Webster defines knowledge as “a clear and certain perception of that which exists, or of truth and fact; learning; illumination of mind; information; the power of knowing.” Webster expands his thoughts on knowledge with these considerations: “God has a perfect knowledge of all His works. Human knowledge is very limited, and is mostly gained by observation and experience.”
Peter speaks of us having a ‘precious faith’ by the ‘righteousness of God and Jesus Christ’. And Peter prays, we experience God’s grace, peace, and grow in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus. Peter emphasizes we can live a life of godliness through the knowledge of Jesus Christ and by His ‘divine power’ which is His Holy Spirit which lives within us. Let’s look at 2 Peter 1.
2 Peter 1:1-11 (AMPC)
Simon Peter, a servant and apostle (special messenger) of Jesus Christ, to those who have received (obtained an equal privilege of) like precious faith with ourselves in and through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: may grace (God’s favor) and peace (which is perfect well-being, all necessary good, all spiritual prosperity, and freedom from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts) be multiplied to you in [the full, personal, precise, and correct] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
For His divine power has bestowed upon us all things that [are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the [full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue). By means of these He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.
For this very reason, adding your diligence [to the divine promises], employ every effort in exercising your faith to develop virtue (excellence, resolution, Christian energy), and in [exercising] virtue [develop] knowledge (intelligence), and in exercising] knowledge [develop] self-control, and in [exercising] self-control [develop] steadfastness (patience, endurance), and in [exercising[ steadfastness [develop] godliness (piety), and in [exercising] godliness [develop brotherly affection, and in [exercising] brotherly affection [develop] Christian love.
For as these qualities are yours and increasingly abound in you, they will keep [you] from being idle or unfruitful unto the [full personal] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
For whoever lacks these qualities is blind, [spiritually] shortsighted, seeing only what is near to him, and has become oblivious [to the fact] that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Because of this, brethren, be all the more solicitous and eager to make sure (to ratify, to strengthen, to make steadfast) your calling and election; for if you do this, you will never stumble or fall. This there will be richly and abundantly provided for you entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Foundational Thoughts on Knowledge
“Peter repeats the word ‘knowledge’ throughout this letter (2 Peter 1:2, 3, 8; 2:20; 3:18). We often associate knowledge with reason and intellect. While the Scriptures certainly value the life of the mind, Peter homes in on a particular kind of knowledge: ‘knowledge of him who called us’ (1:3). Peter concludes his letter with a similar remark, calling us to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’ (3:18).”
“Peter mentions the quality of knowledge. This is not abstract knowledge, as if cramming our craniums with more information will save us and make us moral. Rather, this refers to the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. As we come to know Jesus in an intimate and affectionate way, we become more and more like Him.” [Ivill 110]
“Biblical knowledge is meant to be personal and intimate, focused on knowing Christ. Memorized verses, theological depth, and gospel sayings are not enough to avoid temptation and error or to grow in godliness. Such growth requires adoration of God. The invitation to increase in knowledge is paired with a promise of divine power to apprehend the majesty of Jesus. Let us avoid the temptation to rely on biblical knowledge alone and rejoice that God is disposed to move us toward a more intimate knowledge of Jesus.” [Dodson 56-57]
“Faith helps us develop virtue, and virtue helps us develop knowledge. The word translated ‘knowledge’ in 2 Peter 1:2-3 means ‘full knowledge’ or ‘knowledge that is growing.’ The word used here suggests practical knowledge or discernment. It refers to the ability to handle life successfully. This kind of knowledge does not come automatically. It comes from obedience to the will of God (John 7:17). In the Christian life, we must not separate the heart and the mind, character and knowledge.” [Wiersbe 24]
“So Peter basically says that the believer’s re-creation into the image of Christ comes about by way active participation in the pursuit of knowing him more and more. Many believers limit their knowledge of God to their conversion. But knowing God, Peter says, is a lifetime pursuit. And it’s the avenue through which God’s children access all the powerful resources he’s provided to make them look more like Jesus. And remember – to know God is to know Jesus. Knowing Jesus is the way to know God.” [Shaddix 15]
Knowledge with Wisdom
“What happens if a new believer in Christ Jesus does not move beyond simple belief in Jesus as Savior and begin truly to follow Jesus as Lord? He shortchanges himself when it comes to all God’s promises for life in general and godliness in particular. Exceedingly great and precious promises have been given, to be sure, but these promises must be actively received and acted upon.”
