Jesus once said: "He who endures to the end shall be saved," Matthew 24:13. In the context of this passage one finds Jesus speaking about false Christs, wars and rumors of wars, strife among nations, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution, hatred of Christians, people falling away from Christ because of being offended, false prophets, lawlessness, love growing cold. Sin brought endless trouble into the world. And the flesh is so weak. Jesus often reminded His children not to grow weary. For example. look at Luke 18:1-8.
St. Paul often spoke about not growing weary. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:1-18. The Epistle to the Hebrews warns against growing weary, 12:12-13. Scripture constantly warns us about not growing weary. Scripture always directs our attention to Jesus, the Author and Completer of our faith. And it focuses our eyes on eternal life.
Paul wrote our text as he was sitting in prison in Rome. His words found Timothy in Ephesus. Evidently Timothy was growing weary and needed encouragement. Every pastor learns quickly that human beings, like children, grow weary so easily. He must encourage and prod them with the Gospel and the sure prospect of everlasting life.
We have noted several times that during the last several decades much has been said and written about so-called early Christian hymns underlying parts of the Pauline Epistles. Look at 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 6:7-8 and 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:9-10. We have called the reader's attention to the fact that the Greek edition of the New Testament by Nestle has printed these passages a poetry.
In the present text we have another such passage. Verses 1-13 are called an early Christian hymn. It must be granted that these passages have a poetic ring to them. But they are neither Hebrew poetry which requires the principle of parallelism nor are they Greek poetry which requires a metric pattern.
It has always been recognized that in these passages Paul composed poetic prose. But modern commentators sometimes tend to detract from the originality of these passages by saying that they are early Christian hymns which Paul merely used for his own purposes. There is no record to prove this theory. And if this theory in any way detracts from the doctrine of inspiration it must be abandoned.
This verse begins with a present imperative which means "constantly keep in mind." Commentators point out that here alone in the first Epistle to Timothy Paul says "Jesus Christ' and not "Christ Jesus." Some think that this stresses Jesus' humanity.
Paul is reminding Timothy of two facts with reference to Jesus Christ:
He was permanently raised from the dead, and
He is true man, born of the seed of David.
In other words, Paul is reminding Timothy of the two natures in Christ who fulfilled all the Old Testament promises and His greatest and final work was His resurrection from the dead. Paul says this in a context in which he speaks both about the suffering of Timothy, verse 3, and his own suffering, verse 9. Sooner of later all Christians are called on to suffer. They cannot suffer as they ought unless they look steadfastly to Jesus. See Hebrews 12:2.
The final phrase of this verse reads: "According to my Gospel." Some translate: "As preached in my gospel." "This is the good news I tell." The phrase is found again at Romans 2:16 and 16:25.
Lock: 'My Gospel,' not invented by me but entrusted to me.
Lenski: Paul repeatedly says 'my' Gospel, when he thinks of himself as one of the immediately called apostles, who received the Gospel by revelation, Galatians 1:12.
Bengel: REMEMBER so that you may follow. Paul, as usual, animates his own example by Christ's.
Kretzmann: Faithfulness in the ministerial office, indeed, in any office in the Church depends on the certainty of the Christian faith.
Guthrie: For Paul the resurrection of Christ is the most prominent Christian truth, containing as it does the guarantee of all other aspects of the work of Christ.
Lenski: In order to understand this predication, from David's seed, and its immense weight we must note Matthew 22:41-46; the whole of Acts 13:29-37, and the golden cord that runs through the gospels: "Son David -- Son of David,' in passages like Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9 and 15, to mention only Matthew.
"For" includes the thought "because of which Gospel."
"Like a criminal" immediately reminds us of those who were crucified with Jesus, Luke 23:32, 39.
Guthrie: It is Paul's work 'in the gospel' that has caused him to be ill-treated by the authorities.
This is a very sobering thought. It may happen to us at any time.
Kretzmann: Paul did not grow weary in enduring, if he could but continue to serve the Gospel . . . . He had the satisfaction of knowing that he was but following in the footsteps of his Master.
The final sentence in this verse is in contrast to that which precedes.
Guthrie: The apostle's statement applies to the fact that even when he is imprisoned others are carrying on the work of proclamation. The persecution of Christian leaders may hamper the progress of the gospel, but it cannot imprison the Word of God nor prevent its spread.
Kretzmann: Paul's enemies could not stop the preaching of righteousness through the blood of Christ . . . The Lord was able to continue His work through the agency of other people.
Bengel: "Is not bound' -- that is, progresses without hindrance.
Nothing can stop the progress of the Word which will continue until the end of time.
