Last week, we looked at what Paul had to say about being loyal to God:
- Work hard, like Paul did.
- Be prepared to suffer for God – in big or small ways.
- Avoid the rival loyalties that tempt us away from the truth.
- And be obedient, so that God might use you in honourable service.
Big concepts aren’t they? Almost too big. Too hard to do. And it begs the question: what happens if we fail. What happens when we fail.
Paul has something to say to that, too, right in the middle of this chapter.2:11-13 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless (or ‘disloyal’ – same Gk word), he remains faithful (or ‘loyal’), for he cannot disown himself.
Have a think about what Paul’s saying, from this perspective of loyalty we’ve been talking about throughout this letter.
“If we died with him, we will also live with him.” That is, we’ve signed up for Team Jesus. His fate is now our fate. We’re inseparably bound. And since he died, and then rose again – so will we. That’s encouraging, right?
“If we endure, we will also reign with him.” That is, if we keep on being loyal – enduring hardship, just like he did – we’ll share in his glorious future. A great promise to inspire us when it gets tough.
“If we disown him, he will also disown us.” This is the flipside. If we stick with Jesus, we get the benefits. But if we disown him – that is, if we say “I no longer want to be identified with him” – then the relationship’s over. In the first century, publicly disowning or denying your patron meant that you no longer wanted the benefits he could bring. You were ending the relationship. Just like you can’t divorce your spouse and still expect the benefits of being married to them! To Paul’s readers, this wouldn’t have been at all surprising; it’s simply the way things worked.
What would have been surprising is the next bit. There’s a twist in the tale. Let’s read it all again so we get the rhythm of it.If we died with him – we will also live with him;
if we endure – we will also reign with him.
If we disown him – he will also disown us;
if we are faithless…
What do you expect will come next? He’ll be faithless, too? He’ll give up on us? That’s generally how it worked in the first century. If you were disloyal to your patron you’d expect them to reject you. To count you unworthy of future favour. (If you’re unfaithful to your spouse, you can’t expect them to remain faithful to you!) But this isn’t how it is with Jesus.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
If we disown Jesus, it’s fatal. That is, if we decide following him isn’t worth it; if we decide the benefits aren’t worth the cost – then Jesus will respect that. The relationship is over.
But if we are faithless, if we are disloyal – he will remain loyal to us. For he can’t disown himself. That is, if we’re prepared to “own” Jesus – if we tie our fortunes to him – then we become part of his family. Part of him. So even if we fail, Jesus remains faithful. His grace, his favour, covers our failure. In the end, it’s not our fragile loyalty that makes us right with God. It’s Jesus’ loyalty to God – loyalty that endured even to death – it’s Jesus’ faithfulness that saves us.
And that, more than anything, should inspire loyalty to our God and saviour.
To think about
Thank God for his continued faithfulness to us in the many times we’ve been unfaithful.