2 Timothy 1:12 “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”
Three great statements are made by Paul here, and he is not speaking here as an Apostle with a capital ‘A’ that is with the unique gift of infallibility that the 12 had, guided by the Holy Spirit to the jots and tittles of their writings. That dimension is always present in his writings and that is why the climactic aspect of our worship, so often, is to consider what he says. What he says, the Holy Spirit says; what he says the Lord Jesus says. But here he is speaking as Mr. Christian like one of us, a sinner saved by grace. What is written in our text every Christian following the Lord Jesus is also able to say, and must say, and must ask God for trust and faith and courage to say it aloud. We know it by the chorus of a hymn we sing every year; “For 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.” We are going to end our worship service today singing that hymn together, and I do hope that you will all be able to sing it with renewed assurance thanking God that you do know the reality of these words from your heart. What is the first affirmation that he makes?
1. PAUL KNOWS THE GOD HE BELIEVES IN.
The Christian knows God. Of course the Christian knows about God. He knows about him from what God shows us every day in creation, in the sunset and the evening star, in the starlings as they come in to roost in their hundreds under the pier. The heavens speak to us and they say, “Isn’t God the Creator glorious? Look at his godhead as the maker of the universe. All this did not come about by a lucky chance, by a big bang. We are surrounded by such beauty and magnificence and awe and order and design every day of our lives. We know God and yet many are clamping down on that knowledge in their determination to do things their way and not God’s way. Then also this, that the Designer has made every one of us in his image, and so we have a conscience that rebukes us when we are mean and lustful and unkind and proud, but which also supports us in actions characterized by self-sacrifice and self-denial and costly deeds of patient love to others, “Well done! Go for it!” our conscience tells us.
God has also made himself known to us by his servants the prophets, by Moses and Samuel and Elijah and Isaiah and the writing prophets. God sent hundreds of prophets from their schools throughout the villages of Israel to preach to the people about who God was and what he wanted from them and what one day he would do in the whole world. And their response to the preached word is found in part in the 150 psalms, and they are absolutely breathtaking in their self analysis and in their response of humble wonder before the God who is and is not silent. Do you understand? The people heard the prophets speak and then they did not wink at one another and smile secretly and say, “Fairy stories” or “That’s his opinion,” or “We prefer the prophets of Baal and the earthy gods they tell us about.” No. And they didn’t say, “I’ve been very lucky.” They heard the prophets preach to them and this is one of the things that they said, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” They responded in the most thrilling songs of praise and wonder and repentance and doxology to a living God whom they had come to know for themselves by the preached word.
Then in the fullness of time God kept his promise and sent his Son into the world. What a life Jehovah Jesus lived, what teaching, what sermons, what parables! What great signs he performed! He turned water into wine; he healed all the sick; he delivered young and old from the devices of the devil, he spoke to the winds and waves and they obeyed him, he calmed the storm, he raised the dead. He transformed people making them wise and loving and patient and good. He prayed for his enemies when they had crucified him, “Father forgive them for they know no what they do.” He came not to command huge crowds to fall before him with their noses in the dust. He actually came to serve vain twerps like us. He came to seek for us and find us and redeem us. He died that we might be forgiven; he died to make us good, and millions of people for two thousand year have been elevated and enriched day by day through long lives by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ who indwells everyone who knows him.
I am saying that all mankind knows about God through his glory in creation and through the inward testimony of conscience and a sense of this living God, but then many know in addition to that general revelation of himself him through the special revelation he has given of himself through the prophets and the apostles of Jesus Christ in the Bible. They know him personally. I am saying that all people know about God. They can study the Bible, and they can learn their catechisms and they can repeat the great definition of God in the Shorter Catechism, “God is a Spirit infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth,” but the devils can repeat such a definition. They can say that God is one God; the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God; these three are one God. They are absolutely correct in so defining God, but that does not mean that they know God for themselves. James Alexander of Princeton Seminary was dying, and his wife was speaking to him at his bedside, and she quoted this verse of our text to him, but she did not quote it to him accurately. She said, “I know in whom I have believed . . .” And James gently corrected her. “I know whom I have believed,” he said. He would not allow even two letters of a preposition come between his soul and his Lord.
