5. Encouragements to Endure Suffering for Christ (2 Timothy 2:8-13)Related Media
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:8-13 (NET)
How can we faithfully endure suffering?
In the context of 2 Timothy, Christians are being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire. Paul himself is in prison awaiting a death sentence. Many throughout Asia deserted Paul (2 Tim 1:15). Throughout this letter, Paul has been encouraging Timothy to faithfully endure suffering: In 2 Timothy 1:8, Paul calls for Timothy to accept his share in “suffering for the gospel.” In 2 Timothy 2:3, he calls for Timothy to endure suffering with him like a “good soldier” of Jesus Christ, and in 2 Timothy 2:10 and 12, Paul describes how he endures everything for the sake of the elect and also adds, “if we endure, we will also reign with him.” Timothy needed to be encouraged again and again to endure suffering, and so do we.
Today’s world is not much different than Timothy’s; if anything, it is growing worse. More Christians have died for the faith in the last century than all the previous combined. An estimated 400 believers die every day for faith. The encouragements that Paul gives Timothy, we must listen to well. How can we faithfully endure suffering? In 2 Timothy 2:8-13, Paul gives six encouragements. These encouragements are helpful not just for faithfully enduring sufferings for Christ but any types of sufferings.
Big Question: In 2 Timothy 2:8-13, what encouragements does Paul give Timothy to help him endure suffering and how can we encourage ourselves and others with them, when experiencing trials?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember Jesus
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel,
2 Timothy 2:8
Paul calls for Timothy to remember Jesus in order to help him endure. In fact, “remember” is an imperative1—a command—which shows us how important it is. While Timothy could never literally forget Christ, it was possible for him to live in such a way that Christ was not affecting his daily decisions. And this is true for us as well. Christ must be at the forefront of our thoughts if we are going to faithfully endure. In Hebrews 12:2-3, the author of Hebrews similarly encourages suffering Christians. He says,
keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.
A mind fixed on Christ, not our trials or difficulties, is essential for endurance. When Peter walked on water, it was when he shifted his focus from Christ to the storm that he began to sink. As long as he focused on his Savior, he was able to walk in faith. We must do the same.
Observation Question: What aspects about Jesus does Paul call Timothy to remember?
1. We must remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Interpretation Question: Why is remembering the resurrection so important?
There are many reasons that Christ’s resurrection is important to continually remember:
- The resurrection reminds us that Jesus Christ is God.
The resurrection was the ultimate proof that Christ was not just a good man or a prophet. He was the Son of God. He was the first to ultimately rise from the dead. Lazarus and others were only raised to die again, but Jesus continues to live. In fact, the verb “raised” is in the perfect tense—meaning that Christ is still alive today.2 Romans 1:3-4 says, “concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Being appointed the Son of God by his resurrection, means that his resurrection proved his deity. Christ is God!
- The resurrection reminds us that we will be raised from the dead.
Scripture teaches that Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection. First Corinthians 15:20-22 says,
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
Firstfruits were used by farmers to discern the future harvest: Was the harvest going to be good or bad? In the same way, Christ’s resurrection is proof of our future resurrection. This was extremely important for Paul to remember as he faced his own death. And it was important for Timothy if he was going to continue to be faithful, even to death. He had to remember Christ’s resurrection and his own future one.
2. We must remember that Jesus Christ is a descendant of David.
Interpretation Question: Why is remembering that Christ descended from David so important?
- Christ’s descending from David reminds us that Christ is human.
While the resurrection confirms Christ’s deity, his descent from David confirms his humanity. Christ had to be human in order to die for us, but he needed to be God to pay for the sins of the entire world. His humanity also means that Christ understands us—he knows what it is to be hungry, thirsty, and sleepy. He knows what it means to be hated by others, lied about, betrayed by friends, tempted, and ultimately killed because of his profession. Timothy needed to remember this, as he walked the same path of Christ. Christ walked it first, and Christ would walk beside him to give strength to faithfully endure. Hebrews 4:15-16 says,
For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.
- Christ’s descending from David reminds us that Christ is the promised King.
The first prophecy about Christ was in Genesis 3:15 where God promised Eve a male seed that would conquer Satan and reverse the results of the fall. In Genesis 22:18, God promised Abraham a seed that would be a blessing to all the nations. To Judah, the son of Jacob and Abraham’s great grandson, God promised that a king would come from his lineage that all the nations would submit to—a world ruler (Gen 49:10). Then this prophecy was narrowed to the lineage of David, as God promised that David’s seed would have an everlasting kingdom (1 Chr 17:11-14). In Luke 1:31-33, the angel said this to Mary:
Listen: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.”
