Drinking Deeply

Saturday, November 12, 2005 at 4:38 PM

Rethinking memory verses 2 Timothy 2:13

2 Timothy 2:13 reads:
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful-- for he cannot deny himself.
This has always (for me at least) been used as a reassurance that "oh, don't worry, God is still faithful even when we are not." It is even used (by me) to reassure those who are stuck in sin. Used by some (not me) to reassure those who have fallen away that God will bring them back.

Well, all of these understandings of this verse are wrong. A simple reading of the context will quickly show a correct (more correct if you prefer) interpretation that lends no hope to the sinner, no hope to the backslidden. I'm not saying that there isn't hope for the sinner or backslider, but just that it isn't in this verse.

2 Timothy 2:11-14)
11The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13if we are faithless, he remains faithful--

for he cannot deny himself.

A few things to observe:

1) v. 11b - Those who died with Christ will also live with him. This is our assurance of perseverance and preservation. If we have been born again, if God has put to death our sinful natures in baptizing us into Christ's death, that same Spirit by which we have been baptized will bring us to life, just as God has raised Christ to life.

2) v. 12a - IF we endure, we will reign with him - We must endure in order to be raised up at the last day. "But wait, if you are saying "IF" then isn't there no preservation of saints?" My response would probably carry me far afield of this post, but I do believe that we must endure, but it is also God who causes us to endure. I think v. 11 can show marginal support for this (though it is a lot more explicit in other verses like Romans 8:28-30, John 6:35-40, la la la).

3) v. 12b - "if we deny him, he also will deny us;" - Contrasted with enduring and being lifted up to reign with him, we see that IF we deny Christ, then Christ will deny us. However we twist and turn, this verse makes it obvious that we cannot interpret v. 13 to mean that no matter what we do God is faithful and He'll take care of us. Rather we must understand it to say:

If we are faithless (to God), He will be faithful (to Himself, and deny us), because He cannot deny Himself.

There is no hope for the sinner in this verse. There is no hope for the backslidden. There is no hope for those who have rejected God. God will turn His back upon them. Rather the message is always "repent and turn! Maybe God will have mercy" (Joel 2) We can never presume ourselves on God's good graces.

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