He Abideth Faithful
October 19th, 1958 @ 10:50 AM
HE ABIDETH FAITHFUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 2:11-13
10-19-58 10:50 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled He Abideth Faithful. In our preaching through the Word of God, we are in the second chapter of 2 Timothy. Last Sunday night we concluded with the ninth verse of that second chapter, “But the word of God is not bound [2 Timothy 2:9]. I am bound and in prison,” Paul writes:
but the word of God is not bound.
Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him:
If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: If we deny Him, He will also deny us:
If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.
[2 Timothy 2:9-13]
Once before, I referred to those little pistos ho logos. Translated, “It is a faithful saying” [2 Timothy 2:11]. And I referred to the fact that there were four of them. And I read them here in these Pastoral Epistles. And one of the sharp young men in this congregation who had his Greek Testament with him came to me after the service, and he said, “Pastor, you said there are four. There are five.” And he showed it to me.
The reason I missed it was I never followed it through in the Greek as I should have, for in one of the instances pistos ho logos is translated, “It is a true saying” [1 Timothy 3:1]. And I was following just the King James Version where it is translated, “This is a faithful saying.” But there are five of them, as the young fellow pointed out to me.
In 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying.” Pistos ho logos. “Faithful is the word, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” The second one, 1 Timothy 3:1, “This is a true saying.” But the saying pistos ho logos, “it is a faithful saying, `If a man desire the office of a pastor, he desireth a good work.’”
Now the next one is in the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy and the eighth verse, “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying” [1 Timothy 4:8-9]. Now, the fourth one is my text [2 Timothy 2:11], and the last one is in the last chapter of Titus. Titus 3:8, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God be careful to maintain good works”; five of them here in these brief, short, pastoral letters.
They were sayings that evidently fell from the lips of the inspired early Christian prophets like Agabus, and the golden words were minted into proverbs that were passed from lip to lip, and heart to heart, and enriched each soul as it was repeated. And five of them, I have said, Paul has encased in the amber of divine inspiration. They kind of have a sequence, “This is a faithful saying . . . ‘That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief’” [1 Timothy 1:15]. A man might not have been able, poor and unlettered, to preach a sermon, but he could repeat the saying. And it’s the whole gospel in a sentence. Then following, “Godliness is profitable in this world and in that which is to come” [1 Timothy 4:8], the double blessedness of the salvation so freely bestowed in our Lord. And then that last one, “It is a faithful saying that the one who has embraced the Christian faith, be careful to maintain goods works” [Titus 3:8], the service of the child of God to his Lord and to His people. They are unusual sayings.
I have preached two sermons on two of them, and this is the third sermon on another one.
It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him; we shall also live with Him:
If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him:
If we deny Him, He will deny us:
If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.
[2 Timothy 2:11-13]
Now, that is almost certainly an early Christian hymn. The form of it; the meter of it; the syllables of it are like a miniature psalm. I would think that practically all of your expositors and commentators would place that in metrical form—in meter and verse and stanza—and would present it as an early Christian song, one of those hymns, and songs, and spiritual songs whereby the congregation edified one another; this is one of them.
Now I have copied it here on this little sheet of paper, out of my Greek Testament, for you to see how it flows:
Ei gar— for, ei gar sunapethanomen. kai suzēsomen.
Ei hupomenomen, kai sumbasileusomen.
Ei arnēsometha kakeinos arnēsetai hēmas.
Ei apistoumen ekeinos pistos menei,
Arnēsasthai gar heauton ou dunatai.
“If for we died together with,” and we have to put Him, “also we shall live together with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11-13]. Ei, if, hupomenomen, we endure, translated here, “Suffer. If we suffer; if we endure,” and the meaning is the task and the toil and the burden. If hupomenomen, we endure. Kai sumbasileusomen. A basileus is a king. Soon, with Him, we shall basileusomen, “we shall reign with Him. We’ll be kings with Him.” Ei arnēsometha, “If we deny. If we deny, also, He will deny us.” “If,” ei apistoumen; api—”a denial,” alpha privative—”Theos,” “God,” a theos. One doesn’t believe in a God. If we are unfaithful, apistoumen. That one ekeinos, pistis, faithful, menei, abides. Arnesasthai, to deny Himself, ou dunatai, it is not possible.
