"A Word To The Faithless"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2003 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now if you have a Bible with you I want you to turn with me to 2 Timothy, the second epistle to Timothy - and of course we have finished, a couple of weeks ago, our series in Philippians, and so I just want to bring a one-off message to you this morning on 'A Word to the Faithless from the Faithful'. Second Timothy 2, beginning to read at verse 11: "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".
The word to the faithless from the faithful is found in 2 Timothy chapter 2 and the verse 13, the last verse that we read in these verses from 11 through to 13: 'If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself'. Some other translations have it like this: 'If we are faithless, he remains faithful: for he cannot deny himself '.
Now if you're familiar with Paul's writings, especially to Timothy and Titus, you'll be aware that this saying is one of five faithful sayings which he had given and mentioned. Of course the first is the very famous one which is found in 1 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 15, if you turn over and look at it, 1 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 15: 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom', Paul says, 'I am chief'. That is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptance - and if you're here this morning without the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you need Him as your Saviour, you need to accept Him as your Saviour and Lord.
The second faithful saying is found in chapter 3 of 1 Timothy and verse 1: 'This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop', or an elder, and overseer, 'he desireth a good work'. It is a good thing to desire to be leading the flock of God and to be in a responsible position within the church, and that's another faithful saying of Paul. Then in chapter 4, and a few more verses than one, verses 8 through to 10, Paul says: 'For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe'. It is true that we ought to look after the spiritual life more than the physical life, because there is a Saviour of all who believe.
Then the fourth faithful saying is the one that we read together in verse 13 of chapter 2 of 2 Timothy, and of course we know that. Then the fifth is Titus chapter 3 and verse 8, just turn over to it, Titus 3 and verse 8: 'This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men'. It's not just enough to be a Christian, but we have to maintain, Paul says, good works - and that is a faithful saying.
Now all of these sayings, as well as the one we read together this morning, are all weighty and important sayings. In fact, many scholars believe that they were probably cherished sayings during the infancy of the church, and were often quoted by preachers and teachers, and they had become common and well-known through the church of Jesus Christ. The great C.H. Spurgeon said of these faithful sayings: 'Such golden sayings were minted into proverbs and passed from hand to hand, enriching all who received them'. You know that we have cliches today, even in evangelicalism, but these were more than cliches, they were inspired word of God - but they were well-known among the church of Jesus Christ.
Many believe that it may well have become the case that they were made into hymns, hymns that were sung in the church, what we read of as psalms, hymns and spiritual songs by which the saints edify one another and encourage one another in their faith, building each other up. It is believed that verses 11 to 13 of 2 Timothy chapter 2 were one of these hymns, everyone would have known this off by heart: 'It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him' - what a truth that is! If we have died in Christ, that is if we have put our faith and trust in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, we will rise with Him as He is risen in His resurrection, one day we will rise also. 'If we suffer, we shall also reign with him' - there is reward for suffering with the Lord Jesus Christ. 'If we deny him, he also will deny us' - the Lord Jesus said that when He was on the earth, that if we denied Him before men on this earth, He would deny us before His Father in heaven. I think, to all believers, that is applicable in the sense of reward - that if we do not live for Christ down here we will suffer for it at the judgement seat of Christ.
But here's the one we want to look at this morning: 'If we believe not', or if we are faithless, 'yet he remains', or, 'he abideth faithful: for he cannot deny himself'. What a word that is to us all today! It is a statement of the consistency of God's character. Even when we are weak, even in the face of whatever trials, testings, tribulations we may enter and pass through and feel that we'll never come out the end of them, we can know one thing at least out of the many things that we do not know: God is faithful, and He cannot deny Himself. It's interesting that this promise is even given in the context of faithfulness, Paul exhorting faithfulness to the believers: 'If you suffer, if you do not deny him...' - and it seems strange, almost contradictory, that he should say at the end of this hymn: 'But if we...', just on the off-chance that we are not faithful to Christ, and even faithless in our unbelief, He will remain faithful to us.
