It 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).
Continuing with our main text: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.” The early church might suffer under tyrannical Roman emperors, but that earthly kingdom would pass away. Persecutors will stand before God’s judgment and be held accountable. However, God’s people-although they may have been oppressed in this age–will reign with Christ in the coming, glorious future age of God’s Kingdom. As the book of Revelation announces: “And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10).
The next line continues: “if we deny Him, He also will deny us.” As discussed above, this could refer to a person like Judas who, though outwardly identifying with Jesus, was actually an unbeliever. He denied the Lord through his betrayal and, in spite of remorse and suicide, perished as an unsaved person. Therefore, he will be denied entrance into God’s Kingdom at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
However, there is another possible meaning of this line of the poem. The word translated “deny” (“If we deny Him…”) can refer to an unintentional lapse of courage in the face of danger. It is used in this way to describe the apostle Peter’s three infamous “denials” of Jesus. Although Peter thought he was ready to be arrested with Christ and even die with Him, Jesus predicted the threefold denial. The incident would have been very familiar to Timothy and the readers of this epistle because the account of Peter’s denials is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 26:33,34,69-75). God’s grace toward Peter–as representative of any disciple who stumbles–is seen in the resurrected Christ referring to Peter by name when He appeared to the women on Easter Sunday, and His restorative three questions in John 21:15-17. Peter had deeply repented of his failure and was being prepared for Pentecost when he would launch his powerful witness as described in Acts chapters 1-11. In John 21:18, the resurrected Christ predicted Peter’s martyrdom. Church history records that Peter was crucified upside down because he didn’t see himself worthy of dying on a cross the way Jesus did! So, this line from 2 Timothy 2:12 could mean that if a true believer would fail under extreme circumstances, he would not forfeit his salvation.
Then, with that interpretation what is the meaning of “… He [Christ] also will deny us.” It would not refer to denying the salvation of the redeemed person. Rather, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, He would deny the believer the reward that would otherwise have come if he had boldly confessed the faith that was in his heart (1 Cor. 3:8,14). As a study Bible puts it, “He will also deny us”: If believers deny the enduring of persecution for Christ, He will deny them the reward and reign that could have been theirs.”
The fourth line of the poem states: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny himself.” The Greek verb translated “faithless” occurs seven times in the New Testament. Three of those times it is used to describe the temporary unbelief of the apostles before the Resurrection galvanized their faith (Mark 16.11; Luke 24:11). So in this context, “íf we are faithless” probably refers to times of doubt during a particular trial. Luke 7:18-28 shows that even John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, needed reassurance from Jesus when he was imprisoned by Herod.
Note the rationale for the believer being kept by the Lord: a lapse of confidence in the face of persecution would forfeit a potential reward. “He [God] remains faithful; He cannot deny himself.” Although in Revelation 19:11 mentions God’s faithfulness in the context of judging His adversaries at the Second Coming, the rest of the New Testament uses the term “faithfulness” in a consistently encouraging, reassuring way. Examples include these passages:
- “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
- ” He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it [complete the believer’s sanctification].”
- “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (1Cor. 1:9; 1 Thess 5:24; Heb.10:23).
Since the believer is indwelt by God’s Spirit–sealed unto the day of Redemption–He would not cast off the child of God who might wilt under persecution (Eph. 4:30). To do so would be to deny Himself, since He has organically joined the redeemed to Himself. We are the Father’s family, the Son’s bride, and the Spirit’s temple! (Rom. 8:16; Eph. 5:321 Cor. 3:16). British Bible teacher of yesteryear, F.B. Meyer, summarizes this poem as follows:
“The Apostle sketches the experiences of the elect [saved] soul. It must endure, suffer, and die with Christ, that out of its surrender may come the truest, richest life (John 12:25). There is no path to lasting success save that of the cross and grave of Christ. It has been allotted to the redeemed in the divine program; each must tread it separately and with resolute purpose. But there is no doubt as to the sequel of a true life. The world of men may count it a failure, but God pledges Himself that as the pendulum swings here in the dark, it shall swing equally in yonder world of light. Three things are impossible with God-to die, to lie, and to fail the soul that trusts Him. Even when we cannot muster faith enough, His word of promise cannot be frustrated in the case of those whose faith is weak and trembling as the smoking flax.” 
The last allusion in the quote above is to Christ’s sensitive, compassionate ministry:
“A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matt. 12:20).
The context of 2 Timothy gives a fitting conclusion to this article and epistle. Paul was ready for martyrdom, for he had wholeheartedly taken up Christ’s cross many years before. Although he sensed that his days on earth were drawing to a close, he had blessed reassurance that God’s faithful presence and promises would see him though.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
We can share this same confidence in God as the likelihood of persecution increases in America’s “post modern”/”post Christian” culture. May our security in Christ equip us to face these uncertain times with the assurance of His salvation and victory.
Part 2 of 2. Part one is here
 The Nelson Study Bible, p. 2058
 F. B. Meyer, Through the Bible Day by Day.
This article will be added to the second edition of John’s book, Blessed Reassurance: Finding Security in Christ.
Copyright 2015 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint for noncommercial use if credit is given to the author and GraceNotebook.com.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (Thomas Nelson Publishers).