The motto of the high school I attended (many years ago now!) was “knowledge is power.” Many people see the purpose of knowledge as being to help them acquire worldly wealth, power, and prestige. So most Westerners today pursue post-secondary education in the hopes of landing a high-paying job and building a successful career. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to earn a good income, the purpose of knowledge from the biblical view is much different. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). In pursuing worldly knowledge to the exclusion of all else, many people end up in spiritual, emotional, and psychological bondage even sometimes in the midst of financially successful careers.
It is no accident that knowledge follows virtue in Peter’s list in 2 Pet. 1:5-7; knowledge without virtue is a force for evil rather than for good. From the biblical viewpoint, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7). No matter how much knowledge we might attain, we are always at the mercy of the One who created us. The good news is that He is merciful when we approach Him with a contrite heart: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (Is. 66:y2). Reverence, awe, and respect should always characterize how we stand before God. When combined with the realization that we are always standing before Him, the result is an attitude of humility which is foundational for increasing in knowledge.
Jesus’ statement above in John 8:32 calls attention to two different kinds of knowledge: theoretical knowledge and experiential knowledge. Theoretical knowledge consists of information and propositional truths. These are important, but it isn’t the whole picture. Experiential knowledge is only gained by putting into practice the truth that has been heard. Complete knowledge, the kind of knowledge that sets us free, only becomes ours by “abiding” in God’s Word. That means not only studying it, but living it out as well. Nevertheless, study is the basic habit which is required for increasing in knowledge. Many people study in school in pursuit of good grades in order to achieve their educational goals. However, many also have poor study habits which they quickly set aside after receiving their diploma. With no more exams to cram for, their motivation to study dries up. In order to keep growing as disciples, however, we must continue to study, to learn, and to grow intellectually.
The primary source of our study is God’s Word, the Bible. This requires a commitment of time on a daily and weekly basis to spending time in God’s Word, reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and applying Scripture. Having the Word of God in our hearts orients us properly towards truth and lets us see things as they really are. This is important because right thinking is essential to right living. We also have a promise with respect to knowledge which is found in John 16:13: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” God gives us His Holy Spirit as a guide into truth. He also gives the church pastors and teachers to equip believers and help them grow (Eph. 4:11-12). We must do our part in being diligent to spend time in God’s Word every day as well as being attentive to those whom God has appointed to teach.
Application: If you are not currently spending time in God’s Word every day, start today! You can begin with reading through the New Testament, highlighting verses which particularly speak to you and memorizing them. Growing in knowledge takes time and effort, but God helps us when we do.