Not What But Whom
September 21st, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
2 Timothy 1:12
NOT "WHAT" BUT "WHOM"
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Timothy 1:12
9-21-58 7:30 p.m.
I have a wonderful, wonderful text tonight. Second Timothy 1:12: "Nevertheless I am not ashamed, 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."
That’s a refreshing kind of a text: not, "I think, I suppose, I guess, maybe."
"I know, and I am persuaded" [2 Timothy 1:12].
In that first Christian century, the Gnostics, the Sophists were everywhere saying they knew everything; and wherever they were, the agnostics were right behind them avowing they knew nothing. And the spirit of agnosticism is one of boasting over their ignorance and uncertainty and doubt.
We live in an age like that today. These scientific approaches have placed a premium upon doubt and uncertainty. Uncertainty is a virtue, and dogmatism is the blackest of sins. We’re not to believe anything – not according to this critical and cynical age. There is a dogmatism that is born of ignorance and stupidity. It has no relation to experience or thoughtfulness.
But the knowledge that Paul avows here and the persuasion of which he speaks here is not born of ignorance. It is born of deep experience. This is the man who’s inured in a dungeon [Acts 16:23-24]. He has been the object of violent hands [Acts 14:19] and riot [Acts 19:30-40]. He has been wasted in life, beat, imprisoned [2 Corinthians 11:23-27], ridiculed by Sophists [Acts 17:18, 32], denied by his own countrymen, forsaken. It says here only Luke’s with him, just one [2 Timothy 4:11] – forsaken by his own brethren [2 Timothy 4:16]. And yet this is the man who in prison, and before riotous mobs, and before those who ridiculed and scorned, before false brethren – this is the man who stands up before the entire world with deep conviction and with boldness of assertion and affirmation – with an, "I know, and I am persuaded" [2 Timothy 1:12].
Now, we begin by what he is talking about – the subject of his sentence. He’s talking about "that Day" – that day. That’s a strange thing, "that Day." "That Day" could refer to any day. "That Day" [2 Timothy 1:12]. What is there specific about "that Day"?
If you don’t know, it’s because we do not share in apostolic Christianity. To the early Christian, there was just one day – that day for which all other days were made, that day toward which all destiny and life were tending and moving. The reference is to that day when Christ Jesus our Lord shall visibly and personally intervene and interpose in human history. They never said here in the Bible, "the advent," or "the judgment," or "the second coming." They never referred to it like that.
But they spoke of it so constantly and referred to it so incessantly that it came to be known as "that Day." Paul uses the expression many times – "that Day." It is the great day of Christ when His people shall stand before Him [2 Corinthians 5:10]. It is the great day of the Lord when the wicked shall be judged and the vials of wrath shall be poured out upon the earth [2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; Revelation 16:1-21] – "that Day."
Now he says that he has committed something to Jesus against "that Day." So what is he talking about when he speaks of his committal: "that which I have committed unto Him"? [2 Timothy 1:12] He is referring there to all of the interests and concerns of this life, of the life that is to come, of time and of destiny. "I have deposited – committed, deposited in His hands – all the matters of life, all the matters of time, all the matters of eternity."
Paul means by that, "I have committed to Him my soul’s eternal salvation." He means, "I have committed to Him all of the sins and faults and failures of the past. God hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:6]. Paul means, "I have referred to Him the entire fruit and issue of my life, all its reward and meaning." Could have been an eminent rabbi, could have written literature beyond what Plato or Aristotle did pen, but he suffered, lived a life of sorrow and heartache leaving the issue and the reward to God: "I have committed it unto Him" [2 Timothy 1:12].
And he has committed unto Christ this coming execution – the specter of Nero rising before him, a certain death and dissolution immediately pressed upon him. "I have committed unto Him who is the resurrection and the life [John 11:25] my coming departure and death, committed unto Him every concern and every interest in life. I have placed it in His hands against that Day."
