Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “guard the deposit entrusted to you”(6:21) As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy is being sent into a battle on to the frontlines for the very Gospel itself. He needs strong encouragement to see the importance of the task and ministry with which he has been entrusted.
He repeats the encouragement in his second letter to Timothy:
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. 2 Timothy 1:13, 14
The need for Paul’s letter to Timothy was occasioned for two main reasons: geography and time. First, Paul was simply not able to be in more than one place at a time. The delegation of leadership to others was an essential task for Paul if there was to be a geographically broad gospel movement. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys moving from region to region, city to city, town to town, many new congregations were planted. New leadership had to be developed in each region, city and town. Coordination and support of those various congregations also became mission critical for the gospel.
The second issue was related to time. Paul was always keenly aware that his days of “fruitful ministry” were numbered. The issue of succession was critically important to Paul as he empowered Timothy to lead and then to identify and empower more leaders for the churches.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:1-2
In this way we see, the first examples of succession and delegation at work in the church in the personal and pastoral relationship between Timothy and Paul. For Paul, the issue is not merely the passing of a torch humanly speaking, but for him it was critically important that the content and character of the gospel be guarded in order that it may be passed on faithfully to the next generation of leaders.
As each generation considers its own faith, it must also keep in mind the needs of the next generation of believers. We are given a sacred trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a trust to be guarded that it may be faithfully conveyed.
In what ways are you delegating and passing on the deposit of faith which has been entrusted to you? Do you have a Timothy in your life?
Guard the deposit of faith!