For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:8)
According to the apostle Peter in this verse, if we possess knowledge of Jesus Christ, our lives are to be effective and productive.
I think what makes this verse difficult to understand in modern times, is our western concept of “knowledge.” When we read a verse like this in the ancient scriptures, we bring our western cultural understanding into the text, and we are probably thinking of “knowledge” as an accumulation of facts. We probably think of knowing about someone, such as reading about that person in a book.
What is “Knowledge?”
But as I have pointed out in previous devotionals, the mindset of those who wrote the Bible was not western, and they did not tend to look at life strictly in terms of “scientific knowledge.” They placed a much greater emphasis on personal knowledge through relationships, the kind of knowledge that comes about through subjective experience, as opposed to only objective facts about something.
For example, one could read about the richest person in the world and accumulate lots of facts about that person. If they are the richest person in the world, there is probably a lot of written material about that person that one could spend time reading and studying. The more you read and study, the more you will know about that person. One can have a specific kind of “knowledge” then about that person obtained through reading and studying the facts about them.
But how useful will that knowledge be if you have never actually met that person, and if that person has no idea who you are because there is no personal relationship between you and that person? Will the wealth that person possesses be able to help your own financial situation?
Obviously it is highly unlikely this person would help you personally with their vast wealth (although reading about the principles of how they became wealthy might help you obtain your own wealth). The only use your intellectual knowledge would have of such a person would probably be if you were to meet someone else who has less intellectual knowledge of that person than you do, and you were able to educate them. Or if you met someone who thought they knew some facts about this person, and tried to argue with you about those facts without having actually “done their homework” and spent the time reading and studying about them like you did, then you could probably win a debate with them and display your superior “knowledge.”
But still, that knowledge you possess of the facts would not help your financial situation at all in obtaining access to some of this person’s wealth if you did not have a personal relationship with the richest person in the world. Knowing facts about this person is is a completely different kind of knowledge than really knowing this person through a personal relationship.
Truly Knowing Jesus Christ
So when Peter writes “they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” I doubt seriously that he is writing about simply knowing facts about Jesus. I am quite certain that the kind of knowledge he is talking about, the kind of knowledge that allows one to live “productive and effective” lives, is the kind of knowledge that is the result of actually meeting Jesus, and having a personal relationship with him.
Having only factual knowledge of who Jesus is, even if you have memorized the entire Bible, will only help you educate others about those facts, or win debates about him. But it will not necessarily help you be effective and productive in life.
So what are the qualities of an “effective and productive” life as Peter wrote about? Here is what he wrote:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:3-7)
Being effective and productive in life begins with our minds, and understanding the “great and precious promises” that Christ has given us, and the “divine power” that is available to us. But it then moves beyond the intellectual knowledge, and produces faith in our life to put into practice the things we know are true.
What good are great and precious promises and divine power if we never use them and put them into practice? When we put them into practice, we possess the qualities of an effective and productive life that are listed here by Peter: faith – goodness – knowledge – self control – perseverance – godliness – brotherly kindness – love.
The knowledge spoken of here then is much more than just possession of facts. It is based on a relationship to Christ in the spiritual realm, where he communicates with us on a continual basis giving us direction and guidance in our own personal lives.
The end result, if we listen to what he tells us and practice it, is always love! This is the “agape” (unconditional) love that comes from God and was demonstrated to us by the earthly life of Jesus, who died on the cross for us, even when we didn’t deserve it. Jesus not only taught and preached about God’s love, he demonstrated it with his own life.
So the person who is productive and effective in their life is the person who is increasing in agape (unconditional) love, and transforming other people’s lives and their culture. It is a person who is living their life in direct contrast to “the corruption in the world caused by evil desires,” because they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and the wealth and power of Jesus is available for them to use.
Is that the life you are living? Is your life effective and productive, or do you mostly only have the intellectual kind of knowledge about Jesus that can educate or win debates, but that is ineffective and unproductive in regards to producing a life of love that transforms yourself and others around you? Do you truly know Jesus, and is he guiding your life to be effective and productive?
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.
If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Words of Jesus recorded in John 15:4-13)
Equipped to Love:
Building Idolatry-free Relationships