Will All Believers Endure? (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
2 Timothy 2:11-13
Good morning everyone. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them 2 Timothy, chapter 2, taking a look at verses 11-13. Well here we are in the book of 2 Timothy. 2 Timothy, as I’m going to try to really emphasize today or highlight today is not so much a book about questioning someone’s salvation; it’s a book, rather, questioning whether someone who is saved is going to endure in the things of God. And that is sort of the predicament that Timothy is in when Paul writes to him. Timothy is a very young pastor, he’s a little bit on the sickly side; he’s very intimidated but he is on the precipice, Timothy, of not losing his salvation but rather shrinking backward in his calling and being less assertive.
So Paul writes this whole book, everything in this book revolves around this theme to stimulate Timothy into completing his course and finishing his race. Paul as made some generic comments in chapter 1 about faithfulness in the ministry and then as we have moved into chapter 2 Paul has put together a series of metaphors, or word pictures if you will, showing young Timothy what exactly endurance looks like. Paul has used the word picture of a teacher, a soldier, an athlete, also a farmer. Paul has even held up Jesus Christ Himself as an example of endurance. And then finally last week, you recall, Paul pointed to himself, Paul the apostle, as an example of endurance.
So Paul is using pretty much every weapon, if you will, in his linguistic arsenal to get across this point to young Timothy, that he is to endure. And what we move into today is probably, I would say the most debated verse or series of verses in the entire book. It’s something that we call a trustworthy statement. Paul communicates his point of endurance by giving to Timothy a little proverb, if you will, or a trustworthy statement, if you will, showing him the significance of endurance.
Take a look, for example, at the beginning of verse 11; Paul writes this in 2 Timothy 2, “It is a trustworthy statement.” Now when we see that word “trustworthy” what does that mean? Well, it means this is a statement you can take to the bank! This statement is absolutely ironclad; this statement is something that you can rely upon. What’s interesting is Paul has told his audience this “is a trustworthy statement” many times in his other books. You’ll find Paul giving trustworthy statements, probably about three times in 1 Timothy. He does it once again in the book of Titus, and here is no exception to the rule; Paul once again gives Timothy another “trustworthy statement.” He says this is “a trustworthy statement.”
[1 Timothy 1:15, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” 1 Timothy 3:1, “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 4:9, “It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.” 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” Titus 3:8, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.”]
Now when he says “This is a trustworthy statement,” it’s actually four statements. What you have described here in verses 11-13 are four, what we would call couplets. A couplet is simply two lines forming a statement. So here’s the general idea and then what makes up that idea are two lines, phrases or clauses per idea; so eight lines total, two per statement, four statements total.
You might be familiar with “if-then” statements, if this is true then that. Paul, in other words, gives here four if-then statements. The first two are positive if-then statements. The third one is a negative if-then statement; it’s a severe warning. And then the last one is a word of comfort. So statement number 1 is found in the first part of verse 11; statement number 2 is found in the first part of verse 12. Statement number 3 is found in the second part of verse 12, and statement number 4 is found there in verse 13.
Now if you’re familiar a little bit with Greek let me throw this at you: all four couplets are what we call in Greek first class conditions. Now what that simply means is each statement is assumed to be real or true for the sake of argument. Now why is that significant? That is significant because these are not hypotheticals that Paul is giving. He’s not talking about something that can never materialize in Timothy’s life; he’s talking about very real things that can happen and will happen depending on Timothy’s reaction to Paul’s teaching, whether he will endure (as Paul has instructed him) or not.
So let’s take a look, if you will, at the first if-then statement. It’s found there in the second part of verse 11, it is a positive statement and it’s probably an easier statement to interpret so we can move through it fairly fast. But in verse 11 Paul, after he says this “is a trustworthy statement,” Paul says this, “if we died with Him, we also will live with Him.” So if this is true then that is true. So the if clause of it is this: if we have died with him. Paul assumes that is true for the sake of argument based on the grammatic grammar that he uses here. So it is a fact, Timothy, that you have died with Christ.
