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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.