Now Is the Time2 Corinthians 5:1 – 6:2Theme: The urgency of the Gospel.This week’s lessons remind us that we are not guaranteed a tomorrow.
LessonThis week we will be studying a long passage containing two separate sections. In the first verse of each of those sections, we find the words, we know.
2 Corinthians 5:1 says, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God….” Then in verse 11 we read, “Since then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” That introduces us to a theme that ties these two sections together, the theme of Christian knowledge.
There are different ways of knowing, of course. Some of our knowledge is by what we would call “intuition.” There are instances where we just sense that a situation is not right, and later we find out that that was the case.
There is also knowledge that comes by experience. You learn by experience that if you mishandle tools you are going to get hurt.
Then there is knowledge that comes by research. We investigate a particular area. We test out hypotheses. We see what works. And from that we gain knowledge.
What is the basis of our knowledge in Christianity? Are we able to claim knowledge the same way as Paul did? The answer is no. The kind of knowledge we have in Christianity comes by revelation, and it is based on the character of God. In the ninth chapter of Luke we find a story in which the Lord Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life” (Luke 9:18-19).
Then Jesus directed his question directly to the disciples. He asked them, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:15-16). Jesus responded to Peter by telling the disciples that Peter had not arrived at his understanding through intuition, or by experimentation, or even by careful research. No, Peter’s knowledge had come from God. Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17).
That is the basis of the Christian’s knowledge. Spiritual knowledge does not come to us in some mystical moment when we feel especially close to God. It is on the basis of the written revelation contained in the Bible.
We find out that Peter himself knew that truth because of something he wrote in his second epistle. He wrote, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). Peter knew because he had been with Jesus in the days of his flesh. Peter was with Jesus on the mountain when he was transfigured. Furthermore, he had heard a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” All of that combined to indicate that, through Jesus, God was revealing himself in human flesh. Yet, in spite of all he had personally seen, Peter added, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:19-21).
We would think that if anything were certain, it would be seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. Yet Peter based his claims on the revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures. When we talk about the Gospel today, it is on that basis. We come to this Bible as the Word of God. Our knowledge is not that which comes out of the experience or the heart of man. It is that which God has revealed to us in our own language in propositions that we can understand.
What sort of knowledge is necessary for growing in the Christian life?
How does a Christian gain knowledge about spiritual matters?
Why do we have even greater opportunity to know God than did those who physically walked with Jesus?