John 17:3
We cannot doubt that God knows us. We cannot conceive of him otherwise than as knowing all things. "He telleth the number of the stars;" and at the same time he reads the secrets of every heart. The psalmist took a just view of his God when he exclaimed, "Thou art acquainted with all my ways: for there is not a word in my tongue, but lo Lord, thou knowest it altogether." But whilst God knows us perfectly, we can only know him imperfectly. Yet it is both a wonderful and a happy thing that we can know him at all.

I. THERE IS MUCH WE CANNOT KNOW OF GOD. If we are often baffled in studying the works of his hands, we cannot be surprised that the Divine artificer is too high for us to comprehend him. If we are perplexed in our endeavors to understand the soul of man, how can we expect to fathom the mysteries of the Divine nature? It is said that King Hiero asked the philosopher Simonides, "Who is God?" The wise man asked for a day to reflect and to prepare an answer. Finding this insufficient, he asked a week, and then a year. But time and meditation brought no light which could satisfy him, and the query remained unanswered. God in the spiritual realm is like his universe in the material realm; of which the great Pascal said, "It is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere." It is said that the Emperor Trajan, addressing a Jewish rabbi, Joshua by name, said, "Show me your God." The sage answered, "Come out of the house, and see one of his ambassadors." Leading him into the daylight, the rabbi bade the emperor look upon the sun, then shining in his strength. "What! cannot you look in the face of the ambassador? are you blinded by his dazzling presence? How can you look upon the countenance of the King?" "No man hath seen God at any time." Who can by searching find out God? We see glimpses, we hear whisperings, of his power and wisdom; but there is an infinity which comes not within our ken. A child follows the course of the brook which flows through his father's fields; he reaches the point where it joins the river in the valley; but he dreams not of the sea into which that river empties itself.

II. WE CAN KNOW OF GOD WHAT IS OF MOST VALUE TO US. If we cannot understand the Divine nature, if there are some of his attributes, as, for example, his omnipresence, which utterly baffle our intellect, still there is much that is within our apprehension. We can know that the Lord our God is one God, that he is wise, that he is just and faithful, that he is compassionate and merciful. Now, what does it matter to a child that he cannot understand his father's occupations, that he is not able to appreciate his father's abilities, so long as he is sure that his father will give him good advice, so long as he is sure that his father will provide for his wants, bodily and mental? Suppose the father to be a statesman; the child cannot enter into the reasons of national polity. Suppose the father to be a lawyer; the child cannot form any opinion of his father's conduct of a case in court. But the child can know that his father will receive with kindness any application which may be made to him for guidance, for help, for the means of acquiring knowledge or rational enjoyment. The child can know that the father's house will not be shut against him, that he is ever welcome to the father's table, that the father's time is always at his service. In like manner we are quite capable of knowing what is God's will, of understanding the propriety of obedience to that will, of valuing the opportunities we have of learning and obeying our heavenly Father.

III. THERE ARE SPECIAL WAYS IN WHICH GOD GIVES US KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF. We cannot see him directly, but we can see him, so to speak, by reflection. He has given us two mirrors in which the spiritual lineaments of his Divine character become visible to us.

1. There is the mirror of nature. It is allowed us "to look through nature up to nature's God."

"There's nothing bright above, below,
From flowers that bloom to stars that glow,
But in its light my soul can see
Some feature of the Deity."
It is said that on one occasion Napoleon Bonaparte was on the deck of a ship on a calm summer night, when his officers around him were magnifying nature, and disputing the existence of God. The great commander listened, and then pointed to the hosts of heaven, saying, "All very well, gentlemen, but who created these?"

2. There is the mirror of our own spiritual mature. The psalmist looked into this mirror, and saw therein the reflection of the Lord, the Ruler, the Judge, of all. "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."

