This past Labor Day I spent a little over 9 hours on the road unaccompanied. There was a billboard sign promoting some college or university that caught my attention and all it said was “Knowledge is Power”. A quote often attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, one of the so-called “great philosophers” you will undoubtedly study if you take a Philosophy or History of Philosophy class.
The thought that immediately came to mind was, “not all knowledge is power”. So, let’s take this oft-quoted truism and test it against the Word of God.
Did God Actually Say…?
Let’s start with the first appearance of “knowledge” in the Scriptures. For this, we reach all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:8-9 (ESV) 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV) 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV) 3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Genesis 3:22-23 (ESV) 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
God forbade Adam to eat of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan steps in to tempt Eve to eat of the fruit of that tree, and notice how he did it. He offers Eve a “why” that was a lie. In so doing, he accuses God of withholding power from her. Satan tells her that the reason she is not allowed to eat of the fruit isn’t that she will die; rather, it is so that she will not have the power of knowledge thus keeping her from being like God. What knowledge did Adam and Eve gain from the fruit of the tree? Only the knowledge of evil. Notice the grace of God steps in immediately, in that He made sure to prevent man from eating of the fruit of the tree of Life. Spiritual death happened immediately in the sin. The flesh was defiled by the same sin and would complete the penalty required by sin, complete death. God did not let man live eternally in a cursed and fallen flesh. A way was already made for the redemption of mankind, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; therefore, sinful man was prevented from partaking of the fruit of the tree of Life. Praise God.
Getting back to the knowledge gained, Adam already knew God; therefore, he already knew good. God is the very definition of good. Mark 10:18 (ESV) And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Now Jesus is God and is also good, but the rich young ruler had not acknowledged Jesus as God; therefore, he had no basis upon which to call Jesus “good”. Which vaults us into the next topic, the Biblical definition of Knowledge that is Power.
Knowledge of Him
If you search the ESV for “knowledge” you get a lot of results, the vast majority of them would seem to support the truism “knowledge is power”; however, as we’ve established, that statement does not reflect truth on its own. There is knowledge that leads to death, as we saw in the garden. The knowledge of evil, of sin, leads to death. Man sinned in the garden, and died, separating us from the only knowledge that has any power, the knowledge of God. Let us look at some of the Biblical passages that clearly define what knowledge we are to be seeking.
2 Chronicles 1:7-13 (ESV) 7 In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” 8 And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. 9 O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” 11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.” 13 So Solomon came from the high place at Gibeon, from before the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem. And he reigned over Israel.
Luke 11:31 (ESV)31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (ESV)14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
Ephesians 1:16-21 (ESV)16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.
Solomon’s great wisdom and knowledge came directly from God the Father, and from no other place. His sin was in allowing false knowledge, false doctrines, and false gods to take up residence in Israel, through his very own fleshly failings in the taking of brides from other nations and allowing their idolatry. Still we see Jesus teaching in reference to the wisdom of Solomon and immediately declaring that something greater than Solomon was in their midst. That something is Jesus Christ, the very standard of Good and the embodiment of Truth and Knowledge. We see plainly that Paul pointed to the Knowledge of Christ as the key factor for our salvation. For if we fail to accept the Knowledge of the Gospel of Christ, we remain powerlessly dead to sin. Notice also, that Paul separates himself from the peddlers of God’s word, in that only in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the knowledge of Christ, are we made right with God. Many peddle the scriptures, tossing out verses, twisting God’s words for gain, or for a laugh, or to tempt and lead astray even the elect of God. Satan twisted God’s words in the garden by inserting lies. Satan twisted scripture in his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Peddlers of God’s Word. But as Paul said in 2 Corinthians “Thanks be to God” for giving us His Word and for sending us His Holy Spirit so that we might grow in the Knowledge of Christ.
False Knowledge Still Kills
1 Timothy 6:3-21 (ESV) 1 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
20 O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.
There is only one Truth, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The truism, is misleading. It is often used to suggest that when one obtains knowledge, one obtains power. That isn’t true. For one, the only way to “obtain knowledge” is by grace, through faith, and that not of our selves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2). And faith comes through hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Knowledge is not a power for us to obtain; rather, it is the only way of salvation, the only way that we might be made alive in Christ rather than dead in our sin.
In Jesus Christ our Lord, to God be the glory forever, Amen.