Thursday, 29 March 2018
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
There are several major opinions on what Paul is saying in this verse. Two of which are diametrically opposed to one another. The word translated as “faithless” is one which everywhere else speaks of not believing. In using the word in this consistent manner, the first view looks at this as comparable to Romans 3:3 –
“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?”
Therefore, the opinion is that God is ever faithful, even when some do not believe. This would then indicate that God cannot receive as faithful one who has not proven true to him by receiving Christ Jesus. To do so would be to deny Himself. In this then, the view is that it is speaking of those who have never believed and been saved, who are then contrasted to God who is unchanging, and who cannot accept those who do not come to Him in faith.
The second view is that the word Greek word translated as “faithful” is a correct translation (which it is). Therefore, the word “faithless” is not speaking of “not believing,” but of not remaining faithful after having believed. In other words, the two words, “faithless” and “faithful” are set in opposition to one another. This would be the person who “died with Him” in verse 11, but has not been perfectly faithful to Him after receiving Him – a failure that every single person who has come to Christ is guilty of.
The words would then explain God’s character towards those who have received Him, but have slipped and tripped along their walk. Despite any faithlessness in us, God remains faithful. Examples of this relationship are found in 2 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 11:11; & etc. In such a case, the final clause, “He cannot deny Himself,” is speaking of keeping safe the believer despite his failings. If God were to deny one who has come to Him, then He would be denying Himself, because those who have come to Him are “in Christ.” They are united to Him through faith. To deny them, despite their times of faithlessness, would be a denial of the covenant commitment rendered through His shed blood.
A third view is that this is speaking of someone who once believed, but has fallen away. That does not at all square up with Romans 3:3, nor does it square up with Paul’s words elsewhere. Only the first two options can be considered as valid. And so which of the first two is correct? The answer is most assuredly “both.” Matthew Poole evaluates this verse with the words, “…whether we believe or believe not, or whether we be faithful to our trust or be not, yet God will show himself faithful, either to his promises made to them that believe, or to his threatenings denounced against those that believe not.”
For those who have not come to Him, there will be wrath and indignation. For those who have come to Him, there will be mercy and salvation. Either way, the Lord cannot deny Himself. If someone is not in Him, He would deny His own character to save him anyway. If someone is in Him, He would deny His own character by not following through with that person’s salvation. As Paul says, “…let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).
Life application: Being “in Christ” means that one is united to Christ. If this is true, He would have to deny Himself if He rejected such a person. But God cannot deny Himself. Be of good cheer. If you have come to Christ, you are saved despite yourself – wholly and eternally.
Lord God, Your word says that those who received Jesus as Savior are “in Christ.” If at some point we act unfaithfully after coming to You, Your word also says that You cannot deny Yourself. You remain faithful, even when we are faithless. This is really great news, because the fact is that all of us are unfaithful at times. And yet, we continue to be saved despite our failings. Thank You for the sure, complete, and eternal covering of Christ. Amen.