The Vital Importance of Knowledge
April 26, 2018 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part two in a multi-part series on Peter’s “road map” he gives for gospel growth in 2 Peter 1. Like many of you, I long to be effective and fruitful, especially in my spiritual life. Peter promises in the midst of this chapter, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful…” My interest is peaked. Let’s discover together Peter’s path of gospel growth.
A few weeks ago, I introduced this new series by giving a brief overview of what I called Peter’s roadmap for gospel growth. We find in 2 Peter 1 that there is a path toward spiritual maturity which includes a starting point, an end point or goal, and specific means to make progress on that path. In the middle of this passage, Peter lists various qualities that are essential to gospel growth. Before we look closely at those qualities in the weeks to come, I want to focus on one more preliminary matter in this passage. The significance of “knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
The Greek word for knowledge, epignosis, is used three times in this passage (the “knowledge” mentioned in verses 5 and 6 is a different Greek word; we’ll discuss that knowledge when we work through the list of qualities). Let’s consider each of these uses.
In verse 2, in his opening salutation, Peter blesses the people with multiplied grace and peace “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” The preposition “in” speaks of location or sphere. Peter reveals that grace and peace, coveted blessings in the Christian life, are multiplied in the realm of the knowledge of God and Jesus. Without knowledge of God and Jesus there is no grace or peace.
Then, in verse 3, Peter states that all things pertaining to life and godliness are granted to us “through the knowledge of him who called us.” The preposition “through” speaks about agency or the means to get something. The magnificent promise of “all things” for life and godliness is granted “through” the agency of knowledge of Christ. Without knowledge of Christ we have no access to God’s power for “all things.
Finally, in verse 8, Peter explains that the qualities listed in verses 5-7 keep us from being “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Several items are implied by Peter’s use of knowledge here. First, knowledge of Christ by itself can leave us ineffective or unfruitful. Second, implied by this logical relationship, the goal of knowledge of Christ is effectiveness and fruitfulness. Third, there can be no effectiveness or fruitfulness without the knowledge of Christ. Fourth, the preposition “in” implies that “the knowledge of Christ” is a state of being. We are either in the knowledge of Christ or we are not.
This brief review of the use of the word “knowledge” in 2 Peter 1 reveals how vital knowledge of Christ is. There is no grace or peace. There is no divine help for all things. There is no effectiveness or fruitfulness. Knowledge of Christ is the lynchpin in the midst of this road map to gospel growth.
So, what is the “knowledge of Christ”?
Typically, when we first hear the word “knowledge,” we think of memorizing, understanding, and capability of explaining statements of fact. This certainly is true about “knowledge of Christ.” To know Christ means to be familiar with and understand truthful statements about who he is, what he has done, and what difference these make. A creed or a confession may be an excellent summary of what we know of Christ.
But this is not the whole story behind the word “knowledge.” It is not only familiarity with facts, but also an experience with the truth. This is the idea behind the Old Testament use of the word “know” in such contexts such as Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” Adam had a personal, and intimate, experience with his wife. It is this kind of knowledge that is commended in 2 Peter 1.
Consider another example. Would you rather have your plane piloted from New York to Paris by someone who has read, and even memorized, every book about flight but never has flown an airplane or by someone who has logged thousands of hours of flying commercial jetliners? We would all pick the second person because of their experience. That is the kind of knowledge commended in 2 Peter 1.
How do we grow in this vital knowledge of Christ? Yes, read and study Scripture and listen to gifted teachers of Scripture. But we also need to “experience” the truth of Christ. There is no substitute to time. Experiencing the truth of Christ takes days, weeks, months, and years of seeking Christ in prayer, repenting of sinful rebellion against Christ, practicing humble submission to Christ, enjoying the sweet balm that comes from his sacrificial death, and so on. To know Christ means to live with Christ in all aspects of life.
How is your knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord?