This song of testimony was written in 1883 by American evangelist Major Daniel Whittle. He was a major in the Union Army during the Civil War and was addressed as a Major throughout his life. Under the influence of D. L. Moody, he became a traveling evangelist during a time of great urban revivals in America and England in the late 1800s. Whittle’s first song leader was P. P. Bliss, and after his untimely death, James McGranahan assumed those responsibilities.
Major Whittle wrote his first hymn, “Christ is All,” in 1875. He also wrote the words for about two hundred hymns; he usually wrote using the pseudonym El Nathan. He stated his concern that “there are too many hymns that are just a meaningless jingle of words; to do good, a hymn must be founded on God’s word and carry the message of God’s love.”
Every verse in “I Know Whom I Have Believed” considers a valid question concerning the Christian experience. The first verse questions why unworthy sinners are redeemed. The second verse asks how an unbeliever receives faith to believe in God’s Word, and verse three questions how the Holy Spirit works in bringing the lost to Christ. The last two verses express one’s uncertain future, including how he’ll pass from this life. Will death take him, or will he see the return of Christ? But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only (Matthew 24:36).
The refrain responds to these concerns by quoting from Paul’s letter to Timothy. There are many things that can’t be fully known about how God works in the life of a believer, but one thing is certain: …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 (2 Timothy 1:12). The Christian can have this confidence in God’s promises.
This song is about the truth of God’s Word and the assurance of one’s salvation. One may study an entire lifetime to know about God without really knowing God. It’s like the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s Who you know.” The believer can say, along with Paul and Major Whittle, "I KNOW whom I have believed!”
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me he hath made known,
Nor why -unworthy- Christ in love
Redeemed me for his own.
And am persuaded that he is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto him against that day.”
I know not how this saving faith
To me he did impart,
Nor how believing in his word
Wrought peace within my heart.
I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the word,
Creating faith in him.
I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before his face I see.
At night or noonday fair
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with him,
Or “meet him in the air.”
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