if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
I. FAMILIAR TRUTHS WITH A CONSOLATORY ASPECT. "If we died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him." There is here an expressive climax, setting forth two different aspects of the union between Christ and his people.
1. Identification with Christ in his death. All believers died with him, as their Head and Representative, and thus died to sin, through the efficacy of his death, so as to be planted together in the likeness of his death; and thus, being made conformable to his death, they have fellowship with him in his sufferings.
2. But identification with Christ in his life follows as a consequence of this identification in death, because we rose with him from the dead, to be planted in the likeness of his resurrection, that we should walk in newness of life; and thus, being made alive unto God, we live a life of holiness and sanctification with him (Romans 6:5-8).
3. Identification with Christ in endurance involves identification in his reigning glory. Believers who suffer shame and loss and outrage for Christ's sake shall reign with him in glory hereafter, as they reign in the kingdom of grace with him now; for they are "a kingdom of priests," destined foreverlasting glory (Revelation 1:6).
II. FAMILIAR TRUTHS WITH A THREATENING ASPECT. "If we deny him, he also will deny us; if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."
1. The denial of Christ is fatal. It is to reject the only Saviour. Some deny his Messiahship; some deny his Divinity; some deny him by their works, being ashamed of him and refusing to confess him; some deny him by open apostasy. In all these cases the denial involves our Lord's denial of them (Matthew 7:23; Matthew 10:23).
2. Our unbelief does not affect the essential faithfulness of Christ. "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful."
1. This does not mean that he will save us whether we believe in him or not; for he has just said that if we deny him he will also deny us, and faith is always an essential condition of salvation.
3. It means that he will abide faithful to his word of threatening, as well as to his nature and perfections; for he cannot falsify his declarations that "he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). He will say to apostates in the last day, "I never knew you." It would be to deny himself to act otherwise. He cannot consistently with his character regard faith and unbelief as the same thing. Thus the apostle stimulates Timothy to fidelity by an exhibition at once of the bright and the dark sides of Divine truth. - T.C.
If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful.
(H. D. M. Spence, M. A.)
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. THE SAD POSSIBILITY, AND THE CONSOLING ASSURANCE — "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful." I must take the sad possibility first — "if we believe not," and I shall read this expression as though, first of all, it concerned the world in general, for I think it may so be fairly read. If mankind believe not, if the various classes of men believe not — yet He abideth faithful. The rulers believed not, and there are some that make this a very great point. They said concerning Jesus, "Have any of the rulers believed on Him?" Well, if our greatest men, if our senators and magistrates, princes and potentates, believe not — it does not affect the truth of God in the smallest conceivable degree — "yet He abideth faithful." Many, however, think it more important to know on which side the leaders of thought are enlisted, and there are certain persons who are not elected to that particular office by popular vote, who nevertheless take it upon themselves to consider that they are dictators in the republic of opinion. However, we need not care because of these wise men, for if they believe not, but becloud the gospel, yet God abideth faithful. Yes, and I venture to enlarge this thought a little more. If the rulers do not believe, and if the philosophical minds do not believe, and if in addition to this public opinion, so called, rejects it, yet the gospel is still the same eternal truth.
2. Now, having spoken of our text as referring to the world in general, it is, perhaps, a more sorrowful business to look at it as referring to the visible church in particular. The apostle says, "Though we believe not," and surely he must mean the visible church of God.
3. Once more I will read the text in a somewhat narrower circle. "If we believe not" — that is to say, if the choicest teachers and preachers and writers believe not, yet He abideth faithful. Here, then, is the fearful possibility; and side by side with it runs this most blessedly consoling assurance — "He abideth faithful." Jesus Christ abideth: there are no shifts and changes in Him. He is a rock, and not a quicksand. He is the Saviour whether the rulers and the philosophers believe in Him or refuse Him, whether the Church dud her ministers are true to Him or desert Him. And as Christ remains the same Saviour, so we have the same gospel. And as the gospel is the same, so does Christ remain faithful to His engagements to His Father.
