The Christian Graces: Knowledge
Courage without direction will become cruel, vociferous, reckless, and finally, destructive.
This is why the apostle Peter lists “knowledge” as the second of the seven Christian Graces. Zeal without knowledge is useless. It must have guidance and direction. It needs a compass to direct it in the way that it should go. This was one of the primary problems with the Jews in Paul’s time. Remember what he wrote in Romans 10:2-3? He said, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of 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.” Because they rejected knowledge (Hosea 4:6) they had no idea how to properly channel their energies in service to God. Paul, of course, could give expert testimony to this because his unguided zeal caused him to make havoc of the church before his conversion (1 Tim. 1:13). However, knowledge redirected his zeal, and he became ready to die for the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13).
The knowledge that Peter mentions is not the initial knowledge that produces faith and brings one to Christ. Rather, it is the continued spiritual education that produces perfection and maturity in the child of God (Eph. 4:13). Peter referenced it previously in 1 Peter 2:2 when he said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.” The Hebrew Christians were scolded because they were not in pursuit of this knowledge. They ought to have been able to handle the “meatier” items of God’s word but they had not grown to the point that enabled them to digest it. “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14). The continual acquisition of knowledge is vital to our spiritual well-being. It satisfies our spiritual appetites, and makes us fruitful in the service of the King (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Pet. 1:8). How important it is for us to seek the law of the Lord, and do it (Ezra 7:10)!
In a world of skepticism and doubt, it is important to note that the pursuit of knowledge is not only necessary, it is possible. God created the mind of man with the ability to know reality. Jesus plainly said, “…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Paul admonished that we “…by ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). The idea that we cannot know the truth is destructive and false. In fact, it is the absence of knowledge that has always been destructive to God’s people (c.f. Hosea 4:6). No one can live a faithful Christian life without knowing God, and His will. Such knowledge will enable us to escape the pollutions of this world, and to enjoy the abundant life (2 Pet. 2:20; John 17:3; 10:10).
The more we know about God and His expectations for our life, the more we understand and are able to make application. As virtue grows out of faith we gain this knowledge or insight. As Paul said in Ephesians 1:18, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Further knowledge causes us to “abound….in all judgment, they ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ...” (Phil. 1:9-11). Through knowledge we are able to be the kind of people that God wants us to be!