WHAT CAN YOU KNOW?


"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that we have eternal life . . . And if WE KNOW that He hears us, whatever we ask, WE KNOW that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him . . . WE KNOW that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. WE KNOW that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. And WE KNOW that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that WE MAY KNOW Him who is true . . . " (1 John 5:13-21, NKJV)

Devotion 3 of  32


THERE ARE HIGHER EXAMPLES

The knowledge which is required in the salvation of men does not have its roots in this world, but in faith. A fallen world cannot provide any valid and beneficial knowledge pertaining to God. The domain of academia is too small. Its ceiling is too low, and its breadth is too restricted. When it comes to the things of God, the intellectual bag of worldly wisdom is full of holes, and is like a broken cistern that can hold no water.

But there is no need for us to go to such paradigms to show the inferiority of philosophical language language that moves men to speak of things with which they are fundamentally unfamiliar. We have the Old Covenant as a God-ordained example of the need for something more than information and mere human reasoning. In the Law, precise instruction was given. The details were remarkable, providing examples, explanation and other factors required for human reasoning. The outcome of obeying these ordinances was given: "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which IF A MAN DO, he shall live in them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5). And again, "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.  (Deu 28:1-2).

The penalties for not consistently doing EVERYTHING that was commanded was equally clear: "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be . . . Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out" (Deut 28:15-19).

There was perfect clarity in both the blessings and the cursings, with no ambiguity in either. Summarizing the emphasis of the Law, which comprised the words of the covenant, the Spirit declares, "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:20).

NO SAVING POWER

This "knowledge," however, possessed no saving power. It could not raise men out of the horrible pit into which sin thrust them. There was no recovery power in it. Nor, indeed, were the words of the Old Covenant attended with power to obey. That is why this particular expression ("By the Law is the knowledge of sin") is preceded by these words, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." The knowledge was genuine. The information contained in it was precise, coming from God Himself. The people knew ABOUT God. They had a revealed base of knowledge concerning human conduct. Yet there as no justifying power in it. All of that information had no power to impart a new heart, change the character, or produce saving hope.

This is not the type of knowledge delineated in the text I have chosen for these devotions. Nor, indeed, is it the kind chronicled in the New Covenant, i.e., "they shall all KNOW ME, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jer 31:34). Such knowledge was not integral to the Old Covenant. However, it is part and parcel of the New Covenant. In Christ Jesus we have a higher form of knowledge.

THE SCRIBES AND THE PHARISEES

An academic knowledge of Scripture is certainly valid knowledge. However, it has no sanctifying power. This valid, yet lower, form of knowledge can be mastered by men in the flesh at least that appears to be the case. Just as king Agrippa was an "expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews" (Acts 26:3), so the Scribes and Pharisees were expert in the text and ordinances of the Law. For this reason, and this reason alone, Jesus said they sat "in Moses' seat" (Matt 23:2). Their expertise in the Law was so minute, that Jesus said, "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do" (23:3).

Yet, that knowledge was not sufficient to extricate the soul from sin. Thus, He continued, "but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (23:3-4). On one occasion, certain of the Pharisees and Herodians, both experts in the text of Scripture, thought to snare Jesus with a thorny question. His response to them was, "Do ye not therefore err, because ye KNOW NOT the scriptures, neither the power of God?"  (Mark 12:24). They could no doubt have quoted many Scriptures, and given some learned disquisitions concerning God's power. However, they would have been talking from their heads, not their hearts. They had no living acquaintance with the God of Scripture and power, and hence Jesus said they did not know either Scripture nor the power of God. They could use neither profitably, and were strangers to both from the standpoint of experience.

I have no doubt that the Scribes and Pharisees would blend very well with the theological institutions of our day. Bible Colleges and Seminaries would probably be glad to have such professed experts among them. But Jesus said to beware of the teaching of such people those whose knowledge was confined to this world even though they were acquainted with the text of scripture (Matt 16:6). Those whose knowledge is limited to academics do not, however, have any real utility in the matter of salvation, nor were they suitable examples to be followed. Even Satan and his dark hosts have that kind of knowledge

PRAYER POINT: Father, through Jesus Christ, I thank You for providing a knowledge that reaches into the heart, bringing such acquaintance with Yourself that I am both encouraged and empowered to walk in the light.

Tomorrow: A DOUBLE PORTION