To faith and virtue, the Christian must add knowledge. Knowledge is already present in the characteristic of faith for “faith comes by hearing the word of God,” Romans 10:17. Yet the basic knowledge that leads to faith must grow.
To grow in Christ, one must have knowledge of the word of God. God gave us commands through His Son and the apostles. The commands of God are to shape our lives in holiness so that as He is holy, we can be holy. God did not give commands arbitrarily; there are reasons why God legislated as He did. We must trust in the wisdom of God and do all that He commands. However, we must first know the commands, and that comes through study.
The word of God also teaches us by the example of godly men and women. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we can study the lives of men and women who served God in difficult situations, often standing against those who claimed to be God’s people. We are urged to “walk as Jesus walked,” 1 John 2:6. How can we know how Jesus lived if we do not read the gospels? Many of us who desire to live like Christ do not study how He acted, how He answered His critics, His love, His anger, His doctrine, and His sacrifice. The more we learn about Christ, the more we will want to do what He did.
As we learn more of the gospel, we are able to use that knowledge in handling situations in life. Through knowledge, we can gain wisdom. Knowledge is the understanding of the facts; wisdom is the ability to use those facts in daily life. The spiritually mature have “exercised” that knowledge in daily life, Hebrews 5:14. The mature Christian knows how the word of God works because he has exercised it in his life. I can read a cookbook and learn how to bake a delicious cake, but until I step into the kitchen and actually make the cake, I really cannot know how to bake a cake. I may know what the word of God teaches, but until I use it in my life, especially in difficult circumstances, I will not know how the word really works.
Sometimes we view knowledge as a goal. We feel that once we know enough, we will be good Christians. However, some very knowledgeable Christians have gotten themselves into trouble because they did not exercise the word in wisdom.
Paul wrote, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” We should not pursue knowledge as the end goal. We should realize that knowledge is just a means towards the ultimate end of being complete in Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Scripture is able to equip us fully, that is, we have everything we need for living our lives before God. The word of God simply arms me for conflicts with Satan and provides nourishment to help me as I journey to become complete in Christ. Knowledge is not the destination; it is a road map. God will not allow me into heaven because I was able to pass a test on my knowledge of the Bible, but He will judge me by how I lived the Bible.