The transition from a consideration of the needed personal qualifications for the work to which Timothy was called to the motives which would sustain him is in the highest degree significant. In one word, the Apostle sets Timothy down in the presence of the Lord - "Remember Jesus Christ raised from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel" (I believe this to be a more accurate translation). The difference is important; for, taking them as they stand in the original, it is at once perceived that "Jesus Christ raised from the dead" is the prominent thought, and also more especially connected with the words, "according to my gospel." For it was indeed the gospel of the glory of Christ, "who is the image of God," that was committed to Paul (2 Cor. 3: 4), the gospel that proclaimed that Jesus Christ, the Christ who had been here and was crucified, had been raised from the dead and glorified as man at the right hand of God, having the glory of God displayed in His face. The expression, "of the seed of David," tells us that Christ was true man, and what He was on earth in His presentation to the Jews.
In the epistle to the Romans the same two things, if not in the same order, are linked together. Giving them as they really stand, we read, "The gospel of God, . . . concerning His Son, . . . which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead," "Jesus Christ our Lord." Chap. 1: 1-4.
As to the force of the combination of these two aspects in Timothy - Jesus Christ raised from the dead, and His being of the seed of David - we may give the language of another: "The truth of the gospel (dogma is not the subject here) was divided into two parts. . . . the fulfilment of the promises, and the power of God in resurrection. These, in fact, are, as it were, the two pivots of the truth - God faithful to His promises (shown especially in connection with the Jews), and God mighty to produce an entirely new thing by His creative and quickening power as manifested in the resurrection, which also put the seal of God upon the Person and work of Christ." It was Jesus Christ, therefore, in all this wideembracing character, as born into this world of the seed of David, but as having been raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, that Timothy was to remember to have ever before his soul, as containing the whole truth of his message, and as supplying him with an all-powerful motive for fidelity and endurance in his work.
This was, as we have seen, Paul's gospel; and now we learn once again (see chap. 1: 8-12) that its proclamation entailed persecution. He thus continues: "Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evildoer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound." v. 9. This was true at the moment of the Apostle's writing, and we have only to read the record of his activity in The Acts to discover, as indeed was testified to him by the Holy Ghost, that bonds and afflictions awaited him in every city. Bearing the precious message of the gospel, the ministry of reconciliation, and, as an ambassador for Christ, as though God did beseech by him, entreating men everywhere to be reconciled to God, not only was his message constantly refused, but he himself was looked upon as a disturber of the world's peace, and, finally, was shut up in prison as a malefactor! So completely, however, did the Apostle lose sight of himself in his concern for the interests of God in the gospel, that he found his consolation in the recollection that, if he were in captivity, the word of God could not be confined. A like contrast is often found in The Acts. In chapter 12 Herod puts James the brother of John to death, and "proceeded further to take Peter also." But this very activity of the enemy brought in the interposition of God. Peter is delivered from his captivity, Herod is smitten, and then the significant statement is added, "But the word of God grew and multiplied." v. 24. In such ways, when the enemy deals proudly, God steps in and shows that He is above him.
Paul has even a deeper consolation: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." v. 10. It has often been remarked that the Lord Himself might have used these words, and hence only one in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord's own heart as to His people could employ such language; for, in truth, the object of the Lord's own sufferings was the salvation of His people. He suffered, as we all know, as no other could, because He made expiation for our sins; but the point of the Apostle's statement is not the character but the object of his sufferings.
By the grace of God, therefore, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was enabled to suffer all that came upon him, in connection with his testimony, for the elect's sake. He was made willing, nay more; with something of the love of Christ for His people animating his soul, he even desired to endure persecution if so be they might obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with all that was connected with it, even eternal glory. And it should be ever remembered that the same path is opened to every servant of the Lord. If smaller vessels than the Apostle, they may yet have the same desires, aims, and objects; and they will have them just in proportion as the affections of Christ fill their hearts.
Intense love for His people, because they are His people, is one of the most essential qualifications for service; for this will become, in the power of the Holy Ghost, the spring of unwearying devotedness to Christ for their eternal welfare.
In verses 9 and 10 the Apostle seeks to encourage Timothy in an evil day by a reference to his own path, and by the exhibition of the motives which, through grace, governed his own soul. He now proceeds to remind him of certain divine principles, or of certain infallible consequences resulting both from identification with, and from unfaithfulness to, Christ in His rejection.
"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."* vv. 11-13.
*The word "for" should be inserted before the last clause; thus, He abideth faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
The exact significance of "It is a faithful saying," or, literally, "faithful is the word," is not at once perceived. It may be the solemn asseveration of the truth of the following sentences; or it might mean that these truths were current among the saints, and that the Apostle takes them up to apply them to the matter in hand. To Timothy they would, at such a moment, have great force and solemnity. Tempted at least to shrink from the cross involved in his service, nothing could be more seasonable than to be recalled to the truth, that if we have died with Christ, we shall also live with Him.
Now death with Christ lies at the very foundation of our Christian position; but blessed as it is in delivering us from all that would enslave us in this scene, it involves certain responsibilities. The Apostle thus wrote to the Colossians: "If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" Chap. 2: 20. Having been associated with Christ in His death involved their acceptance of the place of death in this world. So with Timothy, with us all. If we take the place of being dead, no persecutions, no dangers, could turn us aside from the path of service. It will moreover encourage us always to consider ourselves dead, and to bear about in the body the dying of Jesus, to remember that our living together with Him is the divine consequence of association with Him in death. For, as the Apostle says elsewhere, "If we have been planted together in [identified with] the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Rom. 6: 5.
It is the same with the next statement: "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him" (v. 12). Not that our reigning with Christ is in any way dependent upon our present suffering, but rather it is that suffering here is the appointed path for those who will be associated with Christ in His kingdom. This was shown out in type in the direction that the purple cloth was to be spread upon the altar before it, with its vessels, and was covered with badgers' skins for its transport through the wilderness. In like manner we read that "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together." Rom. 8: 17.
Being what we are, and the world, the flesh, and the devil being what they are, suffering with Christ is a necessity, and especially in the path of service; but if it is so, He sustains us by the prospect of association with Himself in the glories of the kingdom.
These are encouragements, but there are also warnings. Should we, alas! deny Him (and denying Him here has its full force of absolute apostasy), He will deny us. (See Luke 12: 9.) If, moreover, we believe not, the Lord will not fail to accomplish all the purposes of His heart, all the thoughts of His love; for He cannot deny Himself. He is in no way dependent upon our fidelity or service, though He may be pleased to bestow upon us the privilege of being His servants, of labouring in His vineyard.
Daunted by constant opposition, we may be disheartened, fall into despondency, be tempted to think that the light of the testimony is altogether extinguished, and thus come under the power of doubt and unbelief. But the Lord will work on, in spite of all our faithlessness, in the accomplishment of His will, and in His own time will infallibly present the Church to Himself, "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5: 27).
The knowledge then that God is faithful, and that He cannot deny Himself, is assuredly a rock on which the feeblest and most timid of His servants may repose in the darkest moments; and it affords also an encouragement to look beyond the confusion and the ruin, to that blessed future when every thought of the heart of God for His Church and for His people will have its perfect and eternal realization in the glory.