A, undoubtedly, one of the early, early Christian hymns, and in the record now of the Holy Bible encased forever in divine inspiration, “For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him” [2 Timothy 2:11]. That is the incomparably meaningful picture of the sacred ordinance of baptism. We are buried with our Lord; dead with our Lord. We have died with our Lord. We are buried with Christ our Lord. And we are raised to walk in newness of life to live with Him [Romans 6:3-5]. Death has no more power over one of God’s children, for we live a resurrected life. We are dead to the world in Christ; we are alive to heaven in Him. If we be dead with Him, if we have died with Him, been crucified with Him, or buried with Him, we shall also be resurrected with Him, in His glorious likeness [Romans 6:3-5]. Then the second stanza or verse, “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him” [2 Timothy 2:12].
Suffering is a common lot—is the common lot of all humankind. It is not peculiar to the Christian. All men suffer. We are born into this world in suffering. When we leave this world, it will be to enter the gates of darkness and death through suffering. There may be a sea without a wave, but not a man without sorrow. The old ancient patriarch said, “Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble [Job 14:1]. Man is born unto trouble,” he repeated, “as the sparks fly upward” [Job 5:7]. To suffer is the common lot of all humanity.
Suffering does not necessarily carry with it a recompense of reward. Because one suffers does not mean that he shall be given for it a reward of God. It depends upon how we suffer, for what cause we suffer, for whom we suffer. One of the most terrible exegeses that I could think of is to take the parable of the rich man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31]. “And the rich man died and in hell he lift up his eyes. And Lazarus died,” the poor beggar who begged crumbs from his table at his door, “Lazarus died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” [Luke 16:22]. It is a very, very poor commentary that follows that story and says, “The rich man luxuriated in this life, therefore, he suffered torment in the life to come. And the poor man suffered and grieved in this life, therefore, he is comforted in the life to come” [Luke 16:25].
No. The poor man, Lazarus had his heart in heaven. And he was carried where his heart was when he died [Luke 16:22]. But the rich man lifted not his eyes up unto God, nor did he repent, nor did he listen to the testimony of Moses and the prophets. And when he died, he lost what he had in this life, and he lost his soul in the life that is to come [Luke 16:23-31]. Suffering in itself is not rewarded of God.
Miriam, the sister of Moses, because she spake evil of her brother [Numbers 12:1-2], was stricken with leprosy [Numbers 12:10]. Uzziah, the good king, because in haste and in a rash, willful act, he entered into the temple to assume the offices which were alone given of God to the high priest, was stricken with leprosy [2 Chronicles 26:16-19]. The prophets of Baal, praying to their false god on Mt. Carmel, lacerated themselves until they bled and hurt [1 Kings 18:25-28]. Monastic flagellation, the mortification of the flesh, the flogging of the body, self-denial; these things in themselves are nothing, nor do they carry a recompense of a reward.
It is only if we suffer with Him, for Him. It is only in Christ that we shall receive a reward. “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him” [2 Timothy 2:12]. Our reward in suffering comes only when it is dedicated and on behalf of Christ our Lord. To suffer in itself, the common lot of all men, carries no recompense with it.
Now our suffering today is almost apologetic. And the tone by which I approach to mention it cannot help but be somewhat apologetic. And yet, and yet, though in America and in Dallas we are not sawn asunder and stoned, and we do not wander about in sheepskins and goatskins [Hebrews 11:37], and though the days of the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar are over [Daniel 3:19-26], yet his fire still abideth in the earth.
