The Age of Knowledge
The Gift of Knowledge in the Church
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant…. there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:1,4,7-8)
“That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth.” (Proverbs 19:2)
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.” (Romans 11:25)
People who are without knowledge are forced to guess and imagine, for we are here in the world, and the realities of life continually are before us, whether we understand what is happening or not. Even the most ignorant try to make sense out of things; even the most grievously handicapped are forced to try to cope with what occurs. There are things we need to know. We are at serious disadvantage without certain knowledge.
This is true physically in the temporal world we now inhabit, and it is just as true spiritually, particularly while we are yet in the body. Brother Paul said, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) We not only need to know some things, we must know the things behind the things. That is, we need knowledge in depth, far beyond casual thinking and mindless tradition. It is shallow and inadequate to justify a teaching just on the basis that “the saints have always taught this.” We must get beyond just the trappings of salvation—we must get deeply into what it means to be holy from the inside to the outside. It is absolutely essential to have holy motivation to rightly bear the fruits of holiness. Someone has said, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” And it is a common observation, “He knows just enough to be dangerous.”
For a good portion of human history, many men of learning devoted themselves to alchemy. Alchemy was based on a belief that it was possible to change common metals (such as iron, lead, etc.) into gold. The alchemist also believed that it was possible to discover or invent a panacea—a substance that would be a remedy for all diseases, evils, or difficulties. In other words, a cure-all. The alchemist also believed that something could be discovered or prepared that would make one live a long time—far beyond the normal span of a lifetime, etc.
Alchemists had no understanding of the atom or of the basic structure of the elements, nor did they even began to grasp the idea of molecules or other basic understanding of chemistry. They did not even understand many basic laws of physics, such as gravity. Many of them thought that all substances were composed of four elements of nature—fire, water, air, and earth. They devoted themselves to the possibilities to be discovered on the basis of what they knew. They were defeated before they ever started, but they knew it not. Because the basis of their knowledge was wrong, they were ever learning, but unable to come to the knowledge of the truth of even the things they were attempting. It is surprising, a little saddening, and even a little eerie to read about these intelligent, dedicated people—so consecrated, so sacrificial to their futile pursuit. They simply had no chance. Their outpouring of human curiosity and energy was doomed from the beginning. Their attempts to do more were frustrated right up until God allowed physical knowledge to increase. At that point, their efforts began to find some traction, and instead of trying to change lead to gold, their goals changed until we have what we have today: the scientist, a person whose knowledge of physical realities behind the scenes is infinitely better than the alchemist, but whose spiritual perceptions are just as handicapped, for the most part.
Now we have a lot of religious alchemists today. The description fits them the same that fitted the Jews who rejected the gospel, “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:7) These religious alchemists of our day are proceeding on a badly-flawed basis, too. And the fundamental key that is missing was mentioned to Brother Timothy by Brother Paul in verse five: “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Notice the enormous significance of those words: charity out of a pure heart. A good conscience. Non-pretended faith. These three things are declared to be “the end of the commandment”; in other words, the purpose, the whole point, of the commandment. The same thought exactly is found in the writings of Brother James, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure.” (James 3:17)
The spiritual alchemists of the beginning days of the New Testament were trying to come up with a life acceptable to God based on obeying the Mosaic Law, and they were ignorant of that flood of spiritual knowledge that Jesus Christ brought to mankind with His incarnation. (What is His incarnation? It is when He came down from heaven and lived in a human body, taking on Himself the seed of Abraham and being found in fashion as a man [Hebrews 2:16; Philippians 2:8].) And these teachers of the law were just as doomed to failure spiritually as the physical alchemists. “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.” (Hebrews 7:19) Only the purity of heart that comes through holiness (wrought by the grace of God) and perfected holiness (also wrought by the grace of God) can ever be acceptable to a pure and holy Creator, thus we read, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord [in the sense of being accepted of Him].” (Hebrews 12:14)
We see then that “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6) Also, “His own purpose and grace… is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9-10) We see that Jesus, by coming in the flesh, dying, and being resurrected, has given a true and definite knowledge of the periodic table of the spiritual elements, so to speak. All true spiritual knowledge is based on this truth. The gift of spiritual knowledge in the church stands upon this foundation, and so we come to a truth of tremendous significance: SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE IS HEART KNOWLEDGE. It is not based on a head knowledge of knowing about Christ; it is knowing Him. It is first pure. It is the end of the commandment, even charity out of a pure heart. It is a fulfillment of a characteristic of the New Testament that distinguishes it from the Old, “And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11) In the previous verse, we see that this most desirable result is obtaining by the Law of God being written in the heart, rather than in tablets of stone. And in the following verse, we find that it is connected with their sins and iniquities being remembered no more (because they are forgiven and washed away in the blood of Jesus, and power is given from God to go and sin no more). The gift of knowledge, then, is the peculiar understanding and knowledge that comes from the Holy Ghost opening and revealing by experience the foundational truths of salvation and of the “things that accompany salvation.” (Hebrews 6:9) Furthermore it is not only an understanding of how these things apply to the individual, but also how they apply to all the saved together (the church of God).
