Passing the Torch, 2 Timothy Series (4)
“A Trustworthy Saying” 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Last week I went with a couple to see a Justice of the Peace. My friends had some forms they needed to fill out in front of the JP. Things like their names & dates of birth, the JP could check against their passports, but before he put his signature & stamp on those forms, they had to swear (on oath) that what they had written was absolutely accurate & true.
Five times in his letters to Timothy & Titus, Paul uses an interesting phrase: “Here is a trustworthy saying”. When he uses such a phrase Paul is emphasizing that what he is about to say is totally reliable & absolutely true. It is as if he is saying, “Now here is something about which you can be 100% sure…” Or, “No doubt about it, this is absolutely true…”
One of these confident affirming statements comes in our Scripture reading for today. In 2 Timothy 2:11 Paul is about to quote from what may have been an early Christian hymn. Before actually quoting from the hymn he writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying.” In other words, he is saying, “The words of this hymn are spot on, they are absolutely true.”
What Paul affirms about the words of the hymn is true of the whole of Scripture. In our church statement of faith there is this sentence: “The Bible, as the inspired word of God, is the first & last source of authority for life, belief & practice.” Yes, the Bible is “inspired”, or “God breathed” (as it is in Greek). This is why we know that the Bible is absolutely reliable & trustworthy. Indeed it is our first & final authority for life, belief & practice.
So then, let us take a look at this early Christian hymn that Paul says he can absolutely, without reservation affirm to be true.
The first line of the hymn speaks about:
1. Dying & Living with Jesus (v.11)
Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” Paul has just been writing to Timothy about being ready to suffer for the Lord. On his mind may have been the truth that when we suffer for Christ, even die for Him, that is not the end. It is not a disaster for in fact we will also live with Him.
However many Bible scholars also see in this statement a reference to baptism. Why? Well, baptism is a picture of our dying to our old life & rising to new life in Christ. Just as Jesus died on the Cross for our sins & rose again from the dead, by believing in Him, in a spiritual sense we die with Him & we rise to new life with Him. Paul says in Romans 6:3 & 4, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
Our friends being baptised today are giving public testimony to this truth. They are acting out what happened when they put their faith in Jesus. When they trusted in Jesus as their Saviour their old sinful self was crucified with Jesus, was buried with Jesus & they rose with Jesus to new life. No longer do they live for self but for Jesus. Baptism therefore is a powerful picture of what it means to become a Christian. Baptism does not make us Christians, but it is a picture, an acting out, of what happens when we become Christians, when we confess our sins & trust Jesus as our Saviour & Lord.
I think we can see another wonderful truth in this phrase “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him”. It is the fact for the believer physical death is not the end. All who believe in Jesus have eternal life. One day, when we die physically we will in fact be more alive than ever. As the famous American evangelist DL Moody once said, “Some day you will read in the papers, ‘D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.’ Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now; I shall have gone up higher, that is all, out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal.” Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) Indeed, it is a trustworthy saying that, “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him.”
The second line of the hymn is all about:
2. Enduring & Reigning with Jesus (v.12a)
It goes, “…if we endure, we will also reign with Him.” As we noticed last week, there are times the Christian might have to suffer. We face temptation, opposition, even danger. In all these things we are called to endure. Do you remember? Like a good soldier, an athlete, a hardworking farmer – we are called to patient endurance. We are to endure, not to give up. We are to remain steadfast, faithful to the end.
Did you see the TV news the other day about the young seven-year old Australian boy Ethan Hall who got the hiccups just as he started singing the national anthem at a televised baseball game? Instead of giving up he kept singing & finished the anthem. He received a huge cheer from the crowd & got high fives from all the players. He endured. He did not give up!
The hymn says, “…if we endure, we will also reign with Him.” What a wonderful promise! As Christians, in a sense, we are already reigning with Christ. Ephesians 2:6 tells us, “And God raised us up with Christ & seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” In the spiritual realm we are reigning with Christ. We are no longer subject to the evil one, no longer under his power or authority. Through Christ, we have access to the very throne room of heaven. This is why our prayer meetings are probably the most important meetings we have. We are bringing our requests to the King!
