I was approached a few years ago by a lady who had been speaking with self-proclaimed “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. She had been visited on a Saturday morning and they began conversing about the bible and their mutual faiths. She reiterated to me the conversation and how when they asked her questions about biblical subjects such as the Trinity, the Kingdom of God and various other subjects that all she could answer was that all she knew was that Jesus died for her. This lady had been a christian far longer than I had and I was puzzled at just how limited her understanding was of these important biblical subjects. I can appreciate that the gospel message is the centrality of the scriptures and the death of Christ being the most foundational message of the bible. I am truly thankful that she had understood this message but this is just an example of many individuals within chrisitanity. They are brought the gospel message and receive the glorious gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ yet there furtherance of biblical understanding stops there. There are many christians who have not grown to understand even basic christian theology any further than “Jesus died for me”. We believe that Jesus died for our sins but what exactly does that entail? We receive that message but there is so much more to that message that we should be pursuing to know in order to truly appreciate it. How does the death of Christ relate to the biblical teaching of justification, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation and the New Covenant? These are just a few associated with the atoning work of the Lord Jesus. It is almost like christians get an understanding of the death of christ paying for their sins and then the theological pursuit of the knowledge of God stops there. There is a real danger when your biblical understanding stops there. This lady could certainly have told these visitors on that Saturday that she believes in the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the Kingdom of God and many other doctrines however when it comes to explaining what they mean, she is unfortunately left wanting. She could explain why Jesus died for her and that is a plus but anything further than that would have been confusing.
There is a question as christians that all of us should consider in an honest fashion. Are we growing in understanding of the truths of scripture and especially of the knowledge of God? Are we pursuing an even greater knowledge of the Lord Jesus? Do we understand the purposes of God throughout scripture and how they are relevant to us today? We must consider that these questions will have an impact on our lives no matter where we are in our christian life. The proverb tells us The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.” (Proverbs 15:14) We must pursue God with all our being and expect that all who seek Him will find Him. I am not implying that we are to merely seek a head knowledge of doctrinal principles in the scripture but that our growth in understanding these scriptures and the beautiful lucidness with which they reveal Jehovah brings us to an even greater depth of appreciation for God. There is a sense of drawing closer to Him when we can understand and appreciate what He has revealed in His word.
The Great Commission: Who’se Responsibility?
The Lord Jesus left a command to His disciples to be passed on to further generations which we refer to as “the Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20). This was a mission that they were to embark on which consisted of baptizing and teaching them “to observe all that I commanded you”. The idea here is all the teachings that the Lord Jesus had proclaimed to them during His earthly ministry. The Lord Jesus left His disciples the responsibility to ensure the continuation of these beautiful and timeless truths. The disciples were not only to teach them a head knowledge of these things since certainly the idea of obedience is involved in this type of statement. The truths that He left them were not only to be known but observed. In other words, the teaching must not merely be knowing facts about what Christ had commanded them but to obey them also. What I would like to emphasize however is that we must be taught those things to be commanded prior to them being obeyed. This is the responsibility of the disciples however there is another party involved that implicitly has a responsibility as well. When we read the great commission, the focus of our attention is generally on those discipling rather than those being discipled. The responsibility doesn’t rest solely on the one discipling but there is a onus on the one being discipled as well. Disciples cannot baptize or teach someone who is not interested in doing so. The one being discipled is responsible for pursuing the teachings and receiving them in order to further the continuance of the all that the Lord had commanded.
The Pursuit of the Knowledge of God
There is a real danger that we must consider in this lack of knowledge and pursuit of being thoroughly acquainted with biblical understanding. Peter tells us that: You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) Much like in Peter’s day, we are surrounded by false teachers and anti-biblical philosophies. I see individuals on a daily basis participate in some very questionable practices and I am not convinced they are doing so out of some ungodly motive but merely because they are not well grounded in scripture. Peter tells his readers that they need to “beware” or be on guard against the errors of men “so that you are not carried away” but how did they know what these errors of men were? Peter does indicate throughout this epistle what these errors were and we can decipher them as well through growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”. Once again, the responsibility of the christian is to pursue Godly knowledge so that he is not led away in error. Sometimes we tend to lean way too much on our security in Christ without realizing that the scriptures tell us that we must continue walking in our christian life and growing as christians (Hebrews 6:1).
The Knowledge of His will
In the book of Colossians, Paul communicated to the believers his prayer for them that they “may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (1:9) Again, there was a real threat in Colossae from False teachers (mainly gnostics and docetists) who were attempting to persuade these believers of their doctrine. What Paul is asking God to instill upon them is a deeper understanding of Christ with a goal towards knowing God’s purposes through Jesus Christ so that their lives might pleasing to God. Paul ends v.10 with the phrase “increasing in the knowledge of God” . Paul pleads to the Lord so that there would be growth in their understanding of God and His purposes. Their being filled with the knowledge of God’s will in v.9 results in all the benefits we find in v.10. The Christian life is to be lived in this fashion but unless we have good grounding on the knowledge of His will, this will be tremendously difficult and in many instances defective.
All We Need to Know is Christ and Him Crucified?
There are a few who have attempted to state that a pursuit of spiritual knowledge and biblical understanding is only for the intellectual but really all that we need to understand is Christ crucified. We are really only supposed to be preaching Christ crucified and not seeking after wisdom like the greeks (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). I believe there is a foundational problem with this interpretation especially if we look at everything written in this epistle and elsewhere by the great apostle. I would also disagree with this interpretation since the entire point of the passage is not to scold wisdom. The point was to demonstrate that Greeks would have saw a crucified saviour, based upon their idea of wisdom, as foolish. v.24 does tell us that Christ is wisdom and it is in Him that we find true Godly wisdom and even the foolishness of God would be greater than the wisdom of men. It is contrasting between the two. Another text thatis presented to attempt to tell believers to refrain from greater learning is from 1 Corinthians 2:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
The argument is that Paul did not feel the need to know anything further than Christ crucified and to persuade a pursuit of any further wisdom is futile. The purpose of Paul in writing these words wasn’t to put a limit on the knowledge of God. His point in writing this was to demonstrate how he had brought the gospel to Corinth and what means he had used to proclaim it to them. He did not approach them in the way greeks did in those days, with rhetoric or fancy speech but he came to them with a simple message. Paul was not bringing them some intellect or some long argument of debate that would have outmatched the greeks but he came with a message that would have puzzled human wisdom. He came to them with a message of a crucified messiah. This was Paul’s entire message to them and all he wanted to talk to them about during his initial visit. We can read throughout this epistle of a command for wisdom in light of their circumstances. The centrality of wisdom flows from Christ and God. The cross is the beginning and foundation of wisdom.
So What Now?
I would like to leave you, my readers, with this last thought. Please take the time to learn what you believe and why you believe it. Some will tell you that all it takes to pursue a deeper knowledge of God is to read a chapter in your bible daily. This is not true! This pursuit will require you to not only read your bible but study it! It will take prayer and asking the Lord to continuously guide you through His Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13). It will require you to find a good teacher that will help you learn more deeply the truths of God (Proverbs 13:20). It will necessitate that you be in a congretation that faithfully preaches the whole counsel of God. It may also require you learning from men who have spent more time than you have studying the word. You can read their books and listen to their messages. The riches that comes from this type of pursuit will grow you to immense and help you avoid error. It will give you an even greater appreciation for who God is and what His purposes are.