Christ Assembly

Eternal Security

He Will Deny Us

2 Timothy 2:12

Under Construction

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Eternal Life

2 Timothy 2:12 provides strong proof of eternal security for believers. Saints (born-again believers) go to heaven because they were chosen by God for salvation and given the free gift of eternal life by faith. God saves people. People never save themselves. Therefore, just as people cannot save themselves, so they cannot unsave themselves by any of their actions, such as denying Jesus. Some people think that 2 Timothy 2:12 teaches a saint can lose salvation by denying Jesus. Yet, does 2 Timothy 2:12 actually support such teaching? This note focuses upon textual analysis and shows that 2 Timothy 2:12 does not support the claim that saints can lose salvation by denying Jesus.

Paul taught and applied theology. Theology includes understanding God and His ways. Theology helps us love God more. Paul taught theology from the perspective of truth. God reveals timeless truths about Himself and His ways. We understand those truths as they inform and impact our experience. We can understand theology by studying the Bible because God revealed the truth. The Bible presents one unified theology. Therefore, as we understand the theology of denial, we also understand how God continues to love us, even when saints deny Him. When unbelievers deny God for their entire lifetime on earth, then they pay the eternal consequence of death. The theology of denial covers both believers and unbelievers, but the duration and results of denial differ greatly.

Section One

Enduring Chains for the Sake of the Chosen

The prior context helps us understand 2 Timothy 2:12.

In 2 Timothy 2:9,  Paul disclosed that he suffered hardship, including chains, as an evildoer. Of course, Paul was not actually an evildoer, but he was imprisoned on the charge of doing evil. Although Paul was in chains, the word of God had not been bound. 1Paul used the terms chains (“δεσμῶν”); the word of God had not been bound (“δέδεται”). Therefore, Paul provided the context that he was chained and enduring persecution, but the word of God was not chained. He continued to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ while chained. He linked his endurance while chained to the continued proclamation of the Gospel, which was never chained. Paul let Timothy know how important it was to continue to endure and not give up while chained. In this context, Paul’s endurance while chained supported his proclamation of the Gospel. Chains never compelled Paul to deny Jesus as Savior; Paul always persevered and maintained his usefulness to Christ, even while chained.

In 2 Timothy 2:10, Paul explained the ministry of chains, including endurance in chains and the purpose for enduring chains. “I endure all things.” Paul emphasized continuous, present endurance. 2The term endure (“ὑπομένω”–present active indicative) expressed Paul’s continuous endurance. Paul endured all things. 3The term “all” (“πάντα”) described the broad scope of his endurance. He endured those things for a specific purpose: for the sake of the elect. Paul then highlighted the result: so that they may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with glory eternal. 4Paul stated his clear purpose of endurance: for the sake of (“διὰ”) the elect (“τοὺς ἐκλεκτούς”), so that (“ἵνα”–typical result clause) they may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with glory eternal. Notice that Paul’s endurance was linked to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the elect, but his endurance was not linked to his own salvation.

Therefore, the context shows that Paul endured chains for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain salvation. Their salvation did not depend upon Paul’s faithfulness. Paul’s usefulness to Christ in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the elect depended upon his continued endurance in chains. Although Paul was chained, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not chained and Paul continued his ministry of spreading salvation while chained. Paul’s usefulness to Christ depended upon his faithful endurance, but his salvation was never at issue, as the passage below shows.

Section Two

Trustworthy Statements

2 Timothy 2 provides a theological discussion of Paul’s endurance while in chains for the sake of the elect who would receive salvation. Paul encapsulated that theology of trustworthy statements which pose positives and negatives related to a saint’s life of endurance. 5Paul may have been quoting a well known hymn or poem, but he preserved it in Scripture by encapsulating in his letter. Paul used a series of “if-then” statements to describe his theology. He considered those statements as true, axioms. 6Paul used a series of first class conditions, indicating that they are taken as true, axiomatic statements. Those statements were “we” statements, describing saints.  7My brief review showed that the “we” statements in 2 Timothy uniformly refer to saints. Paul used first person plurals to describe his theology.  Therefore, everything about 2 Timothy 2:10-14 applies to saints because Paul used “we” in those verses. Throughout 2 Timothy, Paul applied theology about suffering and salvation to his personal experience (which he used to illustrate theology), and then turned back to theology and applied theology to both the promises of God and the present and future experience of all saints.

