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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Build on the Lord's Faithful Saying
Text:2 Timothy 2:11-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faithfulness rewarded

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 57:1,5                                                                                      

Ps 32:1,2

Reading – 2 Timothy 1:1 - 2:13

Ps 16:1,3,4,5

Sermon – 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Hy 51:1,2,3

Hy 83:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters, would you say that you’re insecure? For example, do you worry what other people think of you? Or are you sometimes anxious about the future? Probably more of us are insecure than are willing to admit it. For it’s a human thing: we worry and become anxious. And insecurity can be paralyzing, where we’re always hesitant of what to do next, and terrified of what others might say. But whether we’re anxious today, or we’re very much at peace, God speaks to us his steadfast Word.

And today, we hear it from Paul’s second letter to Timothy. In this letter Paul is giving pastoral advice to his younger colleague in the ministry. And actually, this Timothy could be a bit insecure, too. He was timid, fearful of others and their judgments. Paul has to tell him, “Timothy, don’t let others look down on you.” For his part, Timothy didn’t always know how to conduct himself as a pastor. So especially in chapter 2, Paul has been exhorting him; “You… my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v 1). Instead of being a wimp, he has to be a ministry-warrior. He has to endure hardship as a “good soldier of Christ” (v 3).

In this spirit of confidence, Paul writes the words in our text. See how he describes it as “a faithful saying” (v 11). You can call that a signature phrase in these two letters to Timothy and in the one to Titus, because it occurs a number of times. Some say that these “faithful sayings” are basically quotations, perhaps from an early hymn or creed, something Timothy would’ve heard before. That could be, or these “faithful sayings” might just be a way to emphasize what Paul’s saying: “This is true, it’s totally dependable.”

Because Paul knows that he won’t be able to encourage and mentor Timothy forever. Before Paul leaves this earth, he wants to entrust him with the proven gospel message, for him to guard and teach in coming years. “Here’s a trustworthy word, Timothy. Here’s something you can count on! Build your life and your ministry on these steadfast words!” And the Spirit tells us too, that whatever our fear, our insecurity, our condition and position, we can…

Build on this “faithful saying” of the Lord:

  1. if we died with Christ…
  2. if we endure…
  3. if we deny Christ…
  4. if we are faithless…


1) if we died with Christ: Paul begins our text in a surprising way. He writes, “If we died with him, we shall also live with him” (v 11). It’s surprising, because why would Paul start with death? Death is the last chapter of our time here on earth. It comes only after all those other things Paul will speak about: enduring, or denying, or being faithless. So why start here?

We have to understand what kind of death he’s referring to. There’s a couple options. First, it could be that Paul’s speaking of an actual death, the real end that comes to our physical life on earth. When we die, and we are believers in Christ, then we will “live with him” (as it says in verse 11), forever. And that’s true, beautifully true.

Or it could be that Paul is thinking of the death that results from suffering for Christ—the death of martyrdom. That’s certainly a theme in the rest of the letter. Paul has just been talking about his own suffering for the gospel. He’s mentioned his chains, and referred to his hardships and trials. When Paul wrote this letter, he expected to die. As he says, “The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:6-7). He was going to the chopping block for Christ, yet he was sure of his reward—that he’d live forever in glory. So, some conclude, his meaning in verse 11 is this: “If we die for the cause of Christ, then we’ll also live with him forever!”

Again, that’s true. But another option is more likely. Paul doesn’t have in mind a physical kind of death, when all the systems of the body cease to function. Because when Paul refers to dying, notice that he does so in the past tense: “If we died...” (v 11). Dying with Christ isn’t a possibility of the future, it’s actually an event of the past—an event that is finished. Paul has already died, Timothy has already died, and we have died.

Maybe you’re confused by that. Just how have we died “with Christ?” Other parts of the New Testament help us, like Romans 6. There it says that a believer dies with Christ when he believes in Christ. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus, we’re united personally to Him. We’re even so united to Him, that Christ’s death becomes our death.

And that’s the whole gospel, isn’t it?! Because the death that we owe to God for all our sins has already taken place. Our death happened long ago, on the cross. The death Christ died, He died for all, for you and me!