What happens to the Christian the moment they trust in Christ is they are, what Paul calls in Romans 6, baptized into Christ. Baptism does not mean water baptism everywhere it’s used in the Bible. Baptism simply means identification. Now in some contexts it is talking about water baptism but Paul, in Romans 6, is not talking about water baptism, he’s talking about our identification into Christ. When He died, because you are in Him, who else died? You did. When He was buried, who else was buried? We were. When He rose from the dead who else rose from the dead? We did. When He ascended, and by the way, where is Jesus Christ currently? He is, according to Ephesians 1:20-21, “in the heavenly places,  far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” That’s where Jesus is.
Now if we have been baptized into Christ where are we? We are with Him, legally speaking, “in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 2:6 says this: “and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” You see, when you trusted in Christ there is a positional reality that has happened to you; you have been identified into Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Jot down Romans 6 and you’ll see Paul’s entire treatment of that subject. Other verses that talk about our identification into Christ would be Colossians 2:20; Colossians 3:3; Galatians 2:20.
[Colossians 2:20,”If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees such as,  ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’” Colossians 3:3, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”]
All of these are describing something that has already happened to us. You see, you run into a lot of Christians and they say you know, I’m really out there and I’m really trying to die to myself. And the fact of the matter is if you understand this identification truth accurately and biblically you have already died to yourself because you have been identified into Christ Jesus.
And because of this transaction that has already happened to us and it happened to us at the point of faith, water baptism just symbolizes that reality; that’s all it does. But because this transaction has been executed already for the Christian, what does Paul say there in the second part of that first statement? “For if we died with Him we will also live with Him.” [2 Timothy 2:11]
So literally what has happened to us is we have been raised to a new newness of life. We have, when we walk by faith and appropriate God’s resources moment by moment, we have the ability to tell the sin nature no. Did you all know that the sin nature is still inside of you, even though you’re a Christian? And I get a witness to that and sense that. The sin nature doesn’t just disappear; the sin nature will disappear after you are out of this body at glorification. But the sin nature is still there but for the first time in my life, because of my baptism into Christ I have the ability to tell the sin nature no.
And that’s why Paul, in Romans 6 tells us that we should reckon these things so. So that proves Paul was a Texan because he uses the word “reckon” [Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [KJV] “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.” [ASV]
“Reckon” is just in the Bible, it’s an accounting term, when you’re tempted to sin you account as true your baptism into Christ, it doesn’t matter how you feel, it doesn’t matter what your emotions are telling you, you simply acknowledge it is true and at that moment you tell the sin nature no. We all have that power. We did not have that power before salvation because we were slaves to the sin nature, but we certainly have that power subsequent to salvation.
So Paul here makes his first purpose statement to Timothy, here’s a “trustworthy statement,” number 1, “If we died with Him we will also live with Him.” So far so good.
Then he moves to a second purpose statement and that’s in the first part of verse 12; this one is positive also; no word of negativity (at least not yet). Notice the first part of verse 12, here is the second if-then clause. “If we endure with Him, we will also reign with Him.” Now let’s focus on the “if” part. “If we endure with Him,” what does that mean exactly? It means we go through the Christian life without yielding to the temptation of retrogressing. It doesn’t mean that we live a perfect sinless spotless life; that is an impossibility. But what is possible is not that we become sinless but we sin less. In other words, generally there’s this upward trajectory in our lives. This is what Paul wants for Timothy. Timothy needed to hear this because he was thinking of quitting on everything. Quitting on Christ, quitting on the ministry because of difficulty, and obviously it’s possible for the believer to do this or else there would be no point in making this purpose statement, would there?
But notice the second part of this; “if we endure” with Him, notice part 2 of the second purpose statement or second event statement, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” Timothy, if you endure then here is the part of the statement that’s the “then” clause, you, “we will reign with Him.” Now people look at that word “reign” and they say well that means Timothy is going to get salvation. But that cannot be the proper understanding of this because if Paul were to teach that we endure with Him to gain salvation in the first place he would have contradicted everything he taught elsewhere, because Paul has been very clear, in passages like Ephesians 2:8-9, that we receive salvation by what? by grace along through faith alone in Christ alone.
Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul is very clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;  not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” There is no ambiguity beyond that in Timothy’s salvation. Why would Paul have put Timothy into a position of influence as a pastor, over the church at Ephesus, had Paul had question marks in his mind about Timothy’s salvation. This is why Paul calls Timothy his son in the faith. You might remember 2 Timothy 1:2, the very second verse in the entire book, “To Timothy, my beloved son: grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus,” watch this, “our Lord.” So Paul says just as Jesus is my Lord, Timothy, Jesus is your Lord. Paul identifies with the spiritual state of young Timothy in that opening verse. So there is no doubt that Timothy is a believer. So he’s not telling Timothy here you’ve got to endure with Christ to be a Christian. That would totally wrench the book from its overall context, wouldn’t it?
So what is he saying here in verse 12 when he says, if we endure with Him we will reign with Him. He is not talking about salvation, rather what he is talking about is reward. Now Gabe Morris, when he taught here not too long ago, gave a teaching on the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. I recommend you listen to his sermon on that, I thought he did a wonderful job on it. Let me just give you a flyby of that sermon.
When is the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ? It’s after the rapture. Where is it? Fixed place in heaven. Following the rapture of the church the church will be brought up into heaven with Jesus Christ while the tribulation period is happening on the earth below, and as the church is brought up into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ the church experiences something called the judgment seat of rewards. Well, who is involved in this judgment? Every church age believer is involved.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we all must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Everybody that has trusted in Christ from the day of Pentecost to the Rapture is part of the body of Christ, the bride of Christ. After the rapture of the church as we are brought into heaven we stand before the Lord at this judgment, called the Bema Seat Judgment. Why the judgment? Not to judge sin, that’s already happened; not to determine our salvation, we wouldn’t be with Christ in heaven, would we, if there was some doubt about our salvation. But rather it is to give or to not give rewards. It is a judgment that is non-punitive in nature, in the sense that we are not punished for sin because as we celebrated here this morning with communion, our sins debt has already been paid for and punished by Jesus Christ, Jesus absorbing that punishment in our place. Rather, this is a reward where believers will be honored or not honored, rewarded or not rewarded, based upon their lives in Christ subsequent to salvation.
This Bema Seat Judgment is completely different than all of the judgments mentioned in the Bible. I wish I had time to talk through that chart but we have it on our website under sermon archives, you can study that on your own. At this judgment as has been discussed in prior sermons, five crowns will either be given or not given. The incorruptible crown for the believer that gains mastery over the old man. The crown of rejoicing for the soul winner. The crown of life for the believer that endures trials. The crown of glory for the believer that faithfully shepherds God’s people. The crown of righteousness for the believer that longs for His appearing. These are all potential crowns that are either given or not given to various Christians.
What is this analogized to? It’s kind of like an athletic contest, Paul says, when certain people are rewarded with medals for a strong performance. It’s kind of like a stewardship where we are not owners but managers of the various things that God gives us to manage on His behalf in His absence. And it’s kind of analogized to a building, Christ is the foundation and we are building on this foundation of Christ, either with good material or bad material. The fire will reveal the quality of the material; those things that are done with carnal motives in Christ, carnal means, those things will be put through the fire, tested, and they will incinerate. But those things that we do for Christ out of pure motives, under His power, those are the gold, silver and costly stones which survive the refiner’s fire. And whatever remains after the fire finishes its incinerating work is part of our reward.
Notice, and this is all explained in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, we are not put through a fire but our works are put through a fire. [1 Corinthians 3:10-15, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,  each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.]
How are we going to be judged? Number 1, individually, Romans 14:12 says each will give an account. [Roman 14:12, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.”] We’re judged based on our stewardship, of the three things God gives us in Christ: time, talent and treasure. How were those things managed? We are judged, based on our motivation; why do we do what we do? We are judged also based upon our reliance upon divine enablement. Am I going out there in Christ and trying to create a bunch of works through human flesh? That is the branch that is thrown into the fire in John chapter 15.
