What Daniel Whittle Did Not Know

Justin Johnson

Daniel “Major” Whittle wrote over 200 hymns in the late 19th century. He worked alongside Phillip Bliss who wrote the tune for the popular hymn It is Well.

One of Daniel Whittle’s most famous hymns quotes 2 Tim 1:12 for the entire chorus: I Know Whom I Have Believed.  This song has been a treasure to Christians for over a century and is a wonderful hymn about the assured knowledge we find of Christ, and that in Paul’s epistles.

Yet, in contrast to Paul’s statement of “knowing” whom he had believed, Whittle writes the preceding verses as not knowing. Perhaps an understanding of God’s revealed wisdom in Paul’s epistles can cure the ignorance. The first verse says:

“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.”

With an understanding of Jesus Christ according to the mystery, we can know why God has now made known his wondrous grace!

For example, 1 Cor 2:7-8 says that if he had not kept it a secret then the Lord would not have been crucified. Ephesians 3:3-5 explains that the mystery was revealed first to Paul so that Gentiles could be “partakers of his promise in Christ”.

If this marvelous mystery information had not been revealed then we would still be operating under a covenantal law system and surely not understand God’s salvation unto all men (1 Tim 2:4).

As for why Christ in love redeemed us for His own, Ephesians 1:11-12 explains the answer. It was after the counsel of his will that we should be to the praise of his glory!

Second Verse Worse than the First

What is clear in Major Whittle’s second verse is that he has been influenced by the John Calvin’s wrong doctrine of election.

“I know not how the saving faith To me he did impart, …”

Perhaps this explains his ignorance of why Christ redeemed him in the first verse. The gift of God in Ephesians 2:8 is not ‘faith’ as Calvin would teach. It is salvation by grace (Rom 6:23).

Neither did God arbitrarily choose individuals to be saved, which is the Calvinist doctrine of election. Rather Christ was chosen to offer salvation to every man by the cross. This act of love would bring glory to God. God is not glorified by arbitrary election.

Whittle goes on to say:

“… Nor how believing in His Word Wrought peace within my heart.”

Romans 5:1 says that we have peace with God being justified by faith! Romans 10:17 teaches that faith comes by hearing the word of God. Our faith in the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection procure for us peace with God and assurance of salvation. That’s how.

God’s Wisdom Made Known

What a glory it is to be able know the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:9) and to answer questions that God’s people were ignorant of for thousands of years under the law system.

Rather than not knowing, God tells us that he would not have us to be “ignorant brethren” (Rom 11:25, Rom 1:31). Of course, we can respect the idea that we do not know it all. Yet, we should pray to grow in knowledge and judgment through the word of God (Phil 1:9).

The knowledge of the mystery wisdom revealed to Paul can clear up a lot of questions that people have been singing about for decades.

Songs have the ability to implant doctrine to the hearer because music reaches past the mind and anchors to the heart. We are exhorted to use music as a teaching tool and so here is a new song by inspiration of Daniel Whittle’s that speaks to our knowing the amazing grace of God.

Grace Song: I Know Whom I Have Believed

Note: If you look closely at the new song you will see that a single letter is changed to make a major doctrinal difference. Instead of “I know not” it reads, “I knew not” and “But now I know”. Applied to Bible preservation, this is a great example as to why every letter must be preserved correctly. One letter can change an entire doctrine.

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Published: May 29, 2010
Last Modified: September 6, 2016
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