Our Seal
Dr. Stephen Johnson
2 Timothy 2:19
January 13, 2019

Our text for this morning is in second Timothy chapter 2 verse 19. We will get to that in just a moment, let's bow together in prayer. Gracious father as we turn to your word now we ask that you would speak to each of us that we would each leave here today with your word for us as individuals and corporately. Amen.

We're planning on doing some traveling this year and so we needed to update our passports. In order to update your passports you have to have your birth certificate, and we fished out our birth certificates and also our son's birth certificate and notice there are some significant differences between a birth certificate from the 1950s and from the year 2000. In the 1950s they had these little embossing tools they would print up this and then a notary would squeeze the tool on your birth certificate and it would have these raised letters and that is how the government knows that it's a genuine birth certificate. By the time we get to the year 2000 the paper itself is embossed with all kinds of strange stuff, you know, the difference between a dollar bill from the 1950s and a dollar bill from the 2000s there are these hidden threads in it to ensure that when you look at it it's a genuine document. Because it's important for us to know when something is genuine.

I remember back when there was a Tylenol scare, because people were poisoned taking Tylenol, and as a result of that all medicines now come in sealed containers typically at the top of the container it says something like “do not take this medicine if the seal is broken” because you don't know who it is that's been messing with your medicine.

Seals are an important part of life. They keep us safe. We rely upon them. Whether it's the seal of a jar of fruit that has been canned. Which I always thought was kind of interesting- you can fruit, but you do it in a jar. Why don't we say we jarred fruit? You remember it's got that little pop-up thing on the top of the jar that you can tell if the fruit is actually edible. Seals tell us something. They let us know that we can be safe and when it comes to letters, they let us know they haven't been tampered with. If you actually lick the envelope or wet it in some other way, if you're afraid of getting to one or two calories from that gum stuff. You seal it, and you send it. And the person that gets it knows that nobody messed with it. Or at least most normal people don't mess with it. Sometimes I remember as a kid trying to unseal envelopes and change the documents that were sent to my parents from the school. It didn't work very well nevertheless, I did graduate from school and I have a document with a seal upon it from the school that says I actually graduated. Seals let us know our drugs are safe. Our documents are genuine. And that's the way it's been for most of history in biblical times as well as today.

A seal is used to guarantee security or to indicate ownership and in ancient times. Times which I remember by some people here today seals were made of wax that you folded the envelope over and you put wax and you stamped it with you seal. And I won't suggest to anybody particular who might still remember doing that but it was a way of saying I sent this. Nobody's messed with it. Roman authorities used a seal to secure the tomb of Jesus. The significance of the act of sealing is dependent upon the importance of the one doing the sealing. That is why Jezebel falsely authenticated letters that she wrote in Ahab’s name by affixing them with his seal in 1 Kings chapter 2. Ahasuerus his solemn decree to annihilate all the Jews in Esther 3 and then to bless them in Esther 8 was sealed with his signet ring. A seal meant something important. In our text this morning speaks of such a seal. One which is of absolute significance to everyone in the Church of Jesus Christ. The text, 2nd Timothy chapter 2 verse 19, reads this: God's firm foundation stands bearing this seal. The Lord knows who are his and let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. This is the word of Lord. A seal upon which are etched two inscriptions placed on God's firm foundation. We have this foundation which is sealed. And the sealing, the seal, gives us a blessing and a warning. It gives us a gift and a goal. The gift that is given is the gift of security. The seal which we have assures us that the Lord knows those who are his. I do believe that we could spend a nearly a month just fleshing out the importance of this statement.

The Lord knows who are his. This is a statement which speaks dramatically to the security we have in Jesus Christ. We are secure in him. Salvation does not begin with us. It begins with God. He planned it. He executed it. He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world. He knows who are his. A number of commentators believe that the phrase “the Lord knows who are his” alludes back to a passage in Numbers, Numbers chapter 16 specifically. Where in the midst of Korah's rebellion, against the leadership of Moses, the people are called together to settle the dispute. Korah has said why should you get to lead, there are other godly people. And Moses says tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy. The Lord knows who are his. This is not an isolated text which reminds us of our security in Christ. It's not just a proof text taken out of the context in order to give us some sense of well-being. But rather it is a message written throughout the scripture.

