearing of our rescuer, the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 14). He ends this section with a great theological hymn of praise for the One who deserves all glory.

The Community of Truth

Paul commands Timothy, and therefore us, with simple reminders to flee, follow, fight and fulfill certain things in order to guard the trust: we have been entrusted with the one, true, glorious gospel (vv. 20-21). He ends his letter by saying that this truth, the glorious gospel, is a stewardship that has been entrusted to us, and from which we should not deviate.

This trust of guarding the gospel as the community of truth is a great and awesome privilege. My prayer for my church and yours is that we stay close to the One who calls and sustains us by His glorious grace. To God be the glory.

[This is the final part of a larger series on 1 Timothy called The Community of Truth.]