Gnosis: What You Know or Who You Know?
Does Paul Contradict Himself? It seems so at times, doesn’t it. For example, he writes “knowledge (gnosis) puffs up, [makes one arrogant] but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 1:8). Yet another time he prays for believers that we may increase in our knowledge (Eph 1:17; 4:13; Phil 3:8]. But then he adds, knowledge “of Him…”of the Son of Man…“of Christ.” We need to adjust our cultural mirror once more.
To the Eastern mind, there are two very distinct kinds of knowledge:  to know a thing and  to know a person. To the Chinese the distinction is so important they have a separate word for relational knowing [renshr] which means “be acquainted with”. We have no such word in English.
When We Appear Before Christ. Believers I have known, and maybe you have also, place great emphasis on doctrinal knowledge and statements of faith. Sometimes it feels they are requiring us to be ready to pass a doctrinal quiz when we appear before Christ. Yet the truth is, it isn’t “what we know” that qualifies us as Christians, it’s “who we know.” When the King divides the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, he never asks what they know or believe. Immediately he recognizes his own sheep from others, false believers, as goats.
“The greatest of these is love” For St. Paul, all of his great attainments and knowledge meant nothing. “I consider all these things as useless, in order that I may have an abiding knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord. [Phil. 3:8]. When I became a believer, a key phrase was, “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” We don’t hear that phrase so much anymore. But we do have a legion of books, classes and seminars to increase our biblical knowledge. One of the finest believers I ever met was a Taiwanese woman. Mrs. Chen could not read and had limited knowledge of the Bible. But she had a shining relationship with Christ and her witness helped launch a brand new church in her neighborhood.
How Shall the World Know Us—by our knowledge or by our love? Before his death Jesus gave the answer with his new covenant mandate: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Only then will “everyone recognize you as my disciples” (John 13: 34, 35). Yet the culture of our modern church leaves average Christians feeling they aren’t qualified to witness because, “I don’t know enough.” I repeat, is our witness our Bible knowledge or our love? The Apostle warned, ”Even if I have …all knowledge…and faith so as to move mountains, and have not love, I am nothing at all.”(I Cor 13:2) Love not only trumps spiritual gifts but also trumps knowledge and even faith, “Faith, hope, love, these three abide, but the greatest of these is love.”(I Cor 13:13)
Knowledge Puffs Up…Love Builds Up. I recently tried to find study materials on love. Most of the current books have to do with marital love. There was little available on how to cultivate our love for Christ and its corollary, our love for fellow believers.
Our next post will cover what the Greek New Testament has to say about how to cultivate loving relationships with Jesus and one another.
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