Last week, we began a journey into 2 Peter 1, in which the Apostle Peter tells us with which things we ought to supplement our faith, starting with holiness (or virtue).
The next thing Peter encourages us to include in our spiritual diet is “knowledge.”
5For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
On the first read, it might be easy to assume that what Peter is talking about here is doctrinal knowledge. Doctrinal knowledge – knowing and understanding the core beliefs of orthodox Christianity – is valuable in growing closer to God. The more you know about God, his plans, his nature, his word, etc., the closer you can grow to him. And, while doctrinal knowledge is a crucial aspect of the Christian walk, it doesn’t seem to be exactly the type of knowledge Peter is talking about here.
The Greek word Peter uses here is gnosis, and he uses it in two other instances in his letters.
He uses it in 1 Peter 3:7, and 2 Peter 3:18.
In 1 Peter 3:7, he writes [bolded text is how the ESV has translated gnosis],
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered
Notice, in this passage, Peter is using the word gnosis to describe how a husband ought to live with his wife. This knowledge is intimate and honorable. It describes the way a good husband knows his wife and is one way in which Peter uses the term gnosis, next, we’ll look at another way.
In 2 Peter 3:18, he writes,
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
How do we grow in the grace of Jesus? If grace is unmerited favor, how do we grow in it? It’s not that we acquire more of it, that is impossible. Rather, it seems that we grow in the grace of Jesus by increasing our realization of just how much grace God has afforded us. We need constant reminders of how much God has lavished his grace on us, and in these reminders, we grow in the grace of Jesus.
But, how do we grow in the knowledge of Jesus? It seems, again, that Peter is talking about something a little different than doctrinal knowledge. Instead, as growing in the grace of Jesus is a personal and spiritual matter, it seems that Peter is talking about growing in the personal knowledge of Jesus.
If the other instances of Peter’s usage of the term gnosis are about knowing God in an intimate personal way, then it reasonably follows that he's instructing us to supplement our virtue – or holiness – with intimate knowledge of God.
We can only speculate as to why it would be important to supplement our virtue with knowledge of God, but it does seem that in our pursuit of virtue, we can find ourselves pursuing goodness for the sake of goodness and not for the sake of God. People who pursue “being good,” without knowing who God is are just as lost as those who live the most unholy lives and have no knowledge of God.
People who pursue “being good,” without knowing who God is are just as lost as those who live the most unholy lives and have no knowledge of God.
Of course, we know that it isn’t our deeds that save us, it is only Jesus, however, even though we know this to be true, how many of us still pursue good deeds and forsake a great relationship with Jesus?
Far too many.
So, we should be virtuous, but only while also doing everything we can to pursue our knowledge of God. The same way a good husband doesn’t just know about his wife but knows his wife, we shouldn’t merely know about God, but know him intimately and passionately.
How do we do this?
We trust him.
The foundation of any good relationship – as you’ve heard – is trust.
It is no different for our relationship with God.
We grow in our knowledge (intimacy) of God when we practice trusting him.
This week, let’s practice trusting God. Each day, pray a different prayer focusing on a different piece of scripture explaining a promise God has made to us. Then, pray that God would help you to trust this promise and draw you nearer to him. At the end of the day, write about how you practiced that trust throughout the day. Finally, at the end of the week, write about how this one-week experience has affected you.
If you click here, you can download a small printable document with these promises and spaces in which to write about your experience.