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Does 2 Timothy 2:13 (if we are faithless, he remains faithful) mean that we cannot throw away our salvation?

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. [2 Timothy 2:13]

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  • Welcome David Ayer. I'm surprised that this question hasn't been asked before, but apparently not! Commented Mar 3 at 20:23
  • Why not say which Bible you're citing, please? Commented Mar 6 at 1:34
  • Which different versions gave you 'if we are faithless, he remains faithful' and 'if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself'… or do you suggest they mean exactly the same? Commented Mar 6 at 1:37

9 Answers 9

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2 Timothy 2:11-13 NASB

  • 11 The statement is trustworthy:

    For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; 12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us; 13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

One interpretation of this verse says that God is always faithful to His promises, even when we have doubts or have fallen from the faith. Even when we struggle with our faith, God is faithful to our salvation and will never abandon us.

On the other hand, others focus in on the human reaction to God’s grace and how we must continue to have faith and persevere in our Christian life. God’s faithfulness is eternal, but we still have the power to reject or walk away from our faith, which can have consequences for our salvation.

Let me quote from NeverThirsty because they look at each line:

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.

Endure:

  • Cognate: 5278 hypoménō – literally, remaining under (the load), bearing up (enduring); for the believer, this uniquely happens by God's power (cf. 1 Thes 3:5). See 5281 (hypomonē).

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.

Conclusion

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.

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  • What are you quoting the conclusion from, or is it a stray >?
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Mar 4 at 19:46
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Most commentators understand this verse as meaning that God is faithful to Himself and his promises. While He will forgive most post-baptismal sins by Christians, this does not mean it is impossible for a Christian to apostatize or otherwise throw away his salvation.

Ellicott

Those who have understood these words as containing soothing, comforting voices for the sinner, for the faithless Christian who has left his first love, are gravely mistaken. The passage is one of distinct severity—may even be termed one of the sternest in the Book of Life; for it tells how it is impossible even for the pitiful Redeemer to forgive in the future life. “He cannot deny Himself”—cannot treat the faithless as though he were faithful—cannot act as though faithfulness and faithlessness were one and the same thing.

Those who hold to the doctrine of eternal security on the other hand, see this verse as supporting the idea that once a person is truly saved, they will not lose their status among the elect.

Thomas Watson

When God calls a man, He does not repent of it. God does not, as many friends do, love one day, and hate another; or as princes, who make their subjects favorites, and afterwards throw them into prison. This is the blessedness of a saint; his condition admits of no alteration. God’s call is founded upon His decree, and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out His people’s sins, but not their names.

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The answer to this question is found in the previous verse!! The KJV's antiquated language is not helpful so let me quote from a modern literal translation of 2 Tim 2:12b, 13 -

if we deny Him, He will also deny us;

13 if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Let us observe two things about Paul's teaching in this passage:

  • it is possible to deny Jesus, even for the saved, and, if this happens, Jesus will deny us and thus we can lose our salvation
  • if we are faithless, Jesus is still faithful. That is, the promises of God depend on God's faithfulness, not on ours.

The latter teaching is consistent with the consistent teaching in other places:

  • Rom 3:22 - And this righteousness from God comes through faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction,
  • Rom 3:26 - in the forbearance of God, for the showing forth of His righteousness in the present time, for Him to be just, and justifying the one of the faith of Jesus.
  • Gal 2:16 - nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by works of law, except through faithfulness of Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faithfulness of Christ, and not by works of the Law, because by works of the Law not any flesh will be justified.
  • Gal 3:22 - But the Scripture imprisoned all things under sin, so that by faithfulness of Jesus Christ, the promise might be given to those believing.
  • Rev 14:12 - Here is the endurance of the saints, those keeping the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.
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This passage in 2 Timothy does not speak to the question of whether 'salvation' can be 'lost'. Paul is giving his protege Timothy encouragement and practical advice for his mission. Verse 13 is the last part of what seems to be a quotation of an early creed statement. It seems to plainly mean, even if we become discouraged from time to time, God remains faithful.

While the question is commonly asked today, whether a person who is 'saved' can ever 'lose their salvation', I have concluded that this topic is far removed from how believers in the Apostolic era viewed the concept of salvation, and certainly far removed from how Jesus himself taught, and therefore it is probably not even a fully valid question.

Usually, salvation is referred to in the New Testament as a future event, or at the very least as a continuing process. Jesus himself tends to refer to salvation in the future, and in Matthew 24:13 seemingly in the literal, non-spiritual sense of being saved from mortal danger. I do not read anywhere in the New Testament a definitive statement that salvation is a binary status that each person is somehow assigned - 'unsaved' from birth and 'saved' when someone confesses Jesus as Lord. This thinking seems to have emerged in the Protestant era, as Roman Catholicism has a completely different doctrine on the topic.