In 2 Timothy 2:11, Paul described the first trustworthy theological statement. If we have died together, we will live together. The original text of the verse does not include the word “Him.” 8Some translators add the word Him, meaning that saints died with Christ and live with Christ. Yet, the text only says died together and live together. From other passages, we know that believers certainly died with Christ (being crucified with Him), and were then raised with Him. Paul started with foundational theological truth that all believers died together and will also live together. Paul explained the theology of endurance and how that theology relates to: (1) the unity of all saints in death; and (2) the unity of all saints in the future. Paul meant that he was already dead while in chains, because he was crucified with Christ.  Even so, Paul will live on eternally in Christ (having been raised with Christ). Those same truths hold true for all saints and provide the theological foundation for endurance in chains. 

In 2 Timothy 2:12a, Paul then described the second trustworthy statement. If we endure, we will reign together. Present endurance yields reigning together in the future.  9If we endure (“ὑπομένομεν”–present active indicative, first person plural–notice the shift change from aorist (died together) to present, indicating that this endurance characterizes present ongoing experience). We will reign together (“συμβασιλεύσομεν*”–future active indicative, first person plural–action built upon present promise) provides hope. I considered the possible use of deponents in the passage, but did not find convincing support for such translations. Paul did not use the term “Christ” or “Him” in the text because he was focusing upon the relationship among the believers. He was discussing the theology of endurance among saints, and how we endure for the sake of one another. Notice the connection here to the endurance in 2 Timothy 2:10. Paul explained that he endured chains for the sake of the elect. Next he explained what happens if we endure. Paul first described how the theology of endurance and useful service applied to him in chains in 2 Timothy 2:10. In 2 Timothy 2:12,  Paul explained how that same theology of endurance applied to all saints. Saints reign together in the future because of their endurance today. 

In 2 Timothy 2:12b, Paul then described the third trustworthy statement. If we will deny, He also will deny us. In this context of the theology of endurance, Paul looked to the future for saints (Paul used a first person plural, “we deny”). 10If we will deny (“ἀρνησόμεθα”–future middle indicative), He also will deny (“ἀρνήσεται”–future middle indicative) us. In this context of the theology of endurance, Paul looked to the future for saints (Paul used a first person plural, “we deny”). Paul then changed from first person plural (we will deny) to third person singular, “He will deny.” This change from first to third person action indicates that Christ will take future action based upon our future conduct as saints. Namely, our future denial as saints will result in Christ’s future denial of us. The question becomes what does denial mean in this context. We must not forget the context of Paul explaining the theology of endurance while suffering. Consider the theology of sifting faith and denial illustrated by Peter’s famous denials of Christ.

When a saint denies Christ, it does not sever the relationship with Christ. Consider Peter’s denials. Before Peter denied Jesus, Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny Him and provided details. Jesus explained that satan had demanded to sift Peter and the other disciples like wheat. 11Jesus related that satan had demanded to sift “you” (“ὑμᾶς”–notice  plural) as wheat. Jesus let Peter know that He prayed that Peter’s faith would not be eclipsed. 12Jesus prayed specifically for the faith of Peter, and specifically that Peter’s faith would not be eclipsed (“ἐκλίπῃ”). Jesus used the negative (“μὴ”) with the subjunctive verb eclipsed (“ἐκλίπῃ”). The aorist subjunctive here describes a possible permanent condition. In other words, the aorist subjunctive means here that Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be permanently eclipsed, but that it would be only a temporary eclipse, lasting only for the short time of his denials. Jesus also promised that Peter would turn back to faithful service and strengthen the brethren (Luke 22:31-34). 13Jesus prophesied that Peter, having turned again (“ἐπιστρέψας”–aorist active participle singular), should strengthen his bothers, particularly because they had all been sifted like wheat. Jesus never indicated that Peter’s or anyone else’s faith would be lost. Peter’s faith would ultimately withstand the testing of denials. Having been sifted, Peter fell into denial, but then returned to faithful service. Jesus then commanded (changing to plurals) that none of the group of disciples should be troubled over Peter’s denials or their own experience with sifting (John 14:1). 14Jesus used the plural term “your” (“ὑμῶν”) in His command: do not let your hearts be troubled.   Jesus also commanded the group of disciples: Believe in God, believe also in Me. 15Jesus then continued with plurals, “you believe” (“πιστεύετε”). Jesus then explained that He was preparing a home in heaven for all the saved disciples (Judas Iscariot had left the group earlier) and promised they would all be with Him (John 14:1-4). Therefore, the theology of faith sifting relates directly to the theology of denial and endurance. Peter certainly denied Jesus three times, but he returned and his faith did not fail the test ultimately. He returned as a useful slave and strengthened the faith of his brothers who had also been sifted. The future service of Peter as a slave was in view in the prayer of Jesus. Peter’s salvation was never at issue, but eternally secure, despite Peter’s denials of Jesus to escape the pressure of persecution. Future service depends upon turning from denial to faith. The theology of denial means that some people deny Jesus under pressure and so turn away from faith for a time. Their behavior for a time does not reflect their faith, because their fear eclipses their faith during that dark time. When the eclipse recedes, then the saint turns back to faithful behavior and so resumes usefulness to Christ. The faith never leaves, but fear eclipses faith. No saint loses their salvation by denying Christ. Their salvation is temporarily eclipsed by fear, resulting in outward denial of Jesus, but their faith was not lost, but it was eclipsed. Remember the sun never stops shining, but its light is darkened by an eclipse. When the solar eclipse ends, the moon moves out of the way, and the sun’s light continues to reach earth in full measure. So also when fear and denial leave, the Son continues to shine in our lives and we continue our obedient service to Christ, strengthening our brethren who were also sifted. The theology of denial provides guidance for understanding denial in 2 Timothy 2:12.