IV. IT IS IN JESUS CHRIST THAT GOD GRANTS US THE CHIEF REVELATION OF HIMSELF. Nature and conscience are mirrors; Christ is the very shining forth of the Divine glory. We must not make an image of God; but God has given us a perfect image of himself, of his moral attributes. When we have once seen God in his dear Son, we recognize his presence everywhere and in all things. As the sun illumines a hundred snow-clad peaks, and every summit glows and glitters forth his splendor, so when God appears in Christ, his attributes are seen in all his works and all his ways. Especially do we through Jesus come to the knowledge of the Divine holiness, righteousness, and love.

V. IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IN CHRIST IS THE ETERNAL LIFE. Of our Lord Jesus an apostle affirms," This is the true God, and the Eternal Life." Now, an ignorant, uninformed, uninstructed soul is a dead soul. It is knowledge that enkindles mental life, that calls forth the intellectual powers. And it is the highest knowledge which is the Divine means of awakening the highest life. This life is called eternal, because it is not like earthly life which perishes, but because it is of a higher kind - because it is the life of God himself, spiritual and Divine. A boy taken from an inferior position, with few opportunities of improvement and no profitable companions, may be brought into a position where advantages are many, opportunities precious, associates inspiring. He may come to say, "This is life indeed! So Saul became Paul - when he had seen and known Christ. - T.







This is life eternal.
I. THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING OF WHICH OUR LORD SPEAKS. Life is a great boon. "My kingdom," a dying monarch is reported to have said, "for an inch of time." Yet after all what is this present life in itself (James 4:14)? And when it is most eagerly prized and most hilariously spent, its possessor may in the saddest sense be dead (Romans 8:6). Eternal life is the highest possible life for man. Two causes may end our life on earth. It may be terminated by external force or by inward disease. Eternal life —

1. Has nothing to terminate it from without. Force from God alone can end life; and the Divine power is entirely on the side of this life.

2. Is without anything to end it from within. Disease destroys physical life. But eternal life is the progress and consummation of a life begun on earth by a new birth from God, and has in it no element of evil.

II. HOW CAN THIS LIFE BE REALIZED? It is not that this knowledge leads or points out the way to attain it. Life itself consists in this knowledge —

1. God and Christ are its objects. The Father is called "the true God" in opposition to false deities. The juxtaposition of Christ with the Father, and the knowledge of both being defined to be eternal life, is the strongest inferential evidence of the Godhead of the Son. But why does Jesus, as Mediator, thus make the knowledge of Himself essential to life?(1) Because the Father can be known only through the Son; and(2) known as gracious towards mankind only in Him.

2. But we must not suppose that this is bare intellectual knowledge. It is the conscious possession of God. Certain truths about God may be seen in many ways and everywhere; but the spiritual perception of God Himself can only be reached in Christ.

3. This knowledge involves spiritual submission to God, or the personal reception of Him. Only to the soul that receives Him will He reveal His glory (Revelation 3:20; John 14:23). To all who receive Him, He manifests Himself as He does not unto the world. With respect to our fellow-men, we frequently use such language as this: "I scarcely know him," or "I knew him well," and the phraseology varies according to our acquaintance with the man's character or his moral and social qualities. We may believe from report in a man's generosity; but how different is our estimate or appreciation of his character when we can say from experience that we know it. Abraham believed God and obeyed; but when the Divine promise was fulfilled, and the Divine faithfulness proved, the patriarch knew God in a way that he did not know Him before.

III. HOW COMES IT THAT THIS TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS LIFE? We know what connection there is between knowledge and the energy and enjoyment of our every-day life. "Knowledge is power." It has the power of salvation, transformation, progress. It is knowledge which lifts up the life of the savage. The highest knowledge for man must be the highest life.

1. The true knowledge of our heavenly Father involves the communication of influence, and influence flowing forth from God is quickening. Real knowledge cannot be received without a healthful influence on the soul. A penitent child cannot know that his father has forgiven him without feeling emotions of tenderness and joy. What, then, must be the influence of the knowledge of the true God, our God and Father!

2. This knowledge promotes fellowship and communion with God, which is life. To man, as a social being, fellowship with others is life. The contact of thought with thought, and the communion of affection with affection, are elements of men's true life on earth. What, then, must be the fellowship of the soul with God, but life of the highest order?