What a terrible thing it would be in eternity to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, the bema, and as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 3 and verse 15, to have that experience of our works being burnt up, suffering loss - yet Paul could say, even on that occasion, if you're truly rooted and grounded in Christ and saved, he himself shall be saved even so as by fire.
What I want to do for you today is bring a word to the faithless from the Faithful One. Wherever you find yourself today, maybe you think that you're in a state of faithlessness and unbelief, and you've denied the Lord or you've let the Lord down, or you're turning your back on the Lord, or you're doubting the Lord's goodness in your life - well, here is a word to the faithless from the Faithful.
Let's deal first of all with the word to the faithless. In the beginning of verse 13: 'If we believe not', the Greek word 'believe not' is in the negative form, it's the same word that is translated later on as 'faithful' - and that's why many revised translations have translated it: 'If we are faithless, he remains faithful'. However on other occasions in the New Testament the word has been translated 'believe not', in Acts 28 and verse 24 we read this: 'And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not', it's the same negative form of the verb 'faith'. In Luke 24, the two on the road to Emmaus, downcast, believing that Christ had died, the promise of the kingdom had gone and their dreams were shattered, it says that Christ drew beside them and said unto them: 'O fools, and slow of heart to believe', there's the word, to believe, to have faith in, 'all that the prophets have spoken'.
Now what we must remember at all times when reading the epistles of Paul to the churches, is that he is writing to believers - he is writing to believers! By him saying: 'If we are faithless, if we are unbelieving', he must be inferring that it is possible to be an unbelieving believer. Now that might seem a contradiction in terms, maybe even to your mind an impossibility, but I think perhaps what he's getting at is that you may be someone who has believed in Christ to the saving of your soul, but that is where your believing has stopped - you haven't gone further to believe Him for your life. Now can I ask us, just at this stage, before we go on any further: do we really believe God? Do we believe in Him? Now let's test that for a moment, because all you have to do is open some passages, very famous well-known quoted texts of Scripture, just like these texts were very well-known, and take them at random and ask yourselves: 'Well, do you really believe that?'.
What about Acts 20:35? 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'. We all love receiving, don't we? From the smallest child to the oldest adult, but do we believe that it is more blessed to give than to receive? What about John 10 verses 28 to 29: 'I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand'? Could it be that there's someone here today and you're having trouble with the assurance of your salvation? One day you feel saved, the next you don't feel saved - well, God is asking you to believe His word, and if you've trusted in Christ at Calvary, you've repented of your sins, you've turned to Him in faith and acknowledged Him as Lord, He asks you to believe that no one or no thing or nobody can pluck you out of His hand - but you will never ever perish! What a promise to believe! What about some of you who are lonely? Some of you who have been widowed, some who have been divorced, those who have been deserted? Matthew 28 verse 20 says: 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age'. Do we believe that? I mean, do we really believe it?
Do we, like David Livingstone, the great pioneer missionary to Africa, take those promises to be the word of a gentleman, that God's word is true and we can trust it? What about this one: Matthew 6:33 - 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you'? Now just pause for a moment: do you really believe that? The things that you worry about, and we all worry about in life, the necessary things, mundane temporary things of everyday existence, do we really believe that if we put God first in our lives and follow His precepts, principles and promises, that all these things will be added unto us?
Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying: I'm not saying it isn't difficult at times to believe God - thank the Lord that He remembers we are dust, and we are frail, and at times we are overtaken and arrested with doubts and fears and anxieties. Although in our circumstances it can be difficult to see how we can believe such, at times, outlandish promises - one author says that when we say it is difficult to believe God's promises, it reminds him of a man who went to consult Dr Torrey about a spiritual difficulty. He said: 'You know, Doctor, I can't believe', and expecting him to reply: 'What can't you believe?', he was astounded when instead Dr Torrey, looking with piercing eyes into his, came with the quick and revealing answer of: 'Whom can't you believe?'. Not 'What can't you believe?', or 'Why can't you believe?', but 'Whom can't you believe?'. The word of a gentleman!
