The word knowledge in the Bible denotes an understanding, a recognition, or an acknowledgment. To “know” something is to perceive it or to be aware of it. Many times in Scripture, knowledge carries the idea of a deeper appreciation of something or a relationship with someone. The Bible is clear that the knowledge of God is the most valuable knowledge a human being can possess. But it is also clear that simply being aware of God’s existence is not sufficient; the knowledge of God must encompass the deep appreciation for and relationship with Him.
We know from Scripture that knowledge is a gift from God. Proverbs 2:6 tells us that the Lord gives wisdom that comes from His own mouth—the Word of God—and that the wisdom of God results in knowledge and understanding. James adds that those who lack wisdom have only to ask for it and God will give it abundantly and generously. God’s desire is for all to know Him, appreciate Him, and have a relationship with Him; therefore, He grants to all who truly seek Him the wisdom that leads to knowledge. Further, because knowledge is God’s to give, those who reverence Him will receive it. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). The word fear here is not dread or terror but a reverence for God, respect for His law, His will, His rule in our lives, and the fear of offending Him, which will lead us to obey, worship and praise Him.
God gives the gift of knowledge out of His infinite store of knowledge. Psalm 19:2 tells us that God’s creation reveals the Creator’s knowledge: “Night after night [the skies] display knowledge.” The vastness of God’s knowledge and creative power are on display continually and are clearly seen in what He has created, as Paul reminds us in Romans 1:19-20. Not only is God’s knowledge infinite, but it is absolute: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! / How unsearchable his judgments, / and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33). When God came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, He became the embodiment of knowledge: “. . . Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).
Human knowledge, apart from God, is flawed. The Bible also refers to it as worthless because it isn’t tempered by love (1 Corinthians 13:2). The knowledge man possesses tends to make one proud. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Therefore, the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, without seeking God, is foolishness. “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom . . . but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18). Worldly knowledge is a false knowledge which is opposed to the truth, and Paul urges us to “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Human knowledge is opposed to God’s knowledge and therefore is no knowledge at all; rather, it is foolishness.
For the Christian, knowledge implies a relationship. For example, when the Bible says that “Adam knew Eve his wife” (Genesis 4:1, NKJV), it means he had a physical union with her. Spiritual relationships are also described this way. Jesus used the word know to refer to His saving relationship with those who follow Him: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). He also told His disciples, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). By contrast, Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “You do not know [my Father]” (verse 55). Therefore, to know Christ is to have faith in Him, to follow Him, to have a relationship with Him, to love and be loved by Him. (See also John 14:7; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9; and 2 Timothy 2:19.) Increasing in the knowledge of God is part of Christian maturity and is something all Christians are to experience as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).