Knowledge That Leads To Humility.
I believe in the importance of in-depth Bible studies, as much as I believe in theological training. I also believe that in-depth Bible studies and theological training do not equate maturity in the Gospel. As I’m reading daily and “growing” in my understanding of the Gospel and the culture around me as a missionary, I’m led to check my heart if the very things that should lead me to humility are producing in me the opposite, namely religious pride. Pride, in the human heart, expresses itself in subtle ways and in various forms as I noted in my earlier posts. The fact that you are reading this short post already produces in me some form of pride. The very prospect of my article being widely read already creates in me a subtle pride: a glory I know I should give to God, but also would like to steal some for myself. I confess, I’m prone to wander in my heart. But I’m reminded of how great God’s grace truly is! And how patient He has been with me, and all of us. I’m a work in progress. I believe you are too.
So below are a few points I would like to share, knowing that I have not arrived. I’m on a journey like everyone of you reading this. A journey that will take me a lifetime of learning; a journey that is tough, because the road is narrow (Matt. 7: 14). It’s the kind of road that only the all sufficient Christ can take us. I’m on this journey with Christ; and with my fellow believers who, like me, are prone to fall into pride. Christ has accomplished all his work in so far as the Gospel is concerned (John 19: 30). So there is the “already” but “not yet” part. He is coming back. And we shall know Him fully then, as we are fully known. Until then, you and I haven’t arrived. We’re seeing through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13: 12).
The Mind Works A Little Faster Than The Heart.
What our minds perceive as truth must be translated into our hearts in real life. In an earlier post we saw how easy it is “for us to intellectually apprehend truth than it is for us to actually embrace it” in the heart. James 1: 22 calls us to not to merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves, but to do what it says. “We can read Luther on justification and understand what he’s saying, but this understanding never sinks into our primary experience, fooling us to label something we’ve only perceived as something we deeply understand. Thielicke adds, “Thus one lives at second hand”(ref: post).
We’re called to love God with all our minds, but also with our hearts (being) and all our strength (doing) (Luke 10: 27). So, acquiring lots of theological information does not equate Spiritual maturity. In fact, this is what makes us “better theological gatekeepers than tender and humble spokesmen for the gospel.” If we’re not careful, knowledge can puff up (which it often does in a lot of people) (1 Cor. 8: 1). But love seeks to build up. In other words, the purpose and goal of “knowledge” is to love others deeply. Therefore Gospel maturity is not less than an understanding of biblical principles and in-depth truths about the Bible, but it is infinitely more. Truth is about knowing a Person, the person of Christ (John 14: 6), and doing what He says (Luke 6: 46). And this takes time, a life-time.
So, let’s not just do more “in-depth” bible studies for the sake of bible studies itself. Let’s not just accumulate bible information so that we can disobey more. It may be that our people who come to bible studies haven’t had the chance to live out what they learned at the most recent in-depth bible study. Accumulating theological information is not the answer to their disobedience. The mind moves a little faster than the heart. Now, this does not mean we must stop learning. People and Churches are “destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4: 6). Biblical ignorance and spiritual arrogance can be equally dangerous. But the knowledge of the glory of God over the whole earth is God’s aim. The earth cannot perish untill every people group is illuminated with the light of the Gospel. We want “the earth [to] be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2: 14). So let’s give the Word a chance to work deeply into our hearts. There’s too much information in our minds that has not become a deep conviction in our hearts. Let’s repent that we haven’t repented enough; and let’s repent that our knowledge has often puffed us up. Let’s repent that we haven’t obeyed all that we’ve learned. And how often, with all our accumulated knowledge, we have lost the awe and wonder of it all.
“The aim of biblical Gospel-maturity is thoughtful, balanced, careful, informed, humble, experienced, wise and Jesus-exalting in the way we think, talk and act in regard to all matters of life — and in relation to people completely different from ourselves.” Therefore it is heart-changing and life-altering (ref. post).
May God give us the grace to be deeply in awe and wonder of who He really is as we grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures.
Related articles from earlier posts:
- Why Seminary Education Does Not Equate Spiritual Maturity.
- Church Health: Have You Grown Into Something Else?
- Gospel Maturity: Heart-Changing & Life-Altering.
- A Gospel-centered Warning To Young Zealous Theologians.
- When Pride Poses As Humility- part 1.
- When Pride Poses As Humility- part 2.