“If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny him, he also will deny us, If we believe not, yet He remains faithful; He cannot deny himself…” ( 2 Timothy 2:12-13)
This passage in second Timothy was given to strengthen Paul’s “son in the faith” to endure hardship, and to press on in his ministry through all opposition. These are arguments for endurance, because Paul knew that Timothy was an earnest but timid person.
The admonition above comes in the midst of other strong exhortations; Timothy was to remember that he is like a soldier in a war, or an athlete seeking to master his own flesh, or a farmer waiting and working for the Harvest. He is also to keep in mind that Jesus Christ, the seed of David, was raised from the dead, and that Paul himself has been falsely accused and imprisoned, for the sake of the Word.
The Portion of scripture chosen above, is written in a poetic prose, some believe it to be a verse from one of the hymns sang in worship by the earliest Christians, as Phillipians 2:5-10 and I Timothy 3. in the hymn about the ” mystery of godliness”.
” If we be dead with Him… We shall live with Him
If we suffer…we shall also reign with Him
If we deny Him…He will also deny us
If we are faithless, He remains faithful…
He cannot deny Himself…
This early Christian hymn may have been inspired in part by the Words of Jesus in Matthew 10: 32-33 “Whosoever therefore will confess me befoe men, I will confess Him before my Father which is in heaven and whosever will deny me before men, Him will I deny before my Father in Heaven…” .
There is a way of interpretation of this admonition which can serve to give false comfort to those who do not want to endure in faith in Jesus, but who still would like to indulge the concept of “Once saved always saved”.
Some teachers say that when the verse says, “If we are Faithless, God remains faithful…” that it refers to God being faithful to you and I, even when we abandon faith in Him! They teach it as though no matter whether you remain in faith or not, God will remain faithful to you, and will not let you perish, even if you abandon faith in Him altogether.
This is a dangerous presumption, and contrary to the rest of Scripture. It goes against what we know of God, and even against the rest of the text.
The emphasis of the verse, is “God remaining faithful to himself…” due to his inability to deny himself. Let me explain this simple theological concept.
God , being God, can never contradict his Holy nature. There will never be a time when God stops being perfect Love, Perfect holiness, Perfectly true, unchanging, Righteous, the Father, the Judge, the Lawgiver, etc. Nether do we worship a God who has “Parts”. All of God’s perfections are perfectly united, and indivisible, He will not throw out holiness for love, for example.
God is not “part this or part that” He is absolute in all of his attributes.
It is to himself, that He remains faithful.
The only Righteous thing we fallen sinners can do in this earth is to believe in Him, and in the one He sent. Faith is Righteousness. There is no agreement from God for those who do not remain in faith and who apostasize. He does remain faithful….to Himself.
The rest of the song proclaims, “If we deny him, He will deny us…”. How could the song be interpreted in a way that accomodates both notions?
1) Even if we apostasize, He will be faithful and save us…
2) If we deny Him, he will deny us… ?
This is a song which the Holy Spirit preserved to encourage us to perservere in faith, no matter the hardship, to keep on believing. It could not possibly be offering some kind of encouragement to those who have given up on a faith they once had, but abandoned.
God is faithful, He keeps his promises, and will not abandon us when we go through hard times. He is also mindful of how weak we are, and remembers that “we are but dust”,. Furthermore God is good. He went to great lengths to save us and will not just let us go.
But it is a dangerous presumption to teach from this passage some kind of unconditional security, which covers for us even if we abandon God altogether. God is faithful to save and to judge, his faithfulness goes both ways. Too many people are willing to see in scripture only what they want to see, and only what buttresses their favorite doctrine, rather than facing scripture as it truly is.
I want to be clear that I do not believe this verse is referring to those periods of weak or faltering faith that every Christian experiences. This is not what he is refering to when he say,”If we are faithless…”. All Christians have had times of serious trial, eclipses of truth (momentary) , times of faltering and wavering faith in our journey. faith goes against the grain of what we all once were and the way we once thought, so it is difficult and God understands this. God is definitely faithful to the weary and heavy laden. The weak, and faltering sheep, he will not throw away.
The Faithlessness he refers to in this hymn, is settled and established unbelief, it is apostasy, the repudiation of a former faith once held.
God will not uphold unbelief, he cannot, his own nature is against it, and He will never deny himself. It is a sin to not believe in and trust God. God’s holiness and Righteousness is what He will be faithful to, for God is God centered. he loves his righteousness above all, and rightfully so.
“…the Righteous LORD loves Righteousness” Psalm 11