By Andrew Lee
2 Timothy ii, 12.
"--If we deny him, he also will deny us."
This is predicated of Christ; and looks forward to the day when all mankind will stand before him as their judge.
Denying Christ is here declared to be a mortal sin. Those found guilty of it will hear that sentence--"Depart ye cursed!" But this is to be understood only of a persevering denial of him. Those who turn by a timely repentance, will find mercy. This is true of every sin. But repentance may be too late. It must antecede death, or it will be of no avail. The day of grace terminates with life. From that period man ceases to be a probationer, and his state is unalterably fixed.
When the offers of pardon and peace are sent abroad, some will not hear. Who will receive, and who reject the grace of life, is to us unknown. Our expectations are often disappointed. Some come to Christ of whom we had little hope; others cannot be persuaded, of whom our hopes were strong. We have only to "preach Christ; warning every man, and teaching every man," and must leave the event.
Some live where the sound of gospel grace is not heard. "We" are made to differ from them. "To us is the word of this salvation sent." But this doth not secure salvation to us. We must hear and obey. "If we neglect so great salvation, we shall not escape."
Among the indispensable requirements of the gospel, is that of confessing Christ, Himself hath determined it. "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven." *
* Matthew x. 32.
Whether the apostle had this declaration of our Savior's in his eye; or it was revealed to him by the holy Spirit, we are not informed; but his language in the text is express to the same purpose--'If we deny him, he also will deny us'.
These declarations have a particular reference to the duty of appearing openly to be Christ's disciples; especially in times of persecution, when Christian's are exposed to sufferings and death for his sake. Even in such times, confessing Christ is a condition of being confessed by him. If we think this a hard requirement, and refuse compliance, we shall have no part in him.
What are we then to understand 'by confessing and denying Christ'.
Considering one of these may suffice. The text regards the latter. To this we will therefore turn our attention.
Christ 'may be denied in words; or in works; or by a perversion of the gospel, causing it to become another gospel'. We will treat of each briefly.
I. Christ may be denied in words.
As "with the mouth confession is made to salvation," so with the mouth we may "deny the Lord who bought us." This is done by those who deny that Jesus is the Christ; Thus he was denied by the Jews, among whom he was born, and passed the days of his earthly residence.
That people had many peculiar advantages for knowing Christ, and many special evidences of his truth. "To them were committed the oracles of God." They had the prophets who testified of Christ. To them did he appeal, and by them call on the Jews to try his claims to the Messiasship--"Search the scriptures; they are they which testify of me." That people also witnessed his miracles, "which were such as no man could do except God were with him." They witnessed the wonders which attended his birth--those which attended, and followed his death--many of that nation, who had seen his crucifixion, and the soldier's spear pierce his heart while he hung on the cross, saw him alive after his passion; and a sufficient number, mostly, if not wholly Jews, witnessed his ascension. Yet as a people they rejected him, and continued in unbelief! Not only denied him before Pilate, but notwithstanding the teaching and miracles of the apostles, persevered in their denial of him, and perished in it! This was foretold. Christ warned them of the event of their infidelity--"If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall perish in your sins." But they would not hear.
By the Gentiles the gospel was more kindly received. Though devoid of that knowledge of God and true religion which might have prepared them for the reception of it, when they witnessed the mighty works, wrought by those who preached it, they believed. Miracles are appeals to the senses of mankind. And when those who had worshipped dumb idols, beheld the wonders wrought by the ministers of Christ, they perceived that they were sent of God, and became obedient to the faith. Then did "many come from the east and west, and set down in the kingdom of God; while the children of the kingdom were call out." Christianity spread abroad. "The heathen were given to the Son for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." For several ages, most who were educated in Christian lands, and blessed with revelation, professed to believe the gospel. But in later ages there hath been a falling away, agreeably to the predictions which went before, and many deny the truth of the gospel, and reject it as fabulous.
II. Christ may be denied in works. He is so by some who in words confess him.
Those who enroll themselves among Christ's disciples, thereby engage to be his followers. This is enjoined and made a term of acceptance. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me--whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
To follow Christ is to cultivate his temper, and tread in his steps. "Christ was meek and lowly in heart." He did God's commandments. It was "his meat to do the will of him that sent him." Those who are his disciples have learnt of him. The same mind is in them, which is in him. When this divine temper is wrought into the soul, it appears in the life. Those who have his spirit, walk as he walked.
Some call themselves Christians, who do not follow Christ. But he doth not acknowledge them to be his. He ranks them among those who deny him, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and done: the things which I say? Then are ye my friends, when ye do all things, whatsoever I have commanded you."
Christ's name is blasphemed, when those who call themselves after him live in allowed wickedness. Sore are the wounds which he hath received in the house of his friends. No other have been so deep and deadly.
But those who while they call themselves Christ's friends, live like the wicked world, discover their hypocrisy--that they are not of Christ's flock--"His flock hear his voice and follow him." Others may creep in unawares, but they are not of his fold. The apostle speaks of these false professors in his epistle to Titus. * "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good works reprobate." +
* Titus i. 16. + Titus i. 16.
Others deny Christ by refusing to confess him: "For the refusal is in works to deny him."
