“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” – 2 Timothy 2:12
Some believe that embedded within 2 Timothy 2:12 is proof that believers can lose their salvation. Proponents of this belief hone in on the first part of verse 12 and suggest that if believers do not suffer [persevere], they will not reign with Christ. In other words, Christians can forfeit heaven by not persevering. Is this the case?
Let’s look at the immediate context:
“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
To follow the flow of Paul’s words, let’s summarize them in a bullet list:
- If we are dead with Christ, we shall live with Him.
- If we suffer, we will reign with Christ.
- If we deny Christ, He will deny us.
- If we don’t believe, Christ will remain faithful. He cannot deny Himself.
Notice what Paul did not say. He did not say that “if we be dead with him and suffer, we shall also live with him.” Suffering was not a prerequisite for living with Christ, but rather only “if we be dead with him.” Paul wrote two independent statements: those dead in Christ shall live with Him, and those that suffer will also reign with Him. This logically concludes that those who are dead in Christ also suffer. Is this true? Do Christians suffer? Consider the following:
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” – Romans 8:16–17
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” – 2 Timothy 3:12
Being a Christian is neither easy nor popular. In an evil world, Christians are called to uphold the truths of Scripture and often face fierce mockery, ridicule, and persecution around the world. There is no question that true believers suffer on account of Christ. If an individual professes to be a Christian but lives a worldly life and doesn’t stand for Christ, it most definitely is an indicator that this person is a Christian in name only and not a true believer (1 John 2:4).
So does 2 Timothy 2:12 prove that a true believer can slack in their perseverance and lose salvation? No, it does not. True believers are those that suffer on the account of Christ.
For more information, see Is eternal security true?