“It is only when we actively seek to develop godly character and behavior that we learn what it means to partake of Christ Jesus and to know Him fully. Knowing about Christ is not the same as knowing Christ. It is only as one develops and experiential relationship with Christ that a person becomes spiritually mature, bears godly fruit, and earns an abundance of rewards in heaven.”
“There is a downside, Peter said, in not moving forward to follow Jesus as Lord and know Him in His fullness. Such a person may become blind toward Christ, even to the point of ‘forgetting’ he was cleansed from old sins and falling back into old patterns of living.”
“How does a person build a foundation of believing in Jesus as Savior? Peter presented a progressive list of seven steps: add virtue (moral excellence), add knowledge, add self-control, add perseverance, add godliness, add brotherly kindness, and add love.” Specifically looking at knowledge, Blackaby states, “Knowledge refers to practical applied knowledge that enables a person to make honorable, right decisions and choices. As a Christian begins to live out his faith, he must learn which attitudes, words, and behaviors are most honoring to God.” [Blackaby 48-49]
Knowledge with God’s Power
“Peter makes it clear that what God calls believers to do flows from and is dependent upon what He has already done for believers. God didn’t tell Israel to obey His Ten Commandments before He delivered them from Egypt. Instead, God delivered them from Egypt and then told them how they should live as His people. There is a huge difference between the two. Because God has led His people in a grand exit from the corruption in the world because of sinful desire, and because He has given them all things that pertain to life and godliness, He calls them to live out their calling in concrete ways.”
“He is not just concerned with our attitudes but also with our actions that flow from such attitudes. The life of the believer is to be distinct from the unbeliever’s. We are to have a different quality of life because we are dealing with a different quantity of power. Indeed, we are dealing with a power of an entirely different kind. We have divine power at work in our lives.”
“Our effort then to supplement our faith is not in order to achieve salvation – that is a free gift from God. Nor is it in order to reach a higher plane of holiness – we have all obtained a faith of equal standing. Rather, our effort to supplement our faith is to prove how precious and great are the promises of God regarding our salvation. The same God who has the power to save us also has the power to change us. Faith, then, is the foundation on which the other qualities are built, and love is the crowning pinnacle.”
“Those qualities that fall in between are to be seen as one big package with faith and love. We don’t pick and choose the qualities we like or those that are easier for us. Instead, we are called to make every effort to display in our lives all the qualities Peter mentions, whether we are at home, at school, at work, or at play. These qualities are grounded in faith, because without faith we wouldn’t have God’s power, which is necessary for the interweaving of them in our attitudes and actions. They are crowned by love, because without love we wouldn’t extend the grace and peace of God to others.” [Ivill 109]
OT Biblical Life of Knowledge
King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived. God promised Solomon anything he asked. “Solomon chose understanding and discernment, asking God to help him govern His people well and wisely. God was so pleased with the request that He granted it, along with great riches, honor, and longevity. (1 Kings 3:11-15).” [Zavada]
Solomon wrote the Book of Proverbs or the Book of Wisdom. “Critics object to Solomon’s character because of his many wives. Close attention to the texts, however, shows that they do not picture Solomon as a creature of lust. As an important king over an area that included many petty kings of city states, Solomon doubtless concluded numerous treaties. Surely in many cases such treaties were sealed by Solomon’s marrying the petty king’s daughter, as was the ancient custom and as was the case of the alliance with Egypt (1 Kings 9:16-17). Solomon’s marriages were doubtless largely political arrangements. His error lay in allowing his politically important wives to bring their heathen worship into the city of God (1 Kin 11:7-9).” [Open Bible]
An Appointed Time
Solomon speaks of an appointed time for everything in Ecclesiastes 3, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up.”
Solomon continues, “A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”
Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with these words of wisdom and knowledge, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
Many people begin a life of godliness well, as Solomon did, but there are few who finish well. Let’s determine to finish well by the grace and power of God.
