HCL 45: To Know or Not Know, that is the Question
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Key Word for the Higher Christian Life: ginṓskō
When it comes to the Higher Christian Life, one of the most important words in Scripture is ginṓskō. In fact, I’m not sure we could overstate that fact. The difference between the lukewarm life with Christ, which He has much to say about in Revelation 3:16-17 and has plagued the church for centuries, and the Higher Christian Life we are striving for, is found not in academic head knowledge, but in firsthand experience with God and His Word. In other words, it is one thing to know something mentally, and quite another to know something by experience. One is transitory and untested and can change over time, and the other is what the foundations of life are built upon. Let me explain.
In Scripture, there are several Greek words that are translated, know, or knowing. Primarily, in regards to the Higher Christian Life, we need only concern ourselves with two, ginṓskō and eidō. When it comes to knowing something or acquiring knowledge about someone, we tend to fall into one of two broad categories: head-knowledge or first-hand experience. And if you are honest with yourself, experience always trumps what we believe in our head. Plus, in regards to the Higher Christian Life, God wants us to not just know Him in a mental, doctrinal, sterile, academic way, but wants His children to experience Him in the very core of their being. Because it is in the arena of experience that faith in Him and His Word grows exponentially. For example, what kind of knowledge do you think Paul is referring to in the following passage?
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know (ginṓskō) Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead – Philippians 3:8-11.
Do you see the faith experiences being described in this passage? Paul is not talking about academic, mental knowledge, but the knowledge that only comes from a shared experience, or knowledge that is birthed in the fire of adversity. Look at what he says, I have “suffered the loss of all things”— which is an experience. Or, that I may “know (ginṓskō) Him and the power of His resurrection”— which is definitely an experience. Or, the “fellowship of His suffering”— nothing mental or academic about experiencing sufferings. Or, “being conformed to His death”— again, an experience and not mental assent, that “I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”— which is another big-time experience. Do you see the point?
Maybe it would help if I defined our two Greek words, ginṓskō and eidō. First, ginṓskō means “to know in a full or completed sense, to know by experience, to know fully.” But it is also used in Scripture as a euphemism for an intimate, sexual relationship between a man and a woman, whereas Joseph did not “know” (ginṓskō) Mary until “she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt. 1:25). Also, it conveys the idea of “love, approval, favor, with goodwill and care for the object of His knowledge.” We see this revealed many times in Scripture. For example, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know (ginṓskō) My sheep, and am known (ginṓskō) by My own. As the Father knows (ginṓskō) Me, even so I know (ginṓskō) the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:14-15). Here, Jesus is expressing a knowledge of His sheep and His Father that is based on love, care, and a deep, first-hand experience with both.
And this is the type of knowledge (ginṓskō), based on truth and an experience that confirms that truth, the Lord wants us to have with Him and His Word. Why? Because faith must be tested to become real and genuine in our lives. Need proof? Go and do a quick overview of the heroes of faith found in Hebrews 11. Every one of them became a faith hero when they experienced something that confirmed their faith. Every one of them had a seismic shift from mental belief to firm conviction based on an experience, the trusting and testing of their faith, the proving without a doubt that it was true. And it is to be the same with us today, especially if we desire a deep intimacy with the Lord and embrace the Higher Christian Life.
The Importance of ginṓskō
Let me leave you with just a few verses that show the importance of knowing the fidelity of Him and His Word by experience (ginṓskō) in Scripture. Consider the following.
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know (ginṓskō) that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us – 1 John 3:24.
Do I know Christ abides in me by mental assumption or by a doctrinal position I accept? Or do I know it by the experience I have had with the Holy Spirit who now lives in me? Exactly.
You shall know (ginṓskō) the truth and the truth shall make you free – John 8:32.
Will I be made free by mentally agreeing with a statement about the truth, or do I become free when I experience the liberating power of the truth found in Christ? You know the answer. It’s quite obvious, isn’t it?
The Higher Christian Life grows when we have a first-hand, personal, upfront, life-changing encounter with the Lord. When we come to believe, not just doctrinal facts about the Holy Spirit, but truly believe Him and His Word by the experience we have shared in the turmoils of life, then our faith is elevated to a personal level, a spiritual high, a mountaintop experience, that can never be shaken. Never. And this is the type of knowledge the Lord wants us to have with Him. A faith that has been tested by fire, yet remains stronger still.
We will develop this a bit more in our next time together.
One last thing, the definition of the other Greek word, eidō, is the same as our common understanding of the English word for know. It means just the opposite of ginṓskō. It is not knowledge by experience, but eidō means “to see, to perceive by the senses, to be made aware of, to comprehend,” and it is often translated as see, look, or behold. For example,
Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know (eidō – are You not aware) that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” – Matthew 15:12.
I hope you will continue to strive for the higher life in Christ, which is yours for the embracing. It is your birthright as a child of God. So embrace it with all you have. And do it today.