A Verbal Microcosm (4)
… for I know whom I have believed… 2 Timothy 1.12
The more you know
Some words, crucial for a proper understanding of Scripture and the life of faith, have become so overused or wrongly or glibly used that they have been emptied of their true Biblical meaning. One such word is “know.”
Think of the many ways this word is used in our day. In conversation we punctuate our offerings with, “You know?” We’re asking either “Do you understand?” or “Do you agree?” It’s a purely mental thing; we nod when someone says it, so that they’ll understand we’re still following along.
Or we might ask a friend about something in an effort to acquire more information: “Do you know how to get to this town?” “What do you know about this auto service shop?” “Do you know that guy over there?” Again, we’re just looking for more information, to be able to make a decision about something or someone.
Or, when talking about a matter, we might ask, “How do you know that?” In other words, what is the source of our friend’s information?
“Know” in our experience is typically related to “knowledge,” that is, to having information about a matter. Certainly, this is a valid use of “know.” But it doesn’t quite reach the thrust, scope, or quality which the Scriptures intend when this word is used. Indeed, the merely intellectual or cognitive aspect of “know” which we use today can fall very far short of what Paul intends in our text.
For example, in Matthew 22.29 Jesus said of the religious leaders of the day that they did not know the Scriptures. They brought up a question based on the Scriptures. They were the most Biblically knowledgeable people of their day! Yet Jesus said they did not know the Word of God. How could they know it but not know it at the same time?
Similarly, the apostle James indicated that the demons know God – know Him well enough to tremble before Him in fear (Jms. 2.19). Their knowledge about God leads them to a certain response in line with that knowledge, but it seems clear they don’t know God in the way Paul is using this term.
In Paul’s day, there were even some people who seemed to know everything about the Bible and Christian doctrine. But they only knew such matters intellectually; they were miles from the truth such knowing should produce (2 Tim. 3.6, 7).
So when Paul says, “I know whom I have believed”, is he merely saying, “Jesus? Yeah, sure. Know all about Him. Know how He lived. That He died and rose again. Know that He’s the Savior. Yep. I know Him”? Is Paul testifying merely to have certain valid information about Jesus? Or does to “know” Jesus mean more than that?
Paul’s knowledge of Jesus
For Paul, to “know” meant to identify, engage, partake of, commune with, and increase in a relationship of mutual selfless love. The word in our text is in a form that could be elaborated something like “I have come to know, and knowing is a permanent and pervasive condition in me.” It is the word typically used in Scripture to describe intimate relations between men and women, as in a husband knowing his wife sexually.
This sense of “know” goes far beyond just information. It engages the heart emotionally and at a depth of self-giving that mere head knowledge can not stir. This sense of “know” sinks a footing in the conscience, and makes a priority of securing and increasing in the intimacy and mutual giving such knowing requires.
Paul knew Jesus with such intensity, delight, conviction, experience, certainty, and spiritual vitality that he took as his mission in life to increase in knowing Jesus above anything and everything else (Phil. 3.7-11). Knowing Jesus this way was for Paul an exciting and sustaining experience of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4.6, 16-18). Knowing Jesus caused Paul to become more like Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-28). It emboldened him to bear witness to Jesus and to encourage all believers to grow in learning Jesus in this way (Eph. 4.17-24). Knowing Jesus was so exciting, so satisfying and delightful, so joyful and exhilarating and world-surpassing, that Paul could say it was better for him to die and to be in the very Presence of Jesus than to continue in this life – except for the mission God had given him of helping other believers know Jesus in this way (Phil. 1.21-26).
Nothing could move Paul from the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Not hostile opposition, stoning, beatings and whippings, or the prospect of execution. So firm was Paul in knowing Jesus, that he was persuaded nothing could ever separate him from Jesus’ love (Rom. 9.38, 39).
To know Jesus
To know Jesus like Paul is to enjoy a continuous, increasing, transforming, and renewing relationship with the living Christ. Such knowing begins in believing the Good News about Jesus and having Him send His Spirit to take up residence in us (Gal. 4.6). Knowing Jesus grows in the soul, where with the mind we see Jesus exalted in glory (Col. 3.1-3); with the heart we delight in and desire Jesus more than anything else (Phil. 3.7-17); and in our conscience Jesus becomes the promise, standard, and power for everything we do.
To know Jesus in this way is not merely to go through certain motions of Christianity – going to church, reading your Bible, being in a group, being a good person, and so forth. Those can help, to be sure; but they can also become ends in themselves, and they can never satisfy us in the way that knowing Jesus can.
Knowing Jesus as Paul did is to know yourself filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3.19), to experience Jesus increasing in and through you day by day (Jn. 3.30); it is to live in such a way that the hope of seeing Jesus informs all you do and say (1 Jn. 3.1-3; 1 Pet. 3.15), so that you sing of, boast about, obediently follow, and urge others to consider Jesus, that they might come to know him as you do.
“I know” – have engaged, become one with, am growing and increasing in, experience Him dwelling in and through me, delight and rejoice in, and can hardly wait to tell others about – “Whom I have believed.” Is this the way you know Jesus?
It can be.
1. Why is mere head knowledge about Jesus not enough to really know Him?
2. How would you describe your own experience of knowing Jesus?
3. How would you counsel a new believer to “grow in the grace and knowledge” of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3.18)?
Next steps – Today, tell someone you know about Jesus, about what you’re learning about Him, what He’s doing in you, what you’re hoping for from Him.
Our new book What in Heaven Is Jesus Doing on Earth? can help you in setting your mind on Christ. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.