3. This knowledge promotes likeness to God; and this assimilation to God is the very highest life (1 Colossians 3:10).

(J. Spence, D. D.)

I. WHAT IS COMPRISED IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD?

1. In answering this question, we need hardly remark that it implies a knowledge of God's existence. The remark is self-evident. The knowledge that He is the beginning of all knowledge of God. But whilst this is comprised in a knowledge of God, it does not constitute the knowledge. A man may know that there is a God; he may not only know it from the statements of others, but he may have actually examined it, and may be well conversant with the evidence of God's existence with which nature abounds, and be able to give to every man that asketh him a reason for his belief, and yet he may be destitute of that knowledge which is "eternal life." How exquisitely the Scripture speaks upon this point! "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe and tremble." You need to know something more — something that devils do not, and cannot, know — in order to the enjoyment of eternal life.

2. Again, it comprises a knowledge of God's attributes, such as His eternity. His omnipresence — that, as He existed throughout all time, so He fills all space and pervades all worlds. His omniscience — that, existing throughout all time, and pervading all space, He knows all things. Such are some of the attributes which are essential to Divinity; and I need not say that the knowledge of these is comprised in a knowledge of God. But, then, all that, along with the knowledge of God's existence, does not constitute the knowledge of which our text speaks. There is reason to believe that devils know God's nature as well as existence; and yet they tremble. Ah, my brother, this knowledge might well drive thee to despair: but it cannot give thee peace. It may convince thee of sin, and fill thee with alarm, but it cannot give thee peace. The knowledge of something more than this is necessary to eternal life.

3. In proceeding to show what it is which constitutes this knowledge, I beg you to notice that it is what is described in the text as the knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom God has sent. It is so described because it is through Christ that the knowledge is communicated.(1) And, first of all, you have in Christ a manifestation of God's hatred of sin. In proof of this I might refer you to the distance at which He kept Himself from all that was sinful, though inhabiting a world in which sin was fashionable, and where temptations to sin were abounding, Not at a distance as regards locality, but distance as regards character. I might refer you, too, to the manner in which He denounced the wickedness of those over whose sin He mourned and wept. If God did not wink at sin in the person of His own Son, how, think you, will He wink at sin in you? If it could not be allowed to pass unpunished when it was beheld in Christ, though He prayed, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me," will it be allowed to pass unpunished if found in you? You think God is merciful, so He is; but He is just, and He is holy — a God of spotless purity. This truth, at first sight, may excite your fears; yet it is needful for you to know it, because it supplies a powerful motive which is necessary to keep you back from sin; to lead you to mortify sin, and thus to produce in you meetness for heaven — the truth that it is not enough to know that God hates sin. This will never give you a title to heaven, nor will it produce in you a meetness for the enjoyment of eternal life.(2) You need to have something more than this, in order to your enjoying eternal life; and this leads me to observe, secondly, that in Christ you have a manifestation of the love of God. But even this is not enough. It is not enough to know that God loves us; that though He is just, He must punish sin. You need have something more in order to your enjoying life eternal. Oh, then, ponder the statements of God's Word in which that truth is found; and until it falls on your understanding, until it is impressed on your hearts, never to be erased — and, thank God, you need not wait long — for oh, it is plain and easy, and even now you may open your hearts to the perception of it, and even now you may enter into faith; even now you may look up to your God as your Father and your Friend; for both by word and by deed does God say, "I have accepted My Son's work for thee, O sinner; I was well pleased with what He has done for thee; His death is a perfect atonement for all thy sins; I am satisfied with it; be thou satisfied with it, be at peace, be thou reconciled to God." I do not mean to say that what I have set before you contains anything like full knowledge of God. No man can find out the Almighty to perfection. It does not amount to even an index of what might be known; it is only of the knowledge which is necessary to life.

II. And now let me proceed, in the second place, to show, as briefly as I can, HOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE, or in what sense it is.