II. A GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBILITY WITH A SWEET INFERENCE THAT MAY BE DRAWN FROM IT. "He cannot deny Him self." Three things God cannot do. He cannot die, He cannot lie, and He cannot be deceived. These three impossibilities do not limit His power, but they magnify His majesty; for these would be infirmities, and infirmity can have no place in the infinite and ever blessed God. Here is one of the things impossible with God — "He cannot deny Himself." What is meant by that?
1. It is meant that the Lord Jesus Christ cannot change as to His nature and character towards us, the sons of men.
2. His word cannot alter.
3. He cannot withdraw the salvation which He has presented to the sons of men, for that salvation is indeed Himself.
4. And then the atonement is still the same, for that, too, is Himself: He has by Himself purged our sins.
5. And the mercy-seat, the place of prayer, still remains; for if that were altered He would have denied Himself, for what was the mercy-seat, or propitiatory, that golden lid upon the covenant ark? What was it but Christ Him self, who is our propitiatory, the true mercy-seat?
6. And here is another sweet thought: Christ's love to His Church, and His purpose towards her cannot change, because He cannot deny Himself, and His Church is Himself.
7. Nor will any one of His offices towards His Church and people ever fail.
8. Now, my last word is about an inference. The text says, "If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful": it runs on that supposition. Take the other supposition: Suppose we do believe. Will He not be faithful in that case? And will it not be true that He cannot deny Himself?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. Roberts, M. A.)1. Faith in God involves, in its very act, a rational appreciation of evidence. Hence it is distinct from credulity, which is belief without evidence; from scepticism, which is unbelief, though evidence is at hand; and from infidelity, which is the rejection of evidence sufficient to convince. In each of these there is either the neglect or the abuse of the reason, and a consequent injury to the intellectual as well as to the moral powers of the soul. But faith in God, distinct from all these, is belief on sufficient evidence.
2. Faith in God promotes the highest exercise of reason, because also it rests upon the most substantial and durable foundation. If, in the investigation of natural truth, it is philosophical to seek for first principles, it is equally or more so to require them in the reception of revealed truth. Now to have faith in God is to rest on first principles, and to build up knowledge and hope on a sure foundation.
3. Faith takes in the sublimest truths, and the widest circle of thought.
4. If this be our philosophy we shall not stumble at miracles. While faith admits the miracles as facts, reason co-operates with faith by showing that they are wise and good. Moreover, the great first miracle displayed in the world's creation, which we receive by faith, prepare the mind for all other miracles, however stupendous they may be (Hebrews 11:1).
5. Guided by the philosophy of faith, we shall not stumble at mysteries. For what are mysteries? Grand truths as yet but palatally revealed; the first syllables of some vast volume to be unrolled hereafter.
6. Nor at alleged contradictions between science and revelation. We are free to admit that there are difficulties, real difficulties, between science and revelation; and there may be even greater still. What then? We are but in the position in which patriarchs and prophets were placed for ages.
7. Supported by the philosophy of faith, we shall not faint under the delay of promised good. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years," etc.
(W. Cooke, D. D.)I. UNBELIEF IS A SIN. What more in the holy letters checked, condemned? Does not Christ dissuade from it? His apostles forbid it? and God everywhere commands the contrary? May not arguments be produced, if any doubt of it, to confirm, ratify it?
II. A MAN MAY NOT HAVE FAITH YET POSSESS THE GOSPEL. To try the truth of thy faith, let these two rules following be well weighed of thee: First, he who hath faith receives Christ, as the wife does her husband. He will have Him and no other from this time forward, for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, according to God's holy ordinance, till (and after that) death shall them part. In the second place, how does thy faith work? Faith, if true and sound, will embrace Christ, purify the heart, lift up the wing of thy soul and cause thee to soar on high. It will do what God enjoins, though it strip him of reputation, promotion, life and all.
III. IN PREACHING THE WORD MINISTERS ARE NOT TO EXCLUDE THEMSELVES.
IV. THE LORD IS FAITHFUL.
V. THE LORD IS WITHOUT CHANGE.
(J. Barlow, D. D.)
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