Scripture and You

Knowledge of Jesus Christ: The Distinctive Mark of the Christian

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Early Christians were in constant danger of conflating the evil lies of paganism with the glorious truths of Scripture. We face the same danger today.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 3 of a series. Read part 2.

Christians in the early church were in constant danger of conflating the evil lies of the paganism from which they had been redeemed with the glorious truths of the Scriptures through which they had been saved. We are in the same danger today - and much of the visible church has already fallen. We must more than ever take hold of the Word of God as our foundation, anchor, and refuge.

The Christian mind is to be the complete opposite of the worldly mind. Knowledge of Jesus Christ is the distinctive mark of the Christian. Let me remind you again of Paul's words to the Colossian church:

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 the knowledge of His will in 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; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

John 1:18 tells us that Jesus Christ exegetes the Father to us. John writes, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." The word for "declared" in the original is exegesis. Jesus Christ has exegeted the Father for us. He has revealed Him to us. He has provided detailed information about Him. He has made Him fully known to us. Knowledge of God the Father comes through knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The knowledge of God that is the distinctive mark of the Christian was Paul's goal for the Colossians as well as himself. In Philippians chapter 3 beginning at verse 7 he says,

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge [more literally, the excelling knowledge] of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

Knowledge: The Key to Spiritual Power

When Paul says "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection" the word translated "know" gnonai, to know through personal experience. The word applies to both objects - knowing Christ and knowing the power of His resurrection. The word translated "power" is dunamin, which as one commentator puts it, signifies in context "power through God's ability" - not our own - by which the Holy Spirit works to produce growing sanctification within a true believer in Christ.

In Colossians chapter 2 beginning at verse 1 he says,

"For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea...that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

A Timeless Declaration

I believe I can do nothing better to set forth the excellency of the knowledge of Christ that is the distinctive mark of the Christian than to place before you the words of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. As you read, keep in mind that this was a church that was already falling prey to the temptation to conflate the evil lies of the paganism from which they had so recently been redeemed with the glorious truths of the Scriptures through which they had been saved.

Dear friends, we are in the same danger in our time. How much each believer, and each visible body of authentic Christians, needs to take these truths to heart today. Read them carefully, and prayerfully:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent."

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-and righteousness and sanctification and redemption - that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16)

Next: The Christian's Sanity in a World Gone Insane

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