To Know About Or To Know; That Is The Question!

John 5:37-40 (NKJV) 37 And the Father Himself, who sent me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40  But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

When reading the Gospels we often miss the weight of Jesus words in the vortex of malice surrounding His life and ministry.  The above verse is one of the times.  In Chapter 5 of John’s Gospel we find Jesus healing a man who was lame for a very long time.  That this healing was done on the Sabbath was enough to drive the elite and religious class wild.  That the healing stirred the people to look to Jesus as the possible and foretold Messiah, was enough to send them into a murderous rage (John 5:16).  Eventually a verbal conflict arose between Jesus and the religious leaders.  Jesus now challenges them to trust what they said they loved.  Jesus declares, “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me”.  Although the people Jesus was speaking to missed His point, it is important to show how the disciples did make the connection.  John Chapter 2 illustrates this point.

In verse 45 we find Phillip calling on his friend Nathaniel in order to meet someone special.  Phillip declares to Nathaniel that Jesus is the “Prophet” which Moses and the prophets spoke of.  In using Moses as a reference point Phillip is declaring Jesus to be the fulfillment of prophecy concerning Messiah, from Deuteronomy 18:15.  Nathaniel being a man of the Word of God knew where the “Prophet” would come from and it would not be Nazareth, but decides to entertain his friend.  It is only when Nathaniel meets Jesus face to face and Jesus displays knowledge no one else could have known, that Nathaniel with eyes open declares, “Rabbi You are the Son of God, the King of Israel”.  One can almost imagine the prophecies of Psalm 2, Isaiah 7:14, and Isaiah 9:6-7 racing through Nathaniel’s mind almost instantaneously.  Like these two disciples others  also believed and trusted the One who is the Word of God.  On the other hand, many including the religious elite missed Him, even though He was right in front of them.  Let’s review how.

  1. Jesus Use of Parables; Jesus use of parables even frustrated the disciples from time to time, but these heavyweight truths should have turned on the lights for those who loved the scriptures (Psalm 78:1-2; Isaiah 6:8-10; John 2:13-22).
  2. Jesus Bethlehem Birth; Many Gentiles sought the virgin born King but not those who should have sought Him and known where to find Him (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1-9).
  3. Jesus Messianic Healings; His Healings should have set their hearts on fire for God instead they stirred their hate, especially when the common people believed (Isaiah 53; Malachi 4:1-3; John 9:27-43).
  4. Jesus Actions to Forgive; When Jesus healed a paralyzed man it was as a seal of His divine prerogative to forgive, yet the “elite” claimed blasphemy (Isaiah 53:1-10; Mark 2:1-10; Matthew 8:18).
  5. Jesus Declaration of His Calling;Everything Jesus did was a declaration of His calling as it fulfilled the O.T. prophecies.  In His hometown they missed the Word on Jesus (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-33).
The Pharisee’s could probably have recited most of the prophecies above, yet when presented with the fulfillment of them in the Person of God in the Son, they missed Him.  I believe that I Corinthians 8:1 reveal one of the issues they had.

1 Corinthians 8:1 (NKJV) 1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.

The descriptive nature of this verse cannot be understated.  The word for knowledge in the Greek (gnosis) means knowledge that can be quantified, and measured in a scientific manner.  This type of knowledge is that which is accumulated and studied and understood from a rational perspective.  The word also is used to describe those who believed they were specially gifted to hear secret knowledge about spiritual matters other could not.  These “Gnostics” were considered special, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on the amount of “secret” knowledge accumulation they received.  Jesus statement in John 5:39 illustrates this point well, as the Pharisee’s He was speaking to prided themselves on how many scriptural facts they could stuff into their heads or could wear on their clothes.  These same men also saw themselves as the only ones who could truly interpret the Word of God (they had secret knowledge).  In I Corinthians 8:1, Paul declares those who put their trust in the accumulation of knowledge are puffed up, which means “blowing into in order to inflate”.  In other words when we merely traffic in the accumulation of information, we become big headed and swelled with pride. 

This is most likely the root of the Pharisee’s missing Jesus.  I am sure if He would have complimented them for their knowledge accumulation they would have fallen all over Him, but He knew it was in opposition to them knowing the truth; That He came to save all the people from their sins.  This can be clearly seen in the rage filled response of one of the Pharisee’s in John 9, where Jesus heals the man born blind.  In an encounter where the healed man declares the amazing act of Christ and how it should prove His greatness, he is met with only accusation.  When asking why they continue to ask questions figuring they wanted to be Jesus disciples as well, the Pharisee’s reply… “You were completely born in sins, and yet you are teaching us?”  These men should have known according to the scriptures that all (including them) are born completely in sin, but their pride blinded them to their need of the Savior.  Let me ask the question… can we fall to a similar fate as they?  Can we know facts about Jesus the Messiah without knowing Him?  The answer sadly is yes.