So when the Apostle Paul makes this statement, “if we endure” with Him, “we will also reign with Him,” he is not speaking of salvation; he is speaking of rewards above and beyond salvation. And this is why the New Testament keeps exhorting us towards coming before the Judgment Seat of Christ as an individual and being fully rewarded. 2 Peter 1:11 says this, “For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” Do you want to enter the kingdom smelling the smoke on your garments or do you want to enter the kingdom “abundantly supplied.” See, that’s the issue that Paul is dealing with in these verses.
2 John 8 says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.” I believe that this largely is what Paul is dealing with when he mentions this subject of reigning.
But you see, there’s more to it than just a reward because following our seven year time with Christ in heaven we are going to return to the earth in resurrected bodies, Jesus at that time will set up upon planet earth His millennial one thousand year kingdom and we will be there with Him. And so my faithfulness to God in this life largely dictates the degree of reigning and authority and responsibility I will wield alongside Him as he has delegated some authority to us in the millennial reign of Christ.
Dr. Constable, in his online notes, says this: “While all Christians will reign with Christ in the sense that we will all be with Him when He reigns, the faithful Christian will reign with Christ in a more active sense.”
Notice again the statement, “If we endure” with Him “we will also reign with Him.” Enduring believers, in other words, that don’t lapse backward (as Timothy was thinking of doing) but instead they endure, they not only will be fully rewarded at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ but they will reign alongside Christ, having authority delegated to them by Christ in its fullness at the Millennial Kingdom.
So the Christian that does not endure he simply does not, or she, does not receive a full reward at the Bema Seat Judgment. And the reigning that he or she could have done is limited. Oh, they’re still in the kingdom and I’m sure everybody will be glad to be there, but the authority that could have been exercised never reaches its potential. Why is that? Because we simply did not endure with Jesus Christ in this life.
Now the difficult one…you ready? Buckle your seat belts, here we go. Statement number three, this is negative; the first two are sort of positive, this one is negative. This one is more of a warning and this is the one that’s hotly debated and I would say this, it’s probably the most misunderstood verse in the entire book, perhaps the entire Bible. Paul writes, “If we deny Him, He,” here comes the “then” part of it, then “He also will deny us.”
Now what does it mean here in the first part of this statement, “If we deny Him”? It is what Timothy is thinking of doing. Timothy does not like the fact that Nero is now on the throne and executing Christians. He does not like the fact that his mentor, Paul, has been thrown in jail. He does not like the fact that he’s timid and sickly to begin with. And so he is just thinking of not enduring. I’ve got my fire insurance paid up, that’s all that matters… right? I don’t need to be as outspoken in the ministry anymore because after all, people that are outspoken get into trouble.
So he is contemplating not fully enduring as he could. One commentator writes this: “Denial of Christ manifests itself in various ways in the New Testament in the life of the Christian. It consists in denying His name, or denying faith in Him. It can thus take the form of forsaking or repudiating the Christian faith and its truths, particularly the truth concerning Jesus, and in doing so one personally denies Christ and the Father. The denial can also manifest itself in the moral realm. Some may profess to know God but their deeds deny Him.
There you are with your family around the table at Christmas dinner, believers and unbelievers in the room, extended family. And somebody just starts badmouthing Jesus Christ at the table… I can’t believe those Christians, what a bunch of terrorists, what a bunch of members of the flat earth society, what kind of mythology is this Christian thing anyway? And the opportunity for you to speak up for Christ is right there in your presence and you just let it go by. That would be an example of denying Christ.
You are sitting next to someone on a bus and the Holy Spirit says share your faith with that person. And in fact, you don’t even have to do anything, just give them this gospel tract, we’ve got a ton of them back there on the rack by the way, and you say well, I’m going to just not do that because I’m afraid of this and that, I’m afraid of them thinking I’m narrow minded. You just denied Christ. You’re at work and you’re standing around the water cooler and someone tells a filthy joke and everybody in the room laughs and you realize that if you don’t laugh you’re going to be outed so you just laugh right along with everybody else. Well, you just denied Christ. See?
This is daily life; all of us are tempted, constantly, to deny Christ and the things of God. This is what Paul is telling to Timothy, “If we deny Him,” now I think the denial here is something that’s permanent. Why do I say that? Because the other conditions that are mentioned alongside these if/then clauses seem to be permanent as well. So it may be dealing with Timothy just permanently throwing in the towel on Christianity.
