The Knowledge of Christ and God – Part III
Col 2:1 For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face.
Col 2:2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself,
Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (NRSV)
When it comes to knowing Christ and God it’s seems reasonable to set out some terms in order to have some clarity and consistency. For simplicity, I’m including the ISBE’s summary of terms for “know, knowledge” from both the OT and NT:
nō, nol´ej (in Hebrew chiefly ידע, yādha‛, noun דּעת, da‛ath; in Greek γινώσκω, ginṓskō, οῖδα, oı́da; “to know fully,” ἐπιγινώσκω, epiginṓskō, noun γνώσις, gnṓsis ἐπίγνωσις, epignōsis)
Although these may not be all the words used to convey knowledge, they are the primary ones. Now it’s not necessary that one know the original languages to have a sense of how the Bible uses these or other terms where “know”, “knowledge”, “perceive” etc. is translated. Translators, with all the variations of the Bible available, have done a pretty decent job of having these terms make sense in their context. Often, for example, oida and ginosko are used in the same verse in the Greek which would seem that they both carry the same or similar meaning and weight. One word doesn’t mean one thing and the other a different thing. This is important to know since often times over zealous teachers or preachers like to make a big to-do about how the writer of a particular passage of scripture uses specific terms to denote specific meanings. This may be true in part but on the whole, it’s not usually the case. For example, in 2 Peter’s use of ginosko, it’s not necessary to think that Peter is drawing attention to the Gnostic teachings or Greek philosophy and thus taking that term and using it in a Christian context to give it special meaning. A further example is logos, “word”. Every time you see that word it’s not necessary to think that the writer is referring to the word, Jesus Christ. That would be a bit over the top.
The ISBE goes on to make this point about knowledge. “Knowledge strictly is the apprehension by the mind of some fact or truth in accordance with its real nature…” This statement hits to the core of what this series is all about – “the apprehension by the mind of some fact or truth in accordance with its real nature.” What does it mean to know God and Christ? Can we know their “real nature?” Can we come to a level of apprehension adequate for our understanding?
There’s nothing unspiritual about the mind and its ability to apprehend facts especially when it comes to the Bible. Jesus included the mind when he quoted the two greatest commandments stating we should love God with all our heart, soul, strength and all our mind (Mark 12:30). It’s imperative that we wrap our mind around the truths of scripture. It’s not just a heart issue. It takes our full being to come to know the truth of scripture, how to apply that truth to our lives and how to live in obedience to that truth. There are no shortcuts.
Before moving on, as stated earlier, let’s be clear – Believing in God and Christ is one thing. Knowing them is the other side of that coin. I can come to a saving knowledge of Christ without fully knowing who he is as the son of God. However, I would contend that I cannot fully understand my relationship to God and Christ without coming to some reasonable level of understanding about them. Let me offer an example. Recently I was reading one of my favorite blogs and a post that talked about some of the “horrific passages” in the OT about God’s character. Or what at least seems to appear to be God’s character. Probably the most common of these passages are couched in the conquests of Israel as they move into the Promised Land. As Israel lays claim to the land, God instructs them to kill all living beings devoting them to complete destruction. This is a hard thing to get your mind around. How is it that God, who is love, could instruct his chosen people, his son Israel, to do such things? Do I just ignore that and pretend it isn’t there? Do I rationalize it or explain it away as some aberration in the character of God or how the Ancient Near Eastern people characterized their God? If confronted by skeptics with those passages do I stutter and stammer searching for an explanation? What do I really know about this God?
Let’s look at Jesus for a minute. Often his words to the disciples seem harsh and uncaring upbraiding them for their “little faith”. He mixes no words when confronting the religious leaders with their hypocrisy. His expression of “anger” when cleansing the temple seems so unlike the gentle person often described in devotions. Then of course the dismissal of his mother, brothers and sisters and making it clear to all, those who followed him were his family. All of these, if we read them with our mind engaged, will give us pause and force us to ask “What do I really know about this person called the Christ?”
As I search the scriptures it’s often clear to me that I know little about God. It seems the more I think I know him or his son I find myself struggling to understand what that knowing means. It’s not just a theological thing, it’s indeed soul thing – a heart, body, strength and mind thing.