2 Timothy 1:12
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed…
In analysing those words I find three distinct ideas: — The faith of St. Paul expressed by the words, "I have believed"; the object of his faith which he recalls by saying whom he has believed; the certainty of his faith marked with so much strength and serenity by this expression, "I know whom I have believed."
I. WHAT IS FAITH? Consult, on this subject the most widely spread opinion of this time and country. You will be told that faith is an act of intellectual submission by which man accepts as certain the teachings of religious authority. Faith would thus be to the intellectual sphere what obedience is to the practical. This idea early appears in the Church with the decline of Christian spirituality. Faith being thus understood, it resulted that the more numerous were the articles of faith which the believer admitted the stronger seemed his faith, and that the more difficult those articles were to admit it was the more meritorious. According to this way of seeing, he would be pre-eminently the man of faith who, refusing to know anything, to wish anything, to judge anything of himself, could say, "I believe what the Church believes," and he would have no other rule but absolute submission, without reserve, to the authority speaking by the voice of his spiritual director. I ask you if you there recognise the teaching of Scripture, if that is the idea which it gives us of faith? You have read those admirable pages in which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews passes in review all the believers of the ancient covenant, all those men of whom the world was not worthy. Now, in all those examples, is faith ever presented to you as an abdication of the intelligence, as the passive acceptation of a certain number of truths? Never. I know, however, and God preserve me from forgetting, that there is an element of submission and of obedience in faith, but at the same time I affirm that all of faith is not included therein. Faith, according to Scripture, is the impulse of the soul grasping the invisible God, and, in its highest sense, the faith which saves is the impulse of the trusting soul apprehending in Jesus Christ the Saviour and the Son of God. Why talk to us of abdication? In the impulse of faith there is all the soul — the soul that loves and thinks, the soul with all its spiritual energies. It is said to us, one must be weak in order to believe. Are you quite sure? Take, if you will, one of the most elementary acts of faith, such as every honest man has performed in his life. Before you is easy enjoyment, but selfish and guilty; it is the pleasure which attracts you — go on, it is yours. But, just on the point of yielding, the cry of your conscience rouses you, you recover yourself and you assert your duty... What are you doing then? An act of faith, for you assert the invisible; for duty neither is weighed nor is touched, for, to him who denies it, there is no demonstration that can prove it. Well! is that always an easy victory? Is it promised to the feeble? Is it necessary to abdicate to obtain it? In this example faith is not raised above moral evidence; but do you penetrate beyond, into the sphere of spiritual realities? Imagine a life entirely filled with the thoughts of God, entirely illuminated with His light, wholly inspired with His love, in one word, the life of St. Paul; when you contemplate it, are you not struck by the heroism it contains? Is there in the faith which is the moving spring of it only a passive submission, an intellectual belief in a certain number of truths? No; in this assertion of the invisible world there is a force and a greatness which lays hold on you; never, perhaps, does the human soul wrest from you a sincerer admiration than when you see it taking flight into the unknown, with no other support than its faith in the living God. In showing what it is we also answer those who say, "Of what good is faith?"
II. WHOM SHALT I BELIEVE? To this question I reply with St. Paul, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ? and why? To believe, I have said, is to trust. The question is to know to where I shall trust the destinies of my soul. It is my whole future which I am to suspend on the word of a man; it is the inmost life of my heart, it is my eternal hopes. And if I am deceived, if it is found that I have built on the sand, if one day all this inward edifice of my life should fall to pieces! We must see clearly here. No illusion, no over-exciting of the imagination, no effervescence. Why? I will try and say it again in a few words. I will repeat what those millions of adorers, for eighteen centuries, have confessed, who have been able to say with St. Paul, "I know whom I have believed." Whom shall I believe? I have said it in the depth of my darkness, and have seen rising up before me the Son of Man. Alone amongst all He said, "I know whence I come, and I know whither I go." Alone, without hesitation, with sovereign authority, He showed the way which leads to God. He spoke of heaven as one who descended from it. Everywhere and always He gave Himself out to be the Sent of the Father, His only Son, the Master of souls. I have listened to His voice, it had a strange accent which recalled no other human voice; beautiful with a simplicity which nothing approaches, it exercised a power to which nothing can be compared. What gave it that power? It was not reasoning, nor human eloquence, but the radiance of truth penetrating the heart and conscience; in listening to it, I felt my heart taken possession of; I yielded to that authority so strong and sweet; in proportion as He spoke it seemed as if heaven opened and displayed itself to my eyes; I beheld God as He is, I saw man as he ought to be. An irresistible adhesion to that teaching rose from my heart to my lips, and with Simon Peter I cried" To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Was it only my soul which vibrated at that speech? I looked, and, around me, hanging on the lips of Christ, I saw an ever-growing multitude assembled from all places, coming out from all conditions on the earth; there were poor and rich, ignorant and wise, children and old men, pure spirits and defiled spirits, and, like me, all were impressed with that word, all found, as I did, light, certainty, and peace. Can I let my whole destiny depend on a word of man, and have I not the right to ask Him who thus leads me on in His steps what entitles Him to my confidence, and how He can prove to me that He comes from God? "O Thou who callest Thyself the witness of God, Thou who speakest of heaven as if it had been Thy dwelling-place, Thou who enlightenest the mystery of death to our