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SUFFERING AND REIGNING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 29, 2013

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).


Here we go again! I sat down to write this sermon and I discovered that the word “suffer” here is translated as “endure” in all the modern translations. Yet the Geneva Bible of 1599 and the 1611 KJV translate it as “suffer.” As I studied it more I found that the Greek word can be translated as either “suffer” or “endure.” So it could go either way.

The context therefore must be considered. In verses 11 and 12 the Apostle is talking about the Christian’s union with Christ. In verse 11 he says, “If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him.” This refers to a Christian renouncing the world and dying to sin and self. So, verse 11 speaks of a real Christian’s union with Christ in His death (cf. Romans 6:1-3). Then verse 12 speaks of the Christian’s union with Christ in His “suffering.” Therefore “suffer” is the preferred word used by the great translators of the Geneva Bible and the King James Bible. Those translators were not fools. They were the greatest Greek scholars in England. They knew that the whole context of chapter two led up to “suffer,” not merely “endure.” The chapter pictures the true Christian as a soldier, culminating in those challenging words,

“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 follow Jesus in His death, we will live with Him. If we follow Jesus in His suffering, we will reign with Him! Simple! Why complicate things by changing “suffer” to “endure,” as all the modern translations do? You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to figure that one out! But modern church members don’t want to suffer! So, the modern translators weakened the verse as much as possible to please their soft-evangelical readers. It’s as simple as that!

Also, the older translators had a much higher view of Scripture than even the most conservative scholars today. So, they translated our text in the light of Romans 8:17, which says,

“…if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (KJV).

And I give here the NIV,

“…if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory” (NIV).

The word translated “suffer” in Romans 8:17 clearly means “to experience pain,” “to suffer with it.” Since the word in our text has the idea of suffering and enduring, the earlier men translated it in the light of Romans 8:17. This is what Luther called “the analogy of Scripture.”

The real reason for the change by modern translators lies elsewhere. They know that modern readers don’t want to suffer! So they used a softer word to accommodate today’s weak evangelicals! I often say, “The King James Bible casts a great deal of light on the modern translations!”

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

The corollary verse in Romans 8:17 makes it very clear that real Christians are “joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17).

I.First, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”

Dr. J. Vernon McGee gave an excellent comment on that. He said,

       “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him”... I believe that this verse narrows it down to those who have suffered for Him…In the Roman world of Paul’s day there were many Christians who were martyred – five million of them, according to Foxe – because they refused to deny Christ.
      “If we deny him, he also will deny us.” This is very strong language. It reveals, however, that Paul believes that faith without works is dead (James 2:17). You see, Paul and James never contradict each other. James is talking about the works of faith, and Paul is saying that genuine faith will produce works (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume V, p. 466; note on II Timothy 2:12).

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

In the early church all Christians were taught that they had to go through trials and suffering. We can see this very clearly in Acts 14:22, where Paul and Barnabas were at Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

“We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” The Greek word translated “tribulation” is “thlipsis.” It means “pressures, afflictions, troubles, sufferings” (Strong).

The early Christians were tough enough to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) because they had been taught that it was normal to deny themselves and take up their cross daily, as Christ “said to them all,”

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

“We must through much tribulation [pressures, afflictions, troubles, sufferings] enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

In his sermon on “Suffering and Reigning with Jesus,” great Spurgeon, “the prince of preachers,” said,

      When Marcus Arethusus (362 A.D.) was commanded by Julian the Apostate, to [give money for] the rebuilding of a heathen temple which his people had pulled down upon their conversion to Christianity, he refused to obey; and though he was an aged man, he was stripped naked, and then pierced all over with [lances] and knives. The old man still was firm. If he would give [a few pennies] toward the rebuilding of the [pagan] temple, he would be free…[But] he would not. He was smeared with honey, and while his wounds were [still] bleeding, the bees and wasps came upon him and stung him to death. He could die, but he could not deny his Lord. Arethusus entered into the joy of his Lord, for he nobly suffered with him (C. H. Spurgeon, “Suffering and Reigning with Jesus,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1991 reprint, volume X, p. 11).

We honor the names of men like Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), who spent 14 years of torture in a Romanian Communist prison. We honor Samuel Lamb (1924-2013), who spent over 20 years of hard labor in a Communist Chinese concentration camp. We honor Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), who was hanged by the neck with a piano wire by the Nazis in World War II for preaching against Hitler. We honor the many hundreds of people who are suffering for their faith in Christ in Muslim lands this morning. But what about you? Will you give up a few hours to be in church every Sunday? Will you go through the small sacrifice of being in prayer meeting, and going to evangelism every week?

I have in my study a copy of The Baptist Hymnal, published by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1956. Even back then there was a weakening of the need for Christians to suffer. I looked at Reginald Heber’s (1783-1826) great hymn, “The Son of God Goes Forth to War.” My heart sank when I saw that the Southern Baptists removed the strongest stanza from that inspiring hymn. Here is the stanza they removed,

A glorious band, the chosen few, On whom the Spirit came,
   Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew, And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, The lion’s gory mane;
   They bowed their necks the death to feel: Who follows in their train?
(“The Son of God Goes Forth to War” by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).

