Why We Need Accurate Knowledge
“That is also why we, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.”—COLOSSIANS 1:9.
1. Illustrate the difference between general and accurate knowledge.
NEARLY everyone knows what a watch is, but how many know how one works? You may have a general idea, but could you take one apart, repair it, and put it together again? A watchmaker certainly could. Why? Because he has an accurate, comprehensive knowledge of how a watch functions. And that illustrates the difference between general and accurate knowledge of a subject.
2. What difference between the two kinds of knowledge have you noticed in the field of religion?
2 Millions of people have a general idea about God. They say that they believe in God, although their actions often belie that claim. One missionary would sometimes ask a householder: “As a Catholic, you must believe in God, right?” And the answer would be, with a gesture toward the heavens: “Well, I believe that there has to be something out there.” Would you call that accurate knowledge and comprehension of God? Hardly. And often the result of such vagueness is that the conduct of those professing to be Christians is not Christian. (Compare Titus 1:16.) The resulting situation is as Paul described it: “Just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state.”—Romans 1:28.
3. What results when people reject accurate knowledge of God’s will?
3 In what did that lack of accurate knowledge result in the first century? People were doing “the things not fitting, filled as they were with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, badness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, insolent, haughty, self-assuming, inventors of injurious things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, false to agreements, having no natural affection, merciless.” Their lack of accurate knowledge meant that their hearts were not motivated toward righteous acts.—Romans 1:28-31; Proverbs 2:2, 10.
What Is the Difference?
4, 5. According to Greek scholars, what are some differences between gnoʹsis and e·piʹgno·sis?
4 This difference between general and accurate knowledge is implied in the Greek Scriptures. The original Greek speaks of gnoʹsis, knowledge, and e·piʹgno·sis, accurate knowledge. The first, according to Greek scholar W. E. Vine, means “primarily a seeking to know, an enquiry, investigation,” especially of spiritual truth in the context of the Scriptures.
5 E·piʹgno·sis, according to Greek scholar Thayer, means “precise and correct knowledge.” And in the verb form, it means “to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly; to know accurately, know well.” W. E. Vine states that e·piʹgno·sis “denotes exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition.” He adds that it expresses “a fuller or a full knowledge, a greater participation by the knower in the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him.” (Italics ours.) As we will see, this last expression is of vital importance to a Christian.
6. Which Bible writers use the words for “knowledge” and “accurate knowledge,” and why is accurate knowledge important?
6 Only two Bible writers use the Greek word e·piʹgno·sis. They are Paul and Peter, who employ the word a total of 20 times.* Apart from Luke, they are also the only ones to use the word gnoʹsis, Paul using it 23 times and Peter 4 times. Their writings are therefore a valuable guide as to the importance of accurate knowledge with a view to salvation. As Paul stated to Timothy: “This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
Why Accurate Knowledge Is Important
7. (a) To be of value, how must knowledge affect us? (b) What danger exists if we neglect knowledge?
7 Therefore, gaining accurate knowledge of the truth as taught in the Bible is a key to salvation. However, that knowledge must reach the heart, the seat of motivation. It cannot remain as an intellectual or academic exercise. Moreover, once it has been gained, knowledge of the truth has to be used and replenished. Why is that? Because the memory, like an unused muscle, may become weak and deficient, in which case we may easily neglect our spirituality and begin to drift and waver in our faith. We may loosen our grip on “the very knowledge of God.” Soon, this wavering may be reflected in lax thinking ability and even unchristian conduct.—Proverbs 2:5; Hebrews 2:1.
8. What value did Solomon see in wisdom and knowledge?
8 We appreciate, then, why Solomon, when he was faithful, highly esteemed wisdom, discernment, and thinking ability. He wrote: “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way.”* (Proverbs 2:10-12) These words imply that we must develop a fervent desire for accurate knowledge, which can affect the heart and the very soul. Furthermore, it is a foundation for good thinking ability. And why is this so important today?
9. Who are some enemies of Christian spirituality?
9 We are living in “the last days” when, as Paul prophesied, there have “come times of stress” or “a time of troubles.” (2 Timothy 3:1, Revised Standard Version; The New English Bible) It is becoming harder and harder to maintain our Christian integrity in this degraded world. Christian ethics, values, and standards are scorned and disdained. The faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses is under attack from all sides—by the clergy of Christendom who hate the Kingdom message we take from house to house, by apostates who collaborate with Christendom’s clergy, by medical authorities who want to impose blood transfusions on us and our children, by atheistic scientists who reject belief in God and the creation, and by those who try to force us to compromise our neutrality. All this opposition is orchestrated by Satan, the ruler of darkness and ignorance, the enemy of accurate knowledge.—2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Ephesians 4:17, 18; 6:11, 12.
10. What pressures may mount against us, and what do we need to counteract them?
10 Pressures may mount in daily life to influence a Christian to do what others are doing, whether it be taking drugs, drinking immoderately, practicing immorality and violence, stealing, lying, cheating, dropping out of school, or just seeking a life of selfish pleasure. That is why accurate knowledge is vital. A fuller knowledge of God’s Word and purpose can more powerfully influence our thinking and our actions in a positive way.—Romans 12:1, 2.