Really and truly, at times we must face this, it is not the saying but the speaker that we don't believe. Is it difficult to believe Him? At times it is difficult, but is it impossible to believe in Him? It cannot be impossible when we consider, even in our faithlessness, and whatever unbelieving state we may be in at this moment: He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself! Even if we are one of these unbelieving believers, we can come to God - He allows, even in His grace, the possibility of coming and saying: 'Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief'.
Let's just ponder a moment, if we are faithless, what this means. Imagine if the church of Jesus Christ becomes faithless - many would say it is: it has denied the miracles, it has denied the word of God, denied the supernatural, and actually started to pervert the word of God and interpret it into their own everyday circumstances and contemporary situations. But what happens in a day, and perhaps it's a day that we are living in, when the church has apostatised to such an extent that we wonder is the true and living God still among His people. All we have to do for a moment to the ask the question: 'Has God left us?', even when we are a faithless church, is to go back to the Old Testament for the type of the Israelites, God's ancient people. They're delivered from Egypt, you remember the exodus story, and there they are going through the wilderness - God has delivered them with a high hand and an outstretched arm, and they're being fed in the wilderness with none other than angel's food, manna, God's bread from heaven; they're made to drink of the water of the rock that followed them, Christ Jesus - but day after day after day they are continually doubting God! What happened? Did God depart from His purpose in giving the land that flowed with milk and honey to the seed of Abraham, did He decide 'Well, I'll not give it to them any more, I'll give it to the Arabs'? Did He break up the covenant, did He grow weary of the people? The answer is: He didn't! When they were faithless, He remained faithful - and Abraham's seed inherited the land, and they dwelt therein every man under his own vine and fig tree. Though the visible people of God rejected Him completely on every occasion, it would seem, and often because of their unbelief generations died in the wilderness; yet God remained faithful to His promises - why? Because He could not deny Himself.
I hope you see this: that there are times individually and collectively that we lose our zeal for holiness and for prayer, and for faith and for good works, and all the rest of it - but does God reverse His grace? Does God let us go? Does God turn His back on us? Of course we can become disqualified, there's no doubt about that - but isn't it wonderful that even when we find ourselves in the direst unbelief as a child of God, that this is a God that cannot deny us the way we would deny Him? Maybe there's a child of God here and you don't pray any longer, you don't meet with the prayer meeting to pray; or maybe there's a preacher here and you've lost faith in preaching, you think that God has lost His cause. When we think that God has lost His cause, and He isn't blessing the preaching of the gospel any longer, does God give up on His method that He's ordained of the foolishness of preaching? If we live in the day of small things, and we almost could think 'will there be faith when the Son of Man comes upon the earth again?' - maybe we should even live to see, as Jim will be speaking of tomorrow night, if it's not already here, a church that has become so degenerate that any light or presence of God has departed so that Christ has spewed us out of His mouth - will God say as of Shiloh of old: 'Go now to Shiloh where my place was at first, and see if there be one stone left upon another that is not cast down'? Even if that happens in the West, and even if it happens in this church, God will remain faithful.
Listen to what the great C. H. Spurgeon said: 'Even in a church where His judgement is incurred, His faithfulness is seen. All history of the church has shown that He will be faithful. Whatever His church may be, He will help her when she turns to Him, He will bless her when she trusts Him, He will crown her when she exalts Him, but He will bring her low and chasten her when she turns in any measure aside from the simplicity of her faith'. What is it saying? That even when we deny Him, He cannot deny His promises. He may deny us at the judgement seat, but He cannot deny Himself. Friends, that's wonderful, for that is a word to the faithless from the Faithful. Do you not feel the sheer joy of it? Wherever you may be in your own spiritual condition, God abideth faithful - this is an unswerving friend.
Now let me leave you with a few ways in which He is faithful. Here's the first: He will always remain faithful, true to His word. He will always remain true to His word. Hebrews 10 and verse 23 says: 'He is faithful that promised'. In Isaiah 31 verse 2, that famous passage about His word not coming back to Him void, it says: 'He will not call back His words'. When He has spoken, He doesn't change His mind; He doesn't say 'I take that back, I'm not going to do it, I'm not going to honour it', but He abideth faithful. Now here's why He is always true to His word: because He is His word! There's a little verse in the Old Testament that says: 'He has set His word above His name'. Of course, it's hard to understand how He could set His word above His name, but when we go into John chapter 1 and verse 1, we read that 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God', speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ - the communication of God to us is the Lord Jesus, He, the one that this verse is speaking about, the Lord Jesus is God's word, so He cannot deny Him!
