When Does Knowledge Equal Spiritual Growth?

Evangelicals have a love-hate relationship with knowledge, it seems. Many churches seem to be so embarrassingly anti-intellectual that it seems if you enjoy books, you may finding yourself looking for a new church.

There seems to be a great fear of having a swelled, puffed up head (cf. 1 Cor. 8:1), and with good reason—too many of us have made the error of putting too much stock in head knowledge that doesn’t move to the heart. Too often we take someone’s knowledge of Scripture and Christian theology as evidence of their spiritual maturity.

But where we go too far is when we assume that seeking knowledge is a bad thing.

In fact, knowledge should be a great concern of all Christians. We’re to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:3). Our love is to be informed by “knowledge and all discernment” (Phil 1:9). Paul connects salvation with knowledge—a coming “to a knowledge of the truth” (2 TIm. 2:25).

He even prays that the Colossians will be filled with knowledge in Col. 1:9-10:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

So does growth in knowledge mean spiritual growth? Anthony Hoekema puts it well:

The answer depends on what one means by knowledge. If it is mere abstract, intellectual knowledge, mere rote-memory knowledge, mere “Bible Trivia” knowledge, not necessarily. Paul  in fact, talks about a type of knowledge that “puffs up,” but does not build up (1 Cor. 8:1). But if growth in knowledge means growth in understanding what Christ has done for us, what the Spirit is doing in us, and what God wants us to do for him and to be for him, then growth in knowledge is bound to bring spiritual growth. This is the type of knowledge Peter has in mind when he enjoins his readers, in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace, 142 (Westminster | Amazon)

We are right to take little stock in knowledge that fills the head but doesn’t transform the heart. But we should always rejoice as believers grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

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Aaron Armstrong

Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty (Cruciform Press, 2011). He is a writer, serves as an itinerant preacher throughout southern Ontario, Canada, and blogs daily at Blogging Theologically.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
comment_post_ID); ?> "While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken

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