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: [1] to know a thing and [2] 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.

Please join the conversation. Your feedback is invaluable to this blog.

What Delights The Father’s Heart?

In the film, Into the Forest, two young women live with their single father in a remote wooded area during a cataclysmic failure of the world’s electric and cellular power. One awful day the sisters hear their father’s scream in the woods. They rush to his aid and helplessly watch him bleed to death from a chain saw accident. As his life ebbs away, he implores his girls, “Take care of each other.” With his last breath he whispers, “Love one another.”  Continue reading

Unveiling the Mystery of God

We puzzle over those well-known mysteries such as UFO’s, the Loch Ness Monster, lost Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, and the identity of Jack the Ripper. They are still unsolved, but there is one mystery that isn’t. St. Paul cited “the mystery of God [Gk: mysterium o Theos] 19 times in his writings, six times in Ephesians alone. But what is this secret of God? Continue reading

Good P.R. Benefits the Church’s Mission

….have a good reputation of those outside the church.” I Timothy 3:7

For any enterprise, nothing contributes more to its success than a good reputation.  Corporations spend billions to enhance their public image and public relations.  Some, like Exxon,  lost billions because of bad P.R,

How does today’s Church stack up in that department? Do we have the respect and favor of the man on the street? Does he even pay any attention to us? If he did would he be receptive to our message? Does he view us as concerned with people?  Does he see our unity or our divisions? Do we come across as loving or judgmental? Continue reading


I’ve been reading the best-selling book The Harbinger because friends are asking me about it. The error made by the author, Jonathan Cahn, is a common one. He cites and uses Bible prophecy addressed to Israel (Isaiah 9:10-12), and applies it to the U.S.

A well-known example of this error is a popular and well-meaning movement among Christians which called “If My People.” The goal was to call America to repentance and revival. Now that was a good thing, of course. But it isn’t America or any political entity that God calls to revival. It is a call to a spiritual entity, the Church of Jesus Christ. This movement used as their authority, II Chronicles 7:14.”If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray…..I will heal their land.”
God Bless America. When we sing this fine song, we do well to remember it is a prayer to God, not a statement that the USA is especially blessed by Him. Do we find find any passage in Scripture that clearly shows the USA is God’s chosen—that we are called by God’s name as Israel was? Has our history shown us to be an especially godly nation, ever?

Knowing how we clung to the evil of slavery when every other western nation had rejected it;  knowing how we have unjustly abused both Native and African Americans; knowing that only through the bloodiest civil war in history did we finally declare that slavery was not OK; knowing we banished God from our schools and other institutions–knowing all this, can we honestly believe God especially favors the USA?

Were the founding fathers believers?  The leading framers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence,  Franklin, Jefferson and Madison, were deists, not Christians. They believed God was far removed from human affairs–, that he wound up his creation like a clock and then abandoned it.

Is the USA the New Israel? When the Apostle Peter wrote, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (NASB) is he describing the U.S? Of course not. He describes the church, the body of Christ—a spiritual entity not a political one. Israel is a type of the church, not of our nation or any nation.

This unfortunate error—believing the U.S. is special, is termed chauvinism or jingoism, words derived from actual individuals who held that their land was superior in some way.  It was this belief that caused 19th century France to plunge Europe into horrendous warfare for 12 bloody years. It was this error by the German people, who proudly sang, Deutschland Uber Alles (Germany Over All) that birthed the horrors of two world wars and the Jewish holocaust.

We need to abandon this belief the the U.S. is special to God unless it can be proven in some way. We do know that Jesus loves and favors his church. Can we pray instead that God’s people, His church, will turn back to Christ and once again   become a vital force in the world. It was the church of Jesus Christ that turned the Roman world right-side-up, causing them to abandon the evils of paganism, slavery and entertainments of death. It was a vital Christian faith that pushed for England to reject slavery and the exploitation of children. The church can be great once more.  Lord, do it again.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated.