"I KNOW YOU NOT"
SAMUEL F. HURNARD
These words - Matthew 25: 12 - from the lips of our Saviour are a cause of difficulty and confusion to not a few. They occur in a well defined passage of admonition, following a prophetic picture of events leading up to His second advent. This passage opens and closes with the arresting words; "Watch therefore." See verses 24: 42 and 25: 12. It contains three parables, viz., the Householder, the Servants, and the Virgins.
It is important to see clearly to whom these are addressed. Speaking generally the whole discourse of chapters 24 and 25 is addressed "privately" (verse 3) to "His disciples." This is emphasised in this passage, for in verse 42 the words "your Lord" are used concerning those warned. The next parable relates to faithfulness, or otherwise, of servants, clearly with regard to the return of the Master to enquire into their conduct. While the Virgins, it is only to be noted that the New Testament usage of the word, including 1 Corinthians 7, always implies saved believers. The word suggests purity and separation.
Moreover the ten virgins of the parable were all anxious to meet the Bridegroom; they had lamps burning, but with five their supply of oil was running very low. All the ten virgins were candidates for "the kingdom of heaven," and they were commanded to "Watch." Christ never tells unsaved people to watch. Why should He? Clearly the unsaved do not come into view in these parables. How then are we to understand His words: "I know you not"?
The English word "know" occurs eleven times in this discourse. But in the Greek two quite distinct words are used. One is gin_sk, which means to know by effort, or learning. It is objective and occurs five times in 24: 32, 33, 39, 43; and 25: 24. The other word is oida and occurs six times in 29: 36, 42, 43; and 25: 12, 13, 26. It is subjective knowledge, intuitive, or intimate. Let us notice how differently the two words are used in these chapters. The budding of the fig tree is known by observation (verse 32). The near coming of "the Son of man in the clouds of heaven" (verse 33) is to be known from the signs He gives in this chapter. Wicked humanity knew all about the Flood when it burst upon them (verse 39). "Know this" (gin_sk_), in verse 43, would be just the obvious conclusion to come to, if only the good man of the house "had known" (oida), but of course he could not possess intuitive knowledge of the thief's intention. His only security would have been constant watchfulness. The man with one talent (25: 24), may have heard an evil report of his master and so said "Lord, I knew thee ... an hard man."
Turning now to oida knowledge, in verse 36 it is used because the day and hour of the Lord's coming is a secret enshrined in the bosom of the Father. Therefore, because utterly unknown, all believers must watch, be alert and ready for the unexpected and unknown hour. Thus we find it used in verse 42, and of the ignorance of the householder in verse 43. It is also used of the wicked servant in 25: 26 who invented his own perverse opinion of his master's character. Regarding verse 12, the Lord disclaims that intimate knowledge (oida) with the five foolish virgins, which would place them among His close friends. This use of the word is well illustrated in Amos 3: 2, as supplied to those like the wise virgins, where the Lord says of Israel, - "You only have I known of all the families of the earth," meaning His special interest in and knowledge of His chosen people. It emphasises again in verse 13 the supreme importance of His urgent warning - "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
In one other passage only, Luke 13: 25, do we find the Lord saying, "I know you not" (oida). Both these passages relate to a time of awakening to bitter shame and remorse. This is described by Him seven times over as "the weeping and the gnashing of teeth." This would appear to be the time when the first fruits are "waved," or translated, while the unready crop is left to endure the fiery trial of the great tribulation, thus to be ripened for the harvest. How intensely solemn are these facts as the churches of Christ face* a future dark with forebodings: yet brightened for the eye of faith with promise of a glorious Dawn.
"Therefore on this peril the Apostle now bases his exhortation. "Wherefore, brethern, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure." 'The Apostle,' as Dr. Warren well says, 'has shown the danger of such as forget their own purging; but there are many who remember it too much.' But now a vital theological problem arises. What is this 'calling' and this 'election' which it depends on us to 'make sure'? It is manifest that it is not election to eternal life: for (1) that choice dates from ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1: 4); (2) it is wholly sundered from our works, either before or after faith; (3) it is irrevocable, immorality irreversible, for 'the calling of God is without repentance,' (Rom. 11: 29). Either Calvinist or Arminian, if either would blind us to this election as being the election to eternal life, involves himself in the gravest difficulties; for, if so, our eternal security is of our own making; and without the six graces super-added to faith, salvation is impossible. Calvin actually changes this Scripture - to 'give diligence to make the witness of your calling and election sure,' which provokes Dean Alford to add - 'a wresting of plain words and context.' The very order of the words betrays the secret. Unlike the election to eternal life, which precedes the calling by thousands of years, this election is simultaneous, or nearly so, with the call: so Paul, speaking of ‘the prize’ for which he ran says; 'I press on, if so be I may apprehend that for which I was apprehended by Christ Jesus' (Phil. 3: 12). The call is this: 'Walk worthily of God, who calleth you into His own [millennial] kingdom and glory' (1Thess. 2: 12)." - (D. M. PANTON.) See also "The Outer Darkness."