1. And, first of all, it is so, if you consider eternal life as consisting in the enjoyment of God's favour. We read in this book, "And in His favour is life." Now, the knowledge of God is essential to the enjoyment of His favour. It is true that His favour rests on men, whether they know Him or not; for how else could they account for the varied blessings which they are daily receiving? But, then, though it rests on them, they do not enjoy it whilst they do not know Him. Their own feelings are just as unpleasant; their relation to God is as painful; they are as much alienated from God as if He were really their enemy.

2. And, then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you regard eternal life as signifying the privileges and enjoyments of the heavenly cities. The knowledge of God imparts that character, or produces in man that character, which increases the enjoyment of heaven. The character on which heaven is conferred is "conformed into God's image" — sympathy with his feelings and his desires; or, in other words, it is living in a oneness with God. Now, the knowledge of God necessarily and invariably produces this character in man. The Cross of Christ contains a motive power which the human heart, depraved as it is, cannot both contemplate and resist. No man can truly and intelligibly say that Christ died for me, and gave Himself for me; God's wrath was suspended over me, the Saviour stepped between me and that wrath, that it might fall on Him, and that I might be saved — no man can say that without loving God in return.

3. And then, again, the knowledge of God is eternal life, if you understand the knowledge of God as heavenly happiness. Whence, let me ask, do the redeemed in heaven derive their happiness? Is it from the splendour of the place which they occupy? from the beauty and sublimity of scenes upon which they gaze? is it from the music with which their ears are charmed, or from the delicious fruits with which they regale themselves, or from their exalted companionship? No. They know that God is love, and that is their happiness. God is set forth to their contemplation as a God of love, and they find their employment, and their enjoyment too, in meditating on the proofs of His love with which the universe abounds — every new discovery giving a new impulse to their zeal and a new zest to their praise. And, hence, you find John speaking as if this were the consummation of the saint's desire: "We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

(W. Landels.)

1. When Jesus said these words, the transitoriness of life was pressing upon Him and His disciples. When life seemed frailest and most unreliable, they heard Him praying, "This is life eternal." The assertion of something in life, which lasted and did not go to pieces, must have come in very solidly and nobly. So often when we are most conscious of mortality, when disease is triumphing over that which disease can touch, the least reminder of that which is immortal restores us, puts courage into our frightened hearts.

2. What is it, then, whose eternity Jesus proclaims so confidently? When everything else decays, what is it that is imperishable? Jesus says it is the knowledge of God and of Himself. Now, remember that the knowledge of God and Christ must mean, and in the Bible always does mean, s personal relationship with God and Christ. It is not mere absolute knowledge. It is what He is to us, not what He is to Himself, that we may know of God. So that to know Christ and God is to have to do with Christ and God in the way of love and service. And Jesus says that the permanent part of our life is the part which has to do with God.

3. Here is a very clear and simple test of all our life. Our houses must decay. What is there in them that will last? That which had to do with God. Not their bricks and mortar, but the tempers and the hearts that were cultivated in them. Our institutions will perish — even our churches. But that which really knew God in them no tooth of time can touch. Our friendships and relationships have a promise of permanence only as they are real spiritual intimacies knit in with one common union to God.

4. When we fasten our thoughts on this, how it changes the whole aspect of the lives and deaths of men! Here is a poor, holy man dying. How little difference death makes to him! He is to keep all that has to do with God, and to lose all the rest. What is there for him to lose? How much there is that he will keep! But another man, so much richer, lies dying. What an enormous change death is to him! All his life has been worldly. What is there that he can keep? How almost everything he must lose!

5. Thus the eternal part of us is not that which God shall choose at some future day to endow with everlasting life. Eternity is a true quality in the thing itself. This really brings me to what I wanted to preach about — the regulative and shaping power of a Christian faith in this life. What are the great deficiencies of daily moral life?

