I have touched on this topic before with you concerning eternal security and conditional salvation. I appreciate your thoughts about Romans 11. I see your point. However, I am still stumped. Background: I am an eternal security type of believer. The way I understand scripture, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the word of grace was brought to us through Paul, and we are now saved on the bases of His grace through our faith. He tugs on the unsaved heart and we choose to come to receive Him or not. A true miracle occurs for those who choose Him. This is the born again experience. This miracle has changed my life forever as well as other believers. All of mankind now live under this economy of God i.e., saved by grace through faith beginning with Paul’s message. I see this born again experience as a one way process and there is no room for conditional salvation. It’s difficult for me to see what value the Father has for a believer to believe we can slip in and out of salvation. Since my first e-mail I have read scripture in an objective manner to see if there are other verses and chapters that support conditional salvation. I am puzzled because there are several verses and chapters of scriptures that appear to support conditional salvation. Jim, I embrace the finished work of Christ, however, the verses that follow supporting conditional salvation warrant a closer review: Matthew 24:13 (although this verse is before “by grace through faith”), I Cor. 9:27, Gal. 5: 16-21, I Thes 3:1-5, I Timothy 1: 18-20, 2:15, 4:1-2, I Tim. 4:16, 5:15, II Tim 2:11-13, Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:26-31. These verses appear conditional to salvation because many are “if … then” type statements. ‘If you endure to the end then you will be saved. Or, “… you may fight the good fight.” Or “… persevere … so you will insure salvation …” If I am not mistaken most of the letters (besides Hebrews) are addressed to believers not unbelievers. Paul warns believers to persevere; keep the faith, as though they could lose their salvation. Although “losing the faith” could mean believers become faithless, not growing in Christ, and perhaps, they need to repent from walking after the flesh but they are still saved. Hebrews says those who are “enlightened … partakers of the H.S….then fall away … its impossible to renew them again to repentance …” Jim, I realize I am third party in reading letters from the 1st century, and I don’t know all the details, inferences, previous history or experiences that Paul knows writing to his intended audience but considering the wording, and reading of these letters with an objective attitude, the verses surely point to something different than eternal security. Your comments are appreciated. Nergo
Hello again, Nergo :)
One basic premise I let go of years ago is the doctrine known as free will. If salvation was really based upon our choosing then it would be conditional. I mean considering the fickleness of our decisions, how could it be otherwise? Why else do you think there seems to be a case to be made for conditional salvation in the writings of those men who proclaimed the miraculous life of Christ? Those who hold to such a view are easily able to find reasons to explain why God would want us to slip in and out. The fact that you have been looking for verses that might support conditional salvation explains why you would find some. Folks have discovered all sorts of things in the Bible, from secret codes to times and dates for almost any historical event, so why should it surprise us to find proof that salvation depends upon our changing thoughts and/or deeds? This doesn’t apply only to the Scriptures but to any document. I couldn’t count the number of stories I read or movies I watched that were based upon a twist on an accepted document(s) where it actually seemed plausible in view of the historic event. Once we accept a premise we can fill in the blanks.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Matthew 24:13 (KJV)
Then Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these events are the beginning of birth pains.Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” Matthew 24:4-14 HCSB
Other than the fact that some translations use the word “saved” in verse 13 why is it that we automatically assume Jesus must somehow be making a condition on the salvation he was to bring about by his coming death and resurrection? So, what is this deliverance that comes when one continues to the end? There’s a lot to take into consideration in this whole narrative, but it seems to me it’s probably more about escaping the aforementioned deception that will be preached by many during the time Jesus was referring to. Of course, I find it quite interesting that some of those spoken to won’t even be alive since they would be hated and handed over for persecution and even killed. Does that mean those who are martyred won’t be delivered? I have unanswered questions about the whole passage, too, but to pull the one verse out as we have totally misses the point. :)
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. 1 Corinthians 9:27 (KJV)
Do you not know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly, or box like one who beats the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 HCSB
Once again, only because we’ve turned the volume of writings of the Bible into an instruction manual do we miss the obvious. Paul was describing what it was for him to deny his rights as a minister of the good news, for he and his message were being subjected to much scrutiny and comparison by those who wanted to discredit him. Consider this statement made at the end of his second letter to the Corinthian believers:
You have thought all along that we were defending ourselves to you. [No], in the sight of God we are speaking in Christ, and everything, dear friends, is for building you up. 2 Corinthians 12:19
Paul’s heart through this whole communication was to build them up, not to threaten them with loss of the miraculous life of Christ. He wanted them to see life as he did, he wanted them to share the same joy he did. The race he described was his own true freedom in living in view of Christ in all things to all people. I wrote some on this elsewhere so I quote it here:
What about this RACE Paul spoke of? Are we to view this as the general principle it has come to represent in the Christian marketplace? Or did Paul bring it up with something more specific in mind?