Christ is the reigning King and at the same time the future King. When he returns, he will punish the rebellious and reward the faithful. We must remember our King and his coming kingdom if we are going to endure suffering.
In our ministry, if we focus primarily on people, what people say, our trials, or what seems to be a lack of fruit, we’ll get discouraged and give up. Our focus must be on our King; it is this mindset that will enable us to endure.
Remembering Christ is not only important for us, but it is also important for how we minister to others, as demonstrated by Paul’s exhortation to Timothy. Some may think challenging people to remember Christ in the midst of their trials might be unsympathetic or shallow, but it’s not. It’s the most important thing we can do. In our relationship with Christ lies everything needed for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). As we abide in him, we will produce much fruit (John 15:5).
Are you remembering Christ in your trials? Are you encouraging others to?
Application Question: Why are we so prone to forget Christ in the sense that his presence does not affect our daily decision-making, especially during trials? How can we faithfully remember him so we can endure suffering with integrity? Also, how can we help others remember him, without seeming insensitive and unloving?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember that God’s Word Is Unstoppable
such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned!
2 Timothy 2:8b-9
Paul was suffering in prison—restricted like a criminal; however, the Word he taught could not be chained. It was triumphantly moving around the world and, no doubt, even affecting those in prison with him. We saw this dramatically happen in his first imprisonment in Rome. In Philippians 1:12-14, Paul says,
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel: The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ, and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word fearlessly.
In Paul’s first imprisonment, the prison guards were hearing the gospel, and other saints were being encouraged to proclaim God’s Word boldly because of his suffering. In fact, Paul spoke the loudest in prison as he penned several epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. No doubt, the gospel was also advancing in Paul’s final imprisonment.
Similarly, John Bunyan who wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress also spoke the loudest in his suffering. John MacArthur shares:
John Bunyan’s preaching was so popular and powerful, and so unacceptable to leaders in the seventeenth-century Church of England, that he was jailed in order to silence him. Refusing to be silent, he began to preach in the jail courtyard. He not only had a large audience of prisoners, but also hundreds of the citizens of Bedford and the surrounding area would come to the prison daily and stand outside to hear him expound Scripture. He was silenced verbally by being placed deep inside the jail and forbidden to preach at all. Yet in that silence, he spoke loudest of all and to more people than he could have imagined. It was during that time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress, the great Christian classic that has ministered the gospel to tens of millions throughout the world. For several centuries, it was the most widely read and translated book in the world after the Bible. Bunyan’s opponents were able to stop his preaching for a few years, but they were not able to stop his ministry. Instead, they provided opportunity for it to be extended from deep within a jail in the small town of Bedford to the ends of the earth.3
This has been a common experience throughout church history. Wherever the church has been persecuted, the Word of God has gone forth triumphantly. The early church father, Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In fact, Paul taught that Christians boldly suffering for Christ is a necessary witness to unbelievers. Consider what he says in Philippians 1:27b-28:
… by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, and by not being intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of their destruction, but of your salvation—a sign which is from God.
Therefore, Paul could endure confidently because even his suffering was a witness of the truth of the gospel. His gospel was unchained.
David Guzik adds,
The Bible has been attacked more than any other book through history. It has been burned, banned, mocked, twisted, and ignored—but the word of God still stands forever… The Word of God is not chained. No government, no religious authorities, no skeptics, no scientists, no philosophers, or no book burners have ever been able to stop the work of the Word of God.4
Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word never returns void; it always accomplishes God’s purpose. First Peter 1:25 says, “the word of Lord endures forever.” No matter if people imprison us, as they attempt to shut our mouths, God’s Word will go forth. Timothy needed to take encouragement from that, and we must as well. We have an unstoppable message.
Application Question: In what ways does the fact that God’s Word, the Bible, is unstoppable encourage you to endure trials, especially sufferings for Christ?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember the Lost
So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory.
2 Timothy 2:10
Interpretation Question: What is election?
Paul says he endures everything for the sake of the “chosen,” sometimes translated “elect”—referring to the lost who God chose for salvation before the foundations of the earth. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” Election is a controversial doctrine; however, it should be noted that all believe in election. It is taught throughout Scripture (cf. Rom 8:29-30, 9:10-13, 1 Peter 1:1-2). The question is, “Why did God elect?” Did God elect because he knew who would choose him? Or did he elect out of his sovereign choice alone?