I. THE DIFFICULT BALANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY. Men know what duty is, but the even, steady pressure of duty upon the whole surface of a man's life is something which thoughtful men are always missing. On one day the sense of responsibility is overwhelming. The next day it is all gone. The consequence is doubly bad. Some tasks are wholly neglected, and others are done under a burden and a strain which exhaust us. Our life grows all spasmodic. Oh, for some power which, with broad, even weight, should press every duty into its place, coming down from such a height that it should be independent of their whims and moods, and weigh upon to-morrow and to-day alike, calm, serene, eternal. Now hear our text. There is the answer to our longing! To love God out of gratitude, and to want to serve Him out of love — there is the rescue! The doing of all duty, not only for itself, but for His sake who wants it done — this is what puts force and pliability at once into duty, making it strong enough for the largest, and supple enough for the smallest tasks, giving it that power which the great steam engine has, with equal fidelity to strike down a mountain and to pick up a pebble, adapting its movements to such different work. Is not that the redemption of responsibility?

II. THE DIFFICULT SENSE OF BROTHERHOOD. The decay of the power of feeling this is one of the sad things of all advancing life. It is not so hard for children. The young man has not settled yet into the fixed tastes and occupations which decide for him with whom he should have to do. And so he easily strikes hands with everybody, and has a certain superficial brotherhood with every one he meets. But as the man grows older his life draws in. He cannot reach out and take in a larger circle. Even patriotism is harder than it used to be. And to let his affection go sweeping out to the ends of the earth and down into the gutter where the outcasts lie — this seems preposterous. How can one keep and grow humane? "This is life eternal," &c. If I have lost sight of my brethren, I must go back to my Father to find them. It is the Father's house that we must meet. I am not merely a merchant among the merchants, a lawyer among the lawyers, a minister among the minister. I am a son of God, doing His will out of love; a son of God among the sons of God.

III. THE BEARING OF TROUBLE. Trouble comes to everybody, and what men ordinarily call bearing it, is apt to be one of the dreariest and forlornest things conceivable. How you hate and dread to go into that house of suffering. What you do find is apt to be either a man all crushed and broken into fragments, or else a man proud, cold, stern, hard, whom you pity all the more for the wretchedness of his proud, hard misery. But now neither of these men is really bearing his sorrow. Neither of them has really taken his trouble on his shoulders, to carry it whither he pleases. Each of them, in different ways, is borne by his sorrow. And now, what is the matter with both these men? Simply that they laid out a plan of life which was not broad enough or deep enough to have any place for trouble. When they designed their lives, they left sorrow out. So many lives are like. ships sailing for Europe in the brilliant morning of a summer's day, and, by and by, when they are out in mid-ocean, and the night comes, and the sky and water both grow black, finding that they have brought no lights of any kind. And then, if I turn aside and find a man who really does bear his sorrow, what is it that is different in him? It must be this: that he has some notion of life which is large enough to take in trouble. The Christian enters into the profoundness of consolation because he loves his Governor and his Educator. "This is life eternal," &c.

IV. THE LACK OF NOBLENESS. There come occasional moments in every man's long life when he feels that he is living nobly. Something makes him forget himself, with ardent enthusiasm fire up for a principle, with easy scorn push back temptation, with deep delight glory in some friend's greatness, greater than his own. The man is pitiable who has known no such moments. But one or two such in a man's life only show out by contrast the general low level at which our lives are lived. There is a littleness that wearies us. There is a drag to everything, that makes us ask: "Is it worth while?" Now all those qualities which make up nobleness must become permanent and constant in any man who really knows and loves God and Jesus Christ? Be a Christian constantly, and you must be noble constantly. Know Christ's redemption, and, seeing all things redeemed in Him, their possibilities, their ideas must shine out to you. Unite your life to God's, and it must glow with the enthusiasm of His certain hopes. Give yourself up to your Redeemer, and you must be rescued from selfishness. Love God, and you must hate His enemies, treading sin under foot with all His contempt and indignation.

(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

I. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

1. The existence of God lies at the foundation of all religion: and, therefore, the knowledge of God is the touch-stone of its principles. Error and falsehood are not going to yield to any science but that of Deity.

2. It is the lack of this knowledge which sustains impiety. The stupidity of sinners would be gone if they saw clearly what God is. That one thing they shun. They do not like to retain God in their knowledge.

3. If Christians knew God better, their piety would be increased. Those ancient saints, whose happy attainments held them superior to the world, always nurtured their piety by much study and fellowship with God.

