Dr. Grant C Richison
Our Lord is different–He is not the same inwardly as we are. To know Him we must see below the surface of movements and words. When we respond in faith to our insight-knowledge of Christ, we have a means of godliness.
I remember my first trip to the Rocky Mountains. Viewing the colossal scenery I thought to myself, “No one could ever become used to that landscape!” But some people do lose their sense of awe and wonder. There are truck drivers who pass through those mountains every day and are rarely impressed with their grandeur. There are people who live within sight of majestic peaks and take them for granted.
So it is with the Christian life. We live in the truth, but by careless handling we lose sensitivity to spiritual things. Familiarity breeds contempt! This is true with the gospel, the Word of God, or Jesus Christ Himself.
After we are saved for a few years, the features of the Christian life which should constantly be fresh and new, become commonplace. The novelty wears off. The same was true in the days of the apostles. Paul had to exhort a preacher to remember the person of Jesus Christ–”Remember Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:8). Paul preached the gospel to the brethren. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
We are prone to forget the vital elements of the truth. Why is this? The Apostle Peter helps us with this problem by some of the things he writes in 2 Peter 1.
Insight into the Savior
The purpose of Peter’s epistle was to “remind” (2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1). This is not a general reminder; Peter has something specific in mind. He wants to remind the believers of the perceptive-discerning knowledge of Jesus Christ. This concept is taken from the Greek word epignosis. This perceptive-discerning knowledge occurs in Peter’s second epistle six times (2 Peter 1:2-3, 8; 2:20-21 in both verb and noun forms).
Another Greek word for know (gnosis) occurs in 1:5-6, 20; 3:3, 17-18. As distinct from the latter term, the Greek word epignosis means to know a thing by finding out its distinctive marks. This is not an academic but a spiritual knowledge. It is insight-knowledge. The word is used of an inspector. It is like an inspector in a factory who uses a micrometer to look for details. Peter is saying we are to use what he has written to look for details of the person of Christ. As we take the micrometer of the Word of God, we will find that Jesus Christ meets every specification of holiness; He perfectly satisfies the longing heart; the salvation He offers meets every demand of God. By catching an insight glimpse into the life of Christ we see something of “life and godliness” (1:3).
The Greek word epignosis is made of two words–in and knowledge. Putting them together we have in-knowledge. It is knowledge that is “on the in.” Peter is not concerned with the peripheral, external, and historical life of Christ, although he had known Christ in the flesh. Peter wants more than the superficial. He wants to know Jesus in person. Knowledge is spiritual instruction, whereas insight-knowledge is personal, intimate communion with Christ. It is very possible to know a person, even a contemporary, and not know him personally.
Insight-knowledge comes through the ability to make penetrating observations in the life of Christ. Our Lord is distinguished from other people He is not the same inwardly as the common man. To know Him we must see below the surface of movements and words. When we respond in faith to our insight-knowledge of Christ, we have a means of godliness. Notice the word “through” in verses 1-3 (KJV). We have obtained “like precious faith through”–(inner happiness daily through Christ). We have “all things that pertain unto life and godliness through”–(with His divine power He has given unto us His divine nature which produces seven virtues in the Christian life). These things can never be separated from growth in grace. The more we absorb God by an insight-knowledge of Christ the more fruitful we become “in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The human mind is not a debating hall, but a picture gallery. Around it hang our concepts. What we hang in the picture galleries of our minds usually determines our outlook and approach to life itself.
Sensitivity to Sin
Too many Christians do not know the blessing of the great mountain peaks of Christian experience. Why do some of us never come to an insight-knowledge of Christ? Peter gives the answer in verse nine: “But he that lacks these things is blind and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” “These things” are the qualities of Christian life we are to add to our faith: virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love. Peter names two results when we lack a perceptive knowledge of Christ.
