A Commentary by John Stott
1 Timothy 6:20-21. 5). A charge to Timothy himself.
In his final personal charge to Timothy (‘O Timothy’, RSV) Paul reverts to the false teachers, whose damaging activity has been the background of the whole letter. He contrasts two sets of teaching (his and theirs) and two possible attitudes to them (guarding the former and turning away from the latter). His own teaching he calls *what has been entrusted to your care* (20a), literally ‘the deposit’. *Paratheke* was a legal technical term (BAGD), which was used of money or valuables deposited with somebody for safe keeping. Here the valuable concerned is ‘the faith’ (21, cf. 2 Tim.1:13f.), and Timothy is to *guard* it, preserving it and passing it on to others without dilution or distortion.
The false teaching on the other hand, Paul urges Timothy to avoid: *Turn away from (‘Turn a deaf ear to’ REB) godless chatter, and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge* (20b). Because the word knowledge translates *gnosis* and ‘opposing ideas’ *antitheseis*, which was the title of a book by Marcion, the prominent heretic in mid-second-century Rome, some scholars have understandably thought they detected here a reference to Gnosticism and/or Marcionism. But even those who deny the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals do not suppose that they were written as late as the middle of the second century. All one can say is that what reached full flower in developed second-century Gnosticism appears in the Pastorals only in bud. Paul adds that those who *have professed* these notions *in so doing have wandered from the faith* (21a, cf. 1:6), that is, from the teaching of the apostles. The verb *astocheo* was used of missing the mark in archery, and so of swerving or deviating from truth.
In Paul’s concluding prayer, *Grace be with you* (21b), the ‘you’ is plural. The REB captures this by rendering it, ‘Grace be with you all.’ It indicates that Paul is looking beyond Timothy, as he has done throughout the letter, to the congregations he is supervising. They would not be able in their own strength to reject error and fight for truth, to run from evil and pursue goodness, to renounce covetousness and cultivate contentment and generosity, and in these Christian responsibilities to remain faithful to the end. Only divine grace could keep them. So at the letter’s conclusion, as at its beginning (1:2), the apostle wishes from them above all else an experience of the transforming and sustaining grace of God.
Tomorrow: This completes the first letter of Paul to Timothy. Tomorrow we will start on the third Pastoral letter, i.e. from Paul to Titus.
The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of 1 Timothy. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.