Last time I had to cut my sermon short, and I am glad I did, because I could not do justice to the last few verses that I wanted to cover. They are deserving of so much more attention than I originally had planned for. This is the mystery of preaching. I often find that after I have carefully prepared my manuscript, that the burden of the text grows on my soul while I am preaching, and it goes beyond that which I have written.
The old preachers called this phenomenon ‘unction’, (Holy Spirit directed counsel) and the problem with ‘unction’ sometimes is that it clashes with time! There is always so much more to say and to unpack and to connect from the sacred text. So, due to time constraints I had to leave out my last point, and in one sense I am glad that I did.
Last time I spoke to you from 2 Tim.1:13-14, under the heading “Guard the Good Deposit”. We saw that the good deposit is the gospel and the leading question we asked was, how is the gospel to be guarded? I attempted to answer this question from the immediate context in 1:13 - 2:13 in terms of 4 observations, and flowing from the text.
We saw that:
1. The gospel must be guarded in Timothy’s (and our) own hearts and lives.(vv. 13,14)
2. We must ensure that we raise up a future generation of faithful gospel messengers (vv.1-2) so that the testimony about Jesus is guarded in every generation.
3. We must remember that the gospel will not be guarded without suffering (vv. 3-10). Paul uses three illustrations (a single minded soldier ; a diligent athlete and a hardworking farmer) to show us anything worth guarding will need to be done with hard work and suffering.
4. And now the point that I did not complete is found in that trustworthy saying in vv. 11-13. And here we are helped to see that in the guarding of the gospel we must hold on to the gospel by holding on to our faithful Lord Jesus.
So by way of a summary,
· hold on to, and guard the gospel in yourself through the help of the Holy Spirit (1:14).
· make sure that the gospel is guarded by handing it on to faithful men in subsequent generations who will be able to teach others (2:2)
· do not expect to have an easy task. Suffering is part of holding on to the gospel. Many unfortunately cannot handle this (see 1:15; 4:10). But you must persevere. Remember the end is in sight. This is how Paul comes to his insight in 2:10, when he says, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Paul knew how to endure, persevere and hold on to the gospel for the sake of the future church!
Brothers and sisters, we have Christ and heaven to gain and eternal separation from God and hell to shun! Persevere, endure, share in this light momentary suffering for the sake of the gospel. Hold on and guard that good deposit for your own sake and for the sake of your children and those that come after you. Paul makes this point with the help of a trustworthy saying. There are, incidentally five such ‘trustworthy sayings’ found in the three pastoral epistles. These trustworthy saying are, as one might expect, truths well understood, well known and well accepted and often repeated sayings among Christians. Perhaps these were memorable words from an ancient hymn of the church. Perhaps it was something which a convert recited this at his or her baptism. We don’t know, but our text in 2:11-13 is one of these faithful sayings and it is written in poetic form and each line begins with the word ‘if’ (Greek ‘ei’) followed by an implied ‘then’.
· If we have died with Christ… (then) we will also live with Christ.
· If we endure or persevere in this Christian life (then) we will also reign with Christ.
· If we deny Christ (then) He will also deny us.
· If we are faithless to Christ (then) He still remains faithful, for He cannot be false to Himself.
Let us consider these 4 lines of this trustworthy saying, as we need to be encouraged to hold on to that Good deposit of the gospel, for which Paul endured everything for the sake of the elect. Let us keep our course through this often challenging, confusing life by looking to Jesus. He is the subject of our text. He is our goal. Let us further learn from this text how to persevere with the gospel:
1. If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.
A wonderful promise! We find these words also in Romans 6:5, and they are implied in Colossians 2:13. This is a KEY TRUTH for Christians. It speaks about our identification in the death of Christ and in the resurrection of Christ. This is what is reflected in baptism.
It all begins when you become a Christian. You are introduced to Jesus, and in looking to Him you are not left untouched by Him. He leaves you with a sense of deeply feeling your sin and at once He lets you know that He is the solution to your problem. And you cast your sin burden on to Him. You embrace Him for all that He is. He is God’s solution to your sin. And you embrace Him for the work that He came to do for the world, in the cross and in the resurrection from the dead. You see that He is the Way to God, and then you believe and repent. You turn from your sinful, self- centered life to Jesus , and in response you receive His forgiving grace and mercy. You know that the death that Jesus died was for you. You now know that you have a hope and a future in heaven. You know that not only the first part of the sentence is true (If we have died with him). You know that the second part is also true, “We will also live with Him.” When you become a Christian you truly begin to live now, but more so, you will also live in eternity.
2. If we endure (then) we will also reign with Him.
The Bible leaves us in no doubt that we need to show our true commitment to Christ by enduring or by persevering. How do we endure? We endure by continually holding on to that good deposit. We endure by not being like Phygelus and Hermogenes (1:15); We endure by being like Onesiphorus who was not ashamed of the gospel (1:16); we endure by being strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1). We endure by understanding and accepting that suffering for the sake of the gospel (i.e. following Christ) is a part of this present life. We endure by thinking like a focused soldier and like a diligent athlete and like a hard working farmer (2:3-6). We endure by remembering Jesus risen from the dead. We endure everything for the sake of the elect ( God’s chosen people yet to come into the fold) for whose sake we labour in an evangelistic sense that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2:10). That is how we endure, and if we endure we may be sure that we will obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory, and we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” So brothers and sisters, keep the goal in view. The heavenly city is in sight. Stay on the narrow road. We shall live with Him and we shall reign with Him. Remember Stephen (Acts 7:54 ff). As he was being killed he was given a vision of the risen, exalted Lord Jesus Christ. He saw heaven opened and he saw our Lord Jesus standing beside the throne, to welcome him. There from that throne we will judge men and angels. We will reign with Christ. Endure - wait for the promised reward! These are key concepts in our Christian thinking.
3. If we deny Him (then) He will also deny us.
The third aspect of this trustworthy saying makes reference to the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33, “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.” There will be many to whom He will say on that day : “Depart from me, I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:21-23). He will deny them. There were those at the trial and the cross of Jesus said, “We will not have this man rule over us.” He will deny them at the judgement and worse still He will throw them into a place of everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels and all that deny Him. There are those in time and history who had no time and gave no place to the Lord Jesus in their lives. They misused His name , His Word , His Day, His people, His Holy Spirit, His worship and these people will be disowned by Jesus before his Father in heaven. Hell is awaiting them. Hell is the terrible logic of rejecting and denying Christ. Be warned. This is a trustworthy saying. “If we deny him, he will also deny us.”
4. If we are faithless (then) He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself
We can understand this in two senses, and both are possible:
a. It can mean that Jesus remains faithful to His righteousnessand justice. In that sense we think of Jesus when He warned the Pharisees (“Woe you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites”-Matt. 23) and when He spoke of two destinations, of sheep and goats, saved and lost, light and darkness. This Jesus is faithful in His faithful righteousness and justice to exercise punishment on those who deny Him, because He cannot deny the justice and holiness of His own being.