Song to Timothy (2)

Song to Timothy (2)

Song to Timothy (2).

Please read II Timothy 2:11-13.

“If we die with Him, we will also live with Him.

If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him.

If we deny Him, He will deny us.

If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful,

for He cannot deny who He is.”

CONTEXT. Paul’s “famous last words” are to his spiritual son, Timothy. Paul is encouraging Timothy to be strong and up to the task of remaining a servant of the Lord as the days turn more evil. II Timothy is Paul’s last will and testament, his final word of wisdom to his dear disciple.

This is the most heartfelt and personal of all Paul’s writings. He has a somber tone as he talks about his life being poured out as an offering to God, His having fought the good fight and finished the race, and his awaiting the prize – the crown of righteousness (4:6-8).

Paul writes this poignant letter to Timothy from a Roman prison cell, expecting to die soon. Paul wants to offer pastoral advice regarding false teachers, staying true to sound doctrine, and to stay way from foolish controversies. Keep to the truth, Paul says, as you oppose the heresies that continue to hound his church. Be patient and steadfast as you endure difficulties. Stay strong in the grace of Christ.

Paul appeals to Timothy’s imagination as he gives Timothy five different analogies in this letter, five comparisons that highlight the attributes of a faithful leader in the church: the soldier (2:3); the athlete (2:5); the farmer (2:6); a container (2:21); and a servant (2:24). Just like his Master Jesus, Paul loves to use word pictures here to help Timothy gain a deeper understanding of what Paul is trying to say.

Paul seems desperately lonely as he asks Timothy to leave Ephesus immediately and visit him as soon as possible. Paul talks sadly about the friends who have left him in prison alone. Only Luke remains with him. Paul refers to those who have betrayed him, and friends who have remained faithful. Paul mentions 23 individuals in all. Paul must have great confidence that Timothy will indeed drop everything and come to him, for he asks Timothy to bring his coat, his books and papers. Paul seems forlorn as he pleads for Timothy’s companionship.

Among Paul’s last recorded words as he awaits execution are his confident claim that the Lord will bring him safely to His heavenly kingdom, giving God the glory forever and ever, Amen! And then his closing benediction in this moving letter is, “The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.” (4:22).

THE SONG. In the midst of Paul’s encouragements for Timothy to persevere, to be patient in suffering, he quotes this excerpt from an ancient church hymn. This hopeful song is extremely helpful to anyone who sings it. It is connected to the “eternal glory” that Paul refers to earlier. The importance of God’s faithfulness while in difficult circumstances is a focus of this hymn, as well as the certainty of God’s provisions through union with Him. Paul wrote about this theme many times in his letters, including Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Paul encourages us when he talks about the “fellowship of suffering” we participate in when we join with Christ. (Philippians 3:10). We actually join with the sufferings of Christ when we suffer affliction. Christ joins with us, we join with Him… a fellowship of suffering together. In union with Christ, we partake of His suffering (I Peter 4:13). In the midst of persecution, we join with Jesus under His yoke of suffering. As the Passion Translation puts this hymn:

“If we were joined with Him in His death, then we are joined with Him in His life.

If we are joined with Him in His sufferings, then we will reign together with Him in His triumph.

But if we disregard Him, then He will disregard us.

┬áBut even if we are faithless, He will still be full of faith, for He will not be unfaithful to Himself.”

This hymn reminds us that even if we die, we will find new life in Him. If we persevere even unto the ultimate sacrifice, the Lord will ask us to reign with Him. Even if we have our ups and downs with our faith during hardship and struggle, God will nonetheless remain faithful to us. Our trustworthiness does not determine His trustworthiness. He knows that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He understand human frailty. Faithfulness is a part of His essence, His character, His divine nature. God will remain true to His nature, He cannot deny who He is. And because He is inside of each believer, to be unfaithful to us would mean He would deny Himself in us. He cannot do that. His faithfulness is unconditional. He will not cut off a part of His own body. He refuses to amputate Himself for any reason.

But there seems to be a warning in this song. Biblical scholars disagree on what it means when the song says that God will deny us. I come down on the side of trusting in God’s loving character when all is said and done. God has given us free will. God will not decide for us or make up our own mind. If we decide to reject God, He will reject us. If we finally disown God and completely disregard Him, He will do the same to us. This is a hard word to hear. One can only pray that God’s love would wear down those who reject Him, that the Holy Fire would burn away the impurities. We can pray that God’s mercy will create a crack in the wall of rejection which will allow some divine light to shine through. If Jesus indeed wants no one to perish and everyone to come to Him, we can pray that Jesus will eventually get what He wants.