2 Timothy 2:11-14

It is a trustworthy statement:

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; for He cannot deny Himself.”

There is strong agreement that this passage, introduced by pistos ho logos (“this saying is trustworthy”), is an early creed set to meter. In other words, this is not Paul’s original composition, but was a common among the early church. It could have been a saying or a part of a hymn. This is significant as it demonstrates early Christian dogma which predates Paul’s letter by many years.

Each of the four lines is introduced with the conditional participle ei. The creed (or at least this part of it) seems to consist of two parallel sets of lines each of which represent escalation (climatic parallelism). I have distinguished by font and indentation here:

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; for He cannot deny Himself.

In the first line, the protasis is a past tense, “If we died with him.” The second is set in the future, “we shall also live with him.” While Paul may not be the author of this creed, it does seem to represent Pauline influence. In Romans 6 Paul informs Christians that we have all died with Christ, meaning the old condemned man has been done away with, being buried with him (Rom. 6:2-3). It would then follow that the future “living with him” is not eschatological, but a present reality that follows our death with Christ. If we have died with him, we live with him becoming united in his resurrection (Rom. 6:8).

Our “enduring” is the subject of the next protasis. It would seem that it escalates the previous apodosis, “live with him.” Christ’s life was one of endurance, so we should expect the same (Rom. 12:12; 1 Cor 12:7; hupomeno). The final escalation, paralleling “live with him” is our future reigning with Christ. 

However, there is a turn in the creed. This turn is from one of hope, to a stern warning. The first person plural (“we”) is retained, but the protasis introduces the opposing option that people can take concerning Christ—denial. If we are to deny him, he will deny us. Our denial is the polar opposite of dying with him. Therefore, it would seem that this has to do with the progressive response of unbelievers (who neither die nor live with him), not a slip of faith like that of Peter who denied Christ three times. The fearful result is found in the apodosis, “he will deny us.” This denial is reminiscent of Christ’s words in Matt. 10:33. Christ’s repetition of this theme in his ministry demonstrates it importance in his message (Mark 8:38). 

What follows is hard to be too definitive about. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful.” Though this is often quoted as referring God’s perseverance in his love for us even when we are weak in faith, I don’t take it as such. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that God is faithful to his promises when we waver (Rom. 3:3), but the creed here seems to be escalating in the direction that the previous stanza. If this is the case, “If we are faithless” is not a waver of faith from a Christian, but a result (or cause) of our denial (which it parallels). Supporting this is the use of the word apistos, which always, in the New Testament, references unbelief, not wavering unfaithfulness (Mark 16:11, 16; Luke 24:11, 41; Acts 28:24). Even in Roman 3:3 when Paul uses it, it speaks of the fact that unbelieving Israel does not make God unfaithful to his promises (further explained in Rom.9-11).

If this is the case, then the parallel continues in the apodosis of the last line of the creed. If we are unbelieving, Christ is still faithful. Faithful to what? To deny us in judgment. Why? “Because he cannot deny himself.” His own character demands that those who don’t believe be judged.

Why all of this exegesis? Good question.

Because this early creed demonstrates how important it is for us to communicate both hope and warning, both heaven and hell. This is one of the first summary statements of the Christian faith ever created. In this summary, the church was not shy about the reality of what it means to deny Christ. They were not shy about how important God’s righteousness is to the Gospel message. They were not about to let the message of hope be lost, but neither were they going to sweep God’s righteous character, demanding of judgment and beyond being denied, under the rug of emotional accommodation.

This tells me that hope cannot be preached without warning. The sting of judgment has been their from the earliest creed. How can we compromise on it today?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    15 replies to "A Short Exegesis of 2 Timothy 2:11-14 – An Early Christian Creed"

    • Brandon

      I have often struggled with the ending of this passage. I was never confident in how it was supposed to be taken. Thanks! Now it makes sense.

    • Jason D.

      amen and amen!

    • EricW

      Thanks, CMP.

      Reading this prompted me to look up the uses of pistos ho logos*, which is how 2:11 begins in NA-27, and read what precedes and follows those occurrences, including those that add kai pasês apodochês axios. Food for thought. I like your suggestion that the switch is to unbelievers, not a continued reference to believers.