So while still living here on earth, we are already reigning with Christ, we have access to the throne room of heaven. However, one day when Christ returns, we will sit & judge with Him. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:2, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” Jesus Himself said, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matthew 19:28) And in Romans 8:17 Paul says, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God & co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”
So, dear brothers & sisters do not give up when things get tough. Do not turn back. Endure to the end. Keep going. Don’t pack things in when you get hiccups or make a mistake. The Lord will be with you & keep you through thick & thin. Remember, we are already a co-heirs with Christ & are seated with Him in the heavenlies, & what is more, one day we will reign with Him in the new heaven & the new earth. No crown or accolade or reward the world can offer can even remotely be compared with the glory that you & I will experience in that day!
The third line of the hymn speaks about:
3. Disowning & Being Disowned (v.12b)
Knowing the incredible glory that is to be ours in the heavenly kingdom, don’t you think it is worth standing up unashamedly for the Lord now! Don’t you think it is worth making His business our business! Don’t you think it is worth putting Him first, rather than yourself & your plans!
This third line of the hymn actually contains very sobering words. It goes, “If we disown Him, He will also disown us.”
I remember as a teenager in Zimbabwe one Sunday evening going straight from church to the train station to see someone off on the overnight train to Harare. The station platform was crowded & some of my school friends were there. I realised that I was still carrying my Bible & seeing my school friends, I felt a little embarrassed. Maybe they would think, “There is religious Pete, even carrying his Bible at the train station!” Worrying about this, I put my Bible down on a bench & moved away a little. Out the corner of my eye though, I watched to make sure no one walked off with my Bible. All of a sudden I sensed the Holy Spirit convicting me. How come I was so weak & so afraid of what my friends would think? Was I ashamed of Jesus? I asked the Lord to forgive me & once again I picked up my Bible.
Young people do not be ashamed, like I was, to identify with Jesus. Don’t be afraid to let your friends know that you are a Christian.
Jesus told His followers, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32 & 33) What a tragic thing it will be to discover that because we were ashamed of our Lord, & because we disowned or denied Him, He is ashamed of us & disowns us! How wonderful however, to hear the Lord say to us one day, “Well done, my son, or my daughter, I am proud of you. You confessed me before other people. I now confess you before my Father.” Those being baptised today are making such a public confession. I believe God is pleased & will honour them for their witness today.
The fourth & final line of the hymn is about being:
4. Faithless & Faithful (v.13)
It is very sad & sobering to think there may be people who once came to church, who once claimed to be Christians, who discover in the end that the Lord says He never knew them. It is a serious warning we cannot ignore.
However it is also true that as we come to the final line in this early Christian hymn we find great comfort in what we learn about the Lord. V.13 says, “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”
Sometimes “we are faithless” – in other words we lack faith (we do not trust the Lord as we should) or sometimes we are unfaithful (we actually let the Lord down, we do things that we know are wrong & sinful). The wonderful thing is whether we fail to trust the Lord or actually let Him down, He remains faithful. The faithfulness of God is what gives us as believers our greatest comfort & assurance. The Lord Himself is our security. He keeps His Word. He keeps His promises. He never fails.
A little boy was high up on the jungle gym in a park. Looking down he suddenly felt afraid & started crying. The boy’s father called up to his son & told him not to worry but to jump down. “I will catch you, my boy,” he said. The little boy looked around in fear but then hesitating no longer he leapt off the jungle gym & jumped straight into his father’s strong arms. He might have been lacking in faith but his father was faithful. His father caught him safely.
Let us think now about a loving father teaching his little child to walk. If the little one falls the father quickly lifts him or her up & encourages him/her to keep trying. One day that little child will not only learn to walk, he/she will learn to run as well.
When we fail to trust the Lord, the amazing thing is, He remains faithful. He remains trustworthy. And when we let Him down, when we stumble & fall, the amazing thing is, if we are truly sorry & seek His forgiveness He restores us to the place of intimacy & love.
God remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. What wonderful assurance this should give the child of God! Yes, fellow Christian & especially those of you being baptised today, remember God is faithful – of this you can be 100% sure. We can trust Him fully & we can trust His Word for it too is absolutely true & reliable.