The Knowledge Of the Truth
June 29th, 1958 @ 7:30 PM
1 Timothy 2:1-7
THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Timothy 2:1-7
6-29-58 7:30 p.m.
Now let us read the text. It is in 1 Timothy, the second chapter, the first seven verses; 1 Timothy, almost to the end of your New Testament; 1 Timothy chapter 2, 1 through 7, and the text will be the fourth verse; 1 Timothy, the second chapter, 1 through 7—now, we have it. Let us all read it together; 1 Timothy 2:1-7:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus;
Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
[1 Timothy 2:1-7]
And now the text is the fourth verse: “God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:3-4].
That is a most unusual passage. In fact, I am beginning to see in these little letters that Paul has here and there some of the tremendous texts in the Bible. This next verse is one. We shall be preaching on that next Sunday morning: “There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” [1 Timothy 2:5]. Then the text for tonight, the verse just above it: “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:4]. We shall discuss for just a moment that text as a whole, before we look at it minutely.
If God wills all men to be saved, why aren’t they all saved? “God, who will have all men to be saved…” Evidently, the “will” there—“God who will have all men to be saved”—evidently, it is not a decree, or else the omnipotent hand of God would save everybody. But we know that everybody is not going to be saved. There is a hell where there are those in weeping and in darkness and in gnashing of teeth [Matthew 13:42]. If there are sheep on the right hand, there are goats on the left hand [Matthew 25:33-46]. If there is golden grain gathered into the garner, there are tares that are burned with unquenchable fire [Luke 3:17]. If there is a grain, wheat, that is carefully kept, there are husks and hulls and chaff that is blown away. Both of it is in this life, and both of it is in the Bible. If there is a glorious heaven, there is also a hideous and horrible hell.
All men are not going to be saved. Yet, it says here: “God wills that all men be saved” [1 Timothy 2:4]. Evidently, the force of that “will” does not carry a decree, an omnipotent edict and command. So when you look at that word in the Greek, thĕlei, thĕlei, it means “will.” But there are several other meanings of it, shades of meaning. When you look at it in a lexicon, the first one will be “a wish, a preference, a delight.” So if we could say what the text means: “God delights in the salvation of all men. He wishes the salvation of all men. He prefers the salvation of all men” [1 Timothy 2:4].
“As I live,” said the Lord, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his way and live; turn ye, for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11]. It is our wish that all men be saved. It is the wish of the church. It’s the wish of every Christian that all men be saved. No right-thinking Christian would rejoice in the cries and the wails of the damned. But that still doesn’t solve it. If God wishes all men to be saved, if He would delight in the salvation of all men, then again, why doesn’t the omnipotent hand of God save all men?
Well, first an inscrutable mystery into which we cannot enter: the mystery of evil [2 Thessalonians 2:7]; evil was in this earth before the man was made. Evil was in this universe before God laid the foundations of the world [Ezekiel 28:15]. When Satan entered the garden of Eden [Genesis 3], where did Satan come from? He was there, and he was beyond, and he was before.
The mystery of evil, no man knows, least of all I. I cannot understand. I don’t see. There is no man that liveth that understands or sees, and it is not revealed in the Word of God. We’ll never know unless God chooses on the other side of the divide to explain to us the mystery of evil. Why, O God? Why didn’t the Lord destroy Satan? Why didn’t the Lord crush him in his first rebellion? [Ezekiel 28:15]. Why the repercussion of the tears and sobs of the centuries? Does the Lord delight that men be oppressed? Then why doesn’t He free them? Does the Lord delight in the suffering of the sick? Then why does God allow disease? I do not understand. That’s just one of the reasons why.
A second reason why: God made us morally free. I can curse God to His face. Now isn’t that an unusual thing? And a lot of men do it! I can rebel against every edict, every decree, every commandment, every law of God. I can do it! And a lot of men do. The only thing of us is this, and it is here in the context of this text. Our part is in humility to plead, to intercede, to pray. “I exhort . . . that prayers, supplications, intercessions . . . be made for all men” [1 Timothy 2:1]. It is our lot and our part to pray, to plead, to exhort, to supplicate, to intercede, and the rest in the hands of God. When a man turns down the proper grace of Jesus, I don’t understand it. I don’t see it. But he has the liberty to do it, the freedom to choose. “We are to pray, to supplicate, to make intercession for all men” [1 Timothy 2:1]; and then, to my astonishment, he picks out one particular class, and he names them. “For kings, for all that are in authority … for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who will have all men to be saved” [1 Timothy 2:2-4].
