Among the first century believers there were in circulation ‘sayings of the faithful’. There was no opportunity for most people to learn to read and write so sayings were memorized. Some people with exceptional memories have memorized all the Psalms. Mission workers have been surprised when meeting some so called ‘illiterate’ people to find how fully they have trained their memory.
Paul includes one of the sayings in the chapter we read today. First he writes, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10) and then quotes this saying, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him”.
We die with him when we are baptised. Going down under the water and then coming out again is a symbol of his death and resurrection – we are acknowledging that his death was for us. The saying then stresses the need to “endure” – it surely reflects the words of Jesus, “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). The actual saying Paul is quoting is – “if we endure we will also reign with him”.
This is wonderful beyond our imagining! But the saying concludes with the negative picture of those who fail. “if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (verses 12,13). When Jesus had cause to say, “O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30) he nevertheless did not give up. Since then countless thousands have been prepared to die with him after he had died for them.
It is sad that as Paul completes this letter he needs to mention one who he had earlier named as a “fellow labourer” (Philemon verse 24) but now he has to write of him, “for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me …” (4:9). What is there in the world today to “love”?
May all those who read these lines, die with Christ in baptism, and then endure, helped by their daily reading and meditation on the divine word, helping us to endure to the end so that we “will also live with him”.