I know families here, a husband of which, or a wife of which, or a child of which suffers reproach and contempt and opprobrious epithets because of their faith and their devotion to Christ. And they meet it in the family circle. They meet it when they go home. I know people by the scores who work in offices and in workshops where it is difficult to be a true and honest and faithful and loyal Christian. Many, many times that colporteur climbing up a high mountain, or that missionary crossing the far seas, or that faithful Sunday school teacher, or that devout witness to Christ does so at a sacrifice.
Many, many of the people upon whom the very foundations of this glorious church is built, many, many of those people come down here and labor and toil at a sacrifice and a cost. “If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.” God forbid that all of our work should be at no cost to ourselves.
David said, “I will not offer unto the Lord that which doth cost me nothing” [2 Samuel 24:21-24]—Just to come if it’s convenient, just to give if something is left over, just to work if it happens to please us, just to share in the ministry of Christ if it is convenient; oh, the fiber of that devotion is spongy, and the very texture of it is rotten and poor. How marvelously does God bless a people who serve Him at a cost!
These men of whom so many times I read who say that persecution, and toil, and hardship never hurt a church; it puts steel in their blood, it puts iron in their muscles, it puts fiber and strength in their testimony and their witness—I suppose no proverb has been coined in the Christian church that is more oft repeated or more certainly true, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
“If we suffer with Him,” if it is at a cost and at a price, “we shall also reign with Him: If we deny Him, He also will deny us” [2 Timothy 2:12]. What a terrible “if.” “If we deny Him, He also will deny us”; and yet, and yet, terrible as that little word is, how characteristically true if we deny Him.
“Lord, is it I?” When the Master announced at the Last Supper, “One of you shall deny Me” [Matthew 26:21-22].
“Lord, is it I?” said Simon Peter. “Is it I? Lord, though the whole world deny Thee, yet not I” [Matthew 26:33]. And the others said it [Matthew 26:21-22]. Asked it in contempt, when Judas asked with a sneer, sarcastically, “Lord, You are talking about me?” [Matthew 26:25].
“If we deny Him,” if we deny Him, deny Him openly some, doctrinally some, apostatize some, and how many there are. When the parade is on, and the banners are flying, and the trumpets are sounding, and the medals and honors and recognitions are given away, they’re on the bandwagon. But if the shots are scattering and falling and the trenches are to be stormed and the forges to be taken, they hide themselves in the dens and the caves and wait for the fury to pass and the fair weather to appear. Oh, terrible possibility; “If we deny Him, He also will deny us. They are not Mine. They do not belong to Me.” He will deny us [2 Timothy 2:12]. “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13]; if we believe not.
In the Book of John, out of that chapter out of which we read earlier, the question was asked, “Do any of the rulers believe on Him?” [John 7:48]. It was a forensic question. “Do any of the rulers believe on Him?” It was asked in the Sanhedrin. “Do any of the rulers believe on Him?” It was asked by the leaders of the people. It was a declamatory question. “Do any of the rulers believe on Him?” No. Not one. And the leaders of thought today may not believe on our risen and living Lord.
Albert Einstein, when he died, I kind of felt it because he opened this new atomic age and was so great and wonderful a man. The newspaper account that I read said—and from what I could learn it is verified—Albert Einstein said, “I do not believe in God. I am an atheist, and I want to be buried accordingly.” And he was buried accordingly.
The leaders of thought, do they believe on our Lord? They did not back there in the beginning. The sophists and the Gnostics and the Grecian metaphysicians scoffed at the gospel of the Son of God. In the groves of Epicurus, on the porches of Zeno, in the academies of Plato, in the lyceums of Aristotle, in the assemblies of the Areopagus, there was none who believed on Christ. Only a few clung to Paul when he preached in Athens and they of the poorest sort. The gospel found shelter at first in the workshop and in the humble cottage. “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful” [2 Timothy 2:13]. If our leaders of thought, of science, of government, of literature, if they believe not, He still is the same. He cannot deny Himself.
