Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield.

Faith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary online

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to endure manfully in its behalf, with an endur-
ance measured only by the power of God mani-
fested in the salvation it had brought.

The echo in the language, I say, is oddly close,
because there is no direct connection between the
two passages; and when closely scrutinized they
are perceived to speak of two very different things.
In Romans we have an objective statement; in
Second Timothy an intensely subjective one. Li
the one case the contrast is with the scorn of
the world. Paul will not be deterred by that; he
cannot be ashamed to preach a Gospel in which is
enshrined the power of God to save. In the other
case, the contrast is with the persecution of the
world. Timothy is not to shrink back before the
dangers that now hang over the proclamation of
the Gospel, but to witness straight on, emboldened
by the saving power of this Gospel in his own heart.

One passage is then in no sense a repetition of
the other; both are rather embodiments of the
same fundamental idea for completely different
ends. This fundamental idea is that the Gospel
is the power of God to salvation and therefore a


thing of which no man with a mind to see can
possibly be ashamed, and which no man with a
heart to feel can possibly be frightened away from
proclaiming. Because it has the dynamics of life
in it, it stands immeasurably above all the so-
called Gospels that men can proclaim. Nay, be-
cause it has the dynamics of life in it, he who has
it hidden in his heart cannot fear death.

One sees the enheartening power there is in this
perception of the Gospel as the power of God to
salvation. We cannot wonder that Paul uses this
conception, whether to enhearten himself in preach-
ing it despite the scorn of men, or in enheartening
Timothy in preaching it despite the persecutions of
men. It is natural then that it should crop out
here again, where the Apostle would fain put new
courage into Timothy in the sad time that had
come upon the Gospel proclamation. The propa-
gation of the Gospel through the Roman world had
hung largely on the arm of Paul. But that arm
was now stricken down, and Paul was lying in
the Roman prison with nothing to anticipate ex-
cept an inglorious death. Something like a panic
seems to have fallen upon the little circle of helpers
on whom he was accustomed to depend as on
hands and feet in the prosecution of his great mis-
sionary task. Though in prison and nearing the
fatal issue, the burden of the churches still rested
on his stricken arm. He enumerates the dispo-
sition of the forces he had made and was making.


For the work at Rome, however, he was short-
handed and felt helpless. One of those whom he
had depended on for the dangerous work there
had fled. Only Luke remamed with him; he
needed two additional helpers. He turns to Tim-
othy and Mark; and it is striking to see him turn
to these two in his hour of need, and with obvious
trust and confidence in them. On a former oc-
casion Mark had forsaken him at a juncture
of importance. And many commentators have
thought that his general tone to Timothy implies
that Paul thought him little endowed with the
quality of daring. This appears to rest on a mis-
take; the effort which the Apostle makes to en-
hearten Timothy for his work does not seem to
imply special timidity suspected in him so much
as the need of special courage for what he asks of
him. At all events, his choice of Timothy for aid
in this hour of need and the express encomium
which he passes on Mark as one fitted to be his
companion in the arduous service asked of him
would seem to be a diploma of trustworthiness
given to these helpers. We may be sure that he
wishes for Timothy and Mark in this sad time
to be standing by his side, because he had special
confidence in just Timothy and Mark.

Nevertheless Paul recognizes that there is very
special need of courage and boldness for the service
he is asking. And in asking the service he points
Timothy to the source of strength. That source


of strength to which he points Timothy is, briefly,
the Gospel, conceived as embodying the power of
God to salvation. He reminds Timothy first of
his hereditary faith; next of his endowment with
grace by the laying on of the Apostle's hands;
but finally and chiefly of the power of God he had
himself experienced in the Gospel which he was
called on to preach and for which he was to be
ready also to suffer. It was not his human
strength that was to be called on for this great en-
durance; haply that might soon be exhausted.
His endurance was to be limited only by the power
of God, of that God who had saved him and called
him with a holy calling, not according to any
works of his own, but according only to God's
own purpose and the grace that was given him in
Christ Jesus before times eternal, and has now
been manifested by the epiphany of our Saviour
Jesus Christ, in His making naught of death, and
bringing to light of life and incorruption through
the Gospel.