Who is that king, in which, under whose reign—he writes here that we ought to pray and supplicate and intercede? Bless your heart. That king at that time when Paul wrote that letter and made the appeal was the bloodthirstiest monster that ever reigned in an empire. His name was Nero, and you name your dogs for him—to pray, to supplicate, to make intercession, even for Nero, under whom Paul himself was martyred, and who persecuted the first Christians. It is God’s wish. It is God’s will. It is God’s preference. It is God’s delight that all men be saved, and we are to pray for Nero, that God would save him. We’re to supplicate, we’re to make intercession for all men, that they may be saved [Matthew 9:38; Romans 10:1]. And I say, I cannot enter into the mystery of their choice of a final damnation. It is just a horrible thing to behold.
Now let us look at the text: “…God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:3-4]. Then we are saved by the knowledge of the truth. If a man will turn, if he will open his heart, if he will hear and see, if he will accept and believe, a man can be saved [Acts 16:30-31]—a man is saved by the knowledge of the truth! “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent” [John 17:3]. We are saved by the knowledge of the truth.
One of the tremendous affirmations of the great evangelist and preacher Charles G. Finney is this; that it is the truth of God that convicts and that saves [John 3:16, 16:8-11]. That is the great, fundamental, basic thesis of everything that he did and of every volume that he wrote. The truth of God, the deliverance of the truth of God, the preaching of the truth of God—it’s not the man; it’s not his gestures, or his voice, or his eloquence, or his philosophy, or his perorations, or his oratorical flights, but it is the deliverance of the truth of God that convicts and saves the damned, the lost [1 Corinthians 2:4-7]. And then he illustrated that in one of his books that stayed in my mind, the illustration.
He said that a young minister just beginning to preach didn’t have any sermons in keeping with the congregation to which he was to appear. So he took one of Charles G. Finney’s sermons, and he laid it on the pulpit, and he began to read the sermon of Charles Finney. And as he began to read the sermon, the people came under conviction, and here somebody broke out in a sob, and there, people began to cry. And the young minister was startled and amazed, and he stopped reading the sermon and he apologized, and he said, “Dear people, I do not know what or why, but I did not mean to hurt you. And I apologize.”
Then he uses that as an illustration of the fact that it is the truth of God that convicts and that saves! And I think Finney is right. Men are saved by the truth: “For I am the way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” [John 1:17]. Men are lost because they are deluded. They believe a lie. Satan whispers in their ears things. He says things in their hearts. He is a liar and the father of it [John 8:44]. And he deludes and destroys because of his ableness to get men to be persuaded that what Satan says and what Satan whispers is the truth itself. But it’s a lie, and men are destroyed by a lie. But the truth saves: for God, who would have all men to be saved, pleads with men to come unto the knowledge of the truth [1 Timothy 2:3-4].
Now this truth of God that saves is this: first, it is the truth that the Holy Spirit uses to quicken the soul, to make a man conscious of God, bring him under conviction of the Almighty [John 16:7-11]. Here is a man that goes along, and he’s like an animal. He eats, he sleeps, and he gets hungry, and he pursues the pleasures and self pleasings of life. And he passes by the church, and he passes by religion, and he doesn’t know any more about God and the will and the Word of God than an ox in a stall or an ostrich in the desert. He’s just like an animal, lives like an animal—might as well be an animal—would die like an animal.
Then, there comes to that man, sometimes through a tract, sometimes on the radio, sometimes a friend brings him to the house of the Lord. Some way, in the devious influences and providence of God, there comes to that man a knowledge of the truth! And he reads in the Word of God, like Bunyan’s Pilgrim; he reads in the Word of God: “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name, in the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:18]. And he reads in the Book: “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life; but the wrath of God, abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. And he reads in the Book: “It is appointed to men once to die, [but] after that the judgment!” [Hebrews 9:27]. And he faces death, and he faces eternity in unforgiven sins, and he is not prepared.
The truth of God reaches the heart and convicts the man, and he’s quickened, he’s awakened. What must I do to be saved? [Acts 16:30-31]. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, and as he read, he wept. And he looked this way, and he looked that way, as if he would flee for his life, but he did not know where to turn or to what to escape.
