The Faithfulness of the Lord and His People

By Not Known

2 Timothy is an occasional letter designed to give encouragement amidst the discouragements of church life and leadership. The following words are amongst its many gems (2 Tim 2:13):

If we are faithless,

he will remain faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.

This is an unexpected saying. The logic of the preceding lines (possibly taken from an early hymn) leads us to expect something different. It is also a remarkable saying. Think about it. It is teaching that the faithfulness of God to himself does not depend on our response to him.

This is quite different to our normal human behaviour. We tend to have a transactional shape to qualities such as love and faithfulness. That is, if we love someone or are true to them, we look for a matching response. If they love us and are faithful, we continue in our love and faithfulness to them. However, if they do not respond with love and faithfulness we change our behaviour.

God is not transactional in his love. In his very nature he is love, faithfulness, truth, justice, mercy and such like (eg Ex 34:6-7). His faithfulness means that he is always consistent with his own character and words. This means that we can depend on God to always be God. He is not like the capricious gods of ancient mythology who could be bad-tempered one day and indulgent the next, with no warning of which was when.

This consistent faithfulness of God is an anchor for us. He is predictable and dependable and we can confidently build our lives within this frame.

God’s consistent faithfulness is also a model for us. We are not only to love because he loved us first but we are to love in the manner with which God loves (1Jn 4:7,11,19). This means that we do not tie our love to the responses that others make to us (transactional love) but we tie our love to the character of God. That is, we don’t love because people are loveable or love us, but because God is love and we draw our identity and character from him. This is a remarkably powerful and transforming approach.

The Cross of Jesus demonstrates the faithfulness of God, irrespective of our faithlessness. Because he was faithful to himself he was merciful to himself bear to judge sin. Because he was faithful to himself, he himself bore the judgement penalty. We cannot presume on the faithfulness of God, but we can rely on it.

May we have grace to understand and to reflect the faithfulness of God.

David Burke