Verse of the Day – Ephesians 4:15-16
…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
As the church grows the Body is growing up in Christ. This means of course that church growth starts with people coming to know Christ. To “know Christ” – as I look back through the devotions over the last few weeks I keep seeeing this phrase appearing in our studies. And I think that before we move on we need to make a point very clear. It is not enough to know about Christ. We must know Him. This is a personal, intimate relationship based on trust (faith) and love (obedience).
Often people today think that it is enough to know about God or about Christ or about the Bible. But those who only know about do not really know Jesus! Do you know the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus?
“In religion more than in any other field of human experience a sharp distinction must always be made between knowing about and knowing. The distinction is the same as between knowing about food and actually eating it. A man can die of starvation knowing all about bread, and a man can remain spiritually dead while knowing all the historic facts of Christianity. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’ (John 17:3) We have but to introduce one extra word into this verse to see how vast is the difference between knowing about and knowing. ‘This is life eternal, that they might know about thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’ That one word makes all the difference between life and death,for it goes to the very root of the verse and changes its theology radically and vitally.
“God made man in His own image and placed within him an organ by means of which he could know spiritual things. When man sinned that part of him died. ‘Dead in sin’ is a description not of the body nor yet the intellect, but of the organ of God-knowledge within the human soul. Now men are forced to depend upon another and inferior organ and one furthermore which is wholly inadequate to the purpose. I mean of course, the mind as the seat of his powers of reason and understanding.
“Man by reason cannot know God; he can only know about God. Through the light of reason certain important facts about God may be discovered. ‘Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.’ (Romans 1:19-20).
“Through the light of nature man’s moral reason may be enlightened, but the deeper mysteries of God remain hidden to him until he has received illumination from above. ‘But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14).
“When the Spirit illuminates the heart, then a part of the man sees which never saw before; a part of him knows which never knew before, and that with a kind of knowing which the most acute thinker cannot imitate. He knows now in a deep and authoritative way, and what he knows needs no reasoned proof. His experience of knowing is above reason, immediate, perfectly convincing, and inwardly satisfying.
“‘A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven’ (John 3:27). ‘A man can receive nothing.’ That is the burden of the Bible. Whatever men may think of human reason, God takes a low view of it. ‘Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? (1 Corinthians 1:20). Man’s reason is a fine instrument and useful within its field. It is a gift of God and God does not hesitate to appeal to it, as when He cries to Israel, ‘Come now, and let us reason together.’ (Isaiah 1:18). The inability of human reason as an organ of divine knowledge arises not from its own weakness but from its unfittedness for the task by its own nature. It was not given as an organ by which to know God.
“The doctrine of the inability of the human mind and the need for divine illumination is so fully developed in the New Testament that it is nothing short of astonishing that we should have gone so far astray from the whole thing. Fundamentalism has stood aloof from the liberal in self-conscious superiority and has on its own part fallen into error, the error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Spirit. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible taught but not Spirit taught. They conceive truth to be something which they can grasp with the mind. If a man holds to the fundamentals of the Christian faith he is thought to possess divine truth. But it does not follow. There is no truth apart from the Spirit. The most brilliant intellect may be imbecilic when confronted with the mysteries of God. For a man to understand revealed truth requires an act of God equal to the original act which inspired the text.
“‘Except it be given him from heaven.’ Here is the other side of the truth; here is the hope for all, for these words do certainly mean that there is such a thing as a gift of knowledge, a gift that comes from heaven. Christ taught His disciples to expect the coming of the Spirit of Truth who would teach them all things. He explained Peter’s knowledge of His Saviorhood as being a direct revelation from the Father in heaven. And in one of His prayers He Said, ‘I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’ ( Matthew 11:25).
“By ‘wise and prudent’ our Lord meant not Greek philosophers but Jewish Bible students and teachers of the Law. This basic idea, the inability of human reason as an instrument of God-knowledge, was fully developed in the epistles of Paul. The apostle frankly rules out every natural faculty as instruments for discovering divine truth and throws us back helpless upon the inworking Spirit. ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
“The passage just quoted is taken from Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians and is not lifted out of context nor placed in a setting which would distort its meaning. Indeed it expresses the very essence of Paul’s spiritaul philosophy and fully accords with the rest of the epistle, and I might add, with the rest of Paul’s writings as we have them preserved in the New Testament. That type of theological rationalism which is so popular today would have been wholly foreign to the mind of the great apostle. He had no faith in man’s ability to comprehend truth apart from the direct illumination of the Holy Spirit.
“I have just used the word rationalism. Otherwise stated, rationalism is confidence in the ability of the human mind to do that which the Bible declares that it was never created to do and consequently is wholly incapable of doing. Philosophical rationalism is honest enough to reject the Bible flatly. Theological rationalism rejects the Bible while pretending to accept it, and in so doing puts out both its eyes!
“From this mortal error fundamentalism is slowly dying. We have forgotten that the essence of spiritual truth cannot come to the one who knows the external shell of truth in his mind unless there is first a miraculous operation of the Spirit within the heart. Those overtones of religious delight which accompany truth when the Spirit illuminates it are all but missing from the church today. Consequently we have been forced to look elsewhere for our delights and we have found them in the dubious artistry of converted opera singers or the tinkling melodies of odd and curious musical arrangements. We have tried to secure spiritual pleasures by working upon fleshly emotions and whipping up synthetic feeling by means that are wholly carnal. And the total effect has been evil.
“Conservative Christians in this day are stumbling over this truth. We need to reexamine the whole thing. We need to learn that truth consists not in correct doctrine, but in correct doctrine plus the inward enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. We must declare again the mystery of wisdom from above. A re-preachment of this vital truth could result in a fresh breath from God upon a stale and suffocating orthodoxy.”
I think that is enough food for thought today. What do you think about that?
Links for Further Study
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