Charles Simeon Commentary - 2 Timothy 2:11 - 2:14

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 2 Timothy 2:11 - 2:14

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2Ti_2:11-14. 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 also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. Of these things put them in remembrance.

STRANGE as it may seem, it is no uncommon thing for men to arraign the equity of God, and to accuse him of undue severity in the execution of his judgments. The Jewish people of old complained, “The ways of the Lord are not equal:” and God, for his own honour’s sake, was constrained to vindicate his character in this respect; which he did in an open appeal to their judgment, and a candid exposition of the modes of his procedure. “O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal?” ‘If a man have sinned and repent, I forgive him: but if he turn back to his former wickedness, I make no account of his temporary reformation, but visit all his iniquities upon his head. Is this unequal? Is it not consonant with strict justice [Note: Eze_33:17-20.]?’ In like manner St. Paul declares, in the passage before us, that God will act towards men as they act towards him; requiting with good his faithful servants, and marking the disobedient as objects of his displeasure. And that he may the more deeply impress this truth upon our minds, he introduces it with assuring us, that “it is a faithful saying.”

From his words we shall be led to consider,

I.       The rule of God’s procedure in reference to our future destinies—

The whole Scripture declares that he will deal with men according to their works; that “to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but that to them that are contentious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there shall be indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, even upon every soul of man that doeth evil [Note: Rom_2:7-9].

To this effect we are here told how God will deal,

1.       With the godly—

[It is here supposed that the godly will “die with Christ, and suffer with him.” And it is true, that all his faithful followers are “crucified with him [Note: Gal_2:20.],” and “dead with him.” As he died for sin, so they, in conformity to him, and by virtue derived from him, die to sin: they no longer suffer it to act without controul, as once they did, but they “mortify it in all their members,” and “crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts [Note: Gal_5:24.].” In acting thus, they of necessity condemn the “world around them, who are lying in wickedness [Note: 1Jn_5:19.],” and ordering their course agreeably to the will of Satan, who worketh in them [Note: Eph_2:2.], and “leads them captive at his will [Note: ver. 26.].” In consequence of this, they are hated, reviled, and persecuted, as their Saviour was; and are called to “suffer,” even as he suffered. There is not one of them who has not his cross to bear. Times and circumstances may cause a difference as to the degree in which they shall suffer: but there is no exception whatever to that declaration of the Apostle, “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution [Note: 2Ti_3:12.].”

Now how will God deal with these? Will he overlook them as unworthy of his notice? Will he afford them no succour, and recompense them with no reward? Far be it from him; for “if we be dead with Christ, we shall also live with him;” that is, he will enable us to execute our holy purposes, and to rise superior to all our spiritual adversaries, even as he did when he rose again from the dead. This is the explanation which St. Paul himself gives us: “If we have been planted in the likeness of his death,” says he, “we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. But he that is dead, is freed from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him: for, in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Rom_6:5-11.].” The same Apostle also gives it as his own actual experience: “We are always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body: for we who live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh [Note: 2Co_4:10-11.].” Thus does the Lord Jesus fulfil the promise which he made in reference to this very point; “Because I live, ye shall live also [Note: Joh_14:19.].”

Moreover our God engages, that, “if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him.” Our services shall not be forgotten. There is “a crown of glory prepared for all them that love him [Note: 2Ti_4:8. 1Pe_5:4.]:” even on that very throne which Christ himself occupies, shall they be seated with him [Note: Rev_3:21.]. Yes; it is a faithful saying, that “they who suffer with him shall also be glorified together [Note: Rom_8:17. 1Pe_4:13.].”

This then will be the mode of God’s procedure towards his faithful people: and according to the same rule will he proceed,]

2.       With the ungodly—

[These are here designated as “those who deny him.” Now there are two ways in which this may be done; namely, either by an open and avowed rejection of his Gospel [Note: 2Pe_2:1.], or by a timid concealment of our convictions. Of the former we shall have no occasion to speak, because it is the latter class only that are referred to in our text; and because all that we shall have occasion to say respecting the latter, must of necessity be in a yet stronger degree applicable to the former: for, if those who do believe in Christ, but through fear of persecution are deterred from confessing him openly, will be disapproved by him, much more will they who impiously blaspheme his name, and pour contempt upon all the wonders of his love and mercy.

Our Lord requires, that we should confess him openly before men. But there are many, who, “when persecution or tribulation ariseth because of the word, are offended [Note: Mat_13:21.],” and dare not face the obloquy, or encounter the perils, that await them. And how will the Lord Jesus Christ deal with them? Will he take no account of their cowardice? Will he be satisfied with such a mode of requiting all his love? No; he will deal with them in the way that they deal with him: “they are ashamed of him; and he will be ashamed of them, in the day that he shall come in the glory of his Father, and of all his holy angels [Note: Mar_8:38.]:” “they deny him; and he will deny them [Note: Mat_10:33.].” And this is nothing but what they may reasonably expect: for if their love to him is so small, that they will not endure a little shame, or submit to some trifling loss, for his sake, how can they expect to be approved as good and faithful servants? How can they suppose it possible that they should partake of that felicity which is reserved for those who fought the good fight of faith, and “loved not their lives unto death [Note: Rev_12:11.]?” This indeed would be unequal: such inequality shall never be found in the judgments of our God: for “they who loved their lives, shall lose them; and they only who are willing to lose their lives for Christ’s sake, shall save them unto life eternal [Note: Mar_8:31; Mar_8:35.].”]