That’s the stanza that grabs you! That’s the stanza that used to inspire young people to forsake an easy life and go to the mission field, or become self-sacrificing Christians here at home! Why did they remove that stanza in 1956? I’ll tell you why! Some elderly ladies were offended by it! They didn’t want to think about “the cross and flame.” They didn’t want to be confronted with images of “the tyrant’s brandished steel.” It would upset them to be reminded of “the lion’s gory mane,” or the fact that the martyrs “bowed their necks the death to feel.” It was too much for them, so they took it out. Shame on them for their cowardice! Shame on the Southern Baptist Church Music Department for desecrating that mighty witness to the martyr’s faith! Let us never be ashamed to sing it. Let us never be ashamed to live it, in any way we can! It’s the last song on the song sheet. Sing it!

A glorious band, the chosen few, On whom the Spirit came,
   Twelve valiant saints, their hope they knew, And mocked the cross and flame.
They met the tyrant’s brandished steel, The lion’s gory mane;
   They bowed their necks the death to feel: Who follows in their train?

A noble army, men and boys, The matron and the maid,
   Around the Saviour’s throne rejoice, In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of Heaven, Through peril, toil and pain;
   O God, to us may grace be given, To follow in their train.
(“The Son of God Goes Forth to War” by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).

You may be seated.

“They climbed the steep ascent of Heaven through peril, toil and pain.” Yes! That is what the Apostle meant when he said,

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

II. Second, “If we deny him, he also will deny us.”

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

Jesus gave that solemn warning when He said,

“Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).

The Apostle Paul said in our text, “if we deny him, he also will deny us.” This is the denial of Christ that happens when a false Christian is confronted with the suffering that is required in true discipleship. That is what happens to the “stony ground” people described in the parable of the sower.

“They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13).

Dr. Rienecker says that “fall away” means “go away,” “withdraw” (Fritz Rienecker, Ph.D., A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan, 1980, p. 161; note on Luke 8:13).

When “temptation” comes they often fall away from their local church. “These have no root” means that they have never been “rooted” in Christ. It reveals that they were never truly converted. Mark 4:17 amplifies what the “time of temptation” means in the parable,

“When affliction or persecution ariseth...immediately they are offended” [literally, “fall away,” NASV].

Such people will be denied by Jesus at the judgment. He will say to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).

Others who deny Christ keep on attending some church. They think they are O.K., but they deny Christ by living in sin. These people are antinomians. I spoke about these people in my sermon “Antinomianism in Italy” (click here to read it). They are described by the Apostle Paul in Titus 1:16,

“They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).

These antinomians may have learned some correct doctrines, but they deny God by the way they live. The Reformation Study Bible says, “The New Testament teaches that the lack of actions consistent with a changed life renders one’s faith in Christ suspect... Both sound doctrine and actions in accordance with a changed life are necessary for Christians” (note on Titus 1:16). “In works they deny him.”

When our translator in Laos read my sermon on “Antinomianism in Italy,” he wrote to me and said,

It is really true that many people claim they are saved but nothing has changed in their life. In our country of Laos and even in Thailand the people who claim that they are Christian are destroying the name of Jesus. They love to drink, dance, steal and give a bad testimony to their neighbors.

He said this causes unsaved people in Laos not to want to become Christians themselves, “But the worst is they say they even do not want to be friends with [these] Christians.”

So we see the horrible fruits of antinomianism in Italy, Laos, and “even in Thailand.” We hang our heads in shame because we know that this false view of Christianity comes largely from America, and poisons the witness of Christ throughout the world in these last days. Jesus gave this prophecy,

“Because iniquity [Greek: anomia – lawlessness; the root of “antinomianism”] shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold” (Matthew 24:12).

This is one of the signs of the Second Coming of Christ! Even real Christians will be discouraged, and lose their Christian love, because there are so many antinomians in the last days! But make no mistake here – these antinomians are actually lost people who “deny him” by their sinful lives (Titus 1:16).

A real Christian will never deny Christ. That is what Jesus meant when He said, in the next verse in Matthew 24,

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

In spite of being hated; in spite of false prophets; in spite of the “iniquity,” the lawlessness, of antinomians who profess to be Christians but are not, the truly converted person will “endure unto the end” (Matthew 24:9-13). As an old hymn puts it,

Dark was the night, sin warred against us,
   Heavy the load of sorrow we bore;
But now we see signs of His coming;
   Our hearts glow within us, joy’s cup runneth o’er!
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   The very same Jesus, rejected of men,
He is coming again, He is coming again,
   With power and great glory, He is coming again!
(“He is Coming Again” by Mabel Johnston Camp, 1871-1937).

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

Christ is ready to save you from your sins. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins. He shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. He rose physically from the dead to give you life. I challenge you to turn away from your sins! Repent, and put your trust in Jesus. He will save you! He will save you. He will save you now!

If you would like to speak with us about being saved by Jesus, please leave your seat now, and walk to the back of this auditorium. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet room for prayer and counselling. Go to the back of the room now. Dr. Chan, please pray that someone will trust Jesus this morning. Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: II Timothy 2:3-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Son of God Goes Forth to War” (by Reginald Heber, 1783-1826).


THE OUTLINE OF

SUFFERING AND REIGNING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (II Timothy 2:12).

(II Timothy 2:11; Romans 8:17)

I.   First, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” James 2:17;
Acts 14:22; 17:6; Luke 9:23.

II.  Second, “If we deny him, he also will deny us,” Matthew 10:33;
Luke 8:13; Mark 4:17; Matthew 7:23; Titus 1:16;
Matthew 24:12, 13.