Paul’s letters would typically end with a goodbye and a few greetings for specific people. Take for example, how he closed his letter to the church in Philippi:
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. Those brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, but especially those from Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Sometimes the greeting was brief, but other times it was quite lengthy. Out of all the letters Paul wrote in the New Testament, only two have no ending greetings – Galatians and 1 Timothy. It’s almost as if Paul was “all business” when writing these two letters.
In fact, he ends 1 Timothy with the same emphasis that he started the letter with, warning Timothy to protect the truth of the gospel and to watch out for false teaching from deceived believers:
1 Timothy 1:3-4,6-7
…command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith…some have deviated…and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.
Now compare that to Paul’s final words in the letter:
1 Timothy 6:20-21
Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding irreverent, empty speech and contradictions from the “knowledge” that falsely bears that name. By professing it, some people have deviated from the faith.
Grace be with all of you.
From start to finish, Paul’s focus has been urging Timothy to be watchful – of his own teaching and of what gets taught on his watch as leader of the church in Ephesus.
In a very real sense, the church at Ephesus has been entrusted to his care. Timothy needed to guard both the gospel message and those who had believed the gospel. It was an important task, and Paul believed Timothy could handle the responsibility.
Closing out this letter from a mentor to his protégé has left me thinking about the people God has entrusted into my care…and how much the written encouraging words from my mentor has helped sustain me when challenges arise. I still have most of the emails Joe sent when he was writing THE WORD, and I go back through them from time to time. I’m sure Timothy did the same with Paul’s letter.
The gospel message has been entrusted to each of us, as well as certain people we are responsible for. Make sure you guard them, and are also mentoring them to carry the message of salvation to future generations.