1. Knowing God as the Highest GoodRelated Media
In Latin, there is a phrase called summum bonum, which means “the highest good out of which all other good flows.” In this section, we will see how Scripture teaches that knowing God is the highest good above all other good things. The highest good is not helping people, it is not attaining great wealth, it not attaining tremendous knowledge. The highest good is to know God and as a result every other virtue flows from this knowledge.
Look at what Jeremiah said about this:
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me. (emphasis mine)
Here the Lord says through Jeremiah that the knowledge of him is our greatest pursuit. God names three of the more common pursuits of men and women in life. He names the pursuit of wisdom, as education is a major priority in most societies. He names the pursuit of strength, as many give themselves to the endeavor of developing their bodies and beauty. He names the pursuit of wealth. Wealth many times is the fuel behind building the mind and the body. God says the greatest boast, and therefore, the greatest pursuit is understanding and knowing God.
J. I. Packer eloquently said the same thing in his book Knowing God. He said:
What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance, and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?1
There is no higher or more exalted goal than knowing God and that will be the goal of this study. It is not just a desire to have “knowledge about God.” The word “know” as it is used in the Scripture typically implies intimacy. In Genesis 4:1 (KJV), the word “know” is used to describe sexual relations. It was said of Adam that he “knew” his wife and they had a child.
God is not saying that academic knowledge of him is great, though that is part of it. It is an “intimate and experiential” knowledge of God that we are to pursue. God used the word “know” to describe our relationship with him, a word that was used of the “closest union” one can have with a person on the earth—a sexual relationship. Let this study not just be an academic venture. This should be a pursuit of intimately knowing God.
Example of Paul
Similarly, Paul said this:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (emphasis mine), for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:7–8).
Paul was a top Pharisee of his day. However, he lost his career, his family, his friends, and his comfort, all for the sake of knowing Christ. He saw this as the highest goal of life and one worth giving up all things for. In fact, he said he counted everything lost as rubbish, or dung, in order to know Christ and have an intimate relationship with him.
Have you found knowing Christ such a worthy pursuit that you are willing to give up everything to know him?
This often occurs when people get married. They find a man or a woman and the trajectory of their lives changes. In a similar way, God is the highest good and worth leaving all other pursuits for (cf. Matt 13:45-46).
Finally, it should be noted that we will not be considering God primarily from an academic perspective or simply for intimacy. We will be considering him also to be transformed. Listen to what Paul said about beholding God:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Paul uses a picture of Moses going up on the mountain in Exodus and viewing God. He came down from the mountain and his face was shining. In the same way, studying God is like going up on the mountain to see God. As we study his personality and his characteristics, it should make us look more like him and change us from glory to glory. As God was a shining light, so also, Moses came down from the mountain with his face shining.
Our hope is that by spending time with God, we will start to be transformed into his very image (cf. Rom 12:2, Col 3:10). He is not an object to look at and speculate about in the museum. He is God, and therefore, worthy to be adored, feared, and modeled, and that is our hope. If we studied for any other purpose alone, it would be misguided.
Jesus described people who heard his words and did not live by them as fools who built their house on the wrong foundation and it was destroyed in the storm (Matt 7:24–27). Studying God and modeling him is the foundation on which to build our lives and that is the purpose of this study.
Benefits of Knowing God
What makes knowing God the highest good? As we said the summum bonum is the highest good out of which all good flows. What do we receive from knowing God? What are the benefits?
If we are going to fully give ourselves to the endeavor of studying and knowing God, we must be fully convinced of the benefits of this endeavor. What does the Bible teach as benefits of knowing God?
Eternal Life/Quality of Life
The first benefit is eternal life. Look at what Jesus said:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (emphasis mine)
Jesus said this is eternal life, knowing God. Eternal life is not primarily about length of life, for everybody will live eternally in one of two places. It is also about quality of life. This means the more we know God and the more we understand and build a relationship with him, the more our quality of life increases. We start to live life the way it was meant to be lived.
This is one of the reasons we should pursue a knowledge of God. Life can never be what it was meant to be apart from the knowledge of God. In the beginning, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but when sin came into the world, their relationship with God eroded. They died spiritually, and therefore, intimacy with God was no longer their primary pursuit. Pursuing God through Christ restores us to what was lost in the Garden.