That no doubts on this subject may rest upon our minds, I will go on to state,

II.      The assurance we have that he will proceed according to this rule—

The declarations of God on these subjects do not obtain the credit they deserve—

[Many of the godly are apt, through the weakness of their faith, to yield to doubts and fears. When feeling the depth of their corruptions, they think it almost impossible that they should ever be able to subdue them: and, when menaced with heavy trials, they doubt whether they shall ever be able to support them.

The ungodly, on the other hand, boldly question whether God ever can proceed with them according to his word. They do not hesitate to say, that such a procedure would be cruel and unjust. ‘If indeed they were to abandon themselves to all manner of wickedness, they might then expect the Divine judgments: but when they can have no gross evils laid to their charge, is it to be supposed that God will punish them to all eternity, merely because they do not (as they will call it) make a parade of their religion? That is nothing but a conceit of enthusiastic zealots: God is too good to act in such a way, or to visit with such unmerited severity what, at the worst, can only be deemed an excess in the exercise of prudence’ — — —]

But, whether believed or not, they shall all be fulfilled in their season—

[”Our unbelief will not make the truth of God of none effect [Note: Rom_3:3.].” Whatever he has spoken, he will surely execute; as it is said, “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good [Note: Num_23:19.]?” Were he to reverse his word for us, he would cease to be a God of truth. He has pledged himself for the accomplishment of every word that he has spoken: and “he cannot deny himself.”

True it is, that he is not pleased with the weakness of his people’s faith. He complained of it in Peter: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” But he will not on this account neglect to fulfil to them his promises. He has engaged in behalf of those who die unto sin, that “his grace shall be sufficient for them [Note: 2Co_12:9.];” that “their strength shall be according to their day [Note: Deu_23:25.];” and that “they shall be more than conquerors, through Him that loved them [Note: Rom_8:37.].” Their doubts and fears will indeed distress their minds, and weaken their efforts, and subject them to many anxieties from which a stronger exercise of faith would have freed them: but still he will not cast them off because they are weak: “he will not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax; but will bring forth judgment unto victory [Note: Mat_12:20.].” And in the last day he will recompense into their bosom all that they have done or suffered for him. He will say, “Thou hast been faithful in a few things; be thou ruler over many things [Note: Mat_25:23.]: and the precise measure of their glory shall be proportioned to the labours and sufferings to which in this life they had submitted for his sake [Note: 2Co_4:17.].

In like manner, to the ungodly he will award a sentence of condemnation proportioned to their deserts. It will be to no purpose that they expostulate, and ask, as if aggrieved by his sentence, “Lord, have we not in thy name cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?” He will be altogether inflexible; and will say, “Depart from me; I never knew you, ye workers of iniquity [Note: Mat_7:22-23.].”]

The importance of this subject appears from the solemn charge with which St. Paul enjoins Timothy to “put his hearers in remembrance of it.” The same charge is in fact given to every minister of God’s word: “Put your people in remembrance of these things.” In compliance with this command I will now proceed yet further to remind you of them,

1.       For your conviction—

[It is to no purpose to dispute against God. A criminal may dispute against human laws if he will, and may determine beforehand that they can never be executed against him. But the only effect of his confidence will be, to deceive his own soul, and to involve himself in irremediable ruin. Let him be ever so assured of impunity, he will not be able to stop the course of the law, or to prevent its execution upon him. How much less then can we suppose that the arm of God’s justice shall be arrested, and the very truth of God violated, to rescue a man from perdition, merely because he will not believe that God will fulfil his word. I must declare to you, that all such hopes are groundless: and I call upon you carefully to examine the state of your own souls. Are you “dead to sin,” to all sin, so that no iniquity whatever is suffered to have dominion over you? — — — Are you openly confessing Christ before men, so that it is seen and known “whose you are, and whom you profess to serve?” Are you “following him without the camp, bearing his reproach [Note: Heb_13:13.];” and not bearing it only, but “rejoicing that you are counted worthy to suffer for his sake [Note: Act_5:41.]?” In a word, are you Christians, not in word only, but in deed and in truth? These are the inquiries which you must make; for by them alone can you ascertain your state before God. Say not, that, in requiring these things, we require too much: for if God require them, and will receive to mercy those only in whom these requisites can be found, it will be to no purpose to contend with him. Be wise in time: and so endeavour to approve yourselves to God now, that he may approve of you in the day of judgment.]

2.       For your comfort and support—

[The workings of unbelief have harassed many who were truly upright before God: and therefore we should not write bitter things against ourselves, merely because we possess not a full assurance of faith. David on some occasions was quite overwhelmed with doubts and fears. Hear his complaints: “Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” But whence arose all this? Had it any foundation in truth? No: he immediately acknowledges, “This is mine infirmity [Note: Psa_77:7-10.].” So then do ye say, when doubts and fears assail your minds. Remember, God is a faithful God, and not one jot or tittle of his word shall ever fail. “Of those whom the Father gave to Jesus, he lost none [Note: Joh_17:12.];” nor will he ever lose one: “not the smallest grain of true wheat shall ever fall upon the earth [Note: Amo_9:9.];” nor “shall one of God’s little ones ever perish [Note: Mat_18:14.].” Only commit yourselves to God, and leave the issue of events to him. Your part is to be seeking a conformity to Christ in his death and resurrection; and his part is to carry on and perfect his work within you. Be ye intent on your part; and leave His to him: and you shall be able at the last to say with Joshua, that “of all the good things which the Lord your God hath spoken concerning you, all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed [Note: Jos_23:14.].”]