Well, what’s the second part of the clause? If this is true, and for the sake of argument it is true, this is not a hypothetical, this could happen, “If we deny Him,” watch this, look at the second part of the verse, verse 12, “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” Now people look at that statement and they say wow, Jesus is going to “deny us.” How do we interpret He “will deny us.” Deny us what? And I would say this, it depends on which theological lens you view the Bible from because there are three sets of glasses out there, at least two; there’s the Calvinist lens and then there’s the Arminian lens. So if you have a preexisting belief system that’s rigid in either of those two areas that will largely control how you interpret what is denied here.
Let’s put on our Arminian glasses for a moment, shall we? What is our Arminianism? A person that believes in the theology of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch theologian, lived around 1560; Jacob Arminius basically taught that you can be saved and not be saved. And that’s called a loss of salvation. So the Arminian reads this and says “if we deny Him He will deny us,” oh-oh, the salvation that you once had is gone.
I have a problem with that view and the problem I have with that view is the rest of the Bible because I find some very strong statements in the Bible that once saved always saved, not the least of which is John 10:28-29 where Jesus says I give them eternal life, they will never perish, no one will snatch them from My hand, My Father has given them to Me, is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. Sounds like we’re secure to me. John 10:28, “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”]
Ephesians 4:30 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption.” The believer is permanently sealed by God until he or she arrives in glory. By the way, when we trust in Christ, John 5:24, we have already “passed out of death unto life.” And we have, present tense, eternal life. [John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”]
Now if you have eternal life and you lose eternal life then how can eternal life be what? Eternal. The word “eternal” itself communicates that it can never be lost, does it not? And by the way if you are Arminian in terms of your understanding then you are your own savior, in reality, because your whole belief system is I’ve got to stay away from sins X, Y and Z, whatever they are, they’re really bad, and if I don’t stay away from them then I will lose my salvation. You’ve just put the responsibility of keeping your salvation and maintaining your salvation on yourself, which is nothing more than works, is it not?
So let’s take off those glasses and let’s put on another set of glasses. Let’s put on our Calvinist glasses, shall we? What is Calvinism? Calvinism is a lot of different things to a lot of different people but one of its defining concepts is its emphasis on the perseverance of the saints in works. And I recognize that Calvinists come in different shapes and sizes but the type of Calvinism that is on ascendency today, and Beloved, let me just clue you in on something, Reformed Theology is galloping through the evangelical church today like perhaps never before in history. All of the big name speakers, preachers, teachers, authors, generally speaking, come from this Calvinistic, pre-existing theology. And what they are basically saying is there had better be fruit in your life and a lot of it, and if it’s not there maybe you were never saved to begin with.
I looked up in the John MacArthur Study Bible, I like a lot of things John MacArthur says, but on this subject I clearly part company with him. He comes at the Scripture and interprets Scripture after Scripture after Scripture in his verbal and writing ministry through the lens that I just described. You have to understand this about these Calvinist teachers, is you’re not getting from them the Bible. You’re getting from them (to a very large extent) the Bible given to you through a grid. And your average Christian really doesn’t have a lot of discernment in these things. And so your average Christian thinks the Bible says a lot of different things that it really never says.
The MacArthur Study Bible, of these verses says this: “Those who deny Christ give evidence that they never truly belonged to Him, and face the fearful reality of one day being denied by Him.” He goes on and says, “This refers to a lack of faith, not to weak faith or struggling faith. Unbelievers will ultimately deny Christ because their faith was not genuine. As faithful as Jesus is to save those who believe in Him He is equally faithful to judge those who do not.” Now you read through his notes, no other view is given. What he says is if you deny Christ you were never saved.
See, Arminius says if you deny Christ you had salvation but lost it. The Calvinist comes along and says if you deny Christ, you can’t lose your salvation but because you must persevere in good works to prove that you’re one of the elect, maybe you never had it on the front end. You say well, this is just a bunch of academic gobblety-gook. Who cares about all this stuff, who cares about all this stuff? Let me tell you why it matters; if you fall for either of those two systems you will spend your entire life on planet earth as a sincere Christian wondering if you’re saved. And this is why you’ve got to get settled on these types of matters, because it matters in terms of your psychological and emotional and mental well-being.
