Thursday, May 18, 2023

2023.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 2:11–13

Read 2 Timothy 2:11–13

Questions from the Scripture text: What does 2 Timothy 2:11a call these verses? What is the first “if” statement (verse 11b)? What will also be true, if we died with Christ (verse 11c)? What is the second “if” statement (2 Timothy 2:12a)? What will also be true, if we endure with Christ (verse 12b)? What is the third “if” statement (verse 12c)? What will also happen, if we deny Christ (verse 12d)? What is the third “if” statement (2 Timothy 2:13a)? What will still be true of Christ in this case (verse 13b)? Why (verse 13c)?

Why can, ought, and must Christians endure hardship for Christ? 2 Timothy 2:11–13 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the reality and necessity of union with Christ drives Christian endurance.

We can endure hardship for Christ, because we are united to Him2 Timothy 2:11. We are familiar with this language from Romans 6:3–8. There, the conclusion was that the only way that we can come to faith in Jesus is if the Spirit, Whom He poured out on us in baptism from heaven, as united us to Christ Himself. So we died with Him, so we rose with Him, so we live with Him, and so we are and must be sin’s mortal enemies now, not willing servants.

Similarly, if the life that we are now living is lived by faith in Christ, in union with Christ, by the grace of Christ, then we have everything necessary to endure whatever hardship comes. The apostle has charged Timothy to endure hardship (2 Timothy 2:3) and given his own example as willing to endure all things (2 Timothy 2:10). Now, he reminds Timothy of the “how” of that: union with Christ. We died with Him, we will live with Him, and by His life we endure.

This is such an important concept in the Christian life that the apostle refers Timothy to a “faithful saying.” This is the fourth of five of these in Paul’s letters to him. In the last couple centuries, commentators have begun to speculate that these were from hymns written by the apostolic church. But there is no evidence of this in Scripture or history, and 2 Timothy 1:13 gives us the Spirit’s own description of such passages. It is a pattern of sound words. In other words, it is a selection from a catechism with which Timothy was familiar. Perhaps the same catechism in which Theophilus had been catechized (a more literal translation than “instructed” in Luke 1:4). 

There is nothing more essential to the daily Christian experience than the reality of our union with Christ and therefore the perception of our communion (fellowship) with Him. This is the A, B, Cs of Christian living. It is foundational to the battle against sin in Romans 6. And here, we see it is foundational to the believer’s endurance of hardship.

We ought to endure hardship, because it is worth it2 Timothy 2:12a–b. The path to glory runs through suffering. This is a common teaching through all of Scripture, and preachers who do not remind Christ’s sheep of this sin against them and their Shepherd. For the believer, suffering is light and momentary by comparison to the eternal weight of the glory to which it is bringing us (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18). If we endure, we shall also reign! 

But there is something else that is worth enduring hardship: not only where it takes us, but with Whom we get to do it. We have fellowship with Christ in our sufferings (cf. Romans 8:17, 2 Corinthians 1:5, Philippians 3:10, 1 Peter 4:13). Surely, our suffering is not so great as His, and what it accomplishes is not so great as what His accomplished. But, there is a great privilege in suffering analogously to Him and a great sweetness in getting to do so in union with Him.

We must endure hardship for Christ, because if we do not, we will be cast in the lake of fire2 Timothy 2:12-13. One of the great encouragements for the struggling believer is that all of his love and obedience and service and patience have come by Christ’s grace in him. We grieve over how poor all of these are in us, but their presence at all is a great encouragement, for whatever grace we have has come from One Who will persist until we are perfected. The resources of that grace never run out.

But this means something dreadful for those who do not endure. It means that whatever good had appeared to be in them was fool’s gold. It was from themselves, not from Christ. There are many who indeed seem to be quite upright and decent but have not Christ. Whatever God’s common grace has permitted them to achieve, the fact that it is by achievement rather than from union with Christ means that the resources must run out. And the surest way to be exposed as a false Christian is to come to the place where one denies Christ. Alas, many who had seemed to be something in the church have ended up this way.

But we cannot be in doubt about what happens to such. As Jesus made clear in Matthew 10:33, those who deny Jesus before men, He will deny before His Father—and this on the last and great Day (cf. Luke 9:26)! Why will Jesus deny those who deny Him? Because it is impossible for Him to lie (cf. Titus 1:2) or sin in any other way. He simply cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13c). This is great news for those who are His. He must save us, because we are His, and He cannot deny Himself. 

But for those who deny Christ, who show themselves “faithless,” His faithfulness means that He must deny them. Their changing opinion of Christ doesn’t change anything about Christ Himself. To put it bluntly, when we are tempted to shrink back from enduring hardship of Christ, what faces us is a choice between heaven and hell. And if we are of grace, it is His grace. He is faithful, and by His grace, we will choose heaven.

What hardship are you facing? From where do the resources to endure it come? Why is it worth it to endure the hardship? Why is it such a dangerous temptation to consider giving up on enduring the hardship for His sake?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving to us to die with Christ, to live with Christ, and one day to reign with Christ. Thank You for the faithful saying by which Paul reminded Timothy of this wonderful reality of union with Christ. Thank You even for the sweetness that fellowship with Christ brings to our sufferings. Forgive us for shrinking back from enduring suffering. Please, do not let us deny Him, which would damn ourselves. Instead, forgive us, and restore us, and comfort us, and strengthen us in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH244 “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”

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