by William J. Stewart
Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel for
the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the
land: ‘There is no truth or mercy or knowledge
of God in the land.’ (Hosea 4:1)
The inspired prophet reveals for those who claimed to be the followers of God a severe charge which the Almighty had against them. Such a charge had gone out throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, revealing that the people of God sadly lacked knowledge of Him and His ways. Isaiah brings the same charge against His people (Isaiah 1:3; 5:13). Jeremiah also said knowledge of God was lacking among His people (Jeremiah 4:22; 5:4). From old time, it would seem that some of the people of God in one way or another, for some reason or another, lacked the knowledge they so desperately needed.
We need to consider ourselves today in this regard. The Old Testament Hebrews, for the most part, had to rely on their priests and leaders to share the Scriptures with them. Private copies of the Scriptures would be exceptionally rare. However, with the advent of the printing press, God’s word is readily available. So, one would think we shouldn’t have any issue with not knowing God’s word today, right? The sad truth is, we almost have Bibles coming out of our ears (if you have a smartphone, you have access to multiple versions of the Holy Writ), and despite this, we as a society are as ignorant of God’s word, if not more so, than Israel was. However, if we look even closer, not at our society, but at the people of God specifically, at ourselves, in many cases the charge levied against Israel still stands against Christians today. Despite having unfettered access to the Scriptures, many Christians do not know the book as they should.
Let’s consider some important facts for the child of God today about having knowledge of God and His word.
ADMONITION TO INCREASE IN KNOWLEDGE
In the New Testament, the Christian is admonished continually to increase in the knowledge of God’s word. To the brethren at Colosse, Paul wrote:
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God… (Colossians 1:9-10)
Paul recognized the need for Christians to be well grounded in the truth. He understood that the servant of God has to immerse himself in the will of God. His prayer focused on their knowledge and wisdom, which could only be achieved by spending time in Scripture.
Paul wrote to Timothy,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Paul’s statement recognizes the great knowledge available in God’s word, but without studying it properly, and applying it rightly, there is no benefit. So, we must be diligent in our approach to Bible study; we must handle it accurately, seeking to know what God has said—and then obey it.
HOW TO INCREASE KNOWLEDGE
It is good to realize the need to study the Bible, but useless if we do nothing about it. Thus, we need to find ways to effectively gain the knowledge of God. It will not just miraculously come upon us as some suppose, but requires a great deal of effort and commitment on our part. How will we gain this knowledge?
Notice Paul’s words to Timothy:
Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine … Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:13, 15-16).
Certainly, we understand Paul wrote these things to a preacher, but surely we can see the application to all of God’s people. If it is imperative for the one who addresses the assembly to prepare himself by reading and meditating on God’s word, all of us will benefit from doing the same. In fact, it will make his duty more joyful, as he will be sharing God’s word with those who are continually in the word, allowing for our study of the word to go beyond the basic principles and into the meat of the word. The more time we spend reading and studying in private, the more we will find ourselves benefiting from our public studies at the assembly.
Group studies are another great way to increase our knowledge of God’s word. Of the early Christians, we’re told they continued “daily with one accord in the temple” (Acts 2:46). Group studies throughout the week are great opportunities for us to grow in knowledge, as well as occasions to share our faith with friends and neighbours. How sad we don’t have more studies of this nature going on (note—if that sounds like an invitation for you to start up such a study—you’re right!).
INCREASE IN APPLICATION
I have studied with some folks who unfortunately enjoyed the attainment of knowledge, but failed to do anything with it. We studied, and studied, and studied, and studied … but there was no application of the knowledge. James wrote concerning the attainment of knowledge without employing it.
…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was (James 1:22-24).
Our Lord spoke bluntly about the need to hear and obey His word,
Not everyone who says to Me, ’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
He went on to tell us of the wise and foolish builders. The wise builder, illustrating the wisdom of the one who “…hears these sayings of Mine and does them…”, the foolish, showing the folly of the one who “…hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them.” It is essential, not only that we increase our knowledge of His word, but that we make application of it.
Our relationship with God demands that we know and apply His word. If we don’t know His word, we cannot apply it. If we don’t apply His word in our lives, we are in sin and darkness. If we are in sin and darkness, we will be eternally separated from God.