Now when Paul says, “If we deny Him, he will deny us” is it true that perhaps Timothy is not saved, because perhaps he won’t endure, as the Calvinist teachers say. I think that interpretation does not hold water at all for the reasons I’ve stated earlier. Paul calls Timothy his son in the faith, he says our Lord Jesus Christ right at the beginning of the book. If Paul had some lingering doubt that Timothy was a believer why put him in charge as a pastor. The whole viewpoint doesn’t make sense.
And people say well, why is it that when we come to a church like this we study the Bible verse by verse so slowly? Don’t you know that a sermon series is supposed to only last eight weeks to hold people’s attention. And here is why we do it this way: if you are not moving through the Bible in context you will just grab a passage here, and grab a passage there, and misapply it. The only thing that rescues us from a pre-existing theological belief system is the line by line, verse by verse contextual study of the Word of God, because anybody can grab verses anywhere they want and make any point they want to make. A text without a context is nothing more than a pretext or a proof text. Judas went out and hung himself—go thou and do likewise, what you do, do quickly. So there we go, the Bible promotes suicide. And this is largely what the evangelical diet is made up of; it’s isolated verses grabbed here or there to support whatever idea it is fallen man wants to support.
I want you to also notice as you go through verses 11, 12, and 13 you see how Paul keeps saying “we”? Verse 11, if we died we will also live with Him.” Verse 12, if we endure, we will reign alongside Him. Verse 12, if we deny Him, He will deny us. “we-us, we-us, we-us, verse 13, if we are faithless…. Paul is, when he uses “we” or “us” he is identifying with Timothy. Is there any doubt that Paul was saved? Of course there’s no doubt that Paul was saved. Paul, even in this book, 2 Timothy 1:12 says, “I know whom I have believed.”
So this idea of Calvinism, that we’re going to convert all of these sharp warning passages to unbelievers, that view does not hold up when you study the Bible slowly and contextually. And a lot of people have this view, well, if you’re not a Calvinist you must be Arminian, and if you’re not Arminian you must be a Calvinist, as if those are the only two options. It’s kind of like male/female, well, you’re not a boy, you must be a girl. Oh, you’re not a girl, you must be a boy. And I know this to be true, (I do know I’m a boy, by the way), but I know this to be true because I waffled back and forth between these two options for years thinking that those were my only two options.
There’s a third way here, beloved. There is a way you can go right down the middle without bowing the knee to either Calvin or Armenians, because after all, what is this church? Sugarland…what’s the middle name? Bible Church. We are not a Sugarland Calvinist church; we are not the Sugarland Arminian church, we are the Sugarland Bible Church. What does that mean? It means that the Bible is the authority. And I believe that when you study this based on the Bible you will see that there’s another possibility here.
Well, what is this third possibility? It is the loss of rewards concept. “If we deny Him, He will deny us,” deny us what? Not salvation, as Arminius and Calvin presupposed, but a denial of reward. Non-enduring believers will have an unfavorable ruling at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ, although they will be there with Christ in heaven. Is that even a possibility? 1 Corinthians 3;15 says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” It’s talking there about a loss of reward, not a loss of salvation or perhaps you never had salvation.
2 John 8, written to Christians, says, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished,” lose what? not salvation… reward, “but that you may receive a full reward.”
1 John 2:28 says this: “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.” Wow, you mean it’s possible that I, as a Christian, when Jesus returns I could be ashamed of myself? And rather than going out to Him with open arms and embracing Him I can shrink back in embarrassment and shame over a life that was mismanaged, yet still be in heaven? I think that’s what 1 John 2:28 is saying. You see, beloved, this is what Paul is warning Timothy of here.