In the professed Christian world, the works of men’s hands, their idea of the gift of knowledge is embodied in their scholars, their theologians, their books, and their sermons. But in the church which Jesus founded, we take Him Himself for our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), for there is a unique heart wisdom in being saved and in spiritual fellowship with the Redeemer that is impossible to impart in an intellectual sense. Either you know Him in your heart, or you do not. You may know a lot about Him in your mind—even been raised all your life to know about Him—but you do not know Him (in the heart), unless you are really regenerated. And when this condition of heart exists in you, no one needs to tell you to know the Lord, for that foundation is laid by the hands of God Himself. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) The theologian can lose himself in abstract thinking, concocting theories, but the child of God who is taught from above soon finds that God always connects truth with practical application.
The wisdom that is from above and fully amplified in the gift of knowledge, teaches us that there is no substitution for a new creature in Christ Jesus. It is impossible to compensate for not being saved. All we can do for the unsaved is to hold before them the good news that they can be and must be saved. Without salvation, they cannot even see the kingdom of God, much less dwell within it (John 3:3). This is the doom of all unsaved people who have been “raised in the truth.” (Being “raised in the truth” is an inaccurate description, if there ever was one. No one is raised in the truth; all who get in the truth must come through the process of heart-washing and regeneration, purchased by our Lord on the cross. Being raised to be thoroughly influenced by the truth and completely prejudiced toward the truth is not the same as salvation. Being a friend of salvation is not the same as possessing it).
People who know not the Lord at the heart level are the most fundamental and grievous problem in the professed Christian world today. People who are not holy in heart, or who are not perfected in holiness at the heart level, are the problem in the institutions and churches of religion. They are the problem in churches who have a strong and accurate tradition of spiritual teaching and living, and they are a major and significant problem even if they believe fervently in their minds and are extremely loyal to accurate teaching and preaching.
A brother minister was called to pray for a Sunday school teacher in a congregation. This teacher was very sick, even to the point of death. The brother minister was a true man of God. He was not a novice, and when no results were obtained in praying for the sick teacher, he determined to fast and go out into the woods to pray to find the underlying reasons why God was not answering prayer. As he prayed and looked to God, he said that he saw letters in the sky—letters of fire—and the letters spelled “HELL FIRE.” He did not know just what to make of this, as the teacher had a good report of others in the congregation. He returned to the house and told the man about what he had seen. Then the teacher confessed, “It’s true. I am not saved. When the congregation started, I just wanted to help, and that is how I became a Sunday school teacher.” The brother minister said that God moved on this man to repent and get saved. I would hope there were other spiritual adjustments in the congregation, too.
