#221, COMING TO CHRIST WITH OUR UNDERSTANDING
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. JOH 17:3
A knowledge and understanding of Christ is essential to salvation. Jesus puts it in an absolute category: "this is life eternal." Knowing Jesus is eternal life. Now consider how important it is to have a right knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. That in itself leads to eternal life.
In order to lay a foundation for a knowledge of Christ, lets reflect on these points:
- A personal knowledge of Christ is essential to salvation.
- The relationship between Christ and His church is referred to as a marriage union.
- What do we mean when we say we have come to know each other in a marriage?
- Christ and His church have an intimate knowledge and relationship.
- We must have that type of knowledge; it must be an intimate relationship.
In EPH 5:24-25 we read, "Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." This is the type of knowledge that is required to have eternal life. Knowledge of Christ is not only essential to salvation, but there can be no faith in an unknown object. We are talking about coming to Christ with saving faith, but we cannot possibly have faith in someone we do not know. Now, you can see why coming to Christ with our understanding is so essential.
ROM 10:14 says, "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" Coming to Christ with a right understanding and knowledge is essential to salvation. It is salvation. Our text says, "And this is life eternal ." We must come to know Christ rightly, and that is eternal life. How shall the Word of God be brought forth without a preacher?
We must have some acquaintance with Christ before He will ever be trusted or loved. PRO 31:10-11 says, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil." However, what about her heart trusting him? Do you see how the relationship between man and wife is built on mutual trust? It only comes by learning to know each other. We can trust Christ because we have a personal relationship with Him, and He has proven to be faithful, but we must become acquainted with Him first.
HEB 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." We must have enough faith to believe that He is God and our Saviour. Coming to Christ with that knowledge is essential to salvation. It is impossible to please God without faith. How can we have faith in Him if we dont know Him? Knowledge of Christ is therefore essential to salvation.
There can be no true knowledge of Christ except as it is revealed in the Word of God. Many people say they can see God in the trees, in the mountains, nature, or this or that. One may go a step beyond that and read ROM 1:19 "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." With the natural mind, we will be chargeable with knowing there is a God by seeing Him in creation, but there is no saving knowledge of Christ that will be learned outside of the Word. That is the revelation of Jesus Christ. We must learn to know Him through the Word; it is the only way to come to a right understanding of Him.
2JO 1:9 tells us, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." We will never learn to know God and Jesus Christ outside of the Holy Word of God. You noticed that our text says "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Do you see the need for knowing both God the Father and the Son? We come to know God through the doctrines of Christ. Jesus admonishes us to search the Scriptures as the source of a saving knowledge of Him. In JOH 5:39 we read, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." There are many that put their confidence in their pastor, but never search the Scriptures for themselves. We are to search the Scriptures to learn to know Christ; in the Word of God we learn His doctrines and who He is.
Jesus reproved His disciples for their slowness of heart to believe in LUK 24:27, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." Jesus began in the Scriptures of the Old Testament to unfold the things pertaining to Himself.
Our knowledge of Christ is limited to the revelation of Him in Scriptures. REV 19:13 says, " and his name is called The Word of God." The Lord Jesus Christ is the sole substance of the Scriptures. There is no saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus outside of the Word of God. There are no revelations from Mother Mary, or Joseph Smith, or any other source that will ever bring us to salvation. See this in COL 3:16-17, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him."
The Lord Jesus Christ must become our altogether lovely object of affection. We must have an understanding that He is the beginning and the end, He is everything to us. An intellectual knowledge of Christ is not sufficient. We need Gods Word and His work of grace to meet together in our soul. We need the intellectual knowledge of Christ in harmony with a spiritual knowledge of Him. It must be a spiritual experience of Christ being formed in us. 1CO 13:2 says, "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."
The Scriptures tell us we need more than intellectual knowledge of Christ. We also need charity. What is charity? It is one-sided love; it is being able to have the Spirit of Christ formed in us so we can be merciful to our fellow man. It is a matter of Christ being so intimately related to us that we become one with Him, and others will see Christ formed in us. Then we can go out to talk to our fellow man about a Christ that we know personally. They will be able to see our faith because our attitude reflects the Spirit of Christ. Charity reflects the image of Christ. Without charity it is worthless to have all the knowledge and faith to move mountains.
