Knowledge Verses Obedience – John 5
“36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38 nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God[d]?” John 5:36-44 NIV
I am learning from my reading today that Jesus doesn’t value His followers having a vast knowledge of Him, as much as He values us having a radical obedience to Him.
As I read John 5:37-40, I am reminded about what one of my teachers atBibleCollegesaid. “Never love the Word of God more than you love the God of the Word.”
Today’s passage is a reminder to me as a Christ follower that I must be careful because it is possible to know the Bible in my head without having it reside within my heart. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day made the mistake of valuing the knowledge of God’s Word more than they valued obedience to His Word. They had mistakenly fallen in love with the Word of God, more than they knew the God of the Word.
I know there is a tendency in the church today to ask for “deeper teaching.” The intent of that statement is that if only the pastor gave more information to the Christ follower, they would grow in maturity. The thought is that if the church gained more knowledge, its strength in discipleship would increase. The problem with that is that according to Jesus, obedience to God’s Word should take priority over a greater knowledge of God’s Word. Deeper teacher would be the formula for real growth if discipleship were measured by knowledge of God’s Word. The truth of the matter however, is that biblical discipleship is based less on knowledge and more on obedience. The question I need to be asking myself more than “am I getting deeper teaching?” is “am I being obedient to what I already know from God’s Word?”
The danger of having a greater value on the knowledge of God’s Word rather than obedience to His Word is that this is that I don’t imagine there was a point in which the religious leaders said to themselves, “Ok God, I want to know what You said, more than I want to know You. I want to be a hypocrite and value what I know, more than I value obeying what You say.” It was much more likely a gradual shift. I think that for the most part, those who were the religious leaders of the day, started out with good intentions. It is likely that they started to study God’s Word in order to be able to serve Him better, but as they grew in the knowledge of God’s Word, they began to view that knowledge as an equivalent to maturity.
Because the goal of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day was to grow in knowledge, knowledge was what they had obtained. Jesus wants my goal to be obedience to His Word and if it is, I will obtain a more Christ-like character.
Last night I told my kids to take a bath before we went out to Walmart. My goal for them was obedience; not knowledge. The point of me telling them to take a bath was to get them to take a bath. I didn’t need them to draw out an observation and write a personal application for the day. I didn’t need them to examine the Hebrew roots behind the words I shared. I didn’t want them to commit to memory that I said to take a bath. As a dad, I simply wanted them to take a bath! Get off their little behinds and take a bath! I didn’t want greater knowledge from them, but a greater obedience.
Here’s the amazing part. My kids understood that I value obedience over knowledge. Why is it so hard for me to understand that my Father wants the same? My kids didn’t need to ask for deeper teaching. They knew that what I required of them was simply that they do what I told them to do. Why is it so hard for me to value obedience to God’s Word more than knowledge of it? Maybe rather than setting my goal of having a deeper knowledge, I need to be begging God to empower me to have a greater depth in my obedience to Him.
I suppose the lesson today is that Jesus doesn’t value His followers having a vast knowledge of Him, as much as He values us having a radical obedience to Him.
Lord Jesus there are too many times that I have wrongly measured maturity based on knowledge of Your Word. In Your economy, maturity is based instead on obedience to Your Word. Empower me Lord to take greater steps of obedience to You. Amen.