What If I Deny Jesus? (2 Timothy 2:11–13)

peters-denial_2“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, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim. 2:11–13)

This is a trustworthy saying that comes in two parts and both parts are trustworthy for the simple reason that Jesus is trustworthy, even when you’re not.

Destined to reign in life

The first part of the trustworthy saying begins like this: “If we died with him.” The Christian life begins at death. This is what makes the gospel unique. Every manmade religion preaches self-denial and dying to self, but the gospel simply declares, “You died.”

But more than that, we died, so that Christ might live through us. It’s an if-then statement. If A, then B. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

“But wait,” says Paul. “There’s more. This trustworthy saying comes with bonus features. We don’t merely live, we also endure and reign.” This new life we have in Christ is a new kind of life characterized by supernatural endurance and reigning in all things.

If Paul had said, “Work hard and endure and maybe you will get to reign,” that would be nothing special or trustworthy. That’s how the world works. But it’s not how the kingdom works.

Verse 12 follows right after verse 11. Paul is describing the life we have in union with the One who already overcame, already endured, and who now reigns. “This life we have in Christ is an enduring and reigning life,” says Paul. “It’s like nothing on earth.”

Do you see? In the first part of the trustworthy saying, Paul is giving us a three-part punchline. “You know you died with Christ, right?” Yes, Paul, I know. “Well do you also know that you will live with Christ?” Sure, Paul, in heaven. “No, not just in heaven, but here and now. You will endure here. You will reign in life here. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves your full acceptance.” Oh, I didn’t know that Paul. That’s really good news!

Many Christians are looking forward to a future life with Christ but they are not ruling and reigning with him here and now. They don’t know they can. They’ve been told life is one big test and maybe, if they are careful, they’ll get a crown at the end. But the abundant life Christ promised is experienced by those who know and trust him now.

Peter-March-MadnessWhat if I disown Jesus?

This brings us to the second part of the passage: “If we disown him, he will also disown us.” The King James says, “If we deny him, he will deny us” (v.12) which is a better translation since it’s the same word Jesus uses in Matthew 10:33.

An insecure believer worries, What if I deny Jesus in a moment of weakness? But Paul is not talking about this. He is not talking about Christians at all, but those who reject Christ and will one day reap the consequences of their choice. There’s no grace for the faithless because the faithless will not receive it. If you don’t believe God is good to you, you will have difficulty experiencing his goodness.

Do you see? There are those who confess Christ and those who deny him. If you have denied him, you may yet confess him, but if you have confessed him, you cannot deny him – at least not to the point where he would deny you.

If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Tim 2:13)

This verse has been used to sow fear into the hearts of the saints. “If you are not constant in your faith every single day, if you disown Jesus just one time, God will punish you!” It’s as if the preceding verses weren’t even there. It’s as if your unfaithfulness (or sin) was greater than his faithfulness (or grace). Hear that slap? That’s the Apostle Paul doing a face-palm!

To recap, Paul says if we die with Christ, we will live, endure, and reign with him. Each follows the other and this is a trustworthy saying.

Will Jesus deny me?

So why does Paul start talking about disowning and denying in the second part of the passage? He does it to reinforce his point which is that Christ is trustworthy. Here’s the punchline: since Christ cannot disown himself, Christ cannot disown you! Not ever. You are one with the Lord. His future is your future and his future is very good!

Keep reminding them of these things… (2 Tim 2:14)

Dead religion says you have to perform and endure to be saved, but the gospel of grace says we stand on Christ alone. He is our rock, and our sure foundation. We stand on his promises, not ours.

Do you see? The unbeliever falls on account of his faithlessness, but we stand on account of Christ’s faithfulness. Even if you have a bad day, or a moment of faithlessness, he remains utterly faithful, for he cannot disown himself. This is a trustworthy saying!

