A Trustworthy Statement

by Mike Ratliff

1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound [1] doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV)

Our enemy is quite clever in his deceit. He knows exactly what buttons to push to incite us to step into conflicts or situations designed to do damage to our faith and our relationship with our Lord. He also has his own deceived people whom he has convinced that they are the only Christians who have it right and everyone else, including such Bible scholars as John Owen or John Calvin or preachers such as Charles Spurgeon were heretics and tools of the devil. This group would also include men of today such as John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul. If we are not very careful, we can be drawn into “discussions” with these people whom our enemy is using for his own heinous purposes. These discussions can grow into conflict very quickly because it will not take long for these servants of our enemy to go for the jugular and attempt to demolish our faith by casting doubt through distracting arguments.

Thank God that He gave His Spirit to all of us who know Him and that we can come boldly to the throne of grace. I pray every day that God will give me wisdom, discernment, and direction. I am so grateful that God is faithful and answers these prayers according to His will. I am contacted nearly every day by at least one person whose first appearance is that of another Christian, but who is soon revealed to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I am able to detect this because of God working through our interaction to reveal what is really going on. Sometimes I am not very quick to catch on. However, there are other times that the alarm in my Spirit is going off very early in the conversation that there is something amiss. Those times that I am taken off guard are frustrating for me, but I am still grateful because God does make sure that I eventually catch on that something is not right. It is then that I know I must ground the “discussion” in the succinct, black and white standard of God’s Word.

The scenario I encounter most often in these attacks are attempts to cast doubt on the men of God who teach us. That would include men such as Luther, Bunyan, Owen, Spurgeon, Edwards, Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, et cetera. These are personal attacks on their character and I am nearly always taken aback because I simply cannot understand why they do that. I teach from God’s Word. I use exegetical word studies and contextual studies to mine out God’s truth from His Word for the edification of God’s people who read these posts. I am not worshipping these men. I am not placing them up on pedestals of infallibility so the only thing I can come up with that would cause these “attackers” to try to torpedo these men is that they are assuming that we are getting our doctrine from them or that our trust is in them.

The challenge in this blog to any who would disagree with what we post is that any disagreement with any point made in them must be countered through Biblical exegetical expositions. No personal attacks are allowed even against men who lived hundreds of years ago. No, the truth is the truth regardless if it is believed or not. The only valid argument against a statement that professes to be true is to prove it to not be true through Biblical exposition. I have yet to have anyone respond to what we post and discuss here that way. No, it is always personal attacks by quoting men, but there has yet to be one Biblical, exegetically based argument against what we have written.

God never promised that this walk of faith would be free from conflict, temptation, and spiritual ups and downs. In fact, the Bible promises us very succinctly that in the world the Christian will have trouble. Why? It is because genuine Christians are new creations. They are changed. They are continually being drawn to walk through this life on the narrow, difficult path of discipleship. This causes the disciple to not be conformed to this world. Instead, he or she is called to become imitators of Christ Himself. This is a recipe for conflict. It also marks the disciple as someone our enemy is determined to attack and discourage. However, I am writing this post to not discourage you, but to encourage each of you to stand firm, commit yourself to denying your flesh, and making up your mind to live this Christian life intentionally focused on obeying Christ in all things. 

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;

12 

if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;

13 

if we are faithless, he remains faithful-

for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)

Let us look at this passage very carefully. Paul wrote the Epistle of 2 Timothy during his final imprisonment before his execution as a Christian martyr. He was encouraging Timothy to be faithful and a good soldier of the Lord. The phrases “the saying is trustworthy” or “This is a faithful saying” in the New Testament were unique to the Pastoral Epistles (cf. Ephesians 1:15; 4:9; 1 Timothy 1:15; 2 Timothy 2:11; Titus 3:8). This phrase was used to announce that the referenced statement summarized key doctrine. Bible scholars believe that these sayings were well known in the 1st Century churches as concise expressions of cardinal gospel truth. Therefore vv11-13 of 2 Timothy 2 must be vital for Christians to grasp, take to heart, and meditate upon in order to line up the heart to the will of God.

The first part of this “saying” is, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him.” This refers to the believer’s spiritual participation in Christ’s death and Resurrection.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self [1] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free [2] from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:4-8 ESV)

There is also the possibility for all genuine believers to suffer martyrdom for Christ’s sake, which is supported in the context. Notice also the word “if” at the beginning of each of these statements. This word in Greek in this context could best be understood to be saying, “forasmuch as…” In other words, it is describing the conditionality of Christian authenticity in order for the statement of fact in the statement to be true of the Christian. Therefore, the genuine Christian has died with Christ eternally and could very well die with Him in reality if martyred. That being true then they will also live with Him eternally.

The second true statement about genuine Christians is, “if we endure, we will also reign with him.” This is speaking of perseverance in the face of hardship. Genuine believers persevere to the end (Matthew 24:13; cf. Matthew 10:22; John 8:31; Romans 2:7; Colossians 1:23). Since all genuine believers prove their authenticity by persevering, they will also reign with Him. This is speaking of the New Testament image for the eternal glory what Christians receive through Christ (Matthew 19:28; Romans 5:17; Revelation 3:21; 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5).

The third true statement is about disingenuous Christians. It is, “if we deny him, he also will deny us.” This should get our attention. This is speaking of apostasy and its consequences. This is the final, permanent denial of Christ by the apostate. Remember, the Lord restored Peter to Himself even through he denied Christ three times during His trial. Apostasy is different and of eternal consequence. Apostasy marks those who once professed Christ as never truly belonging to Him (1 John 2:19). All apostates will face the reality of one day being denied by Christ (Matthew 10:33).

