I believe one cannot lose his or her salvation, but 2 Timothy 2:12-13 seems to say one can. It says if we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. Can we lose our salvation?
Can I lose my salvation? That is the question many people ask. They worry that they can lose their salvation because they read a verse that seems to say that is a possibility. One of those passages is 2 Timothy 2:11-13. What follows explains the meaning of this very important passage.
2 Timothy 2:12-13
It is believed that 2 Timothy 2:11-13 is an early Christian hymn. The hymn follows the typical form of Hebrew poetry. It has four “if” statements. The first two are positive and the last two are negative. Here is the hymn,
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 (NASB)
Some believe these four statements form a creed.
Can I lose My Salvation?
But what is the meaning of these four lines? First, the “if” in each verse is a first class “if” in the Greek language. This means the statement is assumed to be true.
First Line — “For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.”
The first class “if” in the first line means that anyone who believes in Christ has died with Him. That is, when a person truly believes in Christ, their old self dies. Romans 6:4-8 says when a person believes, their old self dies. At the moment of saving faith, a believer is regenerated and transformed. When that happens, our old self dies and we are given spiritual life or new life. Consequently, we will live with Christ forever. That is the meaning of the first line.
Second Line — “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.”
The second line says that true believers will endure. The Greek word for “endure” literally means to “remain under.” That is, true believers will continue in the faith even in difficult times. Throughout the New Testament, we are told that true believers will endure or persevere. One proof that a person is not a true believer is that they abandon Christ. That is the message of the Parable of the Sower of the Seed. 1 John 2:19 summarizes the message.
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. 1 John 2:19 (NASB)
Consequently, those who truly have saving faith and continue in the faith are true believers. It is these individuals who will reign with Christ during the millennial kingdom.
Third Line — “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.”
The third line says that if a person denies Christ, then He will deny them. This is not referring to a temporary denial of Christ. For even the apostle Peter denied Jesus three times, He denied Jesus temporarily. His denial was not serious or an ultimate one. Again, 1 John 2:19 reminds us that those who deny Him never had saving faith. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 tells us that that there are two types of faith. One is saving faith and the other is vain or empty faith.Vain faith does not last or continue. Vain faith will not save a person from hell.
Fourth Line — “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
The fourth line says that if a believer is faithless, Christ will remain faithful. The apostle Peter is an example of a believer who was temporarily faithless. 2 John 9 is a good summary of a faithless person. A faithless person “goes too far” and stops abiding in the teaching!
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 2 John 9 (NASB)
This is the person who has vain or empty faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
But if the person, has real saving faith, that person will never “go too far.” They will never finally abandon the teaching of Christ.
1 John 2:1 states that Christ, Himself, will defend believers against accusations of sin.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1 (NASB)
That is the meaning of the last part of line four.
This wonderful statement would have been an encouragement and a warning to the early Christians who were suffering persecution. We can imagine that some real believers might have temporarily lapsed in their commitment to Christ under Roman persecution. This statement should have motivated believers to endure persecution and to be faithful. True believers will succeed. They will do that, and Christ will ensure that they will. Philippians 2:12-13 summarizes this point,
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB)
Believers strive to endure and God ensures that they endure.
1. Ralph Earle. 2 Timothy. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Regency Reference Library. 1978. p. 401.
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