What if the leaders of Christendom do not believe on Him? Oh, what a strange thing to say in a Christian pulpit. What if the leaders of the church do not believe on Him? It is my impression that in the modern pulpit most of the preachers of the modern day do not believe on Jesus as Lord. They don’t believe He was born of a virgin. They believe He was born as any other man, by natural processes and was just another man. They don’t believe in His miraculous power.
They think all of these miracles are of the same substance and fiber and texture as you find in Aesop’s fables or in the story of Jason’s Golden Fleece. They don’t believe in the personal resurrection of our Lord [Matthew 28:1-6]. They think it was a phantom. It was a psychological aberration. They don’t believe in a coming King and a glorious, final consummation of the age [Matthew 24:3]. They believe this thing came from an evolutionary process, and give it time to evolve, and we shall someday either be annihilated or grow into archangels and seraphim. That is the typical modern preacher. And that is the typical modern pulpit.
What if the leaders of the Christian world do not believe in the inspiration and the supernatural revelation of this Book? What if they believe that Jesus is just like any other man, except maybe better, and more able, and wiser, and far reaching, and prophetic in His vision? What if they believe that? Why? What? Where? How? Has God changed His purposes? Has God recalled His elective choices? Are the foundations removed? No! “If we believe not, yet He abideth the same: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13]. He doesn’t change. He is the same Lord, and the same Christ, and the same God, the same Savior [Hebrews 13:8]; He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13].
If men lose confidence in the Word of God, that by the foolishness of preaching men are to be saved [1 Corinthians 1:21], and they hide the true gospel, and they becloud the true doctrine behind rites, and ceremonies, and sacraments; what if they do? “He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13]. What if men lose their faith in the advocacy of prayer that can, that can subvert kingdoms and overturn empires? What if the church of Jesus Christ becomes like Laodicea; losing, in its wealth and its affluence and its riches, that great humility and humble crying unto God? [Revelation 3:14-22].
What if when the Son of Man cometh, He doesn’t find faith in the earth? [Luke 18:8]. What if we believe not? “He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” God never changes. He is the same forever [Hebrews 13:8]. And may I close this sermon with an avowal of that humble, but deep as soul persuasion? If we deny Him, if we believe not, He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13].
Our Lord is not quicksand; He is a rock, a foundation. Our Lord is not a meteor, He is a star in the heavens forever; fixed and eternal. Our Lord is the Son of God: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee [Psalm 2:7]. I have set My Son upon the throne in Zion [Psalm 2:6]. I give to Him the nations for an inheritance and the innermost parts of the earth for His possession” [Psalm 2:8]. It is the decree of Almighty God; He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. He will never change [Hebrews 13:8].
However we are and however wind of doctrine by which we are blown and however we may deny or apostatize, He is the same. He cannot change in His nature or in His character. He is Jesus Christ; the same yesterday, and today, and forever [Hebrews 13:8]. He cannot deny Himself. He is the same in His offices. He is the great Prophet, and that great Prophet forever and forever [Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; John 6:14]. He is our great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, and He is that great High Priest forever and forever [Hebrews 5:6-10]. He is the great King of heaven [Matthew 28:18], and ultimately of this earth [Revelation 19:16], and He will never lay down His scepter [Genesis 49:10]. He is the Shepherd of the flock who shall keep His sheep forever! [John 10: 27-29]. He is the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother [Proverbs 18:24]. He is the Groom who shall love His bride forever! [Ephesians 5:25]. He cannot deny Himself. He ever abideth faithful [2 Timothy 2:13].
Our blessed Lord will not change in His words. He cannot deny Himself. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word and promise of our God shall stand forever” [Isaiah 40:8]. “Heaven and earth may pass away, but this word shall never pass away” [Matthew 24:35]. He cannot change in His offices; He cannot change in His character; He cannot change in His Word; He cannot change in His salvation [Hebrews 13:8]. If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13].