The gift of knowledge is quite a bit more than a Biblical understanding of doctrine or even of good and profitable anecdotes and illustrations of living spiritually. It involves those things, but it goes far beyond them. The Bible tells us, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Yet this reasoning is more than just intellectual reasoning. It pulls the covers off the desperately wicked heart, pierces it with godly sorrow that sorrows to repentance not to be repented of, and the result is cleansing and deliverance in the eyes of God. The possessor of the gift of knowledge is aware of the importance of God’s eyesalve (Revelation 3:18). This divine anointment comes only from heaven; without it, one can be a master in Israel and yet be woefully ignorant, even criminally ignorant, of the true riches. This is light years beyond doing the best that one can. This is doing the will of God by inspiration from heaven. The one is man at work; but the only acceptable way is God at work in a human being.
The gift of knowledge will not settle for a form of godliness; it insists on actual possession of the power of God (2 Timothy 3:5; Romans 1:18). This insight by the Holy Ghost will teach us that God desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6), and He is going to have it, too, or He will not accept it at all. Listen. God is coming back for a church that is pure, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27). He bought and paid for such a church, and He is going to have it. He will not accept anything else. May God help us to fear Him, to realize that He means what He says, and He says what He means. He has provided the means for us to be adjusted to be pleasing in His sight, and we will have no excuse if we have ignored them or doubted them.
We want to follow the thought of divine enduing in the scriptures. “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?” (James 3:13) Notice the manner of bestowal of this kind of knowledge. It is not put together by human reasoning; the man is endued. It is a gift, an endowment. This bestowal supplies something we urgently need, yet we have no inherent power to bring it about, ourselves. It is the vacant place in us that God meant to be filled by Himself, but He will not endue us unless we choose Him and ask Him. God meant for us to be friends and comrades together—what an incredible thing! (Hebrews 2:6)—and so He designed us with a vacancy that only He can fill. How many face life without their enduing! It is not just spiritual insight and understanding; it is power from God, too. “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) Now this wonderful Creator, the only wise God, who so loves man and is mindful of him, commands those who are born again, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) The gift of knowledge is firmly and accurately focused on our need to be endued by God. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” (John 16:24) And the same gift tells us that if we ask and receive not, there is reason and cause behind the lack of answer. Perhaps we simply need to wait (Hebrews 10:36). Perhaps we ask amiss and need to change our reason for asking (James 4:3). Perhaps we need to understand the underlying realities of the spiritual world, as Daniel was informed in Daniel 10:12-13. The whole effect of the gift of knowledge is to make us “wise unto salvation.” (2 Timothy 3:15) “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19)
Most people leave unresolved questions behind them, mainly because their attention is distracted elsewhere. When they are assaulted by hordes of doubting spirits, these attacks can often be traced to those bypassed strongholds. Many such ambushments of Satan can be defeated by exposing the devil, by explaining and revealing the underlying workings of the Spirit of God. There is a time to simply trust, and there is a time for revealing.
It was the mercy and goodness of God to bring about a flood of increased spiritual knowledge into the world before allowing and releasing increased temporal knowledge. We have had a little over two thousand years of a flood of spiritual insight to prepare to cope with about two hundred years of rapidly expanding temporal understanding. We have needed every bit of that time to deal with what has come upon us today. In this we see the great faithfulness of God and the great importance of spiritual understanding. “The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness. And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.” (Isaiah 33:5-6) This great increase in spiritual understanding came with the first coming of Jesus. It was given before the flood of temporal knowledge for a reason.