What does deny mean in 2 Timothy 2:12b? Some people think that Paul was referring to the statement of Jesus that whoever denied Him, He would deny before the Father (Matthew 10:33). In that passage, Jesus was addressing His disciples as He sent them out to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven had come (Matthew 10:7). Throughout that passage, Jesus contrasted (1) people who received the disciples and their message about the kingdom of God with (2) people who rejected the disciples and the kingdom of God. In Matthew 10:32, Jesus stated the first principle: Whoever will confess me before men, I also will confess him before My Father who is in the heavens. 16Jesus described future action, using future verbs: “will confess” (“ὁμολογήσει”–future active indicative, third person singular) and “I will confess” (“ὁμολογήσω”–future active indicative, first person singular). Therefore, Jesus first described the positive outcome of the preaching of the disciples with people confessing Jesus as Messiah for salvation.  In Matthew 10:33, Jesus then discussed the opposite outcome of the disciples’ preaching: But whoever denied Me before men,  I will deny also before My Father Who is in the heavens. 17Jesus used an aorist verb to describe the denial (“ἀρνήσηταί”–aorist middle subjunctive) by people before men, and a future indicative verb for the future denial (“ἀρνήσομαι”–future active indicative) by Jesus before His Father in the heavens. Jesus left some uncertainty concerning whether some people would deny Him, but left no uncertainty with the indicative that He will deny everyone who denied Him on earth. Furthermore, by using the aorist, Jesus was not talking about a short lapse of faithful conduct under pressure, resulting in denial, but total denial for a lifetime. Therefore, both (1) the  the entire context of Matthew 10 and (2) the contrast between people who accept Jesus as Savior and those people who deny Jesus as Savior separates the Matthew 10 denials from the 2 Timothy 2 denials. Matthew 10 contrasts believers and unbelievers, while 2 Timothy deals exclusively with believers. So, in what sense do believers deny Jesus in 2 Timothy 2:12? Looking more closely at the denials of Peter provides great insight into 2 Timothy 2:12.

Peter denied Christ three times and never lost his salvation. He was not useful for strengthening the other disciples until he turned from denial to faith.  Jesus prayed that the faith of Peter may not be eclipsed. Jesus used the term “eclipsed.” 18The term eclipsed (“ἐκλίπῃ”–aorist active subjunctive) does not mean to fail. A brief word study of the term shines some light on its use by Jesus. The root term “eclipsed” occurs in Hebrews 1:12, indicating that the years of God never will be eclipsed, but the earth and heavens will be changed when God rolls them up. The old heavens and earth fled away, and no place was found for them. God will later provide new heavens and a new earth.  In Luke 16:9, Jesus described the wealth of unrighteousness being eclipsed. The wealth of unrighteousness was eclipsed in the sense that death removed access to that unrighteous wealth. Jesus meant that saints should use unrighteous wealth to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then those new saints will receive you into heaven to be there with them. The unrighteous wealth remained, but the steward no longer had access to it.  In Luke 23:45, the light of the sun was eclipsed, meaning the sun was still there and shining, but its light was temporarily obscured. Therefore, Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would not be eclipsed, because Jesus knew that Peter’s faith would not end. Therefore, the denial means that our faith is temporarily eclipsed, in the sense that something obscures it for a time, but the faith remains intact, like the sun during an eclipse. Denial of Christ does not mean an absence of faith, but disobedience to God by giving in to the pressures of persecution. When we give up under persecution, our fears control us so that we do not endure for a time, and deny Christ. During that time of denial, we suffer eclipse of our faith. But that eclipse will pass one way or another and our faith always remains intact. 19In contrast to Peter’s temporary denial under pressure, remember Jesus used the aorist tense used to describe the unbeliever’s total and enduring denial of Jesus in Matthew 10:33.Jesus used the aorist tense to describe the total denial of Jesus for the entire period the unbeliever remained on earth. They never came to saving faith. Saul of Tarsus denied Jesus for years with great intensity, but then God save him and he became Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ. Only when the denial lasts a lifetime, from start to finish, does the aorist tense apply to them and then they face denial by Jesus for eternity. Jesus applied the aorist tense to Peter and his denials, but they were temporary denials, not lifelong denials by an unbeliever. No one who was saved in Matthew 10 turned away and lost salvation. The people who denied Jesus in Matthew 10:33 never had salvation in the first place.  After the denials of Peter, Jesus commissioned Peter to tend His lambs, shepherd His sheep, and tend His sheep. Jesus knew that Peter had brotherly love and agape love for Jesus and tied that love to future service to Jesus and His sheep. Peter had been fully restored to useful service to Jesus after his denials with his threefold confession of love for Jesus.

