12 That is why I am suffering here in jail, and I am certainly not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return.
13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
14 That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
Mr. Duke, of the Duke & Ayres dime stores, was a dedicated Christian. He was at one time a farmer, and he and his wife saved $700 and bought a bunch of five- and 10-cent dolls and opened a store. He saw that store grow to a chain of 42 stores before he died. Because of his devotion to Christ and his commitment to Christian stewardship, before he and his wife opened that first store, they knelt and they gave that business (and they gave themselves fresh and anew) to the Lord Jesus, saying, “Whatever we do, however we prosper, we will remember you and we will honor you.”
He honored God all of his life. Years later he was making a speech on stewardship and he said, “All of my life I have heard people say, ‘Trust God! Trust God!’ The real question is, can God trust you? Can he?”
We know that we can trust him. But can he trust us? Paul emphasizes that we have a trust to keep. In the book of 2 Timothy, chapter one and verse 12, he talks about the trust we have in God. He says, “For I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return.”
Paul is saying to us that he has made a commitment to Jesus Christ. He is talking about the commitment of his soul, his life, and his salvation to the Lord Jesus, and he says, “I know that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him.”
Then two verses later he says, “Timothy, that good thing which was committed unto you, keep it in the power or by the Holy Ghost which dwells in us.” You see there are two commitments in these verses—that which I commit to the Lord, and that which the Lord commits to me. There are two keepings mentioned here—that which our Lord is able to keep, and that which we are to keep. I have committed my life and soul and salvation to him, and he can keep it. But he in turn has committed his Gospel to me, and he intends that I keep it.
He mentions in this verse that good thing which is committed unto us. The word literally means that “beautiful” thing, or that “desirable” thing, and it has reference to the good news of God that Jesus Christ the Savior has come. He has died on the cross for our sins. He has been buried. He has been resurrected from the grave and he is Lord of Lords and the King of Kings. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by him. That good news of redemption, forgiveness, and eternal life known as the Gospel has been committed unto us.
That word committed is a banking term. It means “to make a deposit” or “to entrust something to someone else for safekeeping,” and Paul declares, “Timothy, that good thing—the Gospel—has been deposited. It has been turned over to us for our safekeeping. Timothy, I want you to keep that which God has entrusted to you.”
The word keep is a military term. It means “to stand guard over, to protect, or to watch.” It is the same word that is used to describe that first Christmas Eve when Luke writes, “There were in the same country shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.”
The same word used to describe their keeping of their flocks is used here to describe our keeping of the Gospel. It is the same word that is found in Acts 12 that describes those four groups of four soldiers. Each group was commissioned to watch and to guard Simon Peter when he had been arrested, to see that he did not escape. The shepherds were commissioned to watch their flock, to protect them, to guard them, and to care for them. As those guards watched and looked over to maintain the security of their prisoner, and as those shepherds cared for their flock, so we are to watch over, to guard, and to protect the Gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ which has been entrusted to us. We have committed our safekeeping to the Lord Jesus and he will keep us. He has committed his Gospel to us and the question is, will we keep it? We can trust God, but can God trust us?
If we are going to keep the Gospel, if we are going to guard it, if we are going to protect it, there are at least three things we need to do.
First, we must know it in our minds. Second, we must show it in our lives. And third, we must sow it in the world. And if we know it in our minds and we show it in our lives, and we sow it in the world, we can best preserve it and guard it and protect it.
If we are interested in doing what our Lord tells us to do—keeping the trust that has been given to us—then we must do these three things.
1. We need to know it in our minds.
If we do not know what the Gospel says, if we do not know the Gospel message, and if we do not have an accurate understanding of it, how in this world can we guard it and protect it? How can we know when someone is twisting and perverting the truth of God’s word? I am persuaded that the greatest danger the church faces today is not intellectual doubt but a casual drift away from Jesus Christ. Our greatest problem is not infidelity but it is ignorance of the word of God.
In talking about our great salvation, the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1). The word slip that he uses here is the Greek word that describes a ship drifting out to sea. It has been cut loose from the dock and now the current is leading it. It is drifting slowly out of the harbor, out of safety, and into the open seas where it will forever be lost.
