Today I want us to take a look at a verse in 2 Timothy using a hymn as the basis of the review similar to what we did with the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” earlier this year. A dear friend of mine reminded me of this hymn recently leading to the reflections I want to share with you today. The hymn is “I Know Whom I Have Believed” by Major Daniel Webster Whittle. The chorus of the hymn is based on 2 Timothy 1:12.
The author of the hymn was a Union soldier during the American Civil War. He was wounded at Vicksburg and later marched with Sherman in his noted march through Georgia to the sea. At the end of the war, he was given the rank of Major. After the war he settled in Chicago where he became associated with D.L. Moody who encouraged him to go into evangelistic work. He preached and sang in evangelistic meetings for some 30 years until his death at the age of 60 in 1901. The song we are looking at was his most well-known.
“I Know Whom I Have Believed”
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known;
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.
I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart;
Nor how believing in His word
Wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus thru the Word,
Creating faith in Him.
I know not when my Lord may come
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him
Or meet Him in the air
But “I know whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”
As you read through this hymn you notice that each of the verses state that the writer does “not know why” or “how” or “when” something may occur. The thing he does know for sure though is whom he has believed. Oh, that we may all say this same thing which Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:12b (KJV) which the hymn writer used as his chorus after each of his stated unknowns:
……. for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.
Let’s look at the first verse. Here the writer, who is an evangelist, singer, and song writer, tells us that even as an evangelist he does not understand or know why God chose to make His wonderful grace known unto him personally. There were people all around him just as there are around us, that have not experienced the saving grace of God. As we have covered in previous lessons, they are daily experiencing the common grace of God but do not recognize it. They are oblivious to James 1:17 that tells us every good and perfect gift comes from our Father. They are not mindful to the fact that they experience grace by never having to fear another world-wide flood since God promised all mankind, believer or nonbeliever, He would never destroy the earth in that manner again. They do not recognize what Paul stated in Acts 14:16-17 when he explained that God shows all people kindness by giving us rain from heaven and crops in seasons. While all those common grace items are wonderful, they pale in comparison to God’s salvific grace, that ultimate gift of eternal life and a relationship with our Father, our Savior, and the Holy Spirit. This grace is known only to God’s children. This salvific grace is what the writer is noting in the first verse of his song. The song writer says it is a mystery to him why this grace was bestowed upon him and not others he knew. The author knew he was unworthy of such a gift.
The author also states in the second part of verse 1 that he does not know why, even while he is very much unworthy of any kindness or love from God, that Christ redeemed him as one of His own. Galatians 3:13-14 says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law and actually became the curse for us by hanging on the cross. He redeemed us in order to give us the covenantal blessing given to Abraham, even though we are Gentiles and not blood descendants of Abraham. Redemption basically means we were bought with a price. The price was our Saviors blood and life on the cross. He bought us and we now belong to Him. We are “His own”. We do not know why God extends grace unto those of us that are His children and we do not know why He chose specifically to redeem us. We only know that He did.
The author continues his “know not” articles in verse 2 where he states that the wondrous grace from verse 1 comes through faith. He states that he “does not know how” God imparts this saving faith unto him. Did you catch what the author said. He says that God “imparts” or places the faith in him. So many in churches today are taught that believing faith is something that we have in us and that we then apply it thus achieving salvation. That is not what the Bible teaches. Something dead cannot believe. Faith is, as John MacArthur puts it, simply breathing the breath that God’s grace supplies. God has to first bring your spirit to life and imparts into you the faith you need to believe in Him for your salvation. He imparts or grants you faith or as Romans 12:3 states, God “distributes” faith to His children. The word distribute (NIV) or measure (KJV) is “metron" in Greek and implies that we all must recognize we are equal and should not boast because we all began this walk with Christ the very same way, each being gifted an equal saving faith to start the journey. The faith is a gift from God as Ephesians 2:8, Acts 3:16, Philippians 1:29, and 2 Peter 1:1 all state. It was not us. It was and is and always will be - Him! The “how” of this is a miracle of God that we cannot wrap our minds around. All we can do is praise the one whom has performed the miracle.
The author then goes further in verse 2 stating that he “does not know how” believing in God’s Word brought peace into His heart. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. The author is an evangelist and he has seen the same sermon bring faith into some but yet others at the same meeting, hearing the exact same words, sitting on the same row in the audience, leave unchanged. Why or how is beyond our ability to understand but it occurs. Some have believing faith come to them through the Word and others, the Word seems to have no effect upon.