Paul knew all about God, that in him and from him and to him are all things, to whom be glory for ever, Amen, but more than that knowledge, utterly essential and orthodox as it is, Paul knew God, and that was very important to him, because there had been years of his life when what he knew was about God, and in those years he was zealous about God, and he argued and evangelized and he wished that all men were just like himself in their knowledge of Jehovah. Then when what he thought of as a cult arose centred on a carpenter’s son, one Jesus of Nazareth claiming that he was the Messiah, Paul was enraged and saw the damage it could do if it spread and so he determined to do all in his power to exterminate it. He forced its members to blaspheme, and he arrested them and set up courts to try then and condemn them with himself as the inquisitor general. He rejoiced when they were convicted and stoned to death. All this he did knowing about God but never knowing God for himself.
Then on the road to Damascus, where he was travelling in order to annihilate the spread of Christianity to that Syrian city, to wipe out any disciples of Jesus who were appearing and speaking in the Damascus synagogue he himself was arrested by an encounter, a confrontation, with the living God himself, the God whom in fact he did not know, with the Lord Jesus. This God stopped him in his tracks and turned his world upside down so that for the first time in his life he fell before this God and he cried to him, “Who are you, Lord?” He was acknowledging, “I don’t know this Lord of such glory and power.” He needed to be introduced to him like every sinner needs him, and it was Jesus himself who made the introduction, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” Then he knew for the first time that Jesus was God. In other words it was then that Paul knew God. So let us say that there are three ways of knowing God for yourself.
i] You know God only through knowing the Son of God. It is then that you gain a personal knowledge of God and know all you need to know about him. If you know the Son then you know the Father also, and that is why we’re not told whether it is the Father or the Son that Paul is speaking of here as the one he believes. The glory that Paul saw on the Damascus road was the Lord Jesus’, so that there, lying in the road, seeing a glory like the sun shining in its noonday brightness, was the first personal revelation he had of the God who is, the God who has made known the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person in his blessed Son. So, I am saying that you know God in the Jesus Christ of the Bible, our Jesus Christ who meets with his people when they gather in his name. If you gain that personal knowledge of him so that he becomes increasingly important to you as the weeks go by then you have gained a personal knowledge of God. But also this . . .
ii] You know God in repentance. Paul fell before God. Paul was a broken man when he came to know the Lord. This proud and self-righteous man then poured contempt on all his pride. He realized how bad he’d been, what a mess he had made of his life, his values and ideas and beliefs and practices were all wrong. He was deeply ashamed that he’d guarded men’s coats so that they could thrown sharp rocks into the face and rib-cage and stomach and limbs of Stephen and keep them thudding into his body as it lay prone and defenceless on the ground until Stephen was dead. How horrible had been Paul’s life. He learned that he had been actually persecuting the Son of God and he fell before him blinded by his glory. There is no knowledge of God without an immediate new understanding of yourself. When the thieving but now broken tax collector in the temple knew God remember he looked down to the ground and he beat his chest and he cried, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” He knew God in repentance and then he was showing that at last he also knew himself. Not a single devil, who knows all about God, asks God for mercy. But every Christian who says from his heart and in all sincerity, “I know whom I have believed” is a repentant person. And again you must say this . . .
iii] You know God as you believe in him. That is what Paul says here, “I know whom I have believed.” He is talking about his new trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. You say, “Well I don’t know God, and you say that all men know him,” but you have never put your trust in him. You have kept him at a distance from your life. There is estrangement and alienation between you and God. No wonder you don’t know him. How can you know a God you distrust? You have to deal with your distrust. You have to say to God words to the effect that you are so sorry that you have kept him at a distance out of your life, that you have not trusted him, but that from now on you are going to trust him. If he says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life then you are going to trust what he says. If he said on the cross, “it is finished!” then you trust that all the redeeming love of God has been poured forth in what Jesus did on the cross. He has paid every penny of your debt. He has wiped the slate clean. He has taken to himself all your guilt for the sins of the past and the sins of the present and the sins of the future. They are all dealt with. It is all finished, your salvation is complete, and so you entrust yourself to his safe keeping for ever. You know God, I say, as he is known in Jesus Christ, as you repent and turn from your sins and as you believe in our Saviour. Let us develop this in looking at another statement that Paul makes here.