When we get to the point that we continually say, “This is right because that is the way that it has always been done,” or “The saints have always taught this,” we will find that it is not convincing. There will be a counter-reaction to this dry presentation of what is right—even if it is technically correct. People without juicy spiritual fruit, who are guided by historical precedent, do not fare well in the clash of true spiritual knowledge versus vastly increased physical knowledge. Unless we are at least as convinced by the spiritual facts and as acquainted with those facts as the people of the world are convinced by the temporal facts, then our standards will begin to appear hollow and self-contradictory more and more—unless we become fanatical. A fanatic is marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, and does not need sound doctrine or spiritual realities. To such a person, things are so just because they say it is so. But God has meant the truth to appeal to all men and to commend itself. “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-3)
In a sense, this whole conflict was portrayed in the message of Moses to Pharaoh. “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” (Exodus 7:10-12) This is what we have on hand today. The gospel casts down the mighty eternal truths of God before all men for their consideration, and the world in like manner, with their enchantments, casts down the rods of their magicians. Now to go by what has been done in the past without understanding is to attempt to avoid the confrontation; it is to say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up.” But to meet the world’s understanding with the wisdom that comes from above, point by point, line by line, precept by precept, here a little and there a little, is to swallow up their rods. It is to plainly reveal to all who have a heart to serve God completely that the pain (the price of buying the truth and living it) is worth the gain—indeed, it is a bargain, even beauty for ashes. To pay such a price, we must be completely persuaded of the validity of the truth, and this persuasion must be much more than intellectual. God has equipped us with superior knowledge from heaven; He means for us to use the superiority of the truth effectively. The opening battle of this enhanced, increased wisdom from above versus the entrenched wisdom from below is one of the features of the New Testament scriptures. The entire voice of the New Testament writings was the roar of divine truth against all sin and error, against the sophisticated philosophies of the world—whether past, then present, or yet to come. Those brethren were afraid of nothing. The breadth and depth of their writings, inspired of the Holy Ghost, went everywhere. And it was more than just a commotion, although it certainly was that (Acts 17:6). It was sound through and through and rested upon an unmoving foundation. It has furnished a light and beacon to all who have been the people of God down through the long centuries of human history that followed, and it flashes light just as brightly and gloriously today. It is our privilege to take hold of that light, in all its depths and richness, by the help of God. Yea, “the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” (Daniel 7:18) (Notice the contradistinction of the saints taking and possessing the kingdom forever as opposed to the knowledge and power of the four universal kingdoms, as revealed in the context.)
“Put on thy strength, O Zion, rise,
And fix thy trust above the skies;
Move out on faith’s almighty plain,
Through Him that loved us dare to reign!”*
This song also teaches that “The gift of faith no limit knows, / Save God’s unbounded Word.” We perceive that the marvelous energy and activity of faith is continually guided and nourished by spiritual knowledge. Without this guidance and direction, inspired in the hands of the Holy Ghost, faith loses its direction and fails to reach its potential. For faith is founded on the inspired promise. It is pointed toward the inspired objective, even the purpose and will of God. Faith works with an inspired revelation. We might say the same of any inspired consecration, including this one: “Lord, I only want to know just what You want me to know, no more and no less.”
Truth is like a guided missile, targeted against specific targets of sin, bringing conviction and revelation in its impact. It is powered by faith in God, and it is guided by Holy Ghost inspired knowledge and wisdom. Using this simile, we understand that God unleashed a barrage of spiritual cruise missiles on the heathen world after Pentecost, each pinpointed to specific targets all over the world. Over the battlefield of the gospel morning, the worldly philosophy of the time was so devastated by the power of God that it collapsed. It was necessary for Satan to adopt an entirely different means (a false church—false Christianity) to continue to deceive the world, for his primary weapon (paganism—unbelief) against God and mankind was utterly discredited by the gospel. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (Revelation 12:9-11)
This discrediting was so thorough and sweeping that the libraries of pagan writings were burned and destroyed (Acts 19:19-20). Who would have ever thought that such a radical change among unsaved people would ever take place? That the darkness of paganism would lose its hold on the general population? Who could have foreseen the triumph of the gospel in this way? But it happened. And, beloved, if it happened in the tenaciously-held darkness of that day, the gospel can rout all its foes today—even though we are beset not just by unbelief, but by false Christianity as represented in the mother of harlots and her daughters. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek…. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:16,18)
These are not just historical lessons, but a clear demonstration of the power of God in the gospel of Christ. There is enormous conquering power in the gospel. Power that we need now. Power that is to be wielded now. We are confounded and undone without it. Away with shallow Christianity! Away with merely the form of godliness! Let us deny its power no longer in our lives! Let us no longer frustrate the grace of God! Stop playing religion and get down to business! “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Eph 4:1) Let us, too, not love our lives unto death. Let us seal the truth with our blood.
“Who will suffer for the gospel,
Follow Christ without the gate?
Take the martyrs for example,
With them, glory at the stake?
