“Proactively Unashamed, Part 3: Motivation to be Proactive” – 2 Timothy 2:8-13
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 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.”
This is the final step in Paul’s appeal to Timothy to proactively stand unashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of himself. After exhorting Timothy to his solemn duty to make disciples by passing the baton to faithful men (vv. 1-2) and instructing him to take up an attitude of unavoidable and necessary suffering (vv. 3-7), Paul here concludes by supplying Timothy with the proper motivation to actively stand unashamed.
Like the previous verses, this text holds three examples to help prove Paul’s point. But unlike the hypothetical pictures of vv. 4-6, these examples are from Timothy’s own experience that bring out people and concepts intimately known by Timothy. In effect, these examples are used as reasons to encourage and motivate Timothy to join Paul in suffering and enduring for the sake of the gospel. The first reason Paul provides is the person of Jesus Christ.
Motivation in Christ (v. 8)
“Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel”
I find it interesting that Paul here changes the order of our Lord’s name and title. This is the eighth time Paul has referenced God the Son, but each time previously he has always placed His title (Christ/Messiah) before His human name (Jesus). Some do not see any significance in this subtle change, but I do not think Paul was one to give up a single opportunity to advance or aid his argument.
By presenting first the Son’s human name and then His salvific title, Paul perfectly sets up the remainder of the verse. Paul wants to motivate Timothy by focusing his mind upon what Christ has done in addition to who He is.
Saving Second Adam – By means of motivating his son in the faith, Paul exhorts Timothy to remember Jesus, risen from the dead. The name given to God the Son in flesh literally means Yhwh Saves. It was for this reason that His earthly parents were instructed to give Him this name, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” – Matt. 1:21. By what means did Jesus save His people? Many would jump immediately to the cross, to the substitutionary atonement which Jesus accomplished as He bore the wrath of God in place of ruined sinners; and they would be correct. Yet this answer is incomplete.
Jesus needed to die in the place of sinners, but He also needed to rise from the dead. There would be no salvation without the resurrection from the dead. Jesus, the savior who is Yhwh, came to undo what Adam did. Adam, through his disobedience, plunged the entire human race into sin and death. Jesus, through His obedience and power, was raised from the dead to prove that He had accomplished victory over sin and death. Paul even uses the perfect tense to describe this resurrection. It is as if he is saying that Christ has been raised from the dead (pointing to a past action) and that He remains raised (the fact is still true). The grave could not hold Him. He lives!
The fact that Jesus in human flesh was raised (and is still raised) from the dead points to our own future resurrection. Timothy should find motivation to suffer and endure now as he remembers Jesus as the first fruits of his own future resurrection.
Sovereign Seed of David – Paul does not only point to Timothy’s salvation as secured by Jesus the resurrected savior, but also by Christ, the seed of David. The Greek word Χριστός or Christ is a direct equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah (מָשִׁיחַ) meaning anointed one. This is a term that would grow in significance as it was used to point to the coming savior, king, and judge of the earth.
The entire OT is built around the anticipation of Messiah or the Christ. We see the anticipation introduced in the first gospel found in Genesis 3:15, a text that promises a future individual seed born of woman who would defeat sin, death, and the curse. The anticipation grows throughout Genesis until Yhwh calls Abram/Abraham of Ur and promises him that this seed will come from his line and bless the entire earth (Gen. 12:1-3). By the end of Genesis, we learn that this coming seed will take on the role of king and specifically come from Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham (Gen. 49:8-12). Moses speaks of this coming seed, that He will come as a spokesman for Yhwh as even Moses was, yet Israel will one day listen to His voice (Deut. 18:15). The promise of this coming seed, this anointed one, is made abundantly clear when David is reigning over Yhwh’s people as Yhwh’s chosen king. Yhwh promises David that this seed will come from his line, will reign on his throne, and His kingdom will have no end (2 Sam. 7:8-17).
Christ is not only the savior of humanity; He is also the long-anticipated King. Paul here points back to his original argument (1:3-5). Paul and Timothy are preaching the good news (the gospel) that the promised Messiah, Christ, Anointed One of Yhwh has come and will come again. By His death and resurrection, He secured salvation from sin for those who believe. By His lineage from David He is the rightful heir and sovereign ruler of the world.
Timothy, remember your Savior who paid your debt and is even now risen from the dead as security of your salvation. Remember your King, the one whom you serve and who is the long awaited Messiah; the One who will undo and reverse the curse.
Motivation in Paul (vv. 9-10)
“for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.”
The words for which points to the gospel that Paul has preached and continues to preach. Paul’s entire ministry has been preaching the OT promise and the good news that this promised One has come. It is for this reason that he currently suffers.