A Modern Prodigal Son
11, 12. What real-life experience illustrates the folly of rejecting accurate knowledge of the truth?
11 We can illustrate this by the real-life case of a young man who, when he was about 14 years of age and already a baptized Christian, had his love of the truth tested. Like many young people, he loved sports, especially soccer. But there was a problem. His school played soccer the same night that the congregation had its meetings. His spirituality was not strong enough for him properly to evaluate the superficial value of soccer as compared to the lasting value of attending Christian meetings with his widowed mother and his younger brother and sister. So he ceased to act according to accurate knowledge and decided to drop out of the truth. Eventually, he was disfellowshipped. Later, he went on to do military service, where he got involved with drugs.
12 In 1986, when this young man was released from the army, he came to his senses, and he wrote a letter to a friend of the family who had served on the judicial committee that disfellowshipped him. In it he stated: “I am happy to be able to tell you some important news: I have come back to the truth. . . . I have come to realize what the apostle Paul said at 2 Corinthians 4:4, that there is a god of this system of things who is blinding the mind. For a long time, I have been blind spiritually to the things that were happening around me. When I left the truth, I did not know what a risk I was running. But with time, and thanks to Jehovah God, I have been able to appreciate clearly that I was wrong in my bad course of action.”—Compare Luke 15:11-24.
13. If they truly repent, what may be the positive outcome for some who have fallen by the wayside? (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
13 This young man has returned to the pathway of accurate knowledge. Now he is able “to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” He can also “go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God” as he pursues his association with the Christian congregation. And what a refreshing blessing he has become to his family by once again becoming a follower of Christ! Do you know of similar examples?—Colossians 1:9, 10; Matthew 11:28-30.
Dire Results of Spiritual Neglect
14. (a) To avoid falling away, what must we do? (b) What has happened to some Christians?
14 What lesson can be learned from this and similar cases? That once we have gained accurate knowledge of the truth, we need constantly to renew the spiritual circuits of the mind so as not to fall away. Our spiritual resources may become weak if we neglect personal and family study, Christian meetings, and the ministry. Then what may happen? A once strong Christian may drift away from the faith, perhaps even falling into wrong conduct, such as immorality, or slipping down the slithery slide of doubt and misinformation into apostasy. (Hebrews 2:1; 3:12; 6:11, 12) Foolishly, some have even returned to the Babylonish teachings of the Trinity and the immortality of the soul!
15. What warning did Peter give about falling away?
15 Peter’s words are surely appropriate: “Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it accurately to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’”—2 Peter 2:20-22.
16. (a) How have some been misled in recent times? (b) Into what acts of conduct have misled ones fallen?
16 Those who reject an accurate knowledge of the truth often choose the pathway of expediency. They no longer accept the responsibility of regularly attending Christian meetings or of participating in the house-to-house ministry. Some even go back to smoking! Others are happy that they no longer have to stand out as different over the issue of Christian neutrality and the misuse of blood. Oh, what freedom! Now they can even vote for one of the political parties of the “wild beast.” (Revelation 13:1, 7) Thus, as unsteady souls, some have been seduced and misled from the straight path of accurate knowledge by those who, while ‘promising them freedom, are themselves existing as slaves of corruption.’—2 Peter 2:15-19.
17. What danger exists for those who fall away from accurate knowledge of the truth?
17 Unless such ones repent and return to the truth, they expose themselves to the judgment that Paul outlined: “For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” How unwise and shortsighted it is to abandon the accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and Christ Jesus for the apostate teachings of Christendom!—Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26, 27.
Zeal With Accurate Knowledge
18. According to Paul, why did the Jewish clergy fail to accept Christ?
18 The Jewish clergy of Paul’s day certainly had knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. But was it accurate knowledge? Did it draw them toward Christ as the promised Messiah? Paul argues that they were so committed to establishing their own righteousness by means of the Law that they would not subject themselves to “Christ [who] is the end of the Law.” Therefore Paul could say of them: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.”—Romans 10:1-4.
19, 20. (a) How can we obtain accurate knowledge? (b) What questions remain to be answered?
19 So how can we obtain this accurate knowledge? By personal study and meditation, along with prayer and meeting attendance. This means a constant recharging of our spiritual batteries, as it were. We cannot afford to rely only on the knowledge we initially gained when we accepted the truth. Continually, we have to take in solid spiritual food, accurate knowledge, by means of conscientious personal study. Thus Paul’s counsel is appropriate: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God . . . And this we will do, if God indeed permits.”—Hebrews 5:14–6:3.
20 The questions now are, What tools do we have to help us to obtain accurate knowledge? And in view of our busy lives, when can we study God’s Word? The following article will consider these and related subjects.
As listed in the Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, page 17; also Philemon 6 (See The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.).
To get a better understanding of the shades of meaning of the words “knowledge,” “thinking ability,” “wisdom,” and others found in Proverbs, see Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, pages 180, 1094, 1189, published in English by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Questions to Answer
□ What is the difference between “knowledge” and “accurate knowledge”?
□ Why is accurate knowledge so important in these last days?
□ How might some be tempted to fall away from the truth?
□ What warning does Peter give us about rejecting accurate knowledge?
□ What must we do to obtain and retain accurate knowledge?