In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul described the fourth trustworthy statement: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 20Paul wrote: if we are faithless (“ἀπιστοῦμεν”), using a present active indicative verb. Even when we as believers are acting faithless, God abides faithful (“πιστὸς”–adjective). God is not (“οὐ”) able (“δύναται”–present  middle/passive indicative) to deny (“ἀρνήσασθαι”–aorist middle infinitive) Himself. Just as the denial in Matthew 10:33 was total for unbelievers (aorist tense there), so also God is not able to deny (aorist tense) Himself. Therefore, even when saints deny Jesus  and their faith is eclipsed for time, God remains faithful. Saints never lose their salvation, because their salvation always depended upon God’s faithfulness, not man’s works. While saints may deny God, God cannot deny Himself. This passage actually affirms eternal security for all believers, because God cannot deny Himself, even when saints deny Him. God keeps His promises regarding eternal life and never breaks those promises. 

Section Three

Honorable Use

After discussing the trustworthy statements, Paul returned to illustrating proper Christian living. He commanded Timothy to remind the saints of the trustworthy statements and not wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.  Paul charged Timothy to be diligent to present himself as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. Paul then discussed Hymenaeus and Philetus. They were men who went astray from the truth, saying that the resurrection had already taken place, upsetting the faith of some. Because Hymenaeus and Philetus once had the truth, it seems they were saints who went astray into false teaching. Paul then applied basic theology to saints who do not handle the word of God accurately. No matter what misguided saints teach erroneously, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal: (1) the Lord knows those who are His; and (2) everyone who names the Name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.  Hymenaeus and Philetus stand as examples of saints who deny Jesus by contradicting the teaching of the apostles, and so deny Jesus. Even so, the firm foundation of God stands in the lives of Hymenaeus and Philetus, because the Lord knows His own. Everyone, including Hymenaeus and Philetus, must abstain from wickedness and cleanse themselves. They were spreading serious doctrinal error, upsetting the faith of some saints. They did not lose their salvation, but they were denying Christ by their actions. They were not useful to Christ teaching such serious errors.

Paul used the illustration of household vessels to describe what happens when saints deny Christ. Large houses have vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earthenware, some to honor and some to dishonor. Paul then emphasized that saints need to cleanse themselves so that they may be vessels for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Therefore, saints must flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Name of the Lord from a pure heart. Paul continued to describe the qualities of a useful vessel. In short, when saints fall into denying Christ, then they become vessels of wood and earthenware, unfit for honorable use. They remain vessels of God, but they are not sanctified and prepared for every good work. The entire passage does not contrast saints with unbelievers, but saints who are useful for sanctified service and those vessels that have denied Christ and become useless for every good work until they cleanse themselves and correct their doctrinal errors.

Conclusion

Paul taught Timothy about useful service to Christ, particularly about enduring persecution and hardship for the sake of the chosen, so that they also may obtain salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with eternal glory. Paul presented four trustworthy statements and then applied them. Although the faith of saints may be eclipsed for a time, they should remember that God remains faithful and will never break HIs promises to the saints. God always knows who are His and we stand upon the firm foundation of God and His faithfulness. Paul did not contrast unbelievers with believers, but saints who remain faithful with those saints who deny Christ and become useless to Christ, unfit for good works. Unfit saints must turn again to God and cleanse themselves. Only then may they return to being useful vessels for God’s use in His program. The passage affirms eternal security because God remains faithful and He cannot deny Himself, even when saints deny Him by failing to endure, or by doctrinal error or by moral impurity.

HALLELUJAH ! 

Appendix

The New Testament Use of the Term Deny

I have included a summary of the term deny in the New Testament for reference and further study.