There is a form of knowledge as well as a form of godliness. 2TI 3:2-5 speaks of those who have such a form of godliness, "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
This form of godliness springs from a form of knowledge that does not have the intimacy of true godliness. The form is the intellectual knowledge void of the intimate relationship and the power of love for God that goes with the knowledge of Christ.
ROM 2:20-21 says, "An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?" Do you see the form of knowledge, like the form of godliness that denies the power of the same? Do you understand that when you teach one not to steal, you should not covet in your own heart? Do you see that one may have literal knowledge without an intimate, personal knowledge/or relationship with Christ? Examine the relationship between yourself and Christ!
The scribes and Pharisees considered themselves very skilled in teaching the law, but they were ignorant of the power of it, i.e., the spirit of the law. The apostle distinguishes between these two aspects in 2TI 3:15-17. "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works."
The Apostle Paul is saying that from childhood Timothy had been taught and the Word of God had been instilled in him. Now, by the application of the Holy Spirit, he had been made wise unto salvation. He was not only wise intellectually, but also unto salvation. What did we say salvation was? Our text speaks a personal, intimate relationship with Christ, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3.
We need to understand that the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Ghost -- When they are applied by the Holy Spirit, the Word of Truth is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction. Our conduct is where we see the application of this knowledge when is visibly in exercise. We can have a form of knowledge without acting upon it. We can walk contrary to the knowledge we have. When we come to truly know Christ, we see that intimacy and relationship between Christ and us that brings saving faith into exercise in our lives.
It was to those who had an intellectual knowledge of the Truth that the prophet spoke in JER 9:3. They had the Divine Oracles of God and yet they denied the power thereof! "And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD." The prophet is referring to the children of Israel who had the Oracles of God, the revelation of the secret and mystery of salvation, but they denied the knowledge they had. They had "head knowledge," but they did not know the Lord. There was no change in their lives to reflect an intimate knowledge of their Lord. Their hearts were unchanged by the knowledge they acquired.
JER 48:11 gives us an example. "Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed." These Jews had an intellectual knowledge of the Messiah, but when He came in the flesh, His perfect light, His perfect life, wondrous miracles, matchless teachings and His intimate presence shone the Light in the darkness of their ignorance. JOH 1:5 explains, "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." They were in such a state of darkness that the Light shone in, and they even refused to see the literal knowledge of Christ when He came. Literal knowledge alone is not enough, but they denied even that.
We can have an intellectual, or a historical knowledge of Christ; a person could even be able to recite every passage of Scripture, and still be living in the darkness. We do not comprehend if we have never developed an intimate relationship with Christ because Christ has never been formed in the heart.
JOH 3:1 tells us, "There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." Nicodemus was one of the chief teachers and a ruler over the Jewish people. When the Lord Jesus was in their presence, they saw the light of His work, but they never comprehended.
It was to this man, Nicodemus, that Jesus said in Verse 3, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Now, we see the difference. There must be the change of heart in a new relationship. Without those new affections and the intimate knowledge of Christ, one cannot see the kingdom of God. A person will never see and understand what it means to serve the Lord until he is born again. The eyes are blinded and cannot comprehend the Light and cannot understand and know what it is to serve God.
Although Nicodemus was a master and teacher in Israel, he did not understand the spirit of the law. We see this in the next verses. "Nicodemus saith unto 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? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," JOH 3:4-5.
Nicodemus had a literal knowledge, but he did not comprehend even though he was the teacher. Then Jesus explained that he must be born of water and the Spirit or else he could not enter the kingdom of God. He could not enter into Gods service until he had been regenerated with a new understanding and a new heart. Until he comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ, entering into that marriage union with Him, he could not serve Him.
Some of the chief rulers among the Pharisees even believed upon Jesus as the Messiah of God; they had a natural understanding, but remained unregenerate. They had a form of knowledge where they believed He was the Messiah, but their affections were never changed. They were never born of the Spirit and water. JOH 12:42 tells us, "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue."
Those rulers believed with a form of knowledge; notice the word, but, in that verse. They could not give up the praise of men; they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue. Therefore, they would not confess Him.