Now the wonderful assurance of the apostle as he speaks of Him who is able to guard – translated here "keep" – that commitment: "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to guard" – to keep – "that which I have committed unto Him against that Day" [2 Timothy 1:12].
In an olden time, they didn’t have a bank, and when a man hoarded gold and miserly kept it, he had to hide it away. And a miser, counting his bags of gold, stored them in the safe, barred the windows, bolted the doors. When he went up to bed, fancy he’d hear the step and the footstep and the approach of a thief, go down into that barred room, try all the windows, open the door, look to see where the thief had approached. And thinking he might have come and gone, open his safe, count his bags of gold, put them back, lock the safe, lock the door, test the bars, go back up to his room, go to bed. Then fancy he hears the thief coming even now after he has left. And he lives in misery.
How parabolic of us! Having committed to Jesus our soul and our life and our destiny, we wonder and we’re fearful and timid and swept with doubts and forebodings. How will it be to die? How will it be to be buried? How will it be, that awful eternity beyond? And am I saved? Have I repented right? Have I believed right? Have I trusted right? Am I born again? Am I regenerated? Is it well with me? Is it right with me? Is it safe with me? And our lives are like the life of a miser who worries and is fearful about his treasured bags of gold.
Oh, my brother! How different this wonderful assurance of the Apostle Paul: "I have committed to Him against that day all of the treasures of my soul and my life, and I know and am persuaded that He is able to keep that charge." Do you think so? Is He a great guardian? Is His guardianship invincible? Is the great Shepherd of the flock able to preserve His sheep? Will He present us faultless without blame in that final great day of the Lord? Will He lose us? Will some of us fall by the way? Will some of us ultimately be lost? Is He able to keep us all? Is He? Is He?
Why, man, for Satan to pull out of God’s hand even one of His sheep, he first, with his hosts, would have to overwhelm and overrun and overturn the armies of God in this earth. Then he’d have to climb and scale the battlements of heaven and there put the bright angels who, by the myriads, serve God day and night, and then thrust forth his felonious hands into the heart and bosom of God and tear us out of the very soul and heart and love of God Himself! Could Satan do that? Could he? "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded He’s able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day" [2 Timothy 1:12] – able to keep Paul in his present life and in that present ministry, going back as Paul stood or sat and wrote the sentence, able to keep us in this life.
Paul was a sheep surrounded by ravening wolves, but his life is immortal until his work is done. I think all of us ought to be persuaded of that. Until God has, through me, finished the work assigned to me, I cannot be destroyed. I cannot die. Don’t go down the road fearful and anxious. Don’t face any day with fear and foreboding. Until your work is finished and until your task is done, your life cannot be touched by Satan. It is immortal.
God has a work for us to do in the earth, and when the work is done, and when the task is finished, to be called up for our great reward is the great desire and hope and vision and aspiration of life. But until that task is done, no power in heaven, in hell, or in earth can touch us or destroy us! We are immortal until our task is finished.
Paul, placed in a dungeon, surrounded on every side by enemies with the specter of Nero rising before him, Paul says, "But the Word of God is not bound." Paul says, "The light can never be put out, and my life is in His hands and He is able to keep me." Paul believed he would be kept, and he was kept. We are not to live in fear and in dread and in foreboding.
God help me if ever I tremble before any day or any hour. Shall it be a dread disease that cuts me down? Shall it be a terrible accident that takes my life? Shall it be the senility of old age when my mind is gone and my body decays? I do not know. It is not for me to say. God hath committed to each one of us a task, and until that task is done, our lives are immortal, committed unto Him, and He is able to keep.
He was talking about the resurrection. To a Christian – to us – the miracle, the wonder, the glory of the resurrection shall not fail. I do not deny that these Sophists and Sadducees and ridiculers and scorners and scoffers make fun of such a hope [Acts 17:32].
