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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:
Title:God's foundation stands fast
Text:2 Timothy 2:19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100

Hymn 7:9 (after the law)

Psalm 105:1-4

Psalm 106:1,8,23,24

Hymn 59:1-3

Hymn 40

Readings: Numbers 16:1-35, 2 Timothy 2

Text: 2 Timothy 2:19
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Do you remember Good Friday in 1964? It was March 27 of that year. Some of you, like me, were not around at that time. But some of the older people in the congregation may remember that day. On March 27 of 1964, one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded devastated Anchorage, Alaska. 131 people were killed and upwards of a half-billion dollars of damage was done. One of the most striking images from this day was that of a street in downtown Anchorage, the D & D café on one side, the Hunter Bar on the other, and a giant gaping hole in the middle. This image made it into my Grade Six science textbook. I studied earthquakes about the same time we studied the story of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Bible class. The Anchorage picture gave a vivid image of the judgment that fell on those men. The people of Israel would have watched as the earth violently opened as it did on March 27, 1964. The difference was that, unlike in Anchorage, the ground then also closed over them. This was a terrifying judgment which made every Israelite knee turn to jello.

Judgment fell on Korah, Dathan and Abiram. This was a judgment for their rejection of God and his appointed servants. They had treated Jahweh, God, with contempt. Moreover, they were seducing the people with their false teaching. This rebellion had to be dealt with swiftly and decisively. This destructive false teaching could not be tolerated among God’s covenant people.

The same happened in the days of the early church. As Paul writes to Timothy in our text, Timothy is faced with false teachers, likely in the church at Ephesus. Paul mentions two of these by name: Hymenaeus and Philetus. They taught that the resurrection of believers was already past. Moreover, they were destroying the faith of many. They were preaching a false gospel and turning people against the preaching of the true gospel by Timothy and others.

The situation has not changed since the Old Testament or the New Testament. Today, countless false teachers are courting you – the congregation of Jesus Christ. False gospel teachers will destroy your faith by giving you something that appears more attractive. They claim to have something more exciting, more fulfilling. But today’s false teachers are no different than yesterday’s: they are bringing a destructive message and the end result will be a rejection of the preaching of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the face of false teaching that wants to destroy our faith in the true God, we need a firm foundation, a firm footing. We find that in our covenant relationship with God and the full revelation of who he is. In our text, the Holy Spirit speaks about God’s solid foundation. God’s solid foundation is God himself. God is our foundation, but then not God as he stands by himself, but God in relationship with his people through Jesus Christ.

God’s Word gives us a seal, says Paul. In those days a foundation would sometimes have an inscription marked on it. The inscription would tell about the purpose of the building for which the foundation stands. The Lord wants to build us into a spiritual house, and He himself is the foundation. In our text, God’s Word gives us a seal telling us for what purpose the foundation stands. He tells us to what end He is God for us, for what purpose he maintains his covenant relationship with us. Brothers and sisters, this is a deep, rich text which illustrates God’s promise and obligation. This text shows us God’s covenant assurance and demand in the face of false teachers.

I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

God’s foundation stands fast for a two-fold purpose:

  1. To provide security for his people.
  2. To promote purity in his people.

1. God’s foundation stands fast to provide security for his people.

Paul has dealt more than once with Hymenaeus and company. We find this false teacher already mentioned in 1 Timothy. Paul says that Hymenaeus and another false teacher Alexander were excommunicated because they had rejected the apostolic teaching. They were making shipwreck of the faith. In the time between 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, Hymenaeus had continued, though by the time of the second letter he had found Philetus to help him along. Paul knows what these people are teaching and he knows that it is destructive.

It is always destructive when people turn against God’s faithful ordained servants. Paul knows this because he knows his Bible. His thoughts turn right away to Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The first quote in verse 19 comes directly from the Greek version of Numbers 16:5, you can see that in the footnote at the bottom of your NIV Bibles. We read in verse 19 of 2 Timothy 2, “The Lord knows those who are his.” Those words were spoken by Moses to Korah and his followers. When Moses said this, he was showing his confidence in God’s choice of him and Aaron as leaders of the people. He was sure that God had chosen him and Aaron. He knew for certain that he had been set apart, made holy by God for service to him. In other words, Moses knew that he was standing on solid ground, because he had a covenant relationship with God. He was trusting in God’s promises, promises that would lead to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Moses’ words were words of faith and confidence that he would find security and safety with Jahweh, his covenant God. He knew that judgment would not come on the one who lived with God in true faith.