This word suffer is the same root Paul used to twice call Timothy to suffer with him (1:8; 2:3). Paul is currently suffering evil for this gospel. There’s an implication here that Timothy should be ready to join Paul in his dungeon cell. This implication comes with teeth when Paul adds that he suffers as if he were a criminal. The word that Paul uses here indicates someone who is a hardened and violent criminal. This word does not describe your average J-walkers, speeders, or double-parkers. This is a word that describes insurrectionists, murderers, and thieves. This is the term Luke uses to describe the two criminals who were crucified on either side of Christ (Lk. 23:32, 33, 39). Yet even as Paul is bound as a prisoner as if he were some violent criminal, the gospel remains free, living, and active.
An Unstoppable Gospel (v. 9) – Paul uses a very purposeful play on words here. He points to the fact that he, an apostle of Christ Jesus, is bound and imprisoned. Paul is not free to go door to door, city to city, or nation to nation preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is stuck right where he is. But the gospel is not chained or imprisoned. Paul uses a verbal form of the same root word he uses to describe his own imprisonment (δεσμός) to declare that the gospel is not imprisoned (δέω). Going beyond this, he once again uses the perfect tense to indicate that the gospel has never been imprisoned (in the past) and currently remains un-imprisoned (current reality).
I love how Paul, through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, does not state that the gospel is not imprisoned. Rather he says that the Word of God is not imprisoned. It is almost as if God knew that 2000 years later His church would have a grossly simplistic view of the gospel. The good news of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return requires the context of the Old Testament promise. The Old Testament Promise requires the context of the need for the promise; i.e. the curse. The curse requires the context of God’s very good creation. The gospel is a simple message, but woe to the man who makes it simplistic. The totality of God’s Word defies imprisonment.
The point here is that Paul’s current circumstances have by no means impeded the ability for God’s Word to accomplish God’s will. It is alive and active (Heb. 4:12) and never returns to God without accomplishing what He desires (Is. 55:10-11). God’s Word, and thus the gospel message, is unstoppable. As Martin Luther wrote in his famous hymn, “The body they may kill. God’s truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever.”
An Unrealized Glory (v. 10) – Paul turns a corner here as he moves from the idea of suffering to the idea of endurance. Suffering comes to different Christians in different contexts to different degrees. We have no control over where our suffering comes from or to what extent we will experience it. But one thing is clear: Christians will endure this suffering. It is in this verse that we get to the point of motivation. Why does Paul endure suffering? It is for the sake of God’s elect.
The NASB translates ἐκλεκτούς as those who are chosen. This is a fine translation, but a simpler one would be the elect. Out of sinful and rebellious humanity God elected particular individuals from before the foundation of the world whom He would save. Paul endures, perseveres, and remains under the pressure of suffering for the sake of these elect. But why?
The remainder of the verse gives the answer to this question in a purpose statement: so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. What does Paul mean by salvation? Again, we must beware of treating the gospel and salvation with a simplistic attitude.
Notice that Paul includes himself with these elect. He endures so that they also will obtain this salvation. This salvation certainly includes the present reality of redemption from sin, being made alive in Christ, indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, and set aside for good works of obedience; but it is not limited to this current reality. Paul includes the final goal. This salvation, which is found only in Christ Jesus (the seed of David and risen savior), comes with eternal glory. Paul gladly endures suffering as if he were a hardened criminal for the sake of the gospel because he desires other Christians to endure until the end where they will enjoy the glory of God unveiled.
Paul’s motivation to endure and persevere, even in his miry dungeon, is to be an example for all of God’s elect; that they too will endure to the end. Because endurance or perseverance is the one undeniable mark of one who has been chosen by God. God’s people endure.
Motivation in the Gospel (vv. 11-13)
“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.”
Scholars needlessly debate about the origin of these verses. Many claim that Paul is quoting an early Christian hymn. If this is true (and there is zero evidence to suggest that it is) then it makes a sad commentary on our modern worship music. We know that Paul is a masterful writer in his own right. We know that even this brilliant wordsmith is being guided and directed by Almighty God. Why not assume that Paul’s words are original until evidence proves otherwise? If anything, these verses contain Paul’s commentary on his own writing, as these verses contain the major bullet points of Romans 6-8. In short, vv. 11-13 encourage the believer by reminding and affirming the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation.