First, “He that lacks these things is blind and cannot see afar off.” The words “and cannot see afar off” is the Greek word muopazon, from which we get our English word myopic. It means short-sighted. The person lacking Christian virtues lacks discernment and has a poor perspective of the values of life. To see only what is near is a serious spiritual problem. Initial salvation is wonderful; the first principles of the Word of God are great; but let us not dwell on them all our lives. “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1). Myopia is shortsightedness. The distant rays of light do not fall aright on the retina of the eye. There is only a blur. The shortsighted person sees only what is near. The insight-knowledge of Christ is brought into focus too soon before reaching the mind of the spiritual myopic person. He sees only the broad outline. There is spiritual shabbiness because of a shortsighted view of the intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. Christians can have poor sight as well as the unsaved.
Take a long range look at the Lord Jesus. If you cannot see your way spiritually, look unto Jesus Christ in all of His person (Hebrews 12:1-2). The person who is myopic never has a perspective on his life. He is disorientated in spiritual perspective. He has not seen Jesus Christ in all of His beauty.
A man’s mind may be likened to a garden which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild. But whether cultivated or neglected, it must bring forth fruit of some kind. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seed will fall therein and will continue to produce their kind. If thoughts of the person of Christ are placed there, Christ’s life will be reproduced in the Christian.
The second result of not having a perceptive knowledge of Christ is forgetting that there is cleansing from old sins (1:9). The joy of salvation is lost. The initial thrill of being saved becomes old hat. First love for Christ has been abandoned (Revelation 2:4-5). There is unappreciative familiarity with the person and work of Christ and with the life of the church.
There is a subtle difference between familiarity and intimate insight-knowledge of someone. Familiarity suggests associations where one individual takes freedoms and liberties with another. Intimate insight-knowledge of a person suggests relationships which are close and personal. There is a full and deep understanding. If we are producing the virtues of verses five through seven, then we will not be “barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.” The context for this knowledge is that we have His nature.
The Savior in the Word
In verses 12-21 Peter tells of his impending death and exhorts the believers “to have these things always in remembrance.” He was writing to believers in Asia Minor who had never seen Jesus Christ. Therefore, if they were to catch an insight glimpse into the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ they must do it through the testimony and writings of the apostles. So Peter gives an experience of his insight-knowledge in Christ–the transfiguration (a glimpse of Christ as King)–and he exhorts his readers to search the Word of God. The believer in the twentieth century has only one source for a knowledge of Christ–the Word of God. In fact, the Word of God is a “more sure word of testimony” than the experience of Peter’s historical relationship to the Savior. The Word of God is our tool for seeing the living Word. As we begin to focus upon the Word of God the Lord Jesus will take shape before our inner eyes. It is not merely a cold academic knowledge but an experiential knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Those who know Him the best love Him the most. The Bible is Christocentric. The more we know of the Word of God the more we know of Christ.
By beholding the Lord Jesus we become mirrors. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exodus 34:29). The supreme longing of the believer’s heart should be to know Christ, to know Him personally, experientially and intimately. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We need to say with Hudson Taylor: “The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun; the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing; the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete.”
Again, it is possible to dwell in the midst of majestic scenery of the person of Christ and take Him for granted. Even Peter himself had to learn this lesson the hard way. In Mark 14:71-72 he denied that he even knew Jesus Christ. Buy then in a few moments he thought over what he had done and wept. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “A mind without a memory is like a fortress without a garrison.” Unless we dwell upon the things that we have in Christ we will be subject to any onslaught of Satan. The things of Christ must always remain fresh to us.
While I was going to school in Dallas, every day I passed the place where President Kennedy had been shot. For months after the shooting, people milled around the area, but as time went on, fewer and fewer people came to the site. The curiosity regarding the historic spot began to fade. Likewise, unless we renew from time to time our insights into the person of Christ the reality will fade.
Long driving on super highways dulls the sense of speed. Long time in the battle, weeks of labor for Christ, dulls your sensitivity to the person of Christ. We need to pull off the road of hustle and activity in Christian service and refresh ourselves. “Consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 3:1). We are to consider the details of that One. Not like the traveler whose field of view has a wide scope but like a person who has lived on the terrain all his life. He knows every foot of ground. We are to so know Jesus Christ that we know His mind in every circumstance.
If we are not orbited in Christ the friction of the world will burn us up. Sin will help you to forget; Christ will help you to surmount!