Colossians 1:9-10 — For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.
Philippians 1:9 — And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,
2 Corinthians 8:1 — Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
I had a few insights while I was sitting in church this morning, listening to my friend Charlie deliver a message on Paul’ s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12. In the short passage, Paul prays many things for the believers in the Greek town of Colossae, located on the Mediterranean coast across from Turkey (Asia Minor). But foremost of all, he prays that they will have the knowledge of God. In Colossians 1:9-10, he reveals the dualistic nature to the knowledge of God. What does dualistic mean? It means that there are two components to our gaining the knowledge of God. First, we gain insight directly from Him. If you desire to understand something you read, hear, experience, etc. simply ask God. He is pleased to grant you insight into that matter. I find that these come in the “ah-ha!” moments of life, when we’re reading the Bible and suddenly “get it.” As a Bible teacher, I cannot tell you how exciting it is for me when a student first grasps hold of a concept they had been wrestling with, in some cases, for years.
God is pleased to grant us the knowledge of Him as we study and listen, seeking to know Him. In fact, this is one of the functions of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, Asia Minor, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Of the apostles, Paul writes, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.’ The Holy Spirit gives us insights about the Godhead — the Father, Son and the Spirit Himself. He speaks to our hearts and our brains, hopefully, interpret to turn on that intellectual light bulb.
But head knowledge is not enough. It is only one facet of the knowledge of God. Remember that the knowledge of God is dualistic, it has more than one component. And neither component can be separated from the other. Both are needed in order for understanding and wisdom in relation to God to be complete.
The second component is walking knowledge. It is the knowledge we gain through obedience and experience, doing good works and acting in love. Paul’s prayer for the Colossian church is that do good works and bear fruit and — as they are doing so — they will grow in the knowledge of God. In this sentence, grow and good work are linked. There are elements of God’s being that cannot be understood outside of personally interacting with God’s creation, especially doing good works to people. I can think of no greater way to disciple someone than to personally take them out into the world and serve the Lord together. Being on mission for God is a great way to learn about Him.
And so there is head knowledge and there is walking knowledge and the two go hand-in-hand. I can teach someone to love their neighbor but in order for it to sink in you have to, well, love your neighbor. Soaking up knowledge can be fun to do, especially if you have a good teacher, but if all you do is listen and read, then you are not living the life God intends for you to live. In fact, you are living in contrast to the example of Jesus. Our Lord didn’t walk up to a blind man and sit down, saying, “Verily, verily I say unto you. Being blind is tough. This poor fellow here seems to have it rough. Let me tell you all about blindness…” NO! He walked up to the man, said, “Do you want to see?” and restored the man’s sight! He had already taught his disciples about the kingdom of God and now they were seeing it in practice — Jesus had come to restore the broken and free the captive and give sight to the blind. He was Isaiah 61 in practice.
What you do with the either component of the knowledge of God determines the validity of the other in your life. Do you want to learn? Awesome! Learn! But if you don’t practice it, your learning will be incomplete. You’ll get spiritually fat. Do you want to help the poor? Awesome! Help! But if all you do is serve you’ll never understand why you serve. You’ll get spiritually disillusioned.
So do you want to know God? Do you want to understand his will? Learn from Him and follow His lead. In doing so you will learn more about the Lord than you ever thought possible.