Not My Faith, But God’s Faithfulness :: By Gene Lawley

People everywhere believe “this, that or the other,” but it’s like the old fellow says, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” One of the Bible verses that has stood out to  me like a solitary, tough, battered old cedar on a craggy cliff over the years is this one: “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13).

Some time ago I posted an article titled, “The Faith That Pleases God,” and it would be worth reading again for this context. [1] The idea for this one, however, stems from the realization that God’s purposes are front and center, and any contrary beliefs are not worth their weight in gold. They are worthless and useless. The context of that statement gives some body to the thinking of Paul and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him: if we deny Him, He also will deny us: If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

A brother in Christ some years ago observed that God views the whole world through the keyhole of the gospel. It has been that way from before time began, according to Titus1:2, where Paul declares himself “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”

So when Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought deadly sinfulness into the life of mankind, it was no surprise to God. Adam and Eve covered their nakedness with fig leaves, but even then they were not able to face God, and they hid themselves. As John would later write, “Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). God then came to them, took the skins of animals and made adequate coverings for them. Why were they adequate in God’s eyes? Later on, He told Moses the answer, in Leviticus 17:11:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to  you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

So God’s plan was put in place at the beginning, but not the way the Hebrew people envisioned it, apparently. Even though the Old Testament Scriptures repeatedly point to a coming, more adequate blood sacrifice, even to a full account, in detail, how it would be accomplished (Isaiah 53), they were not prepared for it.

Even after His disciples were with Him for three years, saw Him crucified, buried and then rise from the tomb to be with them for forty days, they still did not understand His plan. Their last question was, “Lord, will you restore the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts1:6).

He basically said, “Not now.” And added, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), repeating the Great Commission of carrying out His plan’s next step.

The two angels, who then appeared, as Jesus ascended into heaven in a cloud said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

In this scene, Jesus and the two angels revealed the next two steps to God’s plan—preaching the gospel around the world, and then Jesus would come back. And this simple departure from His small body of believers will be like His return for His believers—quietly, “like a thief in the night,” and they will be with Him forever. He will meet them in a cloud, then, but later on, He will come back with all His saints as a conquering army and will remain on the earth for one thousand years of theocratic rule, ”with a rod of iron.”

Despite all the arguments to the contrary, it is obvious that Jesus is not ruling the earth from heaven’s throne while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. That declaration that He will rule all nations “with a rod of iron” speaks of the rule of Jesus from the throne of David in Jerusalem, a coming event (Revelation 12:5).

It is interesting how the truth of that verse that opened this article, 2 Timothy 2:13, proves itself. It makes that old standby excuse, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” fall into shattered pieces. Consider the proclamations of Isaiah 53 that portrays the future death, burial and resurrection of Jesus with astounding clarity in details that are irrefutable. Yet, when it actually came to pass, it was unbelievable and was rejected. Pre-conceived ideas intervened and destroyed what could have been a gigantic transformation of life to the many.

The dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who came to be known as Paul, the apostle, baffled many, and when he and his team came to Thessalonica, the civic leaders rallied their peers with the cry, “Those who have turned the world upside down have now come here!” When Paul told King Festus how he had been changed by a risen Christ, the response with a loud voice, was, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” (Acts 26:24).

In Genesis 12 and 16 are the accounts of God’s promise and covenant to and with Abraham, that the land He was promising Abraham and his physical descendants would be theirs forever. Even the covenant was one-sided. God made it His solitary promise, showing that it did not hinge on anything Abraham nor his descendants would ever do or not do.

Later on, when the Jewish people disobeyed and rejected Him, God scattered them into all the nations but promised to bring them back to the land at a future time, for “His own namesake” (Ezekiel 36:22-24). Think of that opening verse again, “If we believe not, yet He abides faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”  

And again, when the times and the seasons were right, He brought them back to the land and restored its kingdom sovereignty. There are many who have maintained that God changed His mind on His promises to Abraham and now those promises belong to the church. But it is clear in the Scriptures that God does not deny Himself. He is unchangeable.

When God revealed the substance of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel—the statue that was divided up into representations of future kingdoms of the world—it projected all the way into the future of our days. But God was not seeing them with just His foreknowledge as situations that would occur in the future. He was identifying them as events that He would bring to pass. He was foretelling the future that He would create.

Likewise, it is an interesting statement that Jesus made after Peter identified Him as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in John 6:69. He said to them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” And we see that God makes His own plan, and works out His own plan.

Are you wondering how we came to this time and have the types of leaders in our country and in other countries of the world? As Psalm 75:6-8 says, “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south but God is the Judge: He puts down one and exalts another, for in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red. It is fully mixed, and He pours it out. Surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.”

God puts people in leadership and other positions, whether or not believers, to accomplish His purpose, just as He did with Cyrus, king of Persia, who issues the decree to restore the temple in Ezra’s day. And Jesus said to Peter, in John 6:70, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

It seems impossible that anyone reading and studying the Scriptures with an open mind, and a heart surrendered to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—to not soon realize that our redemption is in the hands of the One determined that His plan of salvation would not become corrupted by any input from mankind. Perhaps we can see the source of those attempts to corrupt the truths of the gospel in the answer Jesus gave to Peter when the latter tried to turn the Lord away from His goal of the cross in Matthew 16:22-23:

“Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’”

Therefore it is extremely important and meaningful to me that I am among those who are “kept by the power of God” (1 Peter 1:5) in His salvation and ready to be revealed in the last day, not in the strength of my own faith but in His faithfulness.

Endnotes                                                                                                                                                         [1] Article referenced: If you would like a copy, send a request by email below.

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