Our text says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3. This verse is speaking of spiritual knowledge, of having a knowledge of the mysteries of the Spirit of Christ. It is more than a "head knowledge" or an intellectual knowledge. It is having a knowledge of the spiritual mysteries of the new life in Christ.
1CO 2:7 says, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." The mystery is the new man, the new birth, and the regeneration of the heart. It was a mystery to Nicodemus how one could be born again. He calculated the experience in a literal sense. He didnt understand the mystery of the Spirit.
These mysteries which are hidden from the wise and prudent, i.e., the intellectually learned, are revealed to those who have become as little children. Why? What is the reason for their revelation? They are revealed unto babes. They are little in themselves, brought down by the Lord. To answer the question of why, we go to ROM 16:25-26. "Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith."
The mystery is revealed to us "for the obedience of faith." That is what those with only an intellectual knowledge of Christ are missing. When there is an intimate knowledge of Christ, other people will see that obedience of faith; they will see the Spirit of Christ formed in that person. That solves the mystery of "where is eternal life." Eternal life is in those who have received the Spirit of Christ and have been regenerated. The grace of God has been worked in the soul, and the person is a new creature.
Great is the distinction between an intellectual knowledge of Christ revealed in the Scriptures, and Christ revealed in the person. Yes, Christ is revealed in the Scriptures, but now the world must see Christ revealed in the person. That reflects the intimate relationship God is seeking.
GAL 1:16 says, "To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood." Christ is revealed in the believers attitudes and actions.
Lets consider an example of how this principle might be put into practice. Suppose a person comes against you; he is bitter and nasty to you. He is out to destroy you. Now, will he see Christ in you? He will not if you respond with bitterness, but if you can heap coals of fire, i.e., coals of love, upon him, if you can feed him if he is hungry, he can see Christ formed in you. If you can give him your love by showing him love for the bitterness that he has given to you, he can see the spirit of self-sacrifice in you. Now, you have a preaching, the most powerful preaching, without saying a word. You could preach for hours, but you would not have said anything meaningful if your actions do not conform to the Word and the Spirit of Christ.
What ministry do we have if our conduct does not reveal Christ? Your preaching is blasphemy if it is short of that. One can be on television and preach to the world, but if that persons name later appears on television as a news item pertaining to the trial and conviction for the rape of a young woman, his preaching only brought reproach upon the name of Christ, it is blasphemy. He does not have a God honoring ministry. Examine your own actions to determine what kind of ministry you have.
It is through the work of regeneration that Christ is revealed in you. EPH 4:23-27 says, "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."
You stand for righteousness in love, not in a vengeful spirit. However, you still stand up for what is right in the Spirit of Christ. It is the sanctifying work of the Spirit of God which reveals the Spirit of Christ in you, and gives you new affections and a new will. The Holy Spirit works sanctification in the soul, and that is how Christ is being revealed in you. It is because He has brought you into the Spirit of Christ by the work of regeneration.
2TH 2:13 tells us, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." You cannot separate sanctification of the Holy Spirit and the belief of the truth. If we do not come through that conduit of sanctification, we are not able to claim salvation.
The knowledge of these truths is what makes a sinner cry out as in PSA 73:25, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." We must get our priorities straight. We are not after vain glory, the praise of men, or those things which build the ugly monster, "I."
No sinner will ever see any beauty in Christ or desire to be conformed to His image until he receives the Spirit of Christ. Until we have been through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we have no desire to be conformed to His image. We must be weaned from the love of sin as the power of sin broken. The power of sin must become a monster to us before we have the slightest desire to serve Christ or be conformed to His image.
The sanctifying work is strictly the work of grace. It is a work that is totally outside of ourselves. The work of regeneration, the work of the new creation, the work of the new birth, is just as much without you as your first birth. How much effort did you lend towards being conceived and born the first time? That is how much you will lend the second time.
EZE 36:24-27 explains, "For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
Is that the work of sanctification? Certainly, it is bringing us unto salvation through the sanctification of the Holy Spirit; this is what brings us to an intimate knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then we understand our text, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3.
There can be no exercise or obedience of saving faith in Christ until there is a saving knowledge of Him. We must first have the washing of regeneration in our soul. The saving faith in Christ goes together with the exercise of the obedience of faith.