GITQ cover_vsmWe who have acknowledged Christ before others cannot unacknowledge him. We who have died with Christ cannot un-die. We who have been born again cannot be unborn. If you were to deny him, as Peter did three times, Jesus won’t disown you, for he cannot disown himself.

Adapted from The Gospel in Twenty Questions, pp.185-6.

55 Comments on What If I Deny Jesus? (2 Timothy 2:11–13)

  1. shall i say “Faith is a Person” and His name is Jesus?

  2. morningirl // July 23, 2014 at 1:27 am // Reply

    What about someone (personal experience of mine with a family member) who grew up “in church”, confessed Jesus as Savior as a teen, but then in his/her college years disowned Christ and now professes atheism?

    • professing Christ is not holding saving faith. I know because I supposedly got saved when I was little but it was not until my early 30’s that I truly understood what saving faith was. The teachings I had been under treated Jesus like a door but after that it was all up to our performance. not much faith required just a lot of huffing and puffing.

  3. a believer should never even consider himself as “faithless”… every believer has faith – it is only by faith that we can believe in Jesus! even if my faith is as small as a mustard seed – mustard-seed-sized faith is still faith – and therefore takes me out of the “faith-less” category😉

  4. Good article Paul. I love the fact that we are to “live with Christ” here and now and that eternal life is NOT just for the hereafter. We will endure here. We will reign in life here. That is the abundant life Jesus promised! I would like to submit an interpretation of the phrase “If we deny him, he will deny us.” For many years I thought this had to do with losing one’s salvation. If a person believes in Jesus – then later denies that they believe in Jesus – then Jesus will “deny” that they are His. But if that is true, then that is inconsistent with the doctrine of eternal security. So this is how I have come to reconcile this scripture with the things I know and believe about salvation. When a person comes to a saving knowledge of Christ, they are born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit. That “new creature in Christ” is who they REALLY ARE based on their union with Him, and they are not “in” or “out” by virtue of their actions, but by virtue of their belief. If somewhere in that Christian’s journey in life, they become disenchanted with what they THINK is Christianity (notice I am emphasizing THINK) and they are fed lies about who God really is and the things in their life that people say GOD is responsible for, they may “deny” him. They may utter the words, “I do not believe in Jesus any more.” When that happens, I do not believe that person is then taken out of the “light” and thrown back into the “darkness” doomed to an eternal separation. If they don’t hear the truth about their situation (that God DID NOT cause that person they loved to die an early death; that God DID NOT bring about the tragedy that everyone told them was an “act of God” that destroyed everything they owned) then they may live out the rest of their lives NOT walking in the abundant life Jesus has for them on earth . . . BUT – when they say “I do not believe in Jesus” He will deny that they are NOT His own – He will deny it by saying “You may not believe in me right now – because you have believed a lie – but I still believe in You.”

  5. I like it,like the man said,the gospel is so simple,you have to have help to misunderstand it.

  6. Peter plays great defense and I didn’t know Jesus is left handed.

  7. gatordeano // July 23, 2014 at 3:10 am // Reply

    Francois Du Toit says in his comments on the Mirror translation the verb in v12 translated “deny” which is “arneomai” means to contradict or act entirely unlike oneself. I’m not a linguist & don’t know where he’s getting that. Thayer’s lexicon doesn’t seem to mention it. Perhaps like Dr. Anne Nyland’s Source NT he’s getting updated understanding from the ongoing analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls material or going back to root meanings. I don’t know. I do have a message into him as to his evidence for that usage, but his translation of v12b & 13 ends up being:

    “If we contradict ourselves He will contradict us and prove us wrong. Our unbelief does not change what God believes; He can not contradict Himself.”

    If this were true, and I’m not saying you are wrong, it would have the advantage not seeming to change the subject and context.

  8. Say that again… Oh wait… I’ll read it again.

    Paul is describing the life we have in union with the One who already overcame, already endured, and who now reigns. “This life we have in Christ is an enduring and reigning life,” says Paul. “It’s like nothing on earth.”