- PAUL ENTRUSTS HIMSELF TO GOD FOR THE GREAT DAY.
Do you notice that Paul speaks of what he has “entrusted to God for that day” (v.12). He is not specific in telling us what it is and so let us look at it carefully. Literally it means that God was able to guard Paul’s deposit for that day. Paul has banked it with the Lord of hosts. Paul has put it in God’s safe-deposit box. But there is a debate about this phrase, because there is a built in grammatical ambiguity that concerns what actually was Paul’s deposit. Is the deposit something that God had entrusted to Paul (that God would keep) or was it something that Paul had entrusted to God who would keep it. Both are true, and both are grammatically possible, and so both meanings have their supporters. I see that fourteen scholars and commentators favour the interpretation that it is what God has entrusted to Paul, and then sixteen favour the view that it is what Paul has entrusted to God. They are almost all orthodox men on both sides. I have judged that it would be bringing the study and the Christian academic dispute into the pulpit for me to go into any lengthy explanation of this. You would find it tedious, but I have been persuaded by an old friend from student days, George Knight and the arguments he has set forth in his magisterial commentary on the pastoral epistles, and so I go along with him and the second view that Paul is referring to what he has entrusted to God, but it is not a crucial difference at all. No doctrines hang on the one or the other.
Let me explain this word, Paul’s ‘deposit.’ The Greek word means ‘a deposit committed to someone’s trust.’ You are going away on holiday for two weeks and you want your house plants to be watered and so you deposit your front door key with some neighbours whom you can trust absolutely. They will water the plants according to your instructions, some twice a week and others once a week, the cactus not at all, and so on. You would be very upset if you returned and found all the plants half dead because they had not been watered at all or because they’d been soaked every day with water. Your neighbours had not looked after what you had put into their care. They had not guarded what had been deposited with them. Now in the days of Timothy valuables were often kept in a temple for safe keeping. Temples were the banks and safe deposits of the ancient world. It was a very sacred duty to safely guard those deposits, returning them in due time when they were claimed. So what does every Christian deposit with God?
i] We deposit our hearts with God. Our heavenly Father speaks in the book of Proverbs, chapter 23 and verse 26 and he says to us, “My son give me your heart.” When I was in seminary a number of the students wore a sweat shirt with those words printed on the front, “My son give me your heart” and above them a lithograph of outsteretched hands supporting a human heart. Imagine you possessed something supremely valuable, say it was a flawless diamond the size of a large walnut. It was worth many millions of pounds. Would you say, “I’ll keep it safe in a drawer in the house, or I’ll put it in my jewellery box in the bedroom, or I’ll hide it in a sock under the bed.” The first place a thief would look for something valuable is in your jewellery box. You would be taking a terrible risk in not putting it somewhere totally safe. Now your heart is more valuable than many jewels. What does it profit a man if he gain all the jewels of the world but he loses his own heart? Now the heart in Scripture is not referring only to the emotions or affections. Out of the heart come all the issues of life. Your thinking and your decisions and your values and your moral code and your enthusiasms all proceed from your heart. Professor John Murray referred to the heart as ‘the dispositional complex’ at the centre of our lives; it’s the centre of your personality; it’s the real you. The issue facing you is who is in charge of your heart and so in charge of all the issues of your life? There is a famous atheist poem called Invicta written during the Victorian period in which the poet William Ernest Henley concludes, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” What does he expect us to do? Shout ‘Hooray!’When death came to William Ernest Henley, as it will come to each of us, could he say to it, “Go away! I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul,” and then would death go pink with embarrassment and say, “Sorry,” and walk away and let Henley live just as long as he chose to? No way! Death would mock his empty words. “Come along William. I am the master of your fate and today it has been appointed that you are going to die. We are not the captain of our souls. There is an Admiral who is over us, who has superior rank and authority and we have to bow to him. It is appointed unto us all to die one day and no platitudes can prevent that event. Yet that vanity is the position of everyone who rejects Jesus Christ: “I am in charge of my life, not God.” Ego reigns in every unbeliever. In other words, God is not the king of your life. Jesus is not your Lord. Self is lord. You have given your heart to self, but a Christian is someone who had consciously and personally given his heart to God for him to guard and keep for ever.
