that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:5-7)
From as far back as Eden, mankind has had a hunger for knowledge. It’s what Satan tickled in the garden to get Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. What the fruit was isn’t really relevant, although there are numerous debates and various suggestions, all of which end up detracting from the real issue – that there is an ongoing conflict within all of us between this hunger for knowledge and the ways of God. It is a conflict that is rooted in that between the power of self and the power of God, and which manifests in mankind’s perpetual rebellion against God in one way or another.
The whole thing is not very hard to understand. We have the Kingdom of God on one side and the kingdom of darkness of the other. Satan fell from heaven because he desired something unattainable – he desired to be like God – and he is utterly devoted to one single purpose, which is to seduce mankind into the same rebellion. The driving need within man to have and knowledge is one of the main means by which he achieves this.
Like most things, knowledge is not inherently ‘evil.’ It’s what we do with it that is. In fact, knowledge is valuable. It helps us to grow, mature, lead good lives, make right decisions and serve God effectively. This is because knowledge is the first step towards wisdom, which is essentially the practical application of wisdom. This is confirmed by the fact that a student is often required to acquire both book knowledge and practical experience in the field in order to complete a qualification. Knowledge without practical application is of no relevance. Having knowledge without having the wisdom to use it well is both pointless and dangerous.
We all know people who know the Bible ‘inside out.’ They can quote chapter and verse, they spout docrine and expound theology, but we see little of the fruits expected of one with this level of knowledge. This is because they possess knowledge only. Their obsession has been with getting the Word not getting to know the Word. There is a very powerful difference between the two which is fundamental to our faith.
Getting the Word means simply acquiring it. The focus is essentially self-gratification. The Bible becomes a source of knowledge rather than a source of life. Knowing the Word is basically a cerebral activity. We accumulate knowledge for it’s own sake, and for the sense of pride and accomplishment that so often accompanies this kind of intellectual achievement. Getting the Word is a kind of personal challenge, a drive to excel. It’s based, like the story of the Tower of Bable, on two simple words: ‘Let us.’
Getting to know the Word is exactly the opposite. It involves using intellectual knowledge to build spiritual wisdom. It acknowledges the source as God. It recognises that the Word is actually Christ, the Living Word, and that the wisdom it brings is much deeper and higher than any earthly knowledge could ever provide. Getting to know the Word involves a way of life. It is not something we acquire but something we live. It involves giving and surrender, a yielding to the power of God rather than our own self-focused needs.
The real lesson contained in the Bible – in each and every single word, event or parable – is that God is so much bigger than we could ever hope to be. We pride ourselves on our scientific advances and achievements, yet we have only begun to scratch the surface of this vast, immeasurable miracle called Creation. In our pursuit of knowledge, we exclude God. We focus on science and our intelligence, and imagine that we have the ability to reach for what we will never hope to understand.
Science is good, in and of itself. It provides all kinds of benefits and has helped thousands, if not millions, of people around the world. Like everything else, our intellect and ability to acquire knowledge is a God-given gift intended for good. The problem lies in man’s propensity to promote our own abilities. Instead of giving us revelation of the awesome power and majesty of our Creator, we allow the pursuit of science to drive a wege between us. Science – the great gift intended to reveal more of God’s nature and draw us deeper into right relationship with Him – is now used by mankind to justify and explain why we don’t need God.
This is the ultimate human tragedy – that we use the very tools He has given us to justify our rebellion. I personally believet this will be the reason for so many falling away in the great apostasy that is coming – their faith is built on knowledge and not on wisdom. True wisdom is the spiritul application of knowledge. It sees everything in the light of the power of God inherent in His Word. Knowledge lives in the head and wisdom lives in the heart, and that’s a critical and dangerous difference.
Consider this for a moment. In a place of stress in which difficult decisions need to be made, how often do we make our decision and that’s that? Usually, the various options will churn around in our minds, the various possibilities and scenarious changing constantly, and what we think is right one moment feels completely wrong the next. Reasoning points us in one direction this morning, but by evening it seems ludicrous and even downright dangerous. What appeared simple and logical today, by tomorrow seems fraught with difficulty, unseen obstacles and doubt.
All this is because the mind, basically, is a fickle thing. It’s subject to ‘inside influences’ like our own fears, irrational doubts and insecurities. But it’s also vulnerable to ‘outside influences’ such as the opinions of others and even the interference of the devil and his cohorts. How often have we made up our minds, only to find ourselves back in confusion after talking to a friend or after that weird dream that seemed so real? Knowledge of the Word lives in the head, and is constantly battered and eroded by these other things.
We can know the entire Bible from cover to cover, but if it’s only in the head it’s essentially worthless. In fact, it can even be used against us – Satan’s temptation of both Eve and Jesus are only two examples. Knowledge can and often is our greatest weakness, because we slide into the confident assumption that we have what we need. Our faith is built entirely on what we know intellectually.
To have wisdom, we must of course first acquire the knowledge. We could say that in some ways, the route to the heart is through the head. But simple knowledge excludes the essential ingredient that sets the Bible apart from any other book, and that is the power of God it contains. That power is essentially the Living Word, Christ Himself. He is the life in the Word of God, the vital seed that takes root and grows and ultimately brings forth fruit. In getting to know the Word, we take what we acquire and He applies His power to move it from the head to the heart. The focus, in acquiring the Word, is simply as a means to get to know the Word. Knowledge is a tool only. It is the bus, not the destination.
Excluding the awesome, omnipotent, almighty power of God leaves us on shaky ground. We build on a faith that excludes the fundamental nature of God, which is that He is vast beyond imagining. It limits our ability to believe to what we are able to achieve, either in fact or vision. Our faith is built on what we know with our heads, and that can neither compare nor compete with the full reality of God. And this kind of faith – which basically contains a subtle undertone of self-reliance, on what we know – is not real faith at all. In fact, it’s a form of rebellion. Denying the full revelation of God is rebellion, and the faith built on this will not stand in the trial.
Wisdom is the acknowledgement and inclusion of this undeniable power, whether it makes sense on an intellectual level or not. This is the faith we need – the kind of faith that sees the world coming down about our ears, but knows that the same power that parted the Red Sea or snatched Elijah up in heaven’s chariot is still at work. It’s the same power that enables us to smile in the storm or rejoice in our tribulation. It’s the same faith that looks past the calamity and knows that all things work to our good, because we love Him and He is faithful.
We need to understand that the principles of the Kingdom are very simple. If we deny the full power of God in our faith, we are raising up our knowledge above who He really is. Anything raised up against the full knowledge of God is rebellion. Faith built on rebellion will fall. It is a subtle seduction, one wielded equally well by the devil, by the world and even by the flesh. The constant desire to acquire knowledge has an insidious purpose: Knowledge is power. That’s a familiar deception. It’s a subtle perversion of the truth and it works almost every time. Knowledge is God’s to give, and it can never replace who He is.
Creator God, Your power brought this universe into being and Your will sustains it. Remind us, Lord, that our skill and knowledge is nothing compared to You. Help us to live according to Your will, to use the gifts You give us to grow in our knowledge of You and Your awesome power. Help us always to see everything in the light of You, to know our place and to rejoice in Your Word, and build our faith on always, ever, only on You.