Posted by: stpowen | September 2, 2011

Knowing Whom We Have Believed

Knowing Whom We have Believed.

2Timothy 1:12.  ‘For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.’

2 Timothy holds a special place in the hearts of believers because it appears to be the last letter written by the Apostle Paul.  The Book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest.  That was when he wrote his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, and also to Philemon.  It appears that after about two years, he was freed from prison and set out on his missionary travels again.  He almost certainly went to Spain, and according to one ancient writer, he even visited Britain.  It was during this period of freedom that he wrote his first letter to Timothy and the one to Titus.  But eventually he was arrested again and thrown into prison and this time there was no release.  According to church tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome in 66 or 67AD, during the persecutions of Nero.

So 2 Timothy was written, as it were, on Death Row;  Paul’s last will and testimony, if you like.  His purpose is to give final instructions to his young colleague, Timothy, and even more, to encourage him, firing and firming him up for the ministry:  ‘Stir up the gift of God that is in you….’ (v6);  ‘Don’t be ashamed…..’ (v8).  You see, Paul can imagine Timothy getting into a panic;  “Oh no!  Paul’s in prison again; everything’s gone wrong!  How are we going to manage without Paul?”  Now is there not some application for us straightaway?  Do we not get depressed as we see our country sliding further and further away from God, and churches that used to be so sound sliding into liberalism and apostasy?  Do we not sometimes think, “What is God doing?  How can He allow things like this to go on?”  Perhaps we cry out with the Psalmist, ‘Help Lord, for the godly man ceases!  For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men!’  But really, if we read our Bibles, and 2Timothy in particular, we shouldn’t be surprised at what’s going on.  ‘But know this, in the last days perilous times will come’ (3:1).  ‘For the time will come when [men] will not endure sound doctrine’ (4:3).  The point is that things like these are ordained to happen so it’s no use being surprised at them.

Paul’s word to Timothy is to stand firm and not to be sucked into the downgrade which was going on in doctrine and behaviour.  Notice how he separates Timothy (and hopefully us as Christians) from the rest of the world.  The world may be going to hell on a handcart, ‘But you have carefully followed my Doctrine’ (3:10)  Have we?  ‘But you must continue in the things you have learned’ (3:14).  Do we?  ‘But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry’ (4:5).  Will we?  Because, ‘…I am being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand’ (4:6).  “My time is over,” says Paul.  “It’s up to you now.

So that’s the background to 2Timothy.  I want now to concentrate on one verse which seems to me to sum up Paul’s life and hope.  The verse is 1:12, written out above, and I want to divide it up into four headings:  Paul’s circumstances, his boast, his knowledge, his hope.

1. Paul’s Circumstances.  Paul starts off by saying, ‘For this reason I suffer these things.’  These things are obviously his imprisonment, his impending execution and all the associated sufferings.  So why is he suffering?  Look at verse 11:  ‘…..The gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.’  He is suffering because of his appointment.  God appointed him to be a minister of the Gospel, and with that appointment came the call to suffer.  Look at 2:3, where Paul tells Timothy, ‘You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.’  And it’s not just church leaders who have to face hardship.  ‘Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ (3:12).  That very thing is happening today in China, Laos, Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and North Korea.  More than 100,000 Christians were martyred last year, and if it’s not happening here yet, maybe it will soon enough.  Problems and suffering come with the territory.  ‘Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you’ (1Peter 4:12).  It is a wicked teaching that says that Christians have a right to be rich, healthy and trouble-free all their lives and if they’re not, then they ought to have more faith.  No!  There is a cost to be paid in following Christ.  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself  and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24).

Now it is possible to get into trouble by being objectionable to people, and sometimes Christians get persecuted through their own silly faults, by being sanctimonious or holier-than-thou.  But Paul’s situation was not one that he had brought upon himself.  God had appointed him to the path he took and the suffering was part of the territory.

2.  Paul’s Boast.  So Paul can say, ‘Nevertheless, I am not ashamed.’  Now this is a figure of speech called a litotes.  It is where someone employs a negative to indicate a positive.  So if someone says, “I’m not unhappy with the situation,” what he means is that he’s jolly pleased with it; or if you were to say that you live in, “Not a small house,” people immediately start imagining a mansion.  So when Paul says, “I am not ashamed of my sufferings,” what he means is, “I glory in them!”  Look at 1Peter 4:16:  ‘Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.’  If Paul were in prison through his own silly fault, he might well have been ashamed, but he had been appointed by God to his place of suffering, and like his Master, he was ready to drink the cup that God had prepared.  Phil 1:29 tells us that to Christians, ‘It has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.’  The word translated ‘granted’ is charizo, from which the word ‘charismatic comes, so suffering might be regarded as a spiritual gift;  not the one that most people eagerly seek, butsuffering nobly borne has the power to bring others to the Lord (Mark 15:39).

