by Ben Overby
Sentry Magazine, March 2000
The Hebrew writer desired to feed his readers "solid food." but was prevented by their inability to consume such "food," (see Hebrews 5:12-6:3). An interesting question arises after reading this passage. What value is there in our pursuit of "solid food," or those truths which go beyond the "elementary principles"? That question brings up other questions. What is the value of knowledge? What is the purpose of knowledge? How eagerly should knowledge be pursued and with what attitude?
There are some who have a head full of knowledge but who never learn to live as they should. If we understand that our "end" is to glorify God, then knowledge will be seen as a means to that end and pursued accordingly. One of the greatest reasons for "learning the meat" is so that we can properly apply the knowledge that we acquire. The value of knowledge is not its mere acquisition but its application.
When I think about men such as Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther, and the depth of knowledge which they possessed, it is indeed a sobering thought to realize that for all of their knowledge, they each lacked wisdom, or the ability to properly apply the facts. Calvin knew that God was a God of love, but he had not a clue as to how that fact ought to be applied within the scope of his dreadful "TULIP" doctrine. Luther knew that God was a God of justice, but he had not a clue as to how that applied to man's reaction to God's grace, faith, works of obedience, etc. Aquinas had a grasp of the nature of God that perhaps few have attained, but for all of the facts he could not see the error of the evil "catholic empire." Poor Augustine, with his head full of facts, was pushed by one extremist (Pelagian) to his own extreme, that is, that man is born a sinner and needs God's individual divine intervention in order to be saved.
If there is one enemy of wisdom, which has the effect of neutralizing a lifetime of acquired facts (knowledge), it is prejudice. There is a huge difference between wanting to know the truth, "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine" (John 7:17), and wanting to know only what we are comfortable with. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin -- like countless others, spent a lifetime acquiring knowledge that fit within the framework of their preconceptions. Their prejudice blinded them, as it did people of our Lord's day, just as it does people of our day. So, contend for wisdom which is acquired through study and prayer, and which necessarily destroys walls built upon human prejudice.
Let me reiterate -- knowledge has no value aside from application. If one of the Hebrew Christians fell from the faith, then the knowledge that Christ was greater than the angels would have been nothing more than a worthless fact to him. Knowledge is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself! Again, some pursue knowledge and never get around to pursuing wisdom, (which I would define as the practical application of knowledge). Many accept the factual reality that Christ died on the cross for our sins, but how many trample under their feet the Son of God through their presumptuous sin? What good does it do to know that Christ saves, if one does not submit: to him as Savior and live accordingly'?
Also, be mindful of the fact that knowledge is a tool. Like any tool, it can be used properly or abused. Knowledge can cause a person to become puffed up. I Corinthians 8:1-2 states, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man thinks that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." If you have a giant IQ and a mountain of knowledge pertaining to God, why be prideful about it? You only know what you ought to know!
For people, and especially preachers (who appear to be the devil's prime targets regarding the sin of pride stemming from knowledge) to manifest a spirit of pride concerning knowledge, is every bit as much an exercise of folly as it is for a '"cover girl" to manifest pride regarding how she looks. If a person is "pretty," it is not her fault! It's a matter of genetics. If a person obtains a certain amount of knowledge, then he has only obtained what he ought to! He is only discovering truths long ago revealed and entirely insignificant in comparison to the knowledge which God possesses.
When brethren have their name preceded with "Dr." or "Professor," or when some follow their names with "BA, MA, Ph.D., etc.," this indicates that the person has acquired a certain amount of facts. The facts themselves do not make the man, it is the application of those facts; or shall we say, one's willingness to submit to the facts, which makes the man.
The Hebrew writer taught facts, which when; 1) correctly understood, and 2) properly applied, had the effect of saving souls. Peace should follow from knowledge, as well as humility, love, long-suffering, meekness, joy, etc. Pursue wisdom, as the Proverbs admonishes. Then knowledge will be seen for what it is; i.e., a means to an end, and as such, it is not something anyone should glory in or glorify another for! You only know what you ought to know!
"Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding" (Proverbs 4:5-7).