I began reading J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, recently. This is a book that I read in seminary and wanted to work through once again. Every believer should have a great desire to “know” God. In fact, this is Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).
So what is the greatest danger for those of us who seek “to know the love of Christ” and “comprehend… the breadth and length and height and depth” of His love?
Pride. Arrogance. The dangerous and destructive thought that we are better than other believers because we “know” more that them.
In the first chapter of Packer’s book, he addresses this very issue:
For this very reason we need, before we start to ascend our mountain, to stop and ask ourselves a very fundamental question – a question, indeed, that we always ought to put to ourselves whenever we embark on any line of study in God’s holy book. The question concerns our own motives and intentions as students. We need to ask ourselves: What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians, “Knowledge puffs up… The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know” (1 Cor 8:1-2).
He continues, by examining the attitude of the psalmist who wrote Psalm 119:
The psalmist was interested in truth and orthodoxy, in biblical teaching and theology, not as ends in themselves, but as means to the further ends of life and godliness. His ultimate concern was with the knowledge and service of the great God whose truth he sought to understand. And this must be our attitude too. Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God’s attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it.
Should we seek to grow? Absolutely! But we should seek to grow in our knowledge and understanding for one purpose – to know Him more deeply so that we live holy, God-honoring lives.