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Let’s not miss its connection to what was written immediately before … as it ties in beautifully with Paul’s overall message as stated from the beginning of the letter:
So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. But I have used none of these things. And I am not writing these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than have any man make my boast an empty one. For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. 1 Corinthians 9:15-23
Paul made his intentions known with these people from his first introductions to them, and then in writing this letter he reaffirmed his determination to view them according to Christ alone. Follow the letter known as 2 Corinthians and you see that he continued on with his well-known statements about knowing no man after the flesh but only after Christ. Here, he breaks down how that applied to HIM in his dealings with so many different kinds of people with their different mindsets. To him, nothing was going to get in his way in fulfilling his boast:
What then is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.
He details this so well that he makes it fully clear that he knows he does not adopt the fleshly perspectives of those to whom he would declare the good news of Christ. Instead, through it all he came to understand more of himself regarding his freedom so that he could give up many of his own personal benefits of freedom while laying down his life for others.
By the way, the phrase, “though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ” is not some sneaky way of saying that he was still under the law, for he had already clearly stated, “as under the Law though not being myself under the Law”. I’ve read a rephrasing of this that keeps in line with the language, as well as with the context, that puts it, “though not being outlawed to God but in-lawed to Christ”. However you read it just keep in mind that Paul was being very meticulous in how he communicated the ever-present reality of Christ of being free from sin and law and alive to God through Christ. Those who get nit-picky here in an attempt to suggest we are still under law in some way are straining their camels way too finely!
I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:23-27
I purposely include verse 23 instead of starting with verse 24 (as most seem to do) because it really emphasizes Paul’s purpose for bringing it up at this point. The way we usually hear it makes it seem as if it happened to be the next subject to discuss. Well, it’s not. It’s totally connected with Paul’s determination to know the Corinthians according to Christ and him crucified. There is a real direction behind this man’s points and if we were to sit around and talk with him I’m sure we would not be able to get him to divide and subdivide his connected thoughts into the separate doctrines they’ve become. Instead we would recognize a stubbornness - maybe even irritatingly so - that would not allow us to play the games made so popular by modern religious Christianity.
To Paul, the race was his own continuance in his sharing in the good news of Christ to others. It was not his mission, as we think of missions, but instead was pure joy to be able to share in the faith of others. And his determination was to make the good news free to all he spoke to. It was such that he wouldn’t take any money from those he ministered to, even though he openly admitted that it was something he would have been entitled to do, which apparently the other apostles allowed others to support them. It seems there were a few exceptions where Paul had been provided support, but I get the idea that certain groups pretty much decided they were going to send somebody with some financial aid whether he wanted it or not (I believe the Philippians did this). Anyhow, Paul’s determination to make Christ known to any and all was his race. Of course, if we just take a quick look at what he mentioned about the race it becomes all so simple.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
If this declares anything other than the general sense of determination one must have to run a race then we would have to conclude that Paul wanted the Corinthians competing against one another to win. After all, only one of them would end up as the winner. Maybe that’s why there’s so much competition - humble competition, that is - in the Christian marketplace where so many compare themselves to one another regarding the race.
So, right at the very offset we have to keep it fully in mind that this is an individual thing. Now, make no mistake, for Paul did tell the Corinthians that he wanted them to imitate him as children imitate a father. He very much wanted them to follow his desire in having the same determination to know each other according to Christ and not according to the flesh. As a shared but individual desire he wanted each to consider the determination of those who ran their well-known races. It is the focus of the runners to which Paul likened his own determination. In such a race nothing else matters but keeping one’s attention on the goal.
That’s what it means to run in such a way that you may win. To look around you in order to judge how you’re doing in comparison to another is a surefire way to become disqualified for you can only trip and fall. And guess what? This is exactly what their temptation was all about, for there were false teachers (those pretending to speak of Christ and his freedom) who were pulling their attention to look at one another in competition and in putting one another down and judging one another according to fleshly standards and vain imaginations. In doing so they were reverting to their former ways of considering one another so that they came to despise another or hold another in high regard according to what he was in the flesh. Whew! What a mess it was. Almost like it is in today’s Christian marketplace.
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.
