Faith and Creed (Two views on Enduring Faith) – Part 2

In the prior post we took a look at the literary context and form of the creed found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13 evaluating Charles Stanley claim that this passage strongly supports the idea that enduring faith is not necessary for salvation.

Since the creed is considered older than the letter to Timothy I thought it would be interesting to see if the ideas in these statements were expressed in Jesus’ teachings.

If we died with him, we will also live with him.

This passage is primarily understood as referring to our being raised with Christ to new life because of our identification with Christ by faith. This draws from the same ideas expressed in Romans 6, particularly 6:5 and 6:8. These ideas are also found in Col 2:12-13.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Paul, continues to explain that because we are identifying ourselves with Christ’s death we should live for Him (Rom 6:11-14; Col 2:20;3:1-6).

The idea of dying and giving up our worldly desires, kingdoms, and even life so that we might live as a disciple was expressed by Jesus (Matt 10:38-39; 16:24-25).

If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake (dies for him) will find it (live for him).

If this teaching of Jesus is what the creed is trying to capture then those who identify with him (and find life) are contrasted with those who do not. This would give support to the third line of the creed referring to those who deny Christ as losing or being denied eternal life.

If we endure, we will also reign with him.

It can be difficult to understand what is meant by “reign with him”. Is this referring to our inheriting the kingdom and receiving eternal life or is this Christ rewarding His followers?That is a difficult interpretive question.

The idea of reigning may capture the general concept that we are co-regents with either Adam and death or Jesus and life as expressed in Romans 5:17:

For if, by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!

The idea of examining our faith and remaining firm in our faith is something Paul and James encourage often (Col 1:23; 1 Cor 15:1-2; 2 Cor 13:5; James 1:12) and echoes Jesus’ own teaching on facing hardship with enduring faith (Matt 10:21-22; 13:20-21;24:13).

And you will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

If we deny him, he will also deny us.

When we deny Jesus, what is it that He will deny us? Is it the denial of receiving rewards, and the recognition and approval of a life well lived? Or is Jesus denying that we are identified with Him? The creed does not tell us.

Regarding denial, Jesus taught the following (Matt 10:32-33):

Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.

And a similar passage is found in Luke 9:26:

For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Further, what is denied is not the giving of rewards but the person. I will deny him. This seems to allude to Jesus rejecting entrance to the kingdom during the judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46.

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.

This line is understood to mean that God is faithful and cannot fail to keep His promises. However, we are not told what promise is meant or in what way God is faithful. Is God faithful to the promise made in John 3:16-17 or 3:36 to be understand as His bestowing eternal life to anyone who expresses an act of faith regardless of whether one denies Him afterwards? Or is God faithful in denying those who do not demonstrate saving, enduring faith from entering the kingdom just as He said He would?

Pulling it together

The apostle’s meaning is evident. Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy. Christ will remain faithful.

Despite Charles Stanley’s assertion the meaning of this creed is anything but evident. This creed is not explicit in telling us what we are denied should we deny Christ. Nor is the way in which God is going to be faithful to Himself specified.Therefore, this creed is open to different interpretations. Interpretations that teach very different ideas on enduring faith. If this creed, with its lack of clarity, is supposed to be one of the strongest passages telling us that we do not need to possess enduring faith (as Stanley claims), then I can’t understand why others find this view very compelling.

[all passages from the NET Bible]

2 thoughts on “Faith and Creed (Two views on Enduring Faith) – Part 2

  1. Good articles. This a good example of the principle that we should interpret obscure passages in the light of clear passages. I my experience with “free grace” [read cheap grace] people, I have found they tend to simply ignore all the verses that don’t suit their scheme of things. There are two sides to this tension. Perseverance in faith is necessary, and perseverance in faith is certain for the genuine believer. A faith that does not endure isn’t true faith.

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