From the Book of James we learn faith without works is dead (James 2:14-20).  In short this means if you say you believe the truth (facts needed to know Jesus as the Savior) but do not behave in ways that reveal that belief, your belief means nothing.  In essence an accumulation of Biblical knowledge does not automatically lead to knowing Jesus.  We know our works do not save us. It is Christ and Christ alone who could complete the work needed to redeem mankind, but repentance and a life that shows Christ living through you as your Lord is necessary to testify to one’s profession.  From this passage we can clearly see that knowledge alone which leads to a profession devoid of faith filled works can deceive us.  We can think we know Him without really knowing Him.  This should shock no one for Jesus Himself declared Matthew 7:21-23…

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV) 21  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’    

Interestingly the word that Jesus uses for “knew” is completely different than that of knowledge described in the word gnosis from I Corinthians 8:1.  The Greek word Jesus used is “ginosko”.  The word means to know absolutely.  As we look into others uses of this word in the NT we gain a clearer picture.  The word Jesus chose to use in this text is the exact word used when describing how a husband “knows” his wife in a physically intimate way (Matthew 1:12, Luke 1:34).  Jesus is literally saying to those who were professors of His Lordship, I never knew you intimately and you never had intimate knowledge of Me.  This is a huge statement given the profession of those sent away from His presence.  The Pulpit Commentary describing this word as used in Philippians 3:10 (That I may know Him) declares, “This knowledge is not an acquaintance with facts , nor intellectual conviction of reality, but an appropriation of them as an influencing power (injected) into the very being of the one who knows Him”.

The bottom line is we are to have good and clear biblical knowledge of Jesus.  We are to be those who study to show ourselves approved, workmen of God not ashamed rightly dividing the Word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).  We are to have as our delight the Law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1).   This means not to collect volumes of facts, volumes of verses memorized, and or teachings or abilities to profess.  It means we are to assimilate the One whom the written word of God declares, Jesus the Lord.  What I am arguing for is not the accumulation of knowledge about Jesus, but a discipline that brings us into an encounter with Jesus who is the truth.  This is the only way to truly know Him.  How is the question?

Philippians 3:10-11 (NKJV) 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In the above passage we see the same word used for “know” as in Matthew 7:23.  In this prayer of Paul we see the deep desire to know the Person and Presence of Christ in a tangible way, and that as illustrated through Paul happens through suffering.  This suffering is not the ordinary, garden variety suffering of all human beings but specifically, that which arises because of our profession of Christ and commitment to walk in His steps.  Here is where we see the authentic believer from the mere poser who is looking for knowledge to feel better or impress others.  To know Jesus who is the brightness of His glory and the expressed image of God’s person, who is spiritually and physically Emmanuel God with us, we must allow our fact based knowledge to lead us into risk for Him.  Only in situations where our commitment to Him brings us to the end of human strength, will we feel His tangible Presence and in intimacy know His power from within.  In Psalm 23 we see this written out… “Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me… Your rod and staff comfort me”.  The psalmist describes the heart of one who is set to “know” Him as Paul did.  This is where we encounter the Presence of God in ways that supernaturally transform us into His image, which is the call of every believer (II Corinthians 3:18).

We are living in times filled with experts in bible teaching, Gurus of great doctrine, and mountains of facts about Jesus and His teachings, yet we live in time and nation devoid of His manifest and life changing Presence in our churches.  The American church can be a studious group of believers who dutifully take notes, rush through daily devotions and meet in bible studies, yet for all our activity we have lost our first love; we are not intimate with Christ.  This can be seen in the shrinking numbers across the board in churches, the lack of conviction when we minister and the lack of new testament signs and wonders seen world over where the gospel is preached.  This can also be seen in the tiny numbers of saints who actually pray together for more than a mere blessing before we begin our “fellowship”.  How do we turn the tide, how do we return?  First we must be honest about our condition, and secondly run to the only One who can fix it…JESUS.
Let me encourage you saint of God to re-commit to seeking Him in the secret place and don’t leave until you have met with God (Matthew 6:5-6).  Let me encourage you to stop looking for answers and understanding in resources galore on the Word of God.  When reading the Word of God, let the Holy Spirit teach you what it means (John 14:26, I Corinthians 2:14, James 1:5).  Let me encourage the church to stop looking for solutions for church growth in books and programs and great preaching men.  Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Let Him turn the tide as we turn from our ways, seek His face and pray, pray, pray… Then He will hear, forgive and heal (II Chronicles 7:14).  When He heals, we will know  Almighty God in all His presence intimately and personally.

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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