A First-Century Hymn

“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.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

It has been noted that our text for the day is in poetic language and form. It probably consists of an early hymn that Timothy and the other readers of this epistle knew. It consists of a series of “if . . . then” statements, each an important conditional promise, two with negative connotations and two with positive.

“If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” Elsewhere we read, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).

“If we suffer [literally, ‘endure’], we shall also reign with him.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

“If we deny him, he also will deny us.” Christ said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).

“If we believe not [literally, are unfaithful], yet he abideth faithful.” His promises are sure whether they be warnings of judgment or promises of blessing. God promised Joshua: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:5-6).

Our text begins with the statement “It is a faithful saying,” and ends with “he cannot deny himself.” We can be sure that He will live up to His end of the bargain. His very nature demands it. JDM

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