  9. Ed and Judy Anderson // July 23, 2014 at 11:43 am // Reply

    Thanks, I’m getting it, but needed this today! Blessings!

  10. He cannot deny himself – Implying that it would be a denial of his very nature to save those who are unfaithful. He is holy; and how can he save one who is unholy? His very nature is purity; and how can he save one who has no purity? Let no one, then, suppose that, because he is elected, he is safe, if he lives in sin. The electing purpose of God, indeed, makes salvation sure; but it is only for those who lead righteous lives. Nothing would be mere dishonorable for God than to resolve to save a man that lived habitually in sin; and if that were the doctrine of election, it would deserve all the opprobrium that has ever been heaped upon it. – Albert Barnes

    • Mike,i dont know if the comments concerning the elective purposes of God are good or true.While certainly a habitual life of sin is not our preference,and must grieve the Holy Spirit,it does not follow that such an occurance would in turn show God to be dishonorable and make the doctrine of election worthy of every criticism it has received. Ephesians 2:7 shows one of,if not the supreme purpose of God in the salvation of men to be the showing of the incomparable riches of his grace.Salvation is sure regardless of mens failures.In my opinion,a christian who lives a habitual life of sin must be the most miserable of all people and will certainly miss out on rewards,but even they will be “witnesses” of the incredible greatness of Gods grace.The doctrine of election does not hang on man or our determinining and defining “those who lead righteous lives”.Many self -appointed “fruit inspectors” would deem others whom God has saved as “unrighteous” or habitual sinners….yet blind to their own sins and habitual practice of judging others.It may appear to me dishonorable for God to save such a person(being lacking in grace),but praise God!they are safe in Christ and his incredible grace saves and keeps them and is unaffected by my fallible standards.

    • momzilla76 // July 24, 2014 at 6:13 am // Reply

      “If we believe not”- pretty self explanatory, “yet he abideth faithful”- He stays faithful to the relationship, Why? Because- “he cannot deny himself”, How?- “Now ye are the body of Christ”(1 Corinthians 12:27) It is fully and perfectly according to God’s character that He remains faithful when we are not. 1 Corinthians 13’s love verses are a description of part of God’s character.(1 John 4:7)
      It is also fully within God’s character to save a man trapped in habitual sin because we are not saved by our lack of sin or our personal goodness. Hebrews 10:10 & 14 says that we are sanctified, aka made holy, not by our deeds but by the blood of Christ. If Jesus blood cannot keep you pure then we are all lost for one small sin dirties you up just as much as living in “habitual” sin.(James 2:10)

    • i think mr barnes forgot to put his grace spectacles on when he wrote this: “Nothing would be mere dishonorable for God than to resolve to save a man that lived habitually in sin”…

      grace is scandalous because Jesus brought great honor to His Father when He came to save unfaithful, unholy and impure men who lived habitually in sin…

  11. Peter O'Connor // July 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm // Reply

    Am starting to finally get this. Moving from ‘this is all too good to be true’ to ‘So its all up to God who is good to be true’. He really is the keeper of my soul.

  12. I want to agree with you just struggling to do so.
    Why does Paul deliberately say the opposite of what he means?
    IF we replace the word endure with live and add NOT after the WILL In he will disown you then it would be much more simlple.
    What gives man?
    Blessings.

  13. …unless the second part is talking about people who have never accepted him in the first place.
    Blessings.

  14. Forgive me for speaking this out to myself (to you all)
    Replace endure with ABIDE and accept that part two refers to the faithless who deny and reject Jesus ever being their Lord and Saviour.
    Paul what else have you got on eternal security?
    Grace & peace

    • Standing secure on God’s promises. And Once Shaved, Always Shaved. Paul’s actually got an entire series aimed at Eternal Security. But those are the cakes. The series includes grace-full details.

