The Scriptorium

Faithful Saying

Should faithful sayings be written in poetry? 2 Timothy 2.11-13

The Pastoral Epistles: 2 Timothy 2 (3)

Pray Psalm 126.1-3.

When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Read and meditate on 2 Timothy 2.11-13.


1. What makes these verses a “faithful saying”?

2. What choices are we faced with in these verses?

Paul has been making the point that living the Christian life is not an easy row to hoe. We have to endure hardship, get ready for battle, deny everything that would distract us from our mission, discipline ourselves like athletes, and work like farmers (vv. 3-6). We should not be misled or deceived about the life of faith.

In our verses for today, Paul boils that life down to a poem, and sets it in a form that can be easily remembered. If we have died with Christ – to the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil – we will surely live with Him in the blessedness of the knowledge of God. And if we endure – pressing on, growing in grace, fighting the good fight, rejoicing in our trials, bearing the fruit of good works, maintaining our testimony and witness – we will reign with Him, that is, we will experience the coming of His Kingdom in ever-greater measure.

The parallelism here reminds us of the structure of a psalm: die/live, endure/reign: a b b a, where the two middle verbs (live, endure) are equivalent, and the two outer verbs (die, reign), though seemingly opposite, actually are meant to mean the same thing (as dictated by the middle pair).

This first strophe puts the life of faith positively. The second casts it in a different light. If we deny the Lord – fail to live for and bear witness to Him – then He will deny us, because it will be plain to Him and everyone else that we never truly knew Him in the first place. But if we experience lapses of faith (ἀπιστοῦμεν, unbelieving) – if we give in to temptation, or fall into sin – He will not deny us, but will convict, chasten, and work to return us to Him (Heb. 12.3-11), because He is faithful, and cannot go back on what He has promised to all who truly come to Him (Matt. 11.28-30). We all experience seasons of faithlessness, but these are not the same as denying the Lord. At times of faithlessness, we need to plead with the Lord to increase our faith. He is faithful and will do so, and we will be back on track to live and endure for Him.

We see a similar structure to this second strophe: “deny Him/deny us; “faithless/faithful”, then the coda, “He cannot deny Himself”: c c d d e. So even though this part of the poem is darker, and the way it is structured makes that darkness more emphatic, it ends on a note of grace. 

Any believer could learn this simple poem, and by recalling it throughout the day, be reinforced and fortified for the ongoing struggles of the life of faith.

1. Why would Paul cast an important faithful saying like this in the form of a poem?

2. What are some ways that memorizing this faithful saying could help you in your walk with and work for the Lord?

3. To live with Jesus is to reign with Him. Explain.

Let us honor the spirit of Christ, that we may receive grace from him. Let us be strangers to the world, even as Christ was not of it. Let us be humble and mild, that we may inherit the land of life. Let us be unflagging in his service, that he may cause us to serve in the abode of the saints. Let us pray his prayer in purity, that it may have access to the Lord of majesty. Let us be partakers in his suffering, so that we may also rise up in his resurrection. Let us bear his sign upon our bodies, that we may be delivered from the wrath to come. Aphrahat (270-350), Of the Holy Spirit 3.20.157

Help me to live for and reign with You today, Lord Jesus, so that I…

Pray Psalm 126.1-3.

Recall how our faithful God brought you to believe the Gospel. Thank Him for the people involved, and for His faithfulness to you in all things.

Sing Psalm 126.1-3.
Psalm 126.1-3 (Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns!)
When God restored our fortunes all, we were like those who sweetly dream.
Our mouths with joy and laughter filled, made Him our constant song and theme.

Then the astonished nations said, “The Lord has done great things for them!”
Indeed, great things our God has done, Whose Name we praise, Amen, Amen!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.