2 Timothy 2:8–13
The Christian life is not a sprint to the finish line. It’s a marathon. It requires faithful endurance from beginning to end; and to live it, we must draw on Christ’s example, receive direction through God’s Word, and access the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power.
In the first seven verses of 2 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul gave Timothy three illustrations of faithful endurance: the determination of a soldier (v. 3), the discipline of an athlete (v. 5), and the diligence of a farmer (v. 6).
In verses 8–13, Paul continued to remind his son and student in the faith to be strong and committed to Christ, who is the model of spiritual strength for all believers, especially in times of persecution and discouragement.
The Preeminence of Christ’s Work
Knowing that Timothy faced persecution, Paul taught him the secret of how to endure suffering: “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (v. 8).
Being from the seed of King David makes Jesus heir to all the promises God made to David concerning the Davidic kingdom, throne, and reign (Lk. 1:31–33). However, the phrase seed of David also emphasizes Christ’s humanity as Israel’s Messiah who faced suffering, rejection, and death for the sins of the world.
Timothy was to remember Jesus Christ “was raised from the dead” (2 Tim. 2:8). Christ’s resurrection forms the central teaching of Christianity and confirms everything Christ said and did (1 Cor. 15). Timothy was to believe and continually teach Jesus’ resurrection.
The phrase according to my gospel (2 Tim. 2:8) means Christ’s resurrection was the exact message the Lord entrusted to Paul and commanded him to preach. It also was to be the theme of the message Timothy was to proclaim to all people. Timothy was to remember what Paul had taught him and stand firm during times of uncertainty and suffering.
Although Timothy was a devoted servant of Jesus Christ and completely committed to Paul, he was inclined to be timid, unlike Paul who was rather bold and aggressive. Perhaps this demeanor was due to Timothy’s youth (1 Tim. 4:12). However, to overcome our suffering for Christ, we must remember His suffering for us. It should be our major focus and strengthen us. Failure to follow the truth Christ taught will render us powerless and ineffective in service to the Lord.
The Power of Christ’s Word
Paul linked his suffering directly with his preaching of the gospel: “For which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9).
Paul’s preaching resulted in his distress, affliction, pain, misery, imprisonment, and chains. The word evildoer (Greek, kakourgos) means malefactor or criminal. It is used in Luke 23:33 to describe Jesus being crucified between two thieves.
Likewise, Paul was treated as a criminal by the Roman Empire. He languished in a Roman dungeon knowing the executioner could snuff out his life at any moment. During this time, Emperor Nero blamed Christians for the infamous fire in Rome. Believers were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and thrown alive into the Roman Colosseum to be torn to bits by wild beasts.
Although locked in chains, Paul nevertheless declared, “But the word of God is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9). The Greek word for “chained” is in the perfect tense, meaning God’s Word was not bound then, nor will it ever be bound. Over the centuries, defenders of the gospel have been imprisoned and martyred; but the gospel has triumphed.
Paul then explained why he submitted to suffering: “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (v. 10). Because of his divine call, Paul endured everything so others would come to Christ through his ministry. He suffered for the sake of the “elect” (v. 10), those “chosen out” from among others.
Election is the free, righteous, kind, gracious, and sovereign act of almighty God whereby He selected certain people for Himself before the foundation of the world (Jn. 15:19; Eph. 1:4). Election describes God’s sovereign selection of individuals to have a special relationship with Him (Rom. 9:11; 11:5, 28; 1 Th. 1:4; 2 Pet. 1:10).
No one is elected due to merit, works, intelligence, noble birth, ability, riches, or power (1 Cor. 1:26–29). Election is exclusively by God’s sovereign will and only according to His divine purpose. However, election does not negate an individual’s responsibility to receive Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord (1 Th. 1:6, 9). Scripture teaches, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’” (Rom. 10:13).
Paul willingly gave everyone the opportunity to hear and believe, and he considered everything he faced a light affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory he would receive from God (2 Cor. 4:17–18). Therefore, he gladly suffered for the gospel so those God elected would be saved.
Christ’s work on the cross removed the terror of death by rendering Satan’s power ineffectual. Therefore, even though Timothy might be killed in Rome, he did not have to fear; he was assured of eternal life and glorification.
The Promise of Christ’s Word
Paul endured suffering, awaiting his reward with Christ: “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:11–13). This statement links our conduct in this life to our future lives with Christ.
The phrase this is a faithful saying was common to Paul and a formula he used to emphasize what was to follow (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; Titus 3:8). The word faithful connotes trustworthiness.
Second Timothy 2:11–13 contains four pairs of statements, each beginning with the word if. Paul used contrasts to make his point: If this . . . then that. The word if here does not convey uncertainty but, rather, indicates absolute truth or inevitable realty.
1. “For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him” (v. 11). Some interpret this statement as a symbolic reference to baptism, when believers are united with Christ’s death and resurrection as a spiritual reality (Rom. 6:1–11). But the context of the Romans 6 passage differs completely from 2 Timothy 2:11. In 2 Timothy 2, Paul spoke of physically dying for Christ as a martyr. Such a person manifests true faith in Christ and is guaranteed eternal life with Him.
2. “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (v. 12). We do not need to be martyred to manifest our salvation and our love and commitment to Christ. Many Christians suffer severe persecution, rejection, and hostility day after day without being martyred. This abuse shows they truly belong to Christ and “shall also reign with Him” in His future Millennial Kingdom on Earth (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:4, 6).
Reigning with Christ will take various forms depending on one’s faithfulness in this life and the rewards dispensed at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:11–17). Our positions, power, and prominence in the Millennial Kingdom are based on our rewards (1 Cor. 6:2–3).
3. “If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). Some people will be unfaithful. That is, some professing Christians probably will fall away and deny Him permanently (Mt. 10:33). Those who do, however, were never true believers (2 Th. 2:3; 2 Jn. 9). To deny Christ does not mean denying Him temporarily as Peter did (Lk. 22:54–62) but, rather, rejecting Him categorically forever. Christ will deny those people.
4. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Faithless means to give up on a former profession of faith. The word speaks of a continual attitude of unbelief in Christ; again, not like Peter’s denial.
Unlike the faithless person, “He [Christ] remains faithful.” He is faithful to all who are truly saved and to His promise to deny those who once professed faith but were never saved. “He cannot deny Himself” (v. 13). What a statement! It confirms Christ’s attributes, including His immutable character and nature as the incarnate God-Man. It also should encourage us to remain committed to the one who first loved us.