“Oh, for consecrated service
’Mid the din of babel strife!
Who will dare the truth to herald,
At the peril of his life?”*
Too long have the professed saints of the form of godliness lived self-indulgent lives, wallowing in the comfortable lifestyle of economic prosperity, insulated from sacrifice and suffering by fine homes and well-paying careers, while mouthing loyalty to the teachings and examples of the saints of old. The important things are their health plans and their retirement plans, their social standing with others of same mind. Their reasoning is fleshly wisdom, their idea of “balance” and “moderation” is not God’s idea, and the lack of power and anointing in their lives and testimonies is perfectly reflected back to them in the mirror of the perfect law of liberty. Where is the inward fire? Where are the men of war? Where are the unpopular godly souls who are persecuted by those who hold the truth in unrighteousness? Talked about and gossiped about? Held in derision? Whose names are cast out as evil?
It is the gift of knowledge that God has established in His church that is charged with the responsibility of expounding this truth in the face of increasing incredulity and hostility, stirred by the great flood of worldly knowledge and show of wisdom. Too long have the adherents to full truth and light sat by the roadside begging. Lo! Christ is passing by. Awake thou that sleepeth and Christ shall give thee light! “And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me.” (Luke 18:36-39) What was the result? The Lord commended him for his faith. There is faith in the persistence of seeking the Lord; He has the answers we need. And behold! He was given sight. May God open our eyes! May we cry so much the more until the eyesalve is applied and our spiritual eyes are opened wide! The vastly superior truth and light from heaven is before us—we only need eyes to see and a heart to obey and follow.
To hold the truth in unrighteousness does not involve much obligation on your part, does it? But when your eyes have enlightened and your heart greatly stirred, you cannot hold the form and deny the power of the gospel anymore. It will lay hold on your heart with great power, and you can no longer live the self-limited, comfortable little existence to which you aspired beforehand. Consider how incompatible, how inconsistent, such a flesh-glorifying life is, as compared with the words of the sold-out-to-God writer of these words:
“I care not where my Lord directs,
His purpose I’ll fulfill;
I know He every one protects
Who does His holy will.”*
Dear reader, can you say these words from the heart, knowing that your life is indeed turned in this direction—that you are all on the altar of sacrifice laid? That your heart, the Spirit controls?
It is one of the perceptions of the gift of knowledge that the Word of God is directed to a wholly sanctified, wholly dedicated life—that nothing works just as completely and fully as it should until a soul has entered into rest by ceasing from his own labor completely and has taken up solely the divinely-appointed labor of God. That the only safety of the child of God is in complete and exclusive trust in God, unmixed with anything else. That every heart in the body of Christ must be taught of God, beyond and exclusive of all other anointing (1 John 2:27).
It is not just what the mouth says; it is what the heart says and what the life that flows from the heart says by its fruit. The gift of knowledge is heart knowledge, not just word knowledge (Colossians 3:10-11). Solomon’s gift of wisdom from God was wisdom at the heart level. When he corrupted his gift of wisdom from God, it was corrupted at the heart level. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” (1 Kings 11:4) Solomon’s father said, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalmm 53:1) The mouth can go on mouthing the correct words, long after the heart has turned away following the truth. This contradictory state of things in Solomon’s heart is plainly seen in the second chapter of Ecclesiastes. His outward understanding of wisdom had not entirely deserted him (Ecclesiastes 2:9), yet he had not the blessing that brought godliness with contentment. He hated his life (v.17) and found all to be vanity and vexation of spirit (v.11). A person can still describe the blessing of being wholly consecrated to God when that consecration is no longer valid at the heart level. He can talk with his lips like an angel about the things of God, when his heart no longer embraces those same things.
