Friday, June 11, 2010

The Most Misused Verse in the Bible?

"If we are faithless, he remains faithful."

So I've heard it said (and not doubt said it or thought it myself), that even when we act faithlessly and disobey Him, He is still good to us despite our lack of faith. R.C. Sproul takes the passage that way, as do many others. And I hate to disagree with someone as knowledgeable as Sproul, but I think this interpretation misses the point of Paul's statement.

Don't get me wrong; I do believe that though we constantly fall short of living perfectly for His glory, God does continue to shower us with good things and we are assured of His commitment to us through our union with Christ.

But I don't think that's what Paul is saying in 2 Timothy 2:13. The words immediately before the phrase I quoted above read: "If we deny him, he also will deny us." If we deny Him with persistent unbelief, He will deny us; we'll perish in our sins and be lost. That is what verse 13 is repeating: "If we are faithless (the tense of the verb indicates persistent, continual unbelief), he remains faithful," not to us, but to Himself, as the next words indicate: "For he cannot deny himself." God's ultimate commitment is to Himself, and therefore His holiness compels Him to damn the faithless, not remain faithful to them.

At least that's the way I read it. What do you think? Is Sproul right, and I am the one who is misusing this verse?


  1. Larry,

    Funny--I was stuck on this same verse the other day. I came to the conclusion that I needed to broaden the context a bit more before I could think about it. What do you think about it when considered in its full context?

    8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:

    If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
    12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
    if we deny him, he also will deny us;
    13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

    for he cannot deny himself.

    Would this affect the interpretation at all? I think both you AND Sproul are right when I consider it in light of the broader context which seems to encourage believers to continue to rely on Christ rather than ourselves. Is this even possible? I'm not sure. It still perplexes me.


  2. I'm not sure if widening the context (which is always a good idea!) changes my understanding of the text. It seems like Paul's talk of enduring all for the sake of the elect seems to be what compels him to write this statement about how if we endure, we'll reign with him.

    Verse 12b and 13 seem to be the antithesis of the talk about dying with Jesus and enduring for His sake.

    I think you're certainly right that Paul is encouraging believers to rely on Christ, not self. I just don't think this part about our faithlessness is being meant to communicate that in this particular context.

    But, of course, I could be wrong about that.