Scripture teaches that man cannot choose God apart from God’s grace. Romans 8:7-8 says, “because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” When man sinned in the garden, it so corrupted him, that he would always turn away from God. Adam’s first response after the fall was to hide from the Lord’s voice. Therefore, God chose because, if he didn’t, no one would come to him. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”
The very faith we have in salvation is a work of grace. Since our corrupted will cannot choose God, God gave us the will to seek him and turn to him. Those God chose before time, he gave faith to receive him. This is a great mystery; a righteous God punishes sinners, but a loving and merciful God saves a remnant.
With this said, Paul says election motivated him to suffer for the elect so they could hear the gospel. This is important to consider because many feel as if the doctrine of election hinders gospel preaching. They reason, “If God chose people to be saved, then we don’t need to evangelize. God will ultimately save them.” Therefore, they ask, “Why preach the gospel?” However, Paul had a different reasoning. The doctrine of election motivated him both to suffer and preach. Consider again, “So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory” (v. 10).
The God who chose the outcome—election to salvation—also chose the means—the preaching of the gospel. The elect are saved as believers unashamedly preach the gospel, even amidst suffering. Election, correctly understood, is a tremendous motivation for gospel preaching. We can preach because we know some will respond to the message. We see this throughout the book of Acts. Acts 13:48 says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began to rejoice and praise the word of the Lord, and all who had been appointed for eternal life believed.”
To endure suffering, we must remember that the elect need to hear the gospel to be saved. Romans 10:14 says, “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?” For people to hear the gospel and be saved, there must be a messenger. Who the elect are is a mystery we must leave to God. We are just called to preach his Word, even if our suffering is necessary to do it.
Are you willing to suffer so others can hear the gospel—even if it means scorn, rejection, or imprisonment?
Application Question: What is your view on election? Did God choose based on his sovereign choice alone or based on his knowledge of who would choose him? How would you support your view?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember to Worship
This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.
2 Timothy 2:11-12a
As Paul considers reasons to endure, he recites what many believe to be a fragment of an ancient hymn in verses 11-14.5 As in Paul’s brief imprisonment in Philippi, maybe this was a hymn he was currently singing while behind bars (Acts 16:25).
Similarly, worship is an important discipline needed for us to endure suffering. If we don’t worship and give God thanks, we will succumb to pity, doubt, and depression, which all prompts us to give up rather than endure.
Application Question: How can we worship God in the midst of our trials?
1. We must remember God’s purpose in our trials.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” We must believe what God’s Word says in order to “consider it nothing but joy” when we face trials of various kinds (James 1:2). We must remember that these trials create perseverance in us, character, and hope in God (Rom 5:3). If we don’t remember the purpose of our trials, then it will be impossible to worship God in them.
2. We must remember that we are commanded to worship.
First Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God commands us to both have joy and give thanks in all situations. It is in fact a sin to complain and grumble. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.” God disciplined the Israelites when they complained in the wilderness. First Corinthians 10:10 says, “And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel.”
If every situation is used by God for our good, then we should, in acknowledgment of this, trust and praise him. Do you sing praises in your trials or do you complain? Paul praised God even during his imprisonment and before his death.
Application Question: Describe a time that you praised God in the midst of a trial instead of complaining. What were the results? What are some other tips that are helpful for praising God in the midst of a trial?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Reward
This saying is trustworthy: If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us.
2 Timothy 2:11-12a
As mentioned, it is thought that Paul is reciting a fragment of an ancient hymn in verses 11-14. The hymn has four verses with two parallel couplets.6 The content of this hymn has rich theological insights that are important to understand in order to faithfully endure suffering.
Interpretation Question: What does the first couplet in 2 Timothy 2:11-12a mean and how was it meant to encourage Timothy to suffer well?
First, we’ll consider what it means to die “with him” (v. 11), as it unlocks the meaning of the rest of the couplet. There are two possible views:
1. To die with Christ means to die spiritually.
Romans 6:5-8 says,
For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
At salvation, Christ’s death is applied to our account. Our sin nature died with him on the cross. It is not that we don’t have a sin nature anymore, but that Christ broke the power of sin on our lives. Therefore, we are no longer slaves of sin—having to obey its yearnings. We are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:19). What Christ did on the cross, we must apply daily by dying to our sinful desires and living for God. Those who died spiritually with Christ on the cross and demonstrate this daily by fighting against sin “will also live with him” eternally (v. 11).
If this is the correct interpretation, Paul is reminding Timothy to endure suffering because his sin nature died on the cross. The nature that wants to run and be afraid of suffering for Christ no longer has power over him; therefore, he should stand in the midst of suffering and so must we. We must stand because our sin nature died with Christ on the cross, and now we’re living a new life—a life in the Spirit. God has not given us a Spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).