This verse begins with a causal clause. Bengel and Lenski understand this of the previous verse: "Because the Gospel runs while I am bound." Did Paul endure all afflictions because the Word of God is not bound or because he had the elect in mind? Kretzmann mentions that "the elect" is here used for "the believers."
Kretzmann: The Gospel should cause them to become so sure of their salvation in Christ Jesus that even the greatest afflictions and persecutions would not cause them to doubt the fact of their being the children of the heavenly Father through Christ.
It is incumbent on every Christian pastor to make his hearers absolutely certain of their eternal salvation. That's why Paul adds the purpose clause. Salvation is possible only in, because of, and through Christ Jesus. This must be stressed in this pluralistic age of the mistaken idea that there are a number of roads to heaven.
"Eternal glory" accompanies the salvation in Christ Jesus.
"They too" or "also they" stresses the fact that Paul is as concerned about the salvation of the believers as he is about his own salvation.
Guthrie: The final phrase 'with eternal glory' envisages the consummation of Christian salvation. This linking of glory with salvation is familiar in Paul writings, see 2 Thessalonians 2:13,14, Romans 5:1,2; 8:21-25, while the idea of suffering giving way to eternal glory is clearly brought out in 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Lenski: No suffering is too great for Paul, if in any way and in any degree it supports this purpose, which includes his own salvation, but oh, also that of so many others.
See the Notes on Pentecost XVII for the phrase "trustworthy saying." It is clear that this phrase is to be taken with what follows and not with what precedes.
Note that in this verse and also in 12-13 we have a series of four fact conditions. If the reader agrees that the "if" clause is true in his own case, then also the second part is true. Lenski suggests that we read "if, indeed, we have died -- if, indeed, we endure, etc."
The commentators are agreed that in verse 11 Paul is speaking about baptism. "If we have died" refers to what is said in Romans 6:8: "If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him." This is said in a context of baptism. In baptism we died to sin, its guilt and power. Because of this we are now alive with Christ and shall live forever. This is a strong incentive for what follows in verses 12-13. It is paradoxical that life comes through death. It was so with Christ and it is so with us.
Some translations: "For if we be dead with him," "For if we died with Him," "If we have died with Him."
Now we have a verb that puts us in the present tense: "If we continue to endure." We think immediately of Matthew 10:22: "But he who endures to the end will be saved." And if this is true, then "we shall reign together with Him."
This, of course, is speaking of eternal life. We cannot possibly understand just what that means. We believe it and look forward to it. Look at the thought in Revelation 2:10.
Lenski: His death and his enduring were expiatory, for us, ours are only confessional. . . . This second paradox is just as tremendous as the first . . . Here belong all those passages that speak of the crown, like 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10. Human imagination fails to visualize this exaltation.
Kretzmann: He breaks into a song of Christian hope, look at Romans 8:18.
Now we proceed to the second conditional sentence in verse 12. This time the verb is in the future: "If we shall deny Him."
Lenski: These mighty promises have a reverse: 'if we shall deny Him,' disown, as Peter once denied: 'I do not know the man.' Paul is almost quoting Jesus in Matthew 10:33. Permanent denial is referred to, --Peter repented of his denial. . . . Denial is fatal.
Kretzmann: He who, in work or deed, is ashamed of Christ will find that the Lord will also be ashamed of him on the great Day of Judgment. Matthew 7:23; 10:33; 25:12.
Another fact condition. This time the verbs are both in the present tense. KJV wrongly translates: "If we believe not." The NKJV, NASB and NIV have corrected that: "If we are faithless." That means "If we prove unfaithful." Christ, however, remains faithful.
Guthrie: Christ's constancy to His own promises provides the believe with his greatest security.
God is not fickle as are sinful human beings. Here we have wonderful consolation for the frightened conscience.
Lenski: Count on the changeless Christ to all eternity.
Lock: He remains faithful to His promises of mercy, Romans 3:3; 11:29-32; 1 John 3:20.
If often happens in the life of a Christian that he is worried over the possibility of God giving up on him. But God never goes back on His promises. One the other, this verse reminds us that God is faithful also to His warnings.
Kretzmann: God will be faithful to His threat of punishment, for He cannot be untrue to His essence . . . . What a solemn warning to the Christians of all times not to yield to the weakness of the flesh and thus to forfeit the blessings of eternity.
God is true and faithful both to His promises in Christ and to His threats against the impenitent sinner.
The final line begins with a proposition which means an explanation is coming. The final line interprets the previous line. This final line says that it is apart of the very nature of God to remain faithful to what He has said. There are literally thousands of examples of this in both the Old and New Testaments. God's very nature and the doctrines of Law and of Gospel go hand in hand.
Lock compares the thought in Numbers 23:19: "God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent."