The Firm Foundation


Dan Petty

Years ago when we lived in Texas, the church became involved in a building program. For months when I would go to my study, my concentration would be distracted by the construction work going on just outside my office window. It was natural to let the thoughts settle on the building metaphors of the Bible. I wrote these thoughts at that time. Bear with me as I share some thoughts about our standing with God in terms of a strong foundation.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:19, “Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” Building a strong foundation is a common illustration in the New Testament. How appropriate an illustration it is! In the construction of a physical building, so much depends on the foundation. If the foundation is not laid straight, the whole structure will lose its straightness. If the foundation should shift, then the whole house moves with it. If the foundation is not strong, then that fundamental weakness threatens the integrity of the rest of the building. Here Paul speaks of the “firm foundation of God.” This foundation has a seal. In ancient times buildings sometimes bore an inscription recording their purpose or the name of their designer. Paul may have such a practice in mind here. But what is of greater importance is the content of the seal on God’s firm foundation. The two parts suggest two themes found in the New Testament using the foundation idea.

The Christian’s Relationship with Christ: “The Lord knows those who are His.” Isaiah 28:16 gives a prophecy that is referred to in the New Testament more than once. “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it, will not be disturbed.” Paul used the passage in Romans 9:33 to illustrate the failure of the Jews who rejected, or failed to have faith in, Christ the cornerstone. Peter spoke of the spiritual house of God, which is composed of living stones. That house has Christ as its precious cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). The church of Christ is composed of those who have established a covenant relationship based on faith in Jesus Christ. It is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). This foundation is a solid rock, as sure as Christ Himself (Matt. 16:18). Our hope must rest securely on Jesus, for no other foundation will stand secure (1 Cor. 3:11).

The Christian’s Life in Christ: “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” The Christian’s foundation also consists of a life of obedience. Jesus asks, “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” He goes on to describe the one who hears His words and acts upon them: “he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:46-49). A house without a proper foundation cannot stand for long. Our relationship with Christ cannot stand without the strong foundation of an obedient life. We must do more than hear the word–we must act upon it. Those who use their abilities in this life for good works are said to be “storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).

Our building program many years ago concluded well, partly because the building had a good foundation. What about our spiritual foundation?