Stand your ground, fear no man, and guard the truth with enthusiasm, vigor, and humility.
While I was stationed in California during my time in the Marine Corps, I once had to perform guard duty on the flight line. Now the flight line is where the aircraft for the squadrons would park in the evening. I was on guard duty because I was substituting for a friend. When I took my post, I was instructed to enforce all general orders as well as some special orders for the area I was guarding. I was told I was in a “deadly use of force” area. That meant that if I felt the situation warranted it, I could kill someone. Hmmm, not really what I want to do but I understand that it may be required.
Not long into my time on duty I noticed a person waking towards me. He was an older guy in jeans, white Nike shoes, and a plaid (!) shirt. As he approached my area, I yelled “Halt! Who goes there?”
He answered “General Important”. (his name is changed here but he did claim to be a General)
I replied “Step forward to be recognized.” He took a few steps forward. I then said “Halt! Where is your ID card?”
He answered “In my right breast pocket.”
I commanded “With your left hand, slowly reach into your left breast pocket and remove your ID card. When you remove your card, you will show it to me.” He did as I had told him. After he showed me his ID card, I said “Slowly place your ID card on the deck in front of you, picture side up. After you do this, you shall take ten steps to the rear while facing me.” The man did exactly as I told him. When he had finished taking his ten steps to the rear I said “Remain there. Do not move one inch.” I walked to where he had paced his ID card. I bent down to pick up and inspect his ID card. As I began to pick up his card he began to walk toward me. I stood up and barked “Halt!” I think the fact that I was pointing a loaded shotgun at him helped stress the importance of obeying me. He stopped. I continued “Place yourself on the deck, face down.” He complied. I came up to him and said “Sir, I have chambered two slugs. I am pointing this weapon at your head. If you try to get up, deadly force has been authorized and I will exercise it. Please don’t move.”
“OK. I won’t” he replied.
I notified the head of the guard detail that I had a problem at my post and waited. The head of the guard, a Lieutenant, arrived and assessed the situation. I told him where the ID card was located. The Lieutenant retrieved the card. He ordered me to allow the General to stand. I obeyed the order, stood at attention and rendered a salute. When the General stood up, he looked to me. “Good evening, sir” I said. The Lieutenant started apologizing to the General. The General looked at the Lieutenant, looked at me and acknowledged my salute.
He turned to the Lieutenant, who was still apologizing and hyperventilating, and said “Lieutenant, this Marine did his job. He performed the duty that was demanded of him. Stop apologizing.” The General turned to me and said “Good evening, Marine.” He turned and walked away.
So why the long story? What does this have to do with anything spiritual? Actually a lot. Let me explain.
“O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowedge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith”
In 1st Timothy 6 Paul gives Timothy some orders that sum up what he has tried to address in his letter. The first thing he says to Timothy is in v. 21a “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you”(NASB) Paul is telling Timothy to take charge of all Paul had taught him and committed to him. This would include this epistle, the gospel and his ministry in general (see 4:12-14; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2). In other words Paul puts Timothy on guard duty. Timothy’s responsibilities would also include opposing the false teachers that had infiltrated the church while keeping his own life pure. In the verses that follow here, Paul tells Timothy to specifically avoid the controversies and false teaching that Paul had taught Timothy about, as well as the other characteristics of the the world system. These controversies have no value, says Paul, as well as those who espouse them.
Basically Paul told Timothy to guard the gospel and his ministry from those who would try to pervert it. Those same words have meaning for us today.
False teachers existed not only in the first century when Timothy was living, but also in every time since then…and yes, even today there are false teachers. These false teachers may teach various other things but one thing they all seem to have in common is that they teach a perverted grace. They make grace something we earn, work for, or deserve. None of those things are true. I wonder sometimes if the false teachers are more plentiful than genuine Christians. They are all over the place, are generally charismatic, and are ruthless in their approach.
We hear sometimes that we need to “show grace” or “give a grace card” to those who are false teachers, or legalists. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
We need to be willing not only to guard what has been entrusted to us – the gospel, Scripture, the true meaning of God’s grace – but also oppose those who teach these false teachings. Now that isn’t easy. Not at all. I’ve been through the battles with legalists and those who pervert God’s grace into some type of human effort. The struggle eventually led to a split in the church I pastored which in turn led to the death of that church. But if I take God’s word seriously, I had no other choice. I had to stand my ground, challenge the false teacher and his teaching, regardless the cost to me personally. And you know what, you need to do this too.
When you hear something that changes who God is or changes the essentials of the Christian faith, you need to oppose them. You need to fight them. You need to draw you weapon and command them to stop. Just like I did all those years ago in California when I made a General lay face down in a tarmac, I must be ready, willing and able to do the same when a false teacher approaches those I have been entrusted with. The cost may be very high. But the cost of failing to “guard what has beed entrusted” to me is much higher. And so it is the same with you.