Sunday, February 12, 2012

Be Faithful

2 Timothy 2:110-13

Because the gospel is not bound, Paul was willing to endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they would obtain salvation. Paul used the Greek word ἐκλεκτός which transliterates to “eklektos”. It means “picked out” or “chosen”. And in our context, it means chosen by God. Sometimes it is translated elect and sometimes chosen.
He is thinking of those who will come to Christ, but had not yet. He was willing to suffer to get the gospel to them so they will share with him the salvation that is in Christ, in eternal glory.

Paul knew that preaching the gospel would result in the salvation of those God chose. That gave him hope and strength – his preaching would not be in vain. For example, God told Paul to preach in Corinth because (Acts 18:10) “I have many people in this city”. There were many who would come to Christ through Paul’s preaching because God had chosen them to do so.

Paul finished this part of his plea for faithfulness by using a song or possible catechism that was likely well known to complete his exhortation to faithfulness (2:11-13). The song has four couplets: 2 positive & 2 negative. Each starts with “if” to describe an action of a believer, then follows with the reaction of God. The “if” actually assumes it is true. We more commonly use the word “since” in this situation today.

The first one says, if we have died with him, we will also live with him. We often say that Christ’s death was substitutionary: he died for us or in our place. But his death is also vicarious. That is, his death is attributed to us. His death becomes our death.

In legal terms, a company can be held liable for the actions of its employees. It is vicariously liable. The actions of the employee are held to be the actions of the company. In tribal or clan cultures, the act of a member of a clan is the act of the clan, so another clan may kill an innocent member of that clan in retaliation.

Christians are deemed to have died with Christ. His death is attributed to us. In Galatians 2:20, Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ”. The result of that death is that he may now live for Christ and not for his own flesh. He said “for through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” (Gal. 5:19) He also said “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…” (Gal. 5:20)

Ironically, Christians live as dead men and women: dead to sin and flesh, alive to Christ. (Romans 6:1-4) Therefore, we may live to please him and bring glory to God.

The second couplet says “if we endure, we will also reign with him”. This is a reference to eternal life. It is endurance that proves salvation. It is the opposite of “apostasy”, which is to abandon the faith or the crucial tenants of the faith. One who sins or temporarily falls away is not apostate. The best example is Peter. He denied Christ three times, yet was restored and lived his life and died for Christ.

On the other hand, Charles Templeton used to tour and preach with Billy Graham. He began to question the Bible, however, and eventually renounced his faith publicly. He wrote a book about it and died without repenting. As far as we know, he was apostate.

The reason endurance to the end is the true sign of faith is that God preserves those who believe in Jesus and have been converted or saved. The Bible says this repeatedly. For example, Jesus said “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29). Romans 8:28-30 tells us that those God called, he glorified.

Peter put it clearly in 1 Peter 1:9. He said those God caused to be born again have an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for them.

Jude 24-25 tells us God is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us to himself blameless.

It is also the point of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13. The parable of the soils and the parable of the tares both show that we cannot know who is saved for sure until we see they endure. God knows, but we do not. The believer will endure to the end.

In contrast, the third couplet is a warning. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we apostasize, or deny Christ and his teaching, he will deny us at the judgment. Jesus said “…whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew10:33) This verse alone defeats the idea of Universalism, which teaches that everyone gets to heaven. Only those who confess Christ get into heaven. If Christ denies you, you have no basis as a sinner to get in.

The fourth couplet is also a comfort. It is a statement about the character of God. It says “if we are faithless, he remains faithful”. We have seen repeatedly that God was always faithful to his covenant with Israel, though they often were unfaithful. You may stumble and fall sometime. Some of us look back at times we fell in the past with great shame and remorse. Some will fall in the future. Some who were in the class in the past fell and are still fallen. God remains faithful. He will get the believer back.

The example again is Peter. Jesus found him and restored him to his place in the ministry. He hurt him a bit doing it, asking him three times if Peter loved Jesus. Peter was grieved. But Jesus drove home his point.

Paul added a line of explanation: “for he cannot deny himself”. God never changes. The theological term is immutable. One of my favorite verses is Malachi 3:6. There God says “For I the Lord do not change”. The context of the verse is that he is faithful even when Israel is not.

God the Father is Faithful. God the Son is faithful. God the Holy Spirit is faithful.

Therefore, we should be inspired to be faithful. One of the fruits of the faithful Spirit is faithfulness.

Be faithful, brothers and sisters.
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