My body, truly, may be blown as dust over the face of the soil. It may be absorbed into the vegetation of the earth. It may be eaten and digested by animals. It may go through a thousand cycles, but the power of God who created us in the first place can recreate us in the second place [Psalm 139:14; Philippians 3:21]. One miracle: the wonder of it, the amazement of it, is as glorious and incomparable and inexplicable as the other. They’re both alike, both alike. And the Lord God hath promised that though we fall into the dust of ground or be buried in the depths of the sea, yet shall we live in His sight. "I know that my Redeemer liveth . . . and though through my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself . . . and not another" [from Job 19:25-27].
We shall stand and live in His presence. He is able to keep. And of course, he was speaking of the glorious life and reward in the world that is yet to come [2 Timothy 4:8]. He hath the power to place us at God’s right hand [Colossians 3:1-4]. He hath the power to put our feet upon a rock [Psalm 40:2]. He hath the power to crown us when others are accursed [Matthew 25:14-30], to imparadise us when others are sent into separation and everlasting darkness [Matthew 25:31-46]. "I know, I am persuaded that He’s able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day" [2 Timothy 1:12]. Whatever the vicissitude, whatever the exigency, whatever the fortune, whatever the fate, God is able and He will not fail [John 10:27-30].
Now Paul has a wonderful basis for that assurance: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him" [2 Timothy 1:12]. Three times does he mention our Lord in that little sentence, three times.
Paul is now an old man. He refers to himself as "Paul, the aged" [Philemon 1:9]. When he writes this epistle, he is preparing for martyrdom [2 Timothy 4:6-7]. He looks back on the years and the years and the years of his life and service and ministry – his discipleship which he received from the hands of Jesus [Acts 9:3-18; Galatians 1:15-18]. And it’s an old man who writes after meditation and reflection and long experience when he says, "I know and I am persuaded" [2 Timothy 1:12].
Then how and why? What is the basis of his knowledge and his persuasion? It lies in Him: "I know whom." And three times does he mention Him: "I know whom . . . I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him" [2 Timothy 1:12].
The basis of his hope and his faith, his persuasion and his knowledge, is in Christ, the Lord Himself. He hasn’t trusted an abstraction. He hasn’t laid down his head on a pillow of speculation. He doesn’t even say, "I know and am persuaded because of the doctrines, or the creeds, or the words of the language. I know because I have the form of sound words, or I know because I have learned the doctrine." Doctrines don’t save us. Creeds don’t deliver us. Theology doesn’t save us. Our hope, and our faith, and our persuasion, and our gnosis is bound and grounded and founded upon the whole person of our Lord Himself. Not what, but whom. "I know whom," not what! I found the little poem that so beautifully says that:
Not what, but WHOM, I do believe,
That, in my darkest hour of need,
Hath comfort that no mortal creed
To mortal man can give;–
Not what, but WHOM!
For Christ is more than all the creeds,
And His full life of gentle deeds
Shall all the creeds outlive.
Not what but Whom.
Not what I do believe, but WHOM!
WHO walks beside me in the gloom?
WHO shares the burden wearisome?
WHO all the dim way death doth illume,
And bids us look beyond the tomb
The larger life to live?–
Not what I do believe,
[John Oxenham, "Credo," in Bees in Amber: A Little Book of Thoughtful Verse, 1917]
Oh, I like that! One of these young neophytes, one of these little theologues, was seated by the side of an old dying saint to comfort him in his translation. And the young neophyte quoted that Scripture and said it like this, "For I know in whom I have believed." And the old saint raised an emaciated hand, and said, "No, my boy, no – not even a preposition between my soul and my Savior. ‘I know whom I have believed.’" Not the doctrine, not the creed, not the law, not the language, not the form, but the person, the whole Savior: "I know whom I have believed" [2 Timothy 1:12].
There are two kinds of knowledge, academic and experiential. Academic knowledge is the knowledge of calculus, mathematics, geology, astronomy, anthropology – all of the sciences: the atoms and how they behave; Mount Everest and how high it is and how big and how cold. Academic knowledge: these things we know.