NT Biblical Life of Knowledge
Paul began his life of godliness in his own strength. He pursued education (nothing wrong with pursuing education!) and became an expert in the principles of the law. Yet in Paul’s learning, he remained ignorant about the God Who was behind Biblical Law. In his own strength and in his own human efforts he attempted to crush Christianity.
Yet God saw Paul was actively seeking Truth in his heart. God appeared to Paul in a blinding flash of light and revealed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Thankfully, Paul was a seeker of Truth and responded to this Truth and turned away from trying to crush Christianity to aiding Christianity’s growth. Paul is credited with helping Christianity thrive and spread throughout the Mediterranean region and into the Roman Empire.
Paul preached Christ crucified, “When I came to you, brothers, I didn’t come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Paul moved from trying to know everything about God by his own efforts and in his own understanding to being led by the Spirit of God and knowing the character and nature of God as a Person.
Historical Life of Knowledge
Eric Liddell began his life as a missionary’s kid in China, he continued in faithfulness to Christ as he gained knowledge in college and notoriety as a fast runner. He committed to return to China as a missionary, but delayed his return until after the 1924 Olympics in Paris, France.
True to his Christian heart convictions, Liddell refused to participate in his most favored race for winning a gold medal (100 meters) because its qualifying heat was on a Sunday. He strongly believed the Sabbath day was a day of rest according to his knowledge of the Bible. Liddell was given the opportunity to run the 400 meter race (because he didn’t run the 100 meter race). In the 400 meter race, he won the gold medal and set a new world record. There is a film that dramatized his life as a Christian runner, Chariots of Fire, which was made in 1981.
“Those who knew him testified that his personal and moral convictions weren’t born of a cold, rigid religious piety, but of a warm, happy devotion to his Lord and Savior.” [Alcorn]
Devoted to Christ
Upon returning to China in 1925, Liddell taught chemistry in a college in Tientsin. He led Bible studies and coached kids in athletics. In 1929, Liddell became superintendent of the London Missionary Society in China. He married in 1934 and had three daughters.
Unfortunately, WWII brought hostilities between China and Japan right to the Liddell family’s door. The London Missionary Society asked Liddell to serve the rural communities through their Siaochang mission. Liddell accepted, but sent his family to safety in Canada. Traveling village to village by bicycle, Liddell supported preachers in the remote countryside.
When Britain and Japan went to war in December 1941, Liddell became an enemy and harsh restrictions were placed on him and other foreigners. In March 1943, all the foreigners were marched through the town, put on trains, and transported to an internment camp. All foreigners were taken to a former missionary base, but with limited supplies, strict rules, no running water, no working bathrooms, accompanied with the loss of freedom, everyone began to wilt under the harsh conditions.
“Despite the squalor of the open cesspools, rats, flies and disease in the crowded camp,” Liddell provided leadership, care and moral support to his fellow prisoners. [Alcorn]
Liddell’s Knowledge Helps Others
Liddell organized classes where he taught science using homemade text books. Liddell would teach and tutor many children. This helped everyone grow in knowledge and gave the children something to do during the morning time. Liddell taught Sunday School which helped the children grow in their knowledge of Christ. Liddell arranged sporting events which he refereed. The sporting events kept the prisoners morale up, aided the children physically and gave everyone something to fill their long hours. All the children referred to him as Uncle Eric.
Margaret, who was a thirteen year old girl imprisoned by the Japanese in the Weihsien Internment Camp for foreigners, recalls how Uncle Eric originally refused to referee games in the camps on Sunday. However, in his absence, the children fought. Therefore, Liddell decided the children needed the athletic diversion and began refereeing their games on Sundays.
Margaret saw Uncle Eric as a person who would sacrifice his own glory based on principle, but when “it came to the good of children in a prison camp, he would referee on Sunday.” Liddell was not legalistic, he was principled. “Liddell would sacrifice a gold medal for himself in the name of truth, but would bend over backward for others in the name of grace.” [Alcorn]
Liddell “gave special care to the older people, the weak, and the ill, to whom the conditions in camp were very trying.” Unfortunately, Liddell developed a brain tumor after two years in the internment camp. It developed quickly and without proper care, Liddell died. Even in his remaining hours, Liddell remained strong in character and inspired other prisoners-of-war in the camp. Liddell finished his life strong in knowledge and the grace of God even under the harshest conditions.