    • Re-reading all this a few months after first having done so – I’m thinking Paul (of Tarsus) MUST have been addressing the SAME people in the second part (deny) as he did in the first (die).Those addressed must be people in general as opposed to those who either are or are not saved ie if “one” dies contrasted with if “one” denies Christ.
      I still think it would be clearer if the word translated live had been used again where the word translated endure was; “If one died with him they will also live with him (and) if they live with him they will reign with him.”
      If one denies him he will (have to) deny them.
      Because he is faithful to his promises and pronouncements the 2 diferent responses to Jesus must & will be treated as described as; none shall be lost from my hand & there is only one way to the Father.
      Blessings.

      • I think I have resolved this in my spirit;
        If we have died then we will live with Him (everyone who is born again) and if we carry on (endure – not in the sense of an arduous process) growing in Him (by choosing to invest in our relationship with Him) not only will we live with Him but we will reign with Him.
        This fits Jesus’ heart I think.
        Blessings.

  15. momzilla76 // July 24, 2014 at 6:20 am // Reply

    How sad is it that people keep trying to come up with some fatal sin that Jesus did not die for!😦 Pride is the root of much wickedness done in the name of God, holiness and purity.

  16. Michael Jenkins // July 27, 2014 at 3:15 am // Reply

    Thank you so much for this, Grace is amazing!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this Paul! I have to admit that email sat in my box for 5 days due to fear. I grew up in the system and they were always using verses like this one.
    I finally read it today. You know what Jesus was saying to me ” if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” everytime I saw that email and passed by. Jesus is so good! On July 10th Jesus shared this with me “He is faithful when we are faithless!

  18. You say, “Do you see? There are those who confess Christ and those who deny him. If you have denied him, you may yet confess him, but if you have confessed him, you cannot deny him – at least not to the point where he would deny you.” How does one get that from, “if we deny him, He will deny us”?
    You say, “He is not talking about Christians at all, but those who reject Christ and will one day reap the consequences of their choice.” This does not go along with what the scripture say’s, “…if ‘we’ deny him, he also will deny ‘us’:…” He is talking to Christians here . He is including himself, by saying, “We” and “us”. How can anyone say he is not speaking to Christians? It’s a warning and you are making light of it.
    The scripture, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself” . (2 Tim 2:13)
    Means only this, the falling away of men can diminish no part of the truth of God, even though by such means they procure most certain destruction to themselves.

    • 2 Timothy 2:13 is talking about God being faithful to us because we are of the body of Christ and grafted into Him. God is faithful to the covenant that we are under because He is upholding it when we are not.
      A bible times covenant is not like a modern day contract. A modern day contract is dissolved when one party fails to uphold their part of the bargain. However covenants in biblical times were quite different. When one party was not doing their part the other person with stay faithful and uphold both parts until the other person resumes their part.

      • Well even heavier is the covenant God made with Abraham, as it was very one sided. Abraham was fast asleep while it was being made. Kind of like “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. But, here is something I found that puts my understand in context, “Hebrews 10:23, ‘‘Hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised.’’ Our faith corresponds with and is the answer to God’s faithfulness. As with two instruments tuned to the same pitch, when a note is struck on the one, the chords of the other vibrate it back again, so God’s faithfulness should awake the music of answering faith in our responsive and vibrating hearts. If He is worth trusting let us trust Him.” I like that, it puts it in a different light.
        Here is a scripture that holds both confession and faith in the same sentence, Revelation 2:13
        “I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan’s seat is: and you held fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.”
        Why should we be careful to hold fast, Hebrews 3:6.? Seems he is saying, preservation with perseverance.

    • Amen! Truth! The scripture says what it means, and means what it says. Man needs to quit talking about “if only said this it would make sense” that’s the problem! Denominationlism is very dangerous replacing God’s word with their man made doctrines that they plug into the bible and tell you “this is what this actually means” that’s heresy. The bible interprets itself. This is why I left denominationlism and trust only God and the Word, and the Spirit is my translator.

  19. Paul, I have to admit I was questioning this myself, how did you get what you said out of if we deny him he’ll deny us?