ii] We deposit our lives with God. Think of your futures. Some of you are young and you have the most important decisions to take in the years ahead. You have to choose a spouse. You have to choose a career. You have to deal with being a parent and nurturing your children and telling them how they are to live. Some of them may have learning difficulties You are to deal with retirement, and old age, and caring for aged parents, and an aged spouse, and facing death. All these are not fancies; they are the realities of the future of every one of us. How are you going to live? Who is going to look after your future, and tell you how to live, to be this sort of husband and wife and parent and boss and workman, and instruct you and explain definitively what is the good life? The Christian is a person who has surrendered his whole life, all his future, to God his Creator and Redeemer. He sings this hymn as we sang it tonight:
God holds the key of all unknown and I am glad.
If other hands should hold the key or if he trusted it to me I might be sad.
I cannot read his future plans but this I know,
I have the smiling of his face and all the refuge of his grace while here below.
Enough; this covers all my needs and so I rest;
For what I cannot he can see and in his care I saved shall be for ever blessed.
(Joseph Parker 1830-1902).
That is what a Christian – I mean by that someone who has given his whole life to God – believes about the future, that God promises to supply all our needs, and he will keep what we have committed to him and so we are safe, and so we are blessed eternally.
iii] We deposit our gospel with God. Sometimes we are very concerned about the state of the gospel in Europe today. We are told that it is the most unreligious part of the world. Statistics inform us how few people profess belief in the gospel. Then we are conscious of how weak is our faith, and how poor we are in our testimony. What does the future hold for us? Will there still be a witness to the gospel in a hundred years’ time in Aberystwyth and will it be of such a weak and diluted nature that it makes no impact on society at all? Will the gospel survive the powerful spread of secularism? Of course it will. The gospel is in God’s hands and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. Christ says to the gospel church, “You are the light of the world.” He said those words to young fishermen who had no experience of evangelism and little grasp of theology, who had never suffered for their faith. “Let your light shine before men,” he told them. The people dwelling in darkness will see a great light. There is an emptiness in the hearts of men and women that all material pleasures cannot satisfy. There is a beauty of truth of Christ, living and dying and rising, that will always draw men to himself. He said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” What is contemporary arrogant unbelief compared to the gates of hell? It is a materialist spasm. If the gates of hell are collapsing as the gospel church spreads then what hope for survival does secularism have? We know our duty; we sow and we water and then God says he will give the increase and never stop and no power in heaven or earth or hell can prevent that increase. The gospel is safe with God in our age and in the ages to come.
- GOD IS ABLE TO GUARD ALL THAT WE’VE ENTRUSTED TO HIM.