This is the reason Christ came to earth and died on the cross for our sins, in order to grant eternal life to those who accept him as Lord and Savior. We study God to have life and to fulfill the purpose God created us for. Most people are living only for temporary things when in reality our purpose is eternal. Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV).
Though eternal life does not just refer to length of time, for we all will live forever, it should be said that it does include eternity in the kingdom of heaven with God. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21–23:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (emphasis mine)
Christ said the reason these people would not enter the kingdom of heaven was because they never knew him. They didn’t have an intimate relationship with him through faith (cf. Heb 10:38). Salvation is not for those who say a prayer; it is for followers of Jesus, meaning those who have a vital relationship with him. Certainly, that will start at a confession of Christ, but nevertheless, it is a relationship.
We study God to have a relationship with him that enriches our quality of life and will continue throughout eternity as we know God. We study God to know what life is, and therefore, what life is not.
Proper Evaluation of Humanity
There is something else that happens when we encounter God. We begin to rightly evaluate ourselves and others. Studying God is like looking at a mirror. We see our faults, our problems, and maybe even our virtues. This happens in order that we may be changed.
Knowing God Reveals Our Sin
Isn’t this what happened when Peter first came in contact with Jesus? Peter’s response was: “Depart from me for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
When Peter realized that Jesus was God, he cried out for Jesus to leave because he was a sinner. When we start to realize who God is, it helps us have a proper perspective of ourselves.
We see the same thing happen with Isaiah when he saw God in Isaiah 6:5. He said: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (emphasis mine).
Many people have a tendency to wrongly evaluate themselves because they judge themselves by looking at other people. I am really smart in comparison with him. I am really beautiful in comparison with her. I am really holy in comparison with those people. Pride exists because people are looking at the wrong person. They are looking at themselves or one another, instead of God. Pride would be eliminated if people had a proper relationship with God.
Knowing God not only helps us evaluate ourselves but also others. Isaiah after seeing God said, “I live among a people of unclean lips.” He saw the people and the world around him differently because he was looking at the glory of God. Hear this; you will evaluate the music you listen to, the TV programs that you watch, your friends, and society differently when you are living in the presence of God.”
This explains why a woman continually dates the wrong guy; she doesn’t know God, and therefore, cannot properly evaluate herself or others. This explains why we take in ungodly music and unedifying TV because most of us cannot properly evaluate. This is why the world exalts drug dealers, murderers, alcoholics, cheaters, thieves, etc., who talk about their crimes in the music they write or the movies they produce. This is because without knowing God, man cannot properly evaluate others. Listen to what Isaiah says:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
As our society turns farther away from God, the more it will be common for man to praise evil and hate good.
Knowing God Helps Us Give Value to Humanity
It should also be noted that knowing God will help us give value to humanity. We see this in Genesis 9:6. It says: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (emphasis mine).
When we look at our society and see the killing of innocent babies, sex trafficking, the growing murder rates and suicide rates around the world, we should realize this is happening because people don’t know God and can’t properly value human life. Man is made in the image of God, and therefore, has value. I have value because in some way or another, even though I sin, I bear the image of God. Having God as my maker and having been created in his likeness, gives me innate value. Humanity has value.
Depression often arises because of a lack of knowing God. One says, I am unattractive; I can’t do anything right; nobody loves me. These types of thoughts happen because we do not truly know our value as people made in the glory and image of God. Listen to how David thought about himself because of his knowledge of God:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
David knew God’s works were good. Can you imagine a society that saw the true beauty and value in each human because they knew God? Can you imagine how that would decrease murder, suicide, human trafficking, and even plastic surgery? “God, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We know this full well.”
It is this understanding of human value that has led Christians around the world to often be the ones to start hospitals, orphanages, crisis pregnancy centers, and universities. Why? It’s because they have a proper view of God that affects their view of man. If man is made in the image of God, then there is a great dignity in serving them, building them up, caring for the poor and the sick. These people are made in the image of God and have dignity and glory. This dignity and glory even extends to the poor, the sick, the aged, and the mentally challenged. Given that all men are made in the image of God, it should also exclude racism. Therefore, to show partiality is to sin against God and one another (cf. James 2:1-9).
We will have a greater evaluation of humanity because of our study of God, and it will give us a more accurate worldview.