This is far simpler than the mess it’s been turned into. While we’ve been taught that running the Christian race means we’re supposed to perform this duty whereby we must control ourselves we missed the simplicity that the determination to recognize no man after the flesh but only according to Christ does in fact affect everything to do with how we see things and how we view others. To stand firm in the freedom of Christ, and then to join in with another in the insistence that his or her life is found in Christ is all part of this self-control.
Look at that verse again, Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. It is a statement of fact. You see, as our hearts become settled upon the amazing grace of Christ that declares who our true life is we at the same time begin to hear the crazy, upside-down rationale of viewing those around us according this one and only true life. We hear the encouragements of those who tell us to consider our brothers and sisters according to this same life. It is this determination that begins to build by which we find ourselves willingly doing whatever it takes to minister this same life to our brother.
Paul was the voice of this insane reason that demands that true life is not what it appears. His reason for sharing his mind in why he did what he did - which was the reflection of the life of Christ to them - was leading to the need for them to reject the fleshly dealings of those who desired to pull them away from Christ and to consider each other according to Christ.
There were some very real and specific situations going on among the Corinthians that Paul tied this whole thing to because what had been happening was a despising and favoritism based on their increased viewing one another according to fleshly perception. It’s the whole thing about eating meat that had been offered to idols. This is where the famous “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” quote comes from. Then again, don’t you find it curious that Paul said all things are LAWFUL? The mind of the flesh is behind such a mentality that looks at things as being lawful or not.
Okay then, let’s take a look at the next set of verses (and I’ll continue using Holman’s as a change from my usual NASB)
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21
Once again, this passage has been so totally removed from the driving force of the letter it’s ridiculous. Paul was not engaged in a discussion about who might or might not be going to heaven but was proclaiming why those who were led by the Spirit should not fall prey to the cunning deceptions of those who were trying to get them to live by the law. Who were those who practice such things? It’s not a trick question. Nor is it the relativistic trap taught by religious moralists who have learned how to appear not to be doing such things. Paul had already clearly told them what he referred to, and it had to do with inheritance. This is crucial! Paul did not choose that word accidentally.
For all who [rely on] the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law. Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. Galatians 3:10-12
This has been an integral part of his whole message to the Galatians as he was battling against the deceptions laid upon them by those who appeared so spiritual to them. These were the men of Law, and these were the traits that followed them around wherever they went. These were also the same traits that had been coming back into play among the believers as they were falling for the twisted message proclaimed by the self-professed Sons of Abraham. The truth was that they were indeed Jews who had come from Jerusalem, sons of Abraham according to the flesh, but the point was that they were standing upon the authority of the flesh. Sons, who are made so by the Law, are the fleshly sons who have no inheritance with the sons of the Spirit.
Why else do you think Paul launched into the powerful story of Abraham’s two sons? Inheritance.
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as then the child born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so also now. But what does the Scripture say? Throw out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never inherit with the son of the free woman. Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Galatians 4:28-31
The whole matter revolves around the distinction between the children of promise and the children of the flesh, the children of the free woman and the children of the slave, the children of the Spirit and the children of the Law. And why would Paul warn them about this? Because they needed to realize what was being offered to them under the premise of righteousness and holiness. Those who live by the Law are described by the list of things Paul detailed. They had been doing well without the demands of these lawmen who pretended they were bringing God’s truth and grace. Paul threw it right in their faces and asked them,
You were running well. Who prevented you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7
See … we’ve listened far too long to those who talk about obedience so that we have difficulty realizing that they bring anything BUT obedience to the truth. Instead, they have introduced the one thing that gets in the way of true obedience … for obedience is a matter of the working of the Spirit apart from the law.
And while we’re here, let me touch on this misunderstood passage as well, for it ties in directly to the whole.
Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Galatians 6:7-8
This is the exact same matter of inheritance. Notice that it does not say that the one who sows to his flesh will reap hell and the one who sows to the Spirit will reap heaven. Oh, it’s much better than such a pathetic reinterpretation as that. Sowing to the flesh is directly and inherently related to living by law, while sowing to the Spirit is connected to the miraculous working of God’s Spirit within us. The first is the inheritance of the children of bondage, while the second is the inheritance of the children of freedom. His point? Don’t let yourselves be deceived by the twisted message of those who live by the law, for they were to know that God is not served by the flesh … he will not be mocked by the pretense. It can’t happen. …and each produced after its kind. What an amazing reality! What a demand for confidence we have when confronted by those who pretend to understand life. It makes no difference how sincere their reasonings and interpretations sound, for all they can offer is corruption from the flesh. What are we left with?
