On the Difference Between Knowledge and Knowing

October 3, 2017

Colossians 1:3-6

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— 
5 the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel 6 that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

CONSIDER THIS

The thing that stands in the way of my truly understanding God’s grace is that I’m pretty sure I already truly understand it. Go back and read that sentence again.

While the Gospel is a message, it cannot be confined to messages. While the gospel is the Truth, it cannot be captured by a series of propositional truths. Before the Gospel is anything else, the Gospel is God. Gospel means good news and the good news is God. The good news is not that God loves us. The good news is that God is love. The good news is not that Jesus saves. It is that Jesus is himself salvation.

We think we truly understand God and the Gospel because we have an understanding of what God has done for us. This is good, as far as it goes, but it does not go anywhere near far enough. When our understanding of the Gospel is limited to what God has done for us, our understanding of sharing the Gospel will be limited to telling others what God has done for them.

To be sure, the Gospel is the message of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, but in a far greater sense, the Gospel is who Jesus Christ is to us and in us and through us for the world. The Gospel is not a body of knowledge about who God is and what God has done. The Gospel is actually knowing God. “Now this is eternal life:” Jesus prayed, “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3.

We have lived through a period of world history wherein the measure of mastery consisted in knowing about a subject. The Christian faith is not meant for this paradigm. Real Christianity can never be reduced to knowing about God. We must go on to knowing God. To think one can master the subject of God is the ultimate idolatry. Real Christianity is about understanding oneself as subject to God and becoming mastered by Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not God’s solution to our sin problem. The Gospel is that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting our sins against us.” (see 2 Corinthians 5:19) The Gospel is a reconciled relationship through which God lives in us and we in him. The Gospel is not the knowledge but the knowing. The domain of knowledge is in a body of information. The domain of knowing is in the Body of Jesus Christ.  And none of this is meant to eschew or despise knowledge but rather to say that knowledge is a penultimate understanding. Ultimate understanding means knowledge about God must give way to knowing God.

In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.

To become a real Christian is our aim. Most often, it requires us to humble ourselves and confess that we might not be there quite yet—not that we aren’t on the way, but that the Way just might be a whole lot more than we ever imagined.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, who is both the Way and the way-maker. He is the Life and the life-giver. He is the Truth, not as a construct of knowledge but as a person, the Word made flesh. I want to know Jesus more than I know about him. I want to know him personally, and intimately and powerfully. To this end we pray in Jesus name, Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. Does your knowledge about God outstrip your knowing of God? Will you allow this to rise to the level of a holy discontent within you?
  2. Are you ready to invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to the next place of “knowing” Jesus? What will this look like?
  3. Does your pride of knowledge about God hold you back from the kind of humility required to know God more?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “…Essentially, the Pharisees’ problem, and ours, is in understanding the difference between knowing God and knowing about God. We easily confuse the two. One implies information, while the other is a vital relationship…Typically Protestant churches are better at helping people know [some] things about God than we are at Helping them know God as people who live with him. It should come as no surprise that when Christians really need their faith, if [some] knowledge is all they have, they will soon wander away in search of a God worth worshiping. [The muddled church version will no longer “do”]”—-M. Craig Barnes, “When God Interrupts: Finding New Life in Unwanted Change”

    As a lifelong Methodist/United Methodist, what I find most frustrating about the accuracy of this quote from a Presbyterian (USA) pastor–and my personalization of it based on my actual experience of “wandering away”– is that I went on to learn that Methodism is in existence because John and Charles Wesley did such a masterful job of helping individuals “know God as people who live with him'”–it was the Priority #1 they never ever lost sight of!

  2. Loved, loved, LOVED the daily text today!!! The entire time I listened to it I kept hearing “relationships, relationships, relationships” in my head.It really struck me that it isn’t about WHAT you know. It’s about WHO you know! It isn’t about telling people about Jesus. It’s all about introducing them to Jesus! My sweet Papa used to sing a song (and I dearly loved to sing it with him),
    “I’ll introduce you to this friend of mine.
    His name is Jesus, He’s with me all the time.
    You’ll learn to like Him, and love Him as I do;
    Wait a moment, I’ll introduce my friend to you.

    The life I led was meaningless, I did that which was wrong.
    To me, life was a tragedy and heartache was it’s song.
    True happiness was just a dream, He made that dream come true;
    And if you’ll wait just one moment, I’ll introduce my friend to you. ”

    He would close his eyes, throw his head back, and smile so big that you could see nearly every tooth in his mouth 🙂 The thing about it was that my Papa lived that life every single day that I knew him. He was a man of relationships. A simple man who was all about loving and living and SHOWING people the Jesus that had changed his life. That was his witness. He had no real education, no money, but he had these huge hands, a huge smile, and a huge heart, and he put them all to work to help anyone and everyone he came across. He could quote the Bible from cover to cover, but more importantly, he LIVED it. He had no theology degree, but he was the truest disciple that I have every known.

    Jesus had a relationship with him – He encouraged me to have a closer relationship with Jesus. So do the Daily Texts. Every morning, they disciple me. Now, it’s my turn to go out and introduce my world to this awesome friend of mine named Jesus. Thank you for the reminder today 😊

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