Proper Evaluation of Morality
The next benefit of knowing God is a proper evaluation of morality. We have hinted at this already in looking at humanity, but a proper understanding of God also affects how we evaluate morality—what is right and wrong. We see varying lifestyles in society based on our understanding of God.
We see this in Romans 1:21–32, though we will not study this passage here in its entirety, it shows how the world is affected by not acknowledging God. Look at what the text says:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. (emphasis mine)
In speaking about the Gentile world, Paul says that they knew God but did not glorify him as God. What were the consequences of denying God?
Paul said a consequence of denying God was futile thinking (v. 21). Futile means useless, pointless, or without purpose. The thinking of society became useless and without purpose. A lack of acknowledging God negatively affected the thinking of mankind.
Another consequence of denying God was a darkened heart (v.21). Darkness is the absence of light. We cannot see properly without light. God is the light and without him we cannot properly evaluate anything else. Professing to be wise, they became fools (v. 22). They evaluated all of life improperly because they had refused the light (cf. John 8:12). This darkened heart also may suggest much more including the inability to love God or others. Romans 1:31 later describes these people as “without natural affection” (KJV). Those who had ceased to acknowledge God had lost the ability to love even in the most fundamental relationships: God, family, friends, etc. In fact, the word “heart” is a comprehensive term referring to the mind, will, and emotions. When we deny God we will not be able to properly understand things, make decisions, or even love—everything is affected. Man’s heart becomes dark without God.
When society starts to deny God, they will become an unwise, incompetent, and loveless society. Without proper thinking, proper decision making, and proper love, the whole value system of society will be fractured. Let’s consider more consequences of not glorifying and knowing God.
What are further consequences?
Romans 1:24–26 says:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. (emphasis mine)
Paul says a consequence of a society denying God is sexual impurity (v. 24). Surely, we see this in our society. Pornography, prostitution, sexual abuse, trafficking, and rampant adultery are all repercussions of a society that has denied God.
Paul also says that false worship is a result of denying God (v. 25). When man denies God, he starts to worship and serve created things instead of the Creator. We see this in the gamut of religions and cults around the world. We also see it in how man worships entertainers, athletes, authors, etc. Man was made to worship God, and if he doesn’t worship God, he will worship something else. We also see this false worship in selfishness. Most people live their lives as though life is about their pleasure and their happiness instead of God’s. In society, we essentially see the idolatry of the self. Everything is about self-actualization, self-awareness, self-esteem, self-help, self-achievement, etc. Man worships himself. Without God, society becomes a haven of idols.
The next consequence of denying God that Paul mentions is homosexuality (v. 26). The society that has turned away from God will be increasingly prone to the acceptance and practice of homosexuality. No one can deny the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in the world today. It has been accepted in many Christian denominations as an alternative lifestyle; some have even accepted homosexual pastors. Homosexual marriage is an acceptable practice in many nations, and those who do not accept it are increasingly scorned and harassed. We live in a world that has denied God and is reaping the consequences of that denial.
What are the other consequences of denying God? Look at what else Paul says in Romans 1:28–31:
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (emphasis mine)
Paul simply says that society will continually practice “what ought not to be done” (v. 28). He describes a myriad of vices that will show up in society including greed, murder, strife, deceit, slander, the hatred of God, disobedience, senselessness, heartlessness, etc. Senseless murders will constantly be talked about on the daily news. The slander of God, the Bible, and any type of moral values will be common. Society will become loveless and senseless. People will be left scratching their heads at the corruption in the government, business, education, and the home. This will all be an effect of not knowing God. If every good thing comes from knowing God, then it just makes sense that every bad thing will come from denying him and his rule over society (cf. James 1:17).
What is the final result Paul gives of not knowing God?
Not Knowing God Leads to Approval of Sin
Paul says that not only will denying God lead to all types of sin, but it also will lead to “approval” of sin. Look at what Romans 1:32 says:
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (emphasis mine)
When you look at society and see the movies, the media, and the people that are elevated or put on pedestals, it is a picture of the result of not knowing God. In the US, some of the biggest stars are what would be called “gangsta rappers”. Their song lyrics glamorize the abuse of drugs, stealing, killing, gang violence, sex, and disrespect of women. People flock to buy their records and they are given lucrative movie and book deals.