Surely there is gathered together in this great
exhortation everything that could be needed to fill
with deathless courage in the behalf of the Gospel
even the most timid hearts. Let us try to point
out one or two of the things that Paul does here,
calculated to enhearten his companion.

First, we shall certainly take notice that he
places beneath Timothy the eternal arms of God
Almighty. He lifts the eyes of Timothy from


himself to God, and says to him in effect, There,
there is your strength. And observe the pains
Paul is at to impress on Timothy that the relation
in which he stands to this God, by virtue of which
God becomes his strength, is not, in any sense, —
not in the remotest degree, not in the smallest
particular, — dependent on Timothy himself, or
anything that he has done, is doing, or can do.
He would withdraw Timothy utterly from the
least infusion of dependence on self and cast him
wholly on dependence on God, that he may
realize that his weakness is not in question, but
the whole strength of God is behind him to up-
hold him and bear him safely through.

Therefore Paul describes this God on whose
power he would throw Timothy back as one
"who saved us and called us with a holy calling;
not according to works of ours but according to
His own purpose" — where the words "His own"
are thrown out with a tremendous energy, — "and
a grace that was given to us in Christ Jesus before
times eternal," — where the words "was given,"
not "was promised" or even "was destined for,"
but actually and finally and unequivocally "was
given" us before times eternal, are used with
equally tremendous emphasis, to declare that
what has appeared in time has been only a mani-
festation of what was already done, concluded, ac-
complished in eternity. How could this power of
God fail us now because of aught we can do, or


fail to do, when its gift to us is so thoroughly in-
dependent of everything or anything that we can
do ? Obviously, what Paul is doing is so completely
to take away Timothy's consideration of himself in
this whole matter of the Gospel that he will trust
exclusively in God and feel that, therefore, there
can be no failure — just because it is God alone and
not he himself on whom the performance rests.

An appeal to the well-recognized fact that it was
thus and thus only that Timothy received his call
from God, is nothing other, then, than to cast him
back on the Almighty arms and to make him
poignantly realize that it is God and not he who is
conceived as carrying through the work so begun.
"O Timothy," says Paul, in effect, "Faint not!
It is not your own strength — or rather weakness —
that is here in question; it is the power of Al-
mighty God. Do not you remember how you
were brought into relations with this God.^^ Was
it of yourself that you were called with this holy
calling? Nay, no works of your own entered in.
It was of His own purpose that He called you; the
grace that has come to you was given you from all
eternity. What has come to you in time is only
the manifestation of what was eternally done. It
is this Almighty God who is using you as His in-
strument and organ. Nothmg depends on your
weakness; all hangs on His strength. Take cour-
age and go onward." Thus Paul strengthens
Timothy for the conflict before him.


But there is another element in Paul's enheart-
ening exhortation which we must not fail to take
notice of if we would feel all the subtlety and force
of its appeal. Paul not only throws Timothy
back on the eternal arms of Almighty God; he
fixes his eyes firmly also on an eternal Christ.
For not less clearly than in the prologue to John's
Gospel itself is the pre-incarnate Son of God
brought before us in this great passage. So vivid,
indeed, is the Apostle's realization of the great
transaction in eternity; so pointed is his repre-
sentation of all that has been wrought out in time
as but the manifestation of what was already pre-
pared in eternity; that it would be easier to read
him as throwing an air of unreality over the tem-
poral acts than as treating the eternal ones as
merely ideal.

