#56 KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

In John’s gospel Jesus stressed the importance of knowing. For example:

‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’ – 1:18.

‘You do not know me or my Father ... If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ – 8:19.

‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ – 8:32.

‘If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him’ – 14:7.

‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ – 17:3.

When Peter wrote his second letter, he seems to be remembering this critical importance of our knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter indicates, firstly, that ‘the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord’ is the source out of which, and through which, ‘grace and peace in abundance’ is ours – 1:2.

If no one has ever told us, if we have never learned of the mercy of God and the compassion of God, demonstrated in the sin-bearing, substitutionary death of his Jesus Christ his Son, we would have no idea at all about God’s grace and God’s peace:

We would think that God operates only the same way that we do – that good actions are rewarded and bad actions are punished.

We would think, as all human religions teach us to think – that God relates to us on the basis of our personal merit.

And we would have no certainty of our acceptance with God because we would have no assurance that we were actually good enough to meet his standards. Our consciences, operating on the basis of merit, and ignorant of mercy, would constantly plague us. We would contemplate standing before God filled with guilt and fear.

Only through true knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ are we assured that ‘grace’ is God’s operating principle for all who believe in Christ, and that ‘peace with God’ is the permanent result.

Secondly, Peter tells us that God’s ‘divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness’1:3.

Sometimes living for Jesus is difficult. The pressures to give in and give up are great – not only external pressures that make living for Jesus hard, but also the internal pressure of our own sinful hearts. And because we love God, this bothers us, and we want to do something about it.

Just like the Pharisees of old, many Christian preachers, teachers and writers, load heaps of commands and expectations upon Christians, expecting by their many repeated commands to live for Jesus that they will enable Christians to be more like Jesus.

In addition, many Christians read the Bible looking only for things God is telling them to do, thinking that by focusing on these commands they will be enabled to live godly lives.

But focusing on the commands does not work, except in a fearful, legalistic way. Here in his second letter, Peter tells us that it is not the commands, but the promises of God that enable us to live godly lives:

‘Through these’ (the knowledge of God’s glory and goodness) ‘he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires’ (1:4).

By God’s promises we are enabled to live as God wants us to live as our knowledge of him continues to cultivate appropriate changes and growth in our lives. The commands give clarity about how we ought to live, but it is the truth about our God and our Lord Jesus Christ that motivates and enables us to do so.

We cannot live for Jesus in our own strength, but as we contemplate our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God are accomplished (2Corinthians 1:20), our knowledge of him and what he has done for us increasingly influences what we believe and what we think and say and do (2Peter 1:3-8; see also 2Corinthians 3:18.) Genuine knowledge of God and of Jesus produces gradual change in our lives; absence of this change raises questions over our claim to know Christ (2Peter 1:8-10).

So Peter encourages us to add ‘knowledge’ (1:5), and to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (3:18). The more we know him, the more we know what he has done for us, the more we will be enabled by his Spirit to live to his glory.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2018