So by believing in Christ—by dying “with him” on the cross—we receive new life from God. That’s how verse 11 continues, “If we died with him [with Christ], we shall also live with him.” New life has started already now, when we believe. Already we’re alive, because we’ve been forgiven. Already we’re alive, because our hearts are being renewed to serve God!

We have the beginning of this gift, and now we just await the final installment. The fullness of life comes in the future when we can dwell in God’s house forever. Our great confidence is this: If by faith we have died with Christ in this life, then we’ll live with him in the next life too, and we’ll do so on an earth that has been restored and remade!

Imagine how these words brought encouragement to Timothy. It meant that his faith and his work had a goal, a purpose, a future. And they still bring assurance to all who believe. If Christ’s death is our death—if you trust in his sacrifice as your one hope, as your total salvation—then you’ll never die. Even if we’re considered worthless or hopeless here on earth, even if our body falls apart, and our mind fades, we do not die. By faith, we have the life that is truly life: life in Jesus Christ.

It’s a rich promise that God holds out to us. But see how the Spirit puts this phrase, and each of the four phrases in this trustworthy saying. He always begins with an “if:” “if we died with him, if we endure, if we deny him, if we are faithless…” By saying “if” like this, the Holy Spirit doesn’t want to sow the seeds of doubt. But He does want us to be totally certain that we DO believe in Jesus as Saviour and Lord! This is something we should be sure of, that we really know him! As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (13:5).

That’s always a good activity: Examine yourselves. Brothers and sisters, are you in the faith? Does your life have that sure foundation that comes from resting in Christ and his finished work? Or are you always unsteady, always fearful? Are you always a slave to the next thing that might go wrong? Or do you trust fully in Jesus Christ, that his death is your death, that his blood has covered your sins? And do you trust that there’s nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from his love? Yes, have you received his gift of life with a living faith?


2) if we endure: The gift of dying with Christ by faith is a gift from God that cannot be lost. God's work of salvation in us is irreversible. But as Paul keeps writing, he sounds more hesitant. For now he speaks of something that demands our constant attention, a project we’re working on for as long as we live: “If we endure…” (v 12).

This reminds us of what he wrote a few verses before, in verse 10. There Paul said, “I endure all things for the sake of the elect…” Pastor Paul has called on Reverend Timothy to imitate his own example of perseverance—to show endurance in Christian ministry. And now he underlines that point in our text: We have to endure!

For being united to Christ is only the beginning. It’s only Chapter 1 of a life-long story of walking by faith. Then must follow your whole-hearted dedication to serving the Lord, in the good times, and also in the bad, right to the very last page.

In both his letters to Timothy, this message emerges loud and clear. Paul repeatedly says that “endurance” is needed for the task of gospel ministry. For while the ministry was a great joy and privilege, Paul never looked at it naively. In encouraging his younger colleague, Paul knew that it wouldn’t help to be unrealistic. It was on account of the ministry that Paul had endured so much hardship and opposition—stonings and public floggings, shipwrecks and imprisonments, hunger and thirst, loneliness and despair. In his own body, Paul writes somewhere else, he bore the marks of suffering for Christ.

Personally, I’m thankful that the ministry today isn’t quite so hazardous to one’s health! Yet what Paul writes to Timothy is still true: There’s a mental and spiritual burden that is placed on pastors. And it’s a burden that must be carried, that must be endured, for the glory of the Saviour.

And this is true for every Christian, whether or not you’re an ordained minister. In whatever position God has called us, Christians will need to persevere. My brothers and sisters, you’ll have to give attention to enduring. For suffering will come on those who are faithful! For us, it may not involved having our homes destroyed or our limbs hacked off, as Christians face in some parts of this world. Compared to such persecutions, we don’t often picture ourselves as suffering that much for the sake of the gospel.

But the Spirit teaches in the New Testament that all Christians, everywhere, will suffer. This is what Peter says in his first letter, “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (4:12, NIV). It’s NOT strange for Christians to suffer. Rather, it’s strange for Christians NOT to suffer! Paul says exactly the same thing later on in this letter: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (3:12).

