Question: "What does "I know whom I have believed" mean (2 Timothy 1:12)?"
Answer: Second Timothy 1:12 reads, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” In this verse and its context, Paul encourages his protégé, Timothy, to be bold and even “suffer for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8).
Paul, who suffered for the sake of the gospel he preached, remained unbothered and unashamed because he trusted Christ. His words serve as an encouragement for many Christians today, just as they did for Timothy.
Christ is the foundation for our faith (1 Corinthians 3:11), the One in whom Paul and we believe. Our confidence stems from Christ’s tangible demonstration of trustworthiness. Throughout His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus was faithful to His Father in heaven and faithful to His disciples. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1).
Unlike other faith systems, biblical Christianity teaches that God initiated the relationship between Himself and mankind by taking on human flesh and dying on a cross. The crucifixion of Christ, supported by historical evidence, is transformative. Many individuals, having understood their moral accountability before God, have found freedom in the Son’s atonement. Christ’s resurrection further solidifies His claim to deity and unveils His magnificent plan for humanity. Christianity stands as a faith grounded on reason, inviting adherents to place their trust in Jesus. We, like Paul, can know in whom we have believed.
Paul was “convinced” that the One in whom he believed was able to keep what was committed to Him “until that day”—that is, the day of His return (2 Timothy 1:12). Christ is trustworthy because He is holy, perfect, and sinless. We rest assured that He will fulfill all His promises, including His promise to glorify us one day (Philippians 3:20–21; Romans 8:30). Christ also demonstrates His trustworthiness by meeting our needs and delivering us from difficulties or leading us through them. Countless people can testify to Christ’s trustworthy nature (www.tyndale.com/sites/unfoldingfaithblog/2018/10/02/check-out-these-real-life-testimonies/).
When we know whom we have believed, we have a stable ground to stand on through life’s uncertainties. Few people are prepared for tragedy, and suffering individuals can turn to depression or nihilism without any objective source of comfort. Christians grounded in Christ will also experience grief and may feel perplexed, yet they ultimately find rest in the unwavering presence of a sovereign God. All circumstances, good and bad, He uses for our good (Romans 8:28).
Our confidence in whom we believe also spurs us to “work enthusiastically for the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In our pluralistic, postmodern society, enthusiastic work on God’s behalf can be difficult. However, challenges should not deter us. The apostles faced similar problems, yet they were unashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). The apostles’ perseverance was not a sign that they were super Christians; rather, it was a sign that they knew whom they had believed. And they knew their Lord and Savior was able to keep what was committed to Him.
What was it that Paul had entrusted to Christ, the One whom He believed? Various scholarly interpretations abound, but it seems likely that Paul was talking about his soul. He had committed his entire being to the Lord for safekeeping; he had fully entrusted himself, without reservation, knowing that the Lord is faithful. In this, Paul followed the example of Christ Himself, who, “when he suffered, . . . he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). As believers we are all in God’s hands. Christ is our hope, and we can be sure that He will preserve our souls.