(Based upon my book Old Paths and Ancient Markers, MK Gantt Publications, © 2020
Available in my bookstore HERE)
From his dark cell in Rome, Paul pleaded with Timothy to faithfully guard the treasure. Paul understood that his imprisonment was meant to silence the gospel—to short-circuit the spread of the Christian faith. He knew that Paul was a key figure in the faith; zealous, brilliant, and persuasive and a primary component of the improbable spread of the faith throughout the empire. ”Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).
Paul’s plea to Timothy was both urgent and triumphant. He urged Timothy to remember the core of the gospel message: Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. He put his finger directly on the heart of the matter. Caesar didn’t fear Paul; he feared the message of the gospel. The heathen rulers did not understand, but they did perceive the truth that there was power in the Name of that Nazarene and in the proclamation of His message. They readily acknowledged and feared this great power. Somehow, they needed to silence the message. Perhaps having the believers’ greatest champion in prison facing execution would dull the zeal of followers who longed to follow in his steps. The Sanhedrin thought the same thing in Acts 4 when they hauled Peter and John before the council after they had healed the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. The record states that the temple officials were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2). The next day the rulers, elders, and scribes interrogated them, demanding to know “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter and John were examined and thrown into jail while the officials debated what action they ought to take. They were brought back before the council and given a dire warning: "You are not to preach in THAT name!"
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:13-18)
It wasn’t the messenger the council feared, it was the message; it was the Name. They hoped their threats would frighten the believers into silence, but they only emboldened the disciples, these rugged and unlearned men.
Their prayer was powerful: “Grant unto us boldness to speak the word of God” (Acts 4:29).
Caesar thought that he might strike fear into the hearts of Paul’s followers, but he learned what so many have learned since. The true follower of Christ is not discouraged by persecution and threats. Rather, the true believer is set afire by them. From deep inside a dungeon, the victorious cry of Paul rings out with words true even today, I am “bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Timothy 2:9).
Yes, Caesar was too late. Paul had a stable of young stallions eager to take their place in the race, hands outstretched to grasp the baton and streak toward the finish line. Instead of being discouraged by Paul’s imprisonment and execution, Timothy, John Mark, Luke, and Jude, among many others, were emboldened. Men who had lived in fear found the courage to stand up and speak up. Instead of squelching the preaching of the gospel, Caesar had unwittingly empowered it with new vigor and greater determination. He had hoped to confine this powerful message in a dark dungeon. Instead, it was unleashed to spread like wildfire to the furthest reaches of the empire. An emperor might imprison the messenger, but he cannot bind the message! It is the message that holds the power, not the messenger. It is not our talent, our intellect, personality, or charm –– it is the message. The early church teaches us one truth that we should hold close to our bosom: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation. It really doesn’t need to be explained as much as it must be boldly proclaimed!
And what of our homes? What of future generations? Our mother Eve sat in the beautiful garden with her husband, basking in the beauty of creation and enjoying the favor of the Creator. She lacked nothing. She wanted for nothing. She needed nothing. Eve’s was an idyllic life the likes of which could not be found in all of earthly creation. God’s words to Adam and Eve were pregnant with promise. They would rule and reign with Him, co-regents over the earth. God had offered them dominion over everything He had made. Adam and Eve were forbidden a single thing. They must not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. To partake of this forbidden fruit would be the end of them. Eat it and they would die. This tree was death, and death was something God never intended for them to know.
It was then that the enticing voice of deception entered the garden. The serpent whispered in Eve’s ear, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of a certain tree in the garden?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:2-6)
And there it was. Another treasure had been offered.
A challenge to the truthfulness of God’s Word was on the table. Tragically, our ancestral parents chose to give heed to words that appealed to their flesh, to their pride, and in doing so found they had been given poison dressed as a treasure. Adam had been placed in the garden to keep it. The Hebrew word for keep here is shamar––to keep, to guard, to protect, to maintain and sustain. He did not keep the garden. He allowed another word to be introduced into their lives, an opinion that challenged the verdict of God. He accepted the authority of one who has no authority. A thief, a destroyer, the enemy of God and all that God loves gained his ear and Eve’s. Because they believed another word, a word contrary to the word of God, they were robbed. They were robbed of fellowship, presence, peace, joy, and dominion, and life.
Who among us can calculate the enormity of loss to the human race because of that moment? Which of us can comprehend the vastness of the chasm that was dug with the first bite of that alluring, yet deadly fruit? Even in our own individual lives, we cannot estimate the stolen moments or the wasted years that have accumulated in our lives because we listened to the seductive whisper of the enemy. He draws us out of the clarity of the faithful judgments of God into the fog of empty promises––promises that are never realized. All gone! Stripped away in an instant by a master deceiver who brought the truthfulness of God into question and who gave Eve another word to listen to. Adam failed to “keep” his home.
Like Adam, we have failed to keep our homes. We are called to be the gatekeeper in our homes, challenging and resisting every contrary influence that would enter in to spoil our marriages and our children. In too many instances, we have actually become the gateway, allowing influences that dull the voice of God to enter in and replace the promises of God with the empty promises of the serpent. We stupidly permit death to replace the life God has promised us. Our enemy has not changed his tactics. He still slithers around in the gardens of our minds as he plants seeds of doubt. Even from within the church, we hear the seductive whisper of doubt, “Did God really say that?”
Adam failed to guard the treasure. What of us? Will we choose to guard the treasure God has entrusted to us?