So we should expect hardship for Christ’s sake. When we live as a faithful Christians, we’re going to stand out for abuse. When we are Bible-believing and church-going people in a wicked and anti-Christian world, we’ll attract negative attention! And we’ll suffer if we take seriously the words of Scripture. We’ll suffer from the world, when we do not love the world or follow its pattern. We’ll suffer, when we break friendship with those who don’t serve God. We’ll suffer, when we deny ourselves the pleasures that we want and think we deserve.

And enduring as a Christian doesn’t only mean negative sacrifice, when we say: “I cannot do this, and I must not do that.” It also means suffering in service. The Christian sense of duty means we say, “I love God, and God calls me to give. I love God, and God calls me to speak up in defense of the faith. I love God, and He calls me to love those who are hard to love. I need to endure in doing this, to stick with it, for his sake.”

Once more, this invites us to do some self-examination. It holds up a mirror to our lives: Are we suffering at all for being Christians? Would you say that your life is characterized by self-denial? Are we persevering in doing good, continuing in service, even when it’s difficult and exhausting? Do our lives resemble living sacrifices?

God says that this is the kind of suffering that we can endure, and this is suffering that will lead to blessing! That’s the certainty of his Word: “If we endure, we shall also reign with him” (v 12). Those words point us again past this life, and to the next—to eternity, when Christ will seat us on thrones, and give dominion over all things. The world that so often tried to drag us down will be placed under our feet. Satan, who so often tried to lead us astray, will be crushed in front of us.

Hold onto this hope! Whatever your present challenges—when you are denying yourself the pleasures of sin, when you are continually sacrificing to serve your family better, when you are pressing on in the faith despite hardship—whatever must be endured for Him, it is certain and trustworthy: if you endure, God won’t forget you. God won’t overlook any of your works, done in humble faith. But we’ll receive his reward, and reign with him.


3) if we deny Christ: Moving to the third part of this saying, Paul changes his tone. For he acknowledges that it might go the other way. If we don’t persevere, and we don’t take on the burden of serving Christ, we can’t expect his reward. In the present life, we can either endure, or we can give up. We can either continue, or take the easy way out. But giving up will have a terrible result: “If we deny him, He will also deny us.”

In these words, we hear an echo of what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33. There He told his disciples, “Whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

As we think about this, we need to know what kind of “denying” is meant. The Greek word that’s used has a range of meanings. It can mean just refusing to do something, like a job that someone asks you to carry out. It can also refer to the kind of denial where you change your mind about something: “No, I don’t believe that anymore.” Or it can describe a full-blown denial and apostasy, when someone absolutely and finally rejects the gospel of Christ.

It’s the last kind of disowning that Paul means, when we deny Christ altogether, when we say we don’t know him, or we don’t need him. We’ve chased Him out of our life, denied his claim on us and refused to give Him our worship. And the result of such a rejection is eternal death—denial by Christ. He’ll say that He doesn’t know us. Because if we haven’t died with Christ by faith, then our sins rest on our own heads, and God demands our own life as payment! And that’s a horrible price to pay.

Maybe we wonder, “Now what kind of encouragement is this? How would it help timid Timothy, to know that Christ will deny him if he abandons his faith?” This puts the pressure on, and it probably makes him more nervous about failing in his ministry. We could fear the same, “What if I am close to falling away? Am I in danger of denying Christ?” It’s true, this warning is severe. But it’s something we need to hear.

Because at times we might be tempted to give up. Being faithful is hard work. Fighting sin is tiring. Staying committed to the LORD takes an effort. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to stop swimming against the tide, and go along with the world? Wouldn’t it be nicer to have more time for yourself, more freedom to do what you want?

Here we have to realize that denying Christ isn’t something done only with your mouth, when you’re talking with your co-workers, university classmates, or neighbours and you deny that Jesus is your Saviour. Denying Christ isn’t only when you say, “No, I’m not a Christian.” Or, “I go to church, but it’s not important to me.” That kind of denial can happen, certainly.