gaze, Thou who pardonest sin, show us that Thou art He who should come." Jesus Christ has replied to this demand of our soul. We ask Him if He comes from God, and He has done before us the works of God; I do not speak of His miracles, although they are still unexplained in their simple grandeur, in their sublime spirituality, in that indescribable truth which marks them with an inimitable seal. Jesus has done more than miracles, He has revealed God in His person; He has given the proof of His Divine mission in His life. It is holiness before which conscience perceives itself accused and judged. The more I contemplate it, the more I experience a feeling of adoration and of deep humiliation; and when at last men come and try to explain this life, and to show me in it an invention of mankind, I protest, I feel that the explanations are miserable, I feel that the reality breaks all that framework. Then, by an irresistible logic, I feel that if Christ is holy, He must have spoken truly, and ought to be believed. Is that all? Yes, if I only needed light and certainty; but there is a still deeper, more ardent, more irresistible instinct in my soul: I feel myself guilty, I thirst for pardon and for salvation. St. Paul felt himself a sinner, condemned by his conscience; he sought salvation in his works, he was exhausted in that sorrowful strife; he found salvation only on the cross. There he saw, according to his own words, the Just One offering Himself for the unjust; the Holy One bearing the curse of the sinner. In that redeeming sacrifice, St. Paul found assuagement for his conscience; the love of God as he recognised it in Jesus Christ penetrated his heart and life; is it not that which overflows in all his epistles, in all his apostolate? Is it not that which inspires, which inflames all his life? Is it not that which dictated to him these words, "I know whom I have believed"? It is also that which makes the foundation of Christian faith; it is that which millions of souls, led, like Paul, to the foot of the cross by their feeling of misery, have found in Jesus Christ; it is that which has transformed them, taken them out of themselves, conquered for ever by Jesus Christ.
III. THE CERTAINTY OF FAITH! Do not these words rouse a painful sentiment in you? No one will contradict me if I affirm, that there is in our epoch a kind of instinctive neglect of all that is firm and exact in points of belief and Christian life. Let us examine it. We are passing through a time of grave crisis where all the elements of our religious faith are submitted to the most penetrating analysis, and whatever may be our degree of culture we cannot escape from it. So, something analogous to the artistic sentiment is made for the religious sentiment. In music, for example, no one, assuredly, preoccupies himself with truth. The most varied, the most opposed styles are allowed, provided that some inspiration and some genius are felt in them. One day, people will applaud a sombre and dreamy symphony; others will prefer a composition brilliant with force and brightness; others, again, the softened charm of a melody full of grace: as many various tastes as art can satisfy. Now, it is just so that to-day it is claimed religion should be treated. It is wished that man should be religious; it is said that he who is not so is destitute of one sense, as he to whom painting or music is a matter of indifference; but this religious sense should, it is said, seek its satisfaction there where it finds it. To some a stately worship is necessary, to others an austere worship; to some the gentleness of an indulgent God, to others the holiness of the God of the Bible; to some an entirely moral religion, to others dogmas and curious mysteries. Do I need to ask, what becomes with that manner of looking, of the certainty of faith and religious truth? Hence that sad sight of souls always seeking and never reaching to the possession of truth, always in quest of religious emotions, but incapable of affirming their faith, and, above all, of changing their life. Nothing is more contrary to St. Paul's certitude, to that firm assurance which makes him say, "I know whom I have believed." Can we be astonished that such a religion should be without real force and without real action? It could not be otherwise. It might be able, I acknowledge, to produce fleeting movements, vivid emotions, and sincere outbursts, but lasting effects never. I affirm, first, that it will convert nobody. And why? Because conversion is the most deep-seated Change in the affections and life of man, and he will never exchange the known for the unknown, real life with its passions, its pleasures, however senseless they appear, for the pale and cola abstractions of a belief with no precise object and for the worship of a vague and problematic God. To fight against passions and lusts and refuse the compensation of satisfied pride, to bend the will, to conquer the flesh, and to submit life to the austere discipline of obedience, that is a work which a vague, indecisive religion will never accomplish. Without religious certainty there is no holiness and, I add also, no consolation. Let us also add that a religion without a certainty is a religion without action, without progressive force. How can it advance? Will it lay the foundations of lasting works, will it know how to conquer, will it send its missionaries afar? Missionaries, and why? Is it with vague reveries and floating opinions that they set out, like the apostles, to conquer the world? The life of St. Paul is the best explanation of his faith. Supported by his example, and by the experience of all Christians, I would say to you, "Do you wish to possess that strong immovable faith which alone can sustain and console? Fulfil the works of faith. Serve the truth, and the truth shall illuminate you; follow Jesus Christ, and you will believe in Christ." "There is no royal road to science," said an ancient philosopher to a prince who was irritated at finding study so difficult; so in my turn I would say, "There is no demonstration of Christianity, no apology which dispenses with obeying the truth, and with passing through humiliation and inward renunciation, without which faith is only a vain theory." The best proof of the truth of Christianity will always be a proof of experience; nothing will outvalue that irrefutable argument of St. Paul.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the which cause 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 that which I have committed unto him against that day.
WEB: For this cause I also suffer these things. Yet I am not ashamed, for I know him whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed to him against that day.