The Expository Files

 The Firm Foundation of God

2 Timothy 2:19-21

"Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.'" (2 Timothy 2:19).

This is a statement of confidence and victory. It is important that every Christian understand the implications of this verse. No matter what circumstances one may be facing, however stressful or discouraging they may seem, every child of God must remember that the foundation of our hope is God, and that foundation will never be destroyed.

Disappointments must not be allowed to embitter us. Nor should we allow them to deter us from being fully committed to exalting Jesus Christ in our lives. Our lights must continue to shine brightly. Our hope has a solid foundation that does not waver.

The Background
Perhaps Timothy was discouraged. He had at one time been imprisoned for his faith (Hebrews 13:23). And now, Paul was in prison, and let Timothy know up front that he would remain so until his execution (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Then, some brethren Timothy was associated with were being adversely effected by a couple of false teachers named Hymenaeus and Philetus. This is always a huge disappointment to God's people and fellow workers when this occurs.

Paul wrote, "Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:14-18).

It is against the backdrop of these negative circumstances, and perhaps others, that Paul seeks to assure Timothy that "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands." When one seeks to do what is right, regardless of such disappointments, he or she should always be aware that everything God has promised still stands, including the special promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

No Chips, Cracks or Faults
The foundation of God is secure. The events of life do not change that. The words of the apostles and prophets are His revelation and they are all still true. The gospel plan of salvation is still valid. The hope of eternal life is still sure and steadfast. God's plan for His people as individuals and as local churches is still valid. None of this changes any at all.

Timothy seemed especially concerned about the work of Hymenaeus and Philetus, and how they had gone "astray from the truth" and "upset the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:18). He was concerned that others had followed them away from the truth. Were cracks beginning to appear in the foundation of God? Paul insists that despite these falling away, the foundation of God still stands. When brethren disappoint, we must remember that our faith rests in God, not in man.

The Seal of God
The seal, or guarantee of God, is still valid. There are a couple reasons given for this in verse nineteen (2 Timothy 2:19).

First, "The Lord knows those who are His." He knows who we are and where we are and what we need. He understands what we face. He is watching. He will not lose us in the shuffle and upheavals of life's traumas. Jesus once put it this way: "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:14,15). and "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27,28).

And the second reason given in verse 19 is that faithful Christians do not follow false teachers into sin. Paul wrote, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness." They continue to hear the voice of Jesus and follow Him (see the aforementioned reference in John 10:27,28). Your faithfulness and the promises of God will not be broken by another's failure to be what they ought to be.

God's House is Still Home
"Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:20,21).

Yes, the evils of the world sometimes effect brethren in various ways. Peter mentions those who have returned to living by the standards of the world rather than according to the word of God (1 Peter 2:18-22). Such behavior is certainly incompatible with living in God's house, but it is not going to bring the house down. The Lord knows which vessels are of honor and useful, and which are not.

Peter also uses the house illustration, but in a slightly different way. He said, " also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." and "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:5,9).

God's Salvation is Personal
Another point is this: I will stand before God as an individual. Paul told Timothy "Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:21). He could do that, no matter if others were making shipwreck of their faith.

Timothy was also told to "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15). He could also do that. So can we. In the midst of this life's most stressful events, we can live by faith, confident that " nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands."

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 9-9; September 2002