Secure safekeeping of important or valuable items is never easy. Throughout recent history the safes and vaults developed for individual and bank use have become ever stronger as thieves continually find ways to bypass or crack into protective safekeeping devices.
Even in the past century, the renowned Mosler safe-making company produced safes that withstood the nuclear attack on Hiroshima in World War II, and the vault now installed at the United States’ Atomic Energy Commission's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee weighs approximately 138 tons and has two door blades weighing 58 tons (52616 kg) each. Today, even the vault in your local bank is probably a formidable device for safekeeping.
But safekeeping of valuable and important things works in two directions – it involves the safe or bank vault we use to keep whatever we store safely, and also the key, password or combination we must keep to open the secure housing.
Paul speaks of a similar situation – of two ways safekeeping – in his second epistle to Timothy. Speaking of God, he wrote: “… I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). The words “that which I have entrusted to him” are literally “my deposit” in the Greek, and Paul’s statement ties directly into the analogy we are using here.
But what is it that the apostle had entrusted to God? When he wrote 2 Timothy Paul knew that his death was near (2 Timothy 4:6), and he almost certainly speaks of entrusting his spirit to God. Paul may well have had in mind Psalm 31:5: “Into your hand I commend my spirit.” The Jewish philosopher Philo, who was almost a contemporary of Paul, uses the expression in the same way, calling the soul “a deposit.”
So Paul was entrusting his very self – the totality of all he had become in following the calling he had been given – to God for safekeeping (see also 1 Peter 4:19). But this is not all that the apostle speaks of in his letter regarding safekeeping. Only two verses later Paul tells Timothy: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). This is clearly the other half of the safekeeping arrangement – the part that we as “depositors” must keep safe. Just as something – a key or password – is committed to us in any safekeeping arrangement, so Paul reminds Timothy that he too must keep something safe, and he makes it clear what this is in the previous verse:
“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
There is a clear echo of the apostle’s great “faith hope and love” triad of 1 Corinthians 13:13 here – with the “teaching, faith and love” being only a slight variation of “faith, hope and love.” The concept of teaching, doctrine or truth is related to that of hope in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 2:25, etc.,), but the point here is that Paul encourages Timothy to securely keep the way of life (faith and love) he has been given, along with the teachings or doctrines upon which our hope is based.
So in these few verses Paul reminds Timothy of the two aspects of safekeeping, and there is a great deal of encouragement underlying the truth of his words. It is a simple message, yet an important one. We are given a great responsibility in the safekeeping of the truth and way of life (“doctrine” and “practice”) that is revealed to us, but if we do our part in this and are careful not to lose what has been given to us – as Paul showed with confidence – despite age, health or any other circumstances, God is certain to keep safely the treasure of character and attitude of service that we develop with his help and commit to him.