The final trustworthy saying here is, “if we are faithless,  he remains faithful-for he cannot deny himself.” The word “faithless” here refers to a lack of saving faith, which is unbelief. This is referring to professing Christians who do not really believe. They are in unbelief even though they claim to be Christians. This is not referring to Christians who have a weak or struggling faith. No, we all struggle here at some point in our walk, but there are a great number of professing Christians who are not genuine. These will ultimately deny Christ because their faith is not genuine (James 2:14-26). What does it mean that even though many professing Christians are actually faithless, but Christ is faithful? He is faithful to save all those who truly believe (John 3:16), He is equally faithful to judge all who do not (John 3:18). This is Christ’s faithfulness to Himself. He is Holy and immutable and will be consistent in all He does concerning all believers and unbelievers.

Now my brethren, with these truths about Christ’s faithfulness and the assurance that all genuine believers will endure to the end, be encouraged and confirmed in your heart that you will pursue Christ as you obey Him on the difficult and narrow path of discipleship. Do not be surprised when some come upon you pretending to be a fellow Christian, but whose goal is to discourage and drive a wedge between you and Christ through false doctrine and distracting arguments. Pray continually for wisdom, discernment, and direction. Study God’s Word as much as possible and let no one rob you of that precious time set aside each day to commune with the Saviour in prayer, meditation, and consuming God’s Word. Then place all your hope in Christ alone and His soon return.

Soli Deo Gloria!

15 thoughts on “A Trustworthy Statement

  1. Pingback: A Trustworthy Statement - Reformata

  2. Excellent article Mike. It is very encouraging for a brother to voice the things that all believers will surely face if in fact they do belong to God. So many times I have faced the same situation with ‘professing’ christians, those that simply attack without using ANY scriptures to stand on. Yet I don’t think it strange… the persecution and battles we face were promises given by Jesus Himself. And part of counting the cost, an essential but rarely discussed reality of being a disciple of Christ. And by the grace of God, we stand and proclaim; that He might be glorified in the eyes of men.

  3. Amen Mike! We have found out the same thing. Do you notice they get very angry fast? No love there. Or have you heard a lot of sarcasm? Go for the jugular is exactly what they do. What is so discouraging is that most of it comes from your own family!! You know how that is. We pray hard for the lost. The tares have basically taken over. Our Lord and King is coming soon Mike.

  4. Mike, It could be you are lumped in with many who ARE teaching and following man’s teachings only. This is a huge problem in Christendom..the following of men. Some are of Apollos and some of Paul…type of thing. They tend to put these men on pedestals and quote them constantly. Quite frankly, I am weary of hearing about what Calvin taught. I can understand the Word as well as Calvin if I am truly seeking Him.

    I personally have problems with some of the names you mentioned. Some for doctrine and some for their behavior and some for both. I hope that I can learn from the correct things BUT, there is no better teacher than the Holy Spirit illuminating the Word through persistent meditation upon the Word. The beauty of the NC is that we no longer have earthly priests. All true believers have anointing and all true believers are led by the Holy Spirit. And over time, that brings wisdom and discernment.

  5. Lin,

    Yes, I have noticed that. I rarely quote men in my posts. When I do it is because they have nailed some topic better than I could. In any case, I have no problem addressing what these men teach via comparing God’s Word to what they say and have written. That is not a problem at all. However, when the attacks are nothing more than argumentum ad hominem type attacks then I draw the line. Why? It is not the correct way to discuss the truth. It is nothing more than a distraction from the truth.

    You are right and Amen about the Holy Spirit being the best teacher as we dig into the Word. That is what I do. My mention of these men in the article is that is what I am hammered with constantly. It is like my theology can’t possibly be right because Spurgeon said something a certain way over 150 years ago. That is not valid argumentum. Give me scripture proof in context or at least simply ask for clarification. Sigh……

    In any case, thanks for the comment and your ministry.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Thanks for the exhortation and encouragement, Mike. As Christians we need to exercise discernment more than ever today as tares grow among the wheat. Like in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” people who appear to be brethren cross your path and eventually you discover their real fruit. I can sympathize with your frustration over being caught off guard. These are days of deception. Mike, I’m praying that The Lord give you wisdom, discernment, and direction as you minister to the saints through Possessing the Treasure and as you walk with Him along the narrow path. May God help His people run the race — and finish strong. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

  7. Mike,
    Thank you for the post. I am so often drawn to the text of John 13:34-35 in these matters :”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
    In light of so many other verses that direct our manner of speech, this text is a proof text for our identity. I have experienced, as have many of you, the most awful hatred from those who profess to know Christ. This is my test daily as well, in assessing my heart towards others who profess to have been born again.
    As the days continue to heat up, it is good to know there are other brothers and sisters out there encouraging and praying for one another.
    Peace,
    John

  8. Well said, Mike.

    Because of our propensity toward sin, we may sway toward holding these men in a higher esteem than other men; nevertheless, we should not seek to tear them down, as it tends to rend the fabric of the beautiful garment of the church of Jesus Christ. Faithfulness to God’s Word, recognizing its clarity through voices who have been faithful to that Word, by God’s sovereign grace alone, gives broken vessels such as you and I, and every other beloved saint saved by God’s grace alone, gives us tremendous hope; that God could work through, and have fellowship with, such men as the apostle Paul, Augustine of Hippo, John Bunyan, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Gill, Asahel Nettleton, Charles Spurgeon, &etc., means that he can work such a miracle in any one of us.

    Love you, my brother. Thanks for your prayers. I’ll email you this week.

    Until Christ Come, jon

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