Have you ever tried to log on to an old account, only to find you couldn’t remember your username or password? When you signed up, the name you wanted was already taken, so you came up with something close. Your usual password wasn’t secure enough, so you added some strange character at the end. Now you can’t recall either your username or password. The irony is these were supposed to protect sensitive information, but now not even you can get to it. Is this what is means to guard something? Sure, you kept your sensitive data out of the hands of criminals. Good job. But you also kept it from yourself.
Paul tells Timothy to guard the gospel. What does this mean?
To guard the gospel is not only to discern and object to false teachings that might seek to undermine God’s truth, it is also to become intimately familiar with that truth ourselves. To guard the gospel is to know it—to see through the lens of it, to be increasingly aware of where we stand in relationship to God because of it. The gospel is more than a set of doctrinal distinctions—it is the truth of our relationship with the living Christ who loved us, and gave Himself for us (Galatians 2:20).
Paul says the gospel is a heritage entrusted to Timothy, meaning it didn’t begin with Timothy or Paul, nor with any of us the day we first believed. Christians have a great spiritual heritage. Paul traces both his and Timothy’s spiritual lineage, saying the God he serves is the God of his forefathers—the same as the God of Abraham, whom Paul grew up studying as a Jew. Paul’s present conversion was a matter of recognizing God’s perfect fulfillment of His ancient covenant promises to Abraham in Christ.
Later, Paul instructs Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Why would Paul tell Timothy to fan the call to gospel faithfulness into flame? Is it dying inside Timothy? No. Paul tells him this because the gospel is not something we embrace once and then leave alone like some username and password. We take it up, tend to it like a fire, and study it to learn of God’s grace and ponder Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Though its power is already perfectly complete in Christ, we still need to hear it daily.
This is how we guard the gospel. We internalize it.
Written by Russ Ramsey