Why This Quest?
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceived himself.(Galatians 6:3)
Before we start to ascend the mountain in our study to know God, we need to stop and ask ourselves a very fundamental question- a question, indeed, that we always ought to put to ourselves whenever we embark on any line of study in God’s Holy Book. The question concerns our own motives and intentions as students. We need to ask ourselves: what is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have got it?
The fact we have to face is this: that if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens.
For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, “‘Knowledge’ puffs up….If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2). To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception.
We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it. There can be no spiritual health without doctrinal knowledge; but it is equally true that there can be no spiritual health with it if it is sought for the wrong purpose and valued by the wrong standard. In this way, doctrinal study really become a danger to spiritual life, and we today, no less than the Corinthians of old, need to be on our guard here.
Why do we go to church and why do we listen to preaching and why do we engage in Bible study? Is is solely to learn more or to grow in our knowledge about God?
I suppose one could read all the books on marriage and attend all the seminars and workshops offered about marriage and still have an unsuccessful marriage. One could read all Doctor Spock has to say about raising children and still fail as a parent. One could read fully a manual or instruction guide about how to repair the car but it still won’t run.
What do all these have in common? When our children were small and Sherry had been married only a few years, we were pastoring. In the church was a lady in her 40s, unmarried with no children. I have no doubt she was well meaning and that she really cared for us. Almost every Sunday she would share with us the latest thing she had read on marriage and parenting. She wanted to give us lessons about how to have a great marriage and how to be excellent parents. Her motives were pure but the fault lay in the fact that all she had was knowledge. Now I’ve learned that in life t what’s learned in the classroom doesn’t always work out in real life like the case studies. One must apply knowledge gained to life’s situations and most of the time through experience(trial and error) an understanding and application of knowledge can be seen.
James gives us a simple but great understanding of the need to move beyond merely gaining knowledge. Listen to his words:
But prove yourselves doers of the word [actively and continually obeying God’s precepts], and not merely listeners [who hear the word but fail to internalize its meaning], deluding yourselves [by unsound reasoning contrary to the truth]. For if anyone only listens to the word without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets what he looked like. But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience].
What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective]. But someone may say, “You [claim to] have faith and I have [good] works; show me your [alleged] faith without the works [if you can], and I will show you my faith by my works [that is, by what I do].” You believe that God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? Was our father Abraham not [shown to be] justified by works [of obedience which expressed his faith] when he offered Isaac his son on the altar [as a sacrifice to God]? You see that [his] faith was working together with his works, and as a result of the works, his faith was completed [reaching its maturity when he expressed his faith through obedience]. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ Abraham believed God, and this [faith] was credited to him [by God] as righteousness and as conformity to His will,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man (believer) is justified by works and not by faith alone [that is, by acts of obedience a born-again believer reveals his faith]. In the same way, was Rahab the prostitute not justified by works too, when she received the [Hebrew] spies as guests and protected them, and sent them away [to escape] by a different route? For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead.
Paul also addresses this as well:
But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear]. For people will be lovers of self [narcissistic, self-focused], lovers of money [impelled by greed], boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane, [and they will be] unloving [devoid of natural human affection, calloused and inhumane], irreconcilable, malicious gossips, devoid of self-control [intemperate, immoral], brutal, haters of good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of [sensual] pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep far away from them. For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate morally weak and spiritually-dwarfed women weighed down by [the burden of their] sins, easily swayed by various impulses, always learning and listening to anybody who will teach them, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:1-7
While our works can never save or justify us, they are the outflow of our faith and knowledge of God. In the corporate environment of today, we are taught to hold knowledge and not share it lest we find ourselves replaced with the very one we trained. We are taught to hold a little bit back for that makes us valuable. I suppose that’s fine for the corporate world but our gaining of the knowledge of God has a very different purpose. All that we learn and know is for the purpose of sharing with others. Even the new believer whose knowledge may be simple and crude(once I was blind, now I see) has the responsibility and privilege of sharing that knowledge. Most churches struggle finding teachers and I wonder if the reason is that of lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to give away what we know.
Two lessons: my purpose for learning is to be able to teach and the more I teach the more I learn.
It is not enough for us to know, it’s important that all know.
The people who walk in [spiritual] darkness Will see a great Light; Those who live in the dark land, The Light will shine on them. For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given; And the government shall be upon His shoulder, And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. There shall be no end to the increase of His government and of peace, [He shall rule] on the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From that time forward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
“Blessed (praised, glorified) be the Lord, the God of Israel, Because He has visited us and brought redemption to His people, And He has raised up a horn of salvation [a mighty and valiant Savior] for us In the house of David His servant— Just as He promised by the mouth of His holy prophets from the most ancient times— Salvation from our enemies, And from the hand of all who hate us ; To show mercy [as He promised] to our fathers, And to remember His holy covenant [the promised blessing], The oath which He swore to Abraham our father, To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, In holiness [being set apart] and righteousness [being upright] before Him all our days. “And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; For you will go on before the Lord (the Messiah) to prepare His ways; To give His people the knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins, Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise (the Messiah) from on high will dawn and visit us, To shine upon those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, To guide our feet [in a straight line] into the way of peace and serenity.”
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!
Dr. John Thompson