For by the Spirit we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness from faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love. Galatians 5:5
As Abraham learned, so do we, that God performs his life in us. We wait on him and not give in to all the pleas and demands of the fleshly mind of doing the right thing. Just look what the flesh did with that one in Abraham … it produced the fleshly child of bondage.
One quick question before I need to go. You made this statement: “These were the men of Law, and these were the traits that followed them around wherever they went.” Are you saying the ‘traits’ of ‘men of law’ are the traits which was stated in verse Gal 5:16 -21? i.e., Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. These men of law were practicing these traits? More later. Nergo
Exactly. What have we learned about law and sins? They go hand in hand, for the law stimulates sin.
Now the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 1 Corinthians 15:56
Why else all the added commands, rules, safeguards, etc, etc?
The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21
Granted, on the surface we are presented with a different picture, but it is a carefully crafted facade, one which Jesus exposed over and over again. He called the religious men hypocrites because they were two-faced. The only reason their cover succeeded was through the intimidation caused by the perception that they were the ones who spoke for God. The people were too afraid to look beneath the thinly veiled surface because their own sense of righteousness was found within the system that intimidated them. The law creates a sick co-dependency between leader and follower where one protects the other.
Consider what Paul’s purpose in writing this statement in Romans.
Now if you call yourself a Jew, and rest in the law, and boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are superior, being instructed from the law, and are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light to those in darkness, an instructor of the ignorant, a teacher of the immature, having in the law the full expression of knowledge and truth — you then, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach, “You must not steal”—do you steal? You who say, “You must not commit adultery”—do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob their temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written: The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Romans 2:17-24
Who are the you he addressed? The teachers and preachers of the Law. Look at how Paul described their confidence. Sound familiar? You and I know all about this kind of confidence, for it is the exact same kind of assurance we grew up learning. Who we thought we were, the standard upon which we trusted, the ability we thought we possessed to tell people what to do and how to live when we ourselves truly did not understand anything about living or life.
Don’t let the framework of the religious establishment distract you from recognizing that this same thing goes on in every type of relationship imaginable. Anywhere we see people vying for dominance, rightness, morality, authority, superiority, conquest, favoritism or power struggles you will find the same patterns come into play. It makes no difference if it shows up in religion, business, family, or any other social framework. It could be between church leaders and their people or it could be between two small children vying for dominance. It exists between executives and employees or between thieves and their cronies. Some higher power/authority is appealed to and the struggle will rise and fall upon some kind of strict adherence to whatever standard has been agreed upon. Though none keep their own agreed upon standards, the illusion must be put forth in every way possible in order to maintain dominance. The rules will be preached and offenders must be dealt with. Unless any house of cards is carefully maintained it will surely fall. We see it everywhere in the world around us. Somehow, we still find it difficult to believe the same applies to our favored religious institutions. I know, I’ve been there.
Therefore, when we could no longer stand it, we thought it was better to be left alone in Athens. And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s co-worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you concerning your faith, so that no one will be shaken by these persecutions. For you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.In fact, when we were with you, we told you previously that we were going to suffer persecution, and as you know, it happened. For this reason, when I could no longer stand it, I also sent to find out about your faith, fearing that the tempter had tempted you and that our labor might be for nothing. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5
Is it to be assumed that Paul’s saying his labor might be for nothing can only mean a loss of salvation? That’s an assumption based upon the long-standing religious scenario that forces everything to revolve around eternal destiny. Paul’s desire was always that believers stand in the freedom of Christ. Consider how he wrote this just earlier:
We always thank God for all of you, remembering you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work of faith, labor of love, and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing your election, brothers loved by God. 1 Thessalonians 1:2-4
And then, right after the passage in question:
But now Timothy has come to us from you and brought us good news about your faith and love, and that you always have good memories of us, wanting to see us, as we also want to see you. Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution, we were encouraged about you through your faith. For now we live, if you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience because of you before our God, as we pray earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith? 1 Thessalonians 3:6-10
Paul’s joy was to see these believers, his beloved friends, stand firm in the Lord. It was life and joy to him. The thought that their faith had been shattered, leaving them to wander around this life filled with doubts and feelings of emptiness, brought a sense of fear to Paul. It’s not that he didn’t trust God to keep them or to continue his work in them, but he wanted them to share in the kind of joy he himself had in the midst of difficult experiences.