Now when the kingdom is established on planet earth there are differing degrees of reward and authority that are given. Luke 19, in the parable of the minas, Luke 19:17 says this: “And he said to him, ‘Well done my good and faithful slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.” Wow. But then he says in Luke 19:19, another guy, you are to be in authority “over five cities.” Well wait a minute, one guy gets ten, one guy gets five, where’s the equity? The equity is this: God is a God of perfect justice. He is a God of omniscience. Why should it be that one believer that squandered his life would be rewarded in terms of authority in the kingdom the same way as a good steward is rewarded? That’s not fair in God, and so God, at this Bema Seat Judgment of Christ ferrets this whole thing out. It’s not a question of whether someone is saved or not, it’s a question of the degree of reign.
Thomas Constable, in his online notes says this: “The idea that all Christians will remain faithful is neither true to revelation nor to reality.” That’s such a wonderful statement I’m going to read it again. “The idea that all Christians will remain faithful is neither true to revelation nor to reality.”
When Paul says, in verse 12, the second part of the verse, “if we deny Him, He will deny us,” what has he just finished talking about? Back up to the beginning of verse 12, “If we endure we will also reign.” What is denied is not salvation but the degree of reigning and authority one could have wielded in the kingdom. You see, Timothy, this is what you’re not thinking about as you contemplate lapsing and retrogressing backwards. Although all those rewarded are believers, not all believers are rewarded. While all believers will live with Christ, He’s told us that back in verse 11, only the enduring believer will be rewarded by reigning with Him. It’s a very strong warning here about things you’re going to forfeit, Timothy, if you go through with what you’re contemplating thinking about doing. These things don’t relate to your security and your name in the Book of Life, that’s a done deal. These things relate to other things, rewards, reigning, authority and these types of issues.
So Paul now moves on to his fourth “if then” clause, which is negative (in a sense), but it’s also a word of comfort. It’s a magnificent word of comfort that he concludes here in verse 13, “If we are faithless, He,” that would be Jesus, “He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” Now notice the first part of that fourth “if-then” statement. “If we are faithless,” did you see the word “we” there? Paul says even I, the apostle, am in danger of being faithless, as are you, young Timothy, and as are we by extension.
The word “faithless” here is a translation of the Greek noun, apisteuō, it can either mean unbelieving or faithlessness in daily life. I have a tendency to think it’s the latter. I don’t think it’s talking about here Timothy reaching a point where he stops believing in Christ but he’s talking about his faithlessness in his daily actions and his conduct. And I think that because faithlessness is contrasted here with God’s faithfulness. Just as God demonstrates His faithfulness to us, we, by way of comparison in our behavior, could demonstrate faithlessness to Him.
Now this word, apisteuō, is in the present tense, so it’s not talking about a momentary slip-up, a momentary mistake, a momentary excursion into sin, it’s talking a general, habitual pattern or lifestyle where a believer simply pulls back in whatever way we do, either in sin, evangelism, not doing what God has called us to do, just general disobedience.
Now what happens if that characterizes a person’s life? What happens? You see, the Arminian would say you lost your salvation. The Calvinist, very strong Calvinist, would say you never had salvation. What does Paul say? Are we worried about what Calvin says or Arminian, or are we worried about what Paul says? Paul says, “If we,” including himself, “If we are faithless, He,” that’s Jesus, “remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
This is sort of a conclusion of the four statements with a word of comfort. Timothy, listen to me, even if you fall into that troubling category of faithlessness to God throughout the course of your life God will never renege on the promise of eternal life. You may back up, you may shrink back, you may not fulfill your duty and your calling in Christ, you may be faithless, but He will always be faithful. He will never cancel what He has promised to give you in terms of salvation.
Now how can that be, you say? How can it be true that a Christian could live a life of mediocrity and faithlessness to God and still be saved? How can that be? And this issue is somewhat troubling to us because we operate on a works basis. You get ahead in school by doing the work. You get ahead on the job, get the good performance appraisal by doing the work. Right?
How does God deal with us? He deals with us not on the basis of works but on the basis of what? Grace. What is grace? It is unmerited favor. It is favor that has come into your life and my life that we don’t deserve. Works never got us in the door to begin with, did they? So guess what? Works can’t keep you in the door. And a lack of good works can’t kick you out of the door because God is dealing with us on the basis of grace.