4. This subject of knowledge can never be exhausted. A finite mind, perhaps, may reach some point in eternity when it shall have compassed all other subjects, and be able to look down upon and over all other fields of knowledge without darkness and without a doubt. But God still lies above it — beyond it!

5. By a true knowledge of God, we shall have a clear and experimental discernment of the beauty and grandeur of His character. Hence, we shall feel the desirableness of being like Him.

6. Our relations to God are such that we ought greatly to desire to know Him well. He is our Maker; He wilt be our Judge.

II. SOME ARGUMENTS FOR THIS STUDY. This knowledge of God tends —

1. To humble us. When we know Him best we know ourselves best. It is this that dissipates our delusions. "Woe is me! I am undone." Why? "Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."

2. To crucify us to the world. To have a spiritual understanding of the exceeding excellencies of God makes the world seem but a very little thing. It shows us its emptiness. The heart uses that new arithmetic, to count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3. To purify the heart. No sight is so transforming as that of God. When we can have our minds and hearts brought so as to see with open face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory.

4. To confirm and establish the believer's heart. Speculation cannot do this. Self-examination, submission to creeds and forms, and all study of doctrines, cannot do it. To have full views of God; to know Him by direct fellowship; to live in His presence, and lie down and feel that the everlasting arms are around him, shows to the believer the fulness and the faithfulness of God, and confirms his heart in something like the full assurance of hope. Now he can call God his Father.

5. Hence such a knowledge of God is most satisfying and safe.

(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)

The Holy Scriptures often use the phrase, "knowledge of God," or "the knowledge of the Lord," as a character of true religion. This phrase is particularly applied to that premised period in which the power of religion shall universally prevail. "They shall all know Me, from the least unto the greatest." "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth," &c. In the ancient Scriptures the knowledge of God was usually propounded simply; here it is propounded in a manner corresponding to the clearer light of the Christian dispensation in its inseparable connection with the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And note that our Saviour connects the knowledge of God with the universal prevalence of Divine truth (ver. 2).

I. THE NATURE AND PROPERTY OF THIS KNOWLEDGE OF GOD. It comprehends —

1. A just conception of His existence, attributes, and administration — i.e., of Him as "the only true God." Consider —(1) His matchless Deity.(2) His inimitable truth. "The true God," says our Lord —

(a)In opposition to all the false deities.

(b)In His enactments, promises, threatenings; so that He will in no sense deny Himself.

(c)As the sole and inexhaustible source of truth.(3) His exclusive claim — "the only true God."

2. Experimental acquaintance with Him as our God and Father and our portion. This is knowledge of the heart. By the other the eyes of the understanding are enlightened; by this the desires and affections of our hearts are filled and sanctified. It is this knowledge of God which is of the utmost importance. It is not speculation which may teach you to inquire, but faith, which constrains you to trust, which gives you the right knowledge of God.

3. A practical acknowledgment of His authority and government. This last particular shows that the true knowledge of God embraces all religion, as it elevates the mind, sanctifies the heart, and regulates the conduct. "The children of Eli knew not the Lord"; that is, they gave practical evidence that they were utterly estranged from an obedient acknowledgment of Him. "And thou Solomon, my son," says David, "know thou the God of thy father." He amplifies and explains that direction in what follows: — "And serve him with a perfect heart," &c.

II. THE APPOINTED METHOD IN WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS ATTAINABLE BY US. By approaching Him through the believing knowledge of Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent as our Saviour.

1. Man, until visited by the "Day Spring from on high," is destitute of the knowledge of God. Is not his mind covered with darkness? Is not his heart alienated by guilt and depravity? Is not his life one continued scene of rebellion against the Most High?

2. This knowledge of God cannot be obtained by man alone. Man has had opportunities to try to do so on the largest scale. Go, then, through all the resources of human wisdom, the splendid scenes with which His universal temple is hung around; listen to all the voices which are incessantly sounding in our ears and proclaiming our Creator and Preserver; traverse the spacious Temple, mark its stately proportions, and gaze on its sublime beauty; and when you have done all, inquire, "What must I do to be saved?" There is nothing in all this that teaches me, a guilty and fallen creature, the way to God.

