Your Confidence: In whom or Whom?
“Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he’s able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12)
In preparing our morning sermon series, I told you that I consult many sermons, as well as commentaries. I ran across another great threat from Dr. S. Lewis Johnson on Acts 4. Before we move far beyond Acts 4, below he draws on three great leaders from the church to illustrate the real source of confidence in the Christian life.
First, he refers to the life of John Knox, the Scottish reformer. Of Knox, it was said: “He feared God so much, that he never feared the face of any man.” From there, Dr. Johnson provides his first illustration. He writes:
David Reid, a modern preacher, pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church some years ago, was called to address the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church; . . . And when he preached, he reminded them that we are living in the days in which the truth of God is not being preached. He said, ‘Do you know what we need today? We need,’ this, mind you, a man associated with a denomination that you do not think as being in the forefront of the preaching of the word of God now. He said, ‘What we need in our day, is theological guts.’ That is what we need still; to preach the word of God as it has been given to us in Holy Scripture. And when that preaching is accompanied by an unforgettable personal experience of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ then, of course, we have that which will be effective in the hands of God.
Dr. Johnson preached that this episode reminded him of Paul’s saying in 2 Tim. 1:12 that he was not ashamed of the gospel. Underlying that was this fact: our confidence is caused by knowing Christ: “I know whom I have believed, and I’m persuaded that he’s able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” And there is a crucial difference between knowing Christ and knowing about Christ.
That led to a second illustration for S. Lewis Johnson. (gotta love it when nondenominational pastors draw from another Scot): “Many years ago, Rabbi Duncan, the Scottish Professor of Old Testament at New College was hearing a student make a recitation, and in the course of it the student said that, ‘The Apostle Paul had said, ‘I know in whom I have believed, and I’m persuaded,’” and Rabbi Duncan interrupt him and said, “’Repeat that text again.’ And he said, ‘I know in whom I have believed,’ and Professor Duncan said, ‘Wait a minute. The text is not ‘I know in whom I have believed’ but ‘I know whom I have believed’. We must not allow any word, even a preposition, to come between us and our Savior.’”
That’s a point worth absorbing; and it explains our true confidence. Thirdly, Johnson’s sermon called to the witness stand a great 19th century Princetonian, back in the days when Princeton Seminary was one of the soundest platforms for reformed theology in the world. Johnson includes this episode.
Professor Alexander of Princeton Theological Seminary, when he was on his deathbed made the same comment, strikingly. The Scriptures were being read to him, and someone read that text, “I know in whom I have believed.” He stopped. He raised up off of his bed and he died on that bed. He said, “It’s not ‘I know in whom’ but it’s, ‘I know whom.’” We must not even let that little word “in” stand between us and our Lord. The personal experience of our Lord, as he is revealed in Scripture is the source of confidence and the source of fruitfulness. If God in his spirit, should give us the strength to proclaim him boldly, you have an opportunity to emulate the apostles in your daily experience with others. May God, give you grace to avoid being a spiritual coward, and may God give you grace to boldly, and clearly, and faithfully in the Spirit, preach Christ at his resurrection. If you’re here today, and you’ve never believed in Christ, we invite you to come to him, and receive forgiveness of sins.
See the difference? It makes all the difference in the world in how you live.