Verse 3 continues this “know not how” theme with one of the more truly mysterious points in God’s Word. Here the author says he does not know how the Spirit moves. He states the Spirit moves to convict us of sin, to reveal Jesus through the Word, and create faith in us. This again is describing much of our salvation experience. The first point about the movement of the Spirit was shared between Jesus and Nicodemus. In John 3:8 (NIV), we see where Jesus told Nicodemus that “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit”. The word translated into “wind” in Greek is “pneuma” which also means Spirit. The word in Hebrew is “ruach”. Nicodemus himself did “not know why or how” what Jesus was describing – being born again – could happen. Jesus told Him it happens through being born of the Spirit, this Spirit that blows wherever it pleases for “Salvation comes from the Lord” as we covered in Jonah 2:9. Then in John 14 - 16, Jesus is telling His disciples just before going to the garden to pray, that He will be sending the Holy Spirit to them after He leaves. In this powerful passage about the Spirit, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit (Comforter, Counselor, Helper, or Advocate depending on which translation you read), will convict of sin, righteousness, and judgment in verse 8. The author of the hymn again does not know “how” this occurs, but accepts and acknowledges that it occurs.
Finally in the last verse we see where the author goes to the end of all things and states he “does not know when” our Lord will come. Jesus may come the second time at night or in the middle of the day. The author says that not only does he not know when, but he also does not know the “how of this event” to end all events. He may be taken up into the air with Him as stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 should he still be alive when it occurs, or he may “walk the vale with his Lord”. This “walking the vale” is a poetic reference by the author to Psalm 23:4 where the Psalmist says that even though he walks through the valley of the shadow of death he will not fear for his Lord is with him. The author says he may die first or he may still be alive when the Lord comes again, he does not know and nor do we. He knows only that He will come again.
All of these things noted by D.W. Whittle are things that we also do not know “why” or “when” or “how”. It makes you wonder if Major Whittle had Isaiah 55:8 on his mind where Isaiah says “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and our ways are not God’s ways.” It also makes me wonder if he was not thinking of the latter chapters in Job where God repeatedly explains to Job how great He is and how little Job was. Job had to reply to God in Job 42:3 that “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me”. The Word of God tells us much about these points raised by Major Whittle but men for two thousand years now have interpreted some of these points differently because they are truly a mystery. I know how I interpret them but I have close friends and family who interpret some of them differently. There is one common thing though we should all be able to agree upon and that is where 2 Timothy 1:12 or the “chorus” to the song comes in. We should all be able to walk in unity regarding this point.
The author of the hymn tells us that he may not know many things but what he knows, he knows very deeply. First Paul is telling us that he “knows whom” he has believed. Paul does not say he knows the catechism. He does not say he knows the five points of Arminianism or Calvinism. He says that he does not know a certain creed, a “what” or “it”. He says he knows “whom”. He knows the person of Christ Himself. He has a relationship with Him. As you age you may find that some of the “what” you believe may change. The one thing, for God says in Malachi 3:6 that “I am the Lord, I change not”, is that the “whom” you believe in should never change.
Second Paul tells us that after knowing Christ, he also is persuaded that Christ is able to keep him and keep him not just now but keep him unto “that day”. The phrase “that day” is telling us that Paul knows and is persuaded fully that his salvation is sure. It is eternal. He cannot lose it. He knows as he told us in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began this work in you will keep you or carry it on to completion all the way until the day of Christ”. The author is telling us that he knows what Jude 24 tells us where we read “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy”. The author is telling us that he knows that Christ holds us in His hand and that nothing can take us out (John 10:27-30).
Today, you may not consider yourself a theologian. You may not consider yourself a great scholar of the Word. Neither did Major Whittle. He saw many great revivals and many people come to know the Lord. There were still many things though he admitted he just did not know. What he did know was the same thing we all can know. We can “know Him”. It is not about knowing a “what” or “it”. It is about “knowing Him”. And in knowing Him, He wants us to know that since He has done all the work – (everything we do not fully understand from verses 1, 2, 3, and 4) – we can rest in knowing we have assurance now, tomorrow, and all the way up to that great wedding feast at the end of time – THAT DAY! We have full assurance of our salvation because He chose us, we did not choose Him. He did the work. If you did anything to earn your salvation then you can lose it. Many believe that. I do not. I did nothing. Christ did it all and since He did it all, I am fully persuaded that He will keep me unto that final, glorioius day.
May God bless you in “knowing Him” today and the assurance that brings.