Intro: What can you be sure of? Are there any guarantees? It seems that the uncertainty of our world is constantly confirmed for us. This is evident and manifest in the constant changes that we see, as well as the lack of integrity and consistent moral behavior in the lives of people. (From “Read my lips, no more taxes” to “you can keep your health insurance if you like it”, changes in morality, dress, speech, reverence for God, etc) There is very little you can really count on. The uncertainly and instability of our world can be discouraging, especially as we view these changes taking place firsthand.
God provides a counterview for the Christian. It is found in 2 Timothy 2:14-19
- Read 2 Tim 2:14-19 – 14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
The older apostle is concerned for his protégé, Timothy. Timothy faced some discouraging circumstances. Paul above all else, wanted him to trust God and through his faith to experience the security the apostle possessed. He provided a divinely inspired perspective for us. But first consider…..
I. The Context of Discouraging Circumstances: Consider the background of the apostle’s statement.
A. According to Heb.13:23, Timothy had at one time been imprisoned for his faith. The life of preaching the gospel was getting more difficult with each day.
B. Now his teacher and mentor, Paul was in prison, and it didn’t appear that Paul expected to get out. 2 Timothy 4:6 – “the time of my departure is at hand”. Could this be what was ahead for Timothy?
C. In his first letter to Timothy Paul told him to not let anyone despise (depreciate) him or his teaching. (1 Tim. 4:12). This would seem to infer that some were doing just that.
D. In v. 17-18 Paul indicates that some of Timothy’s Christian friends and companions were being adversely affected 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. Maybe those influenced and led astray were those whom Timothy considered strong and sound. Almost always there are some who lose heart or walk away into error. What seemed to be gained is lost to Satan. Have you experienced this?
1. Timothy may have entertained the questions that we ponder:
- How could Satan make such inroads against the church and the preaching of the truth? Why would God allow this to happen? Why should I keep doing this?
- What did the future hold for God’s church? It is against the backdrop of these negative circumstances that Paul seeks to give Timothy assurance and hope.
E. The first word of vs. 19 is a key. “Nevertheless” There are many times in scripture when this word makes all the difference. Grammatically it points to a conclusion that contrasts what has already been stated or might be assumed. It is used to describe the difference the faithfulness of God makes. Earlier in chapter one Paul wrote…I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. (2 Tim. 1:11-12)
II. The Solid Foundation of God Stands: Although there are those who are working against God and some have left the truth, the foundation of God is “solid”. The word “solid” (sure) means steady or unwavering in strength. It is translated as “strong” in Hebrews 5 to describe those who can partake of the meat of the word. They are more stable and secure in their understanding of the truth.
A. There are a few different views of what Paul references by the “foundation of God”. Adam Clarke says that the word “foundation” can mean the foundation of a building, or metaphorically stand for the building itself. Therefore some (such as John MacArthur) view the sure foundation here as the church. This view is usually used to support the Calvinistic idea that once a person is in the church he is sure (cannot be lost).
B. The better view is that the term foundation is used here by Paul as he uses it in – Eph 2:19-20 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. The foundation of the church is the teaching (work) of the apostles & prophets. It is the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.
1. The truth does not change. It is unaffected by the actions of men – either obedience or outright rejection. This view seems supported by the context.
2. In vs. 20 the “house” seems to be the church, and so the foundation must be that which undergirds the house, on which it was built. (Matt. 16:18 church built on the truth Peter confessed).
3. In 2 Tim 2:15 he urges Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. In vs.17-18 he warns against Hymenaeus and Philetus’ who have strayed from the truth and whose word spreads like cancer.
4. Even though their faith is overthrown, the true object of faith remains standing.
C. Others see the foundation as the faithfulness of God to His promises. It may appear that there are cracks in the foundation, but that is just an illusion. Paul also said, let God be true and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4) What God says is as true today as it ever was. He is faithful to His promises. Although some would become reprobate, God does not desert His people. This is an essential element of His truth revealed.
- 2 Peter 3:3-4 – “scoffers will come, walking according tot their own desires, and saying where is the promise of His coming…” “God is not slack as some count slackness… Slack means late or tardy. You cannot judge God’s lateness as you would mine. It does not indicate that he is irresponsible of unreliable. God can be trusted.
- Jamieson says, “The word of the truth’ inseparably involves God’s truthfulness to His Word: the “foundation” is primarily ‘the word of the truth,’ including, secondarily, God’s faithfulness to His promises to His own people. Not the word of truth as a bare theory, but as a surely appropriated foundation of faith and hope standeth fast as the safeguard against error… It is the foundation of God, not the fiction of man: objective, not merely subjective. Psalms 82:5 – 5 They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
III. The Seal of God: “having this seal” – A seal was a sign of ownership or authentication. In most cases it appeared in the form of an inscription (sometimes the term for seal meant an inscription). Here the image seems to be of a foundation stone that was inscribed with an inscription of authentication & ownership. What did the inscription on the stone say? – 2 things – (one on each side) God indicates the authenticity of His word, and His ownership of His people in 2 ways:
A. “The Lord knows those who are His” – Although this appears in the form of a quotation it is somewhat unclear what O.T. passage it references.
1. The best fit is from Numbers 16. Korah was his followers were about to rebel against Moses and God’s choice of him as the leader of Israel. Num 16:4-5 – 4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. God was getting ready to make a distinction that only he could make. He alone could identify w/o mistake the rebels, and thus make known those that were His true people. God’s perfect judgment should comfort God’s people and cause them to trust Him to make those judgments. (that does not mean we cannot or should not discern the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of others. Paul just instructed Timothy to shun profane & idle babblings)
2. But is it a comfort to you, in the face of a divided religious world, and many false teachers, that God knows those who are His? The word “knows” indicates more than just being acquainted with or knowing the identity of. Clarke says it means, “Approves, watches over, and provides for, them that are his true followers.”
a. 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: John 10:14-15 – I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. The ownership and authenticity of God’s people are displayed in His judgment alone. They are made possible through His approval and provision (He laid down his life).
B. The other side of the inscription reads, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” This provides the second reason for our hope and assurance. Those who are God’s people seek always to depart from iniquity. One Commentator identified this as the other side of our confidence. One side is God’s sovereignty, the other side is our holiness, or separation from evil.
1. This quotation may come from the same context as the first – Numbers 16. In verse 26 Moses warned the godly of Israel to “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” Those who did not separate themselves from the rebels were destroyed with them. Look again at Jesus’ own statements in John 10:27-28 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. Your faithfulness and the promises of God will not be broken by another’s failure to be what they ought to be. We can separate from evil, and as we strive to do this we show ourselves to be the people of God.
2. This desire to be separate is a call to be like Christ. It becomes a source of our striving and confidence. Eph 4:17-24- This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Conclusion: In answer to Timothy’s unsure world and discouraging circumstances, He was provided with the certainty of God’s words. God would not let him down. In this same letter Timothy was 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.” God’s plan is still in effect. Nothing has changed or annulled what God has revealed. Have you responded in faith to God’s plan to save you, so that you do not need to be ashamed?