The young people listen to their music, sing their songs, and dress like them. When we start to not only practice sin but approve of sin, it is a picture of a society that has turned fully away from God. What’s wrong and right has been inverted.
Society says sex before marriage is right, homosexuality is right, pornography is right, the murder of the innocent is right, drug and alcohol abuse is right, and the worship of the biblical God and the practice of biblical values is wrong, and often met with persecution.
The knowledge of God is necessary to help us properly evaluate morality—what is right and wrong. We must study God to properly calibrate our hearts and minds.
Peace and Security
What else does knowing God bring? Listen to what Solomon says:
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
In this verse, Solomon says the name of the Lord is a strong tower. We need to understand two things about this passage to fully grasp it. The first thing is that “name” in the Hebrew culture meant more than something you called somebody; it had to do with their character. That is why at times in the Bible we see God intervene in someone’s life and change their name. Jacob, who was a thief and swindler, was named Israel meaning, “one who has wrestled with God and prevailed.” He received a new name because he had a change of character.
We could translate the proverb this way: “The characteristics of the Lord are a strong tower.” Towers in those days were used for safety. If there was a war, people would run into a stone tower for safety. A strong tower would protect the community from an approaching enemy or a great storm.
Therefore, the proverb means that those who “know God and his characteristics” will find safety, security, and peace. When others are afraid and fearful at events in life, God keeps those who know him at peace and protects them. Listen to what Isaiah says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3 KJV).
Isaiah says the person whose mind is always thinking about God stays at peace in the storms of life because he knows and trusts him. They know that even if they die, they will spend eternity in heaven. They know that even when they fail, it is all part of God’s sovereign plan that he is working out for their good (Romans 8:28). Where others panic, get depressed, or run to protect themselves, the one who knows God’s name has peace and security. J. I. Packer said this: “There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on forever.”2 We seek to know God to increase our peace and security.
Knowing God also increases our wisdom. Listen again to Solomon:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Next, when Solomon says, the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, he probably is just using Hebrew parallelism to say the same thing. To fear the Lord means to know the Holy One, and to receive wisdom is the same as understanding. Solomon is using a parallel statement for emphasis. If you begin to seek the knowledge of God, you will gain wisdom for life. This fits the theme of Proverbs: seek after wisdom and it will bless your life. God is the source of all wisdom.
There are a lot of people in the world with head knowledge because you can get that from books and degrees. But there are few people with wisdom—who know how to apply knowledge. Wisdom answers the question, “How can I apply this knowledge to my life?” or “What should I do in this situation?” Wisdom comes from fearing God and knowing him.
A lack of wisdom is part of the reason the counseling industry has become so large. It’s part of the reason people seek psychics and read their horoscopes. If you look at Hollywood, everybody has a shrink and a psychic. This is true because people lack the wisdom to make decisions. And, people can’t make wise decisions because wisdom starts with God and a knowledge of him.
Proverbs 3:6 says this: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
The New Living Translation says, “He will show you which paths to take.” The person who is acknowledging God and seeking his face will receive wisdom from God to direct his paths. God will guide his career, marriage, finances, etc. However, the person who denies God will lack wisdom for all these decisions, and he will reap the consequences of this denial as seen in a life marked by foolish decisions.
Wisdom begins with knowing God and fearing him. We study God in order to make us wise.
Multiplication of Blessings
Peter names several blessings that come from the knowledge of God. Look at what he says:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (emphasis mine)
2 Peter 1:2–3 ESV
Peter says the knowledge of God leads to “multiplied” blessings. It is through the knowledge of God that grace, peace, and power are multiplied to believers.
The first multiplied blessing he names is “grace,” which means unmerited favor (2 Peter 1:2). It is interesting that when you consider the life of Joseph (Genesis 37–45), we see a man that went through many trials, but received God’s favor in each one of them. He was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, but while he was serving as a slave, he prospered. Potiphar, his master, prospered because of him, and therefore, placed him over his whole household. Soon after, he was put in prison. But even there, he prospered and was eventually placed in charge of all the prisoners. Finally, he was put in charge over the kingdom of Egypt under Pharaoh. There was unmerited favor over his entire life, even in the midst of trials, because he knew the Lord.
