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Rebuilding the Foundations: Chapter 6

God's Firm Foundation

This chapter is a simple walk through the Bible's description of God's Firm Foundation. Surprisingly, it is a walk that you have probably never taken before! Once you have taken it, you will immediately know the importance of it.

Let us begin with a thought experiment. You are introduced to a group of new Christians. These Christians are born again. They have confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16-18). They have repented, been baptized in his name for the forgiveness of sins, and they have received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Their conversion was real, and they are excited to follow Jesus. The person who introduced you to these Christians tells you that you must write two sentences, and these two sentences will be the foundation of their faith, launching them on their new life in Christ.

Stop here, then, and compose your two sentences before you go on.

Do you have your sentences? This thought experiment will not be nearly as much benefit if you do not have your sentences to compare with what is below.

Here is the verse we are going to cover:

However, God’s Firm Foundation stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness.” (2 Tim. 2:19)

Let us examine the purpose of the two sentences in this verse, and why this verse is the Apostle Paul's—and thus God's—answer to the thought experiment I just gave you. Comparing your two statements with Paul's two statements will allow you to see how much your thinking needs to be adjusted, or perhaps how much it does not need to be adjusted.

First, notice that this verse begins with "however." The previous verses mention two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander. Those two men said that the resurrection had already happened, and they overthrew the faith of some (vv. 17b-18). The antecedent to "however" in 2 Timothy 2:19 goes back further than that, though. Hymenaeus and Alexander are two of a class of men whose words are "empty chatter," produce ungodliness, and "consume like gangrene" (vv. 16-17a). Paul has been addressing these kind of people throughout his letters to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3-4, 6-7, 19-20; 6:3-6, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:14, 23-26; 3:1-9).

2 Timothy 2:19 is an alternative to what Hymanaeus, Alexander, and others like them teach. Throughout the two letters to Timothy, Paul offereh very similar alternatives to the teachings of these corrupt men.

  • "The goal of the command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5).
  • Hold "faith and a good conscience" (1 Tim. 1:19).
  • "Flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:11).
  • "Flee from youthful lusts, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:19).
  • "The Lord's servant must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
  • "But you did follow my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, steadfastness, persecutions, and sufferings" (2 Tim. 3:10).
  • "But you remain in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them" (2 Tim. 3:14).

That last verse leads right into the famous passage on the inspiration of Scripture. We will be taking a good look at how much 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is like the rest of these verses later in this book. For now, look again at Paul's answers to the empty chatter, ungodliness, and gangrene of the teachings of corrupt men. The theme throughout 1 and 2 Timothy is that the Lord's servant should avoid all these doctrinal disputes, which do not lead to godliness, and focus on the things which do.

Thus, 2 Timothy 2:19 fits right into the context of both letters. There exists a class of men like Hymenaeus and Alexander whose empty chatter eats away at godliness like gangrene (vv. 16-18); "however," God's Firm Foundation stands (v. 19).

And God's Firm Foundation has two sentences inscribed on it. "The Lord knows those who are his," and "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness."

This brings us back to all Paul's commands to Timothy that we just listed. "Don't be dragged into arguments. Pursue love, faith, godliness, a good conscience, and peace." In other words, "Depart from unrighteousness."

The letters to Timothy and Titus are among the last letters Paul wrote. This is disputed only by those who doubt he wrote them at all. Paul is giving instruction to his two disciples at a time when false teachers were popping up everywhere. His answer throughout is to avoid all the hubbub and stick to training in godliness:

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables. Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. This saying is faithful and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we have set our trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. (1 Tim. 4:7-10)

This is the context of Paul's assertion that God's Firm Foundation has "The Lord knows those who are his" and "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness" inscribed on it. Corrupt teachers abounded, focusing on all sorts of worthless disputes. These do not lead to godliness, Paul warned. Instead, he wanted Timothy and Titus to focus on departing from unrighteousness.

We have not addressed "The Lord knows those who are his." I would interpret this, in the context of the rest of 1 Timothy, to mean that we as God's servants are not to judge who is saved or who has arrived (cf. Rom. 14:1-21). Instead, we are to exhort and encourage one another every day (Heb. 3:13) toward love and good works (Heb. 10:24). The interpretation of "The Lord knows those who are his" can be taken deeper and further, and should be. In this book, however, we are going to focus on the foundational importance of "Depart from unrighteousness." As we move on, it will be clear why.

The Foundation of God

We have looked at what is inscribed on God's Firm Foundation. Surely it is even more important to identify the foundation of God itself.

We all know, of course, that "No one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11). It is clear, then, that God's Firm Foundation is Jesus Christ. What we have not established is how we ensure that we are on that foundation.

We have Jesus' words to Peter in Matthew 16:16-18. He told us that the Church is going to be built on the foundation of Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We can be confident that we are initially established on God's Firm Foundation if we confess Jesus as Lord like Peter did and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10).

Our Lord has one more very clear thing to say about standing on the God's Firm Foundation:

"Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock." (Matt. 7:24-25)

Jesus' words are simple and clear. If we want our spiritual house to stand on the Rock of Ages, we need to hear his words and do them.

Scripture's words about God's Firm Foundation are consistent … and frightening. Jesus is the foundation, obedience to his words are the way to stand on the foundation, and the foundation is inscribed with a reminder to depart from unrighteousness, but there is a problem, a big problem.

The Bible says we do not have the power to obey.