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A Faithful Saying

by Tim O'Hearn

“Trust me. Would I steer you wrong?” Sounds like a used car salesman, right? Or at least the stereotype of one. We have been conditioned in some places to exercise caution whenever someone emphasizes the truth of a statement. If they have to tell us they are telling the truth, then they must not be. On the other hand, Paul says essentially the same thing in his letters to Timothy and Titus. In his case, it is true emphasis and not an attempt to sell something for more than it is worth. After all, they knew him. If he says something is of special note, it must be worth listening to. Four times in these three letters Paul calls something a faithful saying.

To Save Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: of whom I am chief. (1 Tim 1:15)

The main burden of Paul’s message wherever he went is expressed in this “faithful saying.” He told the Corinthians that the gospel consists of the death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. (1 Cor 15)If the fundamental point of doctrine is the salvational work of Jesus, the immediate result is our relationship to the Messiah. Why is that good news (gospel)? It is because Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

Today many people have accepted a different view of Jesus. It can be seen in several ways. “What would Jesus do? (WWJD)” “What did Jesus say?” “Paul changed the emphasis from what Jesus wanted to his own brand of Christianity.” All of these movements ignore the central importance of Jesus Christ. It is important to know what Jesus might do in a situation. It is important to know what he said, in its context. But what Jesus would do or say in certain situations is not why he came into this world. Jesus did not come to be a teacher but a savior. Jesus did not come to be an example but a sin offering. Jesus did not come to heal physical diseases but to save sinners.

“The hour is come that the son of man should be glorified. … Now is my soul troubled: and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.” (Jn 12:22, 27) Jesus knew why he came to the hour of his death. It was not so that he could proclaim some great truth from the cross. It was so that he could die, that others might have salvation.

God sent many prophets to teach his word. The Bible records some of their words. It records the letters of Paul and others. It even records some of the words of Jesus. But the Bible does not save anyone. The prophets and apostles cannot save anyone. The words of Jesus, by themselves, do not save anyone. “Without the shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)

This point was important to Paul. It was important enough that he not only called it a worthy saying; he emphasized it by adding that it was “worthy of all acceptation.” It is the fundamental item of faith upon which all others are built.

A Relationship

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 Tim 2:11)

If the fundamental point of doctrine is the salvational work of Jesus, the immediate result is our relationship to the Messiah. He expresses that relationship in four propositions.

Proposition 1: If we be dead with him we will also live with him. The ideal relationship with Jesus is that we share in his death that we might share in his resurrection. This, after all, is one of the functions of immersion in water (baptism).

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. (Rom 6:3-5)

Proposition 2: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him. While this is also an ideal relationship, it might not seem so for us. We like the reigning with him part; it is the suffering part that we tend to have problems with. With greater reward, however, comes greater responsibility. If Jesus had to suffer in order to reign, can we expect no less? “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim 3:17)

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor: that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. (Heb 2:9)

Proposition 3: If we deny him, he also will deny us. Now he introduces the less-than-favorable possibilities. If we do not die with him, and if we do not suffer with him, then we may deny him. But it can be trusted that if we deny him, he will reciprocate. How dreadful it would be to hear, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Is this any different than we are? How often has a young lady who has been dumped by her boyfriend refused to acknowledge his existence when they pass each other? The only difference is that being denied by an ex-girlfriend has few lasting consequences. Being denied by Jesus has eternal ramifications.

Proposition 4: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. If we deny Christ we may at least acknowledge some existence on his part. A worse relationship is to fail to believe. Peter denied him, but he had hope of reconciliation. One who does not believe has no hope. Today many people take the attitude that if I don’t believe in God he must be dead; if I don’t believe in the Messiah, I don’t have to worry about such things as sin. Paul here denies that way of thinking. Jesus does not depend on any relationship with us. He is the savior, even if everyone were to deny the fact. If we choose not to follow him, that does not diminish him, although it does diminish us. He continues to exist even when we fail to believe in him.

For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. (Rom 3:3-5)

It is profitable

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. (1 Tim 4:8-10)
This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men. (Tit 3:8)

Paul twice affirms there is profit in believing and acting on that belief. Some might question, in the first passage above, whether the faithful saying is what precedes the statement or what follows. That is, is it a worthy statement that goodness is profitable, or that we work and suffer because we trust? Of course, it could apply to both, but grammatically it appears to apply to the statement that comes before it.

Paul was an athlete, or at least a fan of athletics. This is obvious from his writings about running races and shadow boxing. He knows that there is value in bodily exercise. He knows, though, that bodily exercise has value only in this life. We will receive a new body. Godliness, on the other hand, has profit now and in the world to come. It has value now because good works profit men in general. Godliness profits others who are the recipients of our good works. They may receive physical advantage; they may also be led to salvation by our good works. Even if another does not appear to benefit from our good works, however, we do so. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) We receive a blessing, regardless ofMany people take the attitude that if I don’t believe in the Messiah, I don’t have to worry about sin. the benefit to the one for whom we do the good works. We also receive a blessing in the world to come.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Four times Paul declares something to be a faithful (trustworthy) statement. In those four instances he gives us four glimpses at the gospel. Jesus came to save man. How we react to him affects whether we are saved or not. Doing godly works is to our advantage, now and for eternity. Paul probably did not have to emphasize the trustworthiness of these doctrines. They are core to the gospel he preached. Nevertheless, because they are so important he apparently felt the need to emphasize that.