How do you know what you know?
Few questions may be more important for standing firm in a world full of competing voices and conflicting views. Yet, the follower of Christ does not need to fear the truthfulness of his or her faith, when that faith has been grounded in God’s revealed Word.
In contrast to every other religion that derives its views from the perspective of man, the testimony of the Bible is one where God has revealed himself to his people through Spirit-inspired Prophets and Apostles. From Moses receiving God’s Law on Sinai to the Spirit bearing witness by means of signs and wonders to the Apostles’s teaching (Heb. 2:1–4), God has entrusted his Word to men who rightly communicated his message.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul speaks often about the truthfulness of his message and the error of false teachers. And in these letters, he speaks in two ways that highlight the way God has communicated himself to the Church. The first has to do with the agreed upon truth (i.e., the content of the gospel) that God gave his disciples; the second has to do with the way God entrusted (passive tense of “believe”) his people with his words.
In his commentary on The Letters to Timothy and Titus, Robert Yarbrough nicely organizes the places where Paul speaks in this way. And he show how Paul’s language of knowing (“we what we know”) is a technical term for the revealed word of God. Likewise, Yarbrough lists the places Paul speaks of the gospel (or God’s Word) entrusted to his people. Consider the way Paul speaks and what this means for our confidence in Scripture.
1. We Can Know What God Has Said
The follower of Christ is not asked to believe against his knowledge—to take a leap into the dark, as it were. Rather, “we can know” what God has said, and that knowledge includes the following:
|Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.|
|Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law.|
|We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.|
|We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.|
|And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.|
|1 Corinthians 8:1
|We know that “we all possess knowledge”|
|1 Corinthians 8:4
|We know that “and idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”|
|2 Corinthians 5:1
|For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God.|
|1 Timothy 1:8
|Now we know that the law is good, if it is used lawfully (= as it convicts of sin and leads to the gospel, vv. 9–11)|
Certainly, Scripture does not give us all knowledge. But it does give us everything we need for faith and practice, life and godliness. We can know that God is one. We can know the way of salvation. We can know that the Law is good as it leads to the Gospel (or as Paul says, as one reads it “lawfully”). And we can know that God is working all things for the good of those who love God.
In contrast to the systemic doubt that plagues our world, the follower of Christ is given true knowledge of the true God. This is not exhaustive knowledge, but sufficient knowledge to know God and walk in his ways.
2. God Has Entrusted His Word to His People
The way that knowledge comes to the Christian is fundamentally different than any other science or academic discipline. We do not know God by means of natural investigation. We know God through gracious self-disclosure. God has entrusted himself to us, and graciously he grants faith and repentance, which are in keeping with the deposit of truth he has communicated to us by his appointed servants of the Word.
Yarbrough shows this in his second list, noting the way God’s self-revelation always centers on his word.
|Romans 3:2||The Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God.
|Romans 10:10||For it is with your heart that you believe. (lit. For with the heart [the gospel message] is believed.]
|1 Corinthians 9:7||If I preach … I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.
|Galatians 2:7||They recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel.
|1 Thessalonians 2:4
|We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.
|2 Thessalonians 1:10
|Our testimony to you was believed. (ESV)
|1 Timothy 1:11||the gospel . . . with which I have been entrusted (ESV)
|1 Timothy 3:16||The mystery was believed on in the world.
|Titus 1:3||the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior
From these verses, we can make a few observations.
- It is God’s words and/or his gospel that is entrusted.
- Not everyone has this deposit of truth. Under the old covenant, only Israel had God’s Law. Now in the new covenant, only the church—composed of Jews and Gentiles—does.
- Salvation depends on receiving this gospel.
- The gift of this saving truth is a gracious gift and not something men can acquire for themselves by themselves.
- Therefore, this gift creates a stewardship for God’s people. Those who have received God’s words are called to share this word with others, even as they live in light of this revealed truth.
From these observations, we can see how precious this gift of knowing God is. It is the way of salvation that God graciously gives to his people. Moreover, we who have been brought to saving faith because God has entrusted himself to us, we now have the responsibility to share Christ with others.
Thankfully, this call to proclaim the gospel does not stand on shifting sands, but on the certainty of what God has revealed of himself. This revelation is found in the Bible and confirmed by the Spirit; those who know God know what has been entrusted to them, such that they (can) share it with others.
In the Pastoral Epistles, Paul is laboring to protect the church from false teachers who are deviating from a true knowledge of God. May we join him in that ministry, standing firm on the gospel and boldly speaking the truth of Scripture to others.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
 Ibid., 118–19.