Study 6 GOD’S SOLID FOUNDATION STANDS FIRM
PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY
by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Psalm 87:1-7. Key verse: 2 Timothy 2:19
In both of Paul’s letters to Timothy there are strong warnings against the dangers of the apostasy which was appearing in the Church, and which would increase, especially in the last days – look up and compare 1 Timothy 1:3-4; 4:1; and 2 Timothy 4:3-4. When Paul wrote this letter there were plenty of false teachers in the professing Church, and today the same condition still exists. It is an alarming situation and it threatens to bring discouragement to God’s people. The work of the Church is difficult and the progress of the Gospel is slow, but in spite of this we can be very optimistic, for the key verse assures us that there is no need for alarm or discouragement. In this verse Paul brings us the picture of the foundation of a building. This foundation is absolutely secure; it cannot be moved, and on either side of it there is a seal or inscription. One of these seals is on the God-ward side and the other on the man-ward side. In this verse there are three words to which we should give careful heed:-
1. A WORD OF CONFIDENCE
What is it? That despite the great forces that are opposing the Church – the apostasy that is apparent on every hand, the worldliness that is in the Church, the shallowness that is in the spiritual experience of God’s people, and the apathy there is in His service – despite all these things the firm foundation of God stands. This is the force of the word ‘nevertheless’ in verse 19. The tense of the Greek verb here suggests that the foundation has stood and yet stands; and, in that it was laid by God, the firm and enduring constancy of it is not to be questioned. Now, what is this foundation? It is the whole number of God’s elect – the true Church of Jesus Christ – joined to Him in a vital union effected by the Holy Spirit. It is called a foundation in order to express better its immobility – now compare Psalm 11:3-4; Matthew 7:24-25; Matthew 16:13-19 and Ephesians 2:19-22. What a word of confidence this is! We need not fear for the safety of the Church, or of God’s people. The foundation of God will never be destroyed, so all will be well! This is our confidence. But notice that our key verse also contains:-
2. A WORD OF COMFORT
What is it? The comfort is found in the inscription, “The Lord knows those who are his!” Notice that it does not only say that the Lord knows about all who belong to Him, but that He actually knows them and He has a tender regard for them because they are His. The Bible teaches the absolute security of God’s people, of those whom He has made His own by election, by His holy calling, by the miracle of the new birth, by the blood-washing of the Lord Jesus and by the operation of the Holy Spirit by whom they have been built into the building of God, the body of Christ. But what about those who fall away? Surely these must be professors and not possessors; they are in Christendom but not in the true Church; they have faith in their heads but not saving faith in their hearts; they hold the lamp of testimony but there is no oil in their lamps; they are tares and not wheat (2 Timothy 3:5). All who ‘fall away’ were never really of the true ‘foundation’; they were never born again and never really saved – look up Romans 9:6, and compare 1 John 2:19. As the Lord looks at the professing Church He knows those in that Church who are His. There is great comfort in this truth for the following reasons:-
- (1) Here is the guarantee of His protection. Notice the word ‘his’ – “the Lord knows those who are his”. He looks at each member of His Church and says, ‘You are Mine’ – compare John 10:14 and 28-29.
- (2) Here is the guarantee of His purpose. “The Lord knows those…” – compare Job 23:10; Psalm 37:23-24; Romans 8:28-30 and Hebrews 7:25. God is working out His gracious purpose in the lives of His people – look up Philippians 1:6.
- (3) Here is the guarantee of His provision. When Jesus was speaking of food, clothing, shelter, etc., see what He went on to say – Matthew 6:31-32. Our Heavenly Father knows us and knows all our needs, and He guarantees to provide all our needs – look up Philippians 4:19.
3. A WORD OF CAUTION
Yes, the word of confidence and the word of comfort is followed by a word of caution, brought out in the other inscription on the foundation – “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” The thought here is that if a professing Christian gives no evidence of turning away from wickedness, there is no evidence that he is a real Christian at all – look up the solemn words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:22-23. If we are really the Lord’s people we shall turn away from wickedness; if we are not doing this – or ‘standing aloof from it’, as the word really means – there is no evidence that we really are the Lord’s people. Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). The ‘wickedness’ referred to here includes any transgression of the commands of Christ. It includes all forms of lawlessness. We are to depart from every thought, word and deed which is contrary to the moral law of God, and in particular we are to depart from worldliness, impurity and pride. These three sins are mentioned in this chapter:-
- (1) We are to depart from worldliness. Verse 4 tells us this. What a word this is for us today! – look up and compare 1 John 2:15-17.
- (2) We are to depart from impurity. Verse 22 tells us this, and what a word this is for today! – look up and compare 2 Corinthians 7:1 and Jude 23.
- (3) We are to depart from pride. Verses 24 and 25 tell us this. The first mark of a real Christian is that he is “gentle and humble” (Matthew 11:29).
Let us rest on the word of confidence, rejoice in the word of comfort and respond to the word of caution.