'The grass withereth, and the flower thereof faileth, but the word of the Lord endureth forever; and this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you' - He cannot deny His word, since that word is Himself. Now there are some implications from that: that means that He can't withdraw His salvation which He has given to men. He can't take your salvation away, He can't call back His word that went forth to save you and did that regenerative act - it is an absolute impossibility in time or in eternity. If you're here this morning and you're not converted, and you've never trusted Christ, if you were to take Him at His word now, He will save you now and forever! He cannot deny Himself - why? Because His salvation is Himself! Do you remember the angel came to His virgin mother, and said: 'He shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins'? Jesus means 'He will save His people'; Jesus means 'Jehovah's salvation' - His salvation, and He cannot deny Himself. That means the atonement, when He died on the cross and shed His blood for your sin and mine, it will always remain the same because it is Himself. Hebrews says: 'He has by Himself purged our sins'. He Himself is the sacrifice, that's why we can still sing today as the early apostles did in spirit: 'Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power', because He cannot deny Himself - and, praise God, He is alive today, He ever lives, and He ever lives and is able to save all to the uttermost who come unto God by Him seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. Blessed be His name: the atoning sacrifice, even in its smallest degree, has never once lost its efficacy - and it's just as mighty today as it was to wash the dying thief at the side of Christ.
He is true to His word in the gospel, in the atonement, in His intercession, and also in the mercy seat, the place of prayer. Isn't it wonderful to know that God cannot deny Himself in the place of prayer? If that were altered, the mercy seat, where we come to God and bring our needs, if it were altered to such an extent that He became unfaithful and He didn't answer prayers, and He didn't give us our needs - not everything the way we want it, but He didn't give us what we needed - He would have denied Himself, and He cannot deny Himself. Now why is that the case? Because what is the mercy seat only a type of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and what He is doing for us now at this present moment in glory at the right hand of God? It is He Himself, He is our propitiation, He is the true mercy seat; and if prayer, for one split second, begins to lose its efficacy He has denied Himself!
Jehovah will never become like Baal, a deaf god that cannot answer - and to imagine such a thing would be utter blasphemy. He is true to His word in salvation, in prayer, and in all these blessings we've spoken of - but secondly He is true to His people, He is true to His people. His people are exhorted in scripture to commit the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator - that means one who will never ever let His creatures down. Here's another sweet thought: if Christ is true to His people, Christ's love to His church will always be the same, and His purposes towards His church cannot change, because He cannot deny Himself, because His church is Himself!
Are we not indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the living God? I know we're the bride of Christ, and one day we will be totally purged of all our sin and presented as a perfect chaste bride to Christ, and the marriage supper will take place - but you know as well in the New Testament that the doctrine of marriage is that the two become one, and in that sense we are one in Him as His bride. He is in us by His Spirit, so to deny us would be to deny Himself, and He cannot! Nor will any of His offices towards His church and people ever fail - He is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, and that means that when you come to Him, praying according to His will, He will never refuse any prayers that you offer, any praises that you bring via the Spirit because He cannot deny Him.
One has said: 'The King will never cease to reign, or doff His crown, or lay down His sceptre, for He cannot deny Himself. The Shepherd will never fail to keep the flock, the Friend will eternally stick closer than a brother, the Divine Husband will still love His spouse - all that He is in relation to His people shall continue and abide, for He abideth faithful' - isn't that wonderful? He is true to His word, He is true to His people, and thirdly He is true to Himself. Verse 12 is a very frightening verse: 'If we deny Him, He will also deny us', but if, verse 13, 'we are faithless, he abides faithful: for He cannot deny Himself'. Every divine and human quality, remember we're talking about the Lord Jesus Christ here, the incarnate God; every quality from God and from man in Him is always held in perfect poise and balance. No part of His being contradicts or contravenes another part of His personality. Whatever He was in the past, He is now, and He always ever shall be; when He was on the earth, when He is in heaven, when He comes back for us again - what this verse is telling us is: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever! He cannot deny Himself.
