Wednesday, August 19, 2020

True Gnosis

"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9).

The Gentile Gnostics called God “the Fullness” (the Pleroma), and they wanted to be absorbed into God and partake of this fullness. They emphasized that they were the ones who had the secret knowledge of the universe and that they had access to the spirit-world of angelic beings who gave them wisdom and understanding.

Similarly, the Judaizing proto-Gnostics believed that through their traditions they had the secret keys to the wisdom of the Old Testament. These secret keys, they said, were given by angels to Moses on Mount Sinai, but never written down.

Paul attacked these heresies head-on. First, he contrasted the prideful knowledge of the Judaizers and Gnostics by saying that true knowledge comes from prayer, personal conversation with the living God. Thus, Paul emphasized that he was praying that the Colossians will be given true knowledge.

Second, true knowledge is not attained by human works but is given by God in response to prayer, and it is found in the Bible, which God has written for us. We don’t earn it and we don’t deserve it, but we are given it freely by God.

Third, unlike the Judaizers and Gnostics, who felt that they had attained to the fullness of knowledge, the Christian is aware of how ignorant he is and seeks more and more to understand the Bible. True Christians are never satisfied with a “simple faith.” The more they learn, the more they know there is to learn.

Fourth, Paul’s word for knowledge here is not mere gnosis but epignosis. The prefix epi intensifies the noun, so that an epi-skopos is a supervisor (both skopos and visor mean “watcher”) or in English, and overseer. The Christian, unlike the pitiful puffed-up Gnostic, is an epi-Gnostic!

Fifth, the Christian needs no angels and spirit-beings to give him knowledge. He has the Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, as teacher; so that his wisdom is spiritual, imparted by the Spirit. Finally, by using the terms “wisdom and understanding,” Paul points back to the Old Testament, Proverbs in particular, to show where this true knowledge is found: in the written Bible.

Do you hunger and thirst for the fullness of godly knowledge? You can have it if you (1) pray daily for the gift of spiritual guidance, and (2) study the Bible diligently. Are you involved in a Bible study program, something that goes beyond these blog posts? If not, join one.