There is another kind of knowledge: a saving knowledge, a personal knowledge, a knowledge that comes by experience, committal, and faith, and love, and prayer, and devotion, and discipleship. "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able" [2 Timothy 1:12]. That is an experiential knowledge, a saving knowledge, a personal knowledge. I know Him in the forgiveness of sins [Colossians 2:13]. I know Him in the fellowship of communion and prayer [Philippians 4:6-7]. I know Him, the God of all comfort [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]. I know Him, the Savior of the soul [1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 6:19-20]. This knowledge and this persuasion is not built upon credulity, or superstition, or blindness. It is built upon a life of great committal and devotion.
A feather in the wind, blown here and yon, has no life in itself; and when the gale has spent, it falls to ground. That is the religion of speculation, of metaphysics, of philosophy, of the natural man.
But the eagle, however the wind blows, rises on wings of power, lives in the face of the sun. That is the religion of experience, of truth, and of Christ; and that is the great persuasion of our apostle Paul: "I know – I know, and I am persuaded. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded. I have believed; therefore, I am persuaded" [from 2 Timothy 1:12] – not, "I have followed Christ and am persuaded. I have tried to be like Him and am persuaded. I have attained into all of those objectives that are Christly and heavenly and divine, and I am persuaded." No. "I have believed. I have committed, and I am persuaded" [from 2 Timothy 1:12].
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 creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
"I have believed; therefore, I am persuaded."
The great foundation of our religion and of our faith is never in ourselves. It’s in Him. To look on the inside is to look to despair, to futility, and frustration, and vanity, and death, and nothingness. But to lift up your eyes and look to Him is to be persuaded that He is able. Look, my brother, look and live [Numbers 21:6-9]. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, up, up, that whosoever believeth in Him may be persuaded" [from John 3:14-15 and 2 Timothy 1:12].
In this balcony around, trusting Jesus as Savior, would you come? In the press of people on this lower floor, from side to side, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus. Would you come? Down these stairwells, front and back, into these aisles, from side to side. While we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? "Tonight, I give my heart to God. In token thereof, I give you my hand." Is there a family, you, to come into the church, one somebody, you, to whom God makes appeal? Would you take the Lord, look to Him, trust in Him, believe in Him and make it now? "Here I come, pastor, and here I am," while we stand and while we sing.
first Christian century, Gnostics, Sophists avowed they knew everything;
agnostics avowed and boasted they knew nothing
day scientific approaches place a premium upon doubt and uncertainty
Paul avows is not born of ignorance, but of deep experience
II. His commitment
"That day" – reference to the day when Christ shall visibly and personally
intervene in human history
"That which I have committed unto Him"
the interests, concerns of this life, the life to come, of time, destiny
soul’s eternal salvation; all the sins, failures of the past (Isaiah 53:6)
The entire fruit and issue of his life, all reward and meaning
coming departure and death
III. His assurance
miser in olden days, before banks, lived in misery, fear
Parabolic of us – having committed to Jesus our soul, life and destiny, we
wonder and are fearful, swept with doubt and foreboding
lives are hid with God in Christ Jesus
Able to keep us in this present life
Paul a sheep surrounded by ravening wolves, but his life is immortal until his
work is done
to keep in the hour of death
The marvel of the resurrection will not fail(Job
Able to keep in the life to come
Jesus able to place us at God’s right hand, put our feet upon a rock
IV. The basis for his assurance
now an old man; when he writes this he is preparing for martyrdom
Reflects on the years of his life, service and ministry
basis of his hope and faith, his persuasion and knowledge is in Christ Himself
– "I know Whom"
trusting an abstraction, a speculation, or even doctrine
kinds of knowledge
Knowledge and persuasion built upon life of great committal and devotion(Romans 8:38-39)