I may spurn it, and scorn it, and trample it underfoot and do it despite, but the proffered act and love and mercy of God in the salvation we know in Christ Jesus is ever the same. Whether I scoff or not, whether I believe or not, whether I accept or not, it abideth forever. He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. Our Lord tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9], for you, whether I accept Him or not. Our Lord died for my—our—sins [1 Corinthians 15:3], whether I accept Him or not. Our Lord is the great propitiation for all of the sins in the world [1 John 2:2], whether I receive His proffered love and mercy or not. He abideth faithful. He cannot, He could not deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13].
The great invitation of the Savior to come to the propitiatory, the mercy seat, the golden lid, the ark of the covenant, the place of intercession, the meeting place between a man’s soul and God, the Holy of Holies; it abideth in heaven forever. He cannot deny Himself. If we deny Him, if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful. He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. He does not change in His character; He does not change in His offices; He does not change in His Word; He does not change in His salvation [Hebrews 13:8]; He does not change in His ultimate and final purposes for us in this earth.
Our Lord lives and reigns the King of heaven and is waiting for His enemies to be made His footstool [Acts 2:33-36], when ultimately and finally, in the decree and purpose of God, He shall reign as Lord in this earth [Revelation 19:16]. If we believe not, if we deny, He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself [2 Timothy 2:13]. His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour.
Those great, mighty decrees of God can never be staved or stopped. They shall go on and out and beyond until finally they achieve that glorious, golden consummation which is written so large in the final triumph of the Lamb and of the people of God on the pages of this sacred, sacred Book.
What if the day of tribulation comes? [John 16:33]. What if the day of the pouring out of the vials of the wrath of God comes? [Revelation 15:1-16:21]. What if the day of Jacob’s sorrow and trouble comes? [Jeremiah 30:7]. God shall seal for Himself twelve thousand out of Judah, and twelve thousand out of Reuben, and twelve thousand out of Joseph, and twelve thousand out of Levi. And with a hundred forty-four thousand shall He still make His gospel known, evangelizing in the earth [Revelation 7:1-17], and the martyrs, and the saints of God bathed in the blood of the Lamb and bathed in their own blood, the great, ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God through fire, through sword, through stake, through dungeon, through persecution, through martyrdom, through death [Revelation 2:10, 6:9]. If we believe not, if we deny, He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13].
In the going out of the tide, back and back and back, receding back, out, going away, and finally the silver wave has given place to the muck, and the mire, and the dirt, and the filth of the flats. But you wait. You wait. God is not done; the first wave of the wash, followed by another, and another, and another, and another; advancing; coming; rising until finally the fullness of the seed has come in: the earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea [Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14]. If we deny, if we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” [2 Timothy 2:13].
The ultimate and final victory always lies with God. If we believe, if we trust, if we yield to Him our life, our soul, we share in that resurrection, that heavenly salvation, that community of God’s people [Philippians 3:20]. If we refuse, we close the door. We’re shut out. But He is still the Lord. And He is still the same [Hebrews 13:8]. And His purposes never falter.
It is for me—O God help us. Blessed be the God who still loves us and keeps us—it is for me to trust Him, to love Him, to follow Him, to own Him, to stand up for Him.
And that’s the appeal of this morning’s hour. In this balcony around, in this press of people, this throng on the lower floor, down one of these stairwells, or into the aisle; would you come and give me your hand? “Pastor, this morning I have given my heart to Jesus, and I give you my hand in token of that committal.” A family of you; one somebody you, “Here I am, pastor, putting my life with these wonderful people in the church.” We had a gracious harvest at the eight-fifteen hour by baptism, by letter. At this solemn moment when our people ask of heaven and make appeal for you, would you come? “Today, humbly, trustingly, I give my life to Christ.” Or, “This morning we place our lives in the fellowship of the church.” Would you come? On the first note of the first stanza, down these aisles and here to the front, would you make it now? While all of us stand and prayerfully sing this appeal.