Security upon Conversion (v. 11) – You’ll note that this verse, as well as the others to follow, are given in if/then statements. If the first part is true, then the second part is a logical deduction. This verse begins with the assumption that we have died with Christ. This is not to speak of our physical death, but the death that we have died to sin and the flesh. Paul uses the aorist tense to speak of this death to frame it in a holistic manner. He makes no comment as to its timing, only that it has happened. It is finished! Rom. 6:4 makes this same comparison through the imagery of baptism.
The waters of baptism provide us with a visual image of the work that God the Holy Spirit has already done in the life of a believer. Upon conversion, the Christian has been joined to Christ in His death (visualized by the full immersion into the water). We are now freed from sin because we are dead to it (Rom. 6:6-7).
This assumption is then followed by the logical conclusion, but Paul uses the future tense to describe this blessed deduction. If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him. We do not keep the convert submerged in the baptism waters, but they are raised up as a picture of the new life they now enjoy as being joined to Christ. This life is but a taste of the future life to come. “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” – Rom. 6:8.
Paul’s point is that our conversion is secure! If we have confessed our sins, God is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If we have died to the flesh by being joined to Christ, we most certainly will live with Him also.
Promise of Perseverance (v. 12a) – The conversation continues here by way of perseverance. If conversion is secure in Christ, then perseverance is guaranteed in Christ. Paul begins by now using the present tense to indicate current and ongoing endurance. If we continue to endure…then we will reign with Him.
Again, Paul switches to the future tense to indicate the coming reality of becoming joint heirs with Christ in His coming (not current) kingdom. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for living as though they currently reign with Christ (1 Cor. 4:8). We endure now in order to reign in the future. But what if we fail to endure?
Judgment of Apostasy (v. 12b) – The second half of verse 12 addresses those who play the part for a while but then fall away. Both the if and the then portions of this line are given in the future tense. If at some future point we deny Christ, then He will likewise deny us in the future.
This should not be news to Timothy or to us because our Lord said as much Himself: “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33).
To deny is to say no to, turn away from, or to repudiate someone or something. This line addresses the doctrine of apostasy. An apostate is one who turns away from the faith, denies Christ as their savior (though they had at one point confessed Him as such), and refuse to follow Him. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). But this denial is not always so formal.
Our love for Christ is made evident by our obedience to His commands (John 14:15). We deny Jesus as our savior when we continue to live as though sin reigns over us. We deny Christ as our king when we refuse to submit to His rule. If we persist in this denial, we can expect an equal denial from Christ – depart from me, I never knew you.
What kind of security do we have then? If our salvation is secure and perseverance is rewarded, yet I know that I am not always a faithful Christian who endures in each and every circumstance, how can I know that I am saved? Does each time I fail Christ mean that my salvation is in jeopardy? If you are asking yourself this question, then stop and give thanks to God for v. 13.
Grace for the Repentant (v. 13) – This verse combines the theology of Romans 7-8. This is a promise for those of us who fail Christ, who like Peter deny Him, but who (also like Peter) repented, sought Christ’s forgiveness, and found it! Our present faithlessness is met by Christ’s current consistency. The verb describing our actions is the act of faithlessness, describing a breach of trust. But the verb describing Christ’s actions is remains. Christ remains and continues to be faithful. Christ is unchangeable, yesterday, today, and forever. He does not bend to our will nor is He manipulated by our actions be they good or evil. He remains faithful and true. Why? Because he cannot deny Himself.
If the first line captures the frustration of Romans 7 (“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?”), then the second line rejoices in the truth of Romans 8 (“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”). This is why we say that Christians will endure. We bear His name and He is not able (οὐ δύναται – not able – same word as power or ability from 1:7, 8, and 12) to contradict, refuse, or deny Himself.
This last line encapsulates the glories of Romans 8:28-31,“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”
Paul motivates Timothy by giving him three reasons to fulfill his duty. Look to Jesus Christ, your savior and king and the foundation of our faith. Listen to my example of endurance for the sake of all those whom God has elected before the foundation of the world. Learn from truths of the gospel of Christ’s sovereign grace and rest in Him. If this does not motivate a believer into action, then perhaps we are not dealing with a believer at all.
The warning of apostasy is a real warning. There are tares in Christ’s church who will be revealed and removed. But that warning is no reason for Christians to doubt their secure conversion. Christians endure because Christians repent. Christians repent because we have been given the ability to repent. This gift comes from God alone who has given us His name; and He cannot deny Himself.
In short: the stick by which we are measured is not our failure, but our repentance. Repentance is a gift from God and thus marks a life that has been marked by God. We fail and deny our savior and king Jesus Christ more often than we dare realize. But what do we do once our denial is brought before us? Do we commit to it as Judas did? Or do we rush to our savior in repentance as Peter did?