Now Paul takes those words of Moses and applies them to Timothy’s situation as he faces those false teachers in Ephesus. Judgment is coming for Hymenaeus and Philetus. They will not escape God’s wrath. The whole Scripture teaches that God reserves a special measure of severe judgment for false teachers. Those who lead the flock astray – what did the Lord Jesus say about them? Better to have a millstone hung around their neck and thrown into the lake! There is reason to fear the God who would do this.

But there is no reason to fear so long as we are standing on his solid foundation. If Timothy has that healthy covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then he can know that he is on solid ground. The ground is not going to open up and swallow him whole! He will not go down to the pit. The Lord knows those who belong to him. That means God has an intimate, close relationship with the people who have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. Such people don’t have to fear judgment, because the ground on which they are standing is as firm and immovable as a good father’s love.

Think about how that works in our life situation, too. Because there are wolves about. They will destroy us and our children. For example, there are people around who tell us that Reformed is merely one flavour of Christianity. They falsely teach that Christ’s church embraces every sect that goes by the name of church. This teaching is so appealing – why fight when we can embrace one another in love and unity? But it is false teaching which will ultimately destroy us. This is false teaching which goes against Scripture and the confessions. It is a teaching no less destructive than what Hymenaeus and Philetus were peddling.

Judgment waits for those who reject the Biblical gospel maintained by the holy catholic church. There is judgment for those who have gone astray and are leading others astray. Because God is who he says he is in the Bible, a consuming fire, for one thing, that is reason for fear! A far worse judgment than what Korah, Dathan and Abiram endured on earth awaits false teachers in the hereafter.

In the face of this, our hope and comfort must be with God, our firm foundation. We can take refuge in God’s promises to us. God has promised to be our solid ground – He has promised to be our faithful loving father. When we have that living special relationship with God that we call the covenant, we can be sure that God is for us and for our children. Having true faith in Jesus Christ, the mediator of the covenant, we can know for certain that God will be our loving Father – he will protect us from false teachers and the judgment that awaits them.

Knowing this, we must look to him continually in faith. We cannot trust our own strength to protect us or our children. We have to be standing on God’s firm foundation, not our own shifting sand. We are weak, but he is strong. God will be our solid ground because of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. That is the promise of the covenant, the promise found in our text for this morning. But as we know, every covenant also has an obligation. We’ll turn to that now with our second point.

2. God’s foundation stands fast to promote purity in his people.

The second quote in our text is: “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from evil or wickedness.” Let’s look for a minute at where this quote comes from. Paul still has Numbers 16 in mind. You won’t find these words directly in Numbers 16, not in the Hebrew and not in the Greek version that Paul used either. But the idea of those words is definitely there. Take a look at verse 24. There God tells Moses, “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.” Moses follows God’s command, we can see that in verse 26, “Moses warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” And the people listened, leaving Korah, Dathan and Abiram standing there with their families.

Why did they have to stand clear of the tents of these evil men? Because of the judgment that was coming. God told Moses because he knew what he was going to do to them. Moses knew that he had to take God seriously. So, Moses told the people to turn away from the place of the coming judgment.

Now, when Paul alludes to this event in 2 Timothy, he uses a word which is translated as “wickedness” or evil in the NIV. Another way of translating that word would be “unrighteousness.” That’s a word with a deep meaning in the Old Testament and that deep meaning stretches into the New Testament as well. In the Bible, unrighteousness involves disloyalty. When one is unrighteous in the Bible, it often means that one is breaking the covenant, breaking the bonds of the relationship with God. And that is exactly what Korah, Dathan and Abiram were up to. They had “treated the LORD with contempt.” A literal translation of Numbers 16:30 from the Hebrew is, “These men have rejected Jahweh with scorn or disdain.” Korah, Dathan and Abiram, were false teachers, and as such were also covenant breakers. As covenant breakers, they would suffer God’s judgment. That’s why the rest of God’s people had to steer clear – they should not be standing close, lest they also fall under the judgment reserved for those who break God’s covenant.

