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 Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon 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. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    3 replies to "Rethinking the Whole “If We Are Faithless . . .” Thing (2 Tim 2:11-14)"


        Impossible…. Nothing can remove us from his care or family or eternal blessing… Jn. 10; 1 Jn 5:; and this passage show us that when He saves, He saves completely and eternally. This passage i believe clearly shows eternal security is based on His power and not our failures… 1 Cord 3 being saved as through fire because all rewards are burned up. The loss is rewards not ELife…

        • chapmaned24

          Colossians 1:21-23
          King James Version

          21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled

          22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

          23 If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

          Your salvation is CONDITIONED on YOUR OWN FAITH (Colossians 1:23), not your performance (1 Cor 3).

          If you STOP believing, you stop your own salvation.

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