Among the many abilities God gave human beings is the ability to think, know and reason. Their knowledge may range from knowing people to knowing things. It may be both practical and theoretical, and it may cover the concrete and the abstract, the seen and the unseen. Above all, human beings have the capacity to know God. That knowledge is to be valued above all others and will affect all others (Jer 9:23- 24; John 17:3).

A relationship

God wants the people of his creation to know him. This does not mean merely that they should know about him, but that they should know him personally through coming into a relationship with him (Jer 24:7; 31:34; Hosea 6:6; John 17:3; 1 John 4:6,8; 5:20). Similarly God knows those who are his – those whom he has chosen, those whom he has taken into a spiritual union with himself (Deut 34:10; Amos 3:2; Matt 7:23; John 10:27; 2 Tim 2:19). In fact, people can know God only because God has first known them; that is, loved them, chosen them and made them his own (Exod 33:17; Jer 1:5; John 10:14; Gal 4:9). Because knowledge, in biblical language, can mean ‘to be brought into a close relationship with’, a man and a woman were said to ‘know’ each other when they had sexual relations (Gen 4:25; 19:8; Matt 1:25). Knowledge could also mean ‘to have dealings with’, ‘to be concerned with’, or ‘to regard’ (Deut 33:9; Rom 7:7; 2 Cor 5:16,21). The Bible also speaks of knowledge according to the word’s more common meaning in relation to understanding and learning. Yet even in such cases the knowledge usually has a very practical purpose. When people come to a knowledge of the truth, they grow in that truth through learning more of God and his ways (Ps 119:125; 1 Tim 2:4; 2 Peter 1:5; 3:18; see TRUTH). If people profess to be God’s people but do not know or obey his law, they only bring God’s judgment upon themselves (Isa 5:13; Jer 4:22; Hosea 4:6; John 9:39-41; Heb 5:12-13). The person who exercises a reverent submission to God has already taken the first step towards true knowledge. To refuse to go further is to act like a fool (Prov 1:7,22; 2:1- 5; 8:10; see WISDOM).

Christian experience

People need at least some knowledge before they can have true faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Therefore, Christians must make known the facts about Jesus Christ (Rom 10:14). Those who believe must increase their knowledge of God and all that he has done for them through Jesus Christ. As a result they will know more of the power that Christ has made available to them, and will be able to worship him better (Eph 1:17-23). If Christians are to make correct decisions in life and develop character of true quality, they must increase their knowledge of God and his Word. They cannot expect to do God’s will unless first they know it (Ps 32:8-9; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9-10; see GUIDANCE). The knowledge that Christians are to seek can be obtained only as their minds are renewed and developed according to their new life in Christ (Rom 12:2; Col 3:2,10; see MIND). They must remember, however, to put into practice what they learn (Ps 119:34; John 13:17; James 1:22; 1 John 2:4). They must remember also that in using their knowledge, they should act with humility before God and with love and consideration towards others (Dan 10:12; 1 Cor 8:1-2; 13:2).

Knowledge and morality

There is therefore no suggestion in the Bible that knowledge excuses people from self-discipline. This was one of the errors of Gnosticism, a heresy that did much damage to the church during the second century. (The word ‘Gnostic’ comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning ‘knowledge’.) Forerunners of the Gnostics appeared in the church in New Testament times. These ‘knowing ones’ claimed to have a knowledge not shared by ordinary Christians, a claim that Paul strongly denied. The treasures of God’s wisdom are found in Christ, not in Gnosticism, and are available to all God’s people, not just to those who are specially enlightened (Col 2:2-4,8-10,18-19; 3:1-3; cf. 1:9,28; see COLOSSIANS, LETTER TO THE).

The Gnostics’ belief that all matter was evil led to opposite extremes of behaviour. Some of the Gnostics kept strict laws in an effort to avoid contact with the material world. Others, realizing that withdrawal from the material world was not possible, made no such effort. They even claimed that behaviour was irrelevant, because by their superior knowledge they had risen above the evil material world into a realm where deeds were of no importance. They could sin as they liked and still be Christians. The apostle John met this claim with a flat contradiction (1 John 3:9; see JOHN, LETTERS OF). John pointed out that knowledge, far from being a substitute for morality, leads to morality. If people know God, they will keep his moral commandments (1 John 2:3-4). If they know Christ, they know that Christ died to save people from sin and turn them to the way that is right (1 John 2:29; 3:5-6,24; see ASSURANCE).

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