You can see now why Paul takes this passage from Numbers 16 and applies it to Timothy’s situation. Timothy was also faced with covenant breakers. These were men who have been excommunicated from God’s church. These are the kind of people spoken of in Hebrews 10:29, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10 goes on to say that the Lord will judge these covenant breakers. Then in verse 31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Because our covenant God is who He is, because he is faithful to his promises and warnings, Timothy has to steer clear of Hymenaeus and Philetus and their covenant-breaking, just as the people of Israel had to steer clear of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. God wants his people to remain pure. God does not want his people to get mixed up with these covenant breakers – because wrath and judgment is coming for them. You don’t want to be around them when judgment time comes.

Brothers and sisters, if you listen to the radio, turn on the TV, or look in many religious bookstores, you will find lots of false teaching which claims to be based on the Bible. People knock on your door: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. And then, of course, there are also the false religious messages which come from popular culture. Think here just of that recent best-selling book, “the DaVinci Code. ” False teaching and covenant breaking are all around us.

This text speaks powerfully to us in our situation. It tells us to steer clear of these false teachers and covenant breakers, lest we fall into the judgment that waits for them. This is part of our covenant responsibility. And to carry out this responsibility or obligation, we need discernment. That means that we have to be able to figure out who is right and who is wrong.

To do that is not easy. Nobody should think that being discerning is a piece of cake. All of us, including myself, need a good dose of humility when it comes to evaluating our ability to discern. And let’s stick with ourselves instead of thinking here about the other people who are so lacking in discernment. When we point the finger at somebody else, even in our minds, there are always three fingers pointing back at us. So, what about us? What about you personally? If we seldom read good Reformed magazines, if we only pick up a theological book when we have to, then we have no business proudly thinking that we are discerning. And even if we do those things, we should be careful: false teachings do not often wear wooden shoes, if you know what I mean. The devil usually wears suede slippers in our circles.

All of us, young and old, should recognize our need to grow in discernment. This is a fundamental covenant obligation. We need to keep growing in grace and knowledge. That’s the conclusion of 2 Peter, in 3:18, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And what happens if we are arrogant and stubborn and don’t make constant learning a priority in our spiritual lives? Listen to what God says in Hosea 4:6-7, “…my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” This passage is also chock full of the covenant. God says that if we reject knowledge, we are covenant breakers and both we and our children will suffer the consequences. We will be numbered with Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and also Hymenaeus and Philetus!

Our text calls us to purity as God’s people. Our text calls us to steer clear of false teachers. And the only way we can steer clear is by faithfully clinging to Jesus Christ and obeying his command to grow in grace and knowledge. This is all about covenant loyalty, living in relationship with God. We have the forgiveness of our sins, our unfaithfulness, in Christ. Through him we have a new and everlasting covenant with God our Father. And if we have that living relationship with our Father, then we should also be living close to his Word. We will make a diligent effort to be who we are called to be.

The word ‘covenant’ was probably not the first word that popped into your mind when you saw the text for this morning. But this text really is about God’s covenant, his special relationship with us. It shows God’s promise and man’s responsibility. It shows how our relationship with God works, or should work. Believing in our Lord Jesus, we can take comfort in the security of God’s promises. The Father knows those who are standing on his solid ground, those who belong to him through Christ. We will never go down into the pit. And believing in Jesus Christ, we also know our obligation to thankful and obedient living. We know that we must steer clear from covenant disloyalty, covenant breaking, especially with false teachers. Beloved, the Holy Spirit teaches us: test the Spirits to see whether they are of God. Why do you think he tells us that? One reason is because covenant breaking is ugly and we should want no part in it. But by the grace of the Holy Spirit, covenant keeping is a beautiful thing with a wonderful consequence: life that lasts forever in the new heavens and new earth. AMEN.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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