 In John chapter 10 Jesus speaks of himself as the good shepherd. Passage with which anyone who has read through the scripture has dwelt upon, and reflected upon this amazing concept of Jesus as our good shepherd, we his sheep. Who we are told hear his voice, and he tells us that he knows his sheep. Verse 14 of John chapter 10 I am The Good Shepherd and I know and I recognize my own. And my own know and recognize me. As Paul says to Timothy, the Lord knows who are his. Later on in the same chapter of John chapter 10, Jesus shows us the implication of God knowing those who are his when he says this: my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish. And no one will snatch them out of my hand. My father has given them to me. He is greater than all and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the father are one.

The Lord knows who are his. And we stay his. We are secure in Jesus Christ. The seal upon which we see the inscription is a seal of security. First John says this in first John chapter five. These things I've written unto you that believe in the name of the son of God. That you will know that you have eternal life and that you may believe on the name of the son of God. The scripture teaches for those people who have believed on Jesus Christ there is an intense security concerning what will happen in the afterlife. John 6:47 Jesus says, Truly, truly I say to you .Whoever believes has eternal life. Romans 8:38 Paul says I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have security in Jesus Christ. Even the songs chime in on this theme. Psalm 37 The Lord loves justice and he will not forsake his Saints. They are preserved forever. Paul writes to the church of Philippi being confident of this very thing that he which began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. This is the promise which he himself has made to us. Eternal life.

A seal tells us we have security. It is a gift that no longer do we have to wonder. Did I mess up too much? Am I going to be kicked out of the family? Have I taken a step too far? Jesus has taught this truth that we are secure. John chapter 5. Truly I say to you whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death into life. We read the promise that John gives. So John teaches it, the promise he himself made to us is a promise of eternal life. Jude, one of the books we seldom look at, he taught this truth in his benediction. Jude 24 and 25 now to him who is able to keep us from stumbling to present us blameless before the presence of his glory and with great joy to the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory Majesty Dominion in authority before all time and now and forever. The one who is able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless, in his presence.

Paul taught the truth. Romans 8 verse 1, There is now, no condemnation to those who are in Jesus Christ. Peter teaches it. Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is 1st Peter 1:2 to 5 According to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a Living Hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you. Who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a Salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The teaching of Scripture is this: if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior you need not fear that suddenly you're gonna fall out of grace. He has guarded you. He has protected you we are secure in Christ. It is the teaching of all of Scripture guaranteed by a seal. A seal mentioned here, but also mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. 2nd Corinthians Paul says this it is: God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us and who has put his seal on us and given us his spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. Ephesians chapter 4, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. The existence of the book of life spoken of in Philippians and throughout the book of Revelation assures us that we are secure as children of God.

So this seal that Paul writes of in 2nd Timothy gives us this incredible gift. The Lord knows who are his. And because he knows we are his we live with incredible security. And you can take that to the bank. You are secure in Christ. Whatever you've done this week, whatever stupidity has been laid at your feet and accuses you and makes you wonder- can God possibly still love me- put it aside. Reflect upon the seal that has been given to us the gift of security. It gives us this gift of security, but it also gives us a goal. It is a goal of purity. The first half of this seal is invisible. You cannot, by casual observance, know if someone is a child of God. The knowledge of the names written in the book of life is reserved for God alone. No one observing the life of the thief upon the cross would have expected him to be in heaven. But Christ promised to see him in paradise. A bad life doesn't necessarily mean an unsaved life, any more than a good life ensures a saved life. There are good moral people who lack a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, have not placed their faith in Christ, and good moral people without faith in Christ go to hell. And really bad people who ultimately express faith in Jesus Christ get into heaven. For although we look upon outward appearances, God has the advantage to look upon the hearts of mankind. And to know those who are his.