Categories of Usage of The Term Deny

Believers Deny Notice the middle voice.

1.1 Deny Impiety.  ἀρνησάμενοι  τὴν ἀσέβειαν (aorist participle) Titus 2:12

1.2 Deny Himself.  μου ἔρχεσθαι ἀρνησάσθω (aorist middle imperative) ἑαυτὸν καὶ Luke 9:23

1.3 Deny Christ Three Times.  ἕως οὗ ἀρνήσῃ (aorist middle subjunctive)–deponent? με τρίς John 13:38

1.4 If We Deny   εἰ ἀρνησόμεθα (future middle indicative) 2 Timothy 2:12

1.5 But He Denied before All  ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) ἔμπροσθεν πάντων Matthew 26:70

1.6  And Again He Denied with an Oath. καὶ πάλιν ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) μετὰ ὅρκου Matthew 26:72

1.7 But He Denied It, Saying. ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) λέγων Mark 14:68

1.8 But He Denied It, Saying.  ὁ δὲ ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) λέγων Luke 22:57

1.9 And Not Did Not Deny and Confessed. καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) καὶ ὡμολόγησεν John 1:20

1.10 Of Him Are, He Denied. αὐτοῦ εἶ ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) ἐκεῖνος John 18:25

1.11 Again Then Peter Denied. πάλιν οὖν ἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) Πέτρος  John 18:27

1.12 Great Having Become, He Refused To Be Called Son. μέγας γενόμενοςἠρνήσατο (aorist middle indicative) λέγεσθαι υἱὸς Hebrews 11:24

1.13 And Not You Denied the Faith.  καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω (aorist middle indicative) τὴν πίστιν Revelation 2:13

1.14 And Not You Denied the Name. καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω (aorist middle indicative) τὸ ὄνομά Revelation 3:8

1.15 The Faith has Denied.  τὴν πίστιν ἤρνηται (perfect middle indicative) 1 Timothy 5:8

1.16 But Again He Denied.  δὲ πάλιν ἠρνεῖτο (imperfect middle/passive indicative) Mark 14:70

 

Christ Denies

2.1 Will Be Denied. ἀπαρνηθήσεται (future passive indicative) με ἐνώπιον Luke 12:9

2.2 Before Men, I will Also Deny.  τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἀρνήσομαι (future middle indicative) κἀγὼ αὐτὸν Matthew 10:33

2.3 Also He Will Deny. κἀκεῖνος ἀρνήσεται(future middle indicative) 2 Timothy 2:12

God Cannot Deny

3.1 God Cannot Deny Himself. πιστὸς μένει ἀρνήσασθαι (aorist middle infinitive) γὰρ ἑαυτὸν 2 Timothy 2:13

 

Unbelievers Deny

4.1 Whoever Denies Me Before.   δ’ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί (aorist middle subjunctive) με ἔμπροσθεν) Matthew 10:33

4.2 Not Were Able To Deny. οὐ δυνάμεθα ἀρνεῖσθαι (present middle/passive infinitive) Acts 4:16

4.3 Master Denying.  δεσπότην ἀρνούμενοι (present participle middle/passive) 2 Peter 2:1

4.4 Jesus Christ Denying. Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἀρνούμενοι (present participles middle/passive) Jude 1:4

4.5 The One Who Denies that Jesus. ὁ ἀρνούμενος ὅτι Ἰησοῦς (present participle middle/passive) 1 John 2:22

4.6 Anti-Christ, the One Who Denies the Father.  ἀντίχριστος ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν πατέρα (present participle middle/passive) 1 John 2:22

4.7 All the Ones Denying the Son. πᾶς ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν υἱὸν(present participle middle/passive) 1 John 2:23 Notice the continuous action of the present participle

4.8 But in Works They Deny. δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται (present middle/passive indicative) Titus 1:16

4.9 The Power of It Denying. δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἠρνημένοι (perfect participle middle/passive) 2 Timothy 3:5

4.10 But All Denying. ἀρνουμένων δὲ πάντων (present middle/passive participle) Luke 8:45 (crowd of people)

4.11 Moses Whom They Denied. Μωυσῆν ὃν ἠρνήσαντο (aorist middle indicative) Acts 7:35

4.12 Delivered and Denied before the Face.  παρεδώκατε καὶ ἠρνήσασθε  (aorist middle indicative) κατὰ πρόσωπον  Acts 3:13

4.13 And Righteous One Denied.  and Righteous One denied καὶ δίκαιον ἠρνήσασθε (aorist middle indicative) Acts 3:14

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