What kind of knowledge of God?

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.”

Or

“You will UNDERSTAND the DOCTRINES, and the DOCTRINES shall set you free.”

Or

“You will MEMORIZE the SCRIPTURES, and the SCRIPTURES shall set you free.”

Or

“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!

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4 thoughts on “What kind of knowledge of God?

  1. Good blog.
    Though a bit ironic to downplay the information circle on a blog 😉

    I think that the obstacle for many believers is not to recognize the importance of experiencing God, but rather – many of us find real experience of God elusive.

    What advice would you give a believer that says “I want to encounter Jesus. I want it to be REAL. I want to KNOW him personally.” ? How does one go about doing that?

    Many have been taught that the most effective ways to “seek God” is through reading the Word, praying, praise and worship (by which I mean singing to God) and staying away from sin. Yet I know many people, and I relate to them, who have done these things and still lack a REAL know-ledge of God. How does one seek?

  2. Hi Levra. You’re right, blogs can very easily be a mere expansion of information. My hope is that we can all be encouraged here to rather share from our circle of revelation – even if it is smaller and less impressive, nevertheless I believe it is more fruitful. But point taken 😉

    Your question has been burning in my mind, I think because it speaks to my current situation and also challenges me. I think you frames it more in an individualist sense, but I take the question of how to lead people into the knowledge of God as a challenge for all of us in a community sense. This experience of Christ is the biblical cornerstone of Christian community, not our doctrines or our lifestyle so to speak, but the fact that our eyes have been opened to see and relate to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. So I think we are all desperate to have and to share such knowledge of God which brings the doctrine and lifestyle to ‘life’. But how? Well, I can only say what I think, but I am not too confident in it so let me know what you make of it.

    There are two broad areas that I think are at the heart of it. Firstly, I believe (and am indebted to David Pawson for this) that our Christian experience depends on the quality of our Christian birth, In other words, the foundation of our relationship with Jesus is influenced by whether or not we have been helped by another Christian to believe well, to repent properly, to be baptized in water and to receive the Holy Spirit. As Pawson says, many people’s Christian walk takes off when they are properly birthed. I would like to add to this that I have experienced the Christian life as a daily challenge to REMAIN filled with the Spirit after receiving Him. This is not properly emphasized in my circles. I think if you read through Paul’s letters you start to realize that he was equipping his young disciples with the skills to be CONTINUALLY filled (as he says in Ephesians), since all of the Christian life is in the Spirit and not in the flesh. In other words, if we are not filled with the Spirit, Christianity is darn hard. So practically, there were lots of things he taught them to do to remain in this reality of intimacy with the Holy Spirit, because just as Jesus is the way to the Father, so the Spirit is the way to Jesus. Another huge aspect of how to remain filled with the Spirit is to embrace a biblical church life of intimate community. Sharing life with other believers in biblical ways leads to a proper Body life that leads us into experience. We cannot make it alone.

    There is so much I could flesh out concerning these things, but space and time are limited. Basically, if you are aiming to disciple people into the knowledge of God, I believe that the primary targets are: covering the basics of BIRTH, how to stay practically FILLED as an individual, and being part of Scriptural COMMUNITY. This is more a macro view that can only help when it is fleshed out practically, but that’s how I see it. Do you agree? Would like to hear your thoughts…

  3. Hey! Thanks for the om-point answer in such on-point time.

    I am thrilled to hear you credit Mr Pawson. I too am the proud owner of “The Normal Christian Birth”, and I too hold it in high regard. Not to mention that I am probably one of Pawson’s biggest fans.

    Once again I feel the need to challenge you to talk about what we ‘could’ do as opposed to what we ‘should’ do. Mostly on your third point, which is to be in a scriptural church. Your discussions on pagan Christianity enforced in me already strong doubts about the approach that modern churches take to ‘doing church’. Though I am currently in a Church with committed, passionate leaders, active members and members (and friends) who really love Jesus, I still do not really enjoy going to church, the reason being that I feel that the church runs on the model criticized so heavily in Pagan Christianity, and that the sermons (especially the altar calls) take the form of those against which Paul Washer rages.

    The point I am trying to make is that a small minority of Christians have access to a scriptural fellowship, where the members participate and flow in the Holy Spirit.

    As for your other two points, I can but agree.

    I will sadly admit that I’ve failed the challenge of remaining filled with the Spirit daily for some time now (this fact is no doubt not isolated from the fact that you have not seen me on the blog for so long). And just like being filled with the Spirit is a finite event that happens when you… are filled with the Spirit for the first time, but must be sustained from there on, so does repenting and believing in Jesus.

    Failing to sustain your repentance (and thereby falling back into sin) will probably also get in the way of know – ing Jesus.

    About your second paragraph:
    I cannot agree more. Yesterday, when I was talking to one of my good friends (who is studying theology) about our faith, I had an “ah-ha moment”: When it comes to evangelism, one’s sole aim should be to get the subject to encounter Christ. Himself. Nothing that you can achieve apart from that could really have any meaning.

    Likewise, the main thing that we share as a congregation worshiping, should be ‘to encounter Christ’. That is really the common factor between Christians. Like you said, the goal is clear, but how to achieve it is a bit more tricky.

    And for me it is certainly firstly an individualistic issue, because it is ridiculous to try and lead a group of believers in something I fail to achieve myself (at least: on a regular basis). That is why I want to draw from your pool of experience.

    About the irony statement. Even if you share from your own revelation circle, it can only become part of my information circle through the “means” of the blog. But hey, nobody said information is useless. It’s just not nowhere near as cool as the revelation circle. 🙂

  4. Pingback: When (last) were you filled with the Spirit? | Some Thoughts On Being Christian

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