Nevertheless the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his. And, Let every one that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.
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Ambrose of Milan
And if there is some disturbance here, lift up the footstep of your spirit to the things which are to be, and you will discover that the wicked whom you believed to be here will not be there. For one who is nothing is not. Indeed, “the Lord knows those who are his.” He does not recognize those who are not, because they have not recognized him who is. .
Faith and godliness, you see, are so closely allied that they can be considered sisters. Anyone who believes in the Lord is godly, and the person who is godly believes all the more. On the other hand, one who is in a state of wrong relationships will certainly wander from the faith, and one who falls from godliness falls from the true faith. Paul, recognizing this, advised his disciples: “Avoid profane conversations, for they lead people further into ungodliness.” That is why the Ariomaniacs, being enemies of Christ, have left the church. They have dug a pit of unbelief into which they themselves have fallen…. The apostle Paul’s words against Philetus and Hymenaeus stand as a warning against ungodliness such as that of the Arians: “God’s foundation is firm, bearing this seed: ‘The Lord knows his own people’ and ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’ ”
And we know that the apostle said of the vessels placed in the great house, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and ready for the Master’s use, and prepared for every good work.” But in what manner each man ought to purge himself from these he shows a little above, saying, “Let everyone that names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” This is so that he may not in the last day be blown away with the chaff from the threshing floor. Nor may he be separated at the last by hearing the command, “Depart from me, you that work iniquity.” On Baptism, Against the Donatists..
Something is always going on in this olive press. The world is the press; there is no end to its pressures. Be oil, not dregs. Let each of you be converted to God and change your manner of life. The oil goes by hidden channels to its own secluded vats. Others sin, mock, blaspheme, make loud accusations in the streets—the dregs are oozing out. Yet the Lord of the press does not cease from operating it through his workmen, the holy angels. He knows his oil; he knows how much it can take, the exact pressure needed to squeeze it out. “The Lord knows,” you see, “who are his own.” Avoid the dregs. They are murky, out in the open for all to see.
The abundance of bad people in the world is the big heap of stuff needed for refining the good. Although the good can’t be seen, mixed up in the vast multitude of the bad, the Lord knows who are his own. Under the hand of such a great craftsman, the speck of gold cannot get lost in the huge pile of straw. How much straw is there, how little gold! But have no fear: the craftsman is so great that he can refine it and cannot lose it.
It is the elect who are meant in the letter to Timothy, where, after mention of the attempts of Hymenaeus and Philetus to undermine the faith, the text goes on, “But the sure foundation of God stands firm, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows who are his.’ ” The faith of these latter, which works through charity, either does not ever fail, or, if it fail in some, the loss is repaired before death, the sin that intervened is blotted out and perseverance to the end is granted. On the other hand, those who are not to persevere to the end, those who are to fall from Christian faith and conduct, in such a way that the end of this life will find them thus fallen—these men are certainly not to be counted in the number of the elect, not even at the time during which they are living in goodness and piety.
This statement of the Lord … can also be understood mystically with regard to the choosing of the spiritual Israel, that is, the Christian people, since the Lord mercifully deigned to see them when they did not yet see him, when they had not yet been called by his apostles to the grace of faith, but they were still concealed under the covering of oppressing sin…. And sometimes in the Scriptures, to be sure, the fig tree suggests the sweetness of divine love…. Those placed under it can be his elect even when they do not yet recognize the grace of their election—just as the Lord saw Nathanael when he was situated under the fig tree though Nathanael did not see him. For the Lord knows who are his, and the very name Nathanael is most suitably appropriate to their salvation. For Nathanael is interpreted “gift of God.”
He therefore will attain life who keeps the commandments. But who keeps the divine commandments except the one who, converted to God before the end of this present life, has departed from his earlier sins? So the blessed Peter warns us, “Let everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord avoid evil.” He said this, knowing that penance is done fruitfully in this present world in which forgiveness is given to penitents. But in the future world the penitence of the wicked will bear no fruit because there will be no conversion of the wicked. They will be sent into the exterior darkness where there will be wailing and the gnashing of teeth.
But the sure foundation of God and of the Christian faith standeth firm, though some fall from it, and will stand to the end of the world, the Church being built on a rock, and upon the promises of Christ, which cannot fail. Having this seal: the Lord knoweth who are his. The words are applied from Numbers xvi. 5. The sense is, that the faith and Church of Christ cannot fail, because God has decreed and promised to remain with his Church, and especially to protect his elect, to the end of the world. To know his, here is not only to have a knowledge, but is accompanied with a love and singular protection over them, with such graces as shall make them persevere to the end.
And let every one that nameth (or invoketh) the name of the Lord, depart from iniquity. Several understand these words, which are similar to those of Numbers xvi. 26., depart from the tents of these wicked men, to be as it were a second seal, or part of the seal of God's firm decree, inasmuch as the elect by his grace...
These are the distinguishing marks of the foundation. A foundation is firm. The letters are inscribed upon the stone so that the letters may be seen. But these letters are shown by works, “Having,” he says, “this seal fixed thereon, let every one that names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” Thus if any one is unrighteous, he is not of the foundation. So it belongs to the seal not to do wrong.
He shows that even before they were subverted, they were not firm. For otherwise, they would not have been overthrown at the first attack, as Adam was firm before the commandment. For those who are fixed not only are not harmed through deceivers, but are even admired.
And he calls it sure, and a foundation; so ought we to adhere to the faith; having this seal, The Lord knows them that are His. What is this? He has taken it from Deuteronomy; that is, Firm souls stand fixed and immovable. But whence are they manifest? From having these characters inscribed upon their actions, from their being known by God, and not perishing with the world, and from their departing from iniquity.
Let every one, he says, that names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.
These are the distinguishing marks of the foundation. As a foundation is shown to be firm, and as letters are inscribed upon a stone that the letters may be significant. But these letters are shown by works, Having, he says, th...
You are human, and so you know other people only from the outside. You think as you see, and you see only what your eyes let you see. But “the eyes of the Lord are lofty.” “Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.” So “the Lord knows those who are his.” He roots up the plant which he has not planted in his garden. He shows the last to be first. He carries a fan in his hand to purge his floor. Let the chaff of cheap faith fly away as it pleases before every wind of temptation. So much the purer is the heap of wheat which the Lord will gather into his barn.