On the Difference between Knowledge and Knowing

Colossians 1:3–6 NRSV

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.


The thing that stands in the way of my truly comprehending God’s grace is that I’m pretty sure I already truly comprehend it. Go back and read that sentence again.

While the gospel is a message, it cannot be confined to messages. While the gospel is the truth, it cannot be captured by a series of propositional truths. Before the gospel is anything else, the gospel is God. Gospel means “good news,” and the good news is God. The good news is not that God loves us. The good news is that God is love. The good news is not that Jesus saves. It is that Jesus is himself salvation.

We think we truly comprehend God and the gospel because we have some comprehension of what God has done for us. This is good, as far as it goes, but it does not go anywhere near far enough. When our understanding of the gospel is limited to what God has done for us, our understanding of sharing the gospel will be limited to telling others what God has done for them.

To be sure, the gospel is the message of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, but in a far greater sense, the gospel is who Jesus Christ is to us and in us and through us for the world. The gospel is not a body of knowledge about who God is and what God has done. The gospel is actually knowing God. Jesus prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

We have lived through a period of world history wherein the measure of mastery consisted in knowing about a subject. The Christian faith is not meant for this paradigm. Real Christianity can never be reduced to knowing about God. We must go on to knowing God. To think one can master the subject of God is the ultimate idolatry. Real Christianity is about understanding oneself as subject to God and becoming mastered by Jesus Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not God’s solution to our sin problem. The gospel is that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting [our] sins against [us]” (2 Cor. 5:19). It is a reconciled relationship through which God lives in us and we in him. The gospel is not the knowledge but the knowing. The domain of knowledge is in a body of information. The domain of knowing is in the body of Jesus Christ.  And none of this is meant to eschew or despise knowledge, but rather to say that knowledge is a penultimate understanding. Ultimate understanding means knowledge about God must give way to knowing God.

Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. (Col. 1:6 NRSV)

To become a real “in Christ” Christian is our aim. Most often, it requires us to humble ourselves and confess that we might not be there quite yet; not that we aren’t on the way, but that the Way just might be a whole lot more than we ever comprehended.

Domino #1/6, let’s call it The Comprehension Test.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is both the Way and the way maker. He is the life and the life giver. He is the truth, not as a construct of knowledge but as a person, the Word made flesh. I want to know Jesus more than I know about him. I want to know him personally, and intimately and powerfully. To this end we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. Does your knowledge about God outstrip your knowing of God? Will you allow this to rise to the level of a holy discontent within you?
  2. Are you ready to invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to the next place of knowing Jesus? What will this look like?
  3. Does your pride of knowledge about God hold you back from the kind of humility required to know God more?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. J D, thank you for reminding us that we are a we work in progress, that we are to press forward, that we have not yet arrived.
    Response #1: It truly is a temptation to believe that a better understanding is my ultimate goal, but you are correct in stating that a closer relationship should be our ultimate goal, to be totally consumed in God’s love.
    Response #2: I have, in the words of Paul, offered my body up to God as a living sacrifice, to be transformed, filled and used to His glory. The goal here is to have Christ to live his life through me.
    Response #3: Yes, human pride in what I know about Christ as apposed to truly knowing him on a deep personal level is still something I’m still struggling with. This requires repentance and renewal.

  2. Once when I was praying, these words came to my heart: “The worst condition a person can be in is to think they’re saved when they’re not.” Like you said, “The gospel is actually knowing God. ” It’s not just knowing about Him. If I think I’m saved when, I’m not, I’ll settle into a false sense of religious security based on my knowledge about Jesus and unintentionally substitute my knowledge about Him for a humble, submitted growing relationship with Him.

    1) The more I get to personally know the living Jesus, the more I realize that my knowledge about Him is rather sketchy. The more I love Him and surrender to His will, the less need I feel to try to figure out all the theological details about Him. Instead, I prefer to bask in His presence and get lost in His splendor and wonder!

    2) I continually invite the Holy Spirit to lead me “to the next place of knowing Jesus. That looks like the beatitude: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness . . .”

    3) Although I have an M.Div. degree and have spent all my adult life reading the Bible and more Christian books than I can count, my informational knowledge about God is minimal, but my heart continually dances with joy in His presence.

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