by Mike Ratliff
1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 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. I have been approached by numerous individuals and groups demanding that I join with them in their attacks on men 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. I find it interesting that if we refuse to ‘go along’ with them they will then turn on us.
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, 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 substantial 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.
4 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. 5 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. 6 We know that our old self 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 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!