2 Tim. 2:11-13 — “Faithful is the saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with him: if we endure we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself.”
The words which are before us this afternoon form one of those “faithful sayings” taken up by Paul from the mouth of the Christian community and given fresh significance and force by his employment of them to wing his own appeals and point his own arguments to his fellow Christians. It is exceedingly interesting to observe the Apostle thus acting as a member of a settled community with its own standards of belief and maxims of conduct already to a certain degree established; and none the less so that he was himself the founder of the community, who had impressed on it the faith to which it was now giving expression. The special “faithful saying” he now adduces bears in it traits which point back to his teaching as the germ from which it had grown, but also to the teaching of our Lord Himself, a witness to the wide diffusion of which in the churches it thus supplies. If the phrase, “If we died with him we shall also live with him” is Pauline to the core and takes the mind of the reader irresistibly back to such a passage as Romans 6:8; and the next succeeding phrase, “If we endure we shall also reign with him,” reminds us more remotely of such passages as Rom. 5:17; 8:17; the clause which follows that, “If we deny him, he, too, will deny us,” cannot fail to remind us of Matt. 10:33, or rather, of the saying of Jesus there formally recorded.
How this “faithful saying” had been formed in the church, whether merely as a detached gnome, or maxim, which Christians were wont to repeat to one another for their enheartening and encouragement; or, as a portion of some liturgical form often used in the church service, until its language had become fixed; or as a passage from a hymn that had grown popular, as its rhythmic form may perhaps suggest, it may be difficult or impossible to decide. The way in which the Apostle adduces it appears in any event to bear witness that the words were a current formula in the church, to which he could appeal as such, and which would, from their familiarity and devout, if not sacred, association, appeal powerfully to Timothy’s heart. Perhaps we may venture to say that the Apostle himself felt the appeal of these devout associations, and employs the “saying” precisely because it had become by use the natural expression of his own strong feelings, at the moment aroused to a particular fervour. He, the great Apostle, yet leans with comfort on the church’s own expression of its faith. What a testimony we have here to the solidarity of the church of God; or, as we prefer to put it, to the communion of the saints. And what an enforcement of the great commands that we bear one another’s burdens, that we neglect not the assembling of ourselves together, that we do not indulge the vanity of living each one to himself. The Church is ever to Paul, the inspired teacher of the Church, in a deep and true sense, the pillar and ground of the truth, on the testimony of which he gladly rests. The purpose for which he adduces this particular “faithful saying” is to clinch his appeal to Timothy to steadfast adherence to his high duty and privilege of teaching the Gospel, despite every difficulty and danger besetting the pathway. He appears in this context to be urging three motives upon Timothy to induce him to face bravely the hardships of the service he is pressing upon him. He points him first to the source of his strength: “Remember Jesus Christ as risen from the dead, of the seed of David”; keep your eyes set on the heavenly majesty of the exalted Christ, our King. Surely he who keeps vivid in his consciousness that He with whom, he has to do is the Lord of heaven and earth, who, though He had died, yet lived again, and is set on the throne of universal dominion, should have no fear in boldly obeying his behests. Paul points Timothy next to the important function performed by the preacher of the Gospel, faithfulness in proclaiming which he is urging upon him as so prime a duty that no danger must be allowed to intermit it. It is by it that the elect of God attain the salvation destined for them in Christ Jesus. Who will draw back when he realizes that he is a fellow worker with God in bringing to their salvation God’s own elect—those elect whom God has loved from the foundation of the world, for whom He has given His Son to shame and death, and sent His Spirit into the foulness of men’s hearts? Surely he who apprehends that it is laid on him to carry this salvation to those whose own it is will never weary in conveying it to them. Let us learn how a brute beast may respond to an appeal to share in such a service of good by reading Browning’s “How they brought the good news to Ghent.” Shall we be less responsive to such appeals than even the brutes? Lastly Paul plies Timothy with this “faithful saying,” the force of whose appeal lies in its subtle blending of encouragement and warning: encouragement because it tells us what a glorious prospect lies before him who gives himself to Christ unreservedly here; warning because it discloses to us the dreadfulness of the award that lies before him who is unfaithful here to the service he owes his Lord.