I recently posted my top 10 biblical priorities for a pastor’s ministry in the local church. One common question asked as a result was, “What does it mean for a pastor to guard the truth?” This is a fair question, especially since I listed it as #1. Here is a short biblical explanation followed by a few practical helps that will show how this all-important priority of guarding the truth manifests itself in the practicalities of pastoral ministry:
If we were to summarize Paul’s message to his young protégé, Timothy, it would be this, “Guard the treasure (deposit) that has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14). Paul is saying guard the sound words, or doctrine, that I have taught you and entrust them to faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2). Jesus spoke his Word to his apostles, the apostles wrote down and spoke that Word to others (e.g., Paul to Timothy and Titus), and now that charge to guard the truth of the gospel and the apostle’s teaching has been passed down and entrusted to faithful men—undershepherds of the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words…pastors.
We are now entrusted to first guard this deposit, regardless the cost, then to do what has been done to bring it to us—entrust it to the next generation. This is #1 (out of the 10) because if we lose the truth, we have nothing.
3 Practical Helps to Guard the Truth
1) Declare the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus that has been entrusted to all followers of Christ. This is not just a call to declare the gospel, but to guard the essential truth of the gospel. Paul is writing to Timothy and Titus with the looming presence of false teachers trying to twist and distort the true gospel. Yet, part of guarding the truth of this good news is to make sure we declare these essential truths of it.
Truths like the sinlessness of Jesus, Jesus’ atoning death that was completely sufficient to satisfy the wrath of God on sin, his imputed righteousness, his physical resurrection, his rulership at the right hand of God, and that salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Him. Those of us who are Christians can begin to assume these great essential truths. Yet, I believe this powerful statement I once heard: “A generation that assumes these essential things about the gospel loses the gospel in the next generation.”
2) Defend the authority of all Scripture. The gospel is the good news of Jesus and reflects the redemptive plan of God throughout history culminating in the coming of Jesus. However, another part of this deposit Paul is writing Timothy to guard is the sound words of the apostles’ teaching. In short, the whole of Scripture we know as the OT and NT is to be defended as we guard the truth. Paul writes that “All Scripture is God-breathed” and is inspired by God. We guard the truth when we view the whole counsel of God as God’s authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word and we defend it as that.\
3) Exercise Oversight. Wrapped up in us guarding true doctrine is the implication of true practice. Peter exhorts to “exercise oversight” as a function of shepherding, which means a pastor is to oversee not just that God’s Word is taught and preached, but to lead in such a way that God’s Word is the standard for the practice of the church in its day-to-day operations.
Pastors must delegate responsibilities to deacons and other leaders, but ultimately pastors still must maintain oversight over the entire church. In other words, administration, the handling of finances, caring for the children, planning the public gatherings, upkeep on the building, etc. We guard the truth by not just watching our life and doctrine, but making sure we operate with a biblical standard and practice in all we do as a local church.