The gift of knowledge examines the history of a people such as the Methodists. It takes note of their extensive understanding of the second work of grace and marvels at their limitation of that same work in certain areas—such as church government. Total abandonment to God at the personal level also leads to total abandonment to God at the church government level, as well. It leads to the “Come out of her, my people” message of Revelation 18:4 and 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. It leads to a forsaking of group loyalty and group pride. It also discredits the millennial theory—that teaching that would have Christ reigning on the throne of David in the future, rather than now in His kingdom, the church. In other words, every line of truth leads to all truth. But the Methodists stopped short of the full effect of the truth that they accepted, and the result was that they couldn’t hold the truth that they had. Fewer and fewer of their people got the experience of cleansing from carnality. In spite of excellent preaching, thorough and accurate, there was a discrepancy at the heart level that Satan was quick to exploit. In the end, either truth takes over in us and reigns unopposed, or truth is frustrated. Jesus will either reign in us over all, or He will not reign at all. Well said the apostle, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21) Take note of the solemn truth: if I frustrate the grace of God, then (in my case) Christ has died in vain.
Peter tells us that the knowledge of God starts with being a partaker (at the heart level) of the divine nature, “having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:4) Then the brother tells us to build on this foundation of true heart knowledge by adding virtue to our faith, and knowledge to our virtue. This adding of knowledge after heart knowledge of God is an intelligent appreciation of what has already transformed the soul within. The result, says Peter, is that “ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:8) The knowledge of God is both experienced heart knowledge and mental comprehension of the same—it is complete knowledge, within and without. The perception of the inward work is to be added, diligently, to complete the entire knowledge. How thorough is the Lord! How completely He knows how to establish and settle the heart in truth! But again we see the pattern. First pure. Then a growing comprehension and understanding, anchored in practical experience. First entirely dedicated and consecrated to God. Then an ever increasing knowledge of His ways and His church. Then the walking about Mount Zion and contemplating the towers thereof and the mighty bulwarks (Psalm 48:12-13). Not just knowledge, but knowledge obtained from the right viewpoint, the right slant—even the possession of a heart that loves God and delights to do His will after the inward man.
In Luke 11:52, we read, “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” Many will say, “How have we taken away the key of knowledge? We publish and preach many good things.” So did the lawyers to whom Jesus spake. The problem is not what is printed or what is preached, it is what is lived. God has so designed heart knowledge that it cannot merely be held in the head without denying the power and purpose of God. We see Nicodemus struggling to find the key to heart knowledge in John 3. Jesus puts it before him: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) This is the key to understanding what Jesus is all about, but Nicodemus cannot grasp it. It does not make sense to him. “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4) Again, he says, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9) He has been locked out of the increasing comprehension of the prophets, who looked ahead and anticipated the day of full salvation. “Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things.” (1 Peter 1:10-12) It can be plainly seen that Nicodemus was lamentably, grievously ignorant of that which he should have known. He had approached spiritual knowledge as a Pharisee, and that approach was very costly, indeed. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10)
There are many “masters of Israel” who have not been taught of the Holy Ghost. Something else has guided them into “the truth” that they hold, and the result has been another Jesus, another gospel, and another spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). Many of these are regarded as great Bible teachers and are extolled by men. They do know many things, but they do not know them as they ought to know them to the all-seeing eyes of God (1 Corinthians 8:2). If all you wish to pursue is head-knowledge of the Bible and the history of Christianity, you will learn many interesting facts, mixed with intriguing human slants, but you will be entirely misled in what it means to be ready to meet God and to be accepted of Him. You will end up a blind follower of a blind leader (Matthew 15:14), even as you gain in all kinds of knowledge and feel you are much more knowledgeable than you were at first.