That is the final great affirmation that Paul makes here, that God is able to guard and keep totally safe everything we have deposited with him. Paul tells us that he is convinced about this, totally and completely assured that this is so. Once God has truly saved us then we are always saved. I do not believe that once men have made a decision then they are always saved. Jesus warns us of that misconception. In the parable of the sower he tells us of different classes of people who heard the gospel and there was initially an immediate joyful response but when difficulties arose they gave up the faith. We see it in Judas and in Demas. Paul warns those who carnally confident that they are going to stand that they are to beware lest they fall. Not every one who says to Jesus, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but all he has saved we are convinced they will be there, those his Father gave him from before the foundation of the world, all to whom he gave a new heart taking away their stony hearts, those whose names are written down in the Lamb’s book of life, those he suffered and died for on Golgotha, those he is now praying for – not a single one of those will be lost. God is able to guard them against all the temptations of the devil, all the enticements of a world that doesn’t want God, all the deceitful words of enemies of the cross – God is able to keep everything that we’ve committed to him against that day. We are convinced of that. Once you have given your heart to Jesus Christ you can never be lost. You will continue with him as the Lord of your life for ever. God is wonderfully patient towards us. Who is a pardoning God like him? We have displayed such fickleness in our walk with God, such inconsistencies, some periods so zealous while at other times we grew indifferent. What phantoms we are, but we have given ourselves in all our weakness to him and he says that he will preserve and guard us in our entire journey, even those times when we conclude that we cannot be a Christian at all behaving as we do in such a sub-Christian way. We will survive! We will survive! We will be more than conquerors through his love! We will go to heaven. God has made up his mind. We are in for the long haul. We are secure not for the years of time alone but for eternity. What does Paul say here? God will guard us “for that day” and he is referring to the great Day of Judgment that all mankind is facing. Jesus spoke of the great Shepherd who one day will gather all the world around him and he will separate the sheep from the goats. He will say to the sheep, “Come ye blessed” and to the goats he will say, “Depart from me I never knew you.” There will be a great separation, but not one of his sheep will perish. Not one can be plucked out of Christ’s wounded hands or plucked out of his Father’s hands because God is able to guard them. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. On the great Day of Judgment, the one whom we face, the Judge of all the earth, will be the one who loved us and gave himself for us on the Cross. He died to save us and he will ensure that his death will not be in vain. Our conscience will convict us but God is greater than our consciences. Our fierce accuser, Satan, will point to our coldness and our hypocrisies and our failures with besetting sin, and it will all be true, but we have a reply that destroys all that condemnation, “Christ has died.” The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin. He has gone to prepare a place for us and he will take us to himself that where he is there will be all who have put their trust in him. There will not be a single empty place at the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Those whom God foreknew he has foreordained for heaven, and each one of them he has personally and effectually called, regenerated, justified, adopted, joined to his Son Jesus Christ and glorified. God did all of that.
So I to the end shall endure as sure as the earnest is given,
More happy but not more secure the glorified spirits in heaven.
Not one of them will fall into hell. No one. It is utterly impossible. It is a moral and theological impossibility. God will not allow the devil to celebrate the destruction of even the weakest lamb whom the good Shepherd laid down his life to save. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Roms 8:38&39). God will guard all who have been committed to him for that day. If we perish then we shall lose heaven, but if we perish then the Almighty will lose his reputation as one who claims that he can guard us for ever and ever. This is what our Lord has said, “This is the will of him that sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise it up the last day” (Jn.6:39).
We must remember the way God works. God did not give us saving grace because he knew that we would be totally responsible and trustworthy disciples, never warming our hands by a fire in the night and denying Jesus. He knew that we were depraved. There was nothing in us, not even the most microscopic minute atom that was totally untouched by sin and so was as holy as God and worthy of his love. Rather everything within us would cause him to judge and condemn us. The cause of his eternal love for us welled up within God himself, in the Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. God knew from the first that there was nothing we would ever be or do that would make us worthy of heaven, just as there would be nothing we would do that would cause him to change his mind about us and put us in hell. When God saw the atrocious wickedness of King David in taking a man’s wife and having him murdered, then God did not say, “Right! It is hell for you my lad.” God did not break his word that he would keep what David had committed to him, but God did break David’s heart. Nothing his people can do forces God to stop loving us and stop saving us. Much we do grieves his Spirit and quenches its operation in our hearts and our reward in heaven will be less. I guess there will be millions of men and women in heaven closer to the throne and the Lamb than King David will be and that is exactly how David wants it, utterly content with the judgment of God and his place in glory, eternally amazed at God’s mercy to him and the love he receives there from Uriah the Hittite.
Do they sing together there with all the saints – Bathsheba too – those who have been saved and guarded by God and brought to glory a hymn of praise to their sovereign Protector, a hymn that might go something like this hymn . . .
I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me he hath made known
Or why unworthy Christ in love redeemed me for his own.
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. (D.W.Whittie 1883).
Let us pray and then sing it together.
10th January 2016 GEOFF THOMAS