      * 1 Tim 1:15, 3:1, 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Tit 3:8

    • John C

      Michael, have you considered that rather than being an example of parallelism, that this passage is chiastic in structure? That would bring a very different conclusion of the exegesis of the passage, but would bring a very similar application about the “big picture” message being a combination of hope and warning. That’s the path I took with this particular passage when I preached it:


      Just an alternative thought.

    • Susan

      Great insights. I very much appreciate your concluding statements. Far too often the warning is avoided like the plague. How effective is a truncated gospel. Why should we be afraid to tell the truth about the consequences of unbelief? Do we not have the responsibility to warn? Enough love to warn?

    • SPP


      Thanks for your faithful work.

      As you noted, the “We” is kept in the 3rd protasis when the mood shifts from hope to warning. But, enough significance did not seem to be made regarding that pronoun remaining. To me, this implies that he is continuing to speak to believers and not changing the tone into one of a salvific nature. The phrase “if we endure” in the second stanza appears to flow directly into the 3rd with “if we deny”. We, as believers, are not guaranteed to be faithful to Christ nor to deny him. Both have huge, eternal consequences at the judgement seat of Christ, but, in my understanding of Scripture, not salvific ones.

      Either way, the point remains that judgement is coming for unbelievers and we must take that seriously and preach the person and work of Christ, immediately.

    • John Hobbins

      Very well argued.

      However, the standard heaven-and-hell dichotomy as taught today in many evangelical circles comports well with only a little more of Scripture than the emergent = liberal trend to abolish hell and construe God as a non-judgmental principle or being.

      It’s about time that people who claim to have a biblical theology take passages that for example speak of hell as a debtor’s prison with more seriousness. Nor can the final chapters of Revelation be assimilated to standard eschatological teaching.

    • Warren Lamb

      I have to go along with SPP here – this “exegesis” seems a bit eisigetical.

    • rusty leonard


      Came across this after reading this post and thought I’d share it.


    • Bible Study

      That is an amazing verse that says so much, for example “if we died with him”. When we come to faith in him, we are put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. We, therefore, are to walk no longer in the flesh after it’s affections and lusts, but to walk in the spirit.

    • Jeff Ayers

      CMP— The entire passage 2 Tim 2:11-13 (not 14) is TO believers and FOR believers. In fact all 3 verses are for those who posses eternal life now and eschatologically. PROOF?

      Vs 11 The identification with Christ’s death, likewise identifies the believer (“WE”) with his resurrection (Gal 2:20, Col 3:1, Rom 6:1-6 etc)

      Vs 12 If we suffer with him we will also REIGN with him… this brings the context to an eschatalogical position, which matches verse 10 speaking of obtaining eternal salvation (future) with eternal glory (also eschatalogical)
      if we deny him, he also will deny us (notice the continuance of the pronouns “US” along with “WE”). But the context tells us what he will deny us…deny us salvation? nope. Deny us eternal life? nope. He will deny us the REIGN he just spoke of in the first part of the verse… CONTEXT CONTEXT CONTEXT

      If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful… he cannot deny himself.
      Notice the word “we” again. (THE SAME “WE” PAUL SPOKE OF IN VERSE 11) The reference to “believe not” refers to the so common problem of losing our faith. But once you are IN CHRIST, then you are in the body of Christ. We do not lose our salvation since He is faithful and He cannot deny himself —since it is HIS BODY!

    • […] Michael Patton, “A Short Exegesis of 2 Timothy 2:11-14 – An Early Christian Creed,” found at https://credohouse.org/blog/a-short-exegesis-of-2-timothy-211-14, accessed February 23, 2023. For more discussion, see BibleHub, “2 Timothy 2:11,” found at […]

    • […] Patton, “A Short Exegesis of 2 Timothy 2:11-14 – An Early Christian Creed,” found at https://credohouse.org/blog/a-short-exegesis-of-2-timothy-211-14, accessed February 23, 2023. For more discussion, see BibleHub, “2 Timothy 2:11,” found […]

    • […] Patton, “A Short Exegesis of 2 Timothy 2:11-14 – An Early Christian Creed,” found at https://credohouse.org/blog/a-short-exegesis-of-2-timothy-211-14, accessed February 23, 2023. For more discussion, see BibleHub, “2 Timothy 2:11,” found […]

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