3. This is the way — the way which is opened by Jesus Christ. You cannot come to God as your Father, especially to God as your reconciled and gracious Father, but by Jesus Christ.

III. THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING WITH WHICH THIS KNOWLEDGE IS IDENTIFIED. "This is life eternal." Consider the knowledge of God in Christ —

1. In its commencement. Go to that simple and happy Christian believer who has just found this knowledge. He will give you, perhaps, not a doctrinal statement, but a living pattern, which in many respects is better. While he speaks of the knowledge of God in Christ, he associates it with inward experience. He will testify that he who believeth in the Son of God hath everlasting life; that he has the life of pardon and peace. He was "dead in trespasses and sins," but he is "quickened together with Christ."

2. In its more mature progress. Go to the experienced Christian. He may be an unlettered man, perhaps, and be perplexed if you asked him a definition, or to expound a difficult passage of the Holy Scripture; but, under the assistance of the Spirit of God, he has embraced the system of truth itself. In all his course, the knowledge of God in Christ has been inseparable from advancement in the Divine life.

3. In its consummation. Then we shall "see as we are seen, and know also as we are known."Conclusion:

1. Have we acquired this knowledge? If we have not, may I not say, "Some of you have not the knowledge of Christ; I speak this to your shame." Have you spent twenty, thirty, forty, or more years, yet dark, dead, rebels against God?

2. Let me earnestly exhort you who are in quest of this knowledge of your God, that you seek it in the right way. "Yea, doubtless," says the Apostle, "and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." To know Him is to know the way that leads to the Father.

3. Let me exhort you to do all you possibly can to promote this knowledge of God in Christ. We ought to do that on a large scale; we ought to unite in those truly sublime societies which are aiming to extend the knowledge of God in Christ to the uttermost parts of the earth. But if it be valuable for the ends of the earth, it is valuable for your own homes. If pagan families and vicinities ought to have it, yours ought to have it.

(J. Hannah, D. D.)

(Text, and Hosea 4-6): — The adage. "knowledge is power, is of universal application. That many act contrary to the truth in their possession is no proof that this is not so. That the wicked remain wicked, the drunkards remain drunkards, the selfish selfish, only proves there is another power within them which decides their course rather than the dictates of knowledge.

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE RECOGNIZED IN THE SCRIPTURES,

1. Moses commanded the Israelites to teach their children (Deuteronomy 6:9).

2. The prophets were teachers.

3. The Levitical tribe was not only a tribe of priests, but also of teachers.

4. Christ Himself is a Prophet.

5. The apostles were instruments of salvation by proclaiming its principles.

6. The work of the Church in all ages is to bear witness to the truth — to make it known.

II. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE POWER IN RELIGION?

1. Necessary to begin a new life.

(1)We are to know God, His law, duty, and our failure to obey, in order to repent.

(2)We are to know Christ, His power, His acceptableness to God, His willingness to save, in order to believe in Him. "How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?"

2. Knowledge necessary to the growth of the new life. Life must be fed — vegetable, animal, intellectual, and spiritual life.

3. Knowledge necessary to be useful. I do not underrate silent influence of the faithful. But still the Church needs —

(1)Fathers and mothers.

(2)Sabbath-school teachers.

(3)Superintendents.

(4)Helpers in prayer meetings.

(5)Church officers, and —

(6)Christians in the walks of private life, with copious religious knowledge.

III. HOW IS KNOWLEDGE TO BE SECURED?

1. In the early Church it was chiefly oral instruction by preaching and catechizing.

2. In palmy days of European Protestantism it was —

(1)Family catechizing.

(2)Extensive religious instruction in common schools, religious text-books.

(3)Catechizing by the Church authorities before confirmation.

3. With us the Sabbath School largely takes the place of these.

4. What are we to do?

(1)Seek to appreciate the fact stated in the text. "Destruction for lack of knowledge," and "Life eternal by knowledge."

(2)Return to perform the parental duties of instructing the young.