Now the truth of God does a second thing: it delivers a man from the emptiness, and the futility, and the vanity of self-salvation, of good works. When the man is quickened and he says, “I must be saved, I’m under the judgment and wrath of God, I face death and hell. I must be saved!” And the man, in himself, immediately he turns to good works, he’ll do it every time. “I will quit these grosser sins. I’ve been cursing and blaspheming. I will not blaspheme any longer. I have been violating all of the commandments of God. I will reform!” And then he marches down to somebody’s church, and he says, “I want to receive the sacraments of the church.” And he receives the ceremonies of the church. And then he sits down in a false peace. Then upon a day, he reads the truth of God! And the Lord God says in the Word, and it pierces his heart: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God!” [John 3:3] Then he reads: “Born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” [John 1:13]. Then he reads: “All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight” [Isaiah 64:6]. Then he reads again: “For by the works of the law (by good deeds) shall no flesh be justified” [Galatians 2:16].
Here he is trying to save himself by being good; trying to save himself by the sacraments of the church. And it’s like trying to reach the stars on a treadmill; it’s trying to fill a bottomless tub with a leaking bucket. The truth has awakened the man to the emptiness and the futility of the works of righteousness: be baptized every day of your life and still be lost; receive all of so-called sacraments of the church and still be damned; go out here and try to do all of the things to make a man respectable and still be lost. You must be born again, regenerated [John 3:3, 7]. The truth leads the man to the revelation of God [1 Timothy 2:4].
And then that’s the third thing the knowledge of the truth does to save all men, to come unto the knowledge of the truth: the truth under the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit leads a man away from his reformations, away from his good works, away from his pride and boasting of the worth of his life and the deeds that he has done, and it leads him, a humble supplicant, to the atoning Christ [Titus 3:5]. And he bows at the foot of the cross, and he looks up into the face of Jesus. And all of his self-righteousness, all of the fig leaves by which he’d to seek to clothe himself, all the cobwebs of the church’s so-called sacraments are brushed aside. And he’s given a robe of righteousness, which the Book describes as being washed in the blood of the Lamb [Revelation 7:14]. And he’s saved, he’s saved by looking to Jesus [John 3:14-18], trusting in Jesus [Acts 16:31]. All glory and all honor to Jesus—it is something He did [Revelation 1:5-6]. I didn’t—He did it!
Now, that insults human pride. Funny thing, funny thing; I’ve watched it ever since I was a boy. Listening to philosophers; that is, people who have a vanity, who look upon themselves as being philosophers, they are metaphysicians. You know, they probe, they—the hoi polloi, the am ha’aretz, the common folks. These people, they—oh, but he goes down deep. Now what’s the matter with him is this: his human pride is insulted by the plainness and the easiness of salvation—just life for a look! [John 3:14-18]. “Ha,” he says, “to be saved must be recondite and erudite; to be saved must be difficult; it must be ferreted out. A man must study and learn—man can’t be saved just by looking at the Crucified One: he’s got to do something big or great!”
His pride is wounded when you give him the simple way of salvation. You know, I was trying to think of that—how could I illustrate that? And this came to my heart. That’s exactly what happened to Naaman [2 Kings 5:1-14]. Naaman was the captain of the hosts of the king of Syria. He was a great man and a mighty man, but he was a leper! [2 Kings 5:1]. And you know the story, how finally he came down to the prophet of God in Israel to be cleansed of his leprosy. And he came there, and I couldn’t help but notice—you read—he came there with his horses and with his chariots to the door of the house of Elisha [2 Kings 5:9].
I can just see him—that whole retinue. Brother, the entire court of Damascus had arrived—and there Naaman, the great man, at their head. And he stood there in his human pride to be cleansed of his leprosy; standing there with his horses, and with his chariots, and with his retinue. And Elisha didn’t even come out to see him. He was the most unimpressed man that ever lived. He didn’t even look. He sent Gehazi his servant out there and said: “Tell him to go down to the muddy Jordan and dip seven times, and he will be clean” [2 Kings 5:10]. And when the servant Gahazi came out and said: “The prophet said go down to the Jordan, and dip seven times, and your flesh will come again, like unto the flesh of a little child,” the Book says: “And Naaman was wroth!” [2 Kings 5:10-11]. And he said: “Why, I thought at least he would come out here and in a great dramatic gesture, put his hand on my flesh, invoke his God! Are not Abana and Pharpar, waters of Damascus, better than all waters of Israel? Can I wash in them, and be clean?” And he turned and went away in a rage, the Bible says [2 Kings 5:11-12].
