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. — 2 Timothy 2:11-13
Have you ever wondered what kind of worship services took place in the first-century Church? What did the early believers do during their praise and worship? How did they take their offerings? How did they pray for the sick? How loud did they pray in the Spirit? Or how did they flow in the anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit? Imagine the kind of vitality that must have filled their church services!
In Second Timothy 2:11-13, Paul gives us a glimpse into one of those Early Church meetings. As he writes to Timothy, Paul actually quotes a literal song or hymn that the early believers sang when they met together to worship. “Hymnic literature” is what scholars call Second Timothy 2:11-13. In other words, these verses are an actual quote of a real New Testament hymn. This song was so well known that Paul included its lyrics in this epistle. It was most likely sung by Paul, Timothy, the apostle John, as well as thousands of others.
In addition to this hymn in Second Timothy 2:11-13, a second hymn is found in Colossians 1:15-19 that proclaims the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His dominion over all the universe. In both of these instances in the New Testament when “hymnic literature” is used, the quote is from a “hymn” that was well known throughout the Church. These hymns were intended to be more than mere music; they were tools of instruction that chronicled the true thinking of the Early Church.
But when Paul was writing Second Timothy, he was trying to encourage Timothy to bravely face the challenges that were before him. By using this hymn, it is almost as if Paul is saying, “Timothy, I know how to get you to understand the point I am trying to make to you! Do you remember that powerful song your congregation sings every week? You surely know the one I’m talking about. You know, the one that goes like this.…” Then Paul quotes the familiar hymn from Second Timothy 2:11-13, which says:
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 will also deny us:
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Look at the first line of the song, “It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.…” Can you imagine getting together in church to sing about martyrdom? This was not an allegorical speech; this was reality for these early believers! Persecution and death were so imminent that Christians actually included these subjects in their worship services!
One great historian said, “Let me write the songs for a nation, and I can determine the history of that nation.” In like manner, the leaders of the Early Church understood that to prepare themselves and the people to live bravely for the Lord, they had to use every available tool to instill bravery in the ranks.
One tool these early believers used was hymns. Just as we leave church each week with a song in our hearts and minds, these early believers left their church services with songs of bravery echoing in their souls — and they would sing those songs all week long to encourage themselves!
The first line of the song in verse 11 says, “…If we be dead with him.…” This phrase comes from the Greek word sunapothnesko, which refers to a literal partnership in death with someone else. This means the first line of this hymn could be rendered, “…If we join Him as a full-fledged partner in death.…” Imagine trying to put that to music! Even more, imagine trying to teach your congregation to sing those words with conviction!
The song goes on, “…we shall also live with him.” This phrase is based on the Greek word sudzao, which conveys again the idea of partnership. However, this time it means to join someone else in life, not in death. This line of the song could be taken as a kind of faith declaration that proclaims, “…We will join Him in the same kind of life that He now lives.” Singing this kind of song over and over again worked bravery into the fiber of the Early Church.
Today we still need songs that produce brave warriors. Oh, that the Church today was committed enough to sing this type of song and mean it! Instead, most people would be offended by such lyrics and would refuse to even participate in singing them. Others would claim that these lyrics were filled with doubt and unbelief. But these lines represent powerful faith, not unbelief! They basically declare, “Come hell or high water, we’re in this to stay! If they kill us, that’s all right, because we will soon join Jesus in His glorious, new, resurrected life!”
The next line of the song says, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him…” (v. 12). The phrase “if we suffer” once again conveys the idea of partnership. Literally translated, it means, “If we join Him in His suffering and suffer the same way He did.…”
Notice that this line has no note of sorrow or pain about these Christians’ suffering. They knew that feeling sorry for themselves wouldn’t help the situation, so they faced it bravely in the power of the Spirit. Although they didn’t seek to suffer, they weren’t afraid to suffer if it was forced upon them because of their faith.