Now, these next few passages are all found in the first letter Paul wrote to Timothy. And the fact that it was written to a man who knew Paul’s heart and mind better than any other should immediately cue us into the certainty that Paul didn’t have to explain a whole lot of things that he would otherwise find necessary. What he wrote to Timothy was based fully upon the good news he preached everywhere, though there is sufficient material in the letter to substantiate the same working of Christ he preached to others.
Timothy, my child, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by them you may strongly engage in battle, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have suffered the shipwreck of their faith. Hymenaeus and Alexander are among them, and I have delivered them to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme. 1 Timothy 1:18-20
This is not the only mention by Paul of delivering someone to Satan to be taught something. He said pretty much the same to the Corinthians about the man having sex with his father’s wife. The result was a return of the man back to the group to whom Paul told to receive him back with open arms. It may have been a drastic measure, but it was restorative. These men had not been standing firm in Christ and as a result were leading others astray with their perverted message.
But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense. 1 Timothy 2:15
Regarding this, here’s a link to an article: Women Cannot Teach Men?
Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 1 Timothy 4:1-2
First off, notice that these “some” who depart from the faith are spoken of in a different manner than of those who deceive them. These who depart from the faith get caught up because they paid attention to deceitful spirits, teachings of demons and that it was through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. They are not grouped as being the same as those who deceived them. Why does he tell this to Timothy?
If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished by the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 1 Timothy 4:6
So that he will warn others as to the harsh reality that there are those who can’t stand it for anyone to live in true freedom.
Paul wrote something similar in most of his letters in which he warned them not to pay attention to deceitful speakers. By giving these warnings Paul wasn’t trying to keep them in the dark but to make them aware that they will be approached by those who have no other intention but to trap them with purposeful deceit. Consider what he wrote to the Galatians.
[This issue arose] because of false brothers smuggled in, who came in secretly to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us. But we did not yield in submission to these people for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain for you. Galatians 2:4-5
I like the sense in this translation that these false brothers had been smuggled in. What a word picture, eh? This is done in secret so that we might be caught unaware. What Paul wrote to Timothy had everything to do with making the believers aware so they wouldn’t be caught off guard under the assumption that anyone who seems to know the lingo was their friend.
Be conscientious about yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16
Once again, the use of this Christian buzz word saved seems to throw us for a loop. Save yourself and your hearers from what? Deception.
For some have already turned away to follow Satan.
This is part of Paul’s instructions regarding younger widows. The problem was centered around putting people in situations where they have absolutely nothing to do. This was a real life situation especially relevant at that time because widows were put on the list to be financially supported. These younger widows (under 60) needed to be considered in view of the fact that they still had sexual desires, so that to leave them with nothing to do was a formula for disaster. Listen to this description by Paul that I’m sure represented actual results:
At the same time, they also learn to be idle, going from house to house; they are not only idle, but are also gossips and busybodies, saying things they shouldn’t say. 1 Timothy 5:13
And haven’t we seen enough of this ourselves even in today’s world. Heck, in our modern age I think we’ve seen many situations where men have been able to become idle and turn into nothing but gossips and busybodies. In Paul’s time it was a rare occasion that a man didn’t have to work long hours, and I suspect that if he were writing letters today we might see more references to busybody men.
What was it for those who turned away to follow Satan? Well, it was exactly what Paul described right there in that passage: their attention had turned to the flesh. The deliverance for the younger widow would be found in their getting remarried so that their hearts would not be divided and pulled away. I think this says a lot about Paul’s being in touch with the simple realities of daily living and him not wanting to enforce celibacy for the younger widow. Here’s a man who was not afraid to say, Get married, and keep the sex going. :)
You asked about 2 Timothy 2:11-13, but I’m quoting verses 1-13 for appropriate context, HCSB
You, therefore, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To please the recruiter, no one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of everyday life. Also, if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to be the first to get a share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Keep in mind Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, according to my gospel. For this I suffer, to the point of being bound like a criminal; but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. This saying is trustworthy:
For if we have 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 faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:1-13
Once again, realize that when considering a letter written from Paul to Timothy, you have to remember their connection, and therefore, the directness of his thoughts, as they were sent without much of the usual content we have come to expect from Paul in his explanations and detailing of the good news he declared everywhere. In other words, he wouldn’t have found it necessary to add some of the disclaimers included in some of his other letters to make sure they didn’t misunderstand. By the way, I have made the comment about Paul’s connection to Timothy but have assumed you would be familiar with that. So, just in case, let me add that here. Writing to the Philippians, Paul referred to Timothy in this manner:
For I have no one else like-minded who will genuinely care about your interests; all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know his proven character, because he has served with me in the gospel ministry like a son with a father. Therefore, I hope to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. Philippians 2:20-23
Notice that in this section Paul is encouraging Timothy about entrusting the precious message of Christ to others who would also pass it on. In other words, we’re talking about a group of people who also shared Paul’s heart and mind, and now would be sharing Timothy’s heart and mind as well. His words are put forth as encouragements to those who are fully committed to the message of Christ in view of the struggles and sufferings they will most certainly encounter. Basically, he wants Timothy to make sure those who commit to passing on the good news of Christ know what they’re up against. He does this through three real-life examples: a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. And then, he expands on it with a “trustworthy saying”.
