Fundamental Questions of the Christian Life # 1
The Fundamental Importance of An Adequate Apprehension of Christ
"Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Phillippi, He asked His disciples, saying, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But who say ye that I am? (Matthew 16:13-15).
"WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?"
The answer that each one of us is able to give to that question will reveal the measure of our own spiritual life. Let me say, however, at the outset that, although our Lord was undoubtedly seeking the answer that Peter gave Him - a testimony to, an affirmation of, His Deity, as the Son of God - we are not here concerned with any argument for, or discussion of, the Deity of Christ, although that will, we trust, be the natural and logical conclusion of all that we say. Our aim is to help toward a fuller realization of the place and the significance of Christ in the whole Divine scheme.
The Knowledge of Christ Basic To Human Destiny
We begin by making one basic statement of fact. It is that everything related to human destiny is bound up with the knowledge of Christ. And for the Christian, in a peculiar way, the knowledge of Christ governs everything. The Scriptures make two things very clear in that connection.
(a) Christ The Foundation of the Christian Life
First of all, the knowledge of Christ is the foundation and the beginning of the Christian life. "This is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him Whom Thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). Although that is recognized and accepted, as a simple and elementary truth, let it be said at once that the Divine record in the New Testament makes it evident that the Christian life may have either a good or a poor beginning. And much may depend, perhaps for some time to come upon of these has been the case. We know that to be true in natural human life. If a baby has a poor beginning, it may cause anxiety and require much care for some time to come. It it has a good beginning, it usually goes ahead without much trouble to itself or anyone else.
So it is with the Christian life: the beginning can be a good one, or it can be a poor one, and the effect of the beginning maybe evident for a long time in the life itself. The strength or the weakness, the progress retarded or accelerated, the fruitfulness or the poverty of the life will greatly depend upon the initial apprehension of Christ. This is something that we need to bear in mind. The apostles were well aware of it, and were very much alive to it, and they always sought to lay the foundations of a good beginning in an adequate knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
(b) Growth In The Knowledge of Christ
A second thing that the Scriptures make clear is that Christians, after their beginning, are meant to be increasing all the time in the knowledge and apprehension of Christ. This is indicated in several ways.
Firstly, the very fact of the existence of the whole body of teaching found in the New Testament, addressed to believers, surely in itself carries this implication.
Then again, a progressive change can be noticed in the course of the teaching. For the beginning of the Christian life, the simple word 'know,' or 'knowledge,' is used, as in the passage we have already quoted: "This is life eternal, that they should know ..." But that growth and progress toward maturity is expressed by a further word. It is not apparent in our English translations, but it is there all the same. The fuller word, in its substantive form "Epignosis," is used at least thirteen times in relation to the believer's progress in the Christian life. It may be translated ""full knowledge," "recognition," "realization," and you would be advised and helped to take account of the occurrences of that word with the aid of a good concordance. It is very impressive that, after the mention of the knowledge of the Lord in the beginning of salvation, the apostles then speak so much about going on to full knowledge of Him.
Further, this is indicated by the specific teaching of the Word. We cite just one instance of this in the familiar words of Ephesians 1:17: "The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant unto you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him." Now these words were addressed to the people who had already received what the apostle called "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). It was to the Ephesian elders, you remember, that the apostle said that, during the long period in which he had been with them, he had not shunned to declare to them the whole counsel of God. And yet we find him, some time afterward, praying for them, that they may have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Christ. That is significant and impressive.
We have, therefore, very much behind our statement that Christians are supposed and meant to be progressive all the time in their knowledge and apprehension of Christ. The Word of God makes this abundantly clear; and although perhaps it hardly needs to be emphasized, it must be established, as part of any foundation consideration of a matter of this kind, that the knowledge of Christ is basic to the attainment of the fullness of Christ by believers.
(continued with # 2)