The use of the word "given," the "grace given"
to us before times eternal, is already a mark of his
intense perception of the reality of the eternal
transaction. But this is carried much further
by the other terms emphasized. This grace given
in eternity is only "manifested" in time; made
visible — the conception being that it was already
in existence and is only now brought to sight.
And in like manner the Christ Jesus in whom the
grace was given us before times eternal, can by no
possibility be conceived as existing only ideally in
this eternity, as if the notion were only that in
foresight of Him and His work, the gift of grace


was determined upon and so His historical life on
earth was the logical prius and this eternal trans-
action rested on it in prevision and provision. On
the contrary, it is His eternal existence that is the
actual reality and His historical manifestation is
described as an "epiphany" — a term which dis-
tinctly describes a glorious apparition of what
already exists and now only breaks forth to the
illumination of the world. As such it is elsewhere
confined in the New Testament to the second
coming of Christ, and when here applied to His
first coming as fully implies as in the parallel case
that He who is thus manifested exists and has
existed beforehand gloriously, and now only
bursts on Man's astonished sight like the breaking
forth of the sun from thick clouds. The grace
that was given us before all eternity, was given us
in that eternity in Christ Jesus, as the then present
mediator of grace; and as the grace then given has
only been "manifested" in time, so the Christ
Jesus in whom it was then given has only "ap-
peared" in time. So clear and vital is Paul's re-
alization of the eternal transaction in a word, that
the danger would be not that we should read him
as speaking of only an ideal eternal pre-existence
of His and our Lord, but rather, as giving too little
significance to the outworking of the eternal plan
in the actual historical realization.

It is interesting to observe this very complete
doctrine of the eternal pre-existence of Jesus


Christ in this epistle, for theological reasons, and
more particularly, for biblical-theological reasons.
Our interest in it now, however, turns on the use
which Paul makes of it for the enheartening of
Timothy. By fixing his eyes thus on the eternal
Jesus and subtly suggesting that the events of
time are (in a sense) but the shadows of the eter-
nal realities; that the salvation wrought out on
Calvary was but a corollary (so to speak) of the
determining transaction in heaven; the Apostle
leads his pupil to attach less importance to the
course of affairs on earth in comparison with the
eternal things thus vividly pictured before his
eyes. The fashion of the earth passes away; the
heavenly alone abides. This eternal Jesus — ^may
He not be relied on quite independently of the
temporary appearances of the things of earth .'^
For how many ages did He abide above — before
He was manifested as Saviour! He may have
removed again into the glory He had with the
Father before the world was. But is He, there-
fore, non-existent — unable to help? We have
seen his epiphany once, when He burst from the
skies bringing salvation. Shall we not see it
again .'^ Sufferings meanwhile may come — ^per-
secutions, trials — above what flesh is capable of
enduring. But as the grace of God has appeared
already bringing salvation, shall we not be sure
that, in due season, there shall be another epiph-
any of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ?


Perhaps it is too much to say that the exhorta-
tion of Paul bids Timothy to look forward to this
second epiphany. But perhaps it is not too much
to say that the use of the word here, consecrated
elsewhere to our Lord's second coming, and the
whole cast of the passage, can scarcely have failed
to suggest by analogy this second coming to Tim-
othy. And if so, the remembrance of it would
add to the force of the exhortation to endurance.
In any case, this vision of the eternal Christ forms
a substantial element in Paul's great exhortation.

There is, however, a third element in it that we
must be sure that we perceive before we can say
that we have appreciated its whole force; it fills
Timothy's heart with the sense of an eternal sal-
vation. We have seen that it points him back into
eternity for the inception of this salvation. There,
we will not say merely it was prepared for, pro-
vided for; it was rather, prepared, provided.
Before times eternal there was a purpose of God —
His own sovereign purpose, independent of all
works of man — in accordance with which we have
in time been called. But there was also more —
even a grace that had been given to us already in
Christ Jesus, our eternal Lord. And it is in
accordance with this grace also that we have
been called with a holy calling and saved; in
accordance with this grace, existent eternally, and
only manifested in time, when Jesus burst on the
astonished view of man and abolished death and


brought to light Hfe and immortality. This salva-
tion, thus manifested, therefore, is an eternal
salvation. There was no time when it was not.
Can there be any time when it shall cease to be?