That word drift that can describe a ship slowly being carried away by the current is the word used to describe one of the dangers that is always facing a church and the people of God. Bit by bit, slowly and imperceptibly, we shall drift away from the truth of God—not because we have doubts and not because we are skeptics, but because we do not know what the gospels say.
There is an appalling ignorance of the word of God today. A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about Israel, and in the lesson she pointed out that the northernmost city of ancient Israel was the city of Dan, and in the southernmost city was the city of Beersheba. As she was talking about those two cities—one to the north and one to the south—a pupil interrupted her and asked, “You mean to tell us Dan and Beersheba are places?” She replied, “That is right.” He said, “Well, you could have fooled me! I thought they were a husband and wife like Sodom and Gomorrah.” (You know there are also some people who think the epistles are wives of the apostles.)
We sometimes get excited about Madalyn Murray O’Hair. But all the Madalyn Murray O’Hairs who have ever lived since the beginning of time do not do as much damage and destruction to the Gospel as the kind of ignorance that is so prevalent in the church today, where people simply do not know what the Bible says. If we do not know the Gospel, how can we protect it and guard it and preserve it? I say to you, the first thing that is necessary is that we must know it in our minds.
We had a deacon’s meeting last Tuesday night. I got to the meeting a little bit early and found two of our deacons talking together. They were talking about these children who come down to the front on Sunday night and share a verse of scripture with us. One of the deacons asked the other, “Bill, do you know the Lord’s Prayer?”
Bill said, “I sure do know it. I’ve known it all of my life.” The other said, “I don’t believe it. In fact, I bet you five dollars that you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer.” Bill said, “I’ll cover that.” He said, “Here we go. ‘As I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.’” The other deacon pulled out five dollars and said, “Here. I didn’t know you knew it.” It is appalling how much we don’t know.
If we are commissioned by the Lord Jesus to keep that which has been committed unto us, how can we keep it lest we know it? I am pleading with you for less newspaper and more Bible. I am pleading with you for less novel and more Gospel. If we would spend more time studying the word of God and allowing it to penetrate our hearts and our minds, we could better defend it if we are going to preserve that which has been committed unto us.
2. We need to show it in our lives.
What makes a difference is not how many times you have been through the gospels, but how many times and how thoroughly the gospels have been through you, and how well they show in your life. You know that people take their notions about Jesus Christ more from us than they do from the Bible. They don’t read the Bible.
They don’t listen to many sermons. They don’t read many articles about Christianity. Whatever notion they have about Jesus Christ, they are apt to get more from you than they do from Christian literature—especially the Bible.
We are the true scriptures that most men know best. And if we are going to preserve the Gospel, we must seize that method by which it is spread, which is the way we live, the way we conduct our lives. We must see to it that we not only know it in our minds but that we show it in our lives as well. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). If a lot of you have your lights on, they are your parking lights. I don’t see the Gospel being spread around the community very much, and I’m here to tell you that I have no faith and no confidence in any man’s religion or any man’s confession if it does not continually show itself in his life.
I didn’t say he must always be talking about it. Lamps don’t talk, but they do shine. We are the light of the world, and if we need less newspaper and more Bible, and less novel and more Gospel, we also need more light in the world.
A preacher was trying to sell his congregation on buying a chandelier. He had seen one in a big city church. He thought they needed one out in that country church. He put out a passionate plea for a chandelier. But there was opposition. One brother in particular was opposed to it. Finally, in the midst of the business conference the preacher said, “Brother, why are you so opposed to the chandelier?”
The brother stood and said, “For three reasons. One is that nobody around here knows how to spell it, so how could we order it? Second, if we ordered it and they delivered it, there’s nobody here who can play it. And the third reason is, what we really need around here is more light.”
That’s what we need here. More light. And that light needs to shine through your life and mine. For Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.”
Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world.” How do those two fit together? Well, Jesus is the great light, like the sun. The sun is a glowing, burning ball of fire, and it lights us by day. There is a lesser light—the moon. The moon has no light of its own. It reflects the light of the sun, and on a clear night it illuminates a large part of the earth. Jesus, God’s Son, is the light of the world, but we are reflectors of that great light, and in that sense we are the light of the world. The world needs to see Jesus Christ in us and through us. If we are going to preserve and protect the Gospel, then it must shine through us. We must know it in our minds and we must show it in our lives.
3. We need to sow it in the world.
Suppose a man should come to me with a bag of seeds and say, “I want you to keep these for me in safekeeping. Preserve them for me. I’m going on a Iong trip, and when I return I expect them to be safely secured.” I may say to him, “Well, sir, how long will you be gone?” What if he should say, “I’m going to be gone 1,000 or 2,000 or maybe 10,000 years.” Then I would have to think about how I could keep that which he has entrusted to me. How could I best preserve it? Well, if I buried the whole sack of seeds in a hole in the ground for safekeeping, they may rot. If I put them on a shelf somewhere in the back of my closet, weevils may get to them, or in the passing of time I may forget that they are there. So if I want to preserve that bag of seeds until he comes, the best thing would be to go out in my yard and plant some and let them reproduce a hundredfold or a thousandfold. Then I would begin to pass those seeds around to other people and let them plant them and let them reproduce a hundredfold or a thousandfold. This way, in the passing of a little while, the whole world would be covered with those seeds. There would be no way to destroy them.
The Gospel is a seed. Jesus said, “A sower went forth to sow” (Matthew 13:3). He explained that the seed was the word of God and the field was the world. If we want to preserve, protect, guard, and keep the word of God, then the best thing we can do is to keep planting those Gospel seeds in the hearts and Iives of men and women. Let those seeds produce people who are in the likeness of Jesus Christ, and when Jesus comes back again, the Gospel will be preserved in the hearts and lives of those who have been converted, those who have been brought to him by faith.
You see, our job is not just the preservation of truth. Our job is the diffusion of truth, and it is through that diffusion of truth that we best preserve the truth. If we just keep it to ourselves in our own hearts, in our own lives, in our own church, for our own little group—in a while there would be no Gospel, for it must be planted, it must bear fruit, and it must spread.
I read this statement several years ago and it lodged in my mind: “All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” Take all of the seeds of today and put them in a sack somewhere, and in time there will be no more flowers on the earth. In time there will be no more shrubs. In time there will be no more trees. In time there will be no more grass. The earth would be like a parched desert. All of the flowers of all of the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.
I am here to tell you that what would happen to this earth physically would also happen to it spiritually. If the seed of the Gospel is not planted in hearts and lives all over this earth, there will be no converts. All of the converts of all of the tomorrows are in the Gospel seed of today. All of the preachers and all of the missionaries of all the tomorrows are right here in the Gospel seed. All of the churches of all of the tomorrows are in the Gospel seed. All of the hospitals, all of the schools, all of the children’s homes, and all of the work of God—all of the ages to come are bound up here in the Gospel seed. If we chose not to plant it and sow it in the world, eventually our world will become nothing spiritually. That’s why we must not only know it in our minds, and show it in our lives, but we must sow it in the world.
Thankfully, we have an ally in that. We are to sow the Gospel seed by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate guardian of the truth. The Holy Spirit is the one who will preserve it. The Holy Spirit dwells in us, and that word dwell means “to take up residence within, to settle down, and to be at home in.”
The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us the moment we believe. There are four stages in the Christian life related to the Holy Spirit. When you first become a Christian you may say, “This is easy.” When you have tried to walk with Jesus for a few months you may say, “This is difficult.” When you have tried to walk with him a year or two you may find yourself saying, “This is impossible.” When you know the power of the Holy Spirit you will say, “This is exciting.”
The Christian life is impossible until you discover the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to know the Gospel in our minds. He is the one who enables us to show it in our lives. He is the one who enables us to sow it in the world. If we walk with him and allow him to move and work through us, we can see the Gospel spread. This is how we can preserve it, keep it, and guard it in its purity until Jesus comes again.