“None of us will ever forget this man who was totally committed to putting God first, a man whose humble life combined muscular Christianity with radiant godliness. What was his secret? He unreservedly committed his life to Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. That friendship meant everything to him.” [Alcorn ~ Dr. Michell]
Liddell Expressed Christ’s Love
Marcy Ditmanson, a Lutheran missionary imprisoned with Eric shared, “Eric, more than anyone I had ever known, typified the joyful Christian life. He had a marvelous sense of humor, was full of laughter and practical jokes, but always in good taste. His voice was nothing special, but how he loved to sing. He was no great orator but he had a way of riveting his listeners, especially with his twinkling eyes.”
God used Liddell “as a lifeline to hundreds of children” during their imprisonment. Yes, Eric Liddell won the gold medal in the 1924 Paris Olympics, but it “was nothing compared to his humble service for Christ.’ Dr. Norman Cliff, who was imprisoned with Eric, recalled, ‘Eric Liddell would say, ‘When you speak of me, give the glory to my master, Jesus Christ.’” [Alcorn]
Eric Liddell’s knowledge of God, and his relationship with his Savior, Jesus, enabled him to run for Christ as an athlete, teach science to college students, and teach Sunday school to children in the best of times. And when hard times came, he freely taught, encouraged, and supported fellow prisoners-of-war which enabled them to survive the harsh conditions. Whether Liddell’s knowledge was of science or of Christ, he freely used it to help others. Liddell walked in the knowledge of Christ’s love and freedom which overcame the physical hardships of their circumstances. He gave his all for Christ and in service to those around him in China.
Modern-Day Life of Knowledge
I had a hard time selecting someone in history to represent knowledge. Do I select someone who is known for their academic research and great knowledge on a specific subject? And they would represent our traditional view of knowledge. Or do I select someone who has great knowledge of the least of these, like Mother Teresa? Do I choose head knowledge or heart knowledge? Ultimately, I chose Nikki Haley who embodies both aspects of knowledge: academic and fighting for justice for the least of these.
Nikki Haley, born to Indian parents, experienced discrimination while growing up in South Carolina. Instead of becoming hard hearted and bitter, she chose to prove those harassing her wrong. She acquired an accounting degree and worked in her mother’s clothing business.
Later, she worked for the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Women Business Owners. Eventually, she became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina.
Receiving some backlash for her gender and race, Haley said, “The fact that I happen to be an Indian female, of course that brings a new dynamic,’ she said. ‘But what I hope it does is cause a conversation in this state where we no longer live by layers, but we live by philosophies.”
Nikki Haley was South Carolina Representative from 2004 until she became Governor. She was governor from 2011 to 2017. She was appointed the United States Ambassador to the United Nations and served in that position from January 2017 to December 2018.
With All Due Respect
When a party head tried to say one of Nikki Haley’s statements was due to confusion and implied it was because she was female, Haley firmly replied, “with all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
After leaving public office, Nikki Haley wrote a book titled, With All Due Respect. It is an excellent book and I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook. Nikki Haley has deep convictions of right and wrong which have led her to stand up for the hurting and to stand against injustice, no matter what the cost to her personally.
Nikki Haley’s interactions at the United Nations, especially on the Security Council, were highly educational. Haley’s deep convictions and inner struggles over murder, rape, starvation, and the abuses she witnessed while ambassador come through loud and clear in her audiobook. Yet, Haley is hopeful and inspirational.
Nikki Haley is a modern-day example of academic knowledge, communication skills, and heart knowledge being used as a voice for the least of these in the area: of business, in organizations, through governmental laws, and in relation to the nations. Nikki Haley epitomizes using knowledge to fight for justice for the weak and oppressed and for just weights for everyone.
Personal Life of Knowledge
Seeing Solomon begin his life of godliness with wise instruction from his parents, and wisdom from God that is unsurpassed by any man. Solomon showed wisdom and knowledge and his love for God by walking with God according to His Words of Life. Unfortunately, Solomon was drawn away from God by his many wives who worshiped other gods.