What we must, above all, however, see to it that
we do is to focus our eyes on what this eternal
salvation thus manifested in time consists in. It
consists in just the abolishment of death and the
bringing to light of life and immortality. Ah,
this death that Timothy may have been in danger
of fearing — that is the real shadow. This salva-
tion — so long hidden in the heavens — that is the
reality. It may again seem to be hidden in the
heavens; death — does it not loom before him as a
hideous threat of the immediate future.^^ Nay,
the eternal salvation, revealed in Christ Jesus, is
revealed in this very act — that He has abolished
death and brought Hfe and immortality to light
through the Gospel. Surely if Paul can quicken
and give life and force to this conception in Tim-
othy's mind and heart, his encouragement of him
to face persecution and death with him for the
Gospel's sake is complete. Then, this threatened
death is naught; the Saviour has abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light.

In essence, shall we not say, then, that this
appeal finds its deepest root in the assurance of a
blessed immortality.^ That it unveils the life
beyond the tomb.^ And puts the heart into us
that was in Paul when he declared that he viewed


with unconcern the wearing away of this earthly
house because he knew he had a building of God,
a house not made with hands, eternal in the
heavens? It is because the salvation brought
thus to Timothy is not only eternal in its incep-
tion but eternal in its endurance, that the appeal
has such force. Paul is seeking to fill the heart
and mind of his follower with the realization of an
eternal salvation, and so to lead him to courage in
facing temporal trials. Is it not our wisdom to
apply his words to ourselves.^ Shall we, too, not
endure as seeing the invisible?


2 Tim. i2:l 1-13:— "Faithful is the saying: For if we died with
Him, we shall also live with him : if we endure we shall also reign
with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faith-
less, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself."

The words which are before us this afternoon
form one of those "faithful sayings" taken up by
Paul from the mouth of the Christian community
and given fresh significance and force by his em-
ployment of them to wing his own appeals and
point his own arguments to his fellow Christians.
It is exceedingly interesting to observe the Apostle
thus acting as a member of a settled community
with its own standards of belief and maxims of
conduct already to a certain degree established;
and none the less so that he was himself the
foimder of the community, who had impressed on
it the faith to which it was now giving expression.
The special *' faithful saying" he now adduces
bears in it traits which point back to his teaching
as the germ from which it had grown, but also to
the teaching of our Lord Himself, a witness to the
wide diffusion of which in the churches it thus sup-
plies. If the phrase, "If we died with him we
shall also live with him" is Pauline to the core and
takes the mind of the reader irresistibly back to
such a passage as Romans 6:8; and the next suc-



ceeding phrase, "If we endure we shall also reign
with him, " reminds us more remotely of such pas-
sages as Rom. 5:17; 8:17; the clause which fol-
lows that, "If we deny him, he, too, will deny us,"
cannot fail to remind us of Matt. 10:33, or rather,
of the saying of Jesus there formally recorded.

How this "faithful saying" had been formed
in the church, whether merely as a detached
gnome, or maxim, which Christians were wont to
repeat to one another for their enheartening and
encouragement; or, as a portion of some htur-
gical form often used in the church service, until
its language had become fixed; or as a passage
from a hymn that had grown popular, as its
rhythmic form may perhaps suggest, it may be
difficult or impossible to decide. The way in
which the Apostle adduces it appears in any event
to bear witness that the words were a current
formula in the church, to which he could appeal as
such, and which would, from their familiarity and
devout, if not sacred, association, appeal power-
fully to Timothy's heart. Perhaps we may ven-
ture to say that the Apostle himself felt the appeal
of these devout associations, and employs the
"saying" precisely because it had become by use
the natural expression of his own strong feelings,
at the moment aroused to a particular fervour. He,
the great Apostle, yet leans with comfort on the
church's own expression of its faith. What a tes-
timony w have here to the solidarity of the church