Under the former dispensation certain duties were enjoined as tokens of subjection to the divine Sovereign. To neglect them, was considered as breaking the covenant of God. "And God said to Abram, thou shalt keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee. This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you, and thy seed after thee: Every man child among you shall be circumcised. The uncircumcised man child shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." ++ An attendance on the passover was enjoined under the same penalty. The person who should neglect it, was ordered to be cut off from Israel. Every rite and ceremony enjoined in the law was obligatory. To neglect them was to set up the standard of rebellion against God--deny his sovereignty--his right to give law. Those who persevered in neglect, after warnings, were no more to be considered as his people.
++ Genesis xvii. 9-14.
Under the gospel dispensation, duties of like import are enjoined, and under the same penalty. The tokens of belonging to Christ are commanded. To neglect them is to reject the Savior, and forfeit the benefits of an interest in him. Among these an open profession of faith in Christ, is one of the chief. So it was considered by the apostles, and primitive Christians. They dared not neglect it when it cost every worldly comfort, and even life. Neither was it a groundless fear which excited them to so costly a duty. Their Lord, had expressly declared, that "whoever should be ashamed of him, before an evil and adulterous generation, he would be ashamed of them before his Father, and before his angels."
If we attend to our context we shall see that the apostle has here a special reference to denying Christ in this way--"Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead, according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying, for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we differ, 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 apostle persevered though he suffered the loss of all things, and incurred every indignity and sorrow; and even when he foresaw the loss of life, in consequence of adhering to the Christian cause and continuing to preach the gospel. When some who were concerned for him, would have dissuaded him from adventuring among the enemies of Christianity, especially as his dangers and sufferings among them, were foretold by a prophet, he refused their counsel and adhered to his purpose, though tenderly affected with their concern for him. "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus," and when his last conflict approached, apprized of what was before him, he advanced without dismay--"I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand."
St. Paul might have avoided all the evils which he endured because he belonged to Christ, by only practically denying him: But he dared not deny him. He knew the consequences which would follow the part he acted. "If we suffer we shall also reign with him; 'if we deny him, he also will deny us'. Having respect to the recompence of reward," he pressed on, exulting in the prospect before him--"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day."
If to neglect professing Christ, when it exposed to such sufferings was considered as denying him, and incurred the forfeiture of an interest in him, will it now be dispensed with? No, when it exposeth to no suffering, or loss? When it both became the most cheap and easy of all duties?
Are the terms of acceptance with God in Christ changed? Are they not the same as formerly? Doubtless they are essentially the same. "There is no respect of persons with God." If to neglect the badges of discipleship was formerly to deny Christ, it is still to deny him. 'If we deny him, he also will deny us'.
III. Christ may be denied by a perversion of the gospel, causing it to become another gospel.
Some of this description were found in the primitive church. Such were those who made Christ the minister of sin--who considered the design of his coming, not to be "to destroy the works of the devil," but to render it safe to live in sin and indulge depravity. Such were those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; and the doctrine of Balaam, which were probably nearly akin, giving countenance to uncleanliness. Such were also those pretendedly enlightened persons, who claimed knowledge in divine things, superior to that of the apostles, and taught that chastity, and temperance, and sundry other duties enjoined of God, were not obligatory on believers. These are described by St. Peter and Jude, as enemies of Christ.
In later ages the gospel hath not been less corrupted, by some, who have called themselves Christians. It hath become in their hands, another gospel.
It maybe difficult precisely to determine, all who in this way deny Christ: But when the manifest tendency of any scheme, called Christian, is to lead to sin, render secure in sin, or build the hope of salvation on any other foundation than the mercy of God, and merits of the Redeemer, it must lead to a practical denial of Christ. To the sacred standard should every system be referred. Those which deviate essentially there from, lead to a denial of Christ; and will produce a denial by him before his Father in heaven.
If we do not mistake the Scriptures, those who deny Christ are without hope; and those who reject and those who neglect the gospel, or refuse to confess the Savior, are to be reckoned among them.
Some are otherwise minded. "If a person only acts sincerely, no matter what his religious principles, (say some) or whether he hath religious principles; he will find mercy with God and be accepted of him;" an opinion which is spreading in this liberal age!
We would gladly adopt it, and receive to the arms of charity all who appear to act honestly, could we see reason for it. But, in our apprehension, the word of truth condemns those who deny Christ, and declares that they will be denied by him before his heavenly Father. We read of damnable heresies--of those who are given up to strong delusions that they should believe a lie that they might be damned. --And find an express declaration, cutting off unbelievers from all hope.--"He that believeth not shall be damned."
Whatever God may do with those who have not the gospel, those to whom it is sent must believe, receive and obey it, or perish in their sins. This is so plainly and expressly declared in the word of truth, that we wonder doubts should arise in the minds of those who believe it.
Nor is it less strange, that confessing Christ should be thought a matter of indifference. Scripture is equally express respecting this matter, as the other. We have seen that under the former dispensation, God's covenant and the tokens of it were commanded, under penalty of excision from his people--That in the apostolic age, Christ was to be confessed, under penalty of being denied by him in the presence of God. These are not matters of doubt.
They are stoney ground hearers who "are offended when persecution ariseth because of the word." These bring no fruit to perfection.
If the terms of acceptance with Christ are the same now as formerly: If they are not lowered down from their original, a denial of him, either verbal or practical, will shut men out of his kingdom.
It becomes those who have a hope toward God while such their state, to consider these things. "It is a faithful saying--If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him; 'If we deny him, he also will deny us'."