As I’ve meandered through life I’ve learned one very important thing – at least for me – don’t ever swim in a pond, pool, or body of water where you can’t see or touch the bottom. Consequently, I’m not an ocean swimmer, a lake swimmer or any other kind of non-pool swimmer and I’m quite content with that.
As I began thinking about the topic I’m about to pursue, I quickly realized that I may be getting into one of those “bodies of water” where I can’t see or touch the bottom thus I’m a bit hesitant. But for my own growth I find myself on the shore ready to take the plunge.
A few weekends ago, for reasons that won’t make any difference to the topic, my wife and I were home on Sunday morning and decided we would read the Bible and talk about a study our class has been working on in 2 Peter. Our focus was on 2 Peter 1:5-8. The concluding words in verse eight is where we spent a bulk of our discussion time. In that verse Peter says that applying the virtues he’s previously listed “will render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Of course I wanted to know what “the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” meant. How exactly does one arrive at a true knowledge of Christ? It can’t simply be the character traits Peter lists because most of those except perhaps “godliness” are traits that any human being can cultivate. Indeed, they are attributes which, when cultivated, result in a person any one of us would be pleased to call our friend. Not only that, they are attributes that most reasonable human beings would desire to see fleshed out in their own lives. But, from a Christian standpoint, how does cultivating those virtues, first, render us neither useless nor unfruitful and second result in a “true knowledge” of Christ?
Three times in this short epistle Peter uses the phrase or idea of the “knowledge of Christ,” 2 Peter 1:3, 1:8 and 3:18, consequently it seems an important principle to understand. Couched in what seems to be primarily the attributes of living a moral life it might seem that right moral living results in a right and true knowledge of Christ. Yet, as mentioned above, moral character is not unique to Christians. So, it might be an emphasis of Peter, but is there more to it than that?
Since you’re reading this, perhaps you have an observation and would be gracious enough to share it and add points on the map of exploration as we move along. What is the “true knowledge of Jesus Christ?” How does one come to know Christ, is it through experience and/or an understanding of scripture? Is it based on emotion, “I feel the presence of God” therefore I must know God? Does feeling the presence of God mean we have knowledge of God? We talk about “inviting Jesus into our hearts.” Does that provide the seed to knowing Christ? You hear people talk about Jesus as their “friend.” Is that what it means to know Christ – we have a friendship with him? Careful on that on, Jesus said you are my friends IF you do what I command you. So does that mean obedience is the key to knowing? The more I obey Christ, the more I know him and the more I know him the more I become like him – is that the essence of it? Is that what Peter meant when he talked about becoming “participants of the divine nature.”
That brings me to a second part of this exploration , yet very much the same. What does it mean to know God? Can we know God? After all, God is spirit and most of us, me especially, don’t have a good grasp on things of the spirit. Apart from Christ, can there be an awareness of God? Paul seems to indicate that God reveals himself in his creation and leaves no excuse for any man for not knowing him “for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (Rom 1:19).” Yet certainly there is more to knowing God than acknowledging the truth of his creation. He is much bigger than that I suspect.
Well, that’s as far as I’m going on this post. I have much to do before I can even attempt to answer my own questions. Perhaps you’ll come along over the next several weeks. I’d be pleased to have your company and invite your comments.