Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription:The Lord knows those who are his,and,Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.2 Timothy 2:19
In other words, Paul is telling Timothy not to panic over the problems in the church. He acknowledges that there may be heresy in the congregation, there may be dissension among the members, and Timothy may have to do battle against it, but he should remember:
God's solid foundation stands firm.
That is like a coin with two sides: God's side and the human side. On God's side is,
The Lord knows those who are his. It is remarkable to recognize in the Gospels that Jesus knew that Judas was a traitor from the beginning. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus knew before He chose him that Judas was a devil. He knew those who were His and those who were not His. Paul reminds us that God's church is never going to be altered, shaken, or diminished, even by the heresies that may rage among us. God knows those who are His.
The other side of the coin is that people can know those who are God's when they see them departing from the wickedness of false doctrine and false teaching among us. We can be confident that those who really are Christians will ultimately see the error that is involved and leave it. That is where our faith can rest.
Both of those quotations in verse 19 are taken from the story in Numbers 16 about the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. During Israel's wandering through the wilderness, those three men challenged the authority of Moses, saying,
Why do you listen to Moses? He is no different than we are. We are men of understanding like Moses. What they were really implying was that the people should be listening to them. Moses took the problem to the Lord, and the Lord said,
Bring them here. Let me give them an examination. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their families all stood together. Suddenly, before the eyes of the whole congregation, the ground opened up, down they went into the pit, and the ground slammed shut behind them. God said,
Any more questions?
Yes, God knows those that are His. He has His own ways of dealing with this kind of thing. The apostle says that those who are genuine will depart from iniquity. That is the test of true believers. There is a life in them that will not let them compromise themselves with evil and iniquity forever. But there may be a long-term struggle. I have seen that happen, sometimes over a period of years, but God will not let them go on. They must leave the false teaching at last because they cannot live with themselves any longer. The apostle John said,
They went out from us, but they really did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us (1 John 2:19). That is the mark that will encourage Timothy.
Heavenly Father, help me to remember that I can rest upon the assurance that You know those who are really yours.
Is not the greatest thanksgiving for our faith, that by grace allows us to be in Christ? Those who are genuine will depart from iniquity in gratitude for that amazing grace.