(3)Literature inculcating fact rather than fiction, e.g., sacred history, Church history, history of the Reformation, doctrine.

(W. Veenschoten)

I. SALVATION CONSISTS IN THE POSSESSION OF LIFE. It is clear from the previous verse that the two are synonymous, and it is easy to see from the frequent connection of the two by Christ and the apostles how accurate it is to call salvation eternal life. Men as sinners are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). The power of evil has so worked upon their souls as to make them deaf to the voice, insensible to the goodness, and indifferent to the claims of God. So far, then, as the life of love, trust, and obedience, and joy are concerned, sinners are dead. What they need, then, is a salvation which shall put them in possession of life, which shall consist in the quickening of their dormant powers, in the righting of their perverted affections, in the bringing back of their souls into likeness to, and fellowship with, the living God. This was just the salvation Christ was sent to impart, and for which He had power over all flesh. Consequently, this is "life eternal," not as being a life that belongs to eternity, but a life that is distinct from and opposed to temporal, earthly and carnal — eternal in its quality. From the moment that we accept Christ as our Saviour it is ours (John 10:27, 28; 1 John 5:13).

II. THE LIFE IN WHICH SALVATION CONSISTS HAS ITS ROOT AND GROUND IN KNOWLEDGE. The words must be taken as they stand. This knowledge is not the means of, but is eternal life-a representation to which attention needs to be called now-a-days. Many attach to knowledge a subsidiary importance in relation to the spiritual life. There is no statement more common in certain quarters than that religion is not a creed, but a life. This divorces tell. glen from the intellect and makes it a purely emotional thing. Christ here declares that eternal life is founded on knowledge, thus teaching that before Christianity can be a life it must be a creed. Learn here —

1. The sacredness of knowledge.

2. Its importance.

3. Its perpetuity.

III. THIS KNOWLEDGE IS THAT OF GOD AND CHRIST.

1. Of God.(1) There is a sense in which God cannot be known. He is so different from ourselves in the constitution of His Being, and so superior to us in His attributes, that there is a great gulf which no thought or imagination can overpass (Job 11:7, 8). Indeed, if we could know God as we know one another, He would not be God. He would not be infinite, for the finite cannot comprehend the infinite.(2) But there is a sense in which we can know Him; in so far as He has revealed Himself in the gospel, and sufficient for intelligent and trustful love. This knowledge then —(a) Is not simply the knowledge that we can glean from God's works. Here we can know God's power, skill, thought, care; but not Himself: just as from a book we may get occasional glimpses of the working of the author's mind and the features of his character, but fail in any real measure to know the man.(b) Is not merely the knowledge we can gain from His Word. We may be familiar with the contents of Scripture and yet know no more of God Himself than we do of a man from what others have written about him.(c) Is the knowledge which comes also from fellowship between our souls and God. This is the true ground of our knowledge of others. Souls must reveal themselves to souls through friendship.

1. We must study God's works and read His Word, but besides this we must get into cordial fellowship. In this we must ask for the help of His Spirit, and lay ourselves open to what His Spirit shall teach.

2. Of Christ also. The line of thought just pursued must be followed here. The persons are two, but the knowledge is the same. And for this reason the mission of Christ was the manifestation of the Father. Exactly in the degree in which we know Christ the Revealer shall we know God the Revealed. This knowledge must come —

(1)Through the Scriptures that teach us concerning Him.

(2)Through the fellowship which unites us to Him.

(3)Through the Spirit who takes of the things of Him and shows them unto us.When in these ways the mind has come to accept Christ, and in the acceptance of Christ has accepted God in Him, eternal life is ours.

(B. Wilkinson, F. G. S.)

When Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, came out of the Tower of London and saw the scaffold on which he was to be beheaded, he took out of his pocket a Greek Testament, and, looking up to heaven, he exclaimed, "Now, oh Lord, direct to some passage which may support me through this awful scene." He opened the book and his eye glanced at this text. He instantly closed it and said, "Praised be the Lord! this is sufficient for me and for eternity."

(W. Baxendale.)

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