We also see this displayed in Jacob’s life. While he was a shepherd for his uncle Laban, Laban became very wealthy because of him (Gen. 30:27–29). In fact, Laban says that he knew God was blessing him because of Jacob (v. 27). Grace is multiplied to those who know the Lord. This does not mean the eradication of trials, however, it does mean one will have God’s favor while in the trials. The knowledge of God, an intimate relationship with him, brings grace— unmerited favor.
Although discussed previously, “peace” is mentioned here again by Peter (2 Peter 1:2). “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (emphasis mine). In the Bible there are two kinds of peace. There is peace with God that we receive by accepting Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom 5:1). Before we were born again, the Bible says that because of our sins, we were at enmity with God and his wrath abided on us (John 3:36). But because of our faith in Christ, we now are at peace with God.
The second peace is the peace of God. Philippians 4:7 calls it “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.”
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine)
Think about that. A person receives peace by always praying and thanking God about everything. Peace is multiplied to this person. The more you know God, the more you will receive peace.
Finally, we also receive power. Being in God’s presence and knowing him brings a certain amount of power in the life of the seeker. Peter says the person who knows God receives power to be godly. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (emphasis mine)” (2 Peter 1:2–3 ESV).
The more we know God, the more we will experience God’s power in our life; power to do the things God has called us to do. It should be noted that people who have a weak knowledge of God will find themselves very prone to fall into sin because they lack power. However, the more we know God, the more we will find spiritual power in our life to be godly and to glorify God through great works.
Did we not see great power in the life of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Mary, and the apostles? There is power in the life of the person who is intimate with God (cf. John 15:5), and therefore, God uses them in a special way for his glory. Second Chronicles 16:9 in the KJV says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (emphasis mine).
A Worthy and Pleasing Life
The next benefit of knowing God is a worthy and pleasing life. Colossians 1:9–10 says this:
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (emphasis mine)
Paul prays for this church to be “filled” with the knowledge of God’s will “in order that” (v. 9) the congregation would live a life “worthy” of the Lord and “pleasing” to him in every way (v. 10).
The word “worthy” comes from the root word “worth.” If you go to a gym and purchase a membership, the only reason you pay for it is because you believe that it is worth the asking price. When people look at how Christians live, they can tell how much God really means to them—his value. They can tell by how much time they invest in their relationship with him through church, service, and devotion. They can tell by the cost. Similarly, Paul is praying that this congregation would know God more so that their life would properly reflect how much God is worth—in essence his value.
What should be the value of God to the believer? Simply said, God is worth everything plus. Listen to what Romans 12:1 in the KJV says: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (emphasis mine).
Paul says in view of everything God has done, a believer should offer his entire life as a sacrifice. In fact, he says it is the only “reasonable” offering one who knows God can give.
Christians who offer God “everything plus” are people who are “pleasing” to God. He enjoys them and rejoices over them with songs (cf. Zephaniah 3:17). That is what happens when a person really knows God; they start to demonstrate God’s worth in varying ways. This is why a person who claims to know God and fails to experience any real change in their life is deceived. Listen to what John said: “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1 John 1:6).
We cannot live a lifestyle like the world and truly have a relationship with God. John says this is impossible. A true relationship with God—a true knowledge of him—will always change us; we will no longer be able to walk in darkness. It will enable us to start walking worthy of him and becoming pleasing to him in every way.
The next benefit of knowing God is a fruitful life. Look again at what Paul says in Colossians 1:9–10,
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God (emphasis mine)
Paul says the knowledge of God will make us bear fruit in every good work. A person who knows God will bear fruit.
Jesus said something similar in John 15:4–5:
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (emphasis mine)
A person who is abiding in Christ, spending time with him will produce much fruit.
Fruit always has two characteristics. First, it always represents the tree. An apple comes from an apple tree. An orange comes from an orange tree. When you bear fruit from the knowledge of God and spending time with him, it will be fruits or characteristics that represent God and his will. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Secondly, a tree always bears fruit so others can eat from it (cf. Psalm 1:2-3). This will happen in your life through your words and actions. People will be blessed by you; people will be led to Christ by you; people will be encouraged by you. You will give people wisdom, encouragement, strength, and you will help them be fruitful. These are the benefits of knowing God. Listen to what God said to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing (emphasis mine)” (Genesis 12:2).
Those who are growing in the knowledge of God will increasingly be a blessing to others as well.