PSA 9:10 says, "And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." This verse answers the question of who will put their trust in the Lord and have faith in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit, not the pastor, who must take those precious things of Christ and reveal them unto the soul. "They that know thy name" have an intimate knowledge of our Saviour. The pastor can teach your intellect, but it is the Holy Spirit that brings it into your soul.
PSA 36:9 tells us, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light. O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart." See how the psalmist makes knowing Him synonymous with the upright in heart.
The opening of the eyes precedes the conversion of the heart from Satan unto God as we see in ACT 26:18. "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Do you see how the forgiveness of sins comes chronologically after the eyes are opened and turned from Satan to God? Most people would be horrified to learn they are serving Satan if they are not serving the Lord, but we can serve only one master. MAT 6:24 says, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
It is those who see Christ with a supernaturally enlightened understanding that believe in Christ with a saving faith. JOH 6:40 says, "And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day."
We will never be changed into the image of Christ until we have come to the knowledge of Christ. There is a perfect harmony in the working of grace and the transformation by the Holy Spirit when we are changed into the same image as Christ. We must behold Christ by faith before we are changed into the image of God by the exercise of saving faith. Then we can see the application in 2CO 3:18. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
This spiritual and vital knowledge of Christ is known by the effects it has on us. The work of grace, the learning to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and being raised above the things of this world of sin has an effect on our lives. We see this in 1TH 1:5, "For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. So that ye were ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia."
The gospel comes in power. Power moves a train over the continental divide; it is a motivating force that causes the train to react to the power. The gospel has that force, a compelling element of the Holy Spirit, that causes you to act. The apostle is showing us how people see Christ in you; they will follow your example. That is why it is so essential that those who know Christ reveal Christ in their actions and attitudes.
The exercise of saving faith cannot be separated from a saving knowledge of Christ. You cannot have saving faith in action without having a true knowledge of Christ. Until Christ is formed in you and there is a relationship with Christ, it is not possible to have saving faith.
Now, carefully read 2PE 1:4-10. "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall."
Notice how the elements keep adding up or compounding; they are all part of the whole work of grace. Godliness is the first table of the law, i.e., loving God above all with our hearts, souls, and minds. Brotherly kindness is righteousness, which is the second table of the law. To these charity is added; charity is one-sided love; it is self-denial. If these factors are present, we will have abundant knowledge of Christ.
Now, lets go back and consider our text, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3. Life eternal is knowing Jesus, and if the things discussed in 2 PETER abound, we will not be barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of Him. This knowledge comes with the new birth, and we are not born in full maturity. We must grow in these graces as our Saviour said in MAT 13:31-32, "The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." Though the beginning be ever so small it grew unto full maturity.
If "these things" spoken of in 2PETER: knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity are not present, you are blind. Is there any question about what constitutes knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as spoken of in our text? Seeing and putting "these things" into action in our lives is evidence of a saving knowledge of Christ. This is eternal life. It is important that we understand it. If we have these things, we abound in the knowledge of Christ. Without them, one falls back into their old sins--"hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins."
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." How do you separate salvation from sanctification? It is not possible. So the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ seen in our text is the knowledge of Christ formed in you. It is possible for others to then see Christ in you. How? It is in godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. The Lord Jesus is pleased with such; it is not that we merit anything.
That is what He tells us in JOH 14:23, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." If we keep His words we will never be barren in the intimate relationship, in the fellowship, of Christ in our souls.
The light received in a natural understanding only puffs up, but a saving knowledge of Christ always constrains the soul unto loving obedience. The knowledge of Christ shown in our text is totally contrary to intellectual knowledge. The Apostle Paul was constrained to respond in ACT 9:6; "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."
Paul was a monster, known then as Saul, on his way to Damascus to put the church into prison. Then that same person was lying flat with his face on the ground, begging to know what the Lord would have him do. Is that conversion? Certainly, now he will abound in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of a sudden he had a different affection, different desires, different goals, and a different life. He became a totally different man.
Paul went and was commissioned to go out and preach the gospel. Paul was "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me," ACT 26:18. That is what he was told to do that they might see Christ in him. There are so many different "recipes" for what constitutes salvation, but our text says, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," JOH 17:3. Amen.
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