of God; or, as we prefer to put it, to the com-
munion of the saints. And what an enforcement
of the great commands that we bear one another's
burdens, that we neglect not the assembhng of our-
selves together, that we do not indulge the vanity
of living each one to himself. The Church is ever
to Paul, the inspired teacher of the Church, in a
deep and true sense, the pillar and ground of the
truth, on the testimony of which he gladly rests.
The purpose for which he adduces this partic-
ular "faithful saying" is to clinch his appeal to
Timothy to steadfast adherence to his high duty
and privilege of teaching the Gospel, despite
every difficulty and danger besetting the pathway.
He appears in this context to be urging three mo-
tives upon Timothy to induce him to face bravely
the hardships of the service he is pressing upon
him. He points him first to the source of his
strength: "Remember Jesus Christ as risen from
the dead, of the seed of David"; keep your eyes
set on the heavenly majesty of the exalted Christ,
our King. Surely he who keeps vivid in his con-
sciousness that He with whonx he has to do is the
Lord of heaven and earth, who, though He had
died, yet lived again, and is set on the throne of
universal dominion, should have no fear in boldly
obeying his behests. Paul points Timothy next
to the important function performed by the
preacher of the Gospel, faithfulness in proclaim-
ing which he is urging upon him as so prime a


duty that no danger must be allowed to intermit
it. It is by it that the elect of God attain the sal-
vation destined for them in Christ Jesus. Who
will draw back when he realizes that he is a fellow-
worker with God in bringing to their salvation
God's own elect — those elect whom God has loved
from the foundation of the world, for whom He
has given His Son to shame and death, and sent
His Spirit into the foulness of men's hearts?
Surely he who apprehends that it is laid on him to
carry this salvation to those whose own it is will
never weary in conveying it to them. Let us
learn how a brute beast may respond to an appeal
to share in such a service of good by reading
Browning's "How they brought the good news to
Ghent." Shall we be less responsive to such
appeals than even the brutes? Lastly Paul plies
Timothy with this "faithful saying," the force of
whose appeal lies in its subtle blending of encour-
agement and warning: encouragement because
it tells us what a glorious prospect lies before him
who gives himself to Christ unreservedly here;
warning because it discloses to us the dreadfulness
of the award that lies before him who is unfaith-
ful here to the service he owes his Lord.

"If we died with him, we shall also live with
him; if we steadfastly endure we shall also reign
with him," but also, "if we shall perchance deny
him, he will also deny us"; though of one thing we
may be firmly assured, "though we prove faith-


less, He abideth ever faithful, for He cannot deny
Himself." Was ever warning and encourage-
ment so subtly blended in a single composite ap-
peal? So subtly indeed that one remains in
doubt whether the appeal comes to its close on a
note of hope or on one of despair. Is it that God
will remain faithful to His gracious purposes of
love despite our weakness; that, though we prove
untrustworthy, yet He abides ever trusty — is it
on this note of high hope and encouragement
that the Apostle's great song sinks down to rest.^^
Or is it rather, that the God who has threatened
to deny those that deny Him, will abide ever
faithful to this dreadful threat, so that he who dis-
owns Him here need cherish no hope that he shall
escape the announced disavowal there— is it on
this note of profoundest warning that the Apostle
pauses? The language is flexible to either sense;
the context leaves the way open to either; the
appeal would be alike strong under either inter-
pretation; but it is strongest of all, doubtless,
under the subtle blending of the two, to which
the phrasing of the whole "faithful saying" seems
to invite us.

For this "faithful saying" has the characteristic
pregnancy and subtlety of all its fellows, which is
the hall-mark of all true popular sayings that have
passed from mouth to mouth until they have
been compacted into the thought of a whole com-
munity. For its interpretation we should con-


fine ourselves primarily to its own narrow com-
pass and remember that the context in which it
comes to us is not its own original context, and
can help us to its interpretation only so far as the
propriety of its adduction here is concerned. So
looking at it, it is clear that much of the current
exposition of its clauses falls away of itself. For
example, it seems obvious that the "dying with
Christ" here adduced is not physical dying with
Christ, martyrdom, but forensic dying with
Christ, justification. It is clear that our frag-
ment is a fragment of a piece in which the main
theme is Christ's work of redemption. It is es-
pecially clear that we have no right to supply
"with Christ" with the second clause. It is not
endurance "with Christ," but "steadfast endur-
ance to the end" alone that is intended, and the

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Online LibraryBenjamin Breckinridge WarfieldFaith and life; 'conferences' in the Oratory of Princeton seminary → online text (page 24 of 27)