I seem to dwell on certain Scriptures for a season. This past year, I’ve been dwelling on 2 Timothy 2:1-13. It’s a feast for anyone, and I haven’t been disappointed as I’ve meditated on it repeatedly. I commend this passage to you as well.
I seldom get to verses 11 and 12 without getting a bit nervous:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us…
(2 Timothy 2:11-12)
Paul ramps up the pressure in the areas of conversion, endurance, and apostasy. In a succession of statements, we’re called to do our part, expecting that God will respond appropriately. The first two promise divine blessings; the third stops me in my tracks with its severe warning. Disowning Christ has eternal consequences.
The problem is that I know my track record. I would never want to deny Christ, but I get nervous when something as important as this is left up to my track record, which is spotty at best. That’s why Paul’s next line is so surprising and relieving:
…if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
(2 Timothy 2:13)
Paul breaks with the act-consequence pattern. There’s some debate about what he means. Some take it as a warning: God will be faithful in denying those who deny him. While that is possible, it sounds more like a note of hope to me: because God is who he is, he remains faithful despite our weakness. Apostasy is one thing; our faltering weakness is another.
This is not theory. This is the story of my life. I am often unfaithful; despite this, God persists in his faithfulness to me. Samuel Rutherford wrote in the 1600s:
Often and often, I have in my folly torn up my copy of God’s covenant with me; but, blessed be His name, He keeps it in heaven safe; and He stands by it always.
Our obedience is important. Our confidence, though, is ultimately not in our obedience, but in the faithfulness of the God who guards us. That’s good news indeed.