Wake-Up Call: 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. It 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. It 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 reconciling the world to himself in Christ, 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 comprehension 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 want to know about him. I want to know him personally and intimately and powerfully. To this end we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


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? Are you ready to invite the Holy Spirit to lead you to the next place of knowing Jesus? What will this look like? Does your pride in your 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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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. In answer to your questions: Yes, I realize that I know more about Jesus and his love than I’ve actually experienced in Him and his love. Yes, I do pray that He will draw me closer to Himself and use me to expand His kingdom. And yes, I believe that kingdom fruit can only be produced on branches that are thoroughly grafted into the Vine of Life. And no, I don’t believe that my pride of knowledge is an obstacle to really experiencing Christ. I know that my knowledge is incomplete, but I’m receptive.

  2. Saul knew about God, until he encountered the living Jesus on the road to Damascus and he no longer just knew about God, Paul knew Jesus himself. Praise the Lord! “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)

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