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2 Timothy was the last letter written by Paul – writing in prison in Rome, while awaiting execution. His major concern is his spiritual ‘son’ Timothy and his ministry in Ephesus. Though Paul is alone – ‘everyone…has deserted me’ (1:15) there is no self-pity. Timothy was called to minister in a difficult situation, with a personality tending towards timidity and having to deal with false teaching regarding the resurrection. Paul’s focus, however, is on positive truth. Consider 2 Timothy 2:19 God’s solid foundation.
1. The foundation God laid
Despite the challenges and the damage done to the church, Paul affirms strongly ‘Nevertheless’ – turning attention to God’s mighty and gracious work. These are words of faith – ‘God’s solid foundation stands firm’ – to strengthen Timothy and all God’s people. The best view is that the ‘foundation’ is the true church of God – ‘the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15). As the handiwork of God it cannot be destroyed. Note Christ’s statement in Matthew 16:18 ‘I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’. The church is established by the purchase of sinners by the very blood of God (Acts 20:28). Paul’s wording is significant: ‘stands firm’ is a perfect tense, a past action of God that has ongoing consequences – ‘remains standing’. Paul stresses the permanency and the stability of the church – whatever the attacks, the church will never be overwhelmed, a great truth to hold on to.
2. The seal God applied
The Lord seals the foundation with an inscription. A seal has several kinds of significance:
It affirms ownership – the church belongs to God
It authenticates identity – this church alone is the true church
It protects from tampering – the blood-bought church of God cannot be destroyed or taken over, although bodies professing to be the church may prove false.
Two aspects of the seal show why ‘God’s solid foundation stands firm’:
- Sovereign grace: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’ – the language of covenant and salvation. He has entered into a relationship of love with them. He loves them ‘with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3) and chose them before creation (Ephesians 1:4). It is not surprising that Jesus, speaking as ‘the good shepherd’ (John 10:11) can say ‘I know my sheep’ (v14). He loves them and gave himself for them.
- Godly living: ‘God’s solid foundation’ embraces not only God’s work of sovereign grace but also the human response of godly living. On the seal is a second statement that is equally true: ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness’. Here is a statement of human responsibility. Turning away from wickedness is an inevitable consequence of divine grace. Our decisive break with sin at conversion must be worked out in daily godly living with the enabling of the Spirit.
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Times of uncertainty can be disorientating for us. The inability to know what will come next can cause us to be uncertain and anxious. Such feelings are normal for finite humans who cannot see into the future. Yet, Christians ought to hold onto God in uncertain times because in Psalm 33 we see God as the God of History, the One who is in perfect control.
- The Certainty of God’s Plans
Psalm 33 establishes that God’s plans stand firm forever (v.11). Whatever God plans will happen at exactly the appointed time. God has never been more or less in control. We can be certain of God’s plans coming to pass because they occur with his created world. The psalm shows God to be Creator in (vv.6-9) and we are included in that creation (v. 15). The truth of God’s control should displace any notion in our minds that God is the aloof Creator, who created the world, set the stage, gave us the props and then removed himself. God has not lost control. He exercises complete control, and his plans are certain to come about.
- The Loving Content of God’s Plans
God is in control, but are his plans any good? Should we be worried? The thought of the world being overseen by a God without any standard of goodness is a frightening thought. Thankfully, that’s not the case. God is Holy and we see his character summarised in (vv.4-5). God’s ‘unfailing love’ is mentioned three times through this psalm (vv.5,18,22). This is the love that he shows to us, the undeserving. The love that has brought us into covenant relationship with himself. He has done all the work and orchestrated human history to bring about salvation for his chosen inheritance. God’s plans then are the purposes of his heart and so reflect his nature (v.11). We see the love of God towards his rebellious creation through the plan of salvation that took Christ to the Cross.
- The Consequence of our Hope
When discussing the consequences, we can’t just say that the consequences of this truth are the same for all. No, how you respond and what you believe will have consequences.
- For those who misplace their hope
Those who reject the offer of salvation through Christ are rejecting the only effective means of salvation. They are rejecting the only hope they have of eternal life with God in Heaven. You’re setting yourself up in opposition to the Creator of the world and the Director of world history. What a foolish position to put yourself in for God foils the plans of his opponents (v.10). We see the foolishness of misplacing your hope in (vv.16-17). Now is the time to change the foundation of your hope, whilst there is still time.
- For those who hope in the Lord
If our hope is in the Lord, then, what he has done in the past for us cannot be undone and what he has promised for our future is certain. Christ’s decisive and victorious intervention in human history is the greatest demonstration of God’s unfailing love for us. Knowing that God is in control of all human history and knowing that he is the redeemer of creation should foster confidence in the mind of the believer. It should enable us to exercise faith even when we can’t see what God is doing. The final three verses of this psalm ought to be our own prayer.
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If anyone could have hoped to please God by living a moral life, it was Saul of Tarsus, the zealous Pharisee: ‘as for legalistic righteousness, faultless’ (Philippians 3:6). But in a dramatic way he came to realise that such efforts were doomed to failure. He was brought by God’s grace to trust in Christ. He understood that a spiritual revolution had taken place in his life which he described in terms of union with Christ. He speaks of this in Galatians 2:20 Crucified with Christ.
1. The death that has been died
Paul speaks of his spiritual transformation in terms of a death (v19), a radical break with his Pharisaic past, but note there are two deaths discussed when he refers to ‘crucified with Christ’:
(a) The death of Christ. Only on this basis may sinners be saved and transformed. Christ died as the representative of his elect – ‘God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul’s description here is most significant. He uses the title ‘Son of God’ – the deity of Christ gave his sacrifice infinite value to redeem his people. God himself provided what was needed. Note ‘who loved me’ – personal redemptive love from before the creation. None of God’s people is merged into the crowd. Love resulted in specific action – ‘gave himself for me’ – in my place. Every believer can say the same. The love of Christ reached its goal at Calvary.
(b) The death of Paul. ‘I have been crucified with Christ’. Even though Paul’s death could not be redemptive, it is nevertheless real. All who put their faith in Christ die a spiritual death – in a profound sense they die with Christ. In a legal sense what Christ accomplished is counted as belonging to his people. We also die in a personal sense – ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires’ (Galatians 5:4). The old nature has been put to death. The dominion of sin is destroyed. ‘I no longer live’ – he no longer lives for self. This is how we must now view ourselves. We are dead to the old life of sin and rejoice in a new freedom.
2. The life that is to be lived
Paul continues – ‘The life that I live in the body’ – life in this present world continues, we are not raptured into heaven upon conversion. It is again essential to see that two lives are in view:
(a) The life of Christ. ‘Christ lives in me’. In a mysterious sense Christ indwells his people. There is a fellowship between them that words cannot fully express, fulfilling the covenant promise is ‘I will walk among you and be your God’ (Leviticus 26:12). Christ is the source of our life (Colossians 3:4). This is an ongoing daily reality. He is our source of strength to face whatever God in his providence sends. ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Philippians 4:13).
(b) The life of Paul. His life is ‘in the body’ – literally ‘in the flesh’, indicating human nature in its weakness and frailty. The believer cannot escape into some ‘higher life’. Christian faith is to be lived out in the realities of a fallen world. Paul had his ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). The Christian is not called to a life of ease. Jesus warned ‘in this world you will have trouble’ (John 16:33), but we have all the necessary resources if we approach life in the right way – we are to ‘live by faith in the Son of God’. We must draw on his strength and provision. He will ‘supply all your need’ (Philippians 4:19). To focus on self brings despair. We must focus instead on Christ who told us ‘I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33).