The second half of our verse, the second inscription, lays out for us a goal which in part is dependent upon the first half. He knows who are his, and so there's a challenge. A challenge of purity. A challenge of holy living. The challenge of departing from iniquity, for everyone who names the name of the Lord. That is everyone who calls himself a believer. Who calls himself a Christian, is to depart from iniquity. To name the name of the Lord is to profess to have received Christ as Lord and Savior. It is to have accepted him in faith, and once we have been born into the family, adopted into the family of God. That we know our name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, there should be some evidence of that. It ought to show itself in a changed life. A departure from iniquity. That we abstain from wickedness. That we avoid sin. The second inscription is a call for holiness and purity. Yes, you can gain entrance to heaven having accepted Jesus Christ, and not having had any change life. For salvation does not come from a changed life, it comes from faith. But if you have that faith, you ought to be driven toward a changed life. There ought to be a striving towards purity which runs alongside your faith. John writes of our anticipation of the return of Christ and he says in 1 John 3:3. Everyone who has this hope fixed upon the return of Christ purifies himself just as Christ is pure. A part of our faith is an inner motivation. A desire. A compulsion to lead a holy life.

And the call for holiness and purity in the people of God runs throughout Scripture. Hebrews chapter 12. Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Our faiths ought to change our lives. Our faiths ought to result in our turning away from things which are acceptable to the world but which are unacceptable to God. Our behavior ought to be informed by what the scripture tells us is good. We are to abstain from the passions of the flesh, from first Peter chapter 2 . We are to avoid all appearance of evil, from first Thessalonians chapter 5. Our faith is meant to change us. It softens our life, it makes us more like Jesus Christ. Once we have come into the family of God concurrent with that ought to be a commitment to be the type of people who are God pleasing. It means that we deal with our unbridled tongues. With our out-of-control anger. It means that we speak righteousness. It means that we stop quarreling about words. It means for people who are citizens of heaven, that we no longer get tied up, and angry, and bitter, about the politics of earth. It means that we live a life which is God pleasing and which helps others live a life which is God pleasing. Whereas the first part of the seal which Paul speaks of here gives us security, the second part gives us assurance.

While the security of our salvation is an important theological position to which I believe the scripture strongly points. In our everyday life, it is the assurance of salvation that really matters. To say that I know I'm saved because back in 1963 I sat in a little folding chair. And the end of a Christian service Brigade program. And I talked with a person and I, you know, we were sitting there toe to toe, knee to knee, eye to eye. And he said do you want to go to heaven?  Or do you want to go to hell? I don't know, I choose heaven! I accept Jesus as my savior. To say I can point back to a date is insignificant. There's not really any assurance in that. Assurance of your salvation comes from the second half of this seal. That we have chosen in our life to strive for purity. For purity, our godliness, a changed life, is what enables us in our conscience to have the assurance of our faith.

We have security. But security in Christ which is disconnected with purity of life is faulty. Our security in Christ does not give us license to live as though we don't know him. Our security in Christ does not give us license to say well this is the way I've always been. I've always had a short fuse. You can't expect me not to be like I was born. Or like I was taught by my parents. Yes we can.

You can be expected to live a life of purity. To step outside of the sinful patterns of life. Paul reminds us in chapter 2 verse 13. That even if we are faithless he remains faithful. But that's not something we ought to test. If you name the name of the Lord, your goal ought to be purity. To depart from iniquity. Someone has said, if you don't want fleas, don't lay with the dogs. If you don't want to smell like a pig, don't play in a pig pen. If you want assurance of salvation, don't live your life with a devil. If you want assurance of your salvation make purity your goal. At the end of the day as we reflect on this verse it can be summarized in the classic hymn. Trust and obey, well there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

We have been given a seal. A seal that gives us the gift of security. And the goal of purity. God’s firm foundation stands. Bearing this seal, the Lord knows who are his. And let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. In coming weeks we're gonna look at what he means by that. That departing from iniquity for Paul is gonna flesh it out from the verses to come. We will flee youthful passions. We're gonna pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Along with all who call the name of the Lord. We will have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies. We would not be quarrelsome but we will be kind. Able to teach during evil. Correcting opponents with gentleness. We will pursue purity. Let's pray.

Father I ask that you would help us to be men and women who understand the incredible security you've given to us. That wonderful gift. That we would never wonder about your faithfulness, but always know, that you have kept us in the palm of your hand. Never to be snatched out. Help us in recognition of your wonderful love and care for us. To purify ourselves even as you are pure. That we would pursue with passion, a life of purity. That you might receive honor and glory we pray, Amen.

And that's all folks. Now may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. And lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.