“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
When our young people are confirmed, they vow to hold to what they have been taught from the Bible. They promise to “suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.” Recognizing this as a promise that can be kept only with divine help, they humbly answer, “I do so intend, with the help of God.”
This solemn confirmation promise expresses the magnitude of what has been given to all who receive sound instruction in Christian doctrine. To have learned the teachings of God’s Word is to have a trust committed to you. It is like having an item of great value given to you for safe-keeping. Recognizing its value, you guard it carefully, taking precautions against losing it or having it stolen.
Here St. Paul impresses on Timothy the value of what had been committed to him. What Timothy had was the gospel, the precious truth of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
This Paul had transmitted to Timothy with “sound words.”
That word “sound” is noteworthy. Paul uses it several times in the epistles to Timothy and Titus to describe Christian teaching. It is sound in the sense of healthy—as we use the word when we say that someone is of sound mind.
The “sound words” which Paul had spoken to Timothy were words with divine power to give and sustain spiritual health and life. They are words through which the Holy Spirit leads sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, gives forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life. To have these blessings is to be truly healthy.
To have the sound words of Christian teaching is to possess something of great value. Paul instructs Timothy to hold onto them and guard them. Yet he was not to keep them as one would keep gold or diamonds locked in a safety deposit box. Christian doctrine is not just something beautiful to be admired. The precious deposit of the gospel is to be used.
Timothy was to use the sound words that he learned for his own ministry as he preached to his congregation and instructed people in the Christian faith. He was not to use them in mechanical fashion the way one might apply mathematical formulas, but “in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”
Timothy’s teaching should show that he believed the gospel that he taught to others. His preaching should show his love for the Lord Jesus whom he held up to others as the only Savior.
After this admonition to Timothy, Paul speaks of several individuals, mentioning them by name. They serve as examples, on one hand, of guarding the precious deposit of the gospel and, on the other hand, of failing to do so.
Paul reports that “all those in Asia have turned away from me.” We sense the great sadness in those words and in the mention of the names Phygellus and Hermogenes, people Paul loved. He had taught them the gospel, but now they were not holding to it.
But Paul does not dwell long on these sad thoughts. He recalls and mentions another name, one that gives him joy: Onesiphorus, a believer who had guarded the precious deposit of the gospel.
That gospel had brought blessings to the entire household of Onesiphorus and had produced beautiful fruit in his life. In many ways he had provided support for Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. And Paul was especially moved and refreshed when Onesiphorus visited him in his imprisonment in Rome. It was an act of love that required considerable effort and a measure of courage.
All of us who by the grace of God have received the sound words of Christian teaching have this as a precious deposit in our hearts.
Let us guard it with all care and zeal by continued hearing and study of the sound words of the gospel.
Let us not hide it but share it so that others may have it.
By it the Spirit will produce much good fruit in our lives.
By it the Spirit will give us joy
and peace now and keep us as
God’s own forever.