There are three things that God cannot do: He cannot die; He cannot lie; and He cannot be deceived. Often people say, smart-alecs: 'Well, if God can't do things that means God's not almighty, and He can't be God'. But the impossibilities with these things are not from our perspective, because impossibility from our perspective means a lack of power and ability, but these impossibilities of God - to die, to lie, to be deceived - show a greater display of God's majesty and power and greatness, and Almighty ability, it shows His lack of weakness! Isn't it amazing that the achievements that we can throw in the face of God that we can do and He can't are a sign of our own weakness? Well, here is another: He cannot deny Himself, it's an impossibility. Some of the oldest manuscripts translate this phrase: 'For He cannot', it is an impossibility that He should deny Himself. He may deny us if we deny Him, verse 12, but grab hold of this: He cannot deny Himself!
What I want to leave with you today is: here is One on whom we may depend; here is One on whom we can put all our trust however undependable we ourselves may be. That's not to cement us in our faithlessness - it would be better if we were faithful, and He were in turn faithful to us and not deny Himself. We would be in so many more blessings - but even when we're at the end of our tether, and we're faithless and exhausted of all belief, He will not fail us. If, from the sheer physical weakness that you're undergoing, or will undergo in a day that is yet to be; if, from the extreme pressure of circumstances, or from the insidious oncoming of doubt, or from any other cause, you find faith faltering or failing, can I exhort you to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ away from yourself, and cling on this: that He is not faltering, He is not altering, for He cannot! He abideth faithful - what a friend!
Can I exhort you, as we close, just to think of this: don't put faith in your faith, for there may come a day when you will become faithless. Don't put your faith in your feelings, because there will come days when your feelings will not be there, they will change, they will fail - but put your faith in Christ, because He never changes, He never fails, He abideth ever, He cannot deny Himself, and He is faithful. J. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, said, who had gone through many hardships and difficulties: 'It is not by trying to be faithful, but in looking to the faithful one, that we win the victory'. It is not by trying to be faithful, but in looking to the faithful one, that we win the victory.
God revealed Himself to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7: 'Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face'. If you're faithful, if you're faithless, nothing - one or the other - changes God: He remains the same always.
Can you grab hold of this this morning, wherever you find yourself? Maybe this has been very elementary to you, very simple - well I'll tell you this: it's very necessary to venture your whole dependence upon God alone. In Christianity Today, Philip Yancey, the author wrote these words, and I want you to listen very carefully: 'I remember my first visit to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. Rings of Japanese and German tourists surrounded the geyser, their video cameras trained like weapons on the famous hole in the ground. A large digital clock stood beside the spot predicting 24 minutes until the next eruption. My wife and I passed the countdown in the dining-room of the Old Faithful Inn overlooking the geyser. When the digital clock reached one minute we, along with every other diner, left our seats and rushed to the window to see the big wet event. But I noticed that immediately, as if on signal, a crew of waiters descended on the tables to refill water glasses and clear away dirty dishes. When the geyser went off we tourists 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' and clicked our cameras, a few spontaneously applauded - but glancing back over my shoulder I saw that not a single waiter, not even those who had finished their chores looked out the huge window'. This is what he said: 'Old Faithful, grown entirely too familiar, had lost its power to impress them'.
God's faithfulness deserves our entire praise and wonder, but do not lose the fact through familiarity that God is faithful, and if we are faithless He will remain faithful: for He cannot deny Himself.
Oh, our Father, we pray that Thou wilt forgive us for at times denying Thee, at times doubting Thee; for O, Father, we thank Thee that though we are faithless, You always remain faithful, and You will never deny Thyself, You will never deny Thy word, or Thy people, or Thy promises. We thank Thee that the Lord Jesus is our Saviour, and all may change, but Jesus never - glory to His name. And it is on that unchanging Rock we seek to stand this morning, whatever the storms may be, for we ask these things in His precious eternal and everlasting name, Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "A Word To The Faithless" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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