“Guard the deposit entrusted to you…”
“He killed it.” It matters a great deal if I am talking about a boy and a baseball game, or a boy and his dog. Likewise, when you understand what the “deposit” is, it shades your meaning of “guard.”
What is the deposit entrusted to Timothy? In 1:18 Paul told Timothy to “wage the good warfare.” Paul later tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith.” Fighting for the faith isn’t fighting for faith, though we must do that. Nor is is fighting by faith, notwithstanding, that is how we fight. Fighting the good fight is more fundamental than these. It is a fight not for belief, but beliefs; not to believe, but for that which we believe. The fight for the faith is foundational because if we don’t have the gospel, we can’t have faith (Romans 10:17). If we don’t have the faith, we don’t have anything to have faith in.
In Timothy, and throughout Paul, “the faith,” often references those truths and doctrines we believe. Deacons are to “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (1 Timothy 3:9).” Persons who believe false teaching “depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1).” Paul instructs Timothy “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
A part of fighting for the faith is guarding the good deposit. The faith is the deposit. “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” The deposit is the faith. The faith was received, by the apostles and the prophets, and, through them, by the church. It is entrusted to the church in one way (1 Timothy 3:15), and to elders as the leaders of the church in another.
When a CIA agent is entrusted with precious information and told to guard it I assume that means he is to keep it secret. Likewise, when I entrust the bank with a deposit, I want them to restrict access to it. Not so this deposit. To guard this deposit is to let it loose, to proclaim it. The safety deposit box that the faith is kept safe in is the hearts of men. The faith, the deposit, is guarded not when it is merely in our confessions, or in out heads, but in out hearts.
B.B. Warfield fought for the faith. he fought against the theological liberals who were infecting the mainline denominations. Theological liberals were using the same terminology but hollowing out the words so that one left their theology market ripped off. One such word was redemption. In their dictionary it meant little more than “God delivers.” But completely absent, and intentionally so, was any idea that a holy God delivers us from His wrath by giving His Son to pay the ransom, the redemption price of His own blood. Warfield knew how to guard the faith—by fighting for the belief of the saints.
I think you will agree with me that it is a sad thing to see words like these die like this. And I hope you will determine that, God helping you, you will not let them die thus, if any care on your part can preserve them in life and vigor. But the dying of the words is not the saddest thing which we see here. The saddest thing is the dying out of the hearts of men of the things for which the words stand. As ministers of Christ it will be your function to keep the things alive. If you can do that, the words which express the things will take care of themselves. Either they will abide in vigor; or other good words and true will press in to take the place left vacant by them. The real thing for you to settle in your minds, therefore, is whether Christ is truly a Redeemer to you, and whether you find an actual Redemption in Him,—or are you ready to deny the Master that bought you, and to count His blood an unholy thing? Do you realize that Christ is your Ransomer and has actually shed His blood for you as your ransom? Do you realize that your salvation has been bought, bought at a tremendous price, at the price of nothing less precious than blood, and that the blood of Christ, the Holy One of God? Or, go a step further: do you realize that this Christ who has thus shed His blood for you is Himself your God? —B.B. Warfield