2. To die with Christ probably means to be martyred.
The surrounding context of suffering for Christ points to martyrdom as the best interpretation. Dying for Christ is proof that we will live with Christ eternally (v. 11). Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Suffering for Christ is the gold stamp on our salvation. It is proof that we are truly converted and that the kingdom of heaven is ours.
This also better fits the parallelism of the second verse: “if we endure with him, we will also reign with him” (v. 12a). Those who suffer for Christ will ultimately be rewarded not only with heaven but with heavenly rewards and various degrees of ruling. Many verses describe this reward and the believer’s ruling with Christ in his kingdom:
Matthew 5:11-12 says,
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.
James 1:12 also describes the suffering believer’s reward. It says, “Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.”
In the Parable of the Minas, Christ grants rulership of cities as a reward for faithfulness. In Luke 19:17-19, it says:
And the king said to him, ‘Well done, good slave! Because you have been faithful in a very small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’ Then the second one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has made five minas.’ So the king said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’
To endure suffering, we must remember Christ’s reward. Those who suffer with him, as they die to sin and experience persecution for righteousness, will live and reign with Christ. God will reward them in the coming kingdom. This is a tremendous encouragement to help believers enduring suffering.
Application Question: Why does God give eternal rewards? How does the prospect of eternal rewards affect you?
To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Judgment
If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we deny him, he will also deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:12b-13
Finally, the last couplet describes God’s judgment on the unfaithful, as a motivation to endure suffering. To “deny him” (v. 12b), doesn’t refer to a temporary denial, as in the case of Peter just before Christ went to the cross. It refers to ultimate denial, as seen with unbelievers or apostates like Judas. They deny him by their words and actions. The third verse resembles what Christ said in Matthew 10:32-33: “Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.”
Similarly, Christ said this in Mark 8:38: “For if anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” To deny Christ is to be ashamed of him and his words in this wicked generation. If we do this, he will declare, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’,” as seen in Matthew 7:23.
Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself” (v. 13)?
Some have said this means that God will be faithful to us even if we, in moments of weakness, deny him. In this case, where verse 12 refers to permanent denial (as with an unbeliever or an apostate), verse 13 would refer to temporary denial as seen with Peter. If so, this would encourage Timothy who was timid and fearful about persecution—even if he failed, God would be faithful to him.
However, this interpretation is unlikely. It does not maintain the parallelism of the couplet—the first two stanzas being positive and the last two being negative. Most likely, this refers to God being faithful to judge the faithless, as he cannot deny his characteristics of being just, holy, and wrathful.
Dinsdale Young explains: “God cannot be inconsistent with Himself. It would be inconsistent with His character to treat the faithful and the unfaithful alike. He is evermore true to righteousness, whatever we are.”…Van Oosterzee says, “He is just as faithful in His threatenings as in His promises.”7
Certainly, this is a tremendous motivation to endure suffering. Christ calls for all to take up their cross to be his disciples (Lk 14:26-27). Therefore, we must endure suffering lest Christ deny us and God judge us.
Application Question: Which interpretation of verse 13 do you learn more towards and why? Which is more motivating to you—God’s mercy to the faithless or his judgment—and why? Do you ever use God’s discipline/judgment to motivate others towards righteousness? Why or why not?
As we conclude, let us consider this challenging story shared by David Guzik about a persecuted Christian in ancient Rome:
When one Christian in the days of the ancient Roman Empire was commanded to give money to the building of a pagan temple, he refused; and though he was old, they stripped him practically naked, and cut him all over his body with knives and spears. They started to feel sorry for him, so they said, “Just give one dollar to the building of the temple.” But he still would not. “Just burn one grain of incense to this pagan god,” they asked—but he would not. So he was smeared with honey, and while his wounds were still bleeding, they set bees and wasps upon him until he was stung to death. He could die; but he could not deny his Lord. The Lord can give you the same strength to live for Him, even as this man died for Him.8
How can we faithfully endure suffering for Christ?
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember Jesus
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember that God’s Word Is Unstoppable
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember the Lost
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember to Worship
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Reward
- To Endure Suffering, We Must Remember God’s Judgment
Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown
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1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 2 Timothy (p. 54). Chicago: Moody Press.
2 Hughes, R. K., & Chapell, B. (2000). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: to guard the deposit (p. 201). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 59–60). Chicago: Moody Press.
4 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 2:9). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.
5 Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 63). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
6 Stott, J. R. W. (1973). Guard the Gospel the message of 2 Timothy (p. 63). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
7 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2116). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
8 Guzik, D. (2013). 2 Timothy (2 Ti 2:11–13). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.