Good Advice from One Near Martyrdom
Leslie M. Grant
In the face of afflictions and persecutions for Christ's sake, bound in prison and anticipating martyrdom, the vibrant joy of the apostle Paul is seen beautifully in his Second Epistle to Timothy. What believer can fail to admire the calm magnificence of his witness in chapter 1:12, "Nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day." No tremor of fear or of discouragement can penetrate the armour of his confidence in the living God. It was not a matter of "what" he had believed, but "Whom." True doctrine is good, but only as it springs from Him who is true, the person who is the foundation of all truth, the living Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Upholder of all things.
To Him Paul had committed everything concerning his wellbeing, in every possible aspect, whether for the present time or for eternity. In J. N. Darby's translation the expression is rendered, ". the deposit I have entrusted to Him." It was as though he had deposited everything concerning himself unconditionally with God. Therefore no possible doubt could exist as to its being securely held. In fact we may say more: who can doubt that in such hands the interest from this deposit will multiply immeasurably?
What a basis is this upon which to address the exhortation of the two following verses to Timothy! Let us note first that the latter of these (v. 14) speaks again of a "deposit entrusted," but this time it is that which God entrusted to Timothy. Since it is impossible for God to fail in His trust, how stirring an incentive for the young man to prove faithful in his! On the one hand that which is entrusted to God multiplies with immeasurable interest. On the other, we have been entrusted with the true riches, with that which in itself is of infinite value. Is it not only right and becoming that God should expect some interest on so great a deposit? (cp. Luke 19:23). In the parable of the pounds, one servant could say his pound had gained ten pounds, and another, five. But if we feel insufficient and helpless in responding to such a trust, let us remember the power of the Spirit of God is present in every believer, to enable him to keep this precious trust. He dwells in us, a holy, abiding, divine Person. Allow Him therefore His place and to exercise His power in relation to us. However, it is to be insisted upon that the one effective way of keeping this trust is by using it for the Master.
Let us return to quote the intervening verse: "Have an outline of sound words, which [words] thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which [are] in Christ Jesus" (J.N.D. Trans.). In considering the preceding and following verses, we can surely discern the vital importance of this verse in its place. To be rightly held, the deposit entrusted to Timothy should be understood by him in some real measure. He was to hold a clear outline (or pattern) of sound words. Paul had communicated these things to him, but he was not to take them merely as disjointed and unrelated. To hold them in the soul, in orderly form, as sound words forming a united pattern, is of great importance. For the truth of God is one. Sometimes one may see the relationship between the various parts of the truth a little differently to another. It is not a formal creed that is advocated for everyone's acceptance, not a mere "Bible course," but the exercise of the individual in having sound words formed in a pattern in his soul that is consistent with the entire Word of God. This personal enjoyment and comprehension of the Word can be likened to the honeycomb. The Word itself is "sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" (Psa. 19:10). Honey is the result of nectar gathered and digested by the worker bees and stored up for all the hive. Thus the honeycomb would speak of that ministry digested by the gatherer and stored up for use in orderly form,-just the thing that is urged here upon Timothy. We must remember, however, that the Word itself is sweeter than the best outline anyone may have of it.
Sound words are not to be dry or cold, but are to be liberally mixed with, "faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." Faith, the reality of confidence in the living One, will effectually banish dryness, and love (the warmth of unfeigned affection) is the total opposite of coldness. But more than this, being "in Christ Jesus" lifts the whole matter as high as heaven is above the earth, and gives precious balance and substance where nothing is lacking.
Let every young believer who desires to be of help to others pay serious attention to this admonition to Timothy. Search the Word, to discern its perfect unity, to properly understand the character of each book and its place in relation to the other books. Search it to rightly connect its parts in consistency with the whole, and to know how to rightly divide it, so that each part is kept in its proper place.
Again, however, let us insist that we must have no thoughts of conforming simply to a system of interpretation, which would make our "outline" a mere stereotyped creed. Each must have his own outline in the living, fresh power of the Spirit of God. This will make for wonderful diversity in the understanding and ministry of various saints. At the same time it will encourage all in "the unity of the faith," not producing contrary thoughts, for the Spirit of God cannot contradict Himself. If two hold conflicting views, then one at least is wrong. In this case I must closely check my own thoughts by the Word of God, with lowly, earnest exercise to correct what may be mistaken. This in itself may be of great value in more properly forming an "outline of sound words" for myself, and thus be of use to others. This exercise to rightly assess and value the deposit entrusted to us will have much to do with our keeping it.