Read: 2 Timothy 2:8-12
Paul here commands Timothy to remember the basic facts concerning Jesus: He rose from the dead, and was a descendant from David, according to what Paul says is “my” gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:4-9 lays out some more basic facts concerning Jesus: he was crucified, buried, was raised on the third day, an appeared to many of his followers. These facts undergird the message that Timothy preaches. He is not to preach something that is speculation, but something that is grounded in real life events. Paul was convinced of these facts, and thus believed the implications of the facts as much as he did the facts themselves (2 Timothy 2:8-12). The facts compel him to suffer for the sake of the gospel. He had been imprisoned because of what he was preaching, but he knows that the gospel itself has been loosed to the world, and Paul is willing to endure so that all the more may obtain salvation.
This prompts Paul to recall a saying concerning. The saying expresses some facts and implications of these facts. The Greek construction of this saying is symmetrical such that many scholars think this is a hymn or poem that was recited by early Christians. The facts is followed by the implication in an “if this then that” form. The poem speaks of the fact that because Christians “die” with Christ, they will also live with him (implicit is the fact that he rose from the dead), the fact those who endure will be rewarded for faithful services, the fact that those who reject Christ will be rejected by Christ, and that even when Christians are faithless he is faithful. This saying served to remind the Christians of the rewards of faithful service, and the gravity of the task that they were fulfilling: that those that reject Christ face judgment.
When Christians think about hymns and songs in the Bible, thy will almost always think about the Psalms. Believe it or not, the New Testament contains hymns too. Here are some possible hymns: 1 Timothy 6:15-16, 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Philippians 2:6-11, Revelation 15:3-4, 1 Timothy 3:16, Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1:3-4. Sometimes these are difficult to spot because music in the first century was not the same as modern music. For Greek poetry, rhyme and rhythm were not that important, but rather they were metrical, a pattern of long syllables and short syllables. Hebrew poetry focuses on rhythm and parallelism. It is obvious what texts in the Old Testament are poetic, but for the New Testament these hymns are not obvious. Scholars are still not if all the passages that have been identified as hymn are indeed hymns. Some are more certain. The hymns themselves though would have had to predate the books that contain them in order to be recorded in the books. It is likely that the early Christian church composed hymns to be sung during worship times. This is analogous to man many cultures today that still have no complete Bible translation, but they have songs in their language that communicate the truth of Jesus. These Christian hymns show that much of the theology that is expressed in the New Testament was established before the New Testament was composed, mitigating the charge that the New Testament was fabricated because it was written long after Jesus ascended.
Paul calls the hymn in 2 Timothy a “trustworthy saying”, and indeed it is. Paul encourages the early churches to speak and teach one another in song (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), and this likewise goes out to Christian today. Paul admonished Timothy with a song to remind him of the work that one does for Christ. Christians today have plethora of songs in many genres of music used to communicate the truth of God, and songs can be a means of encouragements or come as a way of reminder. They can also teach the truth of scriptures. Rather than bicker over what style of music is right for worship, Christians should be encouraging one another with songs of all sorts to help draw people closer to God rather than put stumbling block in their way. No matter what the style may be, the truth communicated through song is what most important!
Lord, let my song praise you, encourage others, and teach your truth!