While he was driving furiously back to Damascus in his wrath, his pride had been insulted—can’t you see it? Now one of the servants who is riding with him in the chariot put his hand on him, and said: “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, wouldst thou not have done it? [2 Kings 5:13]. If the prophet had said to be saved conquer a continent, would ye have tried? How much rather then, when he says, Wash and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13]. And Naaman turned around his chariot and went down to the muddy Jordan and dipped himself six times. And when he came up the seventh time, his flesh came again to him like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean [2 Kings 5:13-14].
That’s the best illustration I know of how a man is to be saved. He likes to be saved dramatically, spectacularly. He worked it out with his own great intellectual prowess and endowment, when the Lord says, “Wash and be clean” [2 Kings 5:10-14; Revelation 7:14]; when the Lord says, “Look and live” [John 3:14-17; Numbers 21:8-9]; when the Lord says, “Trust and be saved” [Acts 16:30-31]; the knowledge of the truth [1 Timothy 2:3-4].
Now in this little moment may I describe that knowledge, what kind it is? It’s, first of all, a believing knowledge; “God . . . Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:3-4]. It is a believing knowledge; that is, it is a knowledge that we accept. Every sentence here in the Scriptures about Jesus we believe; says over here in the Book, “He was born of a virgin” [Matthew 1:23-25]—we believe it! God His Father [John 1:18, 3:16]; incarnate in Bethlehem [Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1]; and then we turn the page, and we read the marvelous things of His life: how He could raise the dead [John 11:43-44], make the blind to see [Matthew 20:30-34]. And we believe it! And we read all of His words of hope and comfort: “I go to prepare a place for you, and I will be waiting, and someday, coming again, to receive you to Myself” [John 14:3]. And we look up in hope and in love and in expectancy [Titus 2:13].
And we read the Word: “And He was slain for our sins, and He was raised for our justification” [Romans 4:25], to declare us righteous before God. And we believe the Book! And He says, and we are to tell the good news that any man who will turn in trust can be saved” [Acts 16:31]. And we preach the gospel in persuasion and in faith [Romans 1:16]. And then it says, and someday He is coming for His own, and we will rise to meet the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17], and we believe it! That’s the kind of a knowledge it is: it is a believing knowledge! [1 Timothy 2:3-4]. That is, we accept it.
What kind of a knowledge is that that saves us, this knowledge? It is a personal knowledge; that is, it applies to me; it applies to you. We read in the Book: and Jesus loved John, yes, He loved John. And He loved Simon Peter, and He loved Paul. That’s right! And Jesus died for John, and He died for Simon Peter, and He died for Paul, and that’s right. But this kind of knowledge that I’m preaching about tonight, the knowledge that saves is this kind of a knowledge, “And He died for me! And He loves me!” [Galatians 2:20].
He knew me before the foundation of the world was laid [Ephesians 1:4]. And He had me in mind when He died. And He called my name when He made intercession at the throne of grace [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. And He remembers me—think of that: in this atom of stardust, out of all the millions of the earth, and He calls you by name [John 10:3]. He knows all about you.
And every lack in my life and every sin in my soul, He has washed [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5], He has made atonement for [Romans 5:11]; He did it for me! And had you never sinned and you were perfect—and nobody else had sinned, everybody perfect; I was the only lost sinner in the world, yet He died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3]. A personal knowledge—and He knows me; and He listens to me; and His eyes are toward me—a personal knowledge [1 Timothy 2:3-4].
And then the last: it is an “operational” knowledge. I struggle to get a better word, but I couldn’t think of it. I mean by that, it is a moving knowledge; it is a knowledge that activates. Like I was going down the highway, driving down the highway, and I read the sign: “The bridge is out.” And I detour to the side. And when I detour to the side, I come to the place where the bridge, and I look up there—that great bridge—and all the center of it gone. Well, had I continued on that highway, driven up there on that bridge, and that great fall into the river below, my life would have been lost!
