There are tons of things I believe, even more things I feel or think. Some of these are matters on which I am passionate. But all such matters are different from things that I know. How does a person come to know a thing? Some matters that we think we know come from what we have been taught over a period of time. But all of us recognize that some things we were taught weren’t correct. In just about any field there are things that were seen as fact 50 years ago that today are recognized to be mistaken. Back just a few years ago when I first began to have some heart issues the doctor said to take Vitamin E each day along with Folic acid. Before long they determined that Vitamin E didn’t have any benefit for heart patients. Then I was told to take Fish oil capsules each day for the heart. Now the news has come out that fish oil doesn’t really aid the heart. It only has benefit when one actually eats the fish. I wonder how many of the things we do for our health today will be seen in 50 more years to be as obsolete as leeches.
Well if you can’t know a thing by what you have been taught or even what has been considered common knowledge in the past, how can we really know a thing? Certainly one can learn many things by experience. But it is entirely possible for one to interpret an experience in the wrong way. Someone has said that a cat that steps on a hot stove will learn to never step on a hot stove again. But the truth is they won’t ever step on a cold stove again either. Like the cat we can over learn a thing so that it leads us to do or not do things that really have nothing to do with the problems we have attached them to.
Perhaps if we look in the Bible at some of the things that inspired teachers declared that they knew, we can see how we can know some things ourselves. One of my favorite such passages of Scripture is in Romans 8:28 where Paul said, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I suspect that Paul would say to us that he knew this great truth both from his experiences in life and from the revelations from God. If one looked at many of the events in Paul’s life they might question his knowledge on this point since many of the things that happened seem to be awful from our point of view. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11 he described all the beatings, imprisonments, times of hunger, ship wrecks, etc. that he had gone through in serving the Lord. Besides that in chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians he told of the thorn in the flesh he had received as a minister of Satan to keep him from becoming proud with all the revelations he had received. He prayed to God three times for the Lord to remove the thorn but God’s answer was “No”. When he reached the end of his life, he pleaded for Timothy to come quickly to be with him and to bring his books, parchments and his coat he had left in Troas. He said that at his first answer before Nero, no man has stood with him but all men forsook him, “Howbeit, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”
One thing is obvious from these thoughts and that is God causing all things to work together for good doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us as God’s children is going to be good. He will cause all things to work together for good, but the things that happen may be awful in and of themselves.
Another illustration of something being said to be known also came from Paul. In 2 Timothy 1:12 he said, “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” When Paul said he knew the one he believed in it wasn’t the idea of just knowing something about him but that he knew Jesus personally and loved him dearly. In I John 2:3-4 John points our that such knowledge is possible for everyone of us. “By this we know that we know Him if we keep his commandments.’
Consider another statement from Paul that fits in with this whole topic. He challenged us to put all things to the test and hold on to what is good in I Thessalonians 5:21. Ultimately the only way to put things to the final test, especially in matters of morality and spirituality is to go back to the Bible to see what it says. Some years ago I was in a meeting in West Virginia and some of the people carried me to visit the home of Alexander Campbell and the church building where he had preached. We drove around Bethany College as well. The tour guide that showed us through the house and the little building where he had his library and studied God’s word, said at one point that Campbell had the habit of approaching the Bible each time he read as though he had never read it before. He worked to enter the study with a fresh, open mind to simply see what God said rather than trying to prove that what he already believed on any matter was correct. I’m not certain anyone can be completely successful in approaching study of Scripture in that way. But it ought to be our goal or attitude to try to do so all the time.
Remember the people of Berea that were called noble people. When Paul and company went there to preach Christ to them, they received the word with a ready mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were being told was correct. I want to be that kind of noble person, don’t you? While God’s word never changes, our thinking and beliefs from the word should change all along as we grow and learn better what is meant in any given area.
What do you know?