What is the knowledge of God that we so often read of in scripture? Paul spoke about it often, yearning for us all to grow in it, but what was he speaking about exactly?
Jesus said: “you will KNOW the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall set you free”. How we understand this sentence may help us answer the question above. To our modern ears, Jesus may have sounded like He was saying:
“You will HEAR the FACTS, and the FACTS shall set you free.”
“You will UNDERSTAND the DOCTRINES, and the DOCTRINES shall set you free.”
“You will MEMORIZE the SCRIPTURES, and the SCRIPTURES shall set you free.”
“You will GRASP the THEOLOGY, and the THEOLOGY shall set you free.”
I don’t believe this is what Jesus was saying. I don’t think the words ‘know’ and ‘truth’ were meant like this here, and I don’t think this is what the knowledge of God means or how it is obtained. My understanding is that the biblical meaning of the word knowledge is this: I know something, because I have been exposed to it. In the bible, if you know someone you can describe them from memories of past encounters. If you don’t know someone, the best you can do is define them based on other sources of information. The bible terms this type of second-hand knowledge as “what my ears have heard, but my eyes have not seen”. There is a world of difference between describing and defining God.
The sum total of what our ears have heard can be called our INFORMATION circle, it is what we read, think and speak about God. On the other hand, the sum total of what our eyes have seen can be called our REVELATION circle, it is what we have experienced of God. I strongly believe that we need to differentiate between these two circles of knowledge. Information does not set people free. This should be obvious to us. What then did Jesus mean would set people free? We have looked at what knowledge could have meant in this passage, but what did Jesus mean with the word “truth”? My conviction is that truth here does not mean facts or doctrines or theology. Truth is not just accurate information. Another word for truth in the bible, which fits with the Hebrew understanding of knowing, is this: truth is reality. Not reality in an abstract way, but reality that we can experience and see at work in the world with our eyes. And didn’t Jesus also say in the same Gospel: “I am the truth”?! Jesus is not a mere fact, He is a living, experience-able reality – not just A reality, but THE reality.
So what does it mean to have “the knowledge of God”? Is it information or is revelation? This is how I would paraphrase what Jesus said:
“You will EXPERIENCE the REALITY, and the REALITY shall set you free.”
Or even better,
“You will ENCOUNTER ME, and I shall set you free.”
I have seen many times how easy it is for Christians to gather together and just share information. This may be because so often, our circle of information is so much wider than our circle of revelation. This is not our Fathers desire for us. Eternal life is to KNOW Him! The most up-building fellowships I have taken part in have been when believers have drawn deeply from their circle of revelation; describing their spiritual experiences and testified of God at work in their lives. This fellowship emphasizes less theory and more practical, focuses less on ideals and more on real results, less on facts and more on reality. Information sharing that does not bring revelation is useless, as is a theology that doesn’t bring experience and freedom. Truly the only way to minister spiritual Life to other believers is to help them EXPERIENCE the REALITY that we have seen with our own eyes. In a sense, we can only give away what we have received, we can only share fruitfully what we really really know…
Which circle of knowledge are you seeking to expand? Let’s all seek the true knowledge of God, that truly sets us (and those we fellowship with) free!