This is an activating knowledge, an operational knowledge; it’s a moving knowledge. God says: “Down that road, that road, that road leads to the abyss! It leads to night; it leads to hell; it leads to damnation—don’t go down that road!” Well, then I have a choice. I don’t believe it—so I go on in my dereliction, my stubbornness, my refusal to accept the Lord and His appeal—to listen to His word. I go on! Or, I can believe it. The Lord says: “This road leads to hell; this road leads to damnation; this road leads to death, and tonight, don’t go down that road. Take this road that leads to life and glory and heaven.” And if I believe it, then I turn, and I’m on the glory road. Bless His name—it’s a knowledge that moves the heart [1 Timothy 2:3-4].
Does it speak to you? Do you feel the appeal of the Holy Spirit in your soul? Oh, the pleadings of the Lord: “Incline thy ear unto Me . . . hear, and your soul shall live” [Isaiah 55:3]. Not hearing for hearing’s sake, not knowing for knowing’s sake—but hearing and knowing to be saved; the knowledge of the truth that moves the heart and saves the soul. And the woman who lost a coin, took a light, lighted a candle and swept the floor. Not a candle just for the candle’s sake; not sweeping the floor for sweeping’s sake—but to find the coin! [Luke 15:8-10]. That kind of a knowledge: the one that reaches out—”Lord, Lord, how is it that a man can be saved? I want to be saved. Lord, what is it that delivers from hell? I want to be saved. What is it Lord that writes a man’s name in the Book of Life? [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. I want to be saved!” To reach out for it, and there it is: “God . . . who will have all men to be saved, and to come into the knowledge of the truth” [1 Timothy 2:3-4]. This is salvation; the acceptance in the heart of the truth of the witness of the Holy Spirit of God [John 16:7-11]. Look, there He is; “The way, and the truth, and the life” [John 14:6]. “For the law was given by Moses,” and nobody could keep it and be saved; “but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” [John 1:17], and anybody can look and live [John 3:14-17]. Would you? In humble faith and in simple trust, just like an unlettered man, human pride of knowledge, metaphysical predilections all brushed away, they perish with the dying world—I am looking to Jesus [Hebrews 12:2]. This life of mine, which is fading and dying, I’m exchanging for a life that shall live forever [John 3:14-17, 10:27-28]. “Jesus, my Savior, I come!” Would you? Tonight? “I make it now.” Down these stairwells, would you come? “Here I am, pastor, here I come.” A family of you, or one somebody you, I can’t make that appeal. If I do it, it is dust; it is ashes; it is breath; it is sound and sentence; it is syllable and word—it is nothing! But if the Spirit of God makes the appeal—”would you come? Would you come?” Drawn by the Holy Spirit of God, “I make it now, here I am, here I come.” Taking Lord as Savior, or putting your life in the church, or dedicating your life to Jesus, as the Spirit shall lead the way and open the door, one somebody you, a family you—however the Lord shall say it—you, would you come, while we stand and while we sing?
KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH
I. Introductory discussion of the text(1 Timothy 1:4)
“Will have all men to be saved” – if God wills all men to be saved, why aren’t
they all saved?
“will” is not a decree(Matthew 13:42, 25:33,
Shades of meaning in thelei, “will”
Can also mean “a wish, preference, delight”(Ezekiel
If God wishes it so, why not make it so?
The moral freedom of man
Our position to be always one of deepest humility(1
a. We are to pray for
b. King at that time
was bloodthirsty Nero
II. It is by a knowledge of the truth that
men are saved(1 Timothy 2:4, John 17:3)
of Charles G. Finney
The truth saves (John 1:17, 8:44, 14:6)
Spirit uses the truth to quicken the soul(John
3:18, 36, Hebrews 9:27)
delivers a man from the emptiness and futility of self-salvation, of good works(John 1:13, 3:3, 7, Isaiah 64:6, Galatians 2:16)
leads us humbly in faith to the atoning Christ(Acts
16:31, Revelation 1:5-6, 7:14)
Human pride wants the way of salvation to be difficult, spectacular
a. Naaman(2 Kings 5:1-14)
III. This knowledge isâ€¦
believing knowledge(Matthew 1:23-25, 20:30-34,
John 11:43-44, 14:3, Romans 4:25, Acts 16:31, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
personal knowledge (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians
1:4, John 10:3)
An operational knowledge – a moving knowledge; a knowledge that activates
1. The pleading of God (Isaiah 55:3)
2. Wanting to be saved (Luke 15:8-10)