But more often, people disown Christ another way—we do it by our actions and our inactions, repeated again and again. Especially in the way he lives, a person can show that he doesn’t really know Christ! A person might simply ignore what God says about mercy and love, what He says about lust or hatred, self-control or idolatry: “I’m going to do it anyway.” Says Christ, “By their actions, they deny me.” It’s when a person has faith without works, which is no faith at all. It’s a denial of the LORD.

The danger here is how those repeated behaviours, all those “little” acts of disobedience, can actually change the way we think. They can change what we value, and they can destroy what we believe. Denying Christ in the little choices, in the habits you slip into over months and years—this can turn into a denying of Christ completely. Every sin has in it the seed of something much worse, something that can grow, something with the potential to separate us from God forever.

And such a denial has an eternal cost. At his judgment seat, Christ predicts that He’ll have severe words for some of those who said “Lord, Lord.” He’ll say to them, “I never knew you. You disowned me by your life. You left me, and you never came back.” If you deny Him, He will deny you. This terrible warning isn’t mean to frighten us, but to keep us alert. It’s meant to call us out of sinfulness and into a life of holiness. Faithfully confess your God and Saviour, in your words and through your deeds!


4) if we are faithless: With the fourth part of the saying, there’s another shift. While the previous verse gave a solemn warning, this one gives a message of hope: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (v 13). Notice how this fourth sentence doesn’t quite fit with the rest. Its basic structure is the same; it starts with an “if” statement, and concludes with the result. And yet there’s a puzzle—because it reaches an unexpected conclusion!

“If we are faithless…” And then it’s like Paul can’t bring himself to finish the sentence as it began. “If we are faithless, will Christ be faithless toward us? If we are faithless, is He going to drop us forever?” No! For instead of warning that He’ll treat the faithless the way we deserve, the Spirit affirms that Christ will remain faithful. Christ stays true to his believers, despite our worst failures. God will not revoke his promise to save his people, just because we show ourselves to be weak and unworthy!

So what kind of unfaithfulness is Paul speaking of? In the previous verse, the Spirit said that those who reject Christ, really and truly, are condemned forever. That’s still true. But here, he refers to a temporary lapse, falling away for a time.

What do I mean? It’s possible that Christians go through a time when we don’t really walk with Christ. There can be days or months when you don’t experience the nearness of his Spirit. This can be because of a sin you haven’t repented from, or this can be because of the tough situations of life. We see our faith go through a very low period. Yet this doesn’t mean that we’ve turned away entirely or that we’ve lost our faith.

The apostle Peter is an example of this. He was someone who was temporarily faithless, which happened when he denied his Saviour, even three times. Yet this wasn’t the end for Peter. He repented, and Christ graciously restored Him.

We see the same pattern in our own lives. As the Lord’s Supper Form says, not one of us has perfect faith. We do not serve God with the zeal that He requires. Yet even in our times of weakness, God doesn’t give up his claim on our lives. His gift of faith is still there, living in our hearts. Our faith may be a pitiful thing at the moment, but it’s still there. And it’s still enough to unite us with Christ, and everything that He accomplished.

So the passage ends with one more statement on the faithfulness of Christ. Paul has said that even if believers are faithless, Christ remains faithful, “for He cannot deny himself” (v 13). In this we see how the whole gospel of salvation goes back to the character of God, who the LORD is, as the only true God. He is just, and He is merciful. It’s God’s nature to be faithful through all things, to be faithful in spite of the worst that his people may do. God cannot, and God will not, break any of his promises. Our salvation is rooted in the character of God,” the God “who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas 1:17). He cannot deny himself.

Meditate on this truth, and let it give confidence and joy. For if we’re honest, our failures are many. Our weaknesses are embarrassing. We can feel so deeply unworthy of God’s love. Yet thanks be to God, our salvation doesn’t depend on us, but on Him. He is rich in his mercy, steadfast in his love. These are things we can count on. Count on them, in the midst of worries and fears, though you are so sinful and frail. Even so, depend on this faithful saying. Make it your life’s foundation, for it will not crumble.

Stay true to Christ. Hold on to Christ, with everything that you’ve got! He is faithful. May we be faithful, too!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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