A Word on Knowledge

We are living in days when knowledge is very readily acquired by those disposed to learn, particularly in Christendom, where almost every normal child is literate, and where literature abounds. For those desiring the knowledge of God and His things there is the priceless heritage of an open Bible, and very many excellent writings from the pens of able and spiritual men, who have endeavoured to bring the truth of God to bear on the hearts and consciences of their readers. Such men have sought to bring conviction of sin to sinners, and to instruct believers in the foundations of the faith and in the truth of the counsels of God.

Knowledge Puffs Up

The acquisition of knowledge however has its dangers, as Paul showed in 1 Corinthians 8:1, where he writes, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth." When the truth of God is only held in the intellect, and has not affected the heart and conscience, there is the danger of inflation. If, however, the truth enters into the heart, touching the affections and the conscience, there will be edification instead of inflation.

Every exercised Christian, into whose heart the truth has entered, will at once agree with the words of verse 2, "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." These are salutary words rebuking the unexercised and vain, and which humble the saint who feels that any little knowledge he has procured through learning but manifests to him that there is a vast field of divine knowledge into which his soul has hardly entered.

The Knowledge of the Father

Coming into the world, the Son of God brought with Him a knowledge that had not been here before. In Matthew 11, He says, "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (verse 27). This was the most wonderful knowledge to have come before men; but it was hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed to babes (verse 25). It was not a revelation for the intellect of man, but for the hearts of those in whom God, in His grace, had wrought, babes in His family, but also despised by the learned of this world as uninstructed in the things of a vain world.

This wondrous knowledge of the Father was not reserved for the disciples of the Lord's day on earth alone, nor yet for the most advanced in the family of God, for the Apostle John wrote, "I write unto you little children, because ye have known the Father" (1 John 2:13). The veriest babe in God's family has the divine nature, who in believing the Gospel was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and thus had the capacity and power for the reception of the knowledge of the Father. The knowledge of God as Father is the light in which all His children walk, and those who have not this knowledge walk in darkness.

The Knowledge of the Son of God

From Matthew 11:27, where the Lord says, "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father," it is plain that the Son in the glory of His Person as also in the manner in which Godhead and Manhood are united in Him, is inscrutable. Yet, Paul wrote, "That I may know Him" (Phil. 3:10). From this we learn that there is a knowledge of the Son of God that is to be acquired; and the apostle shows us in this same chapter how he sought to obtain it. The "excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus" his Lord so captivated his heart that he let everything go that hindered his acquiring it.

The things that had been gain to him, he counted loss for Christ. All that be had sought after in Judaism, shining trophies for a religious Jew, he had given up for that which dimmed their lustre, the knowledge of the One who appeared to him on the Damascus road. There was nothing now in the whole of man's world that had any attraction for Paul's heart, for he counted all that he ever had, or all that man could possibly offer him, to be loss, yea, to be filth, something to be rid of, so that he might have that which had the most powerful influence over his soul, the knowledge of the Son of God in heaven.

What Paul desired, the knowledge of the Son of God, is open for every believer in the Lord Jesus; and our heavenly Head has given gifts to men for the express purpose of our arriving at "the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:13). This is a very wide range of knowledge, for it brings before us all that is presented to us in the Scriptures of Jesus, and in a special way the place that He now fills as Man in the presence of God, the object of His pleasure, and the centre of all His counsels.

Nor is it the glories of the Son of God alone that we are to seek to know, that which He now has at God's right hand, and the glories in which He shall be displayed in a coming day: but the apostle prayed for the saints at Ephesus that they might "know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:19). As knowing this wonderful, knowledge-surpassing love, we shall be able to hold aright in our hearts all that we learn of the glories of the blessed Son of God.

Growth by Knowledge

In Paul's prayer for the saints at Colosse, he desired that they "might be filled with the knowledge of" God's will "in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col. 1:9). How good it is when all our own desires, and those of others, are set aside by God's will having its true place in our hearts and minds. The knowledge of God's will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, will effectuate this, and remove all tendencies to inflation. Such knowledge will produce results that will bring glory to God, for then we shall "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing (or growing) by the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10).

So that where there is divine wisdom and understanding, the knowledge of God's will in the heart will bring among other blessed results, the growth of the soul in the knowledge of God. God desires that all His saints should grow, for with the spiritual growth in the knowledge of Himself, there will be increased capacity for fruit-bearing, which is pleasurable for the Father and the Son (John 15:8).

The State Necessary for Knowledge

What we have seen regarding Paul in Philippians 3, and in his prayer in Colossians 1, makes it clear that if we are to really know the truth of God, there must be a proper spiritual state to receive it. This is plainly shown in Ephesians 1:17, where, after having written of the blessings of the saints, according to the eternal counsels of God, the Apostle prays that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him."

The spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God is the state of soul necessary to enter in truth into the knowledge of God as brought before us in the counsels of His grace. Without this spirit of wisdom and revelation, that affinity within the soul with what is presented in the divine teaching, there cannot be the true knowledge of God in relation to "the hope of His calling … the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints … and the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe" (verses 18, 19).

Where saints of God are engrossed with the things of the earth, or occupied with the world, there is not a right spirit within them, not that "spirit of wisdom and revelation" that values or seeks the precious truths, so dear to the heart of God, secrets of His bosom, that He delights to make known to His saints. If we are engaged with the passing things of time, it is hardly likely that we shall have the desire for, or the spiritual state to acquire, the things that belong to heaven and the coming day.

Paul's prayer in Philippians 1 is that the love of the saints "may abound more and more in knowledge and in all judgment" (Phil. 1:9). The abounding love of the saints will be regulated aright where there is divine knowledge and intelligence. There is a time for love to be restrained, as is indicated in Revelation 1:13, where the Lord is seen "girt about the paps with a golden girdle ": but when there is no restraining condition, the affections are free to flow out, but under the direction of the knowledge of God, and the divine intelligence communion with Him gives.

What Divine Knowledge Brings

Divine knowledge brings to us the things of the Father, which He has "hid from the wise and the prudent" (Matt. 11:25): all the things that the Son had received, and given to His friends (John 15:15). Besides, there are all the precious truths revealed by "the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven," which angels would fain look into (1 Peter 1:12).

In his second epistle, the Apostle Peter writes, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" (2 Peter 1:2). As believers, we stand in grace before God; we could never have stood in His presence on the ground of works of righteousness: but we also need grace to sustain us throughout our earthly sojourn, with the peace of God, and the peace of Christ filling the heart. The more we know of the God of all grace, and of our Lord Jesus who sits upon the throne of grace, the more shall we drink of the resources of grace available for us, and the more shall we enjoy divine peace, whatever our circumstances may be.

The next verse reads. "According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us by glory and virtue." All that is needful for the saints of God to sustain the divine life that He has communicated to us, so that we might live for His glory in passing through this world, has been given to us by His divine power: but it can only he laid hold of as we enter into the knowledge of God. As we learn that God has called us by glory and virtue, so do we eater into the knowledge of Him in this way, and thereby lay hold of the resources of His divine power that will enable us to live for Himself in this world.

From what we have considered it will be evident that to rightly acquire divine knowledge we have to be in communion with our God and Father, and with His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ; and this communion will give us the sense of our own nothingness, and so keep us from being puffed up by the wonderful things learned in the presence of God. Even the great Apostle to the Gentiles was liable to be "exalted above measure," because of the wonderful things he had heard in heaven; but the Lord gave him a thorn for his flesh that he might learn the sufficiency of His grace.
Wm. C. Reid.