Now, any one of these can be broken down or examined in such a way as to say something other than what Paul would have meant. I mean, how far do we take the first likeness? Do Paul’s words have anything to do with the atrocity of “Christian soldiers” over the course of the violent history in the name of Christ? I hardly think so, but you can be pretty sure they were used to justify many causes and campaigns. We can only take the meanings Paul directly stated, otherwise, we’re setting ourselves up for massive misunderstandings.
Paul’s only meaning in reference to the soldier had to do with the imperative that he not get entangled in anything outside the scope of his recruitment. As a general concept it deals with a simple focus that everything is subjected to who one really is in Christ; as a religious rule, it has created a hierarchy with “ministers” who are so far removed from reality that their “ministry” touches no one with the freedom of Christ but only with religion.
How about the likeness of an athlete who “competes according to the rules”? Was Paul suggesting that those who commit themselves to sharing the good news have set themselves up to live by law? Not bloody likely! The rules for the athlete was found in the basic establishment of the playing field and the game upon which he competed. Yes, there were strict rules one must abide by as an athlete, but Paul’s likeness to these rules was not to make “Christian rules”. The answer to Paul’s reference is all found in standing firm in the freedom of Christ and not to step “out of the bounds of the game” by “warring according to the flesh”. Yes, very strict, but totally in freedom. For those who step outside the true freedom of Christ in order to “minister” the good news have disqualified themselves from the very thing they set out to do.
Then there’s the farmer. He’s the one who works the field but is also the first who ought to be able to eat the produce. Of course, coming from Paul one couldn’t help but be aware that he mostly set this freedom aside out of a deeper sense of freedom. But the message is clear: all things are ours in Christ. And we are truly so free that we can voluntarily pass on that which belongs to us, should we so choose. This is a testament to the true sense of freedom that resides outside the scope of what we can see, taste or feel.
And this is exactly where Paul brings all his examples. He was expressing the true inner freedom of those who are bound to Christ. For though he was bound like a criminal he knew that the word he preached was not bound. He endured it all for that which was truly his life, Christ. This is the force behind all he told Timothy. The endurance he spoke of was not in question, rather it was a certainty that he testified to as he presented why it was that he endured all things for Christ. To substantiate what he said, he then quoted a saying that must have been one Timothy would have been familiar with. It wasn’t Paul’s quote, he only used it to drive home the point.
For if we have 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 faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.
This was not quoted to instill the fear and uncertainty it has been turned into. It is more like the rally cry of those who have no concept of turning back because they know the true substance of their lives. It is a testament of one who knows there is nothing but endurance.
If we have died with him, we will also live with him!
That was the concrete reality in Christ that Paul consistently referred to. It is truth, it cannot be undone anymore than Christ can be made to cease living.
If we endure, we will also reign with him!
Once again, there is no hint in how Paul has led up to this that suggests anything other than endurance. He was not questioning it, he was encouraging them in what was to come. He wanted to direct their attention upon that which was truly life … upon Christ himself. Paul presented the quote as a statement of promise, not as a threat.
If we deny Him, He will also deny us;
Had they not already found themselves beyond the point of the premise of this? But in case there was any doubt, consider the next part:
if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
EVEN IF we find ourselves at the point of faithlessness it does not, it cannot change anything because HE remains faithful. And if that’s not assurance enough it goes on to demand that he cannot deny himself. And who are we really? Who is the life of these men who have committed themselves to the message of Christ? Is it not the very one who cannot deny himself?
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:24 KJV
Even if your faith fails you know that Christ remains faithful and that he cannot deny himself. If that is not a reality meant to carry us through in spite of any failure we can imagine then I cannot think of anything else that would do so. Don’t you think? :)
Regarding the verses Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26-31, check out what I’ve written in this section. I would suggest you start at the beginning of the Hebrews section, as there is a very good reason why we easily misunderstand a large portion of that amazing letter.