If we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us.
2 Timothy 2:12 (ESV)
At the time of his death in 168 AD, Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was the last living person to be linked to the apostles. He had studied under John. Having been arrested for his faith he was urged by the proconsul to swear an oath to Caesar and curse Christ. Polycarp stood firm in his faith and replied, “Eighty-six years have I served the Lord Jesus Christ and he never once wronged me. How can I blaspheme my King who has saved me?”
Upon his confession, Polycarp was sentenced to be burned at the stake. When the wood was lit the flames rose high above his head but would not burn him. The executioner was ordered to stab Polycarp with a sword. When he did so much blood came out from the wound that it put out the fire.
Jesus exhorted his disciples to proclaim the gospel on the housetops. He told them not to fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul, but fear the one who can destroy both the soul and body in hell. He then made the consequences very plain for those who deny him before men. He said, So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)
In the Revelation, Jesus commended the church at Pergamum for not denying the faith even when one of their brothers was martyred (Revelation 2:13). We are called to be a voice for the gospel and the name of Christ even though it might cost us our lives or the lives of our loved ones. I fear that we are far from ready to experience that kind of persecution. It seems we are often intimidated into silence in our workplaces and in public when the stakes are far less costly.
Not only can we deny Christ by failing to be a voice for his name, we can also deny him by the way we live. The apostle Paul wrote to Titus about people who profess God but deny him by their works (Titus 1:10-16). Jude also wrote of people who mingled with believers but were actually “ungodly people, who pervert the grace of God into sensuality” and deny Christ in doing so (Jude 1:4-7, 12). Jesus rebuked some of the members of the church in Sardis because their works did not measure up to the standard of whom they claimed to be. Yet, there were some who had remained faithful and Jesus promised to confess their names before his Father and the angels (Revelation 3:1-5).
In both our words and our works, let us always walk worthy of the name we bear (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Let’s ask God to give us the grace to always acknowledge Christ before men. As a reward for our faithfulness Jesus promised to acknowledge us before his Father.
Have you denied Christ?
Scriptures for meditation: