The Christian life is a life that begins in and continues in a true and living knowledge of God.
Introduction: The Christian’s knowledge of God is not a cold, lifeless knowledge. It is a true knowledge—according to God’s word. It is a living knowledge—produces fruit.
The Importance of the Knowledge of God The knowledge of God is important to us for at least five reasons.
1. Eternal Life—Salvation First of all, when the Bible speaks of knowing God it does so in regards to salvation. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3). He essentially equates eternal life with knowing God and Himself. Why is it also important that we know Jesus for salvation? Because Jesus is the means by which we come to know God (Jn. 1:1-3,14-18; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 1 Jn. 5:20).
This is the most important aspect of the knowledge of God. God created us to know Him, to commune or fellowship with Him (Gen. 1-2). When man sinned, however, this produced a breach in the relationship between God and man (Gen. 3). God has mended this breach in and through Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:13). Whereas unsaved man is spoken of as being alienated from the life of God, because their ignorance (Eph. 4:18), the saved are spoken of as being taught by Christ (4:20,21). Further, many profess to know God, but deny Him by their works (Tit. 1:16).
2. Knowledge of Ourselves This point is closely tied to the first. As we come to a true understanding of who God is (e.g. holy, righteous, true, just, good) we will begin to understand ourselves (e.g. sinful, held accountable). A high view of God humbles our pride. When we understand God to be holy, it leads us to see ourselves as we truly are—wicked and corrupt. This was the prophet Isaiah’s own experience:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ (Isaiah 6:1-5)
The prophet Isaiah came to truly understand himself as he gazed upon the glory of God and as the angels proclaimed the three-fold holiness of God. Isaiah was instantly humbled. Certainly, Isaiah’s sin consisted of more than unclean lips. This confession, however, has the understanding that sin is a heart issue, that our hearts are corrupt (Matt. 15:18,19). He saw his sin for what it truly is—an offense against God. I can see Isaiah giving an “Amen!” to Paul’s words in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Until we understand ourselves as sinful and accountable to God, we will not flee to Him (at least with proper motives) for forgiveness.
3. Knowledge of the World This point is closely related to the previous point. As we come to understand ourselves in light of the knowledge of God, we also come to understand the world around us, for the world is made up of individuals just like us. This is why Isaiah could also proclaim, “and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”
When we have a true knowledge of God it allows us to have a true knowledge of the world—a right or biblical worldview. We understand that God is the Creator of all things and that we are accountable to Him (Gen. 1-2). We understand that we live in a fallen world (Gen. 3; Eph. 2:1-3). We understand that God sustains the world and providentially governs the affairs of man (Ps. 135:6; Isa. 46:9-11; Eph. 1:11). Further, the knowledge of God is the foundation of morality and ethics (Exod. 20:1-17; Prov. 2). When we have a true knowledge of God we start to look at the world as He sees it.
4. Personal Holiness Lastly, and tying all of these points together, is the truth that a true knowledge of God enables us to live lives in conformity to God’s will (Rom. 12:1,2). This is what I mean when I say a true and living knowledge of God. It is not only living knowledge in the sense that true knowledge of God consists of eternal life, but it is living knowledge in that its goal is to produce holiness of life to the glory of God. When we understand that God is holy and has called us to holiness, then we are exhorted and encouraged to live holy lives ourselves (1 Pet. 1:13-16). We understand that God’s will for us is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:1-8), which is the process of growing in holiness, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29).
5. Strength & Perseverance Those Christians who have a firm and thorough knowledge of God may be strong. A group of strong Christians is a strong church. “…the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits” (Dan. 11:32).
Perhaps the primary way in which the knowledge of God strengthens believers is in the way that God’s character and attributes comfort us. For example, God’s love brings peace to us as we reflect on the greatest expression of His love in the death of His son on the cross (Rom. 5:8; 8:31-39; 1 Jn. 4:10); God’s faithfulness to His promises gives us hope as we consider our tendencies toward unfaithfulness (1 Cor. 1:4-9; 10:13); and God’s sovereignty comforts us as we encounter fiery ordeals, for we know that God is in control and works all things for our good (Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:25-34; 10:27-31).
Jeremiah 9:23,24 “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindess, judgment [or justice], and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the LORD.”
Comment: Wisdom, strength, and wealth are nothing apart from knowing God. True wisdom, true strength, and true wealth are found in God through Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3). We must further understand that the wisdom, strength, and possessions that we do have are from the Lord, and therefore praise and thanksgiving are due to Him (Rom. 11:36). The lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness that God exercises is what He expects His people to exercise.
2 Peter 1:2-4 “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Comment: The Christian life consists of continually growing in our knowledge of God and Christ. His power in us enables us to live in godliness, which is according to this knowledge of God, and we do so by standing on the gospel promises (2 Cor. 1:18-22).