Endurance, Patience, Joy, and Thanksgiving
There are still more benefits to being filled with God’s will. Again, Colossians 1:9–12 says,
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. (emphasis mine)
Paul says the knowledge of God’s will brings power to endure, to be patient, to be joyful, and to be thankful.
Endurance means “to bear up under a heavy weight” (cf. Col 1:9, 11). Through knowing God, we receive power to endure a hard life situation. God gives us grace to persevere through trials.
It has often been said that you are either in a trial or about to enter one. Christianity does not make a person exempt from the trials of life; in fact, it may actually cause more trials. However, knowing God gives us the precious fruit of endurance for these trials.
Next, Paul mentions patience. What is the difference between endurance and patience? It seems that the difference between patience and endurance is the fact that patience primarily has to do with people. God gives us power to endure difficult people without retaliation.
No doubt, it was David’s relationship with God that allowed him to endure the constant assaults and attacks of King Saul without retaliation. Even when David had opportunities where he could have killed Saul, he always said, “I will not touch God’s anointed.” It was David’s relationship with God that enabled him to be patient with Saul and also to be patient in waiting for God to fulfill his promise of making him king.
Joy is an inward attitude that has nothing to do with circumstances, but is based on one’s relationship with God. A person that is growing in the knowledge of God can go through difficult situations with joy (cf. Col 1:9, 11). Look at what Paul said to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near (emphasis mine)” (Philippians 4:4-5).
Why could Paul rejoice in the Lord always and also be gentle in serving others? It was because he was “in” a relationship with the Lord and also because the Lord was “near”. This doesn’t seem to be focusing on the fact that Christ is coming soon, but the fact that God was near in proximity. God promises that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5); he abides in the hearts of those who love him (John 14:23). This should give the believer joy no matter what circumstances they are going through. We can have joy because we are growing in relationship with our Lord and because he is always near us.
Finally, we see that thanksgiving is also a result of knowing God (cf. Col 1:9, 11). Thanksgiving is the outward expression of this internal joy in all circumstances. We saw this perfectly modeled by Job as he thanked God even in the midst of his trials. This was a man “filled with the knowledge of God’s will.” Listen to what he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21).
For many Christians, we not only don’t give God thanks or praise when things are bad, but we often forget to give thanks when things are good or when God has answered our prayers.
We saw this lack of thanksgiving in the story of the ten lepers who approached Christ for healing. He told them to go to the temple and show themselves to the priest. On the way there, all of them were healed. One of them was so happy and grateful, he ran back to tell Christ, “Thank you.” Look at how Christ responded: “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17–18)
Everybody went their own way, and only one returned to give God thanks. Giving thanks to God in trial and in blessing is a result of knowing God and his will. The world is full of complainers (cf. Rom 1:21), and sadly many of them are Christians. As we grow in knowing God more, we will find the fruit of praise and thanksgiving on our lips (cf. Hebrews 13:15)
The benefits of knowing God are vast. Knowing him is the summum bonum, the highest good out of which all good flows. One might ask, “How can we turn this study about God and the accumulated knowledge about him into intimacy with him?” J. I. Packer asks and answers this question in his book Knowing God. He said,
How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each Truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God (emphasis mine).3
Let this be our prayer and our practice so that we may truly come to know him through this study. Amen.
- What are some reasons why a study of God is always incomprehensive?
- What are some negative effects on a person or society for not seeking God? In what ways do you see these negative effects happening in the world?
- What are some positive benefits of seeking and knowing God? How have you experienced these in your own life or seen them in the lives of those around you? How is God calling you to seek to know him more and help others do the same?
- Pray that God would anoint your study and that you would truly come to know him more through its duration. Pray that knowing God will become your life’s goal and that as you know him more, you might truly embrace his worth and adore him even more.
- Pray that our churches, communities, and nations would come to know God more through the preaching of his Word and that they would be transformed by this knowledge.
- Pray that this knowledge of God would lead to the reverence of humanity as made in the image of God especially for the unborn, the poor, different races, and cultures, and that there would be an increase of love and unity that can only come through Christ.
Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown
The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, and King James Version.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ® (ESV ®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
1 James I. Packer. Knowing God (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), Kindle Edition.
2 James I. Packer. Knowing God (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), Kindle Edition.
3 James I. Packer. Knowing God (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973), Kindle Edition.