Meanwhile, Paul encourages us in knowledge because he went from being a self-assertive man to being a God-surrendered man. No matter how we have walked in the past, we can turn and surrender to God. God can teach us, lead us, and transform us. There is hope in God.
Eric Liddell encourages to use our talents for God, then leads us in never allowing our talents to become greater than God. Liddell’s willingness to teach his earthly knowledge and use his knowledge of Christ to help others in good circumstances and in harsh conditions with the ‘joy of the Lord’ is a testimony to his character in Christ.
Nikki Haley has used her talents to be a voice of justice for the least of these in her local chamber of commerce, in the National Association of Women’s Business Owners, in South Carolina as a House Representative, then as Governor, and as the US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Each of these used their knowledge to personally move forward in life and to serve others. Knowledge alone cannot save us. Solomon proves this. We must grow in all of the character qualities of God to be transformed into His image. It is the knowledge of Christ and a willingness to surrender our will to His will which allows us to persevere through times of blessing and times of hardship unscathed. Godly character is greater than man’s knowledge.
If we have a loving fear of God accompanying our knowledge, then we will grow in our love for Him and in our relationship with Him. If we grow in knowledge apart from Him, we can be led astray into worshipping idols.
Romans 11 proclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
Our hearts long for something greater. Let us hunger and thirst for the Holy One. As we pursue a life of godliness, let us grow in knowledge and a relationship with the Righteous One Who can satisfy us.
Thank you, Lord, for helping us grow in knowledge, yet remain humbly surrendered to You, Your will, and Your ways. Thank you for “working all things together for good for those who love You, and for those who are called according to Your purpose.”
“Thank you that no one can separate us from the love of Christ. Neither tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword. For in all these things we overwhelming conquer through Him who loved us. Thank you that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Romans 8]
“For this reason we bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth derives its name, that He would grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith; and that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” [Ephesians 3]
And we “thank our God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given us in Christ Jesus, that in everything we were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in us, so that we are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm us to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom we were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” [1 Corinthians 1]
And Lord, we thank You for guarding us so that we “are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men,” so that we would not “fall from our own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
For further reading on life and godliness, see Lisa’s post on Life and Godliness: Foundation and Faith https://strengthwithdignity.com/life-and-godliness-foundation-and-faith/
And Life and Godliness: Moral Excellence https://strengthwithdignity.com/life-and-godliness-moral-excellence/
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 12:13-14; Romans 8:28, 35, 37-39; 11:33, 36; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-19; 2 Peter 1:1-11; 3:17-18
Alcorn, Randy. The Little Known Story of Olympian Eric Liddell’s Final Years. Published February 12, 2018. Retrieved March 10, 2021 from https://www.epm.org/blog/2018/Feb/12/olympian-eric-liddell
Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC). Copyright 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by the Lockman Foundation.
Blackaby, Henry and Richard, Thomas, Melvin and Norman Blackaby. Encounters with God: 1 & 2 Peter. Thomas Nelson, 2008.
Dodson, Jonathan K. 1-2 Peter and Jude: A 12-Week Study. Crossway, 2017.
Knighton, Andrew. Eric Liddell, the Record Breaking Olympian Who Kept Hope Alive in a Japanese Prison Camp. Published February 22, 2017. [Based on the book Wartime Courage by Gordon Brown, 2008] Retrieved March 10, 2021 from https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/eric-liddell-record-breaking-olympian-kept-hope-alive-japanese-prison-camp.html
Ivill, Sarah. 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude: Steadfast in the Faith. RHB, 2017.
New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1960, 1971, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.
Shaddix, Jim and Daniel L. Akin. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 2 Peter and Jude. B & H Publishing Group, 2018.
The Open Bible (NASB). Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. Retrieved February 22, 2021, from http://webstersdictionary1828.com/
Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Alert: Beware of Religious Imposters – NT Commentary 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude. Victor Books, 1984.
World English Bible (WEB) by Public Domain. The name “World English Bible” is trademarked.
Zavada, Jack. Biography of King Solomon: The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived. Retrieved March 8, 2021 from www.learnreligions.com