One possible exception to the treatment of salvation as being in the future is Acts 2:47, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Some translations have, "those who were being saved". But even here the verb tense implies that the salvation of these individuals is not yet complete at that time.

When the rich man asked Jesus what he must do to receive eternal life (Matthew 19), note the critical element of Jesus' answer: "Follow me." The focus of the conversation was around earthly possessions, and how the man was unwilling to give his up, but consider why this was so hard for him. The rich man seems to have expected to secure eternal life in a single afternoon. Perhaps he was thinking of a massive donation to the cause, or a gift to the poor, or some other good deed he could do. But he was unprepared to make the lifetime commitment to give up his wealth and join the ragtag ranks of Jesus' disciples.

It seems best to consider salvation as being a destiny, a journey, and not as a binary status or a single event in one's life.

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If someone could lose salvation, how would they ever regain it, when it was by having faith alone that one obtains it?

We are taught to compare spiritual things with spiritual when discerning God's scriptural truths.

1 Corinthians 2:12-13

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 1:12-14

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 4:30

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Salvation is the free unmerited gift of God that is received only by having faith in Jesus Christ. Realizing that God forgave us of our trespasses on the cross is how we find the strength to now live more righteously for Him. Knowing that we will not be punished or lose our salvation when we falter confirms how much God loves us. We now desire to work from our salvation for Him...not for salvation.

So yes, 2 Timothy 2:13 does mean that God will keep His promise of salvation "unto the day of redemption"!

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (John 5:24).

Note that belief results in the immediate granting of eternal life (‘has’ eternal life, not ‘will have’ eternal life) and ‘has’ passed from death into life, not ‘will’ pass from death into life.

If it can end, it’s not eternal. God is not a liar nor is He the author of confusion. The granting of salvation is not based on what we do, but what Jesus did for us. If we did nothing to earn salvation, we can do nothing which will remove it.

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    Commented Mar 6 at 4:07
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The verse means that God is faithful to himself and his promises, as others have stated. He cannot deny himself or his Word. Some take that to mean that a Christian cannot lose their salvation, because they think that elsewhere, this is what God has promised. Others, however, say that God has promised to cut off anyone who persists in turning away. So the very same statement (i.e. "God is faithful to his promises") reinforces either view that you obtain from other verses.

In Romans 11:20-22, Paul wrote, "That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off." (ESV)

This is one of God's promises. The same possibility was there in the first covenant too.

In Ezekiel 33:13, God says, "Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die." (ESV)

This seems to teach then that when God says someone will live, it is under the assumption that that person will continue in faithfulness, i.e. that the "promise" of life to that person won't come to fruition if that person later turns away (or in other words, that a declaration of "he will live" is conditional).

As another example of someone who was in the state of "life" and then lost it, remember the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. After he was forgiven his debt, when he did not forgive his fellow servant, he was required to pay off the debt that was already forgiven him. Jesus concluded by saying,

Matthew 18:35, "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (ESV)

See also John 15:1-14 and Hebrews 10:26-31.

This answer does not comprehensively address the fact that there are perhaps at least a dozen verses that some consider to teach unconditional eternal security of believers. I have not attempted here to give alternate explanations for those verses. The following is a list of some of those verses that some think teach the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance of the saints (that you cannot lose your salvation):

  • John 6:39
  • John 10:27-29
  • Romans 8:38-39
  • 1 Corinthians 1:8
  • Ephesians 1:13,14
  • Philippians 1:6
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
  • Hebrews 3:14
  • 1 Peter 1:4
  • 1 John 2:19
  • Jude 1 & Jude 24
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On the contrary! Paul differentiates the Incarnate God who, unlike angels and men who are created and thus fallible, is immune from falling, for God cannot cease to be God. Thus, Lord Jesus Christ did not only not sin, but in principle could not sin, because His Person is the uncreated divine Person and exactly this Person adopted human body, human face to be henceforth eternally His and eternally a part and expression of His Personality.

Thus, He cannot fall, but we can, and after having fallen, surely we can address Him in an act of a repentance and rejoin Him, who never falls, anew. However, if we sin and do not address Him in repentance, He will be unable to re-embrace us, for our repentance is the only means for that, and we shall be deprived of eternal salvation. Thus, for Christians, who so often fall, there is always open the way to re-embrace the unfalling Christ through repentance.

Otherwise, Paul warns that we can lose salvation unless we are diligent to the point of fear and tremble (Philippians 2:12).

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It means even after Christ redeems us, living a life of sinless perfection isn't required to be saved. Note the versus stating:

But the one who endures to the end will be saved (Matt. 10:22, ESV)

It means God's covenant is irrevocable:

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:29, ESV)

See R. C. Sproul on Gen. 15:17.

The statement, once saved always saved, is often misunderstood. It is based on the reform theology of the perseverance of the saints. It does not mean you need not persevere to be saved. That contradicts scripture.

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