3. Paul’s Knowledge.  But Paul might have been ashamed in another way.  He might have thought, “I’ve been working so hard for God and look what it’s got me- punishment, poverty and prison!   His faith might have failed him at the point of crisis, and he might have become ashamed of God.  What is it that keeps a man like Paul steadfast in his faith when another might easily fall into despair?  Paul tells us:  ‘For I know whom I have believed.’  Now this is surely one of the greatest statements in the Bible, and it spells out the difference between Christianity and all other religions and cults.  I want to look at it first from the negative point of view and see what Paul is not saying before we look at the positive angle.

The first thing Paul doesn’t say is. “I know what I have believed.”  He does not say, “I have studied the Bible and acquired a knowledge of theology.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, of course.  Indeed, it’s a very good thing; but a Moslem, a Buddhist or a Sikh can say that, if he has studied the relevant texts of his particular religion.  But Paul says, “I know whom I have believed,”  A Moslem a Buddhist or a Sikh cannot say that because you can’t know a dead person and Mohammed, Buddha and Guru Nanak are dead.  But the Lord Jesus Christ is alive- risen from the dead; that’s why Peter tells us that we have a ‘Living hope’ (1Peter 1:3).  We haven’t put our trust in dead people and their teachings.  The One we trust is alive and reigning in heaven at this very moment and He has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within His people and to reveal Christ to them (John 16:7, 14).

The second thing Paul doesn’t say is, “I know about whom I have believed.”  Again, it’s not a question of studying the Gospel academically so that you know all about the life of Christ in the same way as you might read the biography of , say, Winston Churchill or Karl Marx and go on Mastermind and answer questions on Him.  Now of course we need to read the Gospels and the whole Bible- read a little every day.  You can’t really say that you know somebody if you don’t know anything about him.  You need to seek God, and seek the Lord Jesus Christ through the word.  You must seek them spiritually, prayerfully, humbly, constantly and when you seek in that way, you will find (Deut 4:29; Matt 7:7-11; Heb 11:6).

Consider 2 Chron 15.  The prophet Azariah told king Asa, “The LORD is with you while you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”  We read that on hearing this, Asa, ‘Removed all the abominable idols from all the land,’ and called the whole nation together.  ‘Then they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul……..And all Judah rejoiced at the oath for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the LORD gave them rest all around’ (vs 2, 8, 12, 14-15).  When you seek the Lord earnestly, through prayer, through the word, you will know, as Paul knew, the reality of Christ, His living presence, through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.   ‘For you…… received the Spirit of adaption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our Spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ’ (Rom 8:15-17).  The Holy Spirit reveals to us that we are God’s children, and causes us to cry out to God as Father.  Now Moslems have 99 names for God, but none of them is ‘Father’ because they don’t know Him as Father.  They can’t because they don’t have the Spirit.   Jehovah’s Witnesses are the same; they don’t know God as Father because they don’t know Jesus as Lord and they don’t have the Spirit either.  Paul knew God as Father; he knew Jesus Christ as Lord, Saviour and Friend, not through deeds but through faith because he had sought them in prayer and in the word and had found them according to the promise of Deut 4:29;   ‘You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.’  Yet that seeking was all of God who had set His love upon Paul before the foundation of the world and had drawn him to Him with lovingkindness (Jer 31:3; John 6:44).

4.  Paul’s Hope.  Paul declares, “I  am persuaded…..’   This is another figure of speech:  an anacoluthon or understatement.  He doesn’t mean, “After due consideration, I have come to this opinion,”  he means, “I am jolly well certain!”  He means that the Lord has come into his heart by the Spirit and overruled his doubts and his fears.  He is saying with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.”   He means, “I am certain, because I know God.”

So what is he certain about?  He is certain that God is able.  He believes in the Sovereignty of God; that God is almighty, all-powerful and that however things may look, He is in charge of His creation and will work everything for His glory in the Lord Jesus Christ.  What a wonderful, comforting doctrine this is!  That nothing can happen to us outside of the control of God.  Let sickness come, let poverty, sadness, bereavement, death itself; we can face them steadily if we are persuaded that they come from the hands of a loving God.  Why?  Because, in the words of Rom 8:28, ‘We know that all things….’ –even the things I’ve just mentioned- ‘Work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.’  It is God who works them together, and He has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes, if not in this world then certainly in the next (Isaiah 25:8; Matt 5:4; Rev 7:17).

Paul goes on, ‘….He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.’  We commit our lives to Jesus Christ in service, and we commit our immortal souls to Him for safe-keeping, and He will never let us fall.  He may allow us to slip occasionally, to bring down our pride or to cause us to lkean upon Him all the more, but the true Christian will never sin himself out of God’s love for he is one of Christ’s sheep.  ‘My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand’ (John 10:27-28).

Finally, ‘….Until that day.’  There is a day coming when God will have had His fill of all the sin and wickedness in the world.  On that day, God will call the living and the dead to judgement, to account for every thought and word and deed committed throughout history.  What a terrible day that will be!  ‘And the kings of the earth, the great men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the wrath of Him who sits upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come and who will be able to stand?”’ (Rev 6:15-17).  Who will stand when all things are being shaken?  Only the one who has   trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and committed His life to the Lord for safe-keeping.  ‘For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”’ (Rom 9:11).

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