These were the lyrics of a fearless people. They were determined to win the victory, regardless of the price they had to pay. Therefore, the song continues, “…we shall also reign with him.…” The phrase “reign with him” is the Greek word sumbasileuo, which can be translated “…we will reign and rule like nobility with Him….” These believers had their sights fixed on ruling with Jesus! To reach that goal, they were willing to face and fight any foe!
Now comes the hard part of the song — the part that carries consequences. It says, “…If we deny him, he also will deny us.” Can you imagine looking someone straight in the eyes to sing to him, “If you deny the Lord, the Lord will deny you too”?
These early believers saw no room for the excuses of defectors in the army of the Lord. Either a person was with Jesus, or he was against Him. Furthermore, when a brother in the Lord defected, the early believers didn’t sweep it under the carpet. Neither did they simply pat the errant brother on the back and say, “Well, now, come back and visit us again some time.” They saw themselves as a mighty army, and those who deserted the ranks were not worthy of honor or privileges.
This militant lack of tolerance couldn’t be any plainer than in this line of the hymn they sang. It was a reflection of who they were and how they thought. They had no tolerance for defectors!
From the content of this hymn, it is quite clear that these early saints were extremely serious about what they believed and about the Kingdom of God. Their Christian walk wasn’t just “another thing” for them to do in life. Christianity was their “all in all,” for they had given their lives — lock, stock, and barrel — over to this cause.
Please understand that this hymn was not a theological statement; rather, it was a reflection of the hour in which these believers lived and the attitude that they possessed. Church songs are always indicative of the specific period in which they were written. The hymn writer, whoever he or she was, chronicled the messages preached to the congregation and put them to music so the saints could sing them at home, at work, in their leisure time, or at church gatherings.
I can almost hear the first-century saints singing the lines of this hymn now! Can you can hear them raising their voices and bravely singing?
If we are killed like He was killed,
Then we shall live again as He now lives;
If suffering is forced upon us,
Then we’ll reign with Him like nobility;
If we deny or forsake Him,
He will deny us of our rewards;
If we believe not or grow faint-hearted,
Still He abideth faithful.
He cannot, cannot, cannot deny — Himself!
As time moves on and the coming of the Lord draws nearer, God expects you to step forward and take your place in His modern-day army. It is very possible that in the days and decades to come, there will be clashes between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of God. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to follow the voice of our Commander-in-Chief? Are you committed to getting in the fight and staying in it until the victory is won? Are you a true soldier in the army of the Lord?
Take advantage of the time you have right now to strengthen yourself spiritually, to become dressed in the whole armor of God, and to develop a winning attitude. It is a fact that attitude is 99 percent of every fight; therefore, being mentally equipped is very important for your survival and victory.
The believers in the Early Church maintained the attitude to never give in, give up, or surrender to defeat. As a result, they conquered the world in which they lived.
Do you have the same kind of attitude that will assure your victory in life? If not, you need to start developing that attitude in your life immediately! There is too much at stake for you to allow yourself to be defeated because you didn’t possess a right attitude!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I ask You to forgive me for making time for everything except You. The truth is, I haven’t made my prayer time a priority in my life; therefore, I haven’t been consistent in prayer. So often when I do start to pray, other things scream for my attention and distract me. So I am asking You to help me locate a time and place where I can be alone and uninterrupted with You. I know that this is essential for my spiritual life, so starting today, I am making this the highest priority in my life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that my daily time with God is the highest priority in my life. I treat my time with the Lord like it is the most important moment of my day and week. I am faithful to pray, to fellowship with the Father, to bare my heart before Him, and to listen to what His Spirit has to say to me. Because I make this time a priority in my life, I walk away from my prayer time energized and revitalized with the strength I need to face any situation that might come my way.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Where do you go to spend quality time with the Lord? What time of the day have you found to be best for you to really pray without being interrupted by other people or business?
2. When you do spend time in prayer, what is the average amount of time you stay in the Presence of God? Can you honestly say you linger in His Presence, or do you have a “rush-in, rush-out” experience with the Lord?
3. If you examine your prayer time, what do you find that you pray about more than anything else? What does this reveal about you and your station in life?