    • Ruth, it’s like this – those who preach performance-oriented religion will say Paul is telling us what to do – how to stay saved. But Paul was the apostle of grace, not works. He said if you confess Jesus as Lord, you will be saved. Period. If you have been born again, you can’t become unborn. If you are married to Christ, he will never divorce you. If you have been adopted into God’s family, he will never kick you out of the family. You can be absolutely certain of this because it does not hinge on what you do but what he promised. This is why Paul assures us that he remains faithful, even when we don’t. He is the Faithful Husband.

      Jesus said he would deny those who deny him – he is not talking about those who confess him but those who reject his grace and love. They basically reject themselves by refusing to receive the grace that he offers. Jesus (and Paul) is not talking about the believer who has been joined to the Lord in an unbreakable union. Don’t let anyone frighten you by saying you have to confess every day and if you deny once you’re out. Jesus is for you. He prays for and he has given you his Holy Spirit who he said would be with you forever (John 14:17, Heb 13:5). Believe him.

      • what is the difference in being saved and being born again. Jesus Himself said, you must be born again, not saved. What is right or wrong here? Thanks Paul, blessings

  20. The overwhelming teaching of Scripture is that those who have believed in Christ (due not to their own initiative,but to the Fathers drawing, the Spirits convicting of their unbelief)are forever safe.Scripture does not disclose a “temporary salvation” for some who “fall away”.We may fall FROM grace,but never OUT of grace.When considering all the positions and posessions the Bible says believers presently have and the fact that we were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world,…(Eph.1:4)it is preposterous to think even our denial would “lose”salvation and send us to hell. It would make God to be mistaken in his choosing before the foundation of the world,the Father mistaken in his giving us to the Son denying his prayer(John 17:24),the Spirit mistaken in convicting us,and grace wouldnt be grace. Several thousand years removed,many translations and mistranslations later,none of us can say with any GENUINE authority that we have it right(no matter how much Greek and Hebrew or Aramaic we know).THe best we can do is compare Scripture with Scripture.There may be a few “doubtful verses”,but as we attempt to rightly divide the Word,i believe we find that believers are eternally secure and this is not alicense to sin, but the greatest motivation for us to live lives pleasing to our Lord,grateful and amazed that He would have chosen us.

  21. David Weaver // August 4, 2014 at 2:10 am // Reply

    It’s to bad the early church didn’t know this they could have avoided all the torture and death. I mean why didn’t Peter just deny Jesus one more time and avoid being crucified. All the Christians thrown to the lions etc.? So many today are being murdered for instance when they convert from islam. If they just pretend and renounce they would be spared. We need to get this message out to them all so they don’t have to suffer for Christ.

    • Are you suggesting that Peter et al. were motivated by fear of divine reprisals? I would say they were motivated by love. The Apostle Paul arguably faced death more than any other, yet not once does he hint at the fear of being punished by God, probably because he understood that God is not in the punishment business.

    • No one sacrifices their life for Jesus by committing suicide they selfishly enter into their greatest gift, when they could have spared the hurt they leave behind , and have carried on the good work. There were some whose death out weighed these negatives, this in the early days of the birth of the church.So yes we should think carefully about whether our decision is out of work and pride , or for the big picture.

  22. To even suggest that God is in the punishment business, insults who he is. He has no need to punish people he has allowed them to do that all on their own.

  23. Thank you Jesus for remaining faithful! I received a precious revealation. Thank you Paul.

  24. Hi Paul, sorry maybe you have explained what I’m going to ask you, but since I just joined, so I want to know the meaning of the verse in 1Ti 4:1.Thanks you Paul.

