In bringing his epistle to Timothy to an end, Paul reiterates his earlier points by focusing on two verbs.
Firstly, Timothy must “turn away” from false knowledge, bad doctrine, and those things that do not contribute to godliness (v.20). Bad doctrine presents itself in attractive ways. In Ephesus, it came in the guise of “knowledge”. It was fashionable for philosophers and travelling teachers to tout their philosophies and exotic and mysterious knowledge. The false teachers in Ephesus were doing the same, offering knowledge that amounted to nothing in the end. It was nothing more than “godless chatter” (v.20). In fact, such useless knowledge was spiritually dangerous because it often led people astray. Christians who swallowed all of it hook, line and sinker had “wandered from the faith” (v.21). In attaining such “knowledge”, they had lost their life-giving faith in Christ.The measure of any teaching is not how attractive and tantalising it is, but how true it is. Its truth will always be measured by what Scripture teaches.
False teaching may be more popular and attract bigger crowds, but faithful servants of God must never allow themselves to be tempted to change course or waver in the way they hold on to sound teaching. As a faithful pastor, Timothy needs to set a good example to his flock.
The second verb is “guard”. With the same energy employed in turning away from the allure of false teaching, Timothy must guard what had been entrusted to him—namely the gospel of Jesus Christ. He must hold on to it in his preaching, defend it in his teaching, and propagate it in his ministry. To do so, Timothy must remain vigilant, watching not only his own thoughts and teachings, but also what was being taught in church by others, including what believers were discussing among themselves.
Timothy, in turning away and in guarding, would be a faithful servant of God and a trustworthy pastor whom God would use to build His church. Timothy wouldn’t be able to do this on his own strength, but by divine grace (v.21).
Can you think of examples of what is falsely called “knowledge” today? How does the false knowledge of the world often creep into the church?
What has God entrusted to your care? How are you guarding them?