Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

Discipleship Series
by Rayola Kelley

Have you ever considered the different levels of knowledge that people might possess about a subject? In fact, if you consider knowledge, you will realize that knowledge has about four stages people can operate in. A good example of how these different stages work can be found with Jeannette, Krista and me in relationship to the computer.

When it comes to the computer, I have a love-hate relationship with mine. I know the computer as far as using a certain program, but my knowledge of it is quite limited. Jeannette’s knowledge of the computer goes beyond my limited understanding of it. For example, she works with the Internet and on a monthly basis puts together our newsletter. In fact, she was learning how to use the computer in her 50’s. I was impressed with the fact that she was willing to go into unknown technological territories that I would never dare to explore without major supervision.

Then there is Krista. Krista is our problem solver when it comes to the computer. She has managed to spare Jeannette and me from many emotional meltdowns when it has come to these technological wonders. Her ability to tread into problem areas of the computer has gained the awe and respect of both of us. She has done maintenance and repairs on our computers, as well as worked with various programs. She is the one who waded through the challenging process of learning how to do our website.

When Krista hits the end of her knowledge, or resolve, to solve a computer problem, we have a reliable computer technician who is ready to come in and save the day. This man is incredible. He not only knows how to put a computer together, but he understands the integral workings of those confusing, and sometimes touchy programs. Instead of showing any type of fear towards this blinking one-eyed monster, he swoops in and conquers it with incredible ease.

Knowledge is indeed a combination of many flowing rivers of facts, ideas, truths, or principles. These different rivers can occasionally merge into what we can refer to as understanding, but nevertheless, they each present their own challenges about issues and subjects confronting our lives. The level of knowledge we gain about a matter will determine how deep we tread into the waters of these rivers in regard to the subject.

For example, when it comes to the computer, I just want to get by. Granted, I have gone from getting my big toe wet to getting both feet wet, but I am not comfortable to wade any deeper into what I call the whirlpools of technology that surrounds the computer. As for Jeannette, she has waded deeper into the river. I would say she is knee deep as she slowly tests each new step in her attempt to explore new horizons. We both know of certain functionsof the computer, but we probably will not wade any further into what appears an overwhelming river of information that eventually blurs into mass confusion for us. For Krista, she knowsabout the computer because she is willing to get in over her head in this river. The result is that she has managed to gain greater knowledge as she finds herself experiencing new depths in this area. For our technician, he knows the computer. He not only swims the raging river with ease, and skillfully floats the areas where there are dangerous whitewater rapids, but at times he even occasionally appears to walk on water.

When we consider the four levels of knowledge in which people can operate in regard to a matter, we must acknowledge that such levels are based on experience. Experience in the Bible is associated with tribulation (Romans 5:3-4). In other words, if you are not willing to wade away from the comfort zones of what you know to experience the uncertainty of the frightening depths of the unknown in regard to something, you will never come to theknowledge or understanding of a matter. In summation, you must risk drowning in such a river before you can come to a place where you will actually know something as a truth or a reality.

To me, drowning in the river of technology is not my forte. In other words, it is not what I value or desire to know; therefore, it has never been my main emphasis. I would rather spend my energy elsewhere, while trusting those who are more equipped in this area to handle the details and challenges of the computer world.

The Bible also speaks of these four areas of knowledge when it comes to God. Some people know of God, but they remain fools about who He is. They do not care to tread away from their comfort zones of bigoted, limited opinions that they have developed towards Him. Granted, they may possess some type of theology towards Him or have some doctrine about the religious life associated to Him, but such knowledge is controlled according to their ignorance about God. Their lives of unbelief reveal that they do not really believe the God of the Bible exists in His state of holiness and majesty (Psalm 53:1).

There are those who have some knowledge of God due to religious experiences. Occasionally, this type of person will take his or her limited knowledge and become zealous in it. However, the Apostle Paul made this statement about such an individual in Romans 10:2-3: “For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Clearly, these individuals are taking their limited knowledge of God and trying to establish some type of righteous life before Him. However, such a life would be based on fleshly understanding and attempts, and not according to their faith in Christ, who serves as the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

The third type of knowledge in regard to Christ involves those who are striving to come to the knowledge of Jesus. In other words, these are the people who are willing to go into the depths of the unknown to explore the possibilities of the example, character, and work of Jesus Christ. They are not just content to know of Him, they want to know about Him in a greater ways. The Apostle Peter talks about such a person in his second epistle.

The Apostle Peter sets up the environment that must be present to come to the true knowledge of Jesus in chapter 1 of his second epistle. He tells us that it is through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus, our Lord that grace and peace will be multiplied to us. He informs us that according to the divine power of Christ, and through the knowledge of Him, we have been given all of the necessary elements that pertain to godliness and life, especially since we have escaped the corruption of the world. The qualities that ensure that we are not barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ are: faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (love).

Notice how knowledge is sandwiched between virtue (character) and temperance (self-control) in the qualities named by Peter. If character is absent in knowledge, a person will fail to handle it properly. Knowledge applied in a proper way becomes wisdom. Therefore, knowledge that is void of character or wisdom will have no discipline or temperance to learn the lessons of life. Learning lessons points to experiencing a matter first hand, which reminds us that tribulation works patience in us, and patience allows us to experience the source behind the hope of life (Romans 5:3-4).