Oh, there are ramifications and consequences in terms of rewards and reigning, as Paul has explained to Timothy, that part of it is real. But the grace by which we are saved, the grace by which we stand is the grace by which we continue to make it to the very end. That’s why, if you understand grace and dump religion and works righteousness you can actually understand how it is possible for a Christian to be faithless in daily life, yet still saved. If you don’t understand grace the concept will be an absolute abhorrence to you, as it is to many people.
When I begin to talk like this we have a tendency to lose church members I’ve noticed. Why is that? Because they never really understood the grace of God, and when someone begins to deliver the grace of God and speak of the grace of God it’s almost as if they are talking a foreign language because we, by definition, are religious people, we want to do things to merit God’s favor. Yet God has, in His sovereignty, designed the plan of salvation in such a way that it cannot be gained by works.
You say well, this really sounds unbiblical to me, I mean, this stuff you’re saying, this is just so different than everything I understand about the Bible. All right, I hear you. Let me ask you this: what is the dominant theme in the whole Bible? What nation is God dealing with in the whole Bible? The nation of Israel, Genesis to Revelation, the nation of Israel. Did you know that God called Israel in Exodus 4:22 My firstborn son? [Exodus 4:22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.”]
And yet look at the habit of Israel throughout the Bible; look at the idolatry, look at how they even rejected Christ, look at how they killed and murdered the prophets. And believe me, Israel suffered a lot of consequences because of what they did, but let me tell you something—they never stopped being God’s firstborn son. That position was never taken nor relinquished from them. Israel is a microcosm in terms of how God deals with us. You are God’s child, God has not created robots; we have the free will to rebel against Him. Some don’t, praise the Lord, many do. But if you have trusted in Christ you will always be His child. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful.”
Look at how you deal with your own children. You’ve got two kids, one is obedient, the other is disobedient. The one that’s disobedience puts gray hairs on your head you whole life and in fact, maybe the hair disappears at some point. Does that second child ever stop being loved by you? Oh, you can be irritated with them, you can bring consequences into their life to get them to straighten out. Certainly privileges are taken away, are they not? But you never stop loving them equally, do you. And that latter child never loses their status before you as your child.
Wow, verses 11-13, a trustworthy statement teaching young Timothy to endure. If we died with Him we will live with Him. If we endure we’re going to reign. But if we deny Him He will deny us rewards and privileges. But at the end of the day if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful.
You see, it’s teachings like this that need to be communicated more aggressively because we’re living amongst a generation that says this: Once saved always saved, it doesn’t matter what I do. How do I know that? Because I teach in a Bible college and I hear this from the students all the time. If I am saved then my life doesn’t matter, I can do what I want.
Samuel Hoyt, in Bib Sac, sums up this whole matter and he says: “The Judgment Seat of Christ might be compared to a commencement ceremony at graduation. There is some measure of disappointment and remorse that one did not do better and work harder. However, at such an event the overwhelming emotion is joy, not remorse. The graduates do not leave the auditorium weeping because they did not earn better grades. Rather, they are thankful that they have been graduated and they are grateful for what they did achieve. To overdo the sorrow aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to make heaven hell; to underdo the sorrow aspect is to make faithfulness inconsequential.”
See the balance there? You can either put such stress on the Judgment Seat of Christ that literally heaven is turned into hell and that’s not the biblical position. Or, you can just ignore the idea. If you ignore the idea then people get this idea that faithfulness in this life doesn’t matter. It does matter.
So Timothy, endure, because the choices you are making now count although the things that you’re changing now (through your choices) good or bad, will not alter your salvation because your salvation, Timothy, never depended upon you to begin with.
May God help us to understand these truths and to live balanced lives in Christ, not living in fear of God but also not laxing into sort of a lackadaisical spirituality as if there’s not some kind of day of accounting and reckoning. Shall we pray.
Father, we are humbled today and grateful for this very direct teaching. These are things, Father, that a lot of us just don’t hear and sometimes don’t even think about, yet these are a part of divine revelation. Help us to understand these things and walk them out this week as we look to Your Word and Your Word alone for light and illumination. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…