It is far better to be lacking in head knowledge and rich in heart knowledge. Jesus said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) The doing of the will of God from the heart must precede the comprehension of the doctrine—not the other way around. We are cursed with too much head knowledge and too little heart knowledge today. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (2 Timothy 3:5) If you are ever to get it right, you must turn away from those who have a form—even a very close-to-right form—and pursue what it means to receive the power of God that comes with heavenly knowledge that goes far beyond merely the form. You must get it as brethren in the Bible had it. This scripture must be true in you: “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13)
There is not enough living from the heart among the saints. There is too much coldness, formality, and dullness among us. This is a plain statement, but it is the fact. The reason why there is such formality and dullness is because there is not enough heart-living. There is too much doing and not doing because it is taught that we should do certain things and not do certain things. The things we do and do not do should be done from the power of a living “truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6) This only will save us from cold formality. If you were only able to receive it, I would say that too many are doing things merely because the Bible says so. Wait a moment, and let me explain. The Bible teaches (in principle) and preachers teach that it is distrusting God to take medicine. Now you can say, “I will not take any medicine because the Bible says God will heal all my diseases (Psalm 103:3; Matthew 4:23),” and yet you may not be healed. Why is it? It is because you have not made that word you see on the printed page a living power in your heart. Jesus says, “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7) Multitudes are claiming that promise and getting no results. What is the trouble? It is because the word is not abiding in their heart in its power. Peter said, “Such as I have.” (Acts 3:6) He had something. He had healing truth as a power in his heart, and he gave it from himself to the cripple, who was instantly healed.
That is what I am insisting upon. It is the word of God as a mighty, working, force in the heart. Preachers can teach plainness of dress, divine healing, the Church of God, and yet the sick not be healed, the people get more worldly in dress, and gradually lose sight of the Church. Why is this? It is because the theory is preached, and it is received as a mere theory, and not made a living reality in the soul.
The teaching of the new birth, of holiness, of sanctification, of the church, of divine healing, of dressing in modest apparel, of the death of Jesus, of His separation from the world—all these received as theory while the congregation grows more formal, lifeless, immodest, and worldly-minded.
When the Holy Spirit takes a soul down into the death of Jesus, and there that soul dies in the death of Christ, there will be a resurrection to a life of power that will stir the country for ten miles around. It did it at Pentecost and it will do it today. We see what are called conversions and sanctifications today, and they are so cold, tame, lifeless, that they create but little or no joy in the heart of the saints. There are those today who can look back to the time of their conversion or sanctification when they felt more like a creature of heaven than of earth. They lived in a heavenly realm. They walked in a spirit of prayer. They lived in constant communion with God. The word of God was a fire in their bones. Diseases were driven back, and sinners awed by their presence. I have known the sick to be instantly healed by the presence of preachers coming into the room. It is different today. Why is it different? Because the living truth has not been kept burning on the altar of the soul. The theory is held in the head, but the fire has gone out in the heart.
Too many are trying to live what someone else teaches instead of getting the truth in the heart. Did you not know that you can get nothing from heaven except there be a heart conviction by the spirit for the thing desired? You want to be saved because you do not want to go to hell; you want to be healed because you don’t want to be sick; you want your daily bread because you don’t want to go hungry—but there is no heart conviction for the things you are desiring. You pray with your lips, but there is no mighty pleading of the Holy Spirit in you, and you get nothing from heaven to your life. You may think that I am severe. I am telling you truth because I love you.
Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) You are to hear more than the preacher’s voice, but there are those who are hearing no more. You are to listen for the voice of Jesus in the voice of the preacher, and if you cannot hear it, do not follow. You have heaven to gain for yourself. You have your own life to live. Do not look around and compare yourself with someone else. Look to heaven and live to please God. He will tell you how to live. His Spirit will write it in your heart.
No two lambs bleat just alike. Jesus knows each sheep by its own particular bleat. No life will ever be just like yours, because there never was anyone just like you. It takes your own individual life to complete the all-glorious temple of God. Seek the God of heaven to teach your heart how to live. You can live the life God wants you to live, but you cannot live the life of another. There are some variations in every life. It is the law of heaven. Get your eyes off of others. Jesus says, “What is that to thee? follow thou me.” (John 21:22)
A man can discourse like an angel about salvation and the atonement without possessing the experience. He can wax eloquent in word without being mighty in deed. He can be a master in Israel while actually being one who betrays the truth by how he lives. Oh, who has ears to hear? Are you one of those who desires to be all that Jesus suffered and died for? Do you want a heart knowledge of salvation? Do you want to be able to testify to being filled with the Holy Ghost from a standpoint of possession, not theory? Are you interested in paying more than lip service to the organization and government of God’s church? Then you must seek Him until He places the keys to true knowledge in your hand. “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” (Luke 1:76-77)