This brings us to the subject of knowing God. In order to know God, you must personally experience Him. Clearly, experience is not a matter of having a general awareness of Him, you must actually personally encounter Him. You may have information about Him, but information has no life to it. You may have facts about Him, but they can lack dimension. You may have ideas about Him, but they are often limited to personal conclusions or religious experiences. You may possess certain truths about God, but without the Spirit to connect these truths, they will not take on any real depth that has the capacity to bring transformation and change. You may understand the principles of God, but if you fail to walk them out, they can become points of spiritual darkness and judgment.

The difference between knowing of or about God and knowing Him is revelation. Revelation points to an unveiling or uncovering of a matter. Scripture speaks of a mystery that has been veiled in the Old Testament by carnal ordinances until the time of reformation would allow it to be revealed (Hebrews 9:9-10). Granted, there was a figure present when it came to these practices that cast a shadow, but the outline was obscured from the physical eyes and proved to be in the far distance to those who could spiritually see this shadow (Colossians 2:14-17).

Twenty centuries ago this mystery was unveiled in a person by the name of Jesus Christ. However, the mystery was still veiled by His humanity. People could physically see, hear, touch, and encounter Jesus, but for many they still could not recognize who He was. His identity remained veiled to many individuals in the following generations to the present one. Although the fullness of deity was present in bodily form, it still remained veiled. His ministry as the Anointed One became a point of great contention, and His work as Savior became a point of mocking and unbelief.

How is Christ unveiled to the believer? The Apostle Paul answers this question inColossians 3:3-4: “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words, By which, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit who unveils the reality of Christ. He is the one who leads us into all truth about Jesus. It is through revelation that the Holy Spirit brings reality to the Person of Jesus. Instead of being a concept, belief, idea, or theology, He actually becomes living when the Holy Spirit connects scriptural knowledge about Jesus to the reality of the depths of His infinite, righteous character, the heights of His incredible redemption and ways, and the width of His unwavering commitment that brought Him into complete submission to the will and plan of the Father.      

Without the revelation of the Spirit of God, the Written Word remains a point of knowledge that proves to be lifeless and powerless to impact our lives. The Apostle Paul makes reference to this in 2 Corinthians 3:6: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”

Knowledge alone gives us a limited understanding of Jesus on an intellectual level. However, such understanding becomes stagnant because it never really develops past what it understands or manages to get into the spirit to bring forth life. Revelation brings us to a greater understanding about Jesus. Such understanding is not limited by some intellectual conclusion, but is open ended to explore greater aspects about His character, example and work. Knowledge involves processing facts into information, but revelation begins with faith that allows the Holy Spirit to unveil Christ in greater ways. In fact, real faith begins at the point of darkness where a person has come to the end of personal understanding about a matter, but still chooses to believe and trust the character of God through such darkness. It is at the point of such faith, that the light of revelation often breaks through the darkness to unveil greater depths and truths about the Lord, making Him real and personal.

The challenge with revelation is that it serves as a great test. When the unveiling of Christ occurs, a person must make a determination to apply it or walk it out. If an individual fails to properly apply or walk out the revelation, it will turn into the darkness of unbelief. However, if a person assimilates the revelation into their lives, he or she will become more enlightened concerning God and His ways.

The writer of Hebrews gives us this insight about being spiritually enlightened in Hebrews 6:4-5. He actually identifies four aspects about this particular stage of understanding. He said that those enlightened have tasted of the heavenly gift. To taste something is to experience the flavor, texture and smell. As for the heavenly gift, it points to experiencing, or living, the life of Christ in us, which is eternal, complete and satisfying.

The next aspect of the enlightened state is that a person has also been made a partaker of the Holy Spirit. To partake of the Holy Spirit implies one has participated with the Spirit to clearly establish this gift of life as they walk it out by faith. Such participation also points to experience.

The next aspect of this state of insight is that the person has tasted of the good Word of God. In other words, a person has partaken of or assimilated the milk (doctrine) and meat (righteousness) of the Word to ensure maturity. Once again, such a person is experiencing the washing of the Word to bring forth cleansing, the sharpness of it to penetrate and expose the inner man, the hammer of it to tear down that which is unacceptable, and the fire of it to purge that which is deemed unholy.

Finally, a person who has been enlightened has also tasted the power of the age or world to come. In other words, such people have experienced the promises of God, as they have kept their focus on their real destination of that which is heavenly and eternal. Notice how those who are enlightened have experienced God in different ways.

The question is do you simply possess knowledge of spiritual truths or have you been enlightened by the life of such truths through revelation? Do you know of Jesus or are you striving to come to the knowledge or understanding of Him as far as His Person, work and glory? Have you settled for your present comfortable, controllable conclusions, or beliefs about Him, or are you striving to always come higher in Him to explore Him in His glory in order to reach down into His depths to discover His immutable character and ways? In summation, has the living Son of God been revealed to you?