  25. Many years ago I was going through the Bible and I came to the part where it said, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, and all of a sudden I saw this by the teaching of the HS. 2nd.Cor. 5:17; but if we go on to 18 we read AND ALL THINGS ARE NOW OF GOD. The word AND, is a conjunction, and joins together the passage before. We are now of God. That is a period, no ifs, buts, or ands. Paul I believe also said. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit, this is truly being born again I believe. If we are truly born again, then we are born again eternally, We cannot lose our born again experience. Once born again eternally born again. If God can never die, meaning He is eternal, and if we are joined to Him for eternity, then we who are spirit with Him, can never die. Herein lies our full salvation. ETERNAL LIFE. It is so simple when revealed by the HOly Spirit that we can get tripped up by the vain traditions of men that have made the Word/Christ, of none effect, Jesus said that, not me, glory to His name forever. God bless you all, and Paul thank you for stirring me up this morning, I needed that. Praying for your ministry by the Spirit as He leads.

  26. Scott Beckner // June 21, 2016 at 1:54 am // Reply

    Loved this commentary

  27. When you approach the Word with Once saved always saved state of mind, the bible has contradictions that don’t go away. One CAN lose his salvation, but not dependent on works, or failure of God’s. Promises. The only way to lose your salvation is to forfeit it by way of returning to your own vomit without repentance. When you approach the Word in this state of mind, the bible explains itself. The book of Jude is specifically warning those who were called. Matthew says many are called, but few are chosen. The problem is, denominational doctrines have preset minds to think a certain way approaching the word of God. This keeps us from learning the truth. Let God be your seminary, and the Spirit, be the revealer of truth.. Not your preacher. I currently am coming out of the baptist church Bc of false doctrine and heresy. God dropped a bombshell on me a few days ago, I put it to test in the scripture, and it FITS! No more stop signs for me to read around. The bible clearly states in black letters that one can fail to contend for the faith, and many warnings exist about persevering and not falling away from the truth. Just think about it, read the book of Jude with what I have told you and see if it makes sense. God bless.

  28. I didn’t mean at all God fails at keeping his promises, rather that he does, and the beautiful thing is that the bible does not contradict itself. Straying from the truth and dying in the state of being an adulter, still does not break gods promises, Bc we abandoned him. Hope I clarified.

  29. A pardon is only a pardon if a person chooses to accept it. It’s a free will choice to choose between heaven or hell. Were the Angels not saved in their estate when they fell from grace after chasing after fleshly things? What does the bible say a marriage is? Covenant? What warrants divorce for that? Adultery.

    • You say you believe God’s promises then set about to overturn them. If we were responsible for our salvation, I would agree with you. If it were possible for God to unchild his children, or if our connate union with Christ could be severed, I would agree with you. But I have more confidence in God’s promises than your arguments (or my own).

  30. No, my phone entered a typo and auto corrected my typing. We can lose our salvation but not by works or lack there of, or by God failing his promises. It’s not possible for God to lie, or fail. That’s what I ment to type but my iPhone auto corrected it and it said something a little different. How is one given to Christ? Faith. Through our faith God promises eternal life. So what happens when a person forfeits these promises by not contending for his faith and he has fallen asleep? He has denied Christ, and He is the one who by his
    Free will rejected the promise of salvation offered. That’s what I’m trying to say. One has free will. Fighting for your faith isn’t a work. And God can’t make us do anything, that’s free will. One doesn’t go to hell unless he chooses to. There is no more sacrifice for sin for those that keep on sinning. How many times in the bible does it say that liars, adulterers, etc will not inheret the kingdom of Heaven? These are all people who do these things, there are no exclusions. Backsliders, non believers, etc all fit. We can’t just approach everything with OSAS thinking, if we do, we have to find ways around the gospel to make it fit our man made doctrines. The word means what it says, and says what it means. Those who endure till the end, the same shall be saved. These are people who fought the good fight. So born again “christians” that just said I’m saved and never talk to God again also get the same reward even though they didn’t endure till the end by their faith? Those who believe, (not believed). The